Nearly 40 students, staff, faculty, and alumni braved ocean temperatures in the mid-50s to take part in the 2016 Bar Island Swim.

Though two weather delays kept turnout low, the hearty souls that took the plunge were rewarded with a great sense of accomplishment. Many more students showed up to help out with the Safety Team, filling out boats, kayaks, and Zodiaks as they followed the swimmers on their quarter-mile route. And even while these students largely steered clear of the water’s bitter temperature, several shivering Safety Team members claimed it “must be colder outside the water than in it.” <a href="https://www.coa.edu/allied-whale/" target="_blank">Allied Whale</a> director and College of the Atlantic Stephen K. Katona Chair in Marine Sciences Sean Todd leads a crew of Safety Team members at the Bar Island Swim 2016. Allied Whale director and College of the Atlantic Stephen K. Katona Chair in Marine Sciences Sean Todd leads a crew of Safety Team members at the Bar Island Swim 2016.

After making their way from the Bar Island Sandbar, which lies between the Town of Bar Harbor and Bar Island in Acadia National Park, to the COA pier, swimmers expressed joy and relief. They were greeted with the wrap of a towel and offers of hot chocolate and warm peppermint tea. Not one professor, staff, or student seemed regretful to have taken the plunge, but most seemed excited having made it back to solid land.

Safety Team members with Wilderness First Aid (WFR), Wilderness First Responder (WFR), and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications were at the ready in case of a crisis. After drying off, each swimmer was assessed for signs of hypothermia, each asked to say their full name and display finger dexterity.

Other Safety Team members watched for swimmers who might be struggling. At any point, swimmers could opt to exit the water and hop onto one of the vessels.

Wrapped in towels, students made their way to warm showers and dinner soon after the swim concluded. For some faculty, the Swim has become an annual tradition to welcome the new year. For many first year students, it is a rite of passage, and an important step in identifying themselves as part of the COA community.