Ice KM – Done and Dusted – November 2018



South Africa is the proud leader of the first official 1km ice swim event held in Antarctica waters! On 25 November, 00:15 South Africa time, the gruelling wait was over. Ram Barkai of South Africa successfully led 14 ice swimmers from across the globe to complete the first official 1km ice-swim at the bottom of the earth. While others pack their thickest jackets to visit the South Pole, these ice-swimmers appeared in Speedo’s on rubber ducks alongside the OneOcean expedition cruiser, RCSG, to swim in -1.4 Deg C waters.

Support staff and South African Emergency Physician expert, Dr Sean Gottschalk, were ready to perform rescue operations if needed but swimmers were mentally and medically fit to withstand the extreme conditions. Waiting upon a weather gap that would allow the swim was of the hardest challenges they experienced. The weather changed constantly and interrupted the event, which really tested swimmers’ psychological endurance. A test swim was done on 22 November after which expedition leader Ram settled on a location, Port Lockroy, a natural harbour in front of the Antarctic Peninsula, to do the official swim. The strategy involved heats of 3 or 4 swimmers per heat who were accompanied by support and rescue staff in rubber ducks.

After the first 2 successful heats comprising 7 swimmers, currents and wind started to create havoc and boat management had to pull up anchor to sail to the next possible swimming location, Mikkelson Bay, trusting weather will allow the remaining 7 swimmers to complete the swim. At Mikkelson Bay they were left with a very narrow weather window and decided to combine heat 3 and 4 – their only chance to get all swimmers through.

The very last swimmer to enter the water was expedition leader Ram Barkai who again had to wait a gruelling while for a weather gap before he could successfully complete the swim.

Recovery involved the quick accessing of the expedition ship’s sauna and jacuzzi area under the close supervision of Dr Gottschalk. Some swimmers’ core body temperature was measuring only 28 deg C in the recovery room after the swim. Extensive travelling, 2 days in flight and 2 more on sea, to reach their destination and swim was no small feat. Crossing Drake Lake was a challenge in itself with waves 10m and higher and cutlery flying around in the dining room of the ship.

“There are concerns that ice swimming is way too dangerous for the average person but the individuals who are getting into ice swimming are anything but average”, observed Steven Munatones of World Open Water Swimming Association. “From what I have seen the organizers and ice swimmers are as knowledgeable and experienced in the cold as they are responsible and safety-conscious. This sport attracts truly driven and unique individuals who are well-prepared physiologically and psychologically to handle swims up to 1000 meters – and longer – in the cold air and water conditions under 5°C. After a decade of ice swimming Barkai and his ice swimming colleagues around the world have learned a significant amount of how much the human body can acclimate to cold water and how best to implement the rewarming process. ”

Others have swum in Antarctica waters before but it has never been an official event. Barkai, who has worked almost 2 years to put this major event together, applied International Ice Swimming Association (IISA) rules to make it official and will also apply for a Guinness World Record now that it is done.

Swimmer Jean Craven who represents the non-profit organisation Madswimmer decided to up his fundraising target from R50 000 to R500 000 for children’s charities. “Getting here was no small feat. Raising only a few rands will not justify the effort. We hope the swim will inspire others to do their part to make this world a better place and give under privileged children a chance to become the worthy citizens they deserve to be”.

To view the charities and donate, visit Madswimmer has raised over R9-m over the years to support children.

South African swimmers included Ram Barkai (founder IISA), Jean Craven (founder Madswimmer), Samantha Whelpton and Clinton Le Sueur. Others were from Poland, Russia, Australia, Argentina, Italy, China, Bulgaria and Spain.

Enquiries: (media) / 083 607 0603



Madswimmer Dead Sea Challenge 15 November 2016 – They Did It !!



While being part of a global effort to save the Dead Sea, Madswimmer set a new world record on 15 November 2016 for doing the lowest swim in history in the Dead Seat at 430 m below sea level.  In 2015 they broke Lewis Pugh’s highest swim record when they swam in hypothermic conditions at 5909 m above sea level in the Andes. The Dead Sea swim was the successful completion of their high/low charity swim challenge.

At 5am this morning an international team of 28 swimmers – 10 under the auspices of Madswimmer – set sail on rubber duck boats from the Israeli shore at Ein Gedi to an identified delta across Jordanian borders in the Dead Sea, and started the 17.5 km swim back to Israel. Weather conditions were perfect and all swimmers arrived back as one team on Israeli territory after 7 hours and 9 minutes.

This was the first group to ever attempt a Dead Sea crossing between Jordan and Israel – despite and amidst very volatile political circumstances. Jordan permitted the crossing of its borders less than 24 hours prior the swim, conditioned nobody steps onto, or take photo’s of their land. The border crossing therefore took place in the waters.

The Dead Sea swim expanded to an international event when Madswimmer joined forces with Eco Peace and the Cyprus Israel Swimmers earlier this year.  Swimmers from various countries started to sign up for the swim with the specific aim to draw public attention to the depletion of the Dead Sea. The team included swimmers from South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Denmark, New Zealand, Spain and England.

The Dead Sea swim was no small feat. Beside political challenges, swim logistics were hard. Rescue and guiding boats that had to be obtained from local owners and trucked across the Judean desert to the Dead Sea, held a huge risk for the massive earth sensitivities and sinkholes that exist in the area and geologists had to work out a safe route first.

The Dead Sea waters, with a salt content 10 times that of the typical ocean, made for a difficult swim. Most swimmers complained of a burning skin after the swim. Only a few drops of water down their throats could cause severe breathing problems so swimmers used a special facial mask for protection. Breathing with a full face mask was a sombre challenge in itself.

Being the lowest surface feature on Earth and a natural wonder rich in oxygen and minerals, protection of the Dead Sea is a worthy cause. Industrialisation has led to the Dead Sea losing over 1m water per year and it stands a chance to disappear if not intervened. Levels have dropped more than 30 meters over the past 20 years that causes massive sinkholes which have swallowed roads, homes and farms over the years.

Ambassadors of the representing countries of all swimmers were invited to the event that was well attended by international media including CNN Reuters, Associated Press, Discovery Channel and Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite. “We trust our swim has kicked off renewed global interest to help save the Dead Sea” says Jean Craven, founder of Madswimmer.

Madswimmer is a group of ordinary South Africans doing extreme swims to raise funds for children’s charities.  Although Madswimmer agreed to share the awareness surrounding the depletion of the Dead Sea, all funds raised are committed to its South African children’s charities.


Jean Craven (founder Madswimmer) / Nicolene Steynberg (media)

27 82 5722 738 / 27 83 607 0603 (email or w’app, in Israel until 17 Nov)

May Newsletter – 2016

Hi Swimmers

It’s been a while since our October news – and we have all been keeping fit and busy! We’ve had the amazing 24-hour swim, the VanDerKloof Swim, some of our members swam the Freedom Swim and two Madswimmers completed Iron Man in early April.
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