Now and then things just jump out at you, or at least at me. The opening paragraph here is definitely a grabber:
397 km (247 mi) off the north coast of Norway and 235 km (146 mi) south of Svalbard lies an isolated, lonely 178 km² (68.7 sq mi) chunk of land known in English as Bear Island and in Norwegian as Bjørnøya (we’ll use both terms in this article, as the names are interchangeable in most parlance). Why is such a randomly isolated chunk of land present in this part of the Arctic Ocean and, perhaps more importantly, why is this remote island with a population of nine home to the world’s most northerly skinny-dippers association (one with over 2000 members, at that)?
I looked at a map, and came up with the dubious notion that “Maybe it’s not that cold.” Wikipedia bears me out, so to speak:
A branch of the North Atlantic current carries warm water to Svalbard, creating a climate much warmer than that of other regions at similar latitude. Bear Island’s climate is maritime-polar with relatively mild temperatures during the winter. January is the coldest month, with a mean temperature of -8.1°C (17.4°F) (base period 1961-1990). July and August are the warmest months, with mean temperatures of 4.4°C (39.9°F).
So it’s not exactly ice-cold, but certainly cold enough. About those skinny-dippers:
It wasn’t until 1947 that a radio meteorological station was at Herlighanna. It is this 20-building post that hosts the nine permanent residents of the island; a crew that changes over twice per year (and which maintains an entertaining blog). It is these brave (and occasionally bored) souls who inaugurated the Bjørnøya nakenbadeforening — the Bear Island Naked Beach Club. The only way to enter the club and obtain your membership diploma is to take it all off (in the presence of a member of the opposite gender, they’ll remind you) and brave a dip in the cold Arctic water. Thanks to the twice-per-year staff turnover, visits from the occasional Arctic cruise ship en route to Svalbard, and visits from Norwegian cabinet ministers and government personnel, the membership is well over 2100 people at this point. Even at this latitude, water temperatures can reach 10°C (50°F), but that’s only sometimes; when Minster of Justice and Police Knut Storberget was inducted into the club, his dip was taken at a bonechilling 3.8°C (39°F), which is likely more typical. Keep in mind, this was in August at the height of summer.
Go ahead and shiver. I certainly will.