Ice swimmer breaks two world records crossing the world’s most dangerous waters

Chilean icy water swimmer Barbara Hernandez swam between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at Cape Horn in Punta Arenas
Chilean icy water swimmer Barbara Hernandez swam between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at Cape Horn in Punta Arenas Copyright Fotoaustral /Reuters
Copyright Fotoaustral /Reuters
By Hannah Brown with Reuters
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Barbara Hernandez is the first person ever to swim three nautical miles in the world’s ‘most feared waters’.


Chilean swimmer Barbara Hernandez has been awarded two world records after completing a very icy swim in February.

Known as ‘the ice mermaid’, Barbara swam one nautical mile (1,852 metres) through the Drake Passage, an area between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at Cabo de Hornos in southern Chile.

On 14 June, she finally received her award from Guinness World Records for completing ‘the fastest mile swim of Drake Passage’ in just 15 minutes and three seconds.

The World Open Water Swimming Association also crowned her the first person to ever swim three nautical miles (5,500 metres) between both Oceans. She completed the total distance in 55 minutes and 17 seconds.

Who is ‘the ice mermaid’?

Barbara Hernandez is a 36-year-old psychologist and swimmer.

She was selected as Woman of the Year 2021 by the World Open Water Swimming Association. Barbara has completed swimming challenges and won medals at events all across the world, specialising in ice water swimming, which requires the water to be between 0-5°C.

She told Reuters that achieving this latest feat and receiving the award from Guinness allowed her to show Chilean waters to the rest of the world. She says it also helps shed light on the effects of climate change.

Barbara hopes to inspire others to go for their goals, telling people to dream big and understand how one person can be an inspiration - even from the other side of the world. 

Where is Cabo de Hornos?

Cabo de Hornos, also known as Cape Horn is at the very southern tip of Chile and therefore, South America.

To begin her feat, Barbara and her team set sail from Puerto Williams (Port Williams) and travelled 7 hours south towards Antarctica. These are regarded as some of the coldest and most feared waters on the planet.

“The main obstacles or adversities were, first the water temperature. It’s very cold, it’s around seven or eight degrees Celsius,” Barbara explains.

“It’s also a distance that at that location had never been swam by a woman nor a man. That made us be extra careful with things such as hypothermia, which can be severe.”

During her swim, Barbara was closely monitored by the Chilean Navy. She wasn't allowed to receive assistance, stop to rest or even wear a neoprene suit.

The water temperature was around 8.3°C that day. To put it in perspective, the general advice for prolonged swimming in those sorts of temperatures is to wear a winter wetsuit, about 4-5mm thick. Barbara wore just a swimsuit.

Watch the video above to learn more about the ice mermaid.

Video editor • Doloresz Katanich

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