Save the Penguins!Opinion
OPINION—Once, when I was about thirteen, several of my friends and I camped overnight by a creek in January. The next morning the temperature was in the teens, and there was ice along the edge of the water, and one of the guys dared me to go swimming. I spent about a minute in the water up to my neck, and when I got out it looked like I was wearing blue longhandles, but I survived the ordeal. As far as I know.
There are lessons to be learned in life, and I learned one that day. Swimming is a lot more fun when you can feel your arms and legs. That swim counted twice, because it was my first and my last in cold weather. Anytime I’m thinking about going swimming I look around. If don’t see someone sweating in the shade, I stay on dry ground.
My research department, Pat Wentworth, recently sent me some stories about the various Polar Bear clubs in the northeast, people who go swimming outside on New Year’s Day. In technical terms, these people are Looney Tunes. Any adult who voluntarily swims in the Atlantic Ocean when it’s 20 degrees outside is dumber than a box of bobbers. Normal people don’t do that. If they do, they aren’t normal for long.
Some of the clubs, however, cancelled their scheduled New Year’s Day plunges, due to the frigid conditions. Not being stupid is evidently viewed as a character flaw in some circles. Other clubs, including the Coney Island Popsicles, went ahead with their swim, which has continued unabated for 114 years. And you wonder what’s wrong with the Yankees.
Now, I realize some of these people want to show how tough they are, but there’s a limit. For me, it’s about 85 degrees. I have no idea how cold the water was on New Year’s Day, but the weather has been setting records up north this year. International Falls, Minnesota is called ‘The Icebox of the Nation’ because of its weather, and that town recorded a record low of -36 the last Wednesday of the year. The mercury in Watertown, New York shrank to -32 the next day, a nine-degree plunge from their previous lowest temperature. Chicago recorded -11 on the first day of the year, which sounds almost balmy compared to The Icebox, but that’s the lowest high temperature Chicago’s ever had. That’s cold.
Canadians are pretty accustomed to cold weather, but it was so cold the week before New Year’s that an Ottawa ice hockey game was cancelled. If it’s too cold to play hockey, as far as I’m concerned, it’s too cold to breathe.
The Smithsonian claimed that some parts of the U.S. were colder last week than the surface of Mars, which is 78 million miles farther from the sun. I have no idea how they know the temperature on Mars, but I will point out that you never hear about Martians going swimming. Ever.
A meteorologist in Viroqua, Wisconsin, where it was 21 degrees, made a video in his backyard. He threw a pot of boiling water into the air, and it turned into snow. Elsewhere in Wisconsin, some tailgaters were videoed putting their beer on a grill to keep it from freezing.
It’s so cold that politicians are reportedly putting their hands in their own pockets. The Amish in Pennsylvania are buying electric blankets. The Statue of Liberty has the torch under her dress. And Ingrid Newkirk, president of peta, was seen wearing a fur coat.
But seriously, even the sharks can’t take it. According to the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, of which I disapprove strongly, due to my hatred of sharks, the water is killing them. The sharks, not the conservancy. Two thresher sharks washed up on the beach at Cape Cod, and were determined to have died because of the cold. Incidentally, Frozen Sharks would be a great name for a rock band.
Or Frozen Lizards. The folks in Florida, bless their tanned hearts, may be having a harder time than anyone, since the temps have dropped below 40 degrees. That never happens in the Sunshine State. Iguanas have gotten so cold they’re falling out of trees. If you’re planning a visit to the Keys you might want to pack an umbrella.
But of all the creatures on planet Earth, penguins probably like cold weather the most. They live in Antarctica, for goodness sake. It’s never above freezing in Antarctica. That’s why the government put it down there out of the way.
Well, last week the Calgary Zoo had to bring its penguins inside, when the outside temperature got down to -25. I’m certainly no expert, but when it’s too cold for penguins, I’m not going swimming, even in a heated, indoor pool. I won’t even get in a bathtub. Because you never know.
The most serious problem the cold weather has caused, though, is hypothermia among sea turtles off the coast of Texas. The National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Ark Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, and Sea World San Antonio have been rescuing sea turtles, stunned by the cold, and taking them to aquariums for rehab. It’s a cold, wet job, but someone’s gotta do it.
If Trump doesn’t get some global warming in here, pronto, I’m voting for AlGore next time around . . .
Eds. note: Mr. Hemphill purposely never capitalizes peta.