A note to my mother: the ocean is cold

In an earlier post concerning my winter swim in the ocean, I mentioned that the water was somewhat chilly but that the swim was glorious. Of course, I used some poetic license to emphasise the water’s temperature. My mother decided to write me an email to point out that the water in these parts was 18.1 degrees and that such a temperature is not so cold. I am not sure where my mother found such a statistic, for today I went for another swim. This time I was in the water, swimming laps in the ocean baths, for about 20 minutes. And the temperature: 15 degrees. This was obtained by simply putting a thermometer in the water (as the lifeguard does each day).


12 thoughts on “A note to my mother: the ocean is cold

  1. I have only ever been in sea water that I would describe as ‘warm’ once. That was in Crete, in the month of August. It was as warm as a tepid bath, but much cooler that not being in it, as it was around 46 degrees on land.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Simple, just google:’Water temperature at Newcastle Beach’ and you will find that today’s temp is 17.7 degrees celsius after a couple of very cool nights. However, it is described as ‘reasonably warm’ for surfers!

  3. There is more: Just heard on ABC radio that the large number of shark sightings and attacks on the NSW coast this winter may be due to the many migrating whales and an unusually WARM ocean. You are risking your life!

  4. Roland, back to your scientific observations: Did you immerse the thermometer for three mins, while shivering in the chilly wind, leading to observer bias? Did you read it at eye level; top or bottom of the meniscus? What is the margin of error of your thermometer; how old is it and when was it last calibrated? Measuring temps manually is rather unreliable, so I prefer the charts of marine scientists who work with more sophisticated instruments.

    1. I distinctly recall my experiences on a container ship a few years ago. They had three levels of scientific equipment: the latest GPS devices and complex tracking equipment; earlier technologies such as radar and sonar; and the original forms of ears, hands and eyes – enhanced by the use of binoculars. I was intrigued by the fact that despite all of the available equipment, the captain and mates never quite trusted it. When they really wanted to know what was going on, they relied on their own observations. Binoculars were put to eyes and when the going was rough, the ship was steered by hand. In other words, be wary of ‘sophisticated instruments’.

    2. And today, the water was 14 degrees. I certainly felt it after 20 minutes or of swimming. Inquiring afterwards, I was told by those who measure the temperature that the rocks underneath cool the water down closer to shore.

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