Onset plungers shiver for sea turtles

Feb 12, 2023

The Covid-19 pandemic inspired people to take up all sorts of hobbies. 

Most of those hobbies do not involve submerging oneself in near-freezing water once a week. 

Looking for a social group during the pandemic, Declan Gilvarry joined the Boston Irish Dippers, a group that has organized polar plunges around Boston for the last two years.

“There’s a mental health aspect, as well as a physical health aspect,” Gilvarry said. “You feel better, you get a sudden rush.”

Gilvarry and dozens of others ran into — and then immediately ran out of — the 40-degree water of Onset Bay for the National Marine Life Center’s Arctic Seal Plunge on Sunday, Feb. 12. 

The plunge raised money for the Bourne-based center to feed and care for its patients — injured, sick and stranded seals and sea turtles.

Executive Director Connie Merigo said that the Center also needs money to pay staff members who are experienced in caring for protected and endangered species. 

“On Cape Cod,” she said, “such a beautiful place, it’s all about the water.” 

Therefore, a polar plunge was the perfect fundraiser.

Merigo has never done a polar plunge herself, and she would like to keep it that way.

Leah Garis, 12, joined her grandmother Cindy Sabine for the plunge. It was Garis’s first time doing a polar plunge, and Sabine’s second since the New Year’s Plunge in Onset earlier this year. 

“It was very cold and felt like knives,” Garis said. 

Sabine said it was “just as fun” as it was in January. 

“It is a rush, isn’t it?” She said. 

Along with being a volunteer with the National Marine Life Center, Meghan McDonald is part of the Young Marines, a national youth leadership group. She encouraged her unit of Young Marines to take the plunge and help the Center.

As he shivered on the sand, Young Marine Peter Andrade, 14, said that the plunge was “liberating” and he’d do it again. 

Even Tybee, Boston Irish Dipper Colm Coyne’s dog, took the plunge. 

“He does it every Sunday,” Coyne said. 

Eight-year-old James Robertson Jr. took the plunge because he “just wanted to do it.”

“It felt good, he said, “but really cold.” 

His father, James Robertson Sr., preferred staying on dry land.