Barbara Hernandez becomes the first Chilean woman to swim across the Beagle Channel

 Barbara Hernandez arriving at Puerto Willams just after completing her crossing of the icy waters of the Beagle Channel. Barbara Hernandez arriving at Puerto Willams just after completing her crossing of the icy waters of the Beagle Channel.

By Ignacio Palma
Extreme swimmer Barbara Hernandez once again demonstrated why she is a three-time world champion in ice swimming. This time, the so-called “Ice Mermaid” of Chile successfully challenged the frigid waters of the Beagle Channel, at the southern tip of the country, attaining a new achievement in her career by becoming the first Chilean woman to make this crossing.
Weather conditions were the great unknown on Sunday, March 1. But the extreme athlete, who has a master's degree in psychology, managed to impose herself on the approximately 7 degrees Celsius that accompanied her along the 9.5 kilometers of distance that separate the Argentine community of Almanza and the capital of Chile’s Navarino Island, Puerto Williams.
In 1 hour and 55 minutes, Hernandez fulfilled her objective. "It was quite the journey and a very difficult crossing,” she said. “I think more than the distance, the water temperature – swimming at 7.8 degrees for almost two hours – I think that is one of the most important achievements I've had so far in my career."

"I believe this is like my own Chilean English Channel, because really for awhile there I thought maybe I couldn't get there. That never happens to me. I never think about it but this time I felt a lot of coldness in my heart, in the chest, but I think we were a super good team and with all the support of the boats, the crew, the friends who were with me, this is a crossing with a lot of meaning for me so I’m very happy."
On the support of the local community, the swimmer said that "it was the most beautiful part of the crossing.” Said Hernandez: “Seeing them upon arrival and seeing their faces of happiness is what really made this crossing for me. It gives meaning to the swim. And the unity that it provokes, as I am not from here, it makes me so proud, I feel like an adopted Patagonian. That was a very nice arrival."
Hernandez's feat could be just one more step toward next year attempting an even bigger challenge and personal dream of her’s: swimming in the waters of the Antarctic.
Read our extensive profile about the ice swimming career of Barbara Hernandez in the current issue of Patagon Journal.
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