Funds raised for injured seals at Arctic Seal Plunge

Arctic Seal Plunge
Making a splash for the cause. Photos by: Gillian English

Gillian English
Feb 27, 2022

Five cartons of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and hot chocolate awaited those who showed up on Sunday morning, Feb. 27, at the Onset Bay Center, prepared to jump into ice cold water.

With more than 50 sign-ups, the National Marine Life Center was already considering their first Arctic Seal Plunge a success.

The National Marine Life Center is an independent, nonprofit, marine animal hospital and science and education center located in Buzzards Bay. They rehabilitate and release stray marine animals in need of medical care.

“We really just wanted to get a quick fundraiser going after so many had been canceled due to COVID,” explained Beth Sobiloff-Jones, a member of the Board of Trustees and Fundraising Committee for the National Marine Life Center.

“We thought it would be a great way to highlight our Arctic seal population. We have a few grey seal pups in the infirmary right now.”

Arctic Seal Plunge
Animal Care & Life Support Systems Coordinator Wendy Wyman and volunteer Christine Piearson dress up for the event.

The National Marine Life Center had a target of about $2,000, but as of Friday, Feb. 25, they had already raised more than $3,000. While the fundraiser promotes awareness of seal rehabilitation, the National Marine Life Center cares for other animals, too, and the money will be divided to go wherever the need is.

It was sunny and 38 degrees outside on the morning of the Arctic Seal Plunge, and those in attendance praised the weather. “This is great. When I did a polar plunge in New Hampshire, we were breaking the ice so that we could get into the water,” said National Marine Life Center board member Bill Lancaster.

Volunteers Meghan and Chris Wells gathered as many of their friends and family members as they could for the big day. They have been volunteering for as many Saturdays as possible for the past five years.

Chris Wells is a nurse, but has a passion for taking care of seals as well, even if they bite a bit more than his human patients at work. In addition to some of their friends, family members Holly Wells and Sam Wells signed up only five minutes before running into the water.

“This is our first big event since I came on,” said center Executive Director Connie Merigo in her opening remarks. “We are all so grateful to everyone that’s here.”

Arctic Seal Plunge
Sam and Holly Wells warm up after taking the plunge.

After changing into swimsuits, wetsuits, or seal onesies, all of the arctic plungers headed out to the beach to charge into the water together after the count of three. Onlookers screamed and cheered as their community members rushed into the water, which was about 38 degrees.

“It was better than I expected! Not bad at all!” said Holly Wells. “Some people didn’t want to get their hair wet, but I went all the way out there with the big boys.”