Vancouver’s 93rd annual Polar Bear Swim draws thousands

Thousands braved the frigid waters of English Bay for the 93rd annual Vancouver Polar Bear Swim on Jan. 1, 2013.

Thousands braved the frigid waters of English Bay for the 93rd annual Vancouver Polar Bear Swim on Jan. 1, 2013.

After surviving a New Year’s bash for the ages at my (former) place of employment Monk McQueen’s restaurant, which happened to be shutting its doors after 26 years that night, I crawled out of bed to make it to the tale end of the 93rd annual Polar Bear Swim in Vancouver’s English Bay. Unfortunately, I missed the epic shots of the 2,233 registered participants all running into the water at the same time, but I still managed to capture some of the action along with some of the colourful characters who make the event in Vancouver one of the biggest and craziest in North America and the world. Next year maybe I won’t be drowning in pricey, aged cognac the night before and I’ll make it down a little earlier.

Thousands braved the frigid waters of English Bay, which were measured at 7 degrees Celsius, for the 93rd annual Vancouver Polar Bear Swim on Jan. 1, 2013.

Thousands braved the frigid waters of English Bay, which were measured at 7 degrees Celsius, for the 93rd annual Vancouver Polar Bear Swim on Jan. 1, 2013.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim gives locals and visitors a chance to dress up and ring in the New Year with laughter.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim gives locals and visitors a chance to dress up and ring in the New Year with laughter.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim began in 1920 when a handful of brave swimmers took to the cool waters English Bay. Today, over 2,200 partake in the event, while an estimated 20,000 spectators soak up the action on the sidelines.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim began in 1920 when a handful of brave swimmers took to the cool waters English Bay. Today, over 2,200 partake in the event, while an estimated 20,000 spectators soak up the action on the sidelines.

Arty likes to party at the 2013 Vancouver Polar Bear Swim on English Bay.

Arty likes to party at the 2013 Vancouver Polar Bear Swim on English Bay.

"Yes, miss reporter lady, that's a real bullhorn on my head."

“Yes, miss reporter lady, that’s a real bullhorn on my head.”

No it's not a zombie apocalypse, it's the 93rd annual Polar Bear swim in Vancouver.

No it’s not a zombie apocalypse, it’s the 93rd annual Polar Bear swim in Vancouver.

Sing, lady, sing.

Sing, lady, sing.

Beyond the Mayan Calendar: A deeper look into society’s fascination with the End of the World

Despite the Mayan doomsday prophecy being debunked by experts, humankind still holds a fascination with the world coming to an end.

Despite the Mayan doomsday prophecy being debunked by experts, humankind still holds a fascination with the world coming to an end.

People have been predicting the end of civilization since it began. But in 2012 doomsday predictions seem to be unusually urgent and widespread. Whether you blame the Mayan Calendar, melting ice caps or a global economic collapse, there is a diverse number of people gearing up for the apocalypse.

One is Will Heinrich, a 63-year-old tugboat operator, who has a two-year supply of food, medical supplies, flints and camping stoves stocked up in Rock Creek, B.C. because he’s certain the end of days is right around the corner.

“This current system is so corrupt it’s going to collapse. It has to; it just won’t keep going like this,” Heinrich said while sipping coffee at a café in Ladner.

Heinrich is among a ballooning sub-culture in North America known as “preppers” – people who are making detailed plans to prepare for the end of the world as we know it. And like many preppers, one of Heinrich’s chief concerns is a fumbling world economy that he sees is teetering on the brink of collapse.

“If governments and banks keep borrowing money to stay afloat, there’s going to be a time of reckoning where there’s not going to be any money left to borrow. We could easily see a crash in the dollar and people will panic – it’s going to be total chaos,” he says.

Many preppers today turn to the Internet for insight where they soak up information from websites like attorney Michael T. Snyder’s The Economic Collapse blog who writes from his home in northern Idaho.

“Tons of preppers come to my site, and for most, the overwhelming concern is the economy,” said Snyder in a phone interview. “I think a lot of people are realizing that we are living in the biggest debt bubble in the world.”

Snyder, whose blog receives hundreds of thousands of hits per month, says U.S. national debt has skyrocketed 15 times higher than it was 30 years ago while consumer debt has expanded by 17 times higher than it was in 1971. He added many of the U.S. banks’ loan to asset ratio is 30 to one.

“All this debt is like a gigantic house of cards that can fall at any time,” he says. “But at the same time not only are we getting all this debt, but also our ability to create wealth in the United States is declining.”

Snyder says the U.S. never fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and he sees a global wave of financial calamity hitting us hard by late 2012. He believes this time the euro zone debt woes will trigger the next wave with Greece leading a pack of countries facing default.

Snyder predicts unemployment and poverty will rise in the Western world pointing out that tens of millions of Americans are already living off food stamps and one out of four children is currently living in poverty. He sees an increase in Occupy Wall Street style protests with the potential for massive civil unrest and widespread rioting.

“I believe this is just the beginning. I think we’ll see wide-scale riots in the years ahead.”

Because of all this uncertainty surrounding an embattled world financial system, Snyder says the prepper movement will only continue to grow.

According to the British newspaper the Daily Mail, there are an estimated three million preppers in the United States, roughly one per cent of the country’s entire population. This surge Snyder says is larger than during the Y2K scare, and the estimated number could be even greater since many preppers don’t like to talk about their plans.

“It could be your next-door neighbour; they could have converted a spare bedroom or a garage into a place where they store up food and supplies.”

Snider quit his full-time job as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., to fortify himself and his wife west of the Rocky Mountains where they have stocked up food, water, medical supplies and are growing a garden.

Snyder says he encourages his readers to become independent from the system and have at least six months worth of food stored up as he sees a “very dark road ahead.” But unlike other financial doomsayers, he doesn’t see the collapse happening all at once. Instead he’s forecasts a more progressive and gradual decline.

“I don’t believe we are going to wake up next month and be fighting each other with sharp sticks over the food that remains,” he says.

Vancouver Canucks fans treated to a street hockey game with Kevin Bieksa and Ryan Kesler

Vancouver Canucks star Kevin Bieksa jokes around with a young fan alongside teammate Ryan Kesler and TSN's Cabbie who were joined by hundreds of fans at an impromptu street hockey game under the Cambie Street Bridge on Dec. 5, 2012.

Vancouver Canucks star Kevin Bieksa jokes around with a young fan alongside teammate Ryan Kesler and TSN’s Cabbie who were joined by a throng of fans and media for a street hockey game under the Cambie Street Bridge on Dec. 5, 2012.

Working two jobs all summer/fall left me little time to update here, but I am back and what better way to re-start than with an impromptu street hockey game hosted by some of Vancouver’s local heroes Canucks’ Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and newcomer Jason Garrison.

About 150 to 200 fans and hoards of media and bloggers showed up at a basketball court underneath the Cambie Street Bridge in the afternoon on Dec. 5 after Kesler announced the event over Twitter earlier in the day.

Due to injuries, Kesler and Garrison announce they will be refereeing the game, while Bieksa will show off his moves on the court. None of the players wanted to talk about the 80-day-old NHL lockout dispute.

Due to injuries, Kesler and Garrison announce they will be refereeing the game, while Bieksa will show off his moves on the court. None of the players wanted to talk about the 80-day-old NHL lockout dispute.

After more than 80 days of the NHL being locked out, it was good to see the smiles the event brought on the faces of hockey-starved fans. TSN personality Cabbie appeared to be organizing the event and his crew was filming the entire session to air on his show Cabbie Presents. The Green Men were also there and anthem singer Mark Donnelly even sang his spirited version of ‘Oh Canada.’

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The Canucks Green Men pose for Vancouver Is Awesome blogger at the end of the impromptu road hockey game.

The Canucks Green Men pose for Vancouver Is Awesome blogger at the end of the impromptu road hockey game. You can check out the photo she made HERE.

The event was great for me to bust out my new Canon EOS 7D and get some practice with live moving subjects. The lighting was terrible and beside cranking my ISO, which gave a lot of images too much noise, I realized I need more practice and research to get better in these tricky scenarios. Stay tuned with more on the new camera and new projects such as highlighting Vancouver’s Christmas Market and a potential video project on Vancouver’s reputation on being an ‘unfriendly’ city.