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Bárbara Hernández, the “Ice Mermaid”: “People will take care of what feels close to them.”

Bárbara Hernández, the “Ice Mermaid”: “People will take care of what feels close to them.”

By: Hernan Claro - 19 February, 2024

Bárbara Hernández

Bárbara Hernández, the “Ice Mermaid,” was the protagonist of the first episode of Extremas, our web series featuring five women who engage in high-risk sports, teaching us about effort and love for the extreme areas in our country.

Barbara Hernández has filled Chile with pride. A cold water swimmer, the “Ice Mermaid” has been ranked number one in the world in the discipline, has been recognized twice by the Guinness World Records, and in 2023, she completed the longest recorded swim in Antarctica.

As she prepares to fulfill her dream of swimming the seven oceans, Bárbara Hernández participated in Chile Travel‘s web series, Extremas, where she returned to Laguna San Rafael in the Aysén region. In this interview, she shared her experience filming the episode and emphasized the importance of connecting with one’s origins to care for nature.

Extremas is Chile Travel’s new web series, featuring Chilean female athletes sharing their stories of effort following significant achievements in sports disciplines and how they connect with specific destinations and territories in Chile.

How did it feel to return to Laguna San Rafael?

Returning to San Rafael (Aysén region) had several meanings for me. It was one of my first glaciers, and it’s a place where I’ve always shared a lot with my mom. In fact, she’s part of my team and has accompanied me on those swims that are very important to me.

Moreover, returning to the ice just after Antarctica was something very beautiful and meaningful. In fact, I owe my nickname to the Aysén region. In a way, “the Ice Mermaid” was born while swimming in these glaciers.

The nickname was coined around 2015. Although it was the journalists, I believe (it originated from) the people, upon learning that there was a Chilean swimming in these glaciers, crossing the Carretera Austral route.

What can the audience expect from this web series?

The audience will encounter stories of women who resonate deeply with, and who love, not only what Chile means to each of us, but also how these places come to life. They will see how important matters such as roots and origins are to us, and how they intertwine with our life stories.

So, I believe they will like it. They will encounter a lot of feelings, a Chile that invites us to take care of it, to protect it, and to get to know it.

Can it help raise greater awareness about nature?

Absolutely. It can help foster greater awareness and a stronger connection with nature. People will take care of what they know, what feels close to them, and what they can identify with. Not only because they physically visit them, but also because they realize that these places exist and belong to all of us.

What was filming Extremas like?

Filming the episode was spectacular. With Dani (Rakos) and Diego (Astorga), I felt a strong sense of teamwork. (I appreciate) that they understood the challenges of this sport, and they were also very empathetic to the connection I have with that place. 

We were there for three or four days. Our friends at Laguna San Rafael also allowed us to camp, and that was spectacular. Watching the sunset, and the lights, experiencing everything that San Rafael has to offer was truly magical.

I really have to thank the team. Thank you for the opportunity, for the privilege of being able to share my story, and also for continuing to build this community of people who still dare to dream big.

What would you say to those who want to swim in cold waters?

First of all, learn to swim. That’s crucial before approaching open waters. Be very aware that these waters are alive. Their currents flow with life within them, and weather conditions are a factor we must be very respectful of.

Furthermore, connect with the open water swimming communities that exist all over Chile. Our sea is cold, so it’s a great starting point for getting into this extreme sport.

The emphasis is on being very responsible and respectful towards nature, but also towards our own lives and safety.

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