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Officials warn against jumping into ship canal

Visitors to Canal Park walk on the north pier of the Duluth ship canal on Sunday afternoon. In recent days, officials say, a number of young adults have dived or tried to dive into the canal — an illegal and potentially dangerous action — as part of a social media-fueled challenge to raise money for various charities. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

A recent rash of people jumping, or trying to jump, into the cold, turbulent waters of the Duluth ship canal has prompted officials to issue a warning that doing so is illegal — and potentially life-threatening.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the Duluth piers and ship canal, reported over the weekend that employees have stopped a number of young adults from making jumps into the canal as part of a social media-

fueled “cold water challenge” to raise money for various charities. At least three people, however, have managed to jump and climb back out before being stopped.

“This is an unprecedented event, and it is extremely dangerous,” the Corps reported. “Unlike the ‘Polar Plunge’ that is a planned event with emergency personnel present, these jumps are spontaneous and unsupervised, increasing the risk of injury.”

The jumps also are illegal, as is any diving or swimming in the ship canal, the Corps said. It’s about a 15-foot drop to the water from the piers, and the canal is about 30 feet deep with strong currents.

The Corps reported that diving into cold water brings the risk of a dangerous “gasp reflex,” when the shock of the cold water can cause the person jumping to take water into their lungs.

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