In winter Rotorua's Blue Lake is quiet, foggy and empty.

But today that wasn't the case as about 40 staff from Scion took part in the company's annual polar plunge.

The annual swim in Tikitapu (Blue Lake) usually takes place on the shortest day of the year but this year took place the day before, so as to be on a weekday.

It started in 1996 as a challenge between two social groups at Scion, known then as Forest Research Institute.

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Forty staff dressed in costumes ranging from chefs to ballerinas took part in the plunge.

After a dip in the 11.7C lake, Michelle Harnett felt refreshed.

"You know you're alive when you hit that water.

"It's actually not as bad as you think."

The lake temperature didn't cut the mustard for Cindy Bennett. Photo / Stephen Parker
The lake temperature didn't cut the mustard for Cindy Bennett. Photo / Stephen Parker

Harnett said this was the third time she'd been crazy enough to participate and it was colder than last year.

Research officer Garth Weinberg has only missed two of the 24 plunges over the years and said it was kind of like the Wednesday of the year.

"It's about getting everyone together marking the shortest day of the year. It's like reaching Wednesday, the days are going to get better and longer from here."

Rikimata Massey described the water as "fresh".

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Rob Trass dressed as Campbell's soup can charges into the water. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rob Trass dressed as Campbell's soup can charges into the water. Photo / Stephen Parker

"It's something to break up the year a bit. It adds a little bit of fun especially as the days are shorter."

After the cold water the team warmed up with mulled wine and hot chocolate.

Staff at Scion's Christchurch branch have been doing the plunge in the ocean for three years.

Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year, with the sun in Rotorua due to rise at 7.31am and set at 5.02pm, giving just nine hours and 30 minutes of daylight.

It's five hours and 19 minutes less than the longest day of the year when the sun rises at 5.48am and sets at 8.37pm.

About 40 staff members took the Polar Plunge into Blue Lake. Photo / Stephen Parker
About 40 staff members took the Polar Plunge into Blue Lake. Photo / Stephen Parker

MetService meteorologist Stephen Glassey said the average minimum temperature in June was historically 4.3C and this month had been similar with a mix of days above and below the average.

So far there have been three days this month below 0C.

"Next week is looking quite settled in terms of weather ... The overnight temperatures are looking a bit warmer over the next few days.

"Next week, once this ridge moves on there are more clear skies around which drops temperatures.

"There's a good chance of more frost next week."