The Coldest Swim on Earth
17 Sep 2007
Lawyer, environmentalist and endurance swimmer, Lewis Gordon Pugh has highlighed the effects of climate change in a one kilometre swim at the North Pole in waters measuring minus 1.8 centigrade.
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Lawyer, environmentalist, public speaker and endurance swimmer, Lewis Gordon Pugh, is no stranger to completing seemingly impossible challenges, where the odds are against him. He is the only person ever to have accomplished long distance swims in all the five oceans of the world but his latest venture is a crowning achievement.
To highlight the effects of climate change, Lewis has recently accomplished a one kilometre swim at the North Pole, in waters measuring minus 1.8 centigrade ñ the coldest a human has ever swum in.
At this most northern point of the world, the sea should be frozen over all year round. However, recently there has been a significant increase in the air temperature and a substantial decrease in sea ice. As a result, patches of open sea are now appearing. Scientists predict that by 2040 there could be no more Arctic sea ice left at all in the summer months.
‘It’s a tragedy that it’s possible to swim at the North Pole,’ said Lewis, whose unique ability to withstand cold and raise his body temperature earned him the nickname The Polar Bear. ‘I hope my swim will inspire world leaders to take climate change seriously. The decisions which they make over the next few years will deter-mine the biodiversity of our world. I want my children and their children to know polar bears are still living in the Arctic ñ these creatures are on the front line up here.’
In accordance with Channel Swimming Association Rules, he swam along a huge crack in the ice plate. ‘The water was absolutely black,’ Lewis explained. ‘like jump-ing into a dark, black hole ñ it was very frightening! The pain was immediate and it felt like my body was on fire. This was without doubt the hardest swim of my life.’
World Wildlife Fund Head of Campaigns Colin Butfield, said: ‘We’re delighted that he has once again lived up to his nickname and succeeded in being the first person to swim at the North Pole. However it’s a bitter-sweet victory, as his swim has only been possible because of climate change.’
Last summer Lewis completed the challenge of swimming the entire length of the River Thames, which is 203 miles. In February this year he swam across the width of the Maldives, a distance of some 87 miles. Both of these events were sponsored by Investec and promoted awareness of the World Wildlife Fund’s ongoing climate change campaign.
‘Through my swims I’ve had a unique perspective on the planet,’ said Lewis. ‘I’ve witnessed retreat-ing glaciers, decreasing sea ice, coral bleaching, severe droughts and the migration of animals to colder climates. It’s as a result of these experiences that I am determined to do my bit to raise awareness about the fragility of our environment and encourage everyone to take action.’
Lewis Gordon Pugh swims at the North Pole to highlight climate change.
Photos: © Push Pictures
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