- Lewis Pugh to attempt the world’s first swim across a supra-glacial lake in Antarctica on 22 January 2020.
- Pugh completes training camp on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland
- He now leaves for Antarctica for additional training from 14th January ahead of the 1km swim across a supra-glacial lake
- Pugh will then head to Moscow for meetings with key political leaders as he seeks to build a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Antarctica.
WEDNESDAY 15th JANUARY 2019 – EAST ANTARCTICA – Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of the Oceans, has successfully completed his training in Scotland as he prepares to undertake his most challenging swim to date.
On 22nd January 2020, Pugh, who is renowned for swimming in icy waters in nothing more than his Speedo swimming trunks, cap and goggles, will swim where no human has swum before.
He will attempt to swim 1km across a supra-glacial lake in East Antarctica to call for the creation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Antarctica.
Pugh’s campaigns have been instrumental in protecting over 2.2 million km2 of ocean, an area larger than Western Europe.
The extreme conditions of East Antarctica, which holds the record for the Earth’s lowest recorded temperature, will ensure that this will be the toughest swim of Pugh’s life. He will be faced with water just above 0°C, a severe wind-chill, and the threat of the lake suddenly emptying through a crack in the ice sheet.
Supra-glacial lakes form when meltwater collects on the surface of an ice sheet. Shockingly, a recent study led by Professor Chris Stokes of Durham University found over 65,000 of these lakes on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, indicating that surface melting is more widespread than previously thought and occurring much further inland and at much higher elevations than previously observed. Indeed, recent work in Greenland has shown that the development of lakes is strongly linked to air temperatures and that climate warming is causing more and more lakes to form.
This coincides with recent data that shows that Antarctica lost the same amount of sea ice in the four years between 2014 and 2017 as the Arctic lost in the past thirty years.
‘‘Our planet is changing at an alarming rate. Ice is melting rapidly in Greenland and Antarctica. Coral reefs are dying. Rain forests are being hacked down. And Australia is on fire. We are facing an existential threat to life on Earth. 2020 must be the year of action. Our futures will now be decided at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November. We cannot kick the can down the road any longer,” says the UN Patron of the Oceans.
Isle of Lewis Training Camp
Ahead of the Antarctic swim, Pugh has today completed his training on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.
The remote islands off the West Coast of Scotland, with its rugged shores, cold seas and strong currents from the Atlantic Ocean, provided the ideal conditions for Pugh to train. The training camp involved swimming in both the sea and in mountain lochs. Water temperatures were 7°C in the sea, and 4°C in the lochs. These preparatory swims were supplemented with training runs along the coastline.
With the Scottish training camp now complete, Pugh will travel to East Antarctica to finalise his training from 14th January ahead of his 1km swim, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday 22nd January.
Commenting on his preparations, Pugh said, “It has been an intense training camp that involved two training sessions a day, one at first light, one at dusk. Conditions have been very tough, so perfect for Antarctica.”
Network of Marine Protected Areas
Pugh hopes that his swim in Antarctica will be a catalyst for the creation of a network of MPAs in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, one of the world’s last great ocean wildernesses.
MPAs help ecosystems build resilience against the impacts of climate change by ensuring that conditions are not worsened by human activities such as industrial fishing.
In 2016 Pugh was instrumental in the creation of the first MPA in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. At 1.5 million km2 it is the largest protected area in the world – on land or in the sea.
Under international law, 25 nations and the EU have to agree all measures to protect Antarctica. Currently there are three MPA proposals under consideration in the waters of East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and around the Antarctic Peninsula. To date, all countries have agreed to the protection of the next MPA in East Antarctica, with the exception of Russia and China. Straight after his swim, Lewis will head to Moscow to hold talks with Russia’s political leadership.
“We are living in a time of drastic change,” says Pugh. “I have been swimming in the ocean for over 30 years and I have seen them change. I have no doubt that we are now facing a Climate Emergency. Ice is melting at an unprecedented rate at both ends of the earth.”
The Antarctica Swim team will have full satellite coverage. This is another world first as there has never been coverage from the hinterland of the continent. This will enable the expedition to be broadcast live and for Lewis to have live link-ups with global leaders before and after the swim.
Following completion of the swim, Pugh will travel straight to Moscow. After holding talks with Russia’s political leadership, he will travel to London and will be available for media interviews.
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About Lewis Pugh
Lewis Pugh is an endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans. He pioneers swims in the most vulnerable ecosystems on Earth to campaign for their protection. He was the first person to swim across the North Pole and the first person to swim the entire length of the English Channel. His is also the first person to complete a long distance swim in every ocean of the world.
Lewis has been instrumental in protecting over 2 million km² of vulnerable ocean – an area larger than Western Europe (this comprises the Ross Sea MPA at 1.5 million km2, increased protection of 284,000 km2 in the waters of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Ascension Island protection of 443,000 km2.)
Pugh is working to fully protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030.
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