Lewis Pugh is a British-South African endurance swimmer and ocean advocate for the United Nations Environment Programme. Pugh was the first person to ever complete a long-distance swim in all oceans.
As athlete in constant contact with marine life, he highlights the importance of keeping our oceans clean and the overwhelming melting of the Himalayan glaciers that could impact global water supply and therefore international peace as well.
As a sign of environmental activism and protest, Pugh has been engaging in high endurance swims to raise awareness of the effects of global warming. Last year, Pugh became the first person to ever swim under the Antarctic Ice to demonstrate the rapid changes caused by climate change. The swim took place in the freezing waters (0°C) of a supra-glacial lake caused by the rising temperatures, where he was only wearing a speedo, a cap, and goggles. Throughout the trajectory, he found several areas of melted ice, where he could resurface, in only a 10 minute swim.
Lewis Pugh describes this act of protest as the most frightening swimming experience of his life. He faced the threat of a glacial lake suddenly emptying due to a crack in the ice sheet caused by the now “unstable” nature of Antarctic glaciers.
“The swim was the accumulation of 33 years of training to swim 10 minutes and 17 seconds down that river. I swam here today as we are in a climate emergency. We need immediate action from all nations to protect our planet.” —Lewis Pugh.
The main action Pugh is calling for is for the formation of more Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in the Southern Ocean, mainly in Asia. So far, the swimmer’s performances have helped safeguard 2.2m square metres of ocean, including The Ross Sea which was established as an MPA following a 2015 swim. Pugh also hopes that his action will urge the United Nations to take the necessary steps to mitigate climate change.