The coldest swim on Earth
UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh announces most challenging swim yet – world's fastest moving glacier – to highlight melting planet
Published: 13 August 2021
This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod
The UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh has released details of his latest polar expedition: he will attempt the coldest swim on Earth and the most challenging of his career.
The swim will highlight the rapid melting as result of the climate crisis. Lewis will also call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.
A 10km swim
At the end of August, Pugh will attempt to swim across the 10km mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord, which is fed by the world’s fastest-moving glacier.
The swim is expected to take two weeks and Pugh will be the first person to attempt a multi-day swim in the Polar regions.
Pugh will likely swim much further than the 10km direct distance, as he will have to navigate around icebergs and brash ice, which won’t allow for swimming in a straight line.
The water will be near freezing, and the wind chill could plummet temperatures deep into negative numbers.
The Ilulissat Glacier
The Ilulissat Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, moves at an average of 30 metres per day – even faster in the summer.
The glacier calves an average of 30 cubic kilometres of ice into the sea every year. It produces 10% of all Greenland’s icebergs, some over 1km tall, and including (legend has it) the one that sank the Titanic.
If the entire Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of over seven metres.
Any sea-level rise will be devastating; one billion people live less than 10 metres above sea level.
Just a one-metre rise would drown major cities like London, Tokyo and New York.
Greenland and the climate crisis
There’s no better place in the world than Greenland to demonstrate the dramatic impact of the climate crisis. Lewis will once again put his life on the line to demonstrate the speed of global warming to world leaders.
The length of the swim, and the extreme conditions of the Ilulissat Icefjord, will ensure this will be the toughest swim of Lewis’s life.
‘What happens in the Arctic will determine the future of our planet and everything that lives on it. The Polar regions are feeling the effects of the climate crisis more dramatically than anywhere else on Earth.
‘If temperatures continue to increase, the polar ice caps will melt and sea levels will rise. Unless we take urgent action to decrease global temperatures by seriously lowering our global CO2 emissions, low-lying islands and coastal cities will, quite literally, drown.
‘The devastation of the natural world will affect every single person, every future generation and every creature, great and small, on this planet.’
UN Patron of the Oceans
‘No ice, no life’
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) make the oceans more resilient to climate change. At the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November, Lewis will also call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030, stressing to world leaders the role healthy oceans play in mitigating climate change.
Lewis will ask them to move beyond long-term commitments toward immediate urgent action.
To prepare for this challenge, Lewis is currently training in Iceland as part of his cold-water adaptation programme.
In the final days before the swim, Lewis will move his training to Greenland. The swim is expected to start 25 August and end two weeks later, on 05 September.
‘This swim will be the most challenging of my career. The cold-water adaptation and training alone is gruelling and extremely intense on the body. But there is a reason I’m doing this.
‘We are an ice-dependent species. Ice keeps our planet cool enough for us to live. The Polar regions and high-altitude glaciers are melting, and our collective survival is on the line. No ice, no life.’
UN Patron of the Oceans