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The supra-glacial swim

Lewis Pugh to swim where no man has swum before, to raise awareness of the Climate Emergency
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
The supra-glacial swim

The UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh has announced his latest polar expedition, designed to build a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) around Antarctica.

In January 2020, Lewis Pugh will attempt to swim a stretch of water that no human has ever swum in before.

In his latest challenge, Lewis will attempt to swim 1km across a supra-glacial lake in East Antarctica to raise awareness of the impact of the Climate Emergency on the Polar Regions.

Supra-glacial lakes

Supra-glacial lakes are formed as a direct result of ice melting on the surface of ice sheets, something that is happening at an alarming rate across both Antarctica and Greenland.

A recent survey of Antarctica found that over 65,000 supra-glacial lakes have appeared on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in the past three years.

This coincides with recent data that show Antarctica lost the same amount of sea ice in the four years between 2014 and 2017 as the Arctic lost in the past 30 years.

‘We are living in a time of drastic change. There is a Climate Emergency and ice is melting at both ends of the Earth. Protecting the ocean is a simple and effective way to counter the destruction of climate change and nowhere on Earth needs this more than Antarctica.’

UN Patron of the Oceans

Swimming for marine protection

Lewis hopes that this swim will be a catalyst for the creation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, one of the world’s last great ocean wildernesses.

The extreme conditions of East Antarctica will ensure that this will be the toughest swim of Lewis’s life. Lewis will be faced with ice-cold waters, a severe wind-chill factor and the threat of the lake suddenly emptying through a crack in the ice sheet.

Lewis will be supported in his latest endeavour by Slava Fetisov, the UN Patron of the Polar Regions and former captain of the Soviet Ice Hockey Team and two-time Olympic champion. After retiring from ice hockey, Slava went on to become the Russian Sports Minister and is now a senator in the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Russia.

Join the training camp

To prepare for this challenge, Lewis is about to embark on an extensive training camp in the waters off the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

Lewis’s training camp will involve swimming in both the sea and mountain lochs. The temperature of the sea is likely to be 5 degrees, and the temperature in the lochs is expected to be just above freezing.

‘I am hugely excited to announce my next critical swim, which will call for a network of Marine Protected Areas in one of our most untouched ocean wildernesses.

‘My immediate focus is my upcoming training camp in Scotland and today I announce that I am looking for training partners. I won’t be wearing a wetsuit, but I don’t mind if my training partners do.

‘But applicants need to be prepared to work hard – there will be two training sessions a day, one at sunrise, one at dusk. Each session will last over an hour and will involve running on the beaches and swimming in waters that will be close to freezing. There will be no tea breaks and no Hogmanay – not even if you’re Scottish!’

UN Patron of the Oceans

The remote Outer Hebrides off the West Coast of Scotland, with its rugged shores, cold seas and strong currents from the Atlantic Ocean, will provide the ideal conditions for Lewis to train.

Lewis has taken out an advert in the job section of The Times looking for people to come and train with him from 29 December to help him prepare.

Another world first

Following his Scottish training camp, Lewis will travel to East Antarctica to continue his preparations from 14 January. Lewis is expected to carry out his 1km swim on 22 January.

The Antarctica Swim 2020 team will have full satellite coverage during the expedition. This is another world first, in that there has never been full coverage from this far south on the frozen continent before. This will enable the expedition to be broadcast live and for Lewis to have live links ups with global leaders.

Following completion of the swim, Lewis will travel straight to Moscow to take part in the Russia’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian Admiral Bellingshausen. He will hold talks with key decision makers within Russia’s political leadership. Lewis will then travel to London for media interviews.

Click here to read our article on Lewis Pugh’s completion of ‘The Long Swim’.

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