18 February 2015
Ocean advocate and extreme swimmer Lewis Pugh is undertaking five challenging and dangerous swims in the Antarctic to help his campaign to have the Ross Sea declared a marine protected area (MPA).
Pugh, a maritime lawyer who lives in Cape Town, says he will be swimming in waters expected to be as cold as minus 1.7°C. The five swims are described as “the most challenging and dangerous swimming effort ever undertaken by man” on his website.
“With no insulation other than a Speedo swimming costume, Lewis will break the world record for the most southerly swim in three of his five swims. As well as the obvious dangers of subjecting his body to the stresses of sub-zero water, Lewis will be swimming in seas patrolled by killer whales and leopard seals.”
Pugh is appealing to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a body comprising 24 countries and the EU that is responsible for creating marine protected areas in the region, to make the Ross Sea an MPA.
The Ross Sea, in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica, contains species found nowhere else in the world and is one of the most pristine marine ecosystems on the planet.
WATCH: Lewis Pugh’s TED talk about his record-breaking swim across the North Pole.
Pugh hopes to undertake five swims, four of which will be further south than the current world record – held by Pugh – for the most southerly swim.
“My hope is that these symbolic swims will bring the beauty and wonder of Antarctica into the hearts and homes of people around the world so they will urge their governments to protect this unique ecosystem, which is truly a polar Garden of Eden,” he writes.
“The proposed Ross Sea MPA is 1.34 million km⊃2 – bigger than the UK, Germany and France put together – and will be the biggest protected area in the world, on land or in the sea.”
Pugh, who is a UN Patron of the Oceans, has was the first person to swim across the North Pole. Other accomplishments include the highest altitude swim – across a glacial lake on Mount Everest – and swims in the Seven Seas of Europe and the Middle East.
Pugh will undertake the Antarctic swims only in a swimming cap, goggles and a Speedo. “I have thought about wearing protective gear, but I just think it is better to go to world leaders and say: ‘I’ve just come back from the Ross Sea and undertaken five swims because I feel so passionately about this area and I’m urging to you to set up a protected areas’,” Pugh told the Independent earlier this month.
“Swimming in Speedos shows commitment, courage and integrity and it opens doors and gives me access to world leaders. Without a shadow of a doubt I will be hypothermic at the end of all those swims. We take safety seriously but there comes a time when you have to dive in and just go for it.”
Follow @LewisPugh on Twitter and support his call to protect the Ross Sea by using the hashtag #5swims