Polar defender Pugh takes on new, icy challenge

2008-07-25 00:00

Cape Town — “It was the most frightening experience of my life. I will never do it again.”

These were the words of British explorer and adventurer Lewis Gordon Pugh on Wednesday at a news conference in Cape Town, describing his North Pole swim.

Pugh (38) made history in July 2007 when he became the first person to complete a long distance swim at the Geographic North Pole.

The one-kilometre swim took Pugh 18 minutes and 50 seconds to complete, in icy waters of minus 1,7°C, water that would normally kill another human being within seconds.

It’s no wonder then that Pugh is also known as the Polar Bear, for his unique ability to withstand such extreme cold.

Even though the swim frightened the living daylights out of him, Pugh did not heed his own advice.

His next project in August is to kayak from a Norwegian island to the North Pole — a 1 200 km journey.

So, what is wrong with the man? And, why does he go to such extremes?

Well, as a maritime lawyer and environmentalist, Pugh has always had a special interest in the Arctic. He has been outspoken about global warming and the need for greater legal protection for the Arctic.

“I will attempt to kayak to the North Pole to show the drastic loss of sea ice. Over recent decades we have lost more than half the Arctic summer sea ice cover, decades ahead of predictions, showing climate change has been hugely underestimated.

“It would not have been possible to kayak to the North Pole, even last year,” Pugh said. “Although sea ice is melting fast, I sincerely hope that there is more sea ice than predicted this summer and that it is impossible for me to kayak all the way,” he said.

Pugh’s incredible kayak journey will begin on August 29 at the island of Spitsbergen from where he will travel the 1 200 km to the North Pole.

When Pugh reaches the North Pole, he plans to symbolically raise 192 national flags, including South Africa’s, and call for Arctic peace to be preserved.

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