Lewis Pugh tells of terror as 'almighty boom' erupts during Antarctic swim

Lewis Pugh during Friday's Antarctic swim. 'Swimming under the Antarctic ice sheet is the most beautiful and terrifying swim I’ve ever done. Every shade of blue, and then nearly complete darkness. Midway I heard an almighty boom above me, and thought my time had come. Luckily, it was just the ice shifting,' he said on Twitter.
Lewis Pugh during Friday's Antarctic swim. 'Swimming under the Antarctic ice sheet is the most beautiful and terrifying swim I’ve ever done. Every shade of blue, and then nearly complete darkness. Midway I heard an almighty boom above me, and thought my time had come. Luckily, it was just the ice shifting,' he said on Twitter.
Image: Twitter/Lewis Pugh

Capetonian Lewis Pugh completed a swim in an Antarctic lake on Friday to raise awareness of climate change and the need to halt overfishing.

On Twitter, he said it was the most beautiful and terrifying swim he had done.

“Midway I heard an almighty boom above me, and thought my time had come. Luckily, it was just the ice shifting,” he said.

Pugh's Twitter account provided live updates of the build-up to the 1km swim in a supraglacial lake formed of melting water collected in a depression on the east Antarctic ice sheet.

After a final training swim on Thursday, the 50-year-old's feat began with a three-hour hike from his base camp, followed by a 70m abseil down an ice wall to the lake.

Then he stripped off and took the plunge into water at 0°C, wearing just a pair of swimming trunks, a cap and goggles.

He said he was dreading the -20°C wind chill which he said would blast his arms every time he raised them out of the water to complete a stroke.

Pugh, who lives within walking distance of the icy water off Noordhoek beach, is the UN patron of the oceans.

Friday's swim was to draw attention to the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, and he now plans to travel to Russia and China in an attempt to get their backing for a network of marine protected areas around Antarctica.

All other nations with a say in the matter have agreed to the measure to protect the region from overfishing.

This week, Pugh took part in a live link-up with the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland.

In 2016 Pugh helped to persuade world leaders to approve a marine protected area covering 1.5 million sq km of the Ross Sea off Antarctica. In 2018 he became the first person to swim the length of the English Channel.


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