Icy plunge for Antarctic conservation

British endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh is embarking on the “most dangerous swims ever undertaken in the world” to call for a protected area in Antarctic waters.

Icy plunge for Antarctic conservation

He is braving freezing temperatures, leopard seals, and killer whales in nothing more than his Speedos to raise awareness of the need to protect Antarctica’s pristine Ross Sea.

Over the next five weeks he will undertake five swims, four of which will be further south than the current world record — held by Pugh — for the most southerly swim, in waters expected to be as cold as around -1.7C.

The swims include a long distance swim around Cape Adare, home to the largest colony of Adele penguins in the world and patrolled by the penguins’ predators, leopard seals.

He will also be swimming at Cape Evans, where British explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott built a hut in 1911 before his journey to the South Pole, and will prepare for his swim in the hut, which has been left virtually untouched since.

Another swim will take place in the Bay of Whales, so-named by explorer Ernest Shackleton due to the large number of killer whales seen in the area.

Pugh said he was worried about leopard seals, which could try to grab him and drag him under, killer whales and the bitterly cold water, which he has already experienced in the Arctic.

“When you have been there before and felt that pain, it’s all the more daunting to go back there,” he said. “Your purpose has got to be so strong when everything is saying to you, ‘get out of the water’, so there’s something saying, ‘no, this is what I was meant to do’.”

He said protecting the seas was “extremely important” to him, pushing him to undertake the risky swims, which he hopes will encourage the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to designate the sea as a protected area.

The swimmer wants to see a vast no-take zone established, which would be the biggest protected area on Earth and larger than the UK, Germany, and France put together.

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