50-year-old man makes history swimming under stunning Antarctic ice sheet

A 50-year-old endurance athlete is swimming beneath an ice sheet in Antarctica to raise awareness of climate change.

On Monday, Lewis Pugh plunged into a river formed beneath a rapidly melting ice sheet and swam through waters just a few degrees above zero — wearing nothing but a Speedo, hair cap and goggles. The British-South African swimmer from Plymouth, England gushed over the natural beauty of the South Pole.

“This is one of the most remote places on the planet,” Pugh told SWNS and other press outlets while in East Antarctica. “It’s vast. It’s beautiful. But everywhere we look we are seeing meltwater.”

He couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the many shades of blue so rarely found in nature.

“It was every shade of blue. It started turquoise, and then I swam around a corner and it was royal blue,” he said. “And then it turned to indigo, and then a psychedelic blue, and finally violet.”

Pugh, who travels around the world advocating for oceans, performed the spine-chilling stunt to prepare for yet another “world first” on Thursday — to become the first person to swim across a supraglacial lake.

These bodies of water are formed by melting glaciers on the polar continent. More than 65,000 supraglacial lakes have formed atop the icy land mass in just three years, according to research published in Scientific Reports last year. Another 2019 report appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that ice melt during a three year period — 2014 through 2017 — matched the amount that had been lost in the 30 years prior.

“I was quite relieved to see my team at the end,” Pugh said after the eight minute race. “This is a high-consequence environment to swim in.”

Pugh, who was the first person to finish a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world, says he’s been working towards this goal most of his life, but thanked those who helped him get there.

“It took me 33 years of training to swim those eight minutes, and a team of incredible French mountaineers to get me in and out of the tunnel safely,” he said.

His one kilometer swim through the supraglacial lake on Thursday is expected to last 20 minutes.

In 2007, the environmentalist was the first person to swim 1 kilometer through the Arctic Sea in the North Pole to bring attention to its melting sea ice. Pugh hopes his efforts this week will also help push world leaders to protect vulnerable marine zones.

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