Lewis Gordon Pugh (South Africa)
Environmentalist, Explorer, Swimmer
The Polar Defence Project - Winner of the Best Use of Sport to Protect the Environment Award 2009
On 30 August I will attempt to kayak from the Island of Spitsbergen (in Northern Europe) across the Arctic Ocean into the Arctic ice pack. I am undertaking the expedition to highlight the dramatic melting of the sea ice. This year the ice is the thinnest on record.
I always wanted to be a pioneer swimmer - to swim in places where nobody had swum before. Much of my inspiration came from explorers like Raold Amundsen, Robert Scott, and Edmund Hillary. Twenty years on, and I have now pioneered more swims around famous landmarks than any other swimmer in history, and I am the only person to have completed a long distance swim in every ocean of the world. But I'm probably best known for becoming the first person to undertake a long distance swim at the North Pole.
I am often asked why I do it. At a simplistic level, I am passionate about swimming and I enjoy pushing boundaries. But there's a lot more to it than that. Through my swims I have had a unique perspective on climate change. I have witnessed retreating glaciers, decreasing sea ice, coral bleaching, severe droughts, and the migration of animals to colder climates. It's as a result of these experiences that I am determined to do my bit to raise awareness about the fragility of our environment and to encourage everyone to take action.
But I've not always been in swimming trunks. I studied law at the University of Cape Town and the University of Cambridge, and then went on to work as a maritime lawyer in London. I now spend much of my time public speaking and lobbying world leaders to protect the environment.