Lewis Pugh: «When I'm Swimming in the Sea, World Seems to Be Perfect»

Lewis Pugh is the unique swimmer and environmental activist. He has set many records, among them is swimming in icy water at the North Pole. Last year he has covered 350 meters in the Ross Sea in Antarctica in order to make protected status for this territory. We figured out how it all succeeded.

I have made my first swim at a long distance in 17 years in South Africa, having covered the distance of 7 kilometers from the Robben Island to Cape Town. Then I was 17 years old. And the water temperature was about 17 degrees. I hardly coped with it. Then I was very thin, but it is precisely the presence of fat which protects against hypothermia. The first two hours everything was normal, but the third hour it was very cold, so it was very hard to swim, and I switched to brass. When I stepped on solid ground again, the feeling was incomparable.

I've always loved the feeling one experiences, diving into the ocean. No matter how difficult was my day - when I find myself in the sea, the world seems perfect.

The most difficult swims in my life were the swim at the North Pole in the 2007 and crossing a glacial lake on Mount Everest in 2010. At the North Pole sea thewater was -1.7 degrees on the verge of turning into ice. On Everest I had to swim at an altitude of 5500 meters above the sea level, and I had not enough oxygen.

Льюис Пью меняет наши представления о возможностях человека

I have refused from a few races because I care about my own life. Every time I carefully prepare and gather a crew, knowing that it's not just ice water, but a possible meeting with the marine predators – polar bears, sharks, walruses, and sea leopards. Passing boats, strong currents, political instability in the region – all this is dangerous. I try never to cross the line between bravery and stupidity.

Before each swim in a cold water, my body temperature rises to 37 – 38,2 degrees. It seems not much, but it helps to hold up for a long time. This phenomenon was observed by scientists, calling it a «preliminary thermogenesis». I do not know how I've got it. Probably, it is like Pavlov dogs reflex. I have 30 years of swimming in cold water, and my body protects itself.

It is very important to concentrate and to be 100% confident. If I had dived into the water, and would have doubted the victory, I would have jumped back in a second.

If I swim in the warm ocean, I'm just enjoying the moment and dreaming. In the polar regions, I concentrate on every stroke, trying to be the most active. The sooner I finish, the better. Anyone who says that he likes to swim in the icy water is lying, or has never tried to do so.

"Перед стартом важно сконцентрироваться и быть уверенным в себе на 100%"

For five years I've worked as a lawyer, specializing in maritime law. This experience helped me later to negotiate efficiently, without unnecessary emotions, which is important for the organization of successful campaigns. But I have a childhood dream to conquer the oceans, so that the standard working day is not for me.

I began to think about environmental issues not at once. As a small boy I often visited national parks, I liked to spend time in contact with wildlife. Later, when I was a swimmer, I began to notice that the oceans are changing. Every year there becomes fewer fish and more pollution.

I saw the huge chunks of ice falling off from the glaciers of the Arctic. I sailed over the whitened corals, dead from the increasing water temperature, and found out how much plastic waste can be found in the most remote corners of the Earth. All this is the result of our activities.

In 2005 I swam in Antarctica near the Deception Island. Once there was the center of whaling. There are hundreds of whale skeletons under the water, discarded by hunters, mountains of skeletons that almost reach the surface, and when I did the stroke, my hands touched them. It was terrible. Impressions from that swim did not leave me for a long time, and I realized that I must stand up for the ocean and its inhabitants, to be their voice.

So I decided to take part in the UN campaign for the establishment of marine protected areas worldwide. This is analogous to the national parks, only in the oceans. Now only 2% of the oceans are under protection, and we need to change that.

Around 100 million sharks are caught annually. Just think - a quarter of a million die every day. I would call it «ecocide», by analogy with genocide. In a healthy ocean there must be a shark because predators are a very important part of an ecosystem on the Earth and under the water.

Creating marine reserves will allow fish stocks to recover, and it is important for the future of mankind. We save corals, which protect the coastline and provide a haven for fish. In addition, such protected areas have become centers of ecological tourism, advantageous in terms of economy.

Recently I've visited Moscow informal meeting of representatives of member countries of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). We appealed to the Russian authorities, urging them to join the initiative of 23 countries to create the largest reserve in the international waters of the Ross Sea in the Antarctic, with the introduction of a total ban on fishing. I am optimistic, and I hope that at the next meeting in October Russia, which has Presidency of the CCAMLR this year, will still support the project.

The richest underwater world I've seen is in the Arabian Sea. It is home to many green turtles, in Oman they are a protected species. Stunning. I also like to swim near the Robben Island in South Africa, looking at the Table Mountain. And underneath, at the same time, gray penguins are swimming.

Yes, I love penguins very much. And who does not like them? They are cool. Like humans, they have different characters. Some ones are sleepy, some are joyful, and some are grumpy. There are thieves that steal stones for building nests from their fellows. And all of them have very sharp beaks.

Very little in our life is really unattainable - provided that you have a conscious purpose. The main thing is not to give up. If someone tells you that your dream is unrealizable - do not waste time arguing, just go and do what do you want.

If I'm going to have a difficult choice, I mentally turn for advice to myself, but in the age of 75 years. This person usually knows what to do.

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