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Lewis Pugh diving into Arctic Ocean at North Pole © Jason Roberts ProductionsAfter completing the swim at 2am on Sunday 15 July, Lewis - nicknamed the 'polar bear' - said: "I hope my swim will inspire world leaders to take climate change seriously. The decisions which they make over the next few years will determine the biodiversity of our world. I am obviously ecstatic to have succeeded, but this swim is a triumph and a tragedy - a triumph that I could swim in such ferocious conditions but a tragedy that it's possible to swim at the North Pole."

Lewis has previously spent a great deal of time defying the elements in expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change both on the polar regions and in the UK, he has used his latest swim in an area that should be totally frozen over to visibly demonstrate the devastating impacts of climate change on our planet.

He described it as his most challenging swim yet: "The water was absolutely black. It was like jumping into a dark black hole. It was frightening. The pain was immediate and felt like my body was on fire. I was in excruciating pain from beginning to end and I nearly quit on a few occasions. It was without doubt the hardest swim of my life."

The Geographic North Pole is at 90° North. In recent years the Arctic has undergone rapid environmental changes. Over the last century its average air temperature has warmed at twice the global rate. Scientists predict that air temperatures in the Arctic may rise as much as 12°C in the next 100 years and winter sea temperatures in the Arctic Ocean may increase by as much as 8-9°C by the end of the century.

The extent of summer sea ice has decreased at an alarming rate and areas of open sea are appearing. Experts now believe that by 2040 the Arctic could be largely ice-free in the summer months. This could mark the demise of species such as the polar bear and have serious impacts on other species such as ringed seal, Arctic cod, and walrus.

WWF Head of Campaigns, Colin Butfield, said: "Lewis succeeded in being the first person to complete a long distance swim at the Geographic North Pole. Lewis's swim has highlighted the impacts of climate change in an area that is showing rapid warming. Some experts predict that the Arctic may be virtually devoid of summer sea ice by 2040. If the UK is serious about tackling global warming, the forthcoming Climate Change Bill target to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050 must be increased to 80%."

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