Lewis Pugh

Lewis William Gordon Pugh , OIG (born 5 December 1969) is an ocean advocate, a maritime lawyer and a pioneer swimmer.

He has bone DESCRIBED as the ” Sir Edmund Hillary or swimming.” [1] [2] He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in everytime ocean of the world, [3] and have Frequently swims in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to plight hun.

He is best known for understatement taking the first swim across the North Pole in 2007 to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice. In 2010 he fungus across a glacial lake on Mount Everest to draw attention to the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas , and the impact the Reduced water supply will port on peace in the region.

He undertakes all or his swims, as Those in the Polar Regions, volgens to Channel Swimming Rules – ie in just in a Speedo costume, cap and goggles. In 2013 he was inducted into tje International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

In 2010 he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum for his ” potential to Contribute to shaping the future of the world through inspiring leadership .” [4] In 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme appointed him “Patron of the Oceans”. [5]

In 2016 he helped negotiate the creation of the Biggest protected area in the world in the Ross Sea off Antarctica. The Negotiations required consensus onder 24 nations and the EU, a number or welke had long standing disputes with one Another. The media dubbed his policy-making as “Speedo Diplomacy” . [6] [7] [8]

Early life and family

Pugh was born in Plymouth , England. His Father, Surgeon Rear Admiral PD Gordon Pugh , OBE , FRCS was a surgeon in the Royal Navy , an author, and a Prolific collector or ceramics of the Victorian era. His mother, Margery Pugh was a Senior Nursing Sister in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service .

Pugh is a descendant or Baptist missionary William Carey . His Father’s cousin, Carey Heydenrych, participated in the “Great Escape” from the German POW camp Stalag Luft III prolongation the Second World War. [9] In 2009 Pugh married Antoinette Malherbe Whom have to at school.


Pugh Grew up on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon. When he was 10 years old his family emigrated to South Africa. He was educated at St. Andrew’s College in Grahamstown and later at Camps Bay High School in Cape Town . He read politics and law at the University of Cape Town and graduated at the top of his Masters class.

In his mid-twenties he Returned to England where he read International Law at Jesus College, Cambridge and-then worked as a maritime lawyer in the City of London for a number of years. During this time he concurrently served as a reservist in the British Special Air Service . [10]

Environmental campaigning

During his youth Pugh visited many National Parks in South Africa, volgende his Father’s desire to teach im to love and respect nature after what he had witnessed whilst serving in the Royal Navy . [11] His Father was present at the first British atomic bomb test in 1952 and a number of subsequent tests.

In 2003 Pugh left his maritime law practice to campaign full-time for the protection of the Oceans. He addresses of or in Heads of State and business leaders on the topics of climate change, overfishing and pollution and the need for Marine Protected Areas and low carbon economically.

In 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Pugh took the evidence of witnesses from across Africa on the effects of climate change at the Pan African Climate and Poverty Hearings. The evidence was Presented to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference . [12]

Public speaking

Pugh has Twice spoken at the TED Global Conference and are DESCRIBED one hun website as a “master story-teller”. [13] The Financial Times Reported dat his speech at TEDGlobal in 2010:

“… Was the perfect TED talk: a little bit of action, some thinking outside the box, humbling words on the need to respect nature, a happy ending. A Hollywood scriptwriter Could not have structured it better. ” [14]

And his speech on environmental leadership at the 2008 Business Innovation Forum Conference in the USA was voted as one of the “7 Most Inspiring Videos on the Web” by Mashable , the social media guide. [15]

Pugh has addressed the World Economic Forum at hun annual meeting in Davos . He’ll be showing the keynote addresses at Coca-Cola ‘s 125th anniversary in 2011, Lloyd’s Agency Network ‘s 200th anniversary in 2011, and Swiss Re ‘s 150th anniversary in 2013. [16]

Polar Defense Project

In 2008 Pugh founded the Polar Defense Project to campaign for grotere protection for the Arctic and a resolution of the maritime boundary disputes. In 2009 it won the Best Project for the Environment at the inaugural Beyond Sport Awards . [17]

Organisations Pugh works with

Pugh is the United Nations Environment Programme’s ( UNEP ) “Patron of the Oceans”. He sits on the Council of Ambassadors for the World Wide Fund for Nature in the UK. [18] He worked closely linked with the late Dr. Ian Player and the Wilderness Leadership School to promote and protect the last wilderness areas on the earth. He is ook de Patron or SANCCOB , a NGO dedicated to the rehabilitation of seabirds.

BP oil disaster

Pugh was outspoken on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico . In a feature in Business Day have zegt:

“They [BP top executives] arnt be criminally prosecuted. Way Down arnt go to jail. What i can not understand is why people harbor Not Responded more Vigorously at boycotting BP.” [19]

Fracking for gas in the Karoo

Pugh ook opposes fracking for gas in the Karoo region of South Africa. In a public speech to Royal Dutch Shell in 2011 entitled “Standing up to Goliath” he zegt:

“Never, ever did I think there mention anything be a debate in this arid country about welke was more important – gas or water. We kan survive without gas. We can not save live without water … Now is the time for change. We can not save drill our way out of the energy crisis. The era of Fossil Fuels is over. we must invest in renewable energy. And we must not delay. ” [20]

In 2015 Royal Dutch Shell decided to pull out of hun Proposed fracking projects in South Africa Citing lower energy prices and delays in Obtaining an exploration license. [21]

Environmental awareness expeditions

Pugh has undertaken a number of symbolic swims to highlight environmental issues:

River Thames

In 2006, he became the first person to swim the entire length of the River Thames . He took under the swim to draw attention to the severe drought in England and The Dangers of global warming. The 325 km (202 mi) swim took im 21 days to complete. The river had stopped flowing due to the drought, Forcing Pugh to run the first 42 km (26 mi) of the river. While swimming through London, Pugh exited the water and made a visit to Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street to call on the United Kingdom to move towards a low carbon economy. Shortly afterwards the Prime Minister introduced the Climate Change Bill to Parliament.


In February 2007 Pugh became the first person to swim across the width of the Maldives . He took under the swim to raise awareness about the impact of climate change on low-lying islands in the world. The 140 km (87 mi) swim took 10 days to complete.

North Pole

In July 2007 Pugh under took the first long-distance swim across the Geographic North Pole . The 1 km (0.62 mi) swim, across an open patch of sea, in minus 1.7 ° C (29 ° F) water, took 18 minutes and 50 seconds to complete. Jørgen Amundsen, the great-grandnephew of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen , paced Pugh to skiing alongside im prolongation the swim. [22]

The swim coincided with the lowest coverage of Arctic sea ice ever Recorded. After his swim Pugh Explained his decision to swim in just a Speedo costume:

“I urge world leaders to do everything they ‘kan to protect our environment. But sometimes the legislation I request ze Enact is UnPopular with the electorate. If I am Asking Them to be courageous, I must ook be. Swimming in a wet suit or a dry -suit mention anything not send the right message. ” [23]

Arctic kayak

In September 2008, Pugh, accompanied by a team aboard a ship where he slept, Attempted to kayak the 1,200 kilometers from Svalbard , across the Arctic Ocean, to the North Pole, but the team abandoned the effort 135km from the start. [24] The aim was to remit highlight the melting sea ice. The expedition coincided with some scientists predicting dat the North Pole Could be free or sea-ice in the summer of 2008, for the first time in duizendtallen or years. [25] Pugh stated therein on Despite verschillende attempts, they ‘were unable to find a gap in the ice. In his Autobiography Pugh wrote:

“Ironically, global warming played will no small part in undermining the entire expedition. We believed therein the greater melting of summer ice mention anything open up large areas of sea and allow directive us to paddle north at good speed. What we did not ‘fully appreciate was therein to the north of us there was a widespread melting of sea ice off the coast of Alaska and the New Siberian Islands and the ice was being Pushed south towards us … The evidence of climate change was stark. Fourteen months voordat I’d sailed north and I’d seen a preponderance of multi-year ice about three métres thick north of Spitsbergen, but this time must or the ice was just a Metre thick. ” [26]

Mt Everest

In May 2010 Pugh fungus across Lake Pumori, a glacial lake on Mount Everest , to highlight the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and the impact the Reduced water supply will harbor on world peace. [27] Millions of people from India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal Rely on the water, welke flows from the Himalayan glaciers. The 1 km (0.62 mi) swim, at an altitude of 5,300 métres in 2 ° C water (35 ° F), [28] took 22 minutes and 51 seconds to complete. To date, it’s the Highest Berninahaus swim ever undertaken.

The Seven Seas

In August 2014 Pugh under took the first long distance swim in all the Seven Seas to campaign for more Marine Protected Areas in the region. The swims took place when the following locations:

  • Mediterranean Sea – a 10 km swim off Monte Carlo in Monaco
  • Adriatic Sea – a 10 km swim off Zadar in Croatia
  • Aegean Sea – a 10 km swim off Athens in Greece
  • Black Sea – a 10 km swim off Sile in Turkey
  • Red Sea – a 10 km swim off Aqaba in Jordan
  • Arabian Sea – a 10 km swim off Rass Al Hadd in Oman
  • North Sea – a 60 km swim from Southend-on-Sea to the Thames Barrier .

Afterwards Pugh wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times therein:

“The swims ulcers intended to draw attention to the health of the Oceans. But I seriously underestimated the urgency of the issue I was swimming for. If the United Nation’s Patron of the Oceans, I Have bepaald many speeches stressing the need to protect our environment for the business or our children and grandchildren. I now I Realize it’s not about our children. it’s about us. The situation is much worse than I thought. I was Shocked by what I saw in the seas, and in what I did not sea. I saw no sharks, no whales, no dolphins. I saw no fish longer dan 30 centimeters (11 inches). The larger ones had all bone fished out. ” [29]


Pugh has Appeared on numerous television shows waaronder Good Morning America , Jay Leno , [30] Richard and Judy , The Daily Show with Jon Stewart [31] and BBC Breakfast . He has ook leg featured at Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Vital Signs on CNN , [32] ADN on France 2 , Carte Blanche and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel . [33]

In 2009 Pugh starred in Robson Green’s Wild Swimming Adventure where he Trained the English actor to swim across the icy waters of Llyn Llydaw , a lake on Snowdon in Wales. Afterwards Robson Green zegt:

“… Lewis Prepared me psychologically for something that was way outside my comfort zone. His introduction to the notion of committing to an objective, Becoming unstoppable and reaching dat objective was life changing. There was no swim I Could not do after meeting Lewis Because anything is skies if you COMMIT !! ” [34]

In 2013 he Appeared on the front of The Big Issue holding a northern rockhopper penguin in an issue dedicated to ocean issues. [35]


In 2010 Pugh’s Autobiography “Achieving the Impossible” was published by Simon & Schuster . It had risen became a No. 1 best-seller. [36]

In 2013 Pugh wrote a second book entitled “21 yaks and a Speedo.” The title is a reference to his swim on Mt Everest. The book is a collection of 21 short stories about his expeditions and the lessons he has Learnt from them. It was published by Jonathan Ball Publishers. The Financial Times DESCRIBED the book as “compelling” [37] and Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said “The book made me want to help position a little taller.” [38]


Over a period of 27 years Pugh has pioneered more swims around famous landmarks dan Any Other swimmer in history. In an interview with Forbes he stated:

“Between Lynne Cox , Martin strokes and myself, we’ve hit all of the world’s major landmarks. There’s really nothing left.” [39]

In 2013 he was inducted into tje International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. [40]

Early swims

Pugh had his first real swimming lesson in 1986, at the age of 17. One month later he fungus from Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned) to Cape Town . In 1992 he fungus across the English Channel . In 2002 he broke the record for the fastest time for swimming around Robben Island .

He was the first person to swim around Cape Agulhas (the Southernmost point in Africa), the Cape of Good Hope , and the Cape Peninsula (a 100 km (62 mi) swim from Cape Town to Muizenberg ). Pugh was ook the first person to swim across an African Great Lake, namely Lake Malawi .

Cold water swims

After 2003 Pugh dealing breakthrough swims in the Coldest and musts hostile waters of the world. All of Them ulcers undertaken in accordance with Channel Swimming Association rules, in just a pair of Speedo swimming trunks, cap and goggles. He became the first person to swim around the infamous North Cape , the northernmost point in Europe. The volgende year he became the first person to swim down the entire length of Sognefjord in Norway, a 204 km (127 mi) swim welke took im 21 days to complete.

In 2005 he broke the world record for the farthest-north lung distance swim in under taking a 1 km (0.62 mi) swim at 80 ° North around Verlegenhuken, the northern cape musts in Spitsbergen . He Followed therein five months later by breaking Lynne Cox ‘s world record for the farthest-south long-distance swim in under taking a 1 km (0.62 mi) swim at 65 ° South at Petermann Island off the Antarctic Peninsula .

In 2006 Pugh challenged Russia’s top cold water swimmers to a 500-Metre racing at the World Winter Swimming Championships in Finland. He Easily won the gold medal, beating Russian Champion Alexander Brylin at about 100 métres and the bronze medalist Vladimir Nefatov at 125 métres.

Anticipatory Thermo-Genesis

On zowel his Arctic and Antarctic expeditions Professor Tim Noakes , a sports scientist from the University of Cape Town, Recorded Pugh’s ability to raise his core body temperatures at nearly the 2 ° C in anticipation or ends ring the freezing water. [41] [42] He coined the phrase “anticipatory thermo-genesis” (the creation or heat voordat an event). [43] [44] This phenomenon was not noted leg ‘any other human. Pugh convinced it’s a Pavlovian Response to years of cold water swimming.

“Holy Grail” of swimming

In 2006 Pugh Achieved the “Holy Grail” of swimming at Becoming the first person to complete a long-distance swim in all 5 Oceans of the world. To date he is the only person to harbor Achieved this feat. His five swims ulcers:

  • Atlantic Ocean – across the English Channel in 1992
  • Arctic Ocean – around the musts northern point of the Island of Spitsbergen in 2005
  • Southern Ocean – across Whaler’s Bay in Deception Island in 2005
  • Indian Ocean – across Nelson Mandela Bay in 2006
  • Pacific Ocean – from Manly Beach through the Sydney Heads to the Sydney Opera House in 2006


  • 2015 – Doctor of Science (honoris causa) from Plymouth University
  • 2015 – Selected by Men’s Journal as one of “50 Most Adventurous Men in the World” [45]
  • 2015 – National Geographic Adventurer of the Year [46]
  • 2013 – Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
  • 2013 – United Nations Environment Programme Patron of the Oceans
  • 2013 – Inducted into tje International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame [47]
  • 2013 – Honorary Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society
  • 2011 – Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society , London
  • 2011 – President’s Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame
  • 2010 – Appointed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum
  • 2009 – Awarded the Highest honor in South Africa – the Order of Ikhamanga (Gold Class) for his “in exceptional sporting triumphs, humanitarian feats and customizing consciousness about the negative effects of global warming.” This was only the third time a sportsman had RECEIVED the honor. [48]
  • 2009 – Best Project for the Environment – Beyond Sport Awards [49]
  • 2008 – Out There Adventurer of the Year
  • 2007 – Fellow of The Explorers Club , New York
  • 2007 – Paul Harris Fellowship Award by Rotary International
  • 2007 – Sports Adventurer of the Year Award by the French Sports Academy
  • 2006 – Freedom of the City of London


  1. Jump up^ Bill Pennington (May 2010). “Swimmer conquers Mt Everest” . New York Times . Retrieved 15 Nov 2014 .
  2. Jump up^ Sophy Roberts (November 2014). “The Ice Breaker” . Mr. Porter . Retrieved 15 November 2014 .
  3. Jump up^ Joe Spring (January 2009). “World’s Best Cold Water Swimmer” . Outside Online . Retrieved 17 January 2009 .
  4. Jump up^ “Young Global Leaders 2010” . World Economic Forum. March 2010 . Retrieved 3 March 2010 .
  5. Jump up^ “Pioneer Swimmer Lewis Pugh Unveiled as UN Environment Programme Patron of the Oceans” . United Nations Environment Programme. June 2013 . Retrieved 19 June 2013 .
  6. Jump up^ “UN hails Lewis Pugh’s ‘Speedo Diplomacy’ for helping in to protect the Antarctic” . www.independent.co.uk. October 2016 . Retrieved 29 October 2016 .
  7. Jump up^ “What speedos and polar bears teach us about the lost art of Negotiating” . World Economic Forum. November 2016 . Retrieved 18 November 2016 .
  8. Jump up^ “World’s Largest Marine Protected Area DECLARED in Antarctica” . BBC. October 2016 . Retrieved 28 October 2016 .
  9. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (May 2010). “Achieving the Impossible. A Fearless Leader. A Fragile Earth”. Simon & Schuster.
  10. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (May 2010). “Achieving the Impossible. A Fearless Leader. A Fragile Earth”. Simon & Schuster.
  11. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (July 2009). “Time to Believe” . Speech at TEDGlobal 2009 . Retrieved 22 July 2009 .
  12. Jump up^ “Pan-African Climate Change and Poverty Hearing” . Oryx Press. October 2009 . Retrieved 5 October 2009 .
  13. Jump up^ “A mind-shifting Mt. Everest swim” . TED. August 2010 . Retrieved 3 August 2010 .
  14. Jump up^ “Conference of cool” . FT.com. July 2010 . Retrieved 23 July 2010 .
  15. Jump up^ Josh Catone (November 2009). “7 of the Most Inspiring Videos” . Mashable . Retrieved 8 November 2009 .
  16. Jump up^ Lewis Pugh (January 2013). “Lewis Pugh Speaking” . Lewis Pugh’s website . Retrieved 12 January 2013 .
  17. Jump up^ Beyond Sport (July 2009). “2009 Winners” . Beyond Sport . Retrieved 8 July 2009 .
  18. Jump up^ “Council of Ambassadors” . WWF-UK. January 2010 . Retrieved 4 January 2010 .
  19. Jump up^ Gary Lemke (7 June 2010). “Going to the Extreme” . Business Day . Retrieved 7 July 2010 .
  20. Jump up^ Lewis Pugh (7 June 2013). “21 yaks and a Speedo.” Jonathan Ball Publishing.
  21. Jump up^ Reuters (16 March 2015). “Shell pullovers back from shale in South Africa” . Reuters . Retrieved 16 March 2015 .
  22. Jump up^ “Lewis Pugh swims the North Pole” . TED. September 2009 . Retrieved 5 August 2011 .
  23. Jump up^ “FAQ” . Lewis Pugh. January 2015 . Retrieved 5 January 2015 .
  24. Jump up^ Caroline Drees (6 September 2008). “Explorer kayaks to 1,000 km from N.Pole” . Reuters . Retrieved 8 August 2010 .
  25. Jump up^ Alan Duke (27 June 2008). “North Pole Could Be Ice-Free This Summer, Scientists Say” . CNN . Retrieved 19 September 2008 .
  26. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (May 2010). “Achieving the Impossible. A Fearless Leader. A Fragile Earth”. Simon & Schuster.
  27. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (December 2009). “Forthcoming Expeditions” . Lewis Gordon Pugh’s website . Retrieved 5 December 2009 .
  28. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (May 2010). “Expeditions Everest” . Lewis Gordon Pugh’s website . Retrieved 19 September 2010 .
  29. Jump up^ “Swimming Through Garbage” . The New York Times. September 2014 . Retrieved 28 September 2014 .
  30. Jump up^ “Show 3412” . NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. July 2007 . Retrieved 27 July 2007 .
  31. Jump up^ Jon Stewart (July 2007). “Lewis Pugh” . Comedy Central . Retrieved 31 July 2007 .
  32. Jump up^ Mark Tutton (February 2009). “Lewis Pugh: The Human Polar Bear” . CNN . Retrieved 25 February 2009 .
  33. Jump up^ Bernard Goldberg (April 2006). “An Uncommon Man” . HBO . Retrieved 11 April 2006 .
  34. Jump up^ Robson Green (December 2009). “Wild Swimming” . Robson Green’s website . Retrieved 15 January 2009 .
  35. Jump up^ The Big Issue (25 September – 24 October 2013). “Turning the Tide” . 17 (213). The Big Issue . Retrieved 25 September 2013 .
  36. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (June 2009). “Book” . Lewis Gordon Pugh’s website . Retrieved 28 June 2009 .
  37. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (May 2013). “Book” . Jonathan Ball Publishing . Retrieved 10 May 2013 .
  38. Jump up^ Lewis Gordon Pugh (May 2013). “Book” . Jonathan Ball Publishing . Retrieved 10 May 2013 .
  39. Jump up^ Todd Pitock (29 October 2007). “The Ice Bear Cometh” . Forbes . Retrieved 24 August 2008 .
  40. Jump up^ The Daily News of Open Water Swimming (October 2012). “Lewis Pugh Honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame” . The Daily News of Open Water Swimming . Retrieved 23 October 2012 .
  41. Jump up^ Dr. James Butcher Phd (January 2005). “Profile: Lewis Gordon Pugh – Polar Swimmer” . The Lancet . Retrieved 1 January 2005 .
  42. Jump up^ Professor Tim Noakes and Dr. Jonathan Dugas et al. (2009). “Body temperatures prolongation three long-distance polar swims”. Journal of Thermal Biology 2009, 34 (1): 23-31. Check date values in:( help );|access-date=
  43. Jump up^ Andrew Berg (May 2006). “What It Takes: Lewis Gordon Pugh” . National Geographic . Retrieved 19 September 2008 .
  44. Jump up^ Duncan Graham-Rowe (February 2009). “Super Human: The Secrets of the Ice Man” . New Scientist . Retrieved 24 February 2009 .
  45. Jump up^ Men’s Journal (July 2015). “The 50 Most Adventurous Men in the World”. Men’s Journal . Retrieved 17 July 2015 .
  46. Jump up^ National Geographic (November 2014). “Adventurers of the Year 2014/2015” . National Geographic . Retrieved 6 November 2014 .
  47. Jump up^ The Daily News of Open Water Swimming (October 2012). “Lewis Pugh Honored by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame” . The Daily News of Open Water Swimming . Retrieved 23 October 2012 .
  48. Jump up^ Office of the President of South Africa (January 2009). “Presidency Unveils National Orders Recipients” . The Presidency, Republic of South Africa . Retrieved 2 December 2009 . [ Dead link ]
  49. Jump up^ Beyond Sport (July 2009). “2009 Winners” . Beyond Sport . Retrieved 8 July 2009 .