'We Are Facing Climate Emergency': First Man To Swim Under Antarctic Ice Sheet
On Monday, a 50-year-old British endurance athlete and climate activist, Lewis Pugh, plunged into a river formed beneath a rapidly melting ice sheet in East Antarctica — wearing nothing but a trunk, hair cap and goggles.
Pugh, of Plymouth, has become the first person to do so in recorded history.
The swim, which lasted 10 minutes and 17 seconds, was part of a campaign to raise awareness about "very rapid changes" at the Earth's poles caused by the climate change crisis.
Tweeting about his experience, Pugh wrote that it was the most beautiful and terrifying experience of his life. He also mentioned that it came with an important message for everybody.
East Antarctica is the coldest place on earth, and yet I was able to swim down a river under the ice-sheet. It was the most beautiful and terrifying experience of my life, and comes with an important message for us all. https://t.co/kl3eAkgXcS Please share. #Antarctica2020 pic.twitter.com/is1KK4MvEH— Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) January 27, 2020
"There can be light at the end of this tunnel, but only if they take serious decisive action right now.— LewisPugh Foundation (@LewisPughFDN) January 28, 2020
My message to world leaders coming to COP26 is simple: step up, or step aside. The time for talking has run out."
Lewis Pugh - UN Patron of Oceans https://t.co/wfinopm5Xv
The East Antarctica ice sheet, known for its extreme conditions, which holds the record for the Earth's lowest recorded temperature, ensured this was the toughest swim of Pugh's life.
Apart from a severe wind-chill factor, there was a constant threat of the glacial river suddenly emptying out though a crack in the ice and tumbling Pugh hundreds of metres to the rock bed below.
"Mid-way I heard an almighty boom above me and thought my time had come. Luckily, it was just the ice shifting," tweeted Pugh.
According to a study by Durham University, more than 65,000 supraglacial lakes have formed in the East Antarctica ice sheet in the last three years.
These lakes are formed when glaciers melt and the water gets collected on the surface of an ice sheet.
"The swim was the accumulation of 33 years of training in order to swim 10 minutes and 17 seconds down that river," BBC quoted Pugh as saying.
"I swam here today as we are in a climate emergency. We need immediate action from all nations to protect our planet," he said.
He hopes that his swim will push the international leaders and will safeguard the marine protected areas.
"Wherever I looked there were large rivers of water carving their way through the ice sheet. I have no doubt whatsoever that we are now facing a climate emergency.
"We do not have 50 years or 20 years or even 10 years to solve this crisis. We have run out of time. The time for action is now."