Endurance swimmer and climate activist Lewis Pugh has become the first person to swim under an Antarctic ice sheet.
He swam for 10 minutes and 17 seconds in the river under the melting ice sheet – in just trunks, cap and goggles.
Pugh took on the feat to raise awareness of climate change at the Earth’s poles.
He called it the “most frightening swim of my life” as he faced severe wind chill at the East Antarctica ice sheet – which holds the record for the lowest temperate ever recorded.
“Mid-way I heard an almighty boom above me, and thought my time had come. Luckily, it was just the ice shifting,” tweeted Pugh.
A survey recently found more than 65,000 supraglacial lakes had appeared in the East Antarctica ice sheet in the last three years.
Antarctica also lost the same amount of ice between 2014 and 2017 as in the previous three decades.
Pugh completed a 330-mile swim along England’s coast coast in conjunction with Sky in 2018, but said his latest challenge was “the culmination of 33 years of training”.
The 50-year-old hopes his efforts could help the creation of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) to ease pressure on wildlife and counter the impacts of climate change.
First sight of the glacial river that I’ll be swimming. It may seem shocking that someone would be able to swim in a river that runs under the ice sheet, but that’s the point. Antarctica is melting. Scientists have discovered over 65,000 supra-glacial lakes in this region alone. pic.twitter.com/GXvcBZzePX
— Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh) January 24, 2020
“I swam here today as we are in a climate emergency. We need immediate action from all nations to protect our planet,” he said.
“I hope that my swim underneath the Antarctic ice sheet will ignite international leaders and lead to the introduction of the marine protected areas this region so critically needs.
“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.”
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