lewis pugh diving into freezing water for ocean conservation

How far would you go to protect the earth? Find out why Lewis Pugh swam 5 km in the icy waters of Antarctica, wearing nothing but a speedo…
by 10th November 2016

Would you swim 5 km in the frigid, icy waters of Antarctica, wearing nothing but a speedo? It may sound crazy, but that’s exactly what ocean advocate and pioneering swimmer Lewis Pugh did last year and &Beyond proudly sponsored his daringly bold mission as part of our Oceans Without Borders initiative.

In February 2015, Lewis successfully completed his gruelling Great Antarctic Ice Challenge, a series of five record-breaking swims in the freezing Antarctic Ocean aimed at raising much-needed awareness for the Ross Sea. His goal was to help save the Ross Sea from irreversible damage by encouraging world powers to support the formation of the world’s largest protected marine area – an initiative &Beyond supported whole-heartedly.

A deep bay situated in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, the Ross Sea is one of the world’s most pristine marine ecosystems and is home to an array of species found nowhere else on earth. Pugh’s ice challenge was designed to focus the world’s attention on the conservation of this remarkable area and to urge global nations to declare it a marine protected area (MPA) in Antarctica governed by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The proposed Ross Sea MPA would cover an area of 1.35 million km² (more than half a million square miles) thus making it the largest protected area in the world, on land or sea.

Not for the faint-hearted

Lewis bravely completed five 20-minute swims, each covering a distance of 1 km on each day in frigid waters between zero and minus 1.7°C. Three of the swims were further south than any human being has ever swum before.
Lewis’ first swim was delayed. Twice. Upon arrival on Campbell Island, the team faced four days of negotiations with the authorities. All went well and Lewis was officially given the go-ahead to swim. His team checked the 1 km route for sea lions, sharks and leopard seals and it seemed clear, so Lewis bravely dove into the frigid waters.

Just 200 m into his swim, Lewis was unexpectedly and aggressively pursued by a rather hostile sea lion. In Lewis’ own words, “Frightening. You can’t negotiate with them. They are inquisitive, boisterous and will grab you for fun. At least I can swim tomorrow. If the sea lion caught me today, the whole expedition would be over.”

With absolute gratitude for what Lewis was setting out to achieve, &Beyond fully supported Lewis as he went on to successfully complete his arduous and both physically and mentally demanding challenge and almost two years later, we are thrilled to announce that Lewis has successfully achieved his bold mission, with world powers finally agreeing to turn the Ross Sea into the world’s largest protected area.

The media might have called him crazy, but in Lewis’ own words, “Sometimes ‘crazy’ gets the job done.” Congratulations Lewis, we are so grateful to you. Your strength, courage and fierce determination remain an inspiration to all and your story of hope has not only united nations, but also proved the global importance of marine conservation.

Our ongoing commitment to marine conservation

Building on the positive influence &Beyond extends over more than 9 million acres of protected wildlife land, our portfolio of exclusive luxury lodges now encompasses three island properties: &Beyond Mnemba Island, off the coast of Zanzibar, &Beyond Benguerra Island, in Mozambique’s Bazaruto Archipelago and &Beyond Vamizi Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago.

All three are situated within protected marine areas and boast a strong conservation focus. And by connecting these three properties, our Oceans Without Borders initiative now plays a significant role in the conservation of 2 000 km (1 243 miles) of wild African coastline.

Protecting the world’s oceans is crucial, not only to preserve the earth’s marine diversity, but also because of the important role that healthy seas play in our environment. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the rainforests that produce the majority of the world’s oxygen, but rather the ocean. Approximately 70% of the earth’s oxygen comes from the marine plants in our ocean and hence one of the main reasons why we have become so involved in marine conservation.

Here is a clip from one of Lewis’ previous swims, this time in the North Pole. Lewis, we couldn’t be more proud of what you have achieved!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag0w1IF4BdY&feature=youtu.be