The Blog

Bellingshausen Sea, 63°S 59°W

13 December 2016
By: Lewis Pugh
Category: Antarctica, Conservation, Oceans, Speedo diplomacy, Swimming
Comments: 18

Your Comments:

  1. Addi and Athina
    December 13, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    Lewis you are one outstanding human being.
    We say: ‘The world needs more role models like Lewis!’.
    Thanks for the inspiration and for caring so much for the environment.

    Addi and Athina

  2. Judy Tate
    December 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    We are SO proud of you and all you are doing.
    Judy and Inanda

    • Lewis Pugh
      December 15, 2016 at 6:45 am

      Thank you Judy. Please send my very best wishes to all the staff and girls at Inanda Seminary.

  3. Glenn
    December 13, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Well done Lewis (and your great team, but they did not get as cold as you!). You are a true champion of our planet and a person who has the amazing attributes of courage and integrity.
    The world needs more Lewis Pughs; each of us needs to enter in that same space where we fight off the bad wolf and support the good. We all have it in us and you are a living example of what we can achieve individually and collectively.

  4. Robin brooks marine painter
    December 13, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    I am in such admeraiton of your courage and determination,your message can not be ignored any one looking at the photos and reading the text has to be prafundly moved and inspired . I can not imajin such teriffying cold the empathy you feel for this please shines out like the most powerful ralling cry to preserve antatica.sorry about spelling

  5. Marusa Mason
    December 14, 2016 at 5:22 am

    I am so inspired by this story and have great respect for you. My first love (after God) is openwater swimming. David Mocke is a facebook friend of mine and I have followed his side of your story. Thank you for your commitment to our world.

  6. Kristin
    December 14, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Wow!! Words fail at this incredible achievement, and a mere “thank you” seems way insufficient….But THANK YOU for going far beyond the extra mile (kilometer) to save the Antarctic for all of us and our children’s children!!

  7. Albert Yome
    December 14, 2016 at 10:25 am


    Awesome swimming. Stay strong.

    Best wishes from all of us in Gibraltar.

    I’ll feel very guilty swimming in 16°C waters in an hour or so.



    • Lewis Pugh
      December 15, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Thank you Albert!!! Looking forward to returning to Gibraltar in the New Year.

  8. Jørn Henriksen
    December 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    What a mammoth swim! I’m mighty impressed. Wish I was there to support! It is very inspiring to follow your voyage from back home here in Norway.

    • Lewis Pugh
      December 15, 2016 at 6:42 am

      Thank you for all your encouragement and help. This would never have been possible without the Hurtigruten Foundation.

  9. Ginette Methot-Seare
    December 15, 2016 at 10:45 am

    It’s impressive how you feed the good wolf and keep the bad wolf at bay. Thank you for all you do for the oceans. I’ve recently been researching the state of our oceans and the data projects developing to guard them and have become increasingly appreciative of your efforts that bring awareness to protect them. Thank you!

  10. Ryan Young
    December 15, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Absolutely fantastic Lewis, well done, you are a great inspiration for us all. Keep up the good work.

    Ryan Young (Jesus College, Cambridge)

  11. Sean Kritzinger
    December 17, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Lewis, you are an inspiration to us all ! Thank- you for your contribution to our environment, it DOES make a big difference. Awesome that you have Dawid with you to keep you motivated and to keep going in these conditions. We salute you both!

  12. Florence Okumu
    December 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Lewis, you are truly a remarkable man! I admire your courage and determination. Always inspired when I read about your adventures in your fight for the protection of the oceans. I wish I had half your guts…but I can’t swim…LOL. Kudos and all the very best to you in your endeavours:-)

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Air temperature 4°C / 39°F, Water temperature 0°C / 32°F
Duration of swim: 17 minutes 30 seconds

There is an Inuit parable that tells of two wolves that battle inside each of us. One is a good wolf, the other is bad. The wolf you feed is the one that will win the flight.

I’ve never been able to successfully banish the bad wolf into the wilderness, and today I had to battle hard to keep him from ruining my swim.

It wasn’t just any swim. Today we did the flagship swim in the Bellingshausen Sea, to launch the Antarctica 2020 Campaign. It’s the reason I came down here again, and the swim I’ve been training for, ever since my emergency back surgery in May.kt_161212_lewispugh_hurtigrutenantarctica_3010


We chose Half Moon Island as our site, and found the perfect location along a stony inlet with its own small iceberg, on what we hoped was the seal-free side of the island.

Two hundred metres into the kilometre-long swim, I knew I was in trouble. And that bad wolf was right beside me.

Sometimes during a swim you go to a very dark place, when doubts threaten to drag you under. It hasn’t been long since my surgery, and my body just isn’t moving like it should. I don’t have my kick back, and I wasn’t moving as quickly as I needed to. This became even more urgent when my tongue started to freeze; every time I turned my head to breathe, as well as taking in air I was gulping in sea water. I started to think I might not survive the swim.

Six months ago I was flat on my back in a hospital bed. Now I’m down here in Antarctica swimming in the environment I love more than any other. I should be elated. But during that swim I just felt exhausted. If it had just been about me, I would have given up after 200 metres.

I had David Mocke’s voice next to me urging me on, counting out the metres and urging me to dig deeper. I had all the team members here and back home who’ve travelled this road with me for the past two years as I’ve campaigned to have more marine protected areas (MPAs) declared in these splendid Antarctic seas. I knew how hard they had all worked to get me here today.kt_161212_lewispugh_hurtigrutenantarctica_3209

I also knew that now, on the back of our success with the Ross Sea MPA in October, we have the chance to create even more protected areas. MPAs that will help protect the livelihood of the creatures that have lived here for thousands of years. We have no right to take that away from them. But if we don’t protect them, the magnificent seas around Antarctica will go the way of all the others in the world.

I know the risks I face when I swim down here, but I consider them to be less than the risks the world will face if we lose.kt_161212_lewispugh_hurtigrutenantarctica_2467

Pics via Kelvin Trautman

Lewis Pugh is an endurance swimmer and the UN Patron of the Oceans

He was supported by the MS Midnatsol and the Hurtigruten Foundation