World

North Pole swim 'hostile' and 'surreal,' says British man

A British endurance swimmer says he hopes world leaders will remember his one-kilometre swim at the North Pole when they meet later this year to discuss tackling climate change.

A British endurance swimmer says he hopes world leaders will remember hisone-kilometre swim at the North Pole when they meet later this year to discuss tackling climate change.

Lewis Gordon Pugh swam for 18 minutes and 50 seconds Sunday in a water temperature of –1.8 C.

Clad in Speedo briefs, goggles and a swimming cap, Pugh said the water was black when he dove in.

"It was surreal. It was the most hostile environment in which I've ever swum," said Pugh, who called a past swim in Antarctica "mild" compared to the North Pole.

"It really takes your breath away when you dive into it."

The 37-year-old lawyer, who is an ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund U.K.,said he completed the swim to draw attention to the threat of climate change.

"I am obviously ecstatic to have succeeded but this swim is a triumph and a tragedy," he said after coming out of the water. "A triumph that I could swim in such ferocious conditions but a tragedy that it's possible to swim at the North Pole."

Pugh said hehopes world leaders will remember his swim when they meet later this year to discuss the successor of the Kyoto Protocol.

"Hopefully, they'll look at this swim and say, 'Gosh, the Arctic does really need protecting,' " he said.

Pugh, who trained for the swim in northern Norway, said he's seen retreating glaciers, decreasing sea ice, coral bleaching, severe droughts and the migration of animals to colder climates.

"I want my children, and their children, to know that polar bears are still living in the Arctic— these creatures are on the front line up here."

He spent seven days on a Russian icebreaker travelling to the North Pole and raised his core body temperature by 1.4 degrees before getting in the water. Hewas accompanied by a team in a small boat.

"It was frightening. The pain was immediate and felt like my body was on fire," he said. "I was in excruciating pain from beginning to end and I nearly quit on a few occasions."

Pugh said he had the best hot shower of his life following the swim and wants to take a "good rest" before planning his next venture.

With files from the Canadian Press