Lewis Pugh Seeks Polar Swimmers For Prep On Way To East Antartica – Ice Sheet Swim 2020

Lewis Pugh takes the plunge off an iceberg - Photo Courtesy: Lewis Pugh

Who could resist?

“Swimmers Wanted: Looking for young guns to train with polar swimmer. Must be willing to swim and run hard. No tea breaks. No Hogmanay. Outer Hebrides 29 Dec to 8 Jan.”

That’s how Lewis Pugh, “polar swimmer”, ocean advocate and International Hall of Fame Presidential Honor Award recipient, calls the brave to his East Antartica – Ice Sheet Swim 2020 Mission through the wanted columns of newspapers and social media.

Outer Hebrides, winter, a place where the official tourist office pitch to travellers its summed up by the slogan “Experience Life on the Edge”. Apt to opt for the word ‘slogan’, with its dual meaning: ‘a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising’ or, historically, ‘a Scottish Highland war cry’.

Pugh’s Prep will certainly need a Braveheart spirit. The waters won’t be warm, though balmy might be how those who join Team Polar come to regard the waters off the Scottish coast compared to the stretches to be swum on a spectacular schedule of a month and a day from December 28.

Think 8-10c for the training phase. Think ice for the ice-sheet stretch of this timeline:

  • 28 December – 8 January: Training in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland
  • 14 – 20 January: Training in Antarctica
  • 19 January: Ice swimming during Epiphany
  • 21 January: Live link-up with World Economic Forum in Davos
  • 22 January: 1 km Swim across supra-glacial lake
  • 23 January: Visits to science stations
  • 24 January: Visit emperor penguin colony
  • 25 January: Depart Antarctica
  • 27 – 29 January: Moscow 200 Year Anniversary Celebrations

What Its All About

Lewis Pugh explains all on his website, his short, sharp message on the global Climate Emergency ending with:

We have a window of opportunity right now to solve this crisis. It will soon be gone.

1km across a supra-glacial lake in East Antarctica: Lewis Pugh & Slava Fetisov


Lewis Push by Kelvin Trautman – Photo Courtesy: Lewis Pugh

On January 22, Pugh will attempt to swim where no human has swum before: 1km across a supra-glacial lake in East Antarctica. Slava Fetisov will be his second, responsible for protecting Lewis in this endeavour.

Pugh describes it was “the hardest swim of [his] life”: freezing water, severe wind chill factor, and “the very real threat of the lake suddenly emptying out through a crack in the ice sheet”. Says Pugh:

“Courage is contagious. That’s why I want Slava by my side.”

This is how Pugh describes his polar companion in water and where the mission came from:

The Great Defenceman

Fetisov was the greatest defenceman in ice-hockey history. He is a two-time Olympic champion and won back-to-back Stanley Cups in the NHL. As Captain of the renowned Red Army Team he stopped at nothing to defend and protect his team’s goal. As UN Patron of the Polar Regions he has now become defender and protector of the world’s vulnerable icy extremes.

Russia’s Antarctic Legacy


The East Antartica Swim 2020 – Photo Courtesy: Lewis Pugh

In 1819, two Russian ships set sail for the far south in search of a rumoured continent that had never actually been seen. The expedition was led by Admiral Bellingshausen on his ship the Vostok, with Mikhail Lazarev as his second in command on the Mirny.

En route from St Petersburg, Bellingshausen paid a visit to London. There he consulted with Joseph Banks of the Royal Society. Banks shared with him the maps of Captain James Cook, the British explorer and cartographer who had come close to Antarctica but never actually got sight of land. It would be the Russians who would claim that honour.

Our swim site is as close as possible to the area first sighted by Bellingshausen. It is also adjacent to the Russian research station Novolazarevskaya. We plan to visit various scientific stations to learn what discoveries are being shared with the world from this remote and frozen corner of the planet.

Live via satellite, we look forward to reminding the world that Antarctica is a place of peace, friendship and science.

A Friendship Forged on Ice

Pugh met Fetisov in Moscow when he visited the city in 2015, immediately after his swim in the Ross Sea. In 2018, Fetisov was appointed UN Patron of the Polar Regions for his role in helping secure Russia’s support for the creation of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area.

The continent of Antarctica has always been a place for cooperation. Our expedition amplifies this spirit of friendship and peace. And it comes in a special anniversary year: The year 2020 will mark 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica by Russian Admiral Bellingshausen.

Immediately after the expedition, Slava and Lewis will head to Moscow to participate in events around the anniversary celebrations.

Antarctica LIVE! – & Hopefully beamed into Classrooms

During the expedition, January 14 – 25, full satellite coverage of the event in Antarctica we enable those involved to broadcast live and connect with global leaders. A link will appear at the time on the Lewis Pugh website, the goal including “several live linkups with schools to bring the wonder of Antarctica live into the classroom”.