Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Thu April 02 2015

Why Did One Man Go Swimming in Antarctica?

Tour Operator | David Cogswell | April 02, 2015

Why Did One Man Go Swimming in Antarctica?

PHOTO: Known as a frozen wasteland, Antarctica is actually a vibrant ecosystem teeming with wildlife. (Photo by David Cogswell)

Antarctica is not everyone’s first choice as a swimming destination, but Lewis Pugh went swimming there five times with no special gear to protect himself from the cold of the Antarctic Sea.

With the tour operator &Beyond as his sponsor, Pugh completed five Antarctic swims and set a record for the southernmost long-distance swim in history.

The record-breaking event was branded as the Great Antarctic Ocean Ice Challenge and was orchestrated to bring the world’s attention to Antarctica and the environmental damage that is already underway there.  

Pugh is campaigning to turn the Ross Sea, which is more than a half million square miles in area, into the largest protected area in the world. Under Pugh’s plan, the Ross Sea would become a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the authority of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the international body that governs Antarctica.

Contrary to its image as a frozen and dead world, Antarctica is actually a vital ecosystem hosting a great variety of life forms. The Ross Sea itself is said to be one of the world’s most pristine marine ecosystems and is home to species found nowhere else on earth, such as the Antarctic toothfish, the giant squid and the emperor penguin.

The Antarctic ice that has been frozen for eons could also reveal many currently unknown things about the evolution of the earth.

After completing the Ice Challenge, Pugh went to Russia to take his campaign to policymakers in hopes of launching new initiatives to save the Ross Sea from impending, irreversible damage. Russia is one of the largest stakeholders in Antarctica and its support is essential to the success of Pugh’s initiative.

&Beyond stepped up to sponsor the Great Antarctic Ocean Ice Challenge for a simple reason. “We believe that protecting the world’s ocean is crucial,” said &Beyond CEO Joss Kent.

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