Swimmer Sets Cold Water Record to Highlight Climate Change

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 10:58 AM EDT

First, let this be said: Lewis Gordon Pugh may be crazy. Known as the "Ice Bear", the record-setting swimmer has repeatedly subjected his body to the extremes of human endurance in lakes and oceans the world over. He holds long-distance swimming records for the Atlantic, the Indian, the Pacific, and the Arctic. According to his Wikipedia entry, he shares with the nine-banded armadillo the ability to regulate his internal body temperature at will. It was this particular skill that was on display last Sunday when he became the first human to undertake a long distance swim at the North Pole. For 18 minutes and 50 seconds, Pugh splashed through waters that have thawed to a pleasant 28.7 degrees Fahrenheit. "The water was absolutely black," he told the BBC. "It was like jumping into a dark black hole. It was frightening. The pain was immediate and felt like my body was on fire. I was in excruciating pain." What fun! So, why did he do it? To highlight climate change. The location of Pugh's swim was, until recently, a block of ice. But as global temperatures have risen, much of the polar ice cap has melted. As Pugh explained to Britain's ITV, he finished his swim with mixed emotions. "I am obviously ecstatic to have succeeded, but this swim is a triumph and a tragedy—a triumph that I could swim in such ferocious conditions, but a tragedy that its possible to swim at the North Pole."