An environmental campaigner dubbed the ‘Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming’ is looking for tough adventurers to take the plunge with him in icy lochs and seas in the Outer Hebrides as he prepares for an endurance challenge in Antarctica that no human has tried before, to highlight the climate crisis.
Lewis Pugh, UN patron of the oceans, will next month attempt to swim 1km across a supra-glacial lake in east Antarctica to highlight the impact of rising temperatures on the polar regions.
He is heading to the Isle of Lewis over the New Year period to prepare with an 11-day fitness camp, which will involve daily runs and swims regardless of the weather.
Mr Pugh hopes his latest challenge will help speed up the introduction of marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.
The bid is due to take place on 22 January after extensive training in Scotland.
It will be the toughest swim of his life, facing ice-cold waters, a severe wind chill and the threat of the lake suddenly emptying through a crack in the ice sheet.
Mr Pugh will be supported by UN Patron of the Polar Regions Slava Fetisov, a former Soviet ice hockey team captain and Olympic champion.
Mr Pugh said he was excited about his coming endeavours, but has warned the Lewis training camp is not for the faint-hearted – nor festive party-goers.
He said: “My immediate focus is my upcoming training camp in Scotland and today I announce that I am looking for training partners.
“I won’t be wearing a wetsuit, but I don’t mind if my training partners do.
“But applicants need to be prepared to work hard – there will be two training sessions a day, one at sunrise, one at dusk. Each session will last over an hour and will involve running on the beaches and swimming in waters that will be close to freezing.
“There will be no tea breaks and no Hogmanay – not even if you’re Scottish.”
Supraglacial lakes appear as a result of polar ice melting and are being seen at an increasing rate in Antarctica and Greenland.
A recent survey of Antarctica found more than 65,000 of the water bodies have appeared on the east Antarctic ice sheet in the past three years.
Their presence coincides with data showing the frozen continent lost the same amount of sea ice in the four years between 2014 and 2017 as has vanished from the Arctic in the past 30 years.