Activist Lewis Pugh Tells What It Was Like to Swim the Waters Off Antarctica

PHOTO: Ocean advocate Lewis Pugh swam for 350 meters in the icy waters of the Bay of Whales in Antarctica’s Ross Sea on March 1, 2015.PlayKelvin Trautman/@kelvintrautman
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An environmental activist made a death-defying swim to draw attention to the important ecosystems in the frigid waters off Antarctica.

Lewis Pugh completed a 350-meter swim in Antarctica’s Bay of Whales earlier this month, setting the record for the southern-most swim. Pugh, an endurance swimmer and activist, is a patron of the oceans for the United Nations Environment Programme.

"The Bay of Whales is the most terrifying place I've ever swum,” Pugh said in a statement after the swim. “During the swim, a wave broke over my support boat. I took another stroke and when I looked up, the seawater had frozen on my crew. They were caked in ice instantly. That’s how cold it was."

During the swim, Pugh faced a water temperature of 30 degrees and an air temperature of -25 degrees, with the winds gusting approximately 46 miles per hour.

PHOTO: Ocean advocate Lewis Pugh swam for 350 meters in the icy waters of the Bay of Whales in Antarctica’s Ross Sea on March 1, 2015. Kelvin Trautman/@kelvintrautman
Ocean advocate Lewis Pugh swam for 350 meters in the icy waters of the Bay of Whales in Antarctica’s Ross Sea on March 1, 2015.

The icy swim was just one of a series of five swims in the Ross Sea off Antarctica that Pugh made to raise awareness about the body of water. Pugh's aim is to have the Ross Sea safeguarded as a "marine protected area," where the wildlife would be shielded from human intervention.

“The Ross Sea is a place I care deeply about,” Pugh said in a statement. “It's the most pristine marine ecosystem left on Earth with wildlife found nowhere else, and [it] holds great scientific importance. It is now being destroyed by industrial fishing.”

PHOTO: Ocean advocate Lewis Pugh swam for 350 meters in the icy waters of the Bay of Whales in Antarctica’s Ross Sea on March 1, 2015. Kelvin Trautman/@kelvintrautman
Ocean advocate Lewis Pugh swam for 350 meters in the icy waters of the Bay of Whales in Antarctica’s Ross Sea on March 1, 2015.

While Pugh is done with this icy swimming series, he’s not out of the cold yet. The activist recently posted images on Facebook of himself enjoying time with feathered friends in the Antarctic.