The man bidding to become the first person to swim the length of the English channel in a effort to raise awareness of the damage that plastic is doing to the world’s oceans was off the coast of Hastings at the weekend.
Lewis Pugh’s target is to arrive in Dover tomorrow (Wednesday) but at the weekend lack of current near eastbourne then bad weather on Sunday meaning he was unable to swim at all saw him start to doubt whether he could actually achieve his goal.
Writing in his blog on Sunday he said: “…we left Rye Harbour in a hired rib as the winds were too strong for our catamaran. A mile offshore, as the rib crashed down the side of another wave and we were hit by yet more spray, the rib’s skipper, Will, asked if we were alright.
“I have swum in conditions far worse than this and in far more dangerous places around the world, so my team and I replied with an easy ‘yes’. Conditions were rough, but certainly still swimmable.
“Another mile out to sea and the swell had grown at least another metre in height. This time, Will didn’t ask – ‘I’m calling the swim off’, he said. I looked at him in dismay. I had to get those kilometres done today, I need to arrive in Dover on Wednesday! We are running out of time.
“The rest of the team were split. Kelvin, our photographer, agreed with Will. My skipper, Stephen, agreed with me but felt he must respect Will’s decision. I was outnumbered, so we turned back.”
In 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim from Dover to Calais and since then its estimated that around 1,800 people have swum across the English Channel. But until this summer no one has ever swum its entire length.
So that was Lewis’ challenge over 50 days during July and August he has mounted an attempt to swim the full length of the English Channel, from Land’s End to Dover, in just his swimming cap, goggles and Speedo swimming trunks. It’s a distance of 560km or 348 miles, it’s the equivalent to 16 English Channel crossings and to achieve this remarkable feat in 50 days was always going to be dependent on tides and weather.
The swim was staged to raise awareness of pollution issues in the world’s seas and oceans. Mr Pugh, 48, has been a life long environmental campaigner. He has been described as the ‘Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming.’ He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world and he frequently swims in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to their plight.
Mr Pugh is best known for undertaking the first swim across the North Pole in 2007 to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice. In 2010 he swam across a glacial lake on Mount Everest to draw attention to the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas and the impact the reduced water supply will have on peace in the region.
He says: “Every lifestyle decision we take, every purchase we make, has an impact on the kind of planet we want to live on. Our world needs clean and healthy seas. And we are the only ones who can make that happen.
“This swim will mark the beginning of a worldwide campaign to ensure that 30 per cent of our oceans are fully protected by 2030. In addition, we need to change the tide on plastic pollution by stopping the amount of plastic pouring into our oceans – and roll up our sleeves to help remove the junk that’s already there.
“Changing the world’s oceans for the better starts with us, and it starts at home.”
Mr Pugh has been an ocean swimmer for over 30 years and says the changes he has seen in that time are ‘horrifying’.
“I began swimming in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to the impact of our actions on our oceans. I saw enormous chunks of ice slide off Arctic glaciers. I swam over bleached coral killed by rising sea temperatures, and over the bones of whales hunted to the edge of extinction. I saw plastic pollution in the most remote parts of the oceans, and garbage piling up so thick on city beaches that you could no longer see the sand.
“I’ve undertaken long distance swims in every ocean in the world, including the freezing waters of the Arctic and Antarctic, but now I’m taking it to the next level.
I’m undertaking my toughest swim yet, so that I can call on the British Government, and all the governments of the world, to strengthen our ocean protection.”
Mr Pugh says that on paper, the UK is doing quite well towards meeting its commitment to protect ten per cent of its waters by 2020 but says when you unpick the numbers, they tell a very different story.
“Not only are most of those protected areas in overseas territories rather than home waters, but the kind of protection they offer is sometimes worse than none, it gives us a false sense of security that something is being done, while in fact our oceans are in deep crisis.
“The sad truth is that of the 750,000 square kilometres of seas around the UK, only seven square kilometres are fully protected. Mull over that for a minute. That means a mere one hundred thousandth of UK waters are fully protected from exploitation. It is outrageous! We can do much, much better.”
- To read more of his blog and discover more about his swim and his campaign follow the link below to his website