Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Man Swims Under East Antarctic Glacier to Highlight Impacts of the Climate Crisis

Climate
Crevasse on a glacier, Victoria Land, Antartica is seen. Endurance swimmer and climate campaigner Lewis Pugh undertook a 1 kilometer swim under one of East Antarctica's glaciers. Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Getty Images

By Douglas Broom

  • Endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh has completed a 1 kilometer swim under the East Antarctic ice shelf.
  • The feat was part of his campaign to secure a series of protected zones in the seas around the continent.
  • He chose the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica to make his epic swim.

It's been 200 years since Russian explorer Admiral Bellingshausen discovered Antarctica. It's a frozen wilderness, and the East of the continent is the coldest place on Earth — but scientists say they are starting to see signs of ice loss even there.


To draw attention to this plight, endurance swimmer and climate campaigner Lewis Pugh undertook a 1 kilometer swim under one of the region's glaciers.

Braving freezing waters and a windchill factor of -15 C, he explored a river running through an ice tunnel formed as a result of the glacier melting.

And the experience was eye-opening. "Antarctica is melting," he says. "Everywhere I looked, there was water rushing off the ice sheet, carving long ravines deep into the ice sheet, or pooling into supraglacial lakes."

"This place needs protecting," he adds. "It needs protecting because all our futures depend on it."

‘The Polar Bear’

Pugh is the only person to have undertaken long-distance swims in all the world's oceans. At 50, he's a veteran of many icy adventures, including swimming over the North Pole during a brief break in the sea ice, and crossing a lake that formed on a glacier on Mount Everest.

He was named one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders and in 2013 was appointed as the United Nations' Patron of the Oceans.

His ability to withstand extreme cold has earned him the nickname of "The Polar Bear."

Pugh's East Antarctic swim is part of his campaign to secure a series of Marine Protected Areas around the continent. Antarctica already has one of these zones, in the Ross Sea, but Pugh wants all the seas around the continent to be designated protection areas in order to stem the effects of climate change.

He has already visited Moscow to mark the anniversary of Admiral Bellinghausen's momentous discovery. And he plans to head to Beijing, London and Washington to persuade world leaders to increase protection for Antarctica.

Warning to the World

Since the early 1900s, glaciers around the world have been melting fast, as temperatures have risen due to global warming.

This melting causes sea levels to rise, which increases coastal erosion and creates more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Together, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are the largest contributors to global sea level rises.

The East Antarctic, with ice sheets formed over millions of years and several kilometers thick in places, has long been considered the most stable part of the continent.

But researchers say that is changing, with glaciers starting to move more quickly, which could indicate widespread shifts in the region.

"What is very clear to us from the science is that we now need to create a network of marine protected areas around Antarctica," says Pugh. "It's an amazing place."

The World Economic Forum's Net Zero Challenge was launched during this year's Annual Meeting in Davos, challenging nations and corporations to do more to achieve the targets set out in the 2015 Paris agreement.

Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Earth's atmosphere. NASA

By Jeremy Deaton

You may have heard about the hole in the ozone layer, which hovers over Antarctica. It has shrunk over time thanks to policies that curbed the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. In the nearly 40 years that NASA has kept track, it has never been smaller. That's the good news.

Read More Show Less
Garden interns learn plant and weed identification at the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. Cheyenne River Youth Project / Facebook

By Stephanie Woodard

Many Americans are now experiencing an erratic food supply for the first time. Among COVID-19's disruptions are bare supermarket shelves and items available yesterday but nowhere to be found today. As you seek ways to replace them, you can look to Native gardens for ideas and inspiration.

Read More Show Less
Although considered safe overall, aloe vera does carry the risk of making some skin rashes worse. serezniy / Getty Images

By Kristeen Cherney

Skin inflammation, which includes swelling and redness, occurs as an immune system reaction. While redness and swelling can develop for a variety of reasons, rashes and burns are perhaps the most common symptoms. More severe skin inflammation can require medications, but sometimes mild rashes may be aided with home remedies like aloe vera.

Read More Show Less
There are plenty of things you can do every day to help reduce greenhouse gases and your carbon footprint to make a less harmful impact on the environment. ipopba / Getty Images

By Katie Lambert and Sarah Gleim

The United Nations suggests that climate change is not just the defining issue of our time, but we are also at a defining moment in history. Weather patterns are changing and will threaten food production, and sea levels are rising and could cause catastrophic flooding across the globe. Countries must make drastic actions to avoid a future with irreversible damage to major ecosystems and planetary climate.

Read More Show Less
Petri Oeschger / Moment / Getty Images

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Sleep is one of the pillars of optimal health.

Read More Show Less

Junjira Konsang / Pixabay

By Matt Casale

For many Americans across the country, staying home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) means adapting to long-term telework for the first time. We're doing a lot more video conferencing and working out all the kinks that come along with it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Looking south from New York City's Central Park. Ajay Suresh / Wikipedia / CC BY 4.0

By Richard leBrasseur

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered humans' relationship with natural landscapes in ways that may be long-lasting. One of its most direct effects on people's daily lives is reduced access to public parks.

Read More Show Less