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UN patron of the oceans Lewis Pugh announces most challenging swim yet – in front of worlds fastest glacier – to highlight a melting planet

11 Aug 2021

Full press release

  • Lewis Pugh to swim across the 10-kilometre mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland in August 2021
  • The Ilulissat Icefjord is fed by the world’s fastest moving glacier – moving at an average of 30 metres per day.
  • The Ilulissat Glacier calves icebergs over 1 km tall – including, legend has it, the one that sunk the Titanic
  • Pugh's attempt will be the world's first multi-day swim in the Polar regions
  • Swim will highlight the speed of the Climate Crisis ahead of the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, where Pugh will address world leaders and demand urgent action
  • Pugh is also calling for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected to help slow the effects of climate change

The UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh today releases details of his latest polar expedition, attempting the coldest swim on Earth and the most challenging of his career. The swim will highlight the rapid melting as result of the Climate Crisis. Lewis will also call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.

At the end of August, Pugh will attempt to swim across the 10 km mouth of the Ilulissat Icefjord, which is fed by the world’s fastest moving glacier. The swim is expected to take two weeks and Pugh will be the first person to attempt a multi-day swim in the Polar Regions.

Pugh will likely swim much further than the 10 km direct distance, as he will have to navigate around icebergs and brash ice, which won’t allow for swimming in a straight line. The water will be near freezing, and the wind chill could plummet temperatures deep into negative numbers.

The Ilulissat Glacier

The Ilulissat Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, moves at an average of 30 metres per day and sometimes even faster in the summer. The glacier calves an average of 30 cubic kilometres of ice into the sea every year. It produces 10% of all Greenland’s icebergs, some over 1 km tall and including, legend has it, the one that sank the Titanic.

If the entire Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of over seven metres. Any sea-level rise will be devastating; one billion people live less than 10 metres above sea level. Just a one-metre rise would drown major cities like London, Tokyo and New York.

Why here, why now?

There's no better place in the world than Greenland to demonstrate the dramatic impact of the Climate Crisis. Lewis will once again put his life on the line to demonstrate to world leaders the speed of Global Warming.

The length of the swim, and the extreme conditions of the Ilulissat Icefjord. will ensure this will be the toughest swim of Lewis’ life.

Lewis Pugh commented: "What happens in the Arctic will determine the future of our planet and everything that lives on it. The Polar Regions are feeling the effects of the Climate Crisis more dramatically than anywhere else on Earth. If temperatures continue to increase, the polar ice caps will melt and sea levels will rise. Unless we take urgent action to decrease global temperatures by seriously lowering our global CO2 emissions, low-lying islands and coastal cities will, quite literally, drown. The devastation of the natural world will affect every single person, every future generation and every creature, great and small, on this planet."
Marine Protected Areas and COP26

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) make the oceans more resilient to climate change. At the UN Climate Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this November, Lewis will also call for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030, stressing to world leaders the role healthy oceans play in mitigating climate change.

He will ask them to move beyond long-term commitments toward immediate urgent action.

Cold-Water Adaptation in Iceland

To prepare for this challenge, Lewis is currently training in Iceland as part of his cold-water adaptation programme.

In the final days prior to the swim, Lewis will move his training to Greenland. The swim is expected to start 25th August and end two weeks later on 5th September.

Commenting on the preparations of his training and swim, Lewis Pugh said: "This swim will be the most challenging of my career. The cold-water adaptation and training alone is gruelling and extremely intense on the body. But there is a reason I’m doing this.

We are an ice-dependent species. Ice keeps our planet cool enough for us to live. The Polar Regions and high-altitude glaciers are melting, and our collective survival is on the line. No ice, no life."

During the expedition, the team will be able to share live action with the world’s media.

Following completion of the swim, Lewis will travel to London for media interviews and discussions with key leaders before attending COP26 in Glasgow in November.

This swim has been made possible with the support of our lead sponsors Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), one of Europe’s largest asset managers and a major global investor who has consistently received A+ rankings for responsible investment strategy and active ownership by the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI).

Michelle Scrimgeour, CEO, LGIM and Co-Chair of the COP26 Business Leaders Group: "We are delighted to be supporting Lewis as he embarks on this extraordinary challenge; he has worked tirelessly to prepare for the most difficult swim of his career and we all wish him the very best of luck. Through this endurance swim and his focus on biodiversity, Lewis shares a common purpose with LGIM: our goal is to create a better future through responsible investing. Lewis has witnessed first-hand the damaging effects of climate change and in Greenland he will be highlighting once again the precarious state of our natural world. Climate change remains the number one challenge for us today. I am determined that we will do all that we can to tackle this. Inaction is not an option."

Further information

Notes to editors

Established in 1836, Legal & General is one of the UK’s leading financial services groups and a major global investor, with £1.2 trillion in total assets under management (as at FY23) of which c40% (circa £0.5 trillion) is international.

We have a highly synergistic business model, which continues to drive strong returns. We are a leading international player in Institutional Retirement, in Retail Savings and Protection, and in both public and private markets through our Asset Management division. Across the Group, we are committed to responsible investing and dedicated to serving the long-term savings and investment needs of customers and society.

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LGIM is one of Europe’s largest asset managers and a major global investor, with total assets under management of £1.2 trillion1 ($1.5tn, €1.3tn, CHF 1.2tn). We work with a wide range of global clients, including pension schemes, sovereign wealth funds, fund distributors and retail investors.

For more than 50 years, we have built our business through understanding what matters most to our clients and transforming this insight into valuable, accessible investment products and solutions. We provide investment expertise across the full spectrum of asset classes including fixed income, equities, commercial property, and cash. Our capabilities range from index-tracking and active strategies to liquidity management and liability-based risk management solutions.

1Data as at 31 December 2023. Data combines assets under management by LGIM in the UK, LGIMA in the US and LGIM Asia in Hong Kong. Assets under management include securities and derivatives positions.