Extreme kayak journey to alert world to Arctic collapse

24 July 2008 | Story by Helen Théron

Lewis Gordon Pugh
Ice man commeth: Alumnus Lewis Pugh has completed numerous swims at climate change hotspots. Now he plans to kayak 745 miles from Spitsbergen to the North Pole to spotlight the Arctic's meltdown

In August UCT law alumnus Lewis Gordon Pugh (38) will kayak from the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, to the North Pole, the equivalent of Cape Town to Johannesburg.

He is on a mission to tell the world that the Arctic summer sea ice will soon be no more.

"I want to be the voice of the Arctic," the maritime lawyer-turned environmentalist said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Last year the man dubbed the "human Polar bear" became the first person to swim 1km at the North Pole. He uses his extreme achievements to highlight the melting polar ice caps and the serious implications for humanity. Earlier this year be began his Polar Defence Project to campaign for the Arctic.

He will paddle in sub-freezing temperatures, six hours on and six hours off, hoping to cover 90km daily. Pugh said he hoped he would be forced to turn back because of impenetrable sea ice.

"But I predict that this will be the first time there will be no summer sea ice at the Arctic."

He will be at the mercy of this inhospitable seascape to get his "conservation first" message to the world. Seven-time world kayaking champion, Robert Hedegus, will pace Pugh on the journey.

UCT sports scientist Prof Tim Naokes has worked closely with Pugh. He was at the North Pole to monitor Pugh during his epic 1km swim.

"This is going to be very, very difficult," Noakes said.

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