Extreme kayak journey to alert world to Arctic collapse

04 August 2008

Ice man cometh: 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.

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

He's 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 in July to announce his quest.

Last year the man dubbed the "human Polar bear" became the first person to swim one kilometre at the North Pole. He uses his extreme achievements to highlight the melting of the 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, a gruelling passage across high seas in extreme conditions.

UCT sports scientist Prof Tim Noakes has worked closely with Pugh. He was at the North Pole to monitor Pugh during his epic one kay swim.

"That was different. He was in the water just over 18 minutes.

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

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