Surfski to the North Pole: Polar Defense Project

Saturday, 02 August 2008 12:54 | Written by 
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Lewis Gordon Pugh is attempting to paddle to the North Pole - and hopes he won't make it.  This is paddling taken to the ultimate extreme...

Surfski to the North Pole - Lewis Pugh training
Cold weather paddling!

First Swim, now Paddle

Cape Town based environmentalist and explorer, Lewis Gordon Pugh, is well known for his ability to swim in frigid conditions.  A year ago he became the first person to swim 1km at the North Pole.  Starting on August 29th, 2008, he now intends to paddle 1,200km from the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen to the pole across some of the most dangerous seas in the world.

"This is without doubt the hardest expedition I have ever undertaken," he said." The Arctic Ocean can be unforgiving, especially if you are in a single kayak!"


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Why do it? 

This is no, "because it's there" challenge.  Pugh's work is aimed at heightening global awareness of climate change.

Pugh said, "Over recent decades, we have lost more than half the Arctic summer sea ice cover; decades ahead of predictions, showing climate change has been hugely underestimated.  We must insist that our leaders take urgent action to halt climate change."

"It would not have been possible to kayak to the North Pole, even last year," he added. "Although sea ice is melting fast, I sincerely hope that there is more sea ice than predicted this summer and that it is impossible for me to kayak all the way."

A support team will follow Pugh, providing a daily blog on the sea ice conditions.

Lewis Pugh, Polar Defense Project 2008
Lewis Pugh

Polar Defense Project

Pugh also announced his new Polar Defense Project, which he has founded to raise awareness for greater protection of the Arctic and an end to climate change, and which receives support from the Investec banking group in South Africa.

Loss of sea ice has increased interest in exploiting Arctic resources and has lead to a major escalation of tension in the area.  Pugh said, "The North Pole belongs to us all, all 6.6 billion, not just the adjacent countries and companies who seem determined to exploit this fragile wilderness."

Accordingly, when Pugh gets to the North Pole, he plans to symbolically raise 192 national flags and call for Arctic peace to be preserved, including the South African flag.

Earlier this year Pugh, a maritime lawyer, began plans for the Polar Defense Project to campaign for greater legal protection for the Arctic and an end to climate change. The campaign was officially launched with this inaugural expedition.

Says Hendrik Du Toit, Investec Asset Management CEO:

"Our philosophy as a business has always been that ‘ordinary won't change the world'.  Lewis Gordon Pugh personifies this attribute, and it is an honour to support him in both his physical expeditions and his quest to raise awareness of the way climate change is affecting our world.

"Investec Asset Management is proud of our long association with Lewis, having sponsored him in several of his efforts to raise awareness of global warming. These include the Investec Thames Challenge, in which he swam the entire length of the Thames, the Investec Maldives challenge, which saw him swim across the width of the Maldives and the epic Investec North Pole Challenge, during which Lewis swam 1km in -1.8 degrees Celsius at the Geographic North Pole."

Lewis Pugh, Polar Defense Project, 2008

Equipment and Training

Pugh has been testing several craft including surfskis and a final decision on which he'll use is expected in the next week.

He'll be wearing a wetsuit with a dry suit over that - with face mask, goggles and pogies over his hands.

He's been training with the South African Olympic Kayaking team and has been coached by Hugarian Robert Hegedus, a seven time world kayaking champion.

While weather conditions will obviously play a huge part in the expedition, Pugh intends to paddle 100km per day, taking a break every three hours to eat and drink.

Expedition Website

For more information, see where Sam Branson will be writing a daily blog..

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