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Presidential Honor Award

2011 Lewis Gordon Pugh

Swimming for the Environment

 

Lewis Gordon Pugh is a British environmental campaigner, swimmer, maritime lawyer and motivational speaker. He spent his first ten years in England before emigrating with his parents to South Africa when he was 10 years old. He read politics and law at the University of Cape Town and graduated with distinction and at the top of his Masters class. In his mid-twenties, he returned to England where he read International Law at Jesus College, Cambridge and then worked as a maritime lawyer in the City of London.

 

Lewis Gordon Pugh loves to pioneer new swimming routes around or between landmarks once thought unswimmable. In 2006, he swam the drought-stricken Thames; also that year he became the first swimmer to do a long-distance swim in all five oceans of the world. The following year, he made the first long-distance swim across the North Pole -- where climate change made the ice temporarily disappear. Heading into the second decade of his swimming career, he’s regarded as the greatest cold-water swimmer in history.

 

His swims have given him a sea-level view of our planet, and inspired him to do his bit to help preserve it. He left a career in maritime law to become a public speaker on environmental issues with his group, Polar Defence Project -- and of course to plan more astonishing swims and treks. In September 2008, Pugh and Robbie Hedgus kayaked across the Arctic Ocean into the polar ice pack, to raise awareness of the thinning sea ice and the dangers of climate change in the Arctic and across the world. And at the end of May 2010 he swam 1 kilometer across Pumori, a meltwater lake situated next to the Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest, at an altitude of 5300 meters, to draw attention to the melting of the Asian glaciers. He completed the swim -- the highest any person has undertaken -- in less than 23 minutes. “Glaciers are not just ice: they are a lifeline, they provide water to 2 billion people, and we need to protect them,” he says.

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