Lewis Pugh swims the North Pole


Today I want to talk to you about swimming across the North Pole, across the most northern place in the whole world. And perhaps the best place to start is with my late father. He was a great storyteller. He could tell a story about an event, and so you felt you were absolutely there at the moment. And one of the stories he told me so often when I was a young boy was of the first British atomic bomb test. He had been there and watched it go off. And he said that the explosion was so loud and the light was so intense, that he actually had to put his hands in front of his face to protect his eyes. And he said that he could actually see an x-ray of his fingers, because the light was so bright. And I know that watching that atomic bomb going off had a very, very big impact on my late father. Every holiday I had as a young boy was in a national park. What he was trying to do with me was to inspire me to protect the world, and show me just how fragile the world is. He also told me about the great explorers. He loved history. He would tell me about Captain Scott walking all the way to the South Pole and Sir Edmund Hillary climbing up Mount Everest. And so ever since I think I was just six years old, I dreamed of going to the polar regions. I really, really wanted to go to the Arctic. There was something about that place which drew me to it. And, well, sometimes it takes a long time for a dream to come true. But seven years ago, I went to the Arctic for the first time. And it was so beautiful that I’ve been back there ever since, for the last seven years. I love the place. But I have seen that place change beyond all description, just in that short period of time. I have seen polar bears walking across very, very thin ice in search of food. I have swum in front of glaciers which have retreated so much. And I have also, every year, seen less and less sea ice. And I wanted the world to know what was happening up there. In the two years before my swim, 23 percent of the arctic sea ice cover just melted away. And I wanted to really shake the lapels of world leaders to get them to understand what is happening. So I decided to do this symbolic swim at the top of the world, in a place which should be frozen over, but which now is rapidly unfreezing. And the message was very clear: Climate change is for real, and we need to do something about it. And we need to do something about it right now. Well, swimming across the North Pole, it’s not an ordinary thing to do. I mean, just to put it in perspective, 27 degrees is the temperature of a normal indoor swimming pool. This morning, the temperature of the English Channel was 18 degrees. The passengers who fell off the Titanic fell into water of just five degrees centigrade. Fresh water freezes at zero. And the water at the North Pole is minus 1.7. It’s fucking freezing. (Laughter) (Applause) I’m sorry, but there is no other way to describe it. (Laughter) And so I had to assemble an incredible team around me to help me with this task. I assembled this team of 29 people from 10 nations. Some people think that swimming is a very solo sport, you just dive into the sea and off you go. It couldn’t be further from the truth for me. And I then went and did a huge amount of training, swimming in icy water, backwards and forwards. But the most important thing was to train my mind to prepare myself for what was going to happen. And I had to visualize the swim. I had to see it from the beginning all the way to the end. I had to taste the salt water in my mouth. I had to see my coach screaming for me, “Come on Lewis! Come on! Go! Go! Go! Don’t slow down!” And so I literally swam across the North Pole hundreds and hundreds of times in my mind. And then, after a year of training, I felt ready. I felt confident that I could actually do this swim. So myself and the five members of the team, we hitched a ride on an icebreaker which was going to the North Pole. And on day four, we decided to just do a quick five minute test swim. I had never swum in water of minus 1.7 degrees before, because it’s just impossible to train in those types of conditions. So we stopped the ship, as you do. We all got down onto the ice, and I then got into my swimming costume and I dived into the sea. I have never in my life felt anything like that moment. I could barely breathe. I was gasping for air. I was hyperventilating so much, and within seconds my hands were numb. And it was — the paradox is that you’re in freezing cold water, but actually you’re on fire. I swam as hard as I could for five minutes. I remember just trying to get out of the water. I climbed out of the ice. And I remember taking the goggles off my face and looking down at my hands in sheer shock, because my fingers had swollen so much that they were like sausages. And they were swollen so much, I couldn’t even close them. What had happened is that we are made partially of water, and when water freezes it expands. And so what had actually happened is that the cells in my fingers had frozen and expanded. And they had burst. And I was in so much agony. I immediately got rushed onto the ship and into a hot shower. And I remember standing underneath the hot shower and trying to defrost my fingers. And I thought, in two days’ time, I was going to do this swim across the North Pole. I was going to try and do a 20-minute swim, for one kilometer across the North Pole. And this dream which I had had ever since I was a young boy with my father, was just going out the window. There is no possibility that this was going to happen. And I remember then getting out of the shower and realizing I couldn’t even feel my hands. And for a swimmer, you need to feel your hands because you need to be able to grab the water and pull it through with you. The next morning, I woke up and I was in such a state of depression, and all I could think about was Sir Ranulph Fiennes. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s the great British explorer. A number of years ago, he tried to ski all the way to the North Pole. He accidentally fell through the ice into the sea. And after just three minutes in that water, he was able to get himself out. And his hands were so badly frostbitten that he had to return to England. He went to a local hospital and there they said, “Ran, there is no possibility of us being able to save these fingers. We are going to actually have to take them off.” And Ran decided to go into his tool shed and take out a saw and do it himself. And all I could think of was, if that happened to Ran after three minutes, and I can’t feel my hands after five minutes, what on earth is going to happen if I try 20 minutes? At the very best, I’m going to end up losing some fingers. And at worst, I didn’t even want to think about it. We carried on sailing through the ice packs towards the North Pole. And my close friend David, he saw the way I was thinking, and he came up to me and he said, “Lewis, I’ve known you since you were 18 years old. I’ve known you, and I know, Lewis, deep down, right deep down here, that you are going to make this swim. I so believe in you Lewis. I’ve seen the way you’ve been training. And I realize the reason why you’re going to do this. This is such an important swim. We stand at a very, very important moment in this history, and you’re going to make a symbolic swim here to try to shake the lapels of world leaders. Lewis, have the courage to go in there, because we are going to look after you every moment of it.” And I just, I got so much confidence from him saying that, because he knew me so well. So we carried on sailing and we arrived at the North Pole. And we stopped the ship, and it was just as the scientists had predicted. There were open patches of sea everywhere. And I went down into my cabin and I put on my swimming costume. And then the doctor strapped on a chest monitor, which measures my core body temperature and my heart rate. And then we walked out onto the ice. And I remember looking into the ice, and there were big chunks of white ice in there, and the water was completely black. I had never seen black water before. And it is 4,200 meters deep. And I said to myself, “Lewis, don’t look left, don’t look right. Just scuttle forward and go for it.” And so I now want to show you a short video of what happened there on the ice. Narrator (Video): We’re just sailing out of harbor now, and it’s at this stage when one can have a bit of a wobble mentally. Everything just looks so gray around here, and looks so cold. We’ve just seen our first polar bears. It was absolutely magical. A mother and a cub, such a beautiful sight. And to think that in 30, 40 years they could become extinct. It’s a very frightening, very, very frightening thought. We’re finally at the North Pole. This is months and months and months of dreaming to get here, years of training and planning and preparation. Ooh. In a couple of hours’ time I’m going to get in here and do my swim. It’s all a little bit frightening, and emotional. Amundson, you ready? Amudson: Ready. Lewis Pugh: Ten seconds to swim. Ten seconds to swim. Take the goggles off. Take the goggles off! Man: Take the shoes. Take the shoes. Well done lad! You did it! You did it Lewis! You did it! You did it man! LP: How on earth did we do that? Man: Against the current! You did it against the current! (Applause) LP: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. (Applause) Thank you so much. Audience: Encore! (Laughter) LP: I’d just like to end off by just saying this: It took me four months again to feel my hands. But was it worth it? Yes, absolutely it was. There are very, very few people who don’t know now about what is happening in the Arctic. And people ask me, “Lewis, what can we do about climate change?” And I say to them, I think we need to do three things. The first thing we need to do is we need to break this problem down into manageable chunks. You saw during that video all those flags. Those flags represented the countries from which my team came from. And equally, when it comes to climate change, every single country is going to have to make cuts. Britain, America, Japan, South Africa, the Congo. All of us together, we’re all on the same ship together. The second thing we need to do is we need to just look back at how far we have come in such a short period of time. I remember, just a few years ago, speaking about climate change, and people heckling me in the back and saying it doesn’t even exist. I’ve just come back from giving a series of speeches in some of the poorest townships in South Africa to young children as young as 10 years old. Four or five children sitting behind a desk, and even in those poorest conditions, they all have a very, very good grasp of climate change. We need to believe in ourselves. Now is the time to believe. We’ve come a long way. We’re doing good. But the most important thing we must do is, I think, we must all walk to the end of our lives and turn around, and ask ourselves a most fundamental question. And that is, “What type of world do we want to live in, and what decision are we going to make today to ensure that we all live in a sustainable world?” Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very, very much. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Lewis Pugh swims the North Pole”

  1. I agree with you, but some people dont agree with you. What are you going to do about that? Do you think you're opinions are better than theirs? that they're gonna roll over and die at your command?

  2. If anyone doesn't agree that a SUV or racing car is polluting, then yes.. My opinion is better than theirs.
    If they claim that the world couldn't do without SUV's or racing cars running on fossil fuels, then yeah.. My opinion is better.
    It's all about being selfish when people claim such nonsense. They don't want to do a damn thing to help. And the claims aren't really opinions. It's just ignorance and/or lies.

  3. Let's say a person would say that the emissions racing gives out or having an SUV instead of a normal vehicle of transport doesn't do enough harm for the enviroment, that it is so marginal, that it doesn't seem worth it putting down all the businesses based on racing and SUV's and having the workers unemplyed for no apparent reason? What then? Then it's just not enough to tell them to go fuck themselves. Then you need graphs, and this is what I'm talking about. I'll try not to get derailed now.

  4. I got the point but I think the point he was making was off topic.
    I thought the point he was trying to make was the "swimming" aspect, where ice was etc… He made such a big deal about how cold it was to swim, you would think he would just swim it in a wetsuit or drysuit. If your going to swim in -1deg water nearly naked I thought you would be smart enough to dress for the occasion.. Otherwise stop complaining about your fingers being cold!
    Who cares if he survived it…

  5. He has "X" amount of time to talk on TED… I dont want to hear Capt. Obvious tell me about how -1deg water was cold… I would rather hear about the ice and technical findings, half his time on stage was basically telling me that North pole water was cold… … Enlightening

  6. I'm not convinced that man made pollution is changing the world's climate. California being on fire has much more of an impact.

    BUT….

    I would like to reduce pollution enough in the cities so that there isn't visible smog. That's all I'm asking for. My lungs are very fragile, and I can't even visit LA or other polluted cities without needing a mask.

  7. That's exactly the kind of selfish claim I was talking about. We've seen it plenty of times already.
    People need to understand that if their "It doesn't do *that* much damage" claim works, then everyone can say the same. One factory doesn't do *that* much damage either but all the "small" things add up.
    SUV makers could just as well be making electric cars or whatever. No jobs lost.
    Racing could be electric too for that matter.. Wasting fossil fuels just isn't acceptable anymore.

  8. Explain why the Caps are disappearing within the 100 years we started to use fossil fuels versus the 3.4 billion years Earth has existed?

  9. @ArgueExplain
    I would imagine all the volcanoes on the earth, and your right the fires in California are not helping anything at all, and that's all nature.

    I personally think were just going through a cycle.. if you study geology, you can tell when the ice caps expanded, and when they retreated in the past.. Actually pretty interesting stuff.

  10. It was intended to be purely emotive, just like Gore's melodrama.
    There is plenty of info on the relationship between CO2, solar activity and median temperatures. Just avoid the IPCC bear-traps.
    Regards from an environmentalist.

  11. I think you're right. When the ice age ended, it wasn't because of car exhaust, it was because the Earth got warmer. Same goes for the ice age before that.

    Thinking that we can stop the climate change now is like expecting us to keep the Ice Age from thawing.

  12. I'm sure it does, but he's still swimming at the NORTH POLE! I doubt there are -1 wetsuits that would keep him toasty up there. It's still reckless and it's still makes his point without endangering his extremities.

  13. Jesus! I thought he was gonna do it for 10-20 seconds. I would never have DREAMED that you could do that for 18 + minutes and survive.

  14. Impressive to say the least, Im very comfortable in cold weather but -1, damn I dont think I could do that.
    Im not very knowledgeable on this but as far as I know the climate did warm up by natural courses in the past, I think it was because of gasses from volcanoes & things like that.
    Many volcanoes are extinct now but we have more than made up for the gasses produced by them…….

  15. …..even without us the world would probably warm up but we are speeding the process up big time. Too fast for the environment to adapted to it.

  16. Ok, First of all Bear Grills does that kind o things daily basis, even though everybody knows his show not 100% real.
    Second this guy is one of these Planet Fucker Hippocrates, who talk about Global warming and what they do? Exactly how much Global Worming did his ice breaker ship caused? Normal person would not do that much damage for all his life combined

  17. yes i would.

    BUT

    no one can deny that the earth's orbit is one of the main factors. it changes the distance to the sun of about 5 million km or 6-7% (!).

    the earth is cooling and warming up all the time. in the 70's the same pseudo-scientists were warning about global cooling. the whole global warming propaganda cannot stand in a factual, scientific study.

    first there was a ozone layer hole which repaired itself, then freon gases, now CO2.

    it's all bullshit but any good study is welcome.

  18. I think it's supposed to show that there is actually water for a man to swim in where there should be nothing but ice. I further suppose he thought a dramatic example was needed for our thickheaded skulls.

  19. Uh… you know how normally people take dogsleds to the north pole? And now this guy's swimming it? Hint: you can't sled over water.

    Don't know how much more i can spell it out. BTW, your comment used electricity which contributed to global warming.

  20. Firstly, the ozone layer didn't just magically heal itself. It "ruptured" because of human actions, check it out yourself. And began healing as men made changes to chemical stuff. The world has always warmed and cooled by itself, it's all pretty natural. Shortly, the amount of co2 by people is about 26 gt. Which of about 40% gets absorbed naturally. Natural emissions are about 400 gt of rotting etc. All of it gets absorbed. So were left with about 15 gt over the worlds absorb ability.

  21. As that piles up, as it's not absorbed into anything, makes global warming happen. I'm not a scientist, Im not involved ni any research. But, when this is stated, then you need evidence of it happening. Which is f. ex. the ice melting faster than ever before. I live in the north and there's a mass moving going on here woth animals, and the animals in the most northern parts have no where else to go, so they die of extinction.

  22. The human emissions are very marginal, but as it doesn't absorb away it just stays here and keeps piling up, like a "bad investment" so to speak. Does this make sense to you? I personlly don't believe in huge conspiracys and all that, but it's ones choice to think as they wish. Hope this gave you some idea of what people are talking about.

  23. Let me guess; you can't spell "aren't " yet you feel qualified to give me a climate lesson.
    If I was you, I'd worry about filling out a employment application before you worry about trying to debate your intellectual superior.
    I'll pass on the lesson, oh great wise one.

  24. This is absolutely retarded. It's fine with me if he wants to risk his life for a thrill, but it's moronic for him to pretend it's going to help with some big cause in the world. He's deluded. He's like that guy who burned himself alive. No one cares.

  25. actually i swam in water that is -3 Centigrade in Europe in Baltic at night…. It gave me a cramp in my leg and it was cold but if you move and there is a shore you swimming too you dont feel cold untill you go out of the water… THEN ITS COLD

  26. Don't want to spoil his dream, but isn't climate change irreversible in the short term? I'm not saying we should find ways of countering it, but the outlook is pretty bleak at the moment…

  27. No wetsuit?! Jeez, my stepdad wears a wetsuit to swim in winter in Florida! Wow. That is just sheer will power. Amazing.

  28. this guy has too much botox in his face and i think he's an alien lol seriously though a normal average human being cannot survive in those conditions

  29. If properly trained the human body was made by God & Jesus to withstand a lot of punishment. It would be absurd to do what Gordon did without the vision to awaken people to Global plights all over the world! Excellent completed attempt!

  30. The defining property of Jesus' message is His loving power runs through human beings who are willingly yielded to His Mind or Words which represent God His Father's creative power. Self has no place in God's realm aside from your own personality which doesn't change. It's God's power of Love through believers that makes it possible for man to see God! You've got to see God. He's invisible, but you can see Him through Jesus the man who lived just as we do! So self is not it! Spirit is!

  31. Preaching self, ha! Gordon should know better! Being a Christian example is what every American should be knowing their humble beginnings were Christian! Preaching God through you is what defines not self.
    People want to see a miracle from God thru man not the man, but Jesus through the man!
    Get it? God wants recognition! If people see you have claimed credit they don't see God's hand in it! They don't see the Spirit & only see the man. ha! Which would you rather see? It's your choice!

  32. @ arch37 Ich glaube, dass die Menschheit ist ein Teil von Gottes Schöpfung
    Ich bin damit einverstanden, außer wenn die Menschen nicht erhalten Jesus Gottes Sohn, sie in der Regel Verehrung ihrer eigenen Stärke. Sie wissen nicht, Jesus noch. Sie geben sich Kredit. Ich glaube an Gott Nennung durch den Austausch dieses mit anderen, so dass sie Gott gebe den Kredit. Dies deutet Menschen zur Erkenntnis der Existenz Gottes.
    translated by: Google translator…Thanks for writing in!

  33. @arch37 i believe, that humankind is a part of GODs creation
    I agree except if men don't receive Jesus God's Son, they usually worship their own strength. They don't know Jesus yet. They give themselves credit. I believe in giving credit to God by sharing this with others so they give God the credit . This points people to a knowledge of God's existence.

  34. @arch37 A book says that about Jesus. Measurable reality says nothing about him. The problem is the Bible has several major contradictions which prove it is a human-made, not supernatural, text. It is fiction, in other words. It is critical that you read these, to correct the common ideological error of trusting a provably fallacious worldview. Read the 1860-written book, Self Contradictions of the Bible by William Henry Burr (free online). You're atheist towards every other god, go 1 more.

  35. What effect will his carbon footprint have on spreading awareness of global warming and hopefully getting people to cut back on their emissions?

  36. Want to cut 80-90% of the CO2?

    Try this: Find me $3 million and I do (with staff of 5) the R&D for new type of engine that can get 90% of the CO2 out of an American's life. This means all can have the American standard without the fuel.

  37. I have not filed for patents, nor do I want to until the final configuration is engineered. If I file, some guy in China will just copy it.

  38. the earth is changing. the whole universe is changing. there's nothing that we can do to stop this cycle. life goes through cycles.

  39. Beware; this man is a shill. I say 'man' but he is most likely a military clone which is why they can toss him in freezing cold water and whip up a new one to replace the frozen vegetable left in its place. Disinformation all over the place. First of all, British have never detonated a nuke. Nuclear weapons do not exist. You do not see gigantic mushroom clouds of unburnt hydrocarbons from the pure heat of atomic fission.

    Second of all, there is no such thing as global warming. The 'powers' that be want to use carbon emissions as a new form of currency which would require a global regulatory agency which is simply a step toward a one world government or "New World Order" as they so fondly like to say.

    Wake up people. Open your eyes. "TAEEKH OFF DUH GOGGOLZ TAEEK DEM OFF"

  40. SO inspiring, Lewis. Huge plaudits to you and the fine work you're doing. As someone who loves swimming in cold water, I can barely imagine how you survived. Bowing to you.

  41. I'm still on edge when it comes to climate change / global warming or whatever it's called nowadays but I'm shocked this doesn't have one million views

  42. Please someone in United States of America show this video to their new president and it's administration … please save the world.

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