Pushing his body through epic cold-water swims, Lewis Gordon Pugh wants to draw attention to our global climate. He's just back from swimming in a meltwater lake on the slopes of Mount Everest.

Why you should listen

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.

What others say

“Lewis has displayed remarkable determination, professionalism and single-mindedness in pursuit of his goals.” — Tony Blair

Lewis Pugh’s TED talks

More news and ideas from Lewis Pugh

Live from TEDGlobal

A mind-shifting Everest swim: Lewis Pugh on TED.com

July 30, 2010

After he swam the North Pole, Lewis Pugh vowed never to take another cold-water dip. Then he heard of Lake Imja in the Himalayas, created by recent glacial melting, and Lake Pumori, a body of water at an altitude of 5300 m on Everest — and so began a journey that would teach him a […]

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Live from TEDGlobal

Lewis Pugh’s next cold-water swim: Everest

September 30, 2009

Lewis Pugh, the epic cold-water swimmer and climate-change activist, has announced his next swim: a kilometer-long lap across a glacial lake at the top of Everest, in a pond of meltwater 17,000 feet up. He told me the swim will highlight climate-change issues in two massive countries bordering Everest, China and India. With their large […]

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