Your eyes are not deceiving you! This man is diving in ice water wearing just a Speedo, and it's not a prank either. Meet long distance cold-water swimmer, explorer and environmentalist, Lewis Gordon Pugh.
Inspired by early explorers like Roald Amundsen (first person to explore the Antarctica) and Edmund Hillary (first person to climb Mt. Everest ), Lewis decided to follow their footsteps by becoming a pioneer swimmer, by swimming in places where nobody had swum before.
Twenty years later, he has surpassed his goal! He is the first person to complete long distance swims in all five oceans of the world - Pacific, Indian, Atlantic, Arctic and Southern (Antarctic). It is, however, the last two swims that have made Lewis famous. Prior to him, nobody had ever dared to dip into the waters of the Arctic and Antarctic, let alone swim in them, and that too without a wetsuit.
According to Lewis, his toughest swim was the Arctic Ocean, which he did in 2007. He swam about half a mile in nineteen minutes in water temperatures that measured 29 degrees Fahrenheit (-1.7 degrees Celsius) - Brrrrrrrrrr. Lewis describes his jump in the Arctic akin to jumping into a dark black hole. He says his body felt like it was on fire, and the pain was almost unbearable.
The Arctic swim was especially important to Lewis for two reasons. The first, to fulfill his quest to be the first person to achieve that, but the second and more important reason was to make people aware of global warming.
Lewis says that the last twenty years of swimming in different locations has allowed him to observe the effects of global warming more closely than most people. He has seen glaciers melt and animals disappear. He believes that his swim in the Arctic could not have been possible twenty years ago, when the ocean there was mostly frozen.
In order to be able to withstand below freezing temperatures that would kill most human beings in a few seconds, Lewis uses some unique training techniques. Prior to the Arctic and Antarctic swims, he practiced swimming in pools with ice. He also piled on a lot of weight - as much as 15lbs prior to each swim. The extra fat provides insulation in the freezing water.
However, the most interesting technique that Lewis uses is a technique called "anticipatory thermogenesis" - which means the creation of heat before an event. Lewis is the only person in the world who can do this. Using just the power of his brain, he raises his body temperature by as much as 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit and his heart rate from 70 to 160 beats a minute. It's how a normal human body feels after a brisk run, however in Lewis's case it's all done without lifting a finger. As soon as he is hot and sweaty, he dives in.
Lewis, who has swum alongside crocodiles, polar bears, leopard seals, and sharks, says that he is afraid of all of them. But because he has a team of people that ski alongside him to keep an eye on any predators, he feels relatively safe and distracts himself by playing math games in his head.
Pugh's next quest will be to kayak from the island of Spitsbergen, in Northern Europe across the Arctic Ocean into the Arctic Ice Pack, on August 30th. He says he is doing it to highlight the dramatic melting of the sea ice, thanks to global warming. To read more about this fascinating man check out his website at www.lewispugh.com.