"If you think cold, you are cold,"  say Pugh, shown here on his one-kilometer North Pole swim in 2007.


As looming icebergs blotted out the low sun, Lewis Gordon Pugh thrust his tiny craft into the Arctic pack ice 60 miles north of Norway. Spray kicked up by his paddles froze instantly against his wet suit, but the piercing chill didn't faze Pugh: Polar landscapes had been his proving ground before. In only a Speedo and a silicone cap, he had swum an entire kilometer among the great icebergs of the Antarctic and repeated the distance at the top of the world too.


Polar exploits had fascinated Pugh since boyhood. Growing up in Devon, active but not athletic, he was spellbound by romantic stories of polar explorers told by his father, a naval admiral. The younger Pugh's hero was Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the British explorer who died after losing the race to the South Pole to Norwegian Roald Amundsen.


All the ice he encountered was thin, first-year ice that had formed over the previous winter. There was a complete absence of multiyear ice, which reaches a thickness of about ten feet and survives successive summers. "This shows the ice is not only reduced in area but is disastrously thin," he says. In the coming year, Pugh says, he will focus all his attention on lobbying for Arctic protections to be included in the Kyoto Protocol. With talks to renew the international environmental agreement continuing through the spring, there's still plenty of time to warn the assembled world leaders: Polar Bear headed your way.

From R D



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