Literally hundreds of people have made the swim across the English Channel, the stretch of water that separates the U.K. from Europe. At its narrowest point, the channel is just 21 miles (33 km) wide, making it a formidable, but surmountable challenge. So when I heard that long distance swimmer Lewis Pugh was attempting to swim this iconic body of water I wondered what the big deal was. After all, Pugh had already taken on plenty of other swimming challenges, many of which are considerably longer than the Channel. It was right about then that I learned that he wasn’t swimming across the English Channel, but the length of it instead. Knowing what I knew about Pugh, that made much more sense.
Today, the endurance swimmer launched what he calls The Long Swim, during which he will attempt to cover the entire 560 km (347 miles) of the Channel in just 50 days. In typical Pugh fashion, he’ll do so wearing just his swim cap, goggles, and a pair of speedos. If you’re not familiar with his previous swimming endeavors, Lewis makes it a habit to swim in the coldest water wearing the minimal amount of gear imaginable. This has led him to take chilly dips in the Southern Ocean and even a glacial lake in the shadow of Everest.
Pugh began his swimming challenge by jumping in the Channel near Land’s End in the U.K. Over the next few weeks he’ll make his way towards his finishing spot in Dover. Along the way he’ll face cold water, plenty of shipping traffic, strong waves, and dangerous currents. In order to meet his goals, he’ll need to cover roughly 11.2 km (7 miles) per day –– each and every day –– to finish on time in August.
The purpose for Pugh’s long distance swim is to raise awareness for the challenges that face the Earth’s oceans. Between climate change and increasing amount of plastics and other trash, the oceans are reaching a critical phase. Sea creatures are being threatened, habitats are being destroyed, and the impact of humans is stretching to the most remote corners of the globe. Pugh would like to see that changed and his ultimate goal it to have 30% of the planet’s oceans receive protected status. That’s a pretty tall order, but one that is certainly worth fighting for.
You’ll be able to follow Pugh’s progress throughout his swim on his website. If all goes as planned, he should wrap up the expedition in late August.
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