Press Release

Investec Sponsors Lewis Gordon Pugh to swim where no man has swum before

British explorer and endurance swimmer, Lewis Gordon Pugh, is attempting the challenge of a lifetime – to become the first ever person to swim at the Geographic North Pole in freezing temperatures of minus 1.8º centigrade – the coldest waters a human has ever swum in, it was announced today 28 May 2007.

The swim, in an area that should be frozen over will visibly demonstrate the devastating impacts of climate change on our planet.

The Investec North Pole Challenge will see WWF-UK Ambassador, Lewis Gordon Pugh, nicknamed the Polar Bear, swim 1km at the top of the world to raise awareness of climate change.   Pugh expects the swim will take approximately 21 minutes and he will swim in accordance with Channel Swimming Association Rules in just a swimming costume, cap and goggles.

Pugh’s attempt is scheduled for July 15th 2007. He will leave London on July 8th to join a Russian icebreaker in Murmansk which sets sail on July 9th for seven days taking Pugh and his crew to the North Pole.  On July 15th Pugh will ski the last 10km of his journey with his friend, Jørgen Amundsen, whose relative, Roald Amundsen, was the first man to walk to the South Pole and first man to fly across the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole.

Pugh has spent a great deal of time previously defying the elements in expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Increasingly concerned about the effects of global warming both on the polar regions and in the UK, he has been working in conjunction with WWF, the global conservation charity to raise awareness of climate change.  He will attempt the swim to focus G8 Leaders’ attention on the realities of climate change and continue to draw public awareness to the issue.

Returning from an intense training period at the Nigards Glacier in Norway, Pugh said: “In recent years the Arctic has had the greatest increase in air temperatures in the world and a substantial decrease in sea ice. Areas of open sea are now appearing and the sea temperature in the Arctic Ocean is predicted to increase by 9ºC by the end of the century.  These changes are being driven by global warming gases, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Scientists predict that by the year 2040, the Arctic may be nearly devoid of ice during the summer. Just five or ten years ago this swim would never have been possible – most people have no idea that you can find patches of open sea at the North Pole in summer. It’s deeply regrettable that it’s possible now because of the devastating effects of climate change.

“I want to raise awareness of this by showing dramatically what is happening in the Arctic.  I can’t think of a better way to show that climate change is a reality than by swimming in a place that should be totally frozen over.

“This will be, by far, the hardest swim I’ve ever undertaken. I hope it will help illustrate the incredible seriousness of climate change and put pressure on the leaders of the G8 summit to cut carbon emissions dramatically.”

Investec Asset Management’s CEO, Hendrik du Toit, commented:

“Our philosophy as a business has always been to be out of the ordinary. With that in mind we are proud to support Lewis in both his physical endeavours and his quest to raise awareness of the way our world is changing around us.”

WWF Head of Campaigns, Colin Butfield, said:

“The fact that Lewis can now swim at the North Pole demonstrates the need for urgent action on climate change.  It is imperative that we act to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 to prevent further acceleration in the rate of global warming and reduce the future impacts of climate change.”

A three-man team is working to prepare Pugh for his extraordinary mission, including Professor Tim Noakes of the University of Cape Town, who has been leading Pugh’s programme of preparation. A leading expert on the effect of cold water on the human body, Professor Noakes has been helping Pugh prepare for the swim including a requirement to bulk up from 87kg to 105kg.

Pugh has been undertaking an intense programme of running, weight training and kayaking, as well as swimming in a specially designed ice pool.

Professor Tim Noakes said:

“This is the coldest water any human being has ever swum in and Lewis has been extraordinarily dedicated in his preparations. He has worked incredibly hard and we have undergone an extremely intense period of training to make this as safe as possible for him.”

In addition, Pugh will be spending his final month of training with Jørgen Amundsen in the surroundings of a glacial lake in Norway – swimming, cross country skiing, kayaking and running.

Amundsen said:

“This expedition represents the end of an era of Arctic exploration as we know it. It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to walk to the North Pole. Many expeditions fail each year when they encounter big stretches of open sea. I can not imagine what the pioneer explorers like Roald Amundsen and Admiral Peary would have thought of someone swimming at the North Pole.”

Pugh added:

“I’m incredibly grateful to my sponsors and my team – especially for the support of Jørgen Amundsen who is helping me complete my mission.”

The swim comes 98 years after the first person, American Admiral Robert Peary, walked to the North Pole.

The geographic North Pole is situated at 90º North, and the previous record held for the coldest point swum by a human is 0ºC off Antarctica – a record also held by Pugh.

The Carbon Dioxide emissions from the travel associated with this swim is being offset for the whole team, using the Gold Standard offsetting scheme.

Investec, the international specialist-banking group is the sponsor of the event.  The time keeping equipment is being provided by Villemont Watches.

Lewis’ progress will be charted on

For further information or interviews please contact Louise Plank on 07801 321 965 or

For pictures of Lewis training in Norway please contact Louise Fawkner-Corbett at Push Pictures on 07802 903 628 or

Victoria Cork at Investec Asset Management on 020 7597 2057.

Debbie Chapman at WWF-UK on 01483 412 397.

Note to Editors:

Lewis Gordon Pugh

Lewis, 37, explorer, environmentalist and swimmer, is no stranger to completing seemingly impossible challenges where the odds are stacked against him. He is the only person to have completed a long distance swim in each of the five oceans of the world.

His unique ability to withstand cold and raise his body temperature in anticipation of a swim has intrigued many top sports scientists and earned him the nickname of ‘The Polar Bear’.

In 2003 he completed the first swim in the Barents Sea by swimming around North Cape, Europe’s most northern point.  The following year, he swam the entire length of the 204km long Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord, in an epic feat that took him 21 days to complete.  And in August 2005 he plunged into the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole and swam 1km around the most northern point of the island of Spitsbergen at 80° North to break the world record.
In 2005 Lewis completed the most Southern swim in the world when he covered 1km in 18 minutes at Petterman Island, Antarctica in waters of 0°C.

Last summer he completed the challenge of swimming the entire length of the River Thames (203 miles).  In February this year he swam across the width of the Maldives, a distance of some 87 miles. Both events were sponsored by Investec and promoted awareness of WWF’s climate change campaign.


Investec is an international specialist banking group that provides a diverse range of financial products and services to a niche client base in three principal markets, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australian as well as certain other countries. The group was established in 1974 and currently has approximately 5400 employees.

Investec focuses on delivering distinctive profitable solutions for its clients in five core areas of activity namely, Private Client Activities, Capital Markets, Investment Banking, Asset Management and Property Investment Banking.

Investec has previously sponsored Lewis Gordon Pugh in both the Investec Thames Challenge and the Investec Maldives Challenge.


WWF is now known simply by its initials and the panda logo.

WWF is working to reduce the effects of climate change and to help protect the people and species in the Arctic as well as globally. WWF is doing this by campaigning to raise public concern, lobbying politicians and working with businesses to reduce global emissions of carbon dioxide.

WWF wants global leaders to commit to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 – and to start negotiations this year on a new international agreement to take over the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012.


Villemont creates and sells exclusive luxury timepieces, which are entirely designed, manufactured and produced in Switzerland by the most talented craftsmen in their field. Each and every timepiece exhibits Villemont’s exquisite attention to detail.  In January 2007, Villemont merged with the only Norwegian watch brand – Amundsen – which has a very unique heritage in the fields of exploration, navigation and aviation.  Jorgen Amundsen, Villemont Brand Director is a relative of Roald Amundsen, the first man to reach the South Pole.  For further information visit