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COP27: How Lewis Pugh braved sharks and transport containers on the planet’s first swim throughout the Red Sea


Having beforehand swum on the planet’s coldest waters carrying simply his swimming trunks, for his newest problem Lewis Pugh went to the alternative excessive.

When he grew to become the primary individual to swim throughout the Red Sea final month – a feat which took 16 days and noticed him encounter crashing waves, busy transport channels and extraordinary sea life – Pugh toiled in opposition to what was by far the warmest ocean he’s ever skilled.

As the solar beat down on his again and the water temperature generally crept above 30 levels Celsius (86 levels Farenheit), Pugh discovered himself battling exhaustion and dehydration – even when he restricted himself to swimming on the coolest instances of the day.

“It’s a significant challenge,” he tells CNN Sport, “and the challenge comes because one feels just so weak and lacking in energy.”

Pugh, an endurance swimmer from the United Kingdom, is accustomed to tackling excessive circumstances in among the world’s most distant oceans.

But the marathon swim from Tiran Island in Saudi Arabia to Hurghada in Egypt posed a myriad of difficulties, not least as a result of it concerned weaving by means of transport visitors within the Gulf of Suez – the stretch of water connecting the Suez Canal to the Red Sea.

And if negotiating a gradual stream of oil tankers and freight containers wasn’t problematic sufficient, Pugh was additionally buffeted by massive, rolling waves as he fought in opposition to uneven waters for almost all of the swim.

In whole, he coated a distance of roughly 76 miles (123 kilometers) from October 11-26, swimming between 3.5 and seven.5 miles every day.

“My body is really, really hammered,” says Pugh, a couple of week after ending the swim. “Every single day, these waves were crashing up against me … It was just twisting my body backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.”

The swim additionally carried the ever-present danger of encountering a shark, of which there round 40 completely different species within the Red Sea, in keeping with Pugh; probably the most harmful are hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, oceanic blacktips and tiger sharks.

As safety, the underside of Pugh’s assist boat was geared up with an digital machine able to repelling sharks inside a four-meter radius, that means any run-ins have been few and much between.

But the ocean life Pugh did witness at shut quarters left him mesmerized by its magnificence.

“When you swim across these coral reefs, it’s absolutely unbelievable because the colors are so vibrant – the yellows, the purples, the greens, and then all the wildlife that lives in them,” he says.

Pugh completed his swim across the Red Sea -- home to some of the world's most biodiverse coral reefs -- in 16 days.

For sections of the swim, Pugh was joined by open-water swimmer Mariam Saleh Bin Laden – who grew to become the primary Arab, first Saudi and first girl to swim from Saudi Arabia to Egypt – and Egyptian swimmer Mostafa Zaki.

The function of the swim was to shine a highlight on the world’s coral reefs – house to the earth’s most vibrant marine ecosystems – and their precarious standing amid the local weather disaster.

Scientists have predicted that about 70% to 90% of all dwelling coral will disappear within the subsequent 20 years within the face of rising sea temperatures.

According to findings from an Australian authorities company revealed earlier this 12 months, warming waters have already brought on coral bleaching in 91% of reefs surveyed alongside the Great Barrier Reef.

Pugh, a number one determine in marine safety because the UN Patron of the Oceans, says the coral and wildlife within the Red Sea have tailored to the excessive water temperatures over hundreds of years, making it house to among the most resistant coral on the planet.

But different locations inform a special story.

“I did a swim a few years ago across the width of the Maldives – a group of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean – and I remember just swimming over these coral reefs, and they were absolutely unbelievable,” says Pugh.

“I went back 10 years later. The water had risen; the temperature of the water had risen just a little bit; the animals had all but disappeared, and that coral was completely white, bleached, dead.”

Pugh's swim went from Saudi Arabia's Tiran Island to Hurghada in Egypt.

This week, Pugh has traveled to the COP27 local weather summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt – a location he handed throughout his swim throughout the Red Sea.

There, he plans to talk with world leaders in regards to the gravity of the local weather disaster and what it means for the way forward for the planet – simply as he did eventually 12 months’s COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, after swimming throughout Greenland’s Ilulissat Icefjord.

“I see the polar regions and the coral reefs of the world as the two ground zeros of the climate crisis,” says Pugh. “And the reason why I say this is because it’s so evident in these parts of the world that we have a very, very serious crisis.”

Part of the rationale for Pugh’s long-distance swims is to influence world leaders to introduce marine protected areas.

In 2015, for instance, he swam down the Ross Sea in Antarctica, which in the present day incorporates a protected space spanning 1.55 million sq. kilometers – the most important such space on the planet at roughly the dimensions of the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy mixed.

But Pugh additionally needs the swims to inform tales about elements of the world which are sometimes ignored.

“When you see damage on land, it’s so very, very evident,” he says. “Underwater, it’s much more challenging. With these swims, I tried to take people – take the public, take the media, take world leaders – to the scene of the crime and show them what’s happening and explain why it’s important that we protect these places.”

Still recovering from his Red Sea swim, Pugh is not sure of the following ocean he’ll plunge into carrying simply his swimming briefs. For now, he’s targeted on COP27 and the guarantees made by the world’s leaders within the face of the local weather disaster.

“We need to have commitments which are much shorter, much sharper,” says Pugh. “And our commitments need to be far greater than what I’ve seen before.”

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