Max takes the plunge in support of climate campaign

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Local sea swimmer and ocean scientist at the Scottish Association of Marine Sciences in Dunstaffnage has joined the UN Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh, for his training camp ahead of his next climate campaign swim.

With a background competing with GB Olympic sailing squad and PhD researching the melting of sea ice in Antarctica, the keen open water swimmer Max Holloway was an easy pick by Lewis to join him for a training camp in the Outer Hebrides in January 2020 prior to the Covid pandemic. This summer Lewis asked Max to join him again, this time for a training camp in Iceland as he prepares for his longest and coldest swim yet.

For the past two months Max has been preparing to join Lewis in Iceland to help him train to swim the 10km across the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland, fed by the world’s fastest moving glacier and in water temperatures as low as -1.7 degrees.

This swim is ahead of the climate negotiations at COP26 being held in Glasgow in November where global leaders will set out actions to reach net zero carbon emissions to meet the goal of keeping global warming below two degrees. The recent IPCC report shows that several of the Earth’s systems, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, are reaching a tipping point where further melting could not be prevented. If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt we would see a 7m global sea rise. Lewis says the message is clear, ‘The Greenland ice sheet is ground zero. No ice, no life’.

No one has ever attempted a multi-day swim in the polar regions and to ensure Lewis will be ready for this endeavour he will be training with Max for 10 days in Iceland. In preparation for the training camp Max was sea swimming two to three times a week, including at Ganavan Sands at the local Saturday morning Oban Seals swim meet-up, swimming up to 5km along the coast between Wee Ganavan and Big Ganavan. Max also swum several times a week at Atlantis Leisure’s pool, as well as land-based weight training.

Max said: ‘The training has gone well in Oban, but I did have some challenges outside of my control. I was quite worried when the Atlantis pool shut again for 10 days due to isolating staff, and a week before flying to Iceland I swam face first into a Lion’s Mane Jelly fish!’

While in Iceland, Max will be training with Lewis each morning in local outdoor swimming pools, keeping Lewis’s distance and technical swimming high. In the afternoons they will seek out water sources fed by ice sheet melt water to acclimatise to temperatures similar to that in Greenland, between -1.7 and 4 degrees Celsius.

The training camp is from August 10-20, after which Lewis will travel to Greenland and undertake the 10km swim across the mouth of the Ilulissat icefjord, between August 25 and September 5.

You can follow Lewis’s progress and read more at lewispughfoundation.org/greenland-swim-2021