Lewis Pugh, the UNEP Patron of the Oceans who has pioneered swims in the most challenging environments on earth, including the Antarctic, the North Pole, the Red Sea and the Himalayas, today became the first person in history to swim the full length of the Hudson River unassisted. Mr. Pugh began his swim high in the Adirondack Mountains on August 13 and finished just after 10 am today, Wednesday, September 13, 2023.
The Hudson River Swim highlighted the critical importance of river health to the health of the world's oceans and the overall global environment. Mr. Pugh will address the United Nations General Assembly next week to discuss the swim and the need for river restoration worldwide.
"If we want healthy oceans, we also need healthy rivers — it's that simple," Mr. Pugh, 53, said. "For the past month I've got to know the Hudson River intimately. I swum her length and met many wonderful people. It's been a privilege and it feels like I've made a life-long friend with this river. Before, it was a dumping ground. But then in the 1970's New Yorkers said enough was enough. You started cleaning the Hudson, mile by mile. And town by town. Yes, more needs to be done. We must continue to be vigilant. And we can never become complacent when it comes to protecting the environment. But the Hudson gives hope to people around the world."
Mr. Pugh made the swim "unassisted," as all his swims are, meaning he traversed the length of the river wearing only a Speedo, cap, and goggles. The challenges of the swim included navigating through white water rapids, powerful river currents, and swimming through sewage runoffs during heavy rains.
"Refuse, sewage, chemical and plastic waste don't just pollute rivers and harm the species that live in them; these contaminants are carried on to the sea where they do more damage," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. "Just as we must keep our own arteries unclogged for our health, we must keep the planet's arteries unclogged for its health."
"Clean and healthy rivers are an essential yet often overlooked part of global efforts to restore ocean health," said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Chairman and CEO of the GEF. "This is such an important reminder of why we need to pay close attention to the health of freshwater systems and prioritize ecosystem management in all our connected waterways as we work towards nature and climate targets."
"Lewis Pugh stands atop the Pantheon of the world's endurance swimmers, with every stroke he takes focusing our attention on the environment," said Steven Munatones, former head coach of the USA open water swim team. "Mr. Pugh's range is unprecedented, from the tropical waters of the Maldives to the inhospitable North Pole, Lewis has pushed himself like no other, all to inspire government leaders and the citizens of the world to be proactive stewards of our marine environments."
"We are delighted to continue to be supporting Lewis as he sets out to tackle the scourge of water pollution and biodiversity loss in our rivers and oceans. The Hudson River Swim, which finished just ahead of New York Climate Week this month, elevates the importance of the related issues of freshwater, clean air and the conservation of our marine habitats, all vital for the prosperity of our planet," said Michelle Scrimgeour, CEO of Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM).
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