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WATCH: The man risking his life to save the world's oceans

Lewis Pugh

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:34am 12th July 2018. (Updated at 7:06am 12th July 2018)

A man from Plymouth is attempting to swim the full length of the English Channel in just his cap, goggles and trunks.

Lewis Pugh is starting in Cornwall on Thursday morning, at Land's End.

In a world first, The 48-year-old will then make his way to Dover, swimming five hours a day for 50 days to complete the 348 mile challenge.

That is the equivalent of 16 English Channel crossings.

And he is doing it all to help raise awareness of ocean conservation.

The long distance swimmer has already tackled the Arctic and Antarctic.

He has even done a high-altitude paddle on Mount Everest.

Now he says he is doing 'The Long Swim' as part of a campaign to ensure 30 percent of our oceans are fully protected by 2030.

Lewis Pugh

He has described it as the toughest challenge of his career.

His quest is part of the worldwide Action for Oceans campaign, which calls on governments to fully protect at least 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.

He says he is ready to risk his life to convince people of the need to protect the world's oceans.

Pugh will have to battle currents and frigid temperatures for up to five hours a day.

He hopes to make Dover in 50 days but the tides, headwinds, and sheer loneliness of open water swimming may have the last word.

"I've swum in some of the most dangerous and coldest waters on Earth but I rank this [swim] a 10 out of 10 for difficulty," Pugh said.

"I think this is the most difficult swim I've ever undertaken, by a long way."

Lewis Pugh

The ocean campaigner has passed a series of physical tests to confirm he is ready for the epic 350-mile swim.

Lewis visited a sports physiology laboratory at the University of Portsmouth, where scientists monitored his response to cold water - and calculated how many calories he will burn.

"This will be my toughest swim," Lewis said.

"No one has done this distance to Channel Swimming Association rules - cap, goggles, Speedo costume and nothing else."

Lewis has done months of preparation in the sea off Cape Town, where he lives.

But this was the first time that he has trained while scientists monitored his heart with ECGs and his core body temperature with a rectal thermometer.

Lewis Pugh

They first tested his response to cold water, plunging him into a pool set at 18C, the same temperature as the Channel.

Cold water shock can cause a cardiac arrest. But Lewis has swum in the Arctic and Antarctic, so it was no surprise that his heart rate remained unchanged.

"That's the classic response of someone who is cold water habituated," said Professor Mike Tipton, the university's director of sport science research.

"Normally what we would see is gasping, hyper ventilation and an increased heart rate. Cold water shock is responsible for 60% of open water deaths."

Lewis also passed a hypothermia test in a flume, the swimming equivalent of a treadmill. Despite the cold water his body temperature rose by 0.4C.

He has put on several kilograms of fat to retain the heat generated by exercise.

Lewis Pugh

"Lewis has the classic body shape of a Channel swimmer," said Prof Tipton.

"He won't have a thermal problem as long as he keeps his pace up. But his peripheral tissues will have cooled in the water so he will get colder when he gets out.

"The critical aspect is warming him up quickly, and making sure he replaces the energy he has lost, so he is prepared for the next swim."

Analysis of Lewis's exhaled breath showed he burns 900 calories an hour while swimming - or as much as 10,000 calories a day.

He will eat boiled eggs and peaches to keep his energy up while swimming in the Channel. But he is certain to vomit several times because of the exertion and the large amounts of salt water he will swallow.

Lewis Pugh

Lewis said: "What they can't capture here is when you are fighting against the tide and suddenly you are swimming through a bloom of jellyfish, or the support boat has a problem.

"Layer after layer of problems keep arising. This is a laboratory. When you get out into the sea it is very different."

One person who has an inkling of what Lewis is up against is Victoria Cox. She swam across the Channel last summer.

"What he is doing is in a totally different league," she said.

"The amount of mental fortitude required to believe in himself and do it day after day is incredible.

"He will be mentally and physically exhausted."

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