United Kingdom

British man, 50, becomes the first person to swim UNDER an Antarctic ice sheet

A British athlete has become the first person ever to swim under an Antarctic ice sheet - wearing only his swimming trunks for the jaw-dropping crawl.

Lewis Pugh, 50, dived into the icy waters of the South Pole to swim where nobody ever has before - in a river underneath a melting ice sheet.

Incredible photographs show him doing the front crawl through a magnificent bright blue tunnel formed under the largest single mass of ice on Earth.

Mr Pugh, from Plymouth, Devon, was in the water - a few degrees above zero - for eight minutes.

The Briton performed the remarkable stunt on Monday as part of his training for a second 'world first' he's attempting later today.

Incredible photographs show Lewis Pugh, 50, doing the front crawl through a magnificent bright blue tunnel formed under the largest single mass of ice on Earth

Mr Pugh (pictured diving), from Plymouth, Devon, was in the water - a few degrees above zero - for eight minutes. The Briton performed the remarkable stunt on Monday as part of his training for a second 'world first' he's attempting later today

Mr Pugh inspected the river underneath an Antarctic ice sheet in East Antarctica before he swam it. Speaking from a tent in East Antarctica, Mr Pugh said being under the ice sheet was the most beautiful place he had seen anywhere in the world

Wearing only a pair of trunks, goggles and a cap, UN patron of the oceans Lewis Pugh has swam where no man ever has before - in a river underneath a melting ice sheet (he is pictured preparing off the coast of Dover)

He's attempting to become the first person ever to swim across an entire supra-glacial lake - a body of water formed on the surface of a melting ice cap.

Speaking from a tent in East Antarctica, Mr Pugh said being under the ice sheet was the most beautiful place he had seen anywhere in the world.

The endurance swimmer and ocean advocate, said: 'This is one of the most remote places on the planet.

'It's vast. It's beautiful. But everywhere we look we are seeing meltwater.

'It was every shade of blue. It started turquoise, and then I swam around a corner and it was royal blue.

'And then it turned to indigo, and then a psychedelic blue, and finally violet.

'I was quite relieved to see my team at the end. This is a high-consequence environment to swim in.

'It took me 33 years of training to swim those eight minutes, and a team of incredible French mountaineers to get me in and out of the tunnel safely.'

Mr Pugh said it took him 33 years of training to swim those eight minutes, and a team of 'incredible' French mountaineers to get him in and out of the tunnel safely

The scene in Antarctic where Lewis Pugh swam under an ice sheet. He faced bitterly cold temperatures during his challenge, but hopes to accomplish more jaw-dropping feats in the future

Mr Pugh inspects a river underneath an Antarctic ice sheet in East Antarctica before he swam it. He was surrounded by a thick blue wall of ice as he swam the eight-minute route

Mr Pugh is doing the challenge as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the climate crisis at the poles and is calling for the creation of a network of marine protected areas (Mr Pugh is pictured preparing for the swim)

Married Mr Pugh has been described as the 'Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming' and was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world.

In 2007 he became the first person to complete a long-distance swim across the Geographic North Pole.

The 1km crawl across an open patch of sea was to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice.

Later on today Mr Pugh will attempt to become the first person ever to swim across an entire lake formed in a melting ice cap.

He is doing it as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the climate crisis at the poles and is calling for the creation of a network of marine protected areas.

During all his ice swims he only ever wears his budgie smuggler trunks, cap and goggles.

Supra-glacial lakes appear as a direct result of polar ice melting and are appearing at an increasing rate.

The swim will take place in waters only a degree or two above freezing, and will take him 20 minutes.

He will face a bitter wind-chill and the constant threat of being swallowed up by the lake.

At any time a large hole, known as a moulin, could open in the ice, allowing the water - with Mr Pugh in it - to plummet hundreds of metres to the continent's bedrock.