The waters around the Outer Hebrides are to become a training ground for a massive environmental campaign over Hogmanay, as ocean advocate Lewis Pugh plans a new challenge.

The renowned ocean swimmer and environmental campaigner is in training for the East Antarctica Ice-sheet Swim, scheduled for January 22nd 2020, and he’s heading for Lewis on December 28th to begin ten days of gruelling acclimatisation and training in island waters.

Lewis has chosen to train with endurance swimmer Colin Macleod, who completed his long-planned Minch swim this summer. Also accompanying them will be Scottish wild-swimmer Calum Maclean, an ambassador for the Outdoor Swimming Society, who says he has yet to find water cold enough to stop him swimming.

Today’s (Wednesday December 18th) Times newspaper carries a small ad seeking ‘young guns’ to join the polar training party, promising no tea breaks, no Hogmanay and the need to swim and run hard.

Colin Macleod told that anyone joining the group would need to be experienced cold water swimmers. He said: “I am very excited about swimming with Lewis later this month. Anyone else up for it?”

Lewis is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Patron for Oceans. He has previously pioneered swims in the most hostile waters on earth including the North Pole and the Himalayas.

He describes Antarctica as ‘the last pristine ocean wilderness’ and is planning to bring all 24 nations plus the EU coming together to agree Marine Protection status for more of the continent and its seas.

His East Antarctica swim will be under the protection of Russian ice-hockey champion Slava Fetisov, a two-time Olympic champion and captain of the renowned Red Army team. As UN Patron of the Polar Regions he is also a defender and protector of the world's vulnerable icy extremes and he will be standing by to support Lewis during his challenge.

Lewis plans to swim one kilometre across a lake of ice-water which sits on top of a glacier near the Russian research station Novolazarevskaya. Apart from the extreme temperature and wind chill, the lake is also subject to the risk of sudden emptying if a crack appears in the ice-sheet below.

The challenge is to be broadcast live by satellite around the world and Lewis said: “We are looking forward to reminding the world that Antarctica is a place of peace, friendship and science.”

“The continent of Antarctica has always been a place for cooperation. Our expedition amplifies this spirit of friendship and peace. And it comes in a special anniversary year: The year 2020 will mark 200 years since the discovery of Antarctica by Russian Admiral Bellingshausen. Immediately after the expedition, we will head to Moscow to participate in events around the anniversary celebrations.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the challenge and the training over Hogmanay should contact Lewis Pugh via his website:

Pictures show Lewis Pugh during a previous polar challenge, Calum Maclean swimming Loch Ness the day after the General Election, and Colin Macleod during one of his regular swims around the Hebrides.

(This story has been updated to include new contact details).