An endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans who became the first person to swim the length of the Channel is looking for training partners as he prepares for his latest challenge.

Lewis Pugh is gearing up for a polar expedition where he’ll swim a kilometre across a lake on the Antarctic ice sheet in January.

Now he is looking for people to join his training in the icy waters of the Outer Hebrides ahead of his Scottish training camp later this month.

Not afraid of death-defying challenges, Mr Pugh will swim a stretch of water across a supra-glacial lake on East Antarctica that has never been swum by a human before, as he continues his drive to build a network of protected areas in the ocean across the globe.

In the run-up to the swim, Mr Pugh has put an advert in the jobs section of The Times looking for people to train with him off Lewis from December 29. Supra-glacial lakes form as a direct result of polar ice melting when the water collects in depressions on the surface of glaciers or ice sheets.

A recent survey of Antarctica found that more than 65,000 supra-glacial lakes have appeared on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in the past three years.

This coincides with recent data that shows Antarctica lost the same amount of sea ice in the four years between 2014 and 2017 as the Arctic lost in the last 30 years.

Plymouth-born Mr Pugh, 50, hopes the swim will be a catalyst for the creation of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the wilderness of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, which can reduce pressure on wildlife and counter the impacts of climate change.

The swim will see the endurance swimmer brave ice-cold waters, a severe wind-chill factor and the threat of the lake suddenly emptying through a crack in the ice sheet.

To train for the swim, Mr Pugh, who has previously swum in the seas around the Antarctic, in the Arctic and the length of the English Channel, will train in mountain lochs and the sea around Lewis.

He said: “I am hugely excited to announce my next critical swim, which will call for a network of marine protected areas in one of our most untouched ocean wildernesses.

“We are living in a time of drastic change. There is a climate emergency and ice is melting at both ends of the Earth.

“Protecting the ocean is a simple and effective way to counter the destruction of climate change and nowhere on earth needs this more than Antarctica.”

He added: “My immediate focus is my upcoming training camp in Scotland and today I announce that I am looking for training partners. I won’t be wearing a wetsuit, but I don’t mind if my training partners do.

“But applicants need to be prepared to work hard – there will be two training sessions a day, one at sunrise, one at dusk. Each session will last over an hour and will involve running on the beaches and swimming in waters that will be close to freezing.

“There will be no tea breaks and no Hogmanay – not even if you’re Scottish.”

It is the latest challenge by the man who has been described as the “Sir Edmund Hillary of swimming”.

He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world, and he frequently swims in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to their plight.

Mr Pugh is best known for undertaking the first swim across the North Pole in 2007 to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice.

In 2010 he swam across a glacial lake on Mount Everest to draw attention to the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas, and the impact the reduced water supply will have on peace in the region.

In 2018 he swam the full length of the English Channel to call for 30 per cent of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.

He undertakes all of his swims, even those in the Polar Regions, according to Channel Swimming Rules, in just a Speedo costume, cap and goggles.

In 2010 Mr Pugh was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and in 2013 the United Nations appointed him as the first UN Patron of the Oceans.

In 2016 he played a pivotal role in creating the largest marine reserve in the world in the Ross Sea off Antarctica and received the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Mungo Park medal for his work.

Mr Pugh currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.