Lewis Gordon Pugh is known as the 'Human polar bear' because of his cold water swims, which have included a 1km swim across the North Pole in -1.7�C water, wearing just a speedo and goggles.

Achieving the Impossible (Jonathan Ball) By Lewis Gordon Pugh (R195)

The man known as the “Human polar bear” is renowned for his cold water swims, which have included a 1km swim across the North Pole in -1.7°C water, wearing just a speedo and goggles.

This 332-page epic includes his major achievements, but stops short of including his 1km swim at an altitude of 5 300m in Lake Pumori at Camp 1 on Mt Everest where the water was just 2°C in May 2010.

Pugh undertakes his swims as an environmentalist who is determined to show the effects of climate change at the four corners of the globe.

The melting of the Asian glaciers is a serious concern, says Pugh, as they provide water to a third of the world’s population.

One of the great ironies of his North Pole swim was of this British special forces operative being protected by Russian soldiers ... from polar bears, and he gave them orders to only scare off the mammals, arguing that he was the invader in their shrinking territory.

His determination to prove wrong people who said it couldn’t be done was a major driving force.

Unfortunately there is a lot of repetition in the book and he could have saved a few trees with some tight editing – it could have been kept to 200 pages. – Reviewed by Simon Osler