Ben Lecomte ended 2018 short of a lofty goal. He had set out to raise awareness for plastic pollution by swimming across the entire Pacific Ocean, starting in Japan and ending in San Francisco. Along the way the 51-year-old swimmer and his team decided a detour was needed and they abandoned their original goal, instead making landfall in Hawaii six months after it all started.
The whole thing wasn’t a wash though. Researchers from 12 scientific institutions, including NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, collected samples on a boat that followed Lecomte. They recorded data on plastic pollution, radiation from the Fukushima disaster, and even the swim’s effects on Lecomte’s heart and psychological state. They encountered everything from tycoons that forced them to turn back to Japan and start all over again, jellyfish stings, and at one point announced in an interview with Business Insider that they were coming across two pieces of plastic on the surface of the water every five minutes.
“The first step I think is to get rid of single-use plastic,” Lecomte said in another interview after the swim. “It’s something that we do because it’s very convenient, but we saw it in the water. We saw plastic glass and plastic bottles, all of which we can live without it. So that would be a first step. And now it’s to try to inspire them to make some changes. That is very challenging.”
It turns out Lecomte is still determined to see through one particular part of his original plan: swimming directly through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
“Ben Lecomte will swim 300 nautical miles – up to eight hours a day – through the smog of plastic pollution known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, collecting scientific data and debunking the myths surrounding ocean plastic,” announced his sponsor, Icebreaker.
This swim will take an estimated three months, starting in June and ending in September.
“The 300 nautical miles represents the 300 million tonnes of single-use plastic produced every year,” Lecomte adds. “Plastic produced on land ends up out at sea. Even the microfibers in synthetic clothing wash out into the waterways and end up in our drinking water. So we’re consuming these pollutants on a daily basis. It cannot be good for us.”
Bravo. If at first you don’t succeed…