Long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte set off on a 5,500-mile journey across the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, swimming to raise awareness about the current state of the oceans and plastic pollution.
Digital media science company Seeker and the Discovery Channel are tracking the event, known as “The Swim,” ABC News reported.
The 51-year-old Lecomte was born in France, but lives and trains in Austin, Texas. In 1998, he became the first person to swim across the Atlantic Ocean — crossing roughly 3,700 miles in 73 days.
His latest swim began in Japan with the goal of reaching San Francisco in about six months.
Along the way, Lecomte and his crew will work with institutions that include NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to gather more than 1,000 samples to learn more about issues such as pollution, health, climate change and mammal migration.
The journey will also take him through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where plastic and debris have accumulated that is three times the size of France.
Researchers and support crew members are accompanying Lecomte on a yacht named Discoverer. After each day’s eight-hour swim, which will average about 30 miles, Lecomte will rest and recover on the yacht, picking up where he left off the next day, CNN reported.
Despite challenges he will face that could cut the swim short, Lecomte said the greater mission is awareness.
“To complete the swim is just one goal,” Lecomte said. “The bigger goal is to engage people into understanding that the ocean is in peril.”
By Susan McFarland