Next stop San Francisco as ’longest swim’ embarks from Tokyo


A French swimmer has begun an attempt to swim across the Pacific Ocean, a journey that will take him through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a bid to raise awareness of plastic pollution.

Ben Lecomte dived into the Pacific Ocean on June 5, kicking off an epic quest to swim 9,000 kilometres (5,600 miles) from Tokyo to San Francisco, through shark-infested waters choking with plastic waste. In the Pacific, the biggest accumulation of plastic smog is about the size of Germany, France, and Britain combined and Lecomte will swim right through it.

Lecomte said last week that his plan was to swim for eight hours and consume over 8,000 calories each day.

"To do the physical aspect of it, yea, it is hard, but what is much more hard is to be in that very hostile environment, and the mind has to be super strong", he said.

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Lecomte will be accompanied by a specially outfitted support boat named Discoverer. "You have to make sure you always think about something positive or you always have something to think about", he said, reflecting on the task ahead. This time, he says he has been practicing open-water swimming for hours every day to deal with the physical challenges, and "visualization and dissociation" to occupy his mind during the long hours of swimming. He also completed a similar swim across the Atlantic Ocean in 1998.

He will also wear a device to test levels of radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was hit by a tsunami in 2011.

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.

He added: "I try to disassociate my mind from my body and everything that happens to my body - pain or cold, I try to put aside". "Now, everywhere I go on the beach, I see plastic everywhere".