A French man’s attempt to swim across the Pacific Ocean may be over for now, but his campaign to warn the world about the dangers of plastic pollution in the ocean continues.
Benoît “Ben” Lecomte stepped on a beach on Oahu, Hawaii, on Monday, a little more than six months after he first entered the water in Japan in his attempt to swim across the ocean to San Francisco. Bad weather forced Lecomte and a support boat (a yacht called Discoverer, which has researchers and support crew on board) traveling with him to make the stop in the Aloha State.
Late last month Lecomte said he had abandoned his goal of becoming the first person to swim the Pacific Ocean, but reaching San Francisco still remains his ultimate goal, he told CNN affiliate KHON. That also means the main mission of Lecomte and his crew – researching the effects of plastics in the ocean and raising awareness about it – is still on track.
Lecomte, 51, and his support crew said they encountered a lot of plastic trash in the Pacific.
“Sometimes we’re swimming with whales around and then boom, 10 minutes later, a big floating plastic, a blob. A lot of it is something that we all use at home,” he told KHON. “To see that with sea life, that was very disturbing.”
At times during his watery journey Lecomte told KHON he saw one piece of plastic about every three minutes. His support crew in the boat collected about 100 pieces of plastic in a half hour every time they cast a net into the water.
“The ocean is in peril right now. If we don’t do something that is going to reverse that in the next few years then it’s going to be much more difficult,” Lecomte said on a blog he and his team maintained to document his swim.
‘We have to change that’
Lecomte, the associate director of sustainability services at a consulting firm, and the crew of Discoverer set off June 5 from Chōshi, Japan. He had aimed to swim eight hours a day, covering a daily average of 30 miles
But Lecomte and the crew encountered a series of bad weather systems in November, forcing them to abandon the record swim attempt.
“We had very bad weather along the way. We tried to fix a few things that broke on the boat, the reef and all that, but in the end we couldn’t (do) that. It was putting too much stress on the boat and compromising our safety also, so we decided to hold off on the swim,” he said Monday in Hawaii, according to KHON.
Previously, the crew had been noting Lecomte’s GPS position at the end of each day and returning him at the start of the next after he had rested and recovered on board.
Researchers from 12 scientific institutions, including NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have been conducting studies and gathering samples during Lecomte’s journey
The researchers have been focusing on eight areas of interest, which include plastic pollution, radiation from the Fukushima disaster and the swim’s effects on Lecomte’s heart and psychological state.
Despite the setback with the weather, Lecomte said he still hopes to eventually finish his swim to San Francisco and continue to sound the alarm about plastic pollution.
“The mission doesn’t ever stop. It will carry on with the same ideas, bringing as much awareness on ocean pollution, on plastic, to try to inspire people to change their habit,” he said. “It’s the way we live on land, the way we don’t recycle, the way that we use single-use plastic also contributes a lot, so we have to change that.”
CNN’s Jessie Yeung and Doug Criss contributed to this report.