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Swimming across the Pacific Ocean: Ben Lecomte ending journey



pacific swim ben out at sea
Ben Lecomte 1,000 nautical miles (about 1,150 miles) off the
coast of Japan on his way across the Pacific.

Seeker/The Swim

  • 51-year-old Benoît Lecomte is ending his record-breaking attempt to
    become the first person to swim across the Pacific

  • He says he’s not tired, but with a broken sail on
    his ship and the weather looking treacherous, he’s calling it
    quits roughly a third of the way through the

  • Lecomte says he’ll be back in the Pacific next
    summer, swimming the ocean’s 79,000-ton garbage

Ben Lecomte has swum over 1,753 miles through the Pacific Ocean
since he set out from the Japanese coast
of Choshi in June

Along the way, during a trip he hoped would be the first recorded
trans-Pacific swimming passage, he’s run into turtles, been stung
on the nose by jellyfish, and encountered mako sharks. 

Lecomte has been in the water for up to nine hours of swimming each
, fueled by an 8,000 calorie daily regimen of pasta,
protein shakes, oatmeal, and soup.

But on Monday, Lecomte announced that after 610 hours of
swimming, with 4,000 miles to go before hitting San Franciso,
he’s calling it quits.

“That’s very frustrating for me,” Lecomte told Business Insider
on a phone call as his sailboat headed for the shore of Hawaii.
“Because I knew that I had still a lot in me, to keep on going,
keep on swimming.”

This is not the first cross-ocean trip for the swimmer, who’s
been paddling his way from Japan to California with the help of a
couple flippers on his feet. Lecomte logged a trans-Atlantic
swim back in 1998, and was hoping this would be his second ocean
crossing. But he is heading ashore for safety reasons.

The 20-meter sailboat he’s riding on, The Seeker, recently hit some rough winter seas.
The crew weathered heavy winds, pounding rain, and large ocean
swells. With a damaged sail now incapacitated beyond repair, the
crew decided it’s best to head ashore while they still have some
wind power left.

If the boat had encountered another bad storm, it could have put
the sails out of business, leaving the crew without enough fuel
to make it back to land safely. 

Read More: A French swimmer is racing to
become the first person to swim across the Pacific. Here’s what
his days in the water are like.

lecomte ends pacific trip
ended his swim a little less than halfway to Hawaii from Japan,
just shy of a third of the way from what would have been his
final destination in San Francisco.

Google Maps

Lecomte is already planning his next Pacific swimming trip into a
massive garbage patch

Undeterred by the trans-Pacific hiccup, Lecomte says he is
already planning when he’ll next dip his fins back in the waters
of the Pacific. He’s plotting an expedition for next year 
that would go through one of the most polluted areas of the

“I’m already thinking ahead and not looking back, and then
feeling sorry that I wasn’t able to break the world record,” he
said. “Because [the record], it’s just a personal thing. What’s
important is the big picture, and the big picture is there is a
big problem here in the ocean.”

That problem, he says, has been popping up at an alarming rate as
the ship sails the sea.

It’s plastic, and the ocean is awash in it, from shore to

“What is very surprising to me and everyone on the boat is
the amount of plastic that we found, and the fact that we found
it everywhere” he said. The amount of sea life he comes in
contact with in the water waxes and wanes day to day, but the
plastic trash flow is a constant.

He says he wants use his journey “to try to inspire people
to make some changes in their daily life about plastic

During Lecomte’s swim, the crew was tasked with keeping
tabs on both the health of Lecomte and the health of the ocean.
To that end, they’ve used microplastic-grabbing nets to figure
out how much plastic is at sea, recorded sounds of sea life
below, and kept tabs on Lecomte’s heart, gut, and mental
The team partnered with 27 different
scientific organizations, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution to NASA. 

Swimming and looking for plastic at the same time

Now heading towards Hawaii at an express clip much quicker than
when Lecomte was swimming every day, the nine-person Seeker team
is still gathering data about the health of the ocean and
checking for more plastic as they go. Occasionally, as they’re
veering towards the US islands, which are still some 700 miles away, they’ll drop nets and trail
them, moving a bit more slowly to look for plastics, “but it’s
not the pace we were before, when I was swimming,” Lecomte said.

The team estimates that four ultra-tiny microplastics drift into
their nets each minute they are in the water.

Though he didn’t complete his ultimate swim goal, Lecomte
discovered some inner battles to conquer along the way.

“Sometimes, I’m too focused to enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I
don’t take the time to see what I am doing and to enjoy the
process. That’s something I need to work on.”

He says you might expect the mind to stop racing when it’s in the
ocean, bobbing thousands of miles from the shore. But it

“When I look back, I said, ‘Oh yeah, that was amazing when I had
an encounter with the turtle or with that shark, you know, all
those very intense and unique moments. I think I didn’t live it
fully, and I regret that, not being able to be in the moment, and
to enjoy it, fully.”

Seeker_The Swim_shark_facing_left_closer
Lecomte says his encounter
with a mako shark was really something


He’ll have an opportunity to try for that again next summer, if
he does end up paddling into the garbage patch that is
wider than two whole Texases
, drifting between Hawaii and

“It’s important that we go to the patch, and that we take samples
from the patch, that I open that window and share my experience,”
he said. “What I see, what I feel, and how I feel when I swim
through the patch.”

(He’s not planning to wear any special protection when he heads
into the ocean dump.) 

Lecomte is most excited to see his family and eat fresh
strawberries again

pacific swim lecomte greets his fiancee.JPG
proposed to his now-wife before a trans-Atlantic swim, then
greeted her on the other side of the ocean on September 25,


There are reasons to be excited about ending the trip after six
months at sea. 

“My wife and children and friends, that I miss the most,” Lecomte

He’s also looking forward to the bounty of fresh produce that’ll
be available on land — particularly strawberries, raspberries,
and blueberries. 

The only fresh food the crew has eaten since their stores of
produce ran out five months ago is fish they’ve caught off the
boat, like mahi-mahi. They’re expecting to hit the shore in early

Seeker_The Swim_crew_photo.JPG
The original 8-member crew of the boat picked up a
ninth shipmate when they hit bad weather in July and had to
double back to Japan.


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