We’ve followed the exploits of endurance swimmer Ben Lecomte for some time here on The Adventure Blog. Last year, we cheered him on as attempted to swim across the Pacific Ocean, an endeavor that was ultimately thwarted by massive storms, difficulties with his support ship, and a grueling schedule. This past June, we also covered his return to the water as he set out to swim a much more modest distance on a completely different mission. One that he wrapped up this past weekend when he swam under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco.
The goal of Lecomte’s most recent swim was to cross 300 miles of ocean, a relatively small amount for a guy who has at times swam for thousands of miles as part of other projects. But what the Frenchman was trying to accomplish this time out was more about raising awareness rather than setting a big new endurance mark. Instead, he swam across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) to help bring attention to a growing threat to the planet’s oceans. In this case, that threat is a massive section of water that is said to be more than 1.6 million square kilometers (617,000 sq. miles) in size and composed of plastic waste collected from countries all over the Pacific Rim.
Lecomte’s journey began back in June when he sailed from Hawaii to the GPGP. Once he reached the so-called “trash vortex” he began swimming across it, covering 300 miles (482 km) in the process. His swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge this past weekend served as a symbolic finish line for the expedition, which took 79 days to complete.
The long-distance swimmer got a first hand look at how much trash is found throughout the Pacific when he attempted his crossing of that ocean. While out on the water he reported seeing floating coolers, plastic bottles, and countless other debris. That was nothing compared to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where millions of pieces of plastic, large and small, have collected. And while efforts are underway to try to clean up this section of the ocean, it will likely take decades to accomplish that task.
This expedition is interest for two reasons, both the environmental message and the endurance aspects of the story. A big salute to Ben for accomplishing both goals. Let’s just hope the message gets out to the right people.
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