Twenty years ago, on September 26, 1998, Benoît Lecomte arrived on shore at Quiberon, France. It was the end of an incredible journey that began at Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 73 days later, he had swam across the Atlantic Ocean, a distance of 6,012 kilometres (3,736 miles). His first words once he finally reached land?
And while Lecomte has technically stayed true to those words, we think he's had a change of heart. No, he's not trying to swim across the Atlantic again.
This time, he's trying to swim across the Pacific Ocean. And as of last Tuesday, June 5, he's already begun.
They call it 'The Swim'
Lecomte's new goal is a swim of about 8,850 kilometres (5,500 miles), going from Tokyo to San Francisco. No wonder he and his sponsors—the Discovery Channel and science website Seeker—are referring to this simply as 'The Swim'. It is literally the longest swim ever undertaken by a human.
Lecomte will spend the next six months swimming about eight hours a day. A support boat with a crew of six people is accompanying him on the journey. He will sleep and eat on the boat. Each morning, he and the crew will use GPS to be sure that he begins swimming in the exact same spot that he left off before. Other than the boat and what's on board, his gear is pretty simple: a wet suit, snorkel, goggles, and fins. Oh yes, and a wrist-mounted shark-repelling device (he will swim straight through the migration route of the Great White shark.)
Why do it? For the planet
It's a pretty natural question to ask someone trying to swim across the largest body of water in the world. "Why?"
After all, as a 31-year-old, the challenge of swimming across the Atlantic nearly drove him to quit halfway through. What's changed?
We're sure that it's a lot of things, but Lecomte has been clear about one goal, in particular. He wants to use The Swim to raise awareness of the troubles facing our oceans, as well as the wildlife that call it home. The biggest issue he wants to address is plastic waste.
Lecomte will spend several days swimming through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is a collection of mircoplastics floating in the ocean that covers a staggering 1.6 million square kilometres (395 million acres). By literally being in the middle of it, he hopes to collect data for scientists to use. He also wants to collect data on plankton, radiation in the water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, and more ... including just what human beings are capable of!
Can he make it? He's due to arrive in San Francisco in early December. Until then, learn a bit more about his journey below.