He Tried to Swim Across the Pacific to Save It. A Storm Forced Him to Turn Back. - Years Of Living Dangerously

He Tried to Swim Across the Pacific to Save It. A Storm Forced Him to Turn Back.

By Nexus Media

A man on track to set a world record to raise awareness of ocean health is forced out of the water.

By Jeremy Deaton and Bart Vandever

Some people like to support a good cause by hosting a bake sale or maybe a car wash. The more spritely do-gooders might run a 5K or — if they are especially vigorous— a marathon.

Ben Lecomte swims across oceans.

This summer, the environmental consultant set out to swim 5,500 miles across the Pacific to raise awareness of climate change and plastic pollution, an effort that was thwarted by severe storms this week. During his swim, Lecomte paddled for eight hours each day before retiring to a support boat to eat and rest. After being repeatedly battered by typhoons, he and his crew hit a storm that irreparably damaged the support boat. Studies suggest that climate change is making typhoons in the region more frequent and severe.

“Today we had an open discussion about the limitation of the swim, the challenges we are facing, the many constraints we have to deal with and what it all meant for the expedition,” Lecomte said in a statement Monday. “I knew everybody’s position; they felt we had reached a point where going further would mean compromising our safety.”

Lecomte’s attempt to cross the Pacific was not his first long swim. In 1998, the French-born endurance athlete raised money for cancer research by becoming the first person to swim across the Atlantic. In 2002, he swam from Washington, DC to New York to in a show of support for his adopted country, the United States, on the one-year anniversary of September 11th.

While he fell short in his latest record bid, Lecomte said his team is committed to “bringing attention to ocean health, focusing on marine plastic pollution and inspiring people to reduce their use of plastic.” He and his colleagues remain determined to collect data from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast area of concentrated plastic pollution in the North Pacific.

“The source of the problem comes from us as humans and the way we behave on land,” Lecomte said in an interview. “What’s important is for us to realize the impact that we have and to start changing our behavior.”