On Tuesday, Ben Lecomte, 50, and his nine-person support team set out from Tokyo on the epic expedition with a final destination of San Francisco. Lecomte had previously swum across the Atlantic Ocean in 1998.
He is hoping to become the first person to swim across the Pacific, covering around 8,000 kilometres, and he is doing it to help raise awareness about the amount of plastic that is accumulating in the ocean.
Past of Lecomte’s journey will take him through a 1,600-kilometres floating pile of garbage that is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The swirling pile of trash is estimated to be three times the size of France.
The patch, between California and Hawaii, was formed by a vortex of ocean currents. Researchers believe that 92 per cent of the garbage consists of larger pieces of trash, while eight per cent contained microplastics.
WATCH: An explainer animation on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Lecomte’s plan is to swim for eight hours a day, as well as consume over 8,000 calories. Teams of scientists are also accompanying the swimmer and will collect more than 1,000 water samples and study plastic pollution and mammal migration.
For Lecomte, raising awareness of these issues is more important than setting any record.
“I remember my father and he was the one who taught me how to swim in the Atlantic. I remember times when we would go on the beach and walk and never see any plastic. Now, everywhere I go, on the beach I see plastic everywhere,” he told Reuters.
“If we are all aware of it then after it is much easier to take action and to change our behaviour because the solution is in our hands. We know what we have to do.”
WATCH: Oceans may have more plastic than fish by 2050
— With files from Reuters