At this point, Ben Lecomte has been working on swimming the Pacific Ocean for 86 days, or a little under three months. He began his journey on June 5th. He’s already met storms, a lot of wind, some sharks, a broken oar, and some technical difficulties, but he continues to persist despite the challenges that have come up along the way. Here’s what he’s been up to since we last checked in on him. Here’s what he’s been up to.
Days 40-47 of Ben Lecomte’s Swim
Our last update of Ben Lecomte’s journey had him “grounded” on the boat as he had to wait out storms. He had a small bird join his team for a brief time. During this ten-day period, Ben’s team discovered more trash in the Pacific Ocean – a fishing pole, plastic ring, glass bottle, and a plastic sole from a shoe.
They continued to struggle with getting the RHIB to work properly, and they had to fight the weather with their kayak. Ben also continued to struggle with sea sickness while on the boat. He wrote:
The conditions are totally different when I am on the boat or in the water. On the boat, my body has to adapt to the rocking and pitching of the boat, which sometimes is quite violent. In the water I am slowly being moved up and down by the waves, the amplitude and frequency change depending on the size and distance in between the waves. In the water, the motion is always softer. My body adapts very well to this situation, but every time I am back on the boat in rough seas my body has to adapt to a new type of motion and I am very often nauseated. This was one of those days.
Once conditions were favorable again, Ben was back into the water. On day 46, he had an encounter with a swordfish, who was only 10 to 15 meters below him, and to his left. It was much larger than Ben, and got within five meters of him. That must have been quite the experience.
Mold started to become a problem on the boat as the heat, humidity, and lack of ventilation are providing the perfect conditions for mold to grow below deck on clothing and bedding.
Day 47, however, had Ben and his team heading back to shore to wait out terrible weather for their own safety.
Day 61’s Post
On day 61, Ben posted about this amazing experience with whales during a period when his media connection was spotty:
We were all looking in the same direction, birds were flying above, and whales were breaching the surface and spraying water in the air. Paul maneuvered the sailboat to stop where we last saw the whales. And boom, one breached the water few meters away from us, Maks had already his gears and GoPro ready and jumped in the water after her. We pointed in the direction where we last saw the whale and he swam after her.
“I saw her” he shouted. By that time I was getting ready with my swim gears and a GoPro, and I jumped on the yellow Malibu kayak, Ban Ana. We named the kayak after my daughter Ana, she picked the name. The other green Malibu kayak, the one we use to pace me swimming, is named Max Attack after my son, Max. I paddled toward Maks on Ban Ana and once I reached him we waited for any sign of whale activity on the water. A few minutes later the crew spotted one close to the boat. I paddled back toward Seeker and boom again she breached few meters in front of the kayak. I attached the line of the kayak around my waist and slid in the water. The whale was on my left swimming toward Seeker, unfortunately, I was unable underwater but the GoPro caught her and the sailboat. Maks got the best footage though!
The amazing experience also came with the not-so-amazing experience of swimming through whale poop.
So Much Plastic in the Ocean
One of the big environmental issues that Ben wanted to raise awareness about with his swim was the state of the ocean’s health. As he’s swimming, he and his team are collecting plastic. On day 49 (shared on day 62), Ben wrote:
I have a unique view of the ocean because of the unique situation I am in; when I spot a floating piece of plastic from the deck boat, it seems out of place, but it is a distress call each time I pass one when I swim. And this happens many times throughout my day!
On day 65, Ben wrote about his complicated relationship with plastic:
For the past few years, I have made some changes in my life to reduce my use of plastic and try to single-use plastic, but I have more to do. I am very fortunate to see first hand how pervasive plastic is and how vast is the problem we have created. This is a very strong motivating force for me to make more changes.
One of the hazards encountered by Ben and his team has been nets that were lost at sea or discarded by fishermen at sea. So far, he has not met one while in the water, but his team has encountered three of them. One of the nets was large, and they tagged it with a GPS marker. The other two were smaller, and his team was able to pull them out of the water. The nets are terrible for sea life, many creatures become tangled in them and die. The nets are made from plastic.
Ben’s Team Heads Back Out to Sea
After being on land from Days 47 through 75, the weather report was finally good enough that they were able to head back out to their last GPS spot. They hit another speed bump, one of the sliders broke on their main sail.
Fish in the Ocean Have Micro-plastics and Microfibers in Their Stomachs
The team has been catching fish to add fresh seafood to their diets. One of the things they’ve been doing is measure and weigh the fish and then check them for micro-plastics and micro fibers. Ben wrote:
Micro plastic and micro fiber in fish are a very concerning problem, their concentration goes up the food chain because fish don’t digest them. We are at the end of the chain and unfortunately we don’t quite know what are the impacts on our health.
Finally, a Return to The Swim on Day 79
On day 79, Ben and his team were finally back in position for Ben to start swimming again. They arrived at the swim point at around 10:00 a.m. They had perfect conditions. Ben wrote:
I jumped and I first felt the warmth of the water. Maria monitored the temperature and at the end of the day, she told me that it almost reached 28 degrees C.
The visibility was amazing, I could see at least 15 meters down below me. The color of the water was a light blue unlike what we usually experience. The translation of Kuroshio means black current. From the deck usually, the water looks black but not today.
Within the first 5 minutes of the swim a school of colorful fish from different types gathered right below me and followed the streamline. It felt as if I was swimming in an aquarium. I took it as a welcome from the sea. During the rest of the day, a few fish came from time to time and swam below me.
Subsequent days had Ben swimming with albatross and enduring a fish biting him on the nose. Ben swam through lots of waves, benefiting from their push east. When he took his food breaks is when he realized how large the waves were.
On days 85 and 86, Ben had a shark encounter. A shark came up to see what was going on on day 85, and he came back the next day. Because Ben couldn’t see the shark, he decided that it was best to stop for the day and get back on the boat. He decided to name the shark “George.”