A 51-year-old French man named Ben Lecomte is attempting to be the first person ever to swim across the Pacific Ocean. He’s planning on swimming eight hours a day for over six months. The distance that Lecomte is trying to swim is a whopping 5,500 miles, according to the BBC. He departed from Eastern Japan and is planning on arriving at San Francisco, California.
The purpose of the swim is to bring public awareness to environmental issues, including ocean pollution. The swimmer started his journey on Tuesday and posted on Twitter that “More than six years of preparations have lead [sic] to this moment. Finally ready to start my swim across the Pacific Ocean.”
Researchers will accompany Lecomte, and they will be studying the effects of the Fukushima disaster, plastics in the ocean, and how extreme exercise affects the heart.
In particular, the plastics that the researchers will be studying are called “plastic smog.” The “smog” is made up of billions of microplastics, which are the result of bigger pieces of plastic breaking down in the ocean. Some of the original plastic pieces come from plastics in personal hygiene products, like toothpaste. Scientists estimate that the largest swatch of plastic smog in the Pacific Ocean is as large as Germany, France, and Britain combined, reported the Washington Post.
To prepare, Lecomte practiced swimming in open waters as well as “visualisation and dissociation” for mental strength. He typically trained for about three to five hours a day.
Some of the difficulties that Lecomte is anticipating include extremely cold water temperatures and adapting to being on a boat when he’s not swimming. The swimmer will also be alerted to possible storm conditions from a team on land that will be in close communication with Lecomte.
Every morning, Lecomte plans to have a big meal. And every 20 to 30 minutes during the 8-hour swim, he’ll eat liquid food. When he’s done swimming, he’s planning on eating, sleeping, and in general, resting. Each day, he’ll take in 8,000 calories.
For Lecomte, the swim is much larger than his own ambitions. He described the importance of raising awareness of pollution in the oceans.
“I want as many people as possible to understand that each one of us has to take action, because the ocean is in peril right now, and if we don’t change anything, it’s going to be even worse in a few years. The ones who are going to have to pay for that is our children. And they’re not the ones who created that problem—we did.”
Lecomte isn’t new to setting swimming records. In 1998, he successfully swam across the Atlantic Ocean in 73 days. That record was questioned by some, who claimed that some of the distance was Lecomte traveling during overnight drifting. So this time, Lecomte is using a GPS tracker on his sailboat so he can start and stop swimming at a precise location, detailed GQ.