French swimmer steps onto land in Hawaii — 6 months after entering ocean in Japan
A French swimmer has stepped ashore in Hawaii more than six months after entering the water in Japan in an attempt to swim across the Pacific Ocean.
Benoît “Ben” Lecomte, 51, set off June 5 from his starting point of Chōshi, Japan. His aim was to reach San Francisco, 5,500 miles away, via the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a bid to raise awareness of plastic pollution.
Lecomte, the associate director of sustainability services at a consulting firm, said he hoped his endeavor would double as a scientific study on climate change, health and pollution.
But bad weather forced Lecomte to make a stop Monday in Hawaii, though San Francisco remains his end goal, CNN affiliate KHON2 reported.
“My legs are a little shaky,” Lecomte told the TV station. “I’m not used to having something stable, but it feels good. I grabbed some sand with my hand to feel the earth.”
Earlier Monday he had tweeted he would be on land after 115 days at sea.
Late last month Lecomte said he had abandoned his goal of becoming the first person to swim the Pacific Ocean but he and his crew were continuing on their research and awareness mission.
“Today, The Swim as a world record attempt has stopped but The Swim as a platform keeps on living because it has always been the most important goal of the expedition,” he posted on Facebook.
Lecomte had aimed to swim eight hours a day, covering a daily average of 30 miles. He has been accompanied by a yacht called Discoverer, which has researchers and support crew on board. The boat encountered a series of bad weather systems in November before the record attempt was abandoned.
“We had very bad weather along the way. We tried to fix a few things that broke on the boat, the reef and all that, but in the end we couldn’t (do) that. It was putting too much stress on the boat and compromising our safety also, so we decided to hold off on the swim,” he said Monday in Hawaii, according to KHON2.
Previously, the crew had been noting Lecomte’s GPS position at the end of each day and returning him at the start of the next after he had rested and recovered on board.
Researchers from 12 scientific institutions, including NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have been conducting studies and gathering samples during Lecomte’s journey
The researchers have been focusing on eight areas of interest, which include plastic pollution, radiation from the Fukushima disaster and the swim’s effects on Lecomte’s heart and psychological state.
Lecomte told the Hawaii TV station Monday that he had encountered a disturbing amount of waste during his journey.
“Sometimes we’re swimming with whales around and then boom, 10 minutes later, a big floating plastic, a blob. A lot of it is something that we all use at home,” he said. “To see that with sea life, that was very disturbing.”