Lecomte said that he’s been struck by “how changing and living this ocean is.”
“I am very surprised by the amount of amazing encounters I made in the middle of nowhere — birds, jellyfish, swordfishes, turtles, dolphins, whales, and even a shark who followed me for two days,” he said. He said that the marine animals he’s encountered “are very curious and come close to me. I guess few of them have encountered humans before, and I look like a weird alien to them.”
After some close calls with shipping vessels closer to shore, the maritime traffic has slowed down but the volatility of the ocean has picked up.
“The good side of it is we don’t worry too much about collision risk anymore,” Lecomte said. But the sea “can be very flat and the next day very tumultuous. We face a variety of conditions and cross our fingers when we look at the weather reports.”
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Lecomte eats voraciously to keep up his strength, consuming about 8,000 calories a day in a protein- and carbohydrate-rich diet that’s closely monitored by the crew. His sleep patterns have been less regular.
“I adapt to the conditions,” he said of his rest habits. “I don’t do straight nights. I wake up often because of the motion of the boat or the noises.”
When they’re not collecting plastic, he and the crew are also collecting data on eight subjects for more than a dozen scientific institutions back on shore. They’re recording sightings of giant phytoplankton, which cycle from shallow water to the depths to photosynthesize nutrients. They’re also collecting data on water temperatures, salinity, and pH — a bellwether of climate change, since the oceans are growing more acidic as they absorb more carbon dioxide from the air.