The Swim

Ben Lecomte Is Back in the Water

Following a devastating cluster of storms, Lecomte has resumed his swim across the Pacific Ocean.


After navigating rough seas, international oceangoing vessels, and a series of massive typhoons, Ben Lecomte is back in the water.

On Wednesday, Lecomte resumed his ambitious journey to swim across the Pacific Ocean and gather data for scientific research. Along with his crew aboard the support ship Seeker, Lecomte has returned to the precise point off the shore of Japan where he was forced to postpone his swim in late July.

The delay was triggered by a dramatic and dangerous “perfect storm” cluster involving multiple typhoons. The extreme weather battered the region for several weeks and forced the crew to retreat back to port in Yokohama, Japan. The series of storms has resulted in the most violent typhoon season Japan has experienced in years.

Lecomte, a 51-year-old endurance athlete and activist, is attempting to swim across the Pacific Ocean. Swimming eight hours per day, Lecomte has already progressed more than 500 miles.

Along the way, Lecomte and his team are collecting scientific data and raising awareness about the state of the world's oceans. The team has become increasingly concerned about the amount of plastic waste that is collecting in the world's largest and deepest ocean.

“The plastic we found ranges from bottles and buckets to shoes and food wrappers,” Lecomte said. “We most definitely found more than we all expected. We see a lot floating at the surface, and I see a lot floating right below the surface.”

Lecomte plans to swim through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive gyre of plastic pollution spanning more than 600,000 square miles. Two exceptionally high concentrations of plastic waste are located in the western Pacific, southeast of Japan, and the eastern Pacific between Hawaii and the California coast.

The Seeker crew left port on August 18, when a slight improvement in the weather allowed for a hurried departure. It was a close call. As the team left Yokohama, Typhoon Soulik hit the region. The crew is racing against the weather, sailing east as fast as possible to limit the effects of the typhoon, along with a tropical depression, passing behind them.

“So far we have a good weather window and we need to take advantage of it,” Lecomte said. “I also need to swim as much as possible to get out of the typhoon zone.”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Amid the weather and technical issues, Lecomte must now prepare himself, mentally and physically, to resume his historic endurance test.

“It is always a setback anytime I get interrupted. But when the weather is the cause, there is nothing I can do about it,” Lecomte said in an email sent from the cabin of the ship. “I don't have any control over it, so I don't let it affect me. At the moment I am just eager to get back in the water and resume the swim.

Using GPS technology, Lecomte and the crew returned on Wednesday to the precise point where the massive storms forced them to retreat to safety weeks ago.

For Lecomte, that means jumping back in the water and heading toward San Francisco — still many miles and many months away. The swimmer said it will all be worthwhile if the expedition raises awareness about ocean pollution.

“What we are doing in this expedition might be on the edge, but nobody has to go to that extreme to make a difference,” he said. “All we have to do is make daily changes and eliminate some of our plastic usage.”