Meet the man swimming across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Vortex

By Lottie Dalziel

French swimmer Ben Lecomte is on a mission, he's swimming through the highest concentration of ocean plastic in the world to raise awareness and inspire change on our plastic consumption. Ben's main aim is for "people to understand that the solution is in everybody’s hands. It’s true when people say, we don’t need one person to do it perfectly, we need millions to do it imperfectly."

Launching from Hawaii on June 17th, 2019, so far on the Vortex Swim in partnership with icebreaker, Ben has swum 331nm (235 hours) and counting, through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch is one of five offshore accumulation zones in the world and is estimated to measure 1.6 million square kilometres or three times the size of France. 

The New Zealand clothing brand icebreaker was one of only a handful of brands to be awarded an A+ rating in the Tearfund Ethical Fashion report, two years in a row.

Lottie was fortunate enough to interview Ben mid-expedition, read on.

swimming


LD: What inspired you to embark on this swim?

BL: Swimming had always been for me a mode of expression and it was a natural progression to use it to bring attention on an issue that was in front of my eyes each time I swam in the ocean. Playing in the sand when I was a child was a different experience than playing in the sand with my kids, we now always find plastic it doesn't matter where we are. Marine plastic pollution is an important issue that should not be passed on to the next generation.

fishing

LD: There are a lot of statistics now about the amount of plastic in the ocean, did anything surprise you about your swim?

BL: I am surprised to have encountered so many amazing sea life (sperm whales, Shark, merlin, turtles, dolphins...) in an area with the highest density of microplastic.

ocean plastic vortex
LD: What's the most common piece of ocean trash that you see?

BL: From the deck of our sailboat, the dinghy and when I swim, I see a lot of plastic fragments, so it is impossible to make out their origin. We see a lot of household items and probably more big and small pieces of fishing gears like strings, ropes and nets. 

You can follow Ben and his team on their journey across the GPGP on Instagram @thevortexswim.


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