On Tuesday, 50-year-old swimmer Ben Lecomte will push off from a beach in Choshi, Japan, wearing a shark repellent bracelet and an armband to track radiation in the ocean. He hopes to reach San Francisco in six months as the first person to swim across the Pacific Ocean.
A successful 5,500-mile journey will be a feat of athleticism and a major scientific opportunity. Lecomte, a Frenchman now living in Texas, is traveling alongside a boat with a six-person crew. He'll swim eight hours per day on a route that includes the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the White Shark Migration Area.
Scientific partners, including NASA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, have provided equipment for the swimmer's crew to conduct research on his body and the ocean along the way. They'll gather over 1,000 water samples, in part to gather data on pollution and plant life.
Lecomte has been planning the journey since he swam across the Atlantic Ocean 20 years ago. This time, he'll pick up each morning exactly where he left the night before, in hopes that this swim will become an official record. Seeker.com and Discovery have teamed up to track the journey, which Lecomte is doing in part to raise awareness for climate change.
"The ocean is in peril," he says. "I think it's my duty to use my passion to make a little change."