October 3, 2018 / 9:48 AM / in 15 days

Pacific pilgrim makes milestone progress in epic swim

TOKYO (Reuters) - Ben Lecomte has crossed the 1,000 nautical mile (1,852 km) mark of his epic bid to become the first man to swim across the Pacific Ocean.

The 51-year-old Frenchman set off from Japan on June 5, aiming to swim roughly eight hours a day on his 9,100-km odyssey to San Francisco. He is currently around 20 percent of the way across the world’s largest expanse of water.

Lecomte, who swam 3,229 nautical miles (5,980 km) across the Atlantic in 1998, had planned to make the trip in a little more than six months but was forced to turn back in late July due to a string of fierce typhoons that tore through the Pacific.

He and his support team spent 20 days at their Yokohama base before the Frenchman resumed his journey at the precise point where he was forced to temporarily postpone the crossing.

“If you take good care of yourself, you can push your body pretty far and swimming about eight hours a day for days in and day out proves it,” Lecomte said in a video released by seeker.com, the scientific publisher behind the epic swim.

“So 51 is maybe the new 20 for me, or the new 30.”

More than 27 scientific organisations, some medical and others oceanographic, will benefit from the data gathered during the expedition.

Much of the research will focus on pollution in the Pacific, specifically the build-up of ‘plastic smog’ caused by billions of pieces of microplastics.

“Every time, every day that I am in the water and swimming, its an opportunity for me to get the attention on the marine plastic pollution and hopefully inspire people to change their habits,” said Lecomte, whose team has found more than 1,300 pieces of floating plastic debris.

“Now, everywhere we go we find plastic on the beach but also in the middle of the ocean, a thousand miles away from land. That is very troubling to think that is what I am going to pass on to my kids.”

Lecomte's progress can be tracked on the Seeker.com www.seeker.com/theswim website.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by John O'Brien

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