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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

June 05, 2018

Trans-Pacific Swimmer to Collect Samples for SEA

Doug Karlson,

SEA Semester

Ocean swimmer Ben Lecomte

In 1998, Ben Lecomte swam across the Atlantic Ocean.  Now he’s taking on the Pacific.

The long-distance swimmer began June 5, in Tokyo, and hopes to reach San Francisco in about six months. That’s a distance of approximately 5,500 miles. The goal, says Lecomte, is to conduct research and raise awareness about climate change and ocean pollution.

Swimming eight hours a day, or about 30 miles, Lecomte will be accompanied by a support boat that will conduct ocean research, collecting samples for analysis by 13 scientific institutions, including Sea Education Association.

SEA became involved in the expedition, called The Longest Swim, about three years ago when Dr. Kara Lavender Law, SEA Research Professor of Oceanography, met a team member who expressed interest in plastics pollution. That led to a meeting with Lecomte and other scientists in Woods Hole, and since then Law has advised the expedition on how to best sample ocean plastic particles floating at the sea surface.

“When talking with Ben about SEA’s sampling protocol – towing a plankton net at a ship speed of 2 knots – he remarked that he swims at nearly the same speed, as if he were meant to sample ocean plastics,” says Law.

The support boat will tow the net while Lecomte swims. That should yield valuable data about floating plastic particles in the central North Pacific, an under sampled region, according to Law.

“When I met Ben I was struck by his modesty and sincere desire to make the expedition not only about the physical feat he would undertake, but to use it as a platform to engage people about the importance of ocean health,” recalls Law.

“The greatest value of The Longest Swim’s research program may lie in communicating the details about how we make these measurements and why it is important to understand the amount and distribution of plastic particles in the ocean.  Until we understand where this contaminant is, we won’t be able to fully understand the impact it is having on marine life,” says Law. 

Follow Lecomte’s progress and learn more about the expedition at The Longest Swim.

Categories: News, • Topics: research  featured  plastics • (0) Comments
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