What It Looks Like to Swim Through the Pacific Garbage Vortex
A French long-distance swimmer dove into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to show the negative — and massive — affects of single use plastics and pollution.
Earlier in the year, Ben Lecomte dove into the swirling trash vortex, making his way through more than 350 miles of ocean garbage with a team of researchers. From mid-June until the end of August, Lecomte swam from Hawaii to San Francisco to bring attention to the massive amount of trash floating in the oceans.
The Great Pacific Garbage Barge is about three times the size of France.
Lecomte hoped that by showing people a swimmer’s perspective of the area, they’d better understand exactly what is being dumped into the oceans, explaining to CNN that tons of microplastic made swimming through the ocean seem like "looking up at the skies on a snowy day -- but in reverse."
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, microplastics that are less than five millimeters, about the size of a sesame seed.
Lecomte had a snorkeling mask on and was able to easily dodge larger bits of plastic. But he said he was overwhelmed by the amount of plastic floating in the Pacific. "The most unpleasant thing was facing this awful scene every day," said.
While Lecomte had been expecting floating plastics like toothbrushes, toys, bags and baskets, he was more shocked by the amount of microplastics — they even got inside the bodies of the fish.
Some of these microplastics are coming from the clothing we wear every day. By some estimates, about 60 percent of clothing manufactured today is made from plastic-based textiles. When these textiles shed, little bits of plastic get swept away, sometimes in the water supply and get fed out to our oceans.
Oceanographers are using samples from Lecomte’s swim to try to develop ways to get microplastics out of our oceans, and hopefully create a cleaner ocean for future swimmers.