Ocean Plastics

Ocean advocate swimming 300nm through Great Pacific Garbage Patch

written by

The Vortex Swim team set off from Hawaii on June 14th and hope to arrive in California in early September.

Ocean advocate, adventurer and long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte is currently in the middle of a mission to swim 300nm through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where he and The Vortex Swim team are gathering data and samples in order to highlight the negative impact of debris, microfibres and microplastic in the ocean.

Presented by Icebreaker, this venture is already an extraordinary feat of endurance and dedication. Lecomte has so far swum 265nm, which has taken him a total of 194 hours (follow his progress here.)

The crew are now at the heart of the gyre and are reportedly spotting floating plastic debris every three minutes. Their daily samples, which are being collected on behalf of science partners such as the University of Hawaii, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, are containing an ever increasing amount of plastic pollution.


“On one of my favourite days, I was swimming with a pod of whales while in the centre of the garbage patch – sadly, we also had our largest collection of microplastic up to this point on that day. It’s sad to see these creatures swimming through an area of such high concentrations of plastic and the effect it must be having on them,” said Lecomte.

It was on this day that the crew collected more than 3,000 microplastic fragments in their daily net tow, which was put out in the same waters. The team are discovering numerous examples of the devastating impact plastic has on nature, including a fish stuck inside a plastic bottle, myriad fragments in the stomachs of fish and even sightings of albatross trying to eat floating pieces of debris.

“As humans we all have the capacity to drive change, and the more we learn the more we can act and make positive choices,” said Carla Murphy, chief brand and product officer at Icebreaker. “People like Ben are not only inspirational humans, they are natural progressives helping all of us see things differently, in a way that enables each of us to better understand and be part of change for good. Everything we do is designed to move people closer to nature and closer to choosing natural alternatives.”


“Microfibres are a growing problem because we don’t see them, but we now know that they are everywhere – we have very little knowledge of what impact they have on the human body. But we know the cause of it – mostly the clothes that we wash. So anything that can provide a solution to that – alternatives to synthetics, such as natural fabric – is the way to go.We all need to make changes, but to do that we need to understand the problem.” said Ben.

“I want people to understand that the solution is in everybody’s hands. We can make better choices and support alternative solutions in our everyday life. Hopefully, the more people who understand it, the more people who can make the right choice. It’s true when people say, we don’t need one person to do it perfectly, we need millions to do it imperfectly.”

Photographs courtesy of: @thevortexswim, @icebreakernz, @osleston and @sea.marshall

For more from our Ocean Newsroom, click here or on one of the images below:

Printed editions

Current issue

Back issues

Enjoy so much more from Oceanographic Magazine by becoming a subscriber.
A range of subscription options are available.