Frenchman aiming to swim across Pacific Ocean

Long distance swimmer Ben Lecomte set off from Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, on Tuesday in his bid to become the first person to swim across the Pacific Ocean.

The swimmer is hoping to raise awareness of the plastic waste and ocean pollution blighting the water, with his support team hoping to carry out experiments throughout the trip, which is expected to take between six and eight months.

His son and daughter joined him for the first 100 metres before rejoining well-wishers and family on the shore.

He will be accompanied throughout by the 20-metre support boat Discoverer, where he will eat, rest and sleep before being dropped every morning where he stopped the previous evening.

One of the challenges will be making sure he has enough energy each day, and Lecomte said he intends to consume 8,000 calories daily.

"It is mind over matter", said Lecomte.

"To do the physical aspect of it, sure it is hard and all that but what is much more hard is to be in that very hostile environment, to do that days in and days out, to push you and to push your limits, then the mind has to be super strong".

Much of the research will focus on plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, specifically the build-up of so-called plastic smog, containing billions of pieces of microplastic. Scientists are increasingly concerned about its effect on marine ecosystems and entry into the food chain.

In particular, they are anxious about microplastic particles, bits measuring no more than two-tenths of an inch (5 mm), which come from large plastic trash that has fragmented into smaller pieces or microbeads in products like facial soap, body wash and toothpaste.

Part of his daunting swim takes him through the Texas-sized vortex of garbage that floats between Hawaii and California, where tangled plastic will pose extra dangers.

The scientific publisher Seeker provides much of the swimmer's backing and will be providing daily updates on his progress.

"When I was little and I was with my father walking on the beach, I didn't see any plastic, or hardly any", he said. "Now, everywhere I go, on the beach, I see plastic everywhere", Lecomte said.

Mr Lecomte, who previously swam across the Atlantic in 1998, admitted he would probably hit a "wall" after four to six hours of swimming. "It's a problem we created and there is a very easy solution to start reversing it-single-use plastics for example, if we stop using them that will make a big change".

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