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Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Next Mountain? Across The Pacific Ocean

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Paul Lecomte, the project manager for The Longest Swim by his uncle Ben Lecomte, gave a fascinating presentation on the technical challenges and innovative solutions for The Longest Swim.

Lecomte and his team have to find solutions for the wide range of issues that they will face during the 8,721 km stage swim from Tokyo to San Francisco, from food and power to communications and research.

For example, with 7 people on the support crew and Lecomte who will be eating over 8,000 calories daily, a certain amount of food is required. How is that food stored on board? What types of food are critical for 6+ months at sea without replenishment? Tyral Dalitz, a crew member and research assistant on the team from Australia, explains, "We try to find innovative solutions. We met a man who spent over 1,000 days in the ocean without coming to shore. He found a way to grow sprouts and we are consulting with him."

Lecomte describes the solution for power. "We are designing solar panels to be placed on the back of our escort boat [see the piping on the first photo above] for power and are putting in special batteries so we are fully self-contained throughout the entire journey. We cannot take enough fuel with us to complete the journey without solar power."

Lecomte also explained the reasons why his uncle will attempt the longest swim in history. "Ben loves to swim. He is an adventurer. In 1998, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the USA to France. The Pacific Ocean is his next mountain. It will take him at least 6 months, following the ocean currents.

Why?

We are using the swim to contribute to research. We are going very slowly across the Pacific. It is important to take samples over a specific time series across the Pacific. We will take water samples of plastic every day and are collaborating with 13 different scientific institutes.

We want to present a positive platform and an opportunity for positive change so we can better understand the ocean.

We are testing our equipment and boat at AltaSea. Ben will be swimming over a swim streamer. We will carry all of our food and research equipment and water samples. Our escort boat needs to be autonomous and we are fitting it with new solar panels and a new battery system that will allow us to be self-sufficient over the 6-month period.

We cannot rely on refrigeration and fresh food over the entire journey.

So here at AltaSea, we look for solutions to the problems we face. We want to be entirely sustainable throughout the swim. Once we leave Tokyo, it will be too late to find these solutions
."

The upper photo shows the stern of the boat where new solar panels will be placed for energy self-sustainability. The middle two photos show a long flume-like net that will be floating behind the boat to catch plastics in the ocean. The bottom photo shows a face mask that will allow Ben Lecomte to talk while swimming and explain first-hand wirelessly what he is seeing beneath him as he swims.

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