Voyage of the Plastiki



By David Rutter

On the 28th of April the 60ft catamaran David de Rothschild and his company Adventure Ecology is constructing from used plastic bottles, self-reinforcing Polyethylene Terephthalate (srPET), and other recycled materials, will embark on a 12,000 nautical mile journey across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney.

Journey Through Environmentally Challenged Areas

The voyage will take this extraordinary craft through the world’s largest waste dump – a 3.5 ton floating mass of garbage in an area of the ocean known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which lies roughly halfway between California and Hawai’i. The mass of garbage is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and is roughly twice the size of Britain. This area is just one place where much of the world’s water-borne rubbish accumulates on a massive scale, brought in and then trapped by great ocean currents.

Garbage in the world’s oceans is not restricted to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it is estimated that there are 13,000 pieces of plastic litter on every square kilometre of the ocean surface – and one only needs to venture into our suburban waterways to find that the issue is prevalent in our creeks and rivers as well, just as The Outdoor Type’s Blair Paterson did in his trip down Duck River.

The Pacific Ocean is home to a number of environmentally challenged areas. Onboard the Plastiki will be scientists from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography who will perform studies throughout the voyage, and publish their findings afterwards. The voyage will take the craft and crew to places such as the low-lying islands of Tuvalu (which stands to be one of the first nations to disappear as sea levels rise due to global warming), areas affected by sub-water testing of nuclear weapons, and reefs experiencing coral bleaching as a result of global warming.

Construction of the Plastiki

The craft de Rothschild and his team are creating is called the Plastiki, named in homage of the Kon-Tiki, the balsa and hemp craft used by Thor Heyardahl in 1967 to demonstrate that South American Indians could have settled Polynesia by sailing there from South America. Like the Kon-Tiki, the Plastiki is being built to demonstrate a point – that our waste is not waste and should be viewed as a usable resource. De Rothschild hopes that by traversing the Pacific in the craft, the pleasure boat industry will be revolutionised and use recycled materials to build boats.

The Plastiki is being developed in association with a team of leading designers, engineers, naval architects and sustainability experts.

The design of the cabin itself is fascinating. The designers, Architecture for Humanity have taken their inspiration for the design from eggs. Necessitated by the demands of ocean travel, the cabin must withstand the forces of waves and storms during the voyage. The shell of the cabin will be the main source for rainwater collection. It will be fitted with solar panels for power. Also included in the design of the boat are “canoe-gardens”. These gardens are inspired by the onboard gardens used by Polynesian mariners which contained staple foods and animals to sustain the crew of the boats during their long voyages across the Pacific.

Adventure Ecology

Adventure Ecology was founded in 2005 by David de Rothschild, with the vision to harness the “power of dreams, adventures, and stories in order to inspire, educate, and engage individuals, communities and industry to become agents of change”. Through the adventure the organisation aims to bring the world’s focus to environmentally challenged areas. It also aims to show the world just how great the issue of waste is.

At the same time the Plastiki is launched, Adventure Ecology, through the Sculpt the Future Foundation will launch the SMART (Science, Marketing, Art & industrial design Research and Technology) competition in an effort to inspire industry to develop real, practical solutions to the global issue of waste. The winners will receive financial grants to support the development of the proposed solutions.

When de Rothschild and his crew complete this remarkable voyage they will certainly have accomplished a great feat, and bring to light some of the possibilities open to us when we re-think waste.

Update: Due to delays in the construction of the vessel, the launch of the Plastiki has been delayed. A new launch date will be announced soon. It is expected that the Plastiki will launch towards the of the summer (northern hemisphere).

Update (21/03/2010): The Plastiki has launched, and has started its journey across the Pacific. More information can be found on the Plastiki website.

More Information

PlastikiFor more information click on the Plastiki logo, or visit Adventure Ecology.

About David Rutter

Dave grew up on a small acreage on the outskirts of Sydney, within a stone's throw of the bush. Having spent a large part of his childhood exploring the bush behind the family home, much of his adult life has been spent exploring the world - he has lived in Sweden, traveled much of Europe, travelled in the Pacific and South America, and more recently in Asia. The Australian bush is however, the place where he feels he truly belongs.
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