A message in bottles

A message in bottles

A garbage yacht hits the garbage.


It is called the "Big Pacific Garbage Slick" or "Pacific Garbage Slick". It is a giant collection of anthropogenic debris generated by ocean currents that bring solid waste from all over the North Pacific to this area. Journalists like to compare the area of this spot with the state of Texas, and the concentration of plastic particles in the water there in many places is seven (!) times greater than the legal inhabitants - zooplankton. Scientists estimate that up to one hundred million tons of debris floats in this spot alone, of which more than 90% is disposable plastic packaging.

But no matter how big the spot is, the Pacific Ocean is even bigger, and the general public, alas, is unable to see and assess the scale of the disaster. That's why the Plastiki project appeared, through which environmental activist David de Rothschild and a team of enthusiasts decided to send a message to the entire progressive public, to draw global attention to the problem and at the same time to demonstrate that garbage can also become a useful resource. A descendant of a legendary family of bank tycoons, a traveller and a fiery environmentalist, De Rothschild was the ambassador of the legendary watch brand IWC Schaffhausen, who supported his idea of hitting the oceans with a yacht race.

"Waste is first and foremost a sign of bad design. Nature does not have waste and humanity needs to rethink how everything we use in life is produced and shaped," David said.

As it happens at sea, we decided to send the message with a bottle. Specifically, twelve and a half thousand plastic bottles, from which it was decided to build a real yacht and cross the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney, to tell the world about the huge in every sense of the problem of ocean littering with plastic waste.

After four years of trial and experimentation, an 18-meter catamaran yacht with a fully recyclable frame filled with plastic bottles from under water was born. Even the hull's adhesive compounds are made strictly with organic glue from walnut shells and sugar cane, and the sail is the first in the world to be made of recycled polyethylene. The yacht was named Plastiki after the legendary "Kon-Tiki" raft on which Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific Ocean from South America to Polynesia in 1947.

Although Plastiki is built, in fact, from garbage, and even its main mast in a past life was an aluminum irrigation pipe, no one would call primitive this ship. The yacht relies exclusively on renewable energy sources: there are solar panels, pedal-driven generators, a rainwater trap and even a vertical hydroponic garden to provide the crew with fresh greenery on board.

After extensive sea trials in San Francisco Bay, Plastiki took off on her historic voyage on March 20, 2010. In front of the six-man crew, there was an 8,000-mile course, which they were to travel at an average speed of 5 knots. The route was divided into 4 shoulders - from San Francisco to Kiribati, then to Western Samoa and only then to Australia.

With Plastiki's rather modest seaworthiness, the journey took 128 days. All this time the crew members carried two people on a 24-hour watch, made observations, gave online interviews and conducted blogs directly from the board. Overall the journey went smoothly and on 26 July a large crowd of people welcomed the yacht to the port of Sydney.

The main task of the expedition - to tell the world about the problem of pollution of the oceans - was also performed brilliantly. During the whole trip the crew gave more than 90 interviews to various media. More than 300 printed articles and 200 radio and television broadcasts were dedicated to the project, including the Oprah Winfrey show. More than 800000 references and about 52200 images connected with the project are opened in Google by request of "Plastiki". The yacht itself is now on display at the National Maritime Museum in Australia.

Text - Grigory Shirvanyants

Published in YACHTS magazine #34.

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