By Ford Cochran
Four months and 8,000 nautical miles after setting sail from Sausalito, California, the highly unconventional craft Plastiki completed its Pacific crossing to arrive in Sydney harbor this morning. The catamaran–constructed from 12,500 recycled plastic bottles–and its unlikely journey underscored the costs and consequences of plastic waste, much of which winds up in the ocean.
Environmentalist, Adventure Ecology founder, and expedition leader David de Rothschild, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer, conceived the voyage as a means to inspire others to rethink the resources they consume, particularly the single-use plastics that have become a nearly ubiquitous part of modern life. (See a gallery of photos from Plastiki‘s journey.)
“The story that has been told to us about plastic is that it’s cheap, it’s valueless, it’s non-toxic, it’s easy to use, and don’t worry about throwing it out because we can just make some more,” said de Rothschild.
“The reality is it’s not cheap, it’s not non-toxic, it’s not valueless. It’s valuable, it uses a lot of resources…. We need to start taking a serious look at the way we produce and design every product we use in our lives.”
… encountered storms, searing heat, high swell, ripped sails, and a host of day-to-day challenges. They shared cramped quarters, ate food grown in an on-board garden, and broadcast updates on their progress via Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, a blog, and a number of media interviews from the boat.
Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 Kon-Tiki expedition from South America to Tahiti inspired the name Plastiki, and de Rothschild invited Heyerdahl’s grandson Olav to join his expedition. Along with de Rothschild and Heyerdahl, the Plastiki‘s crew and documentary film team included Skipper Jo Royle, Co-Skipper David Thomson, Graham Hill, Luca Babini, Matthew Grey, Max Jourdan, Singeli Agnew, and Vern Moen.
Plastiki will remain moored in Sydney’s Darling Harbour at the Australian National Maritime Museum for the next month, and will be open to the public for visits on Sunday, August 1. Watch Plastiki’s Facebook page for more information.
Photos by Patrick Riviere courtesy the Plastiki Expedition/Adventure Ecology
Ford Cochran directs Mission Programs online for National Geographic. He has written for National Geographic magazine and NG Books, and edits BlogWild–a digest of Society exploration, research, and events–and the Ocean Now blog. Ford studied English literature at the College of William and Mary and biogeochemistry at Harvard and Yale, with a focus on volcanoes, forests, and long-term controls on atmospheric CO2. He was an assistant professor of geology and environmental science at the University of Kentucky before joining the National Geographic staff.