I recently read a magazine article on Plastiki, a boat being built out of plastic bottles and other recycled products. Once it's complete later this month, or in early May, it will sail from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, making stops along the way. One of those stops will be at what's called the Eastern Garbage Patch, a "huge region of floating plastic and particles" in the Pacific Ocean.
The skipper behind this project is 30-year-old David de Rothschild, adventurer and heir to the European banking fortune. He intends to collect water samples to study and use a satellite phone to send photos and video clips to the web site of the organization he founded, Adventure Ecology.
The adventure aspect of this story intrigues me. I'm fascinated by stories of survival and of pushing oneself to his limits, especially against the elements. And I'm as green as the next guy; I use those swirly little light bulbs and I haul the empty wine bottle down to the curb once a week or so.
Plastiki got me thinking, though, of what else I could do. Namely, what refuse I have around here that I could build a ship out of. We have empty toilet paper rolls, Pop-Tart wrappers, socks riddled with holes, broken remotes, stained sofa cushions and partially-chewed string cheese.
I have a feeling we could fashion all of this together into some sort of crude floatable vessel and set sail down the Mississippi River for the Gulf of Mexico.
Plastiki is named for Kon-Tiki, the balsa wood experiment sailed from South America to the Polynesian Islands 60 years ago by Thor Hyerdahl. Ours will be more in the style of the original Kon-Tiki in its crudeness and liberal use of duct tape.
Our communications will consist of three cell phones, so I hope Cingular gets reception at Cape Horn and that we remember to pay the bill before setting sail.
Provisions will consist of juice boxes, peanut butter and jelly, half cans of Pringles, hummus and Ovaltine.
Our trip to Sydney will be full of adventure and family closeness. Time outs will be spent in a laundry hamper being towed behind the boat. We’ll make it a point to sail past the Eastern Garbage Patch, traveling, as we are, from our own East Memphis Garbage Patch. Instead of taking samples, however, we’ll leave some, because these kids can’t go anyplace without having to leave a sample.
The purpose of Urf!-Tiki’s excursion will be adventure and it will be vacation-like. My kids have always wanted to see Australia and other floating detritus. They are an eco-minded lot, as well, and rarely, if ever, toss things out without first checking for an alternate use, such as something to throw at a sibling or wipe their noses on.
They’ll adapt to their new home at sea, their buoyant boat of bric-a-brac. And if they don’t, they’ll walk the plank, assuming they consume enough Popsicles between now and launch time to build a plank.