David de Rothschild, a National Geographic Visiting Fellow and founder of Adventure Ecology, will depart in March 2009 on a 7,500-mile voyage from San Francisco to Sydney (see the route map) in a boat made of plastic bottles. Find out more about the expedition in a feature article by Contributing Editor Paul Kvinta ("Voyage of the Plastiki," October 2008 issue of ADVENTURE). Check in here for de Rothschild’s dispatches.
Boat Building 101
Text by David de Rothschild
Our main objective has been to create a vessel constructed out of plastic bottles that not only performs in the water, but also showcases smart and innovative design solutions that re-think waste as a resource. However, from the day of this project’s inception to the day we started construction of the boat, our team has been confronted with huge challenges to overcome.
Our first major hurdle was figuring out how to maintain the integrity of the bottles. We did not want to simply melt down the plastic and re-mold it. The actual visible presence of bottles has been at the core of everything. Staying true to that idea has created an enormous learning curve, since water would actually flow through and around the bottles. This goes against the basic principle of boat building: keeping the water out. Here, we are letting all the water in.
But things are now on track. We have tested the prototype out in San Francisco Bay. The good news is, it floats. The bad news is that it only sailed backwards! We still have quite a way to go.
We are working with a number of experts in the boat-building field, including our onboard naval architect, to tackle these challenges and translate the initial conceptual design into a sailable vessel. Together we hope to create a vessel that will not only perform, but show how you can reuse waste as a resource using cradle-to-cradle philosophies.
The vessel itself will tap a number of technologies that are pushing the boundaries within alternative energies. We have broken the design of the boat into different areas–waste, energy, water, and habitat–so you will see a real cross-section of technologies. Some are actually available in mainstream markets, while others that are currently being developed in laboratories. I want to keep a few surprises back, but let’s just say there will be an element of human composting involved.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Photograph courtesy of Adventure Ecology