When I first starting looking into how we could make an expedition around waste, I came across a report by Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who actually discovered and named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which talked about this vast expanse of debris in the middle of the Pacific Ocean held in place by swirling underwater currents. My initial reaction was, Wow, there’s an island of rubbish floating in the middle of the ocean that you can walk on and explore.
However, when I investigated the facts, it became clear that the reality is a bit different. It's not really an actual plastic island. The reality is that this area of ocean is saturated with tiny fragments of plastic suspended mainly below the surface of the water, forming a sort of plastic soup. When we finally get there, were not really expecting to see anything astonishingly different on the surface of the water. We will see more of the effects of the plastics when we take samples of the water and measure the fragments of suspended plastic, like shaking a snow globe.
I will definitely be diving and exploring throughout this expedition, not just exclusively at the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch. The team and I will be doing routine dives to check the bottom of the vessel and make sure that the integrity of the boat is holding up to the journey and that we are not losing any bottles. We will be we be doing a number of dives when we reach a point of interest, whether it be a whale sighting or where we see flotsam.In truth, I am a bit of a merman. It will be difficult to keep me out of the ocean.
David de Rothschild, a National Geographic Emerging Explorer 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.
- Nat Geo Expeditions