Plastic-Bottle Boat to Sail

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October 7, 2009—Plastiki, a 60-foot-long (18.3-meter-long) catamaran made of more than 12,000 plastic bottles, will soon ply the Pacific Ocean to increase awareness of environmental problems.

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

David de Rothschild wants to deliver a message in a bottle.

The British environmentalist is building a very special boat to sail from San Francisco to Australia. Dubbed the 'Plastiki', the 60-foot catamaran is made almost entirely from plastic bottles.

SOUNDBITE (English) David de Rothschild, Adventure Ecology Founder: "What we're doing is getting our buoyancy from 12-and-a-half thousand two litre bottles that are acting as individual buoyancy chambers."

But de Rothschild needed to do some convincing before his concept could be made a reality.

SOUNDBITE (English) David de Rothschild, Adventure Ecology Founder: "When I first said that to my naval architect and some of the concept architects they looked at me as if I was totally nuts."

De Rothschild is also National Geographic 2007 Emerging Explorer. He founded Adventure Ecology to inspire interest in environmental issues among schoolchildren. His Plastiki adventure will be chronicled on the groups website.

The voyage will make several island stops in the Pacific, and will pass through the famed Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where ocean currents for years have collected human-created debris much of it--- plastic. Plastikis construction has been ongoing for months.

While the boat will float thanks to the recycled bottles, the frame is also made entirely of recyclable materials. The aim is to highlight the perils of plastic and promote recycling.

One of the challenges in the design was finding something environmentally friendly to hold the whole thing together.

The solution turned out to be a waterproof glue made from cashew nuts and sugar.

A full crew will be on board to make the 100-day, 11-thousand-mile voyage.

Jo Royle will be Plastiki's skipper.

SOUNDBITE (English) Jo Royle, Plastiki Skipper: "The fact that we've got the plastic bottles on the outside against the water, that goes against any boat building laws that have ever been created. In fact, normally we're always working hard to make the hull as smooth as possible."

The boat's unusual design will offer the crew a few challenges.

SOUNDBITE (English) David de Rothschild, Adventure Ecology Founder: "Someone a while back said to me 'It's an untested material in an uncontrollable environment, what does that equal?' You know, and there's lots of question marks and I think if we knew everything that was going to happen precisely, it wouldn't be an adventure."

Plastiki is expected to launch on its voyage later this year.

And when its completed, the boat will be recycled.

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