Thursday, April 4, 2013 , Updated 10:55 a.m., April 8, 2013
Boat made from plastic bottles sails through Fair Park for Earth Day
Plastiki made a journey from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia in 2010.
FAIR PARK One of the strangest boats to ever sail the high seas will be on display at Dallas’ Fair Park this month as part of the third annual Engineering and Humanities week.
This year’s event, hosted by the Hunt Institute at the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU, will bring together experts and leaders in the humanitarian world to discuss ways to provide clean water to the more than 1 billion people worldwide who don’t have adequate water supplies.
The centerpiece of the event is a 60-foot-long catamaran, Plastiki, constructed solely of recycled materials. The boat consists of 12,500 plastic bottles and utilizes a non-toxic bonding agent made of sugar and cashews. Plastiki was the brainchild of British environmentalist and adventurer David de Rothschild, who founded Adventure Ecology, a group dedicated to raising awareness of global climate change.
Matthew Grey, Plastiki expedition director and a member of the six-man crew that sailed the vessel from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, in 2010, said the project was never about simply traversing the Pacific Ocean. Instead, the voyage aimed to raise awareness of garbage patches in the world’s oceans, including some patches that are estimated to be twice the size of Texas.
“David thought it would be a compelling idea and a great story to build a boat out of the things that represent the pollution [in the world’s oceans] and then sail across the ocean where that pollution is centered,” Grey said. “This is about beating waste and having people appreciate the value of the plastic that we use every day. We want to show people that plastic is worth recycling. It is not just about building things like the Plastiki, you can build just about anything out of plastic and there is great potential to make new things.”
Grey said the boat is only able to sail with the wind, unlike traditional catamarans that can also sail into the wind. Other than that, it is pretty much a traditional boat, he said.
During the voyage the crew ran into rough weather in the Tasman Sea off the coast of Australia, but the ship held together.
“It performed beyond our expectations,” he said. “We had a few incidences with weather where we had 60-knot winds and 30-foot seas, and it was terrifying for the first few hours, but as we got used to it and realized Plastiki was going to be able to cope we became more comfortable in the environment. You just have to hope for the best and see where it takes you.”
The boat’s official unveiling will be Saturday at the Esplanade Fountain at Fair Park. Hundreds of students, including some from Plano and Mesquite, will be on hand to hear de Rothschild’s message about conservation and innovation. That night, the 34-year-old de Rothschild will receive the 2013 Visionary Award from the Hunt Institute for his work on global conservation.
Plastiki will remain on display at Fair Park through Earth Day, at which time it will be relocated to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, 2201 N. Field St. in Dallas. The long-term goal is to house the boat at a yet-to-be-built center in downtown Dallas dedicated to teaching collaborative skills and developing innovative technologies among 12 to 24 year olds.
For information on Engineering and Humanities Week, visit eandhweek.org.
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