Plastiki Makes Its Way Seaward to Jeer at the Gyre

Soda pop used to come in glass bottles.  I swear it’s true! Seen it myself back in the day.  A twelve ounce Coke could be coaxed out of a vending machine for a dime.  If you had another dime you could spring for a comic book and make it a perfect day.

The advent of plastic as the container of choice crept up on my world  incrementally.  First there was the 2 liter bottle with it’s suspiciously metric size.  For a while you could go to the store and buy your soda in either glass or plastic.  Once the plastic vessels made the step down to 20 ounce and smaller it seemed like glass disappeared over night.  This was a sad day for children as the return deposit also disappeared leaving many American children without an income apart from parental generosity.  We may be feeling the ripples through the economy even today.

I suppose it saved America’s roadways from the scourge of broken glass but it created other ripples.  Those ripples have gone out across the wide oceans creating a problem of leviathan proportions, so they tell me.  By “they” I mean the watch dogs of the environment who were probably feeling a little bored with global warming.  Not to belittle the idea of stewardship of God’s green earth. Nobody is said to be greener than God.  The first habitable location in his creation was a garden.   It took human beings to step out of line and start littering the place with apple cores.  Fortunately the plastic bottle was far in the future.

Our oceans are viewed as a sort of wet paradise.  Some new champions have stepped up and sailed away.  On March 20, 2010 the Plastiki slipped the surly bonds of  San Francisco and headed out on a voyage across the sea.  It is their purpose to raise awareness of a phenomenon that will no doubt become a buzzword that will go down in infamy: the North Pacific Gyre.

In case this is new to you and it may well be unless you’re a marine scientist.  Apparently the swirling mass of the ocean has been rounding up all the plastic trash that ends up in the Pacific.  Unfortunately, all this rotating water and trash never  leads to a proper flush in the ceramic bowl sense of the word.  In an interesting move, the Plastiki has been built from 12,500 reclaimed bottles and other bits of recycled plastics.  The engineering sounds interesting enough but I’m not sure I would volunteer for this particular voyage.  The project is the brainchild of the David de Rothschild of the wealth and power Rothschilds.  Lending notoriety if not actual credibility to the enterprise is crew-members Josian and Olav Heyerdahl who are grandchildren of Norwegian explorer Thor Hyerdahl of Kon-Tiki fame.

I remember learning about Kon-Tiki as a kid.  There was a very interesting book and grainy films that documented the famous voyage which seemed to support the theory that ancient peoples might have lashed together an ungainly craft from not entirely suitable materials.  The experiment, as I remember it, became a sort of race to see if they could find a Polynesian reef to crash into before the raft became so water-logged that it would become a balsa wood submarine.

We’ve come a long way.   Our engineering has advanced to catamarans made of pop bottles and crew-members who are able to twitter their rapture at viewing the night sky at sea.  I confess to a jaundiced view of any cause celebre that grows up overnight like the latest rock band sensation.  I read the stories about a garbage patch in the middle of the pacific four times the size of Texas and can’t help but wonder if there is any way possible to clean it up.  Nothing floats forever so how much is down on the bottom?  We await the videos with baited breath.

There aren’t a lot of real explorer jobs going now a days.  Even with our best efforts and the advent of space tourism only a hand full of people have been able to “boldly go” anywhere not on the planet.  Being an old fool easily exhausted by hype I may just chalk this up to a job opportunity that will give a couple of folks a way cool summer job.  I wish them luck, pray for their safety and hope the press treats them kindly.

Follow the progress of Plastiki and her crew at their very cool and interactive web site at:  www.theplastiki.com

 
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