Plastic Bottle Raft Sails California to Hawaii

JunkTow 540x338
.. .
They are now two weeks into their journey, and heading in ALMOST the right direction. The day of departure was a picture perfect day in Long Beach, California, as people milled around the harbour to see the 'vessel' called Junk, docked in front of Long Beach Aquarium.

It was a raft of 15,000 plastic bottles built by Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the Algalita Institute and environmentalist Joel Paschal.

They were setting sail to drift - hopefully — to Hawaii.

After a precarious start, heading and drifting in the wrong direction, they are now feeling more confident and plan to arrive in Hawaii after a seven week journey. All going well, they will land on the Big Island, pushed by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.

Why are they doing it? The adventure is to raise awareness for the harmfulness of plastics on our oceans. (See Sail-World story). Before they left, here's the way they told the story:

How much plastic can our oceans take? Ask Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal – they’re about to embark on six weeks at sea to call attention to the problem. They’ll set sail on June 1, 2008 for Hawaii from the Long Beach Aquarium in a boat, dubbed Junk, which floats on six pontoons stuffed with 15,000 plastic bottles inside mesh bags made of stray fishing nets.

JunkBoat 540x367
.. .
The historic venture is part of Algalita Marine Research Foundation’s ongoing mission to alert the world to the growing problem of plastics fouling our oceans. “You want to see what happens to your plastic bottles in Los Angeles when they wash into the sea?” Dr. Eriksen said. “Just follow our journey.”

Today, plastics in the ocean are the source of countless environmental nightmares — everything from choking sea birds that eat large items such as toothbrushes and cigarette lighters, to microscopic particles that attract toxins like PCB’s and DDT, and are then consumed by fish.

.. .
In February, Eriksen and Paschal returned from a 4,200 mile journey from Hawaii to Los Angeles. They trawled for plastic trash and sadly, found an exponential increase over previous surveys. This compelled them to revisit a dream of many years: to build a Kontiki-style raft out of plastic bottles, calling attention to this issue. During the journey the two will collect ocean samples by skimming the surface with a fine, mesh net, while Eriksen’s fiancée, Anna Cummins will coordinate the land based support effort with daily blog postings and photos.

The project gained initial support from the Sky Scrape Foundation and the Burbank Recycling Center, which provided most of the 15,000 bottles. Patagonia also gave 500 Nalgene bottles being phased out of their product line due to concerns over chemicals in the plastics. One of the sponsors, Eco-Usables has developed a stainless steel safe alternative to plastic water bottles. Students from Santa Monica High School and the Environmental Charter High School helped stuff the bottles into the pontoons as the raft was assembled on the front lawn of the Aquarium of the Pacific…Upon arrival in Hawaii the raft will be shipped back to the mainland where it will become part of a traveling exhibit on plastics in the oceans.

If you're wondering, the reason for the use of the small aircraft hull is as a radar reflector for ships. As the craft won't be manoeuvrable like a sailing boat, they are hoping to be extremely visible on radar.

To follow their journey day by day, go to their blogspot