Teething problems delay Rothschild's expedition

Billionaire banking heir David de Rothschild has had to delay his extraordinary journey in a plastic bottle boat called Plastiki from San Francisco to Sydney because of ‘teething problems’.

Originally meant to depart on 28th April, exactly 62 years after his hero Thor Heyerdahl set out on his epic journey, the boat will now set off ‘later this summer’ according to de Rothschild.

The purpose of the journey is to highlight the floating plastic of the North Pacific Gyre, the enormous ‘garbage patch’ caught up in the swirling Pacific Ocean currents and now as large as France or Texas. In spite of the delay, de Rothschild insists his craft will sail in the next few weeks and could one day revolutionise the use of recycled plastics in general and the design of boats in particular.

Much will depend on how his craft behaves once the Plastiki expedition is under way, he admitted to the New Yorker recently. His craft should perform well, but could break up, he said. ‘These are just unknowns,’ he told reporters. ‘That’s an adventure! If it was planned and everyone knew, no one would be interested.’

The garbage patch, which has been the subject of much debate, even disbelief, because of the size and horror of its existence, lies north-west of Hawaii. It was discovered in 1999 by Oceanographer Charles Moore who found that its waters contained tens of thousands of pieces of plastic per square mile, the remains of rubbish caught in the region’s circulating ocean currents. This pollution is now devastating populations of seabirds and fish that live in the region.