Earlier this year, the world was promised, amidst a great deal of publicity, that we were all about to see a fantastic current day version of the Kon Tiki expedition, but this time with a boat called the Plastiki a boat made out of recycled plastic, which would voyage across the Pacific Ocean, going through the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, and thus creating awareness of the vast expanse of plastic garbage floating there.
When I questioned the value of such a trip, given that countless thousands of articles have already been written about the Pacific plastic patch, people retorted that the fame and money of David de Rothschild, the “Adventure Ecologist” leading the Plastiki project, would be invaluable in bringing media attention to the problem.
Since then, an actual scientific expedition, which conducted systematic observations to assess the problem of floating plastic in the middle of the Pacific, went out onto the water, did 19 days of work, and came back. This week the expedition, out of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, reported the results of its observations.
In the meantime, the Plastiki has not yet made it out of port. David de Rothschild has found many amusing distractions, and the Plastiki is not yet actually made. The last update from the project came five days ago: “The strips of cloth needed to make up the beams are being cut straight from the large rolls using an industrial (metal cutting) band saw.”
In the race between systematic science and sidetracked celebrity, science comes far, far ahead.