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Even so, the boat, whose top speed is expected to be about ten knots, and whose steering system will allow only minimal maneuverability, may not be fast enough to dodge a Pacific cyclone, which can measure a thousand miles across.
De Rothschild, arriving at the far end of the pier, hopped off his bike—he does not own a car.
The jockeying over money, attention, and ideas taints even the most seemingly virtuous projects with vanity and self-promotion. ” He was relieved that Plastiki had already attracted some press attention, but this was also a reminder that the media interest owed as much to his last name as to the project’s ingenuity.
To de Rothschild’s irritation, for the past few days prospective sponsors had been calling, asking to know how Plastiki differed from the Junk Raft. “They threw a raft together in a few weeks,” he said. “Nine out of ten articles about Plastiki will begin ‘David, banking this, super-rich that, or family this,’ ” he complained.
Inside each bottle was some dry-ice powder, which had turned into gas and expanded, pressurizing the bottle.
De Rothschild will collect water samples to study and, using a satellite phone, post photographs and video clips on the Web site of Adventure Ecology, an environmental organization that he founded.“But what hopefully happens is that people, when they dig a little deeper, will see that there’s a merit in the content, past just the name.”To de Rothschild’s right was the dramatic span of the Bay Bridge; to his left, the outcropping of Alcatraz Island.In August, 2002, when he was twenty-three, he competed in the Escape from the Rock Triathlon—which included a thirteen-mile bicycle ride, a two-and-a-half-mile run, and a one-and-a-half-mile swim, from the prison island to the mainland. “If it was normal or easy, everyone would be out here in a plastic-bottle boat.”De Rothschild may be the latest incarnation of the British adventurer-explorer, a hardy and eccentric breed that includes men like Sir Richard Francis Burton, who travelled vast tracts of Asia and Africa in the eighteen-hundreds, dabbled in hypnotism and alternative medicine, was an expert fencer, and translated “The Arabian Nights” from the original Arabic; and Sebastian Snow, who, in 1951, helped locate the source of the Amazon while touring South America on a balsa-wood raft, singing the “Eton Boating Song.” But Snow undertook his explorations largely for his own amusement, and the great Victorian-era explorers typically conducted theirs under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society, an institution with imperialist ambitions.Storms, sharks, isolation, injury, and illness are standard hazards for anyone attempting a Pacific crossing by sailboat, but de Rothschild is proposing to do it in an experimental craft made from materials that have never been tested against ocean waves.He plans to bring an electronic position-indicating radio beacon and radios that can provide up to forty-eight hours’ advance warning of approaching cyclones.
“My footprint is bigger than average but less than it could be,” he says.