'

Message on a bottle: Expedition sails Pacific on plastic boat

Crew seeks to document plastic garbage, sending live feeds to shore via HP and Inmarsat technology

You have doubtless heard about the massive patch of plastic garbage that apparently is floating around the Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon that is mostly out of sight, out of mind.

Many scientists believe there are probably similar plastic masses elsewhere, but few people have seen them firsthand. This, in part, was the motivation for the Plastiki expedition, which set off from San Francisco on March 20 to explore and catalog just how much of these plastic stuff is really out in the Pacific. While humans can argue about our collective impact on the world's carbon footprint, you really can't dispute that we've really bungled things when it comes to disposing of plastic. The Plastiki seeks to build awareness of this fact.

Straightforward enough. This is no ordinary vessel, however: For one thing, about 12,000 plastic bottles were used in the 60-foot sailboat's construction. For another, it is equipped with solar panels, wind turbines, an Inmarsat communications satellite and Hewlett-Packard notebooks, so that the crew can tweet, file blogs and upload video along the way. (The Plastiki crew consists of three core members plus several others who come and go at various points of call.)

David de Rothschild, the expedition leader, spoke with me about the voyage via the Inmarsat satellite, which is installed on the boat's mast.

Photo credit: Luca Babini

He says that all the technology is being charged off the solar panel and two wind turbines, which provide 400 kilowatts of power. "Because we have this connectivity, it allows us to be ambitious with the messages we send and the kind of content we are posted," he says. Even though the boat is, technically, off the grid, the crew has been able to participate in live lectures talking about its mission.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com