David de Rothschild is an adventurer, an environmentalist, and an explorer. He has traveled across Antarctica, set a speed record crossing the Greenland ice cap, and reached the North Pole with hungry polar bears following him. Now he's getting ready for his next adventure: Sailing to Australia in a boat made from recycled plastic bottles!
He spends his days working at Pier 31 in San Francisco on the very challenging research and development project to create a 60-foot (18-meter) catamaran sailboat called Plastiki. He's a bit frantic lately, but if all goes as planned, he will set off from San Francisco in April 2009 and sail 11,000 miles (17,703 kilometers) to Sydney, Australia. It is a project that he hopes will change the whole boat making industry. The scientists and engineers have created a process that will kick-start ideas and get people thinking in a whole new way about how boats are made and new uses for plastic trash.
How did he become an explorer and environmentalist? David answers questions from National Geographic Kids!
NG Kids: What were you like as a kid?
David: I was very inquisitive, curious, and mischievous. I was always asking questions. Asking questions really led me to where I am today. Asking questions leads you on adventures and adventures are breeding grounds for stories. From stories we create our dreams. Adventures can be spending time with your friends in a tent in the backyard. Kids are the agents of change. It's important to remember that nothing is impossible.
NG Kids: Do you have a hero?
David: My uncle is my hero. He is Peter Robeson and an Olympic show jumper.
NG Kids: What do you daydream about?
David: I grew up on a farm and we all dreamed about being veterinarians. I have two dogs that go everywhere with me and sleep in my bed and on my head. One is a miniature schnauzer named Nesta, and the other is an English bull terrier named Smudge. But I still dream all the time and I think it's important to let your mind take you where you want to go. And then act on them. It's also important to pay attention in school. Looking back, I would have paid more attention in biology and geography.
NG Kids: How did you get into your field of work?
David: I studied natural medicine, or naturopathy, and it led me to questions of why we use the things we do and thoughts of you are what you breathe. These kinds of questions led me to where I am today and led me on an adventure.
NG Kids: What’s a normal day like for you?
David: I don't know what that means. I don't ever really have a "normal" day. My day usually starts very early in the morning and ends very late at night. I spend a lot of time talking to people about Plastiki, writing, responding to lots of e-mails, and meeting with scientists and engineers working on the boat. And I take time to stay fit and healthy—so it's a very full day.
NG Kids: What do you do for fun or to be silly?
David: I am always silly! It is essential. Whether I am playing jokes on a friend or playing at the pier, I am always smiling and being silly. I always think about how fortunate I am to be involved in this project.
NG Kids: What's the best place you've ever traveled to?
David: The best place is the place that I haven't traveled to. The world is so vast. I mean I'd love to go to Madagascar and back down to Antarctica again. But every place is an adventure. So ask me that again when I am 70 years old!
NG Kids: What's the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you that you can share with others?
David: There are two really. One is to be honest. Always treat other people the way you would want to be treated. And the second one is don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to make a mistake. You aren't going to know if you don't try.
NG Kids: Do you have any good explorer jokes?
David: I am a pirate right now! So I will give you my favorite pirate joke. What's a pirate's favorite letter? It's a P, because it's an Arrrr with one leg! Anything can be a pirate joke if you just add Arrrr. Do you want another one? Why can't a pirate play cards? Because he's standing on the deck!
Text by Anne McCormack