The Plastiki is the result of nearly four years of design, boat-building, hipster environmentalism and cutting-edge research into plastic polymers.I started documenting the adventure for a National Geographic Channel film nearly two years ago, when the Plastiki was still just a bunch of wild sketches on a naval architect's notepad and a pile of dirty recycled bottles in a San Francisco workshop.As you may have heard, David de Rothschild, 31, an heir to the famous European banking fortune, is building a catamaran out of some 12,500 plastic water bottles and sailing it from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia.

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Instead of getting fitted for a smoking jacket, the London-based de Rothschild has launched himself on a series of grand expeditions to the corners of the earth.

His aim: to use the romance of adventure, and the power of the Internet, to unite the world's schoolchildren in the fight against global warming and environmental degradation.

De Rothschild named his boat , the legendary balsa raft that Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl sailed from Peru to Polynesia in 1947.

(Two of Heyerdahl's grand­children may join de Rothschild during the sail.) There's been a small mountain of media coverage since de Rothschild announced the project, in early 2007, and pretty much every story starts out by noting that he is rich and bearded.

"My brother wonders why I can't just throw an egg at the prime minister," says de Rothschild, "but we live in a world obsessed by events, and we have to create events to make people sit up and notice."That's the sort of thinking that inspired de Rothschild and three others to set off in early March in an attempt to make the first British crossing of the Arctic Ocean, from Russia to Canada via the North Pole.

De Rothschild calls this Mission 1 for Adventure Ecology, the brand name he's given his environmental crusade.DAVID DE ROTHSCHILD could easily afford to spend the rest of his life idly lounging on a beautiful island—the 27-year-old Brit is an heir to one of the most famous fortunes in banking. (In 2003 he was second on magazine's list of the hottest bachelors in the United Kingdom, beating out both Prince Harry and Hugh Grant.) Hell, he's even six-four.But checking out would be way too self-indulgent for the hyperactive de Rothschild, who completed a trek across Antarctica via the South Pole in January 2005, and five months later set a speed record for crossing the Greenland ice cap.He is accompanied by 50-year-old veteran Canadian polar guide Paul Landry, who's been to each of the poles a record three times; Landry's daughter, Sarah, 20, who skied to the South Pole in 2005 and could become the youngest person to tag both poles; 38-year-old British photojournalist Martin Hartley; and 16 raucous sled dogs."Hello, I am on top of the world, floating around on a big chunk of ice," de Rothschild deadpans during a sat-phone call from the 83rd parallel in early March. No one in de Rothschild's family is surprised that he's off in the Arctic wilderness.His fingers have been cracking from the cold—he's been using hockey tape to repair them—and he reports that hungry polar bears have been fearless in their pursuit of the Mission 1 team. He grew up in London but escaped to the family's countryside estate as often as he could.We also shared crew members’ stories highlighting their scientific and environmental expertise.