Travel

Why one fearless young Aussie is sailing around the world in a 100-year-old ship just to prove a point

Alex Crowe’s Eurotrip was nothing like most young Aussie’s.

Every year, throngs of Australians descend upon Europe to drink themselves into a coma immerse themselves in the culture.

But when Alex went over there at the start of 2015, instead of hitting up Ibiza and Mykonos he went to a tiny town in rural Germany, Bremen.

There, along with a ragtag bunch of like-minded volunteers from around the world, the 24-year-old from Sydney embarked on a project called TIMBERCOAST.

It involved spending two years in Bremen turning a 1920s ship from the Netherlands into a completely eco-friendly cargo ship to sail goods around the world.

Yep, you read that correctly, sail.

It might seem odd and even futile to build a cargo ship that only uses wind power when modern technology has advanced so far beyond that point.

It might seem odd that they would invest so much time and effort into building a ship that by all current standards is staggeringly slow and inefficient.

And it might seem bizarre that a young Aussie guy with a university degree in Landscape Architecture would put his life on hold to be a part of this project.

But there’s a method to this madness.

“It’s not so much about finding a new way of moving stuff around the world – we’re trying raise awareness and we’re trying to make it fun,” Alex told Techly.

Current methods of shipping use up colossal and unsustainable amounts of fossil fuels and are doing irreparable damage to our oceans.

“You might have this whiz-bang, organic, sustainable garlic from Argentina, but then you’re shipping it to Australia using bunker fuel, which is this gluggy mess that’s really high in sulpher.”

The aim of the TIMBERCOAST project is to make people realise just how involved and environmentally damaging a process it is to move products around the world.

The transportation process is the most invisible step in the supply chain and yet it’s probably the one that has the most serious implications.

Buy local, buy less crap and if you are going to ship something in, at the very least be aware of the impact it’s having on our fragile eco-systems.

As noble as it is, at first glance, it does seem to be a bit of a pipe-dream – we’re all so entrenched in using these modern methods that regressing back to a slower form of technology seems incredibly unlikely.

“Yeah it’s David verse Goliath,” Alex explains, “…but David wins.”

“There are so many projects that have been on the drawing board for so long, and people haven’t had the willpower and gumption to pick up the tools and do something.”

Alex and the TIMBERCOAST team are under no illusions. They realise that what they’re doing is a bit like throwing stones at Godzilla, they’re not going to be able to completely change the world.

But as Paul Kelly once said, from little things, big things grow.

Fingers crossed something big grows from this.

If you want to follow the TIMBERCOAST journey, head over to their website and Facebook page as they make their way around the world.

FRESHLY GROUND is a new Techly series where we have big conversations with inspiring young Australians over a cuppa! Stay tuned to Techly and the Techly Facebook page for more videos

About the author

Technically, Riordan writes culture, politics and sport, but 80% of his words are direct quotes stolen from The Simpsons. He promises to tweet more at @riordanl and speaks words for The Zero Thumbs Down Podcast.

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