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Richie Sowa's bottle island - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Apr. 16th, 2004

01:26 am - Richie Sowa's bottle island

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http://www.sambarcroft.com/pages/Spiral/spiral.htm





Many people's idea of paradise would be a private tropical island, complete with clear water lapping against a white sandy beach. For most of us however, two weeks summer holiday abroad each year are the closest we will ever get. For one ex-pat though, the dream of being a modern-day Robinson Crusoe has actually become a reality. Richie Sowa, 49 years old, lives on Spiral Island, which is situated in a lagoon off Puerto Aventuras, an exclusive resort just south of Cancun, Mexico. Over the last four years, Richie, a carpenter from Middlesbrough has built his very own patch of paradise from nearly a quarter of a million plastic bottles. The island is, in fact, a huge floating raft. Stowed in nets and bags, the bottles are clustered underneath layers of plywood and provide enough buoyancy to keep the island afloat




Man-made island paradise floats on 250,000 plastic bottles


More impressive than Robinson Crusoe's abode, Spiral Island boasts three beaches, a garden and a two-bedroom house with a toilet and shower.


Many people who dream of escaping to a desert island will never get further than the travel agent's, but Richie Sowa has proved that he's got more bottle than most.


In fact, he's got 250,000 of them -- and they've been used to create his very own paradise, just south of Cancun in Mexico.


Measuring 22 metres by 18 metres, it took Mr. Sowa, 49, a former carpenter from Middlesbrough, England, four years to build what he now calls Spiral Island


Mr. Sowa first thought about building his own island when he was working in Germany in the 1980s, finally deciding to take the plunge after the breakup of his second marriage.


He started with a basic raft made from thick bamboo poles, stuffing the plastic drink bottles -- which he got from passersby on the island by setting up a stall -- into nets, which he tied to the bottom of the poles.


The island is basically a huge floating raft supported by the air in the bottles and floats in a lagoon off the exclusive resort Puerto Aventuras.


Mr. Sowa nailed layers of plywood onto the poles to create a secure base on which to build a home and garden.


His home, which is rather more impressive than that inhabited by Robinson Crusoe, now consists of a large living area, two bedrooms and a kitchen and has walls of plaited palm tree.


The roof of the house is a layer of plastic sheeting which doubles as a gutter and collects fresh water for drinking.


However, Spiral Island is in a tropical climate, which brings the problem of extreme weather conditions into play.


Mr. Sowa has managed to combat the searing heat by planting mangroves, some of which are now more than five metres high and keep the island cool.


The lush vegetation has the added advantage of securing the island, preventing it from drifting, as the roots grow around the island.


This also ensures it's robust enough to withstand the high winds that often whip around the island


Mr. Sowa now wants to become self-sufficient, although he currently relies on supplies of bread from a nearby shop.


He's well on his way, though, having already planted grapes, beans, eggplant, tomatoes, bananas and coconuts in his garden.


As if that doesn't sound idyllic enough, he cooks his food on an open fire on one of the island's three beaches, which were created using sand from nearby construction sites.


Meals can also be cooked using a specially created solar cooker -- a huge spiral-shaped mirror that uses the sun's rays to bake food hanging above it.


There's enough energy from the sun to power lights in the evening and a CD player, on which Mr. Sowa listens to his favourite Beatles and Pink Floyd tunes.


And to complete his host of creature comforts, he also has a fully operational toilet and a warm-water shower, using water heated by the rays of the Caribbean sun.


Financially, Mr. Sowa's life on Spiral Island is kept afloat due to the fact he's become an enormous tourist attraction.


Along with his dog Bonga, two ducks and four cats, he now attracts around 100 visitors a day, most of whom give him generous donations before they leave.

Comments:

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From:loachie
Date:April 16th, 2004 03:16 pm (UTC)
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That is SO cool.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 18th, 2007 05:35 am (UTC)

hi I love you

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and your son i am godday luke (godday_luke@yahoo.co.jp)
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From:jdubois
Date:April 16th, 2004 04:36 pm (UTC)
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That's amazing. I want to go visit, it's hard to believe he did it in four years, or did it at all.
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From:gustavolacerda
Date:April 16th, 2004 07:25 pm (UTC)
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4 man-years on the first model?? Sounds like making a seastead isn't that hard afterall! With a little more experience and technology, I imagine it could be done 10 times faster/cheaper.

I guess the difference is that if you're far enough off a coast to be out of a country's jurisdiction, the waves might be more of a problem.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 18th, 2004 07:46 am (UTC)

soda bottles?

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250,000 plastic soda botles at 5 cents deposit each be worth $12,500. try buying a beach condo for that price. still amazing people exist in this rather strange world. Wildflower
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 13th, 2004 11:07 am (UTC)

what a legend...

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cor blimey! this guys a god!! i wanna go! i know his nephew too :D which could be an advantage!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 14th, 2004 07:44 pm (UTC)

so many questions come to mind.

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does he have to worry about soil errosion? or too much water in the soil? Does he swimm under and maintian the bottles? How many can be punctured before he is in trouble? What is the bouyant force of each bottle? How much does the island weigh?
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 11th, 2004 11:24 pm (UTC)

Re: so many questions come to mind.

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I've been googling around looking at this island. It's pretty cool, I want to build one too!

It weighs 60 tons. As far as soil erosion, it sits in a lagoon in fairly calm water and there is a lip around the edge of the island that keeps soil from running into the lagoon (as far as I can tell). The buoyant force of each bottle can be calculated easily using Archimede's principle which states that the force is equivalent to the weight of the water displaced. So figured a 20 ounce water bottle, which is about 0.60 liters, and at 1kg / liter approximately, each bottle can support 600 grams of weight (not including itself, but I imagine that each is probably 50 grams or less). So 0.55 kg times 250,000 = 137,500 kg, or about 140 tons. It doesn't look like the island will sink any time soon.

I'd like to build an island with soaring palm trees, a nice garden, and a small hut to retire on.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 3rd, 2004 03:56 am (UTC)
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i found your journal while searching the internet for Spiral Island. I just visited Richie on his floating island! It was one of the hightlights of my trip to the Yucatan. There was just a very bad storm and he suffered some water damage but overall the island held out okay. When we visited we had to keep at least 5 feet between us or we would end up sinking a section!

chris
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From:crasch
Date:July 3rd, 2004 04:17 am (UTC)
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That's awesome. How much maintenance does he have to do?
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 1st, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC)

Floating Island

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I like to think that perhaps I may have met this bloke during his formative years at Zipolite (sorry about spelling) beach in Mexico. Proto type island was much smaller.
It would be nice to know if he succeeded. Anybody out there know how to contact him?
looseing my religion (R.E.M.)
Cheers Dean
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 5th, 2006 09:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Floating Island

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Hey DEAN YES i remember you of course you wonderful man ,,,,,I do hope you get this ,,, message ,,,it,s rishie here ,,,, the same one ,,, from zipolite ,,, wow ,,, I came across this site ,,,looking for old info cos the island in puerto was so badly damaged and washed ashore by hurracane emily ,,,,the local gov ,,, trashed it very quickly ,,,,had little chance to get her back in the water,,,,, BUT I am planning another ,,, the third ,,, supreme ,,, eco space creating ship ,,, i,d love to hear from you ,,, and thanks so much for your wonderful support in those early days at zipolite ,, do you have any pics ,,, wud luv 2 see them ,,, spiralisland @hotmail.com
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:June 3rd, 2006 12:42 am (UTC)

Re: Floating Island

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Hey Richard,I hope this message gets to you,if not directly then hopefully some friendly co-aco person will.
I loved seeing that picture of you at the bus,yes many years ago in Albufeira.Great to see you looking so healthy AND busy,good work and chase your dreams further.
Take care.
carlos
carlos.pinto@hotmail.co.uk
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 16th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Floating Island

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Dean its me Richie,,yes I remember you well from zipolite,,,,my e mail add is ,,, spiral island @ hotmail.com please contact me ,,,
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 22nd, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)

Re: Floating Island

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contact me at malleyg202@gmail.com i am a huge fan and it would mean alot to me
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 2nd, 2005 02:06 am (UTC)
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why did'nt I think of that
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 15th, 2005 06:03 am (UTC)

Spiral island

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My friends and I went to Spiral Island in 3/03 when we were there for a wedding. It is so awesome. I haven't ever seen anything like it. He is almost self sufficent. He has chicken and a little boat that takes you out to the island. I would love to have thought of this.
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From:crazydrug
Date:November 25th, 2005 03:45 am (UTC)
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this is so amazingly cool!!! I want one! But I wonder where he stored all those bottles until he built this place. :)
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 25th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)

REBUILD??

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I read that a hurricane destroyed Sprial Island. It made me very sad to read this(I never saw The Island, but I would've like to).So my question is this has anyone heard if Richie Sowa is rebuilding or making another Island?
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 28th, 2006 05:31 am (UTC)
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hello everyone. im from switzerland and heard abaut this idea to create a island like richie, but i heard that he want to do a liddle cauntry on bottles and would like to do that. and so i want to ask how i can connect richard sowa??????????????????
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 26th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC)
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That is mega heady!
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 8th, 2007 08:12 pm (UTC)
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That's magnific. I think that I will do the same when I will be adult.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:September 8th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)

Bill Bartmann

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Cool site, love the info.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:May 18th, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC)

hi rich

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old mate col ibo here,how ya doing mate,hope to see you at mikes wedding hey?
hope your well you old dog,keep lucky richie.
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