“Its name would be Heraclitus, after the philosopher of the cosmic ocean of change and of change itself ever-changing.”
Since 1970, Institute of Ecotechnics (IE) has catalyzed demonstration projects aimed at harmonising technology with the biosphere. IE co-founder, John Allen, suggested that an oceangoing ship was key to an understanding of the planet’s diversity. IE’s ecologists, artists and thinkers decided to build our own ship.
The distant history of oceangoing junks intrigued us. Allen had lived on a junk in the Hong Kong harbour. Their iconic beauty and, most importantly, their stability in high seas influenced the decision to design one. Junks are not built for speed, but a ‘slow boat’ offers possibilities of experiencing organic rhythms of wind and current.
Ferrocement is strong, durable and easy to patch in an emergency. We had little money but many volunteers, so the low cost of the materials and labour-intensive requirements were a perfect fit. The Heraclitus was designed and built by volunteers of IE, with the collaboration of Theater of All Possibilities, and it was launched in 1975 from Oakland, California.
The ship has sailed over 270,000 nautical miles through six oceans, continuously exploring traditions of those who have lived on the sea, with the aim to create an onboard cadre of contemporary sea people. Crew members have participated in numerous projects and expeditions (see Expeditions). The last expedition, Lives and Legends of the Mediterranean Sea, documented coastal dwellers affected by ecological and cultural upheaval.
In 2012-13, Ecotechnics Maritime and Institute of Ecotechnics, UK, decided to completely rebuild and restore the vessel, to retain the magic and history of the original structure. The Heraclitus is now being rebuilt in drydock in Roses, Spain. Launch is scheduled for 2022.
For further history, see Past Expeditions.