Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg sets sail aboard a zero-emissions boat Wednesday, beginning a two-week journey across the Atlantic Ocean to a United Nations summit in New York City.
The 16-year-old Nobel Peace Prize nominee — whose solo protests outside the Swedish Parliament have inspired #FridaysForFuture school strikes across the globe — has chosen not to fly to highlight air travel’s contributions to the climate crisis. Instead, she opted for what The Associated Press described as “a high-tech but decidedly low-comfort sailboat.”
“By this journey I hope to increase awareness among people,” said Thunberg, “to spread information and communicate the science about what is really going on so people can understand what is really going on with the climate and ecological crisis.”
“That is what I am hoping to achieve with everything and that will also lead to international opinions,” she added, “so that people come together and put pressure on the people in power so that they will have to do something.”
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 14, 2019
“Of course there are many people who don’t understand and accept the science,” Thunberg told Agence France-Presse before beginning her journey. “I will just have to do what I have always done — ignore them and just tell the science as it is.”
Accompanied by her father Svante, a filmmaker, and the boat’s crew, Thunberg kicked off the trip Wednesday after a test sail on Monday. Leading up to and following their departure, supporters took to social media to wish them safe travels.
Safe travels Greta! We'll be waiting for you on the other end… https://t.co/3j1Uj0SCzS
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) August 11, 2019
#Greta #GretaThunberg set sail today from the UK making for #NewYork aboard the zero carbon SY Malizia II to attend the UN Climate Summit. As she #StopFlying , #sailing across the #Atlantic says a lot, lot, lot about this young person. Safe voyage to my fellow yachties! ⛵️💨💚 pic.twitter.com/pvwheP3g44
— Shauna Chapman (@ShaunaChapmanUK) August 14, 2019
— Moms Clean Air Force (@CleanAirMoms) August 14, 2019
Others lined the coast Wednesday to send off the small group of sailors.
— Jacquie Bird (@JacquieBirditv) August 14, 2019
Earlier this week, Thunberg — who had not ever sailed before this week and got seasick on the short trip Monday — spoke to a BBC News film crew aboard the boat about the accommodations and the signal she hopes to send with her decision to sail on a carbon-free vessel rather than fly.
"I might feel a bit sea sick and it's not going to be comfortable"
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg will spend two weeks travelling across the North Atlantic on a boat to attend a crucial climate change conference in New York
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 13, 2019
“Pierre Casiraghi, the grandson of Monaco’s late Prince Rainier III and American actress Grace Kelly, and fellow yachtsman Boris Herrmann offered her passage” from Plymouth, England to New York on “the 60-foot (18-meter) Malizia II, outfitted with solar panels and underwater turbines to generate electricity,” the AP reported.
But to call it a no-frills passage would be an understatement. The sailboat is built for high-speed, offshore racing, with weight kept to a minimum. The only alterations for the voyage are fitting curtains in front of the bunk and adding mattresses for comfort. There is no toilet or fixed shower. There’s a small gas cooker and the food will be freeze dried.
Inside, the yacht resembles the interior of a tin can. It is dark and gray, with no windows below deck.
Herrmann, who is skippering the boat, will take turns with Casiraghi steering the craft. He described life on board as a mixture of camping and sailing, with a thin mattress and sleeping bag the only comforts.
“It’s not very luxurious, it’s not very fancy but I don’t need that. I need only a bed and just the basic things,” Thunberg said in a video interview with Bloomberg. “So I think this will be fun.”
Climate activist Greta Thunberg is no longer flying to international conferences, so she'll cross the Atlantic by sailboat to attend a United Nations climate summit in New York https://t.co/tYKq3WqjcY via @tictoc pic.twitter.com/yUNEe8xsFN
— Bloomberg (@business) August 14, 2019
“You can’t really ask for that much if you get to sail across the Atlantic for free,” she told the AFP. “I am grateful for what I have.”