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Alan and Rhys at Southampton Docks
Paper boat dream finally folds
By Stephen Stafford
Rhys Jones from the New Forest may have climbed Everest, but he was finally beaten by nature in his latest challenge - an attempt to navigate the length of the Missouri-Mississippi River in the US with his dad in a paper boat.
Rhys Jones became the youngest person to have climbed the seven highest peaks in seven continents when he summitted Everest in 2006, but his latest challenge has been curtailed by the elements.
Assembling the 'paper boat'
The 21-year old from Bartley in the New Forest had planned to travel 3,700 miles along North America's longest river, from Montana in the very north of the US to New Orleans on the south coast.
Nothing too out of the ordinary about that - except the boat is made of paper and is little more than a giant juice carton.
His shipmate for the journey was to be his dad Alan who originally got the idea from a book on origami.
However while the boat did float and was seaworthy, severe flooding along the river meant the attempt had to be abandoned.
The boat is lined with juice cartons
Parts of the Mississippi were over 20 feet above their normal height, while further up stream, other stretches were only calf-deep - which would have proved catastrophic for the paper boat.
While obviously disappointed, Rhys and Alan were philosophical when interviewed for BBC Radio Solent's H20 show after they had arrived home in the New Forest.
Rhys said: "The fact that it floated was satisfying - we know it could have gone a long way, but in these conditions it wouldn't have lasted."
The boat has remained in the US as the Jones' donated it to a local scout group in South Dakota who had helped them test it.
"They'll have a lot of fun with it, for as long as it lasts", said Alan.
They know it was only nature that defeated them, while their design for a paper boat did stay afloat and could well be back on the water sometime in the future:
The Jones' boat at Southampton Docks
"Lots of places still available - we're still looking and thinking..." mused Alan.
Alan explained he was looking for something he could do with Rhys while he was recovering from back surgery: "I was flat on my back thinking - what could I do with him that would keep him off a mountain!"
A paper boat is recyclable which gave the project a green ethos: "The real mission of the expedition is to focus people's attention on recycling and conserving the Earth's resources."
The boat itself is 12 ft by 6ft, square-ended with a 9 ft by 6ft cabin. A layer of juice cartons acts as a double hull to keep the craft afloat.
Rhys was confident the boat would survive the currents and white waters they would have been up against: "You have to be an optimist if you are doing something like this. It should be quite robust once it's done, but it's still paper at the end of the day."
The boat was packed up at Southampton Docks to be shipped to the States ready to start what they had planned as a three month journey, in June.
The journey from Calshot Activity Centre to the docks proved nailbiting as the boat nearly pivoted off the lorry. Nevertheless Rhys and Alan remained positive about the chances of what they describe as their "garden shed wrapped in paper."
last updated: 25/07/2008 at 16:51