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Atlantic, Trade Wind Route: Keep a good Look Out for 2 Giant Dice

By New York Times — last modified May 26, 2014 01:32 PM
An Artist’s Game of Chance on the High Seas - as reported by the New York Times.

Published: 2013-01-31 01:00:00
Topics: Cruising Information , Safety and Medical
Countries: Azores , Madeira , Canary Islands

Update May 2013: Continue to keep your eyes peeled as the dice are still out there and no sighting has been reported for a year.

Latest Position Update: 30 January 2013
"At this point I have to be honest and say that I can no longer give an accurate estimation of the location of the Aqua Dice. Logic leads me to believe that they are somewhere between the latitudes of Madeira and The Azoras  and west of the Azores after having been pushed out of the Trade Winds by the Southerly winds of a Depression about 2 weeks ago.

I hope that for safety sake you will continue to post the  warning and I hope that someone will see them one day.

Max - 




See the full New York Times report about this project here.

Dice have been around a long time, at least since man first carved bone, and are one of the most potent symbols we have of the vicissitudes of dumb luck. Which is part of their fascination for the artist Max Mulhern — he is endlessly interested in the role of chance in life — and one big reason he was inspired to create “Aqua Dice.”

The other was his love of open water. Mr. Mulhern, 50, lives in Paris but grew up in Philadelphia, and spent much of his childhood sailing with his father on the Chesapeake Bay — “leading the life of Huck Finn,” he said — where he developed a lifelong devotion to boating.

Over the last two years, Mr. Mulhern methodically drew and painted images of a work that would bring these passions together, in the form of a colossal pair of floating dice. He then had them designed by a French naval architect and constructed, out of plywood, pine, PVC and epoxy, by a shipbuilder specializing in fishing boats. Finally, late last year, he had them shipped from Brittany to the Canary Islands, and, at noon on the fitting date of 12/12/12, he launched them into the Atlantic, to be carried away on trade-wind-driven currents.

Since then, on-board GPS systems have sent out positions once a day so the dice’s progress — whether west toward the New World, back toward the African coastline or in any other direction — can be tracked by art fans, mariners and the idly curious. As of Jan. 7, both dice were about 1,100 miles west of the Canary Islands and only about 60 miles apart. But Mr. Mulhern expects that will soon change: “I’ve spoken to a lot of ocean scientists and they’re thinking that the dice will separate quickly,” he said. “What I like about that is the dual possibilities: there’s one throw and two outcomes, two possible destinations — and destinies.”

Talking about the project’s genesis, Mr. Mulhern cites a wide range of artistic influences. Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and Le Corbusier’s habitat formulas helped determine the dice’s 8-feet-to-a-side scale (though the dimensions of a standard shipping container also had something to do with it). Literary inspirations included Mallarmé’s Symbolist poem “A Throw of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance,” Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and Rimbaud’s 100-line “Bateau Ivre (The Drunken Boat)” — which Mr. Mulhern wrote out by hand, placing half of the poem in each die along with his contact information. And the role of chance in the work of the Surrealists and the Dadaist Jean Arp also played into his thinking.

Technology students in Normandy devised his GPS systems from off-the-shelf personal units. And once he reached the port of Gran Canaria, as word spread of the giant dice being rolled along busy streets to the launch site, the mayor showed up to offer the help of the Spanish navy.

Mr. Mulhern was, however, wary of government involvement. “Basically, ‘Aqua Dice’ is illegal, because you’re not allowed to put an object on the water that’s unattended, and you’re not allowed to go to sea if there’s not a constant watch on-board,” he said. “But the probability of the dice doing damage to a boat is just about zero.” He pointed to the dice’s high visibility — their fluorescent orange skin is hard to miss — and the fact that they are likely to be following the same current as any nearby vessels, and are designed to collapse on impact.

Mr. Mulhern hopes to receive reports of sightings along the busy travel lanes of the Atlantic. “This project is going to hopefully not become notorious,” he said, “but known to everybody who’s plying those waters.”

Go to for more information.

As a reminder the Aqua Dice measure 2.10 metres on each edge and are painted fluorescent orange. They are made of wood. Yachtsmen are asked to report their position if they are sighted.

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