Published on June 5th, 2013 | by Amber Archangel1
Solar Powered Boat Begins ‘Deepwater’ Scientific Expedition
The world’s largest solar powered boat, MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, established a new speed record for a solar-powered transatlantic crossing on May 18 of this year. She did this by beating her own record that was set on her 2010 voyage. The clean energy catamaran now begins a new life by transforming into a scientific research vessel. Beginning June 7, she will begin collecting data along the Gulf Stream ocean current. This journey will take her from Miami to Bergen, Norway. The air and water measurements that she gathers along the way will be uncontaminated by any substances emitted by the boat because she is a non-polluting vessel. The following is from the PlanetSolar news release.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar departed from St. Martin in the French West Indies on May 23, and reached the shores of the United States on June 1. The solar powered boat and her crew are docked in Miami from June 1 to June 6, 2013—a crucial stopover because a final phase of instrument testing will be conducted there. The ship will begin the practical stage of her second life—dedicated to science—as part of the expedition that will study the Gulf Stream, one of the most important regulators of European and North American climates. In fact, the solar powered boat will transform into a genuine scientific platform in Florida and will serve a team of researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), led by Professor Martin Beniston, climatologist and director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva.
Through the month of August, the interdisciplinary team of scientists will travel over 8,000 kilometers along the Gulf Stream, between Miami, United States and Bergen, Norway, via New York, Boston, St. John’s, Canada, and Reykjavik, Iceland. This unique campaign will lead researchers to “navigate along the Gulf Stream and collect scientific data, from both water and air, in order to better understand complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere as well as the role of these interactions in climate change” says Professor Beniston. In parallel, a pedagogical team has developed educational activities and resources designed to make young people aware of climate change and its impact.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will significantly contribute to an unprecedented data collection of this ocean current, since the absence of pollution emissions will guarantee that the atmospheric measurements won’t be distorted by residues associated with fuel combustion. The boat also has numerous advantages, such as a world-renowned navigational experience and the fact that she can load her crew plus up to 4 scientists on board. Enthusiastic about starting this measurement campaign, Gérard d’Aboville, captain of the boat, said, “Up to this point, we were in transit in a sense. In a few days we will begin this scientific expedition—the raison d’être of our trip—and life onboard will be organized entirely around the measurements that the University of Geneva researchers will carry out. The entire crew is highly motivated and is getting involved in the final assemblage of the measurement instruments.” In addition, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will sail to the northernmost part of the Atlantic for the first time. “Navigation conditions will change; we are taking leave of the trade winds that have been accompanying us since the Canary Islands to travel along the roving Gulf Stream, first along the American coast, then across the Atlantic,” explains the captain.
Miami, final phase of scientific instrument testing before the PlanetSolar DeepWater expedition
In order to collect a continuous series of physical and biological measurements in the water and in the air, the ship will be equipped with 6 advanced instruments, including the “Biobox”, an instrument that was specifically developed by the Applied Physics Group at the University of Geneva. It is dedicated to studying aerosols at the interface between the atmosphere and the ocean, and is the only instrument to date capable of instantaneously determining the identity of aerosols using laser technology. It will be used aboard the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar for the first time.
For all the information on MS Tûranor PlanetSolar: www.planetsolar.org
Author’s note: The results of the data collected by this quiet, clean energy catamaran and her crew, along with the researchers from the University of Geneva will give us a wealth of information. I am so happy that the team is undertaking this endeavor and I look forward to reading about the results and the analysis.