Planetsolar, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, arrived safely in New York on June 17, 2013. She has been transformed into a scientific platform as part of the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition, and has joined by 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 (UNIGE). Even though the crew and scientists aboard had to adjust their schedule to avoid tropical storm “Andrea,” they were able to accomplish a substantial portion of the intended mission objectives by taking measurements in the air and water. Their goal is to study the key parameters of climate regulation, especially atmospheric aerosols and phytoplankton. This sun-powered vessel is uniquely qualified to gather the information because it does not emit any polluting substances that could distort the data collected. The following is from the PlanetSolar press release.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the largest solar boat in the world, continues her US tour, and yesterday reached New York City. As part of the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition carried out by the University of Geneva, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar—transformed into a scientific platform—is enabling a team of researchers to take advantage of her exclusive features in order to conduct a campaign of physical and biological measurements along the Gulf Stream.
The navigation between the states of Florida and New York constitutes the initial phase of this unprecedented data collection on the Gulf Stream, an important regulator of European and North American climates. With the support of the Swiss Consulate General in New York, the solar vessel and her crew, consisting of both sailors and scientists, moored in the North Cove Marina in southern Manhattan around 12.00 noon (local time)
After being forced to remain in Miami for a few days to avoid “Andrea,” the first tropical storm of the season in the Atlantic, the solar catamaran left the coast of Florida on June 8 to begin the scientific expedition studying the Gulf Stream. “Now we are in the thick of the scientific expedition. We have been travelling along the Gulf Stream since we left Miami, so we were already able to take the first measurements. A strong and favorable current enabled us to sail at over 8 knots at times!” explains Gérard d’Aboville, captain of the boat. However, another disturbance forced the ship to move away from the current during the second part of the trip. “A violent depression passed through the northeastern United States. We had to find shelter in Chesapeake Bay to let it pass. To avoid losing time, we traveled up the bay and passed through a canal into Delaware,” said the captain.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar has therefore launched the practical stage of her second life, and her arrival in the New York metropolis marks the passage of the first phase of this novel research campaign on one of the most important regulators of European and North American climates. Shortly after the ship’s arrival, Ambassador François Barras, Swiss Consul General in New York, enthusiastically declared, “Switzerland is proud to welcome PlanetSolar to New York. She is a great platform for promoting the spirit of Swiss innovation. The University of Geneva’s DeepWater scientific expedition demonstrates the high quality of research in Switzerland, and the boat raises public awareness about the use of renewable energies. All in all, PlanetSolar is an ideal ambassador!”
Headed by Professor Beniston, climatologist and director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University of Geneva (UNIGE), the onboard research team began taking measurements with advanced instruments in order to study the key parameters of climate regulation, namely aerosols and phytoplankton. This unique campaign requires researchers to “navigate along the Gulf Stream and collect scientific data in the water and in the air in order to improve our understanding of the complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, as well as the role these interactions play 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 interdisciplinary team of scientists from the University of Geneva will sail along the Gulf Stream, passing through Boston, St. John’s (Canada), and Reykjavik (Iceland), and will disembark in Bergen (Norway) in August. The study of this ocean current will take the ship to the northernmost point of the Atlantic for the first time. The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar’s exclusive features are a major asset for the researchers: given the absence of polluting emissions, the atmospheric measurements won’t be distorted by residues associated with fuel combustion.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar and her crew will remain moored in the heart of the Big Apple from June 17—20. With the support of the Swiss Consulate in New York, events dedicated to the public and local authorities will be organized onboard.
High-tech instruments aboard the largest solar boat in the world
In order to collect a continuous series of physical and biological measurements in the water and in the air, the ship is equipped with 6 advanced instruments, including the “Biobox”, an instrument that was specifically developed by the Applied Physics Group at the University of Geneva for the study of aerosols at the interface between the atmosphere and the ocean. It is the only instrument to date capable of determining instantaneously the identity of aerosols using laser technology. It will be used aboard the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar for the first time.
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, built in Kiel, Germany, is a catamaran powered exclusively by solar energy. On May 4, 2012, after sailing for 584 days and travelling over 60,000km, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar completed the first solar-powered trip around the world.
For her 2013 expeditions, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar underwent major maintenance operations. The most significant optimization was related to the propulsion system—the surface propellers were replaced by a completely immerged system.
For 2013, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar’s crew is comprised of: Gérard d’Aboville (Captain), Andrew Mikkelsen (Second), Antoine Simon (electrical engineer), Hugo Buratti (seaman and steward), and Vincent Brunet (steward). During the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition, the UNIGE scientific team will round out the crew.
After leaving Las Palmas (Spain) on April 26, 2013, the largest solar boat in the world reached Marigot, St. Martin (French Caribbean) 22 days later. The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar therefore broke her own world record speed for a solar-powered transatlantic crossing, set in 26 days during her trip around the world. In order to fund the 2013 campaign, PlanetSolar SA is supported by the University of Geneva, Ciel électricité, Switcher, the Swiss AOC-IGP Association, Younicos, Plantbacter, Actides, GoPro, Jean-René Germanier SA, BCCC Attorneys-at-Law, Tempur, Hempel, Présence Suisse, Energissima, l’UIM, YELLO, and Waste Free Oceans.
About the University of Geneva
Founded in 1559 by Jean Calvin and Théodore de Bèze, the University of Geneva (UNIGE) is now the second largest “Haute École” (institute for higher learning) in Switzerland, and ranks among the top 100 universities in the world. Crown jewel of the Calvin community, the institution enjoys a privileged international reputation and cultivates its openness to the world. UNIGE welcomes approximately 16,000 students each year to its eight colleges, dedicated to the study of the following key disciplines: science, medicine, literature, economics and social sciences, law, theology, psychology, and education, translation and interpretation sciences. UNIGE has three missions: education, research, and service to the community. Additionally, UNIGE has been a member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) since 2002.
The University of Geneva would like to thank the Wright Foundation, the Henri Moser Foundation, and a generous anonymous donor for their support for the PlanetSolar DeepWater scientific campaign.
Author’s note: The next stop for Planetsolar is Boston, Massachusetts, scheduled for June 20. Education days are planned for the stopovers in both New York and Boston. The Gulf Stream tracking will continue as the boat continues to travel to the Far North, where she will put into port in St. John’s, Canada, Reykjavik, Iceland, and Bergen, Norway. You can follow the voyage of the solar-powered boat at: www.planetsolar.org/follow-us/itinerary-2013