After leaving Oostende (Belgium) on August 30, the largest solar boat in the world reached London a day later, thereby bringing the campaign of scientific measurements along the Gulf Stream (PlanetSolar DeepWater) to a close. The catamaran had been transformed into a scientific platform since the month of June; the onboard team of researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) completed its collection of unprecedented data between Oostende and London. The information gathered will be analyzed at UNIGE. The ship sailed on the Thames for the first time, near the Tower Bridge, and finally moored at the West India Docks in the heart of the British city.
After tracking the Gulf Stream for over 8,000 km, the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition, carried out in collaboration with the University of Geneva (UNIGE), ended in the British capital on Saturday, August 31. The London stopover successfully concluded this unique measurement campaign, which led the ship and her crew, composed of both sailors and researchers, along the trail of the Gulf Stream, the primary regulator of European and North American climate.
UNIGE is excited about analyzing the data, and is drawing a positive initial assessment of the expedition. “PlanetSolar DeepWater made it possible to test several scientific instruments—some of which were prototypes developed at UNIGE—in real conditions. Extensive physical, chemical, and biological data is now in the hands of UNIGE and will be the subject of a thorough analysis. Although the study of this information is not yet under way, interesting trends are becoming apparent, particularly in relation to sea spray aerosol production,” states Martin Beniston, climatologist and director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at UNIGE.
During this scientific journey, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar made a number of stopovers—in Miami, New York, Boston (United States), Halifax, St. John’s (Canada), and Oostende (Belgium). These steps were unique opportunities to communicate the stakes of the “DeepWater” expedition, and raise public awareness about the issue of climate change. These communicative actions will continue until the Paris stopover, which will mark the endpoint of the 2013 PlanetSolar campaign.
The “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition
Launched in Florida in early June, the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition’s ambition was to collect a continuous series of physical and biological measurements, both in the water and in the air, using advanced instruments and the expertise of the UNIGE scientists. Led by Professor Martin Beniston, the research team studied the key parameters of climate regulation, namely aerosols and phytoplankton, in order to better understand the complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, as well as the role these interactions play in climate change.
The researchers were particularly interested in the phenomenon of ocean vortexes—large whirlpools that break away from the main part of the Gulf Stream—that influence heat exchanges with the atmosphere as well as the growth of phytoplankton.
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, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar completed the first solar-powered trip around the world.
For her 2013 expeditions, the ship underwent major maintenance operations. The most significant optimization was related to the propulsion system—the surface propellers were replaced by a completely immerged system. In addition, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar crew is comprised of: Gérard d’Aboville (Captain), Brieuc Delbot (Second), Antoine Simon (electrical engineer), Hugo Buratti (seaman and steward), and Vincent Brunet (steward). During the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition, the UNIGE scientific team rounded out the crew.
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, 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” 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, dealing with the essential domains of science, medicine, literature, economic and social sciences, law, theology, psychology, 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, the Ernst and Lucie Schmidheiny Foundation, and a generous anonymous donor for their support for the PlanetSolar DeepWater scientific campaign.