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PlanetSolar partners with the Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine

18.08.2014

As part of its 2014 campaign, PlanetSolar is partnering with the Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medecine (PMU). PMU will offer its medical services to members of the crew of the largest solar-powered boat in the world. Situated close to the Vaudois University Hospital Center (CHUV - Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois), PMU is a reference center for general internal medicine.

PMU will play a key role in ensuring the health and well-being of the crew, who will be working in an environment with limited resources for care. Therefore, PMU will make the skills of its specialists in general medicine, as well as specialists in travel and tropical medicine, and ambulatory infectology, available to the crew.

The institute’s doctors will provide the PlanetSolar team with advice over the phone or via Skype. They will also assign staff to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire duration of the TerraSubmersa expediton, in case of emergency.

“PMU is thrilled to participate in this innovative project by offering a service that corresponds to its mission of medical care,” said Dr. Philippe Staeger, manager of PMU’s Center for General Medicine.

Our team’s health is of primary importance to us, and the success of expeditions in 2014 depends on it. We thank PMU for its support in this mission.

Lead and oil are the matters at hand

15.08.2014

Our mission started under a leaden sky and an on an oily sea, perfect conditions for TPS, which gorges herself on kilowatts and glides effortlessly into the Bay of Kiladah.

Our measurement tools float in our wake. A little platform which we pull along emits a sort of hammering sound, like the beating of a perfectly regular heart, a wave that strikes the bottom of the sea and whose reverb is traced across the screens which four Greek scientists back in the marina scrutinize. Up above, in the wheelhouse, Brieux navigates right up against a cliff… All day, we follow pre-determined routes, at the perfectly controlled speed and precise curves of experienced sailors.

We’ve entered into the heart of the matter, and even if it is often best to keep a soldier’s stiff upper lip, this is not the time to trust in the apparent calm; we can feel a sense of contained excitement, as we continue on this very particular treasure hunt, and each member hopes that the Terra Submersa mission will succeed in digging up some of the bay’s deep secrets.

GdA

Hard at Work

13.08.2014

Our passage through the Corinth Canal, with a nearly 6 kilometer-long trench separating the continental Greece from the Peloponnese islands, resulted in some spectacular photos which made a splash in Greek media. TPS is now widely known, and our arrival in Eretria on July 31 brought a crowd. The jam-packed agenda for this stop, which marked the beginning of the Terra Submersa expedition, starts with festivities in the village square, in honor of Konstantinos Kanaris, a hero of Greek independence. The next day, on the occasion of Swiss National Day, Mr. Amberg, Swiss Ambassador in Greece, came aboard the solar-powered boat to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Swiss School of Archeology’s excavations, led by Karl Reber. There were visits to the boat, talks, and crushing heat...

The night of August 2, spent moored in a small, wild creek under the temple of Poseidon, was a welcome occasion to recharge before continuing on to Athens, our next stop, where the press conference announcing the launch of Terra Submersa kept us just as busy. Lunch and evening festivities onboard, visits from the ministers of Culture and environment, groups, cocktails, speeches, the crew dressed to the nines and ready to welcome, explain, give tours, shine up… Of Athens, I only saw the Zea marina.

Luckily, the sailor’s life goes on, with a delightful little cruise towards the bay of Argolis. A short stop at Spetses, a tourist town renowned for its handcrafted wooded boats, although unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the workshops, then onwards through the sinuous straits in front of the wonderful town of Poros. TPS, with its impressive size, slunk through moored ships, barges, ferries, and boats full of curious faces.

On August 7, we docked in the port of Nafplio. The largest town in Argolis, it was once the capital of ancient Greece, and is still a wonderful sight, with narrow paved streets, 18th and 19th century homes with blinds and balconies, gardens overflowing with bougainvilleas, illuminated fortresses, and a little fort on the island that marks the entry to the port. A place I will revisit (but maybe not during tourist season!) since we didn’t have time to truly enjoy it, as August 8 was probably the day TPS welcomed the most visitors onboard since its launch, with groups of 45 touring the boat every half hour!

August 9 was dedicated to installing aboard the measurement instruments we will be working with over the next two weeks.

Since the 10th august, we have been all set and anchored in the Bay of Kiladha. Here we will spend two weeks conducting a very thorough mapping of the coastal shelf, on the lookout for traces of habitats and prehistoric remains; more on that later too...

The full moon, the largest this year, has just set, and the sun rises over a sea that is as smooth as a mirror; life could be worse. Are you jealous? You should be.

GdA 

A first day of measuring

13.08.2014

When I started thinking about geophysical measures in the Bay of Kiladha, more than two years ago, PlanetSolar was not yet in my mind. First I met Dimitris Sakellariou, a Greek geologist specialized in marine research, at a workshop on Submerged Prehistoric Landscapes in Rome in the fall of 2012, and the project gradually evolved from that. It was then Jean-Dominique Vassalli, rector of the University of Geneva, who came up with the idea of involving the world’s biggest solar-powered boat. And here we are now. The deep blue sea of the Argolic Gulf is all around us. The instruments have been installed on board. The echo-sounder’s characteristic “ping” can be heard on the rear deck. TerraSubmersa’s scientific part is beginning...

Julien Beck

PlanetSolar reaches Athens (Greece) as part of the “TerraSubmersa” scientific expedition led by the University of Geneva

04.08.2014

After a spectacular passage through the Corinth Canal (July 28) and a stop in Eretria (July 31 to August 2) celebrating the 50th anniversary of Swiss archeological excavations in this region, the world largest solar-powered boat docked in the port of Piraeus yesterday afternoon. This is the second stop on the itinerary of the TerraSubmersa scientific expedition, in collaboration with the University of Geneva (UNIGE), and the purpose is to explain the scientific objectives of this archeological mission, which will be launched on August 11 in the Argolic Gulf (Greece). The ship will reprise her role as a scientific platform, lending her exclusive features in service of the UNIGE researchers, whose goal is to explore the prehistoric landscapes submerged by the water, in order to reconstruct them and identify any potential traces of human activity.

Yesterday, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar has reached the Port of Piraeus in Athens, her second stop in Greece as part of the TerraSubmersa expedition, which is a collaboration between UNIGE, the Neuchâtel Latenium, the Greek Service for Underwater Antiquities, the Swiss School of Archeology in Greece, and the Hellenic Center for Maritime Research. Like Eretria, Athens is a stop intended to emphasize the work that the archeologists will carry out in the Argolic Gulf from August 11 to 22, through public and private events.

This will allow the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar to continue to prove her uses, both as a platform for communication and events, and especially as a scientific platform. “PlanetSolar’s second life is not just an occasion to expand upon prestigious visits to New York, London, Paris, or Athens, or event for spectacular voyages like the crossing of the Corinth Canal, but it also offers the crew the pleasure of accomplishing the most diverse kinds of missions. Among these, TerraSubmersa, which is the highlight of our 2014 season, is certainly the most fascinating. The highly precise navigation we will need, together with the excitement of discovery… all in the magnificent setting of the Argolic Gulf.” declared Gérard d’Aboville, the ship’s captain, with great enthusiasm.

TerraSubmersa expedition: discovering submerged prehistoric landscapes

This Greco-Swiss expedition, led by Julien Beck, a researcher in the classical archeology department of UNIGE, aims to explore the prehistoric landscapes that have been submerged by the waters of the Argolic Gulf, in order to reconstruct them and to identify any potential traces of human activity.“Prehistoric underwater archeology and the study of ancient submerged landscapes are new fields of study in Greece,” Julien Beck explains.

This research will allow archeologists to reconstruct landscapes that have vanished underwater, and to understand the interactions between prehistoric man and the sea.

The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will mainly be used to take geophysical measurements, which will allow the researchers to model the topography of ancient coastal zones, and to identify any potential traces of human activity. The Alkyon, a boat from the Hellenic Center for Maritime Research, will also be used for this work, which will be carried using state-of-the-art equipment (multi-beam sounder, lateral sweeping sonar, GPS, etc.). Subaquatic excavations will then be led by divers, thanks to a hydraulic aspirator which will remove a layer of protective silt from the site.

PlanetSolar across the Korinthos Canal, heading for science!

29.07.2014

The Corinth Canal may be less well-known than its big brothers, Suez and Panama, and shorter too (it is only 6 km long), but passing through it on PlanetSolar will always be an intense memory. Despite knowing what was in store, I can assure you that the four or five metres that separated us from the cliff seemed very small indeed from the solar bridge! Although it was an imposing sight for the crew, the 70 or so minutes it took us to pass through the canal weren’t the most relaxing of our voyage!

And tonight, when we saw some of the photos that have already been posted on the internet, we were full of envy for the spectators who watched us pass along the bottom of this breathtakingly steep cutting from the top of a bridge.

We are now on our way to Eretria, which will be our first official stop on the TerraSubmersa scientific expedition led by the University of Geneva. Here we will celebrate the fifty archaeological excavations being carried out in Eretria by the Swiss School of Archaeology. Afterwards we will sail to Athens and Nafplio and then on to Kilhada, where the boat will be converted into a scientific platform as it begins to study the submerged prehistoric landscapes from 11 August onwards.

GdA

From Ajaccio to Korinthos

24.07.2014

Crossing the Mediterranean during the summer, from Corsica to Greece, while hoping the sea doesn’t pitch one of its famous fits, is an experience that cannot be missed. It is best aboard a motorboat rather than a sailboat, and TPS is the perfect ship: no noise, no vibrations...

Bonifacio

A slow passage in front of these mythical white cliffs, and thanks to the dinghy, we entered the the cave of Sdragonato; I did not dare try to fit TPS into it!

As for the town that sits on the cliff, no matter how many times you see it, it always looks just as improbable and splendid.

Sardinia

Instead of navigating through the main channel of the Strait of Bonifacio, we pass through the channels north of Sardinia, the steepness of which allows us to navigate right up close to the impressive cliffs.

On the Porto Cervo side, we see a parade of the most luxurious yachts in the world...

Lipari

We arrive at Lipari, the main town on the island and on the eponymous archipelago. As we prepare to drop anchor in the little space available (the depth is breathtakingly steep), we see numerous, overburdened vessels detach from the coast and come towards us. I can’t help but be reminded of the Indian canoes coming to meet Captain Cook’s Resolution in a Polynesian bay. Disembarking, cannon fire, firecrackers and fireworks. What a welcome, far beyond our expectations! But no, we are surrounded, and then passed by; it turns out to be a religious celebration. The person we ask about this does not seem to remember what exactly the occasion is, since there are so many…

Stromboli

Under the volcano, at dawn. The valve opens regularly to release pressure but the monster is calm, and at its feet, the little town of Stromboli which mainly lives from a “VIP tourism”, seems prosperous. Still, the cracks on the walls of the church show that this area can be a bit precarious...

Messina

We encounter strange boats in the strait of Messina. Take a hull that is a dozen metres long, place the mast in the centre, a pylon that is 25 metres high, with a basket on top. Stick a walkway of about thirty metres long in front, and secure it all with a spiderweb of shrouds and stays, and now you are ready to fish swordfish. The pilot and two lookouts sit in the basket, from which commands come down to the harpooner who sits far ahead, at the end of the walkway.

Traditionally, these were rowboats. Even if powerful motors have replaced the rowing crew, it is still a very selective kind of fishing, and the harpooner chooses only good adult catches. How long will this form of fishing resist competition from fishing boats with nets, which is both intense and often illegal?

White calm

On my bunk, in the darkness of my windowless cabin.

I woke up, feeling something abnormal. For the first time since I am on board, I no longer feel any small movement, or any noise apart from the fan: no squeaking, which is an odd feeling aboard a boat, especially a carbon boat like this one, where the slightest wave that touches the central nacelle can be heard all throughout the ship. But I know that TPS is advancing, probably rather quickly...

I feel like I am on a spaceship, hurtling through space…

It is too unreal, I go outside. Outside there is only white calm, I search the horizon, a hot, downy mist blocks it out, and only the wrinkles in the water around the floats suggest that we are on a disk, and not inside a sphere.

GdA

On her way to Greece, PlanetSolar stops in Ajaccio

17.07.2014

For three days, from July 10th to 12th inclusive, Monaco has been devoted to the solar boat races organised by Solar1, during which TPS served as the press and VIP boat. The sight of these firefly-like vessels gliding along without sound or turbulence was truly spectacular. TPS looked like a mother hen surrounded by her chicks. In the evening, TPS carefully backed up and docked at the magnificent, newly inaugurated Monaco Yacht Club, a building shaped like a giant motor yacht. On Sunday, July 13th all the grand yachts present sounded their sirens to send us off, making our departure quite emotional. Upon entering the basin, we made a 360 degree turn for our own farewell salute.

On July 15th, at 9 AM, TPS crossed through the stunning Passe des Sanguinaires, which marks the Northern entrance to the Bay of Ajaccio. The sun was still low in the horizon, which resulted in a perfect, magical light. We had left our mooring at the Bay of Menton just 21 hours earlier, enjoying a quick and comfortable crossing with sunny, calm seas. The Mediterranean at its best.

A few moments later, we passed in front of Myrte, an experimental installation with its field of solar panels. Here, the question of storing electricity is cleverly resolved thanks to the production of hydrogen, which may be a future solution for using this free, abundant, but unfortunately intermittent source of energy.

Our next stop is Corinth, in Greece, but since we have plenty of time to reach it, we decided to make a stop in the bay of Ajaccio. Our plans to moor discreetly, however, had not taken into account Corsican hospitality, and in fact the mayor’s office made amazing arrangements for this totally spontaneous stop, with an invitation to moor at the main wharf and to partake in the fantastic buffet they had set up there.

A sailor’s life sure is hard, isn’t it?

GdA

PlanetSolar returns to Monaco as Guest of Honour at the Solar1 Monte Carlo Cup!

07.07.2014

After a sunny, nearly 20-day stay in the Marchica lagoon (Morocco), the ship enjoyed a wonderful journey towards Monaco, where it dropped anchor at Port Hercules in the afternoon on July 6th. Upon returning to the very place that witnessed the first solar-powered journey around the world, the catamaran will be present as the guest of honour at the “Solar1 Monte Carlo Cup 2014”, the first solar boat race organised within the Principality of Monaco. From July 6th to July 12th the boat will host events, and will become the official vessel of the members of the jury during the race, which will take place from July 10th to 12th. The ship will set sail on July 13th to continue its Mediterranean journey towards Greece, where it will embark upon the University of Geneva’s TerraSubmersa scientific expedition.

After 12 days at sea, the solar-powered boat reached its destination. Strong winds forced the captain to take shelter in the Balearic Islands, which gave the catamaran the chance to enjoy some of the archipelago’s most beautiful scenery.

The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar dropped anchor at the Hirondelle dock of Port Hercules (Monaco) yesterday, on the occasion of the Solar1 Monte Carlo Cup 2014, the first solar boat race organised by the Principality, which will take place from July 10th to 12th. A strong symbol of the efficiency of photovoltaic energy, the largest solar-powered ship in the world will offer its unique characteristics to the competition’s organisers, serving both as an event platform, as well as to welcome the race’s jury panel.

The catamaran will then continue upon its Mediterranean journey towards Greece. Once in the Hellenic Republic’s waters, the ship will once again become a scientific platform for the University of Geneva, enabling the study of submerged prehistoric landscapes as part of the “TerraSubmersa” expedition.

Mnemiopsis and water slides

02.07.2014

When a ship crosses the sea with an empty hold, some of its compartments often have to be filled with seawater to ensure that the vessel remains stable. The ballast water is then dumped on arrival, with the result that certain animal species may be transported far from their place of origin. This type of globalisation may have unforeseen consequences: mnemiopsis, for example, have appeared and proliferated in some European waters. Also known as the sea walnut, mnemiopsis look like small, bell-shaped jellyfish and are about 5 cm tall; the problem is that they thrive on fish larvae and have no predators.

The Nausicaa Centre National de la Mer in Boulogne (France) has fitted us out with a very fine mesh net that can catch mnemiopsis. Sea conditions permitting, we tow the net at low speed for 20 minutes every day. Shaped like a funnel, the net collects creatures in a small container that we then empty into a highly transparent aquarium so that we can take photos, which we then send to the laboratory. The extensive basin at the stern makes the entire manoeuvre very easy, with TPS once more demonstrating her capacity to adapt to the most diverse missions. Until now (since, that is, we left Marchica) our catch has always been rich in larvae and strange little animals – and, unfortunately, fragments of plastic; but we have not found any traces of the unwanted mnemiopsis.

Talking of fishing, but the more traditional type that our crew has been eagerly anticipating, a superb tuna had the good sense to nibble on our hook and will keep us fed for three days.

On the evening of June 27, after three days of swift passage, we dropped anchor in a small bay on the island of Formentera before reaching Ibiza on the following day.

The Balearics are a mixture of good and bad.

The good consists of the sublime landscape and steep and rugged coastline with ochre rocks that gleam at sunset, a clear sea, ideal temperatures, and tiny creeks where it is fun to moor (often just with a small, understated, friendly beach hut). The worst part is the sometimes ill-conceived town planning with rows of low-rise hotels, torrents of loud music, jet skis buzzing about and inflatable banana boats straddled by strings of tourists screeching in paroxysms of excitement.

A large catamaran passes by: it must have seen better days and has now been converted into a floating platform piled high with a hundred or so screaming voices jiggling to the strains of disco music.

In the bay of Savina, which we crossed to go to Ibiza, 100-metre long super yachts are almost a common sight, outdoing one another with their embellishments that sometimes border on the ridiculous. A monstrosity of a water slide was set up on the side of one of these vessels: I imagine that there is a lift inside that effortlessly raises the bathers to the launching point. Antoine was photographing it and dreaming of a billionaire’s slide when a craft more suited to our means paid us a visit: a pedal boat with a slide!

But, although TPS is not the largest or most luxurious of vessels, it is still our TPS with its spacecraft appearance and its “wings” that we have kept deployed with the greatest success. And everybody wants his or her photo taken with the big solar boat in the background.

GdA, 30/6/14