Having left St. John’s in Canada on August 6, the world’s largest solar boat, PlanetSolar, arrived in Europe on August 28, after crisscrossing the North Atlantic for 23 days and traveling 4598 kilometers. The collection of scientific data, carried as part of the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition, continued during the second 2013 transatlantic crossing.
Transformed into a scientific platform, the ship enabled a team of researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) to take advantage of her exclusive features in order carry out an exclusive campaign of physical and biological measurements along the Gulf Stream. A series of events will be held onboard the ship, which will remain moored in Oostende until August 30, before setting sail for London (United Kingdom).
The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar returned to the old continent after 23 days of navigation. At an average speed of 4.5 knots, travelling 4598 kilometers across the North Atlantic proved to be difficult in terms of navigation. “The weather conditions were particularly unfavorable during this crossing! The wind, first during our southern descent, then the current, and finally a much lower than average amount of sunshine in the region for this time of year!” said Gérard d’Aboville, captain of the ship.
The “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition’s last phase of measurements will begin in Oostende. “The final phase is of particular interest because data will be collected on the outskirts on an urban area. We have already observed some very interesting results around Boston. I look forward to discovering what measures will be taken around the British capital,” explains Jérôme Kasparian, UNIGE researcher and member of the expedition’s scientific committee.
Alongside the events dedicated to local authorities, the net destined for use during the floating plastic waste collection campaign (carried out in collaboration with Waste Free Oceans) will be tested during the Belgian stop.
Next, the ship will leave for London (United Kingdom), the stopover which will conclude the phase of exclusive measurements conducted as part of the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition.
The “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition
Launched in Florida in early June, the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition covered over 8,000 kilometers, using advanced instruments and the expertise of the UNIGE scientists to collect a continuous series of physical and biological measurements along the Gulf Stream, both in the water and in the air.
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 behavior of phytoplankton.