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On June 25, the world's largest solar ship, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar (, was docked in Boston and hosted a symposium on water and climate change, "From the Alps to the Atlantic." This 35 meter by 23 meter catamaran is currently on the DeepWater expedition, harvesting data from the Gulf Stream after a maiden voyage around the world on the equator.  From Boston she is bound for St John's, Newfoundland, Reykjavik, Iceland and finally Bergen, Norway.  After the transatlantic DeepWater expedition, the PlanetSolar will work with the Waste Free Oceans Foundation ( to clean up European waters.  The research team from University of Geneva is headed by Professor Martin Beniston and consists of climatologists, physicists, and biologists.  

The PlanetSolar has 512m2 of PV cells and the largest civilian mobile battery in the world providing 20 kW of electricity, 17kW for two 60kW electric motors,  with 3 kW for life on board, for an average speed of 5 knots and a maximum speed of 14 knots.  The PlanetSolar is a traveling experiment laboratory and sampling station working on water issues around the world with room for a crew of nine.

The symposium included talks on the global water cycle including river systems (, glaciers and mountain water resources (, ocean ecology, acidification, phytoplankton and zooplankton biology, and other issues.

On December 12, 2012, Jean-Louis Etienne spoke at MIT.  He made a solo trek to the North Pole in the 1980s, the longest trek across the Antarctic, a journey that cannot now be replicated because of the loss of ice, and a 2010 Arctic ballon flight over the Arctic which showed many ice free patches even in April at the end of winter.  His next venture is the Polar Pod, a ship which will float around the world driven by the Antarctic circumpolar current, monitoring conditions. The Pod would take three years to traverse the current and is planned to be a permanent experiment and study platform.  The Polar Pod should be ready by 2015 if he can raise the $5 million needed, a third of which was pledged as of December 2012.

More information at


More experimental ocean vessels?

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