Last year, after it became the first solar-powered boat to circumnavigate the globe, the Turanor Planetsolar could have taken its 5,500 square feet of photovoltaic cells and eight tons of lithium-ion batteries and sailed off into the sunset.
Instead it is becoming a scientific research ship, at least for the summer. The boat, a 100-foot, $17 million catamaran that was dreamed up by a Swiss eco-adventurer and bankrolled by a German businessman, will cruise the Gulf Stream studying the role of atmospheric aerosols and phytoplankton in regulating climate, under the direction of Martin Beniston, a climatologist at the University of Geneva.
The research cruise, with five crew members and up to four researchers aboard, began in Miami several weeks ago and will stop in Newfoundland and Iceland as it tracks the northeasterly current. The voyage is expected to end in Bergen, Norway, in August.