Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Nothing (All That) New Under the Sun: Solar-Powered Shipi Visits North America

The New York Times has a fascinating video this morning about a solar-powered ship visiting New York.  The Turanor Planetsolar circumnavigated the globe last year, and is now following the sun in the Gulf Stream, studying pollution and ocean life.

The $17 million catamaran wasn't built for research but has been modified to gather samples and reading.  In the video, captain Gérard d’Aboville explains how in addition to wind and currents, he must plot the ship's course taking into account projected sunshine.  The ship's batteries when fully charged can power it for 72 hours, but better safe than sorry, he says, so sometimes he charts a detour to stay in the sun.

Of course, using energy from the sun is nothing new in navigation.  Sailing ships are dependent on the wind which is a product of differential heating and cooling of the earth's atmosphereby the sun.  But note, too, that the ship is flying the Swiss flag even though the land-locked nation has never been thought of as a martime power.  Don't underestimate what small nation can do, though. The other picture is a drawing of a Portuguese carvel from the 15th century when that small country on the edge of Europe set off to explore the world.  :

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