At almost 20 tons, PlanetSolar is the world's largest solar-powered boat, built with close to 5,600 square feet of solar cells. On its recent mission across the Atlantic, titled the PlanetSolar DeepWater expedition, the boat's crew gathered physical, chemical, and biological data that will be used to better understand interactions between the ocean and atmosphere. The data may also be used to model climate conditions and help biologists understand plankton and other forms of ocean migration.

Photograph by Anthony Collins/PlanetSolar

At almost 20 tons, PlanetSolar is the world's largest solar-powered boat, built with close to 5,600 square feet of solar cells. On its recent mission across the Atlantic, titled the PlanetSolar DeepWater expedition, the boat's crew gathered physical, chemical, and biological data that will be used to better understand interactions between the ocean and atmosphere. The data may also be used to model climate conditions and help biologists understand plankton and other forms of ocean migration.

Photograph by Anthony Collins/PlanetSolar

Sun and Water: Zero-Emissions Solar Cruising

Solar Boat
Solar Boat

At almost 20 tons, PlanetSolar is the world's largest solar-powered boat, built with close to 5,600 square feet of solar cells. On its recent mission across the Atlantic, titled the PlanetSolar DeepWater expedition, the boat's crew gathered physical, chemical, and biological data that will be used to better understand interactions between the ocean and atmosphere. The data may also be used to model climate conditions and help biologists understand plankton and other forms of ocean migration.

Photograph by Anthony Collins/PlanetSolar
Launch Day
Launch Day

Last year, PlanetSolar sailed for 584 days and completed the first solar-powered trip around the world. After that trip, the ship underwent major maintenance operations. This included the most significant change—the surface propellers are now completely submerged.

Photograph by PlanetSolar
First Leg
First Leg

The first leg of the journey was from the south of France to the coastal city of Rabat, Morocco, via the Mediterranean Sea and through the Strait of Gibraltar. The researchers were particularly interested in ocean vortexes—a phenomenon of large whirlpools that break away from the Gulf Stream and influence heat exchanges with the atmosphere and phytoplankton growth.

Photograph by PlanetSolar
Wave Riding
Wave Riding

Arriving at the Bouregreg Marina in Rabat, PlanetSolar's carbon fiber and epoxy resin hull cuts through rough seas. There were five crew members on board for the transatlantic journey, with an onshore crew of eight, including logistics managers, marketing, security, and the expedition’s medical doctor. Dr. Pascal Goulpié, the managing director and co-founder, was often at the mooring site to provide tours of the boat. When docked, the ship can hold 60 people.

Photograph by PlanetSolar
Longest Leg
Longest Leg

After Morocco, the ship stopped in Las Palmas on the Canary Islands, then made its longest trek without stopping. Over the next 22 days, it traveled about 3,100 nautical miles (3,600 miles) to the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, setting a world record for the fastest transatlantic crossing by a solar boat.

Photograph by PlanetSolar
Destination New York
Destination New York

On June 17, the catamaran pulled into New York City’s North Cove Marina after sailing under the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. It had traveled from Miami, where the DeepWater expedition began its measurements of the 5,000 miles of the Gulf Stream. This ocean current helps carry heat from the tropics to the polar regions in the North Atlantic, making it one of the most important regulators of the European and North American climates.

Photograph by Anthony Collins/PlanetSolar
Departing for Home
Departing for Home

The northernmost point on the voyage was Port Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada. Before crossing back to Europe, technical work was done on the boat and the scientific crew changed.

Photograph by Thi Anh Dao Le/PlanetSolar
London Calling
London Calling

PlanetSolar passing under London Bridge on Aug. 31. The boat docked at Canary Wharf for nine days.

Photograph by Ania Dabrowska/PlanetSolar
Tight Fit
Tight Fit

PlanetSolar traveled through the English Channel and headed toward Paris via the Seine River. Along the route there were some tight squeezes under bridges and within channels. The boat is 82 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 21 feet high. The design includes flaps on the sides that can be drawn in, reducing the overall width by 25 feet.

Photograph by Philip Plisson/PlanetSolar
City of Lights
City of Lights

PlanetSolar made its last stop on its transatlantic tour in Paris, where the boat docked for five days.

Photograph by Philip Plisson/PlanetSolar
Winter Rest
Winter Rest

PlanetSolar came to rest in Lorient, in the north of France, on Sept. 25, and will be on display there until March 2014. 

Photograph by Sellor – Henri Basset/PlanetSolar