Solar-powered superyacht PlanetSolar embarks on new research mission
by Tom Isitt
This summer, a group of research scientists from Greece and Switzerland will take part in the TerraSubmersa expedition in the Argolic Gulf in Greece using a unique solar-powered superyacht converted into a research vessel.
Buoyed by the success of the DeepWater expedition carried out along the Gulf Stream in the spring of 2013, the University of Geneva and record-breaking superyacht MS Tûranor PlanetSolar are launching TerraSubmersa this summer to explore the prehistoric landscapes submerged in the Argolic Gulf in Greece, in an attempt to find traces of human activity.
At the end of the last ice age, around 20,000 years ago, sea level was considerably lower than it is today. By studying these submerged prehistoric landscapes, archaeologists can reconstitute the environments that have disappeared under water and comprehend the interactions between prehistoric man and the sea. These studies will enable scientists to identify the mechanisms of population settlement in coastal areas.
Completely transformed into a scientific laboratory for the DeepWater expedition carried out in 2013, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar, the largest solar-powered catamaran in the world, will again be a seaborne home for scientists. Thus, an iconic 21st century catamaran, a symbol of modern technology, will lead the search into the past on an expedition that may well be able to re-write the history of the very first man-made boats.
The vessel will mainly be used for carrying out geophysical measurements which will enable the scientists to reconstruct the topography of the former coastal areas and to identify possible traces of human activity. The Alkyon, one the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research’s vessels will also be associated to the project. The work will involve the use of leading-edge equipment (a multi-beam echo sounder, sidescan sonar, GPS, etc.).
All this research work will be preceded by three ports of call, starting on 1 August, 2014: Eretria, Athens and Nafplio. At each stopover, there will be events organised for the general public, both adults and children (lunches, visits, private meetings, etc.). The two following weeks will be devoted entirely to the scientific research.