National Geographic : 2011 Mar
TECHNOLOGY PHOTO: PLANETSOLAR. NGM MAPS Solar Magellan? A month into their quest to be the first to circle the world in a sun-powered ship, the European crew of the Tûranor PlanetSolar drew the curiosity of some locals in the Atlantic Ocean. "We stayed next to four magnificent sperm whales for nearly 20 minutes," says the ship's master, Patrick Marchesseau. "They seemed completely at ease with the silent visitor." That visitor was a 95-ton catamaran that had embarked in September on a journey expected to last about eight months. The $17.5-million craft can hit up to 12 knots and aims to show the potential of clean-energy travel. Yet some seafaring traditions die hard: With the first crossing of the Equator, says project leader Gerhard Beinhauer, comes a fitting celebration "with King Neptune, assisted by Helios, the god of the sun." ---Erin Friar McDermott HOW IT WORKS 1 Sunlight hits 825 solar panels---some of them on extendable wings--- that can generate up to 93.5 kilowatts. 2 Lithium-ion batteries in both floats power the ship at night and for up to three sunless days. 3 A computer controls the flow of energy to the batteries and the motors that rotate the yacht's six-foot propellers. THE ROUTE During its attempt to circumnavigate the world, the Tûranor PlanetSolar aims to remain mostly within 30 latitudinal degrees of the Equator to maximize its exposure to the sun. 0mi 3,000 0 km 3,000 SCALE AT THE EQUATOR Completed route as of Dec. 7, 2010 Planned remaining route Begin: Sept. 27, 2010 Monaco Miami Cancún San Francisco Sydney Singapore Abu Dhabi PACIFIC OCEAN PACIFIC OCEAN ATLANTIC OCEAN INDIAN OCEAN EQUATOR 30°N 30°S Propelled solely by the sun, the world's largest solar yacht set off from Monaco last fall.