The original idea had been to cross the Pacific to reach Japan in time for the Olympic Games, but the Covid-19 crisis forced ENERGY OBSERVER to revise its plans. On May 8, the hydrogen-powered ship set sail from Fort-de-France for two months of fully autonomous navigation in the Caribbean. Faced with the difficulties caused by the public health crisis, ENERGY OBSERVER made the necessary changes and was able to continue its mission.
In spite of the public health crisis and difficulties in re-stocking with fuel and food, ENERGY OBSERVER sails on! After sailing from Brittany to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, the hydrogen-powered vessel arrived in Martinique, in the Caribbean, following a 5,000-nautical mile Atlantic crossing taking 34 days.
“It is a challenge for them, because they weren’t supposed to be away for as long as that, they are far from their families and had to find ways to be self-sufficient to produce their own drinking water and optimize bunkering, as some countries even refused to allow the boat to remain at anchor,” commented the vessel’s captain, Victorien Erussard, on the ENERGY OBSERVER website in April.
The founder and captain, Victorien Erussard, was not on board the boat when it departed. He joined the vessel at Fort-de-France, Martinique, with expedition leader and documentary-maker Jérôme Delafosse for the second leg of the reorganized voyage. On May 8, along with a crew of six other people, they cast off on a two-month journey across the Caribbean to French Guiana, aiming after that to sail into the Amazon rainforest. Members of the crew include a deep-sea diver, a doctor in marine biology and an explorer.
ENERGY OBSERVER is accustomed to encountering cargo boats and cruise ships, but she has been alone on the seas since March, surrounded by dolphins, whales and turtles. “Because of Covid-19, there’s no sea traffic at all, nature is omnipresent everywhere,” explained Jérôme Delafosse to the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD). The crew is continuing to produce videos and articles about the natural environment and the innovative technologies they are experimenting with. Thanks to the on-board equipment – including drones filming up to 100 meters below the surface and cinema cameras – everyone is able to enjoy the views.
“The aim is to get as close as possible to nature in order to learn from it and imagine the world of the future that everyone is talking about without anyone knowing what it will be,” added Delafosse to the JDD. One of the goals of the mission remains to raise awareness of the urgent need for an ecological transition, showing the beauty and fragility of biodiversity, when the spread of Covid-19 may have been aided by the destruction of the natural environments of certain species. The current crisis even strengthens the motivation to promote solutions for more virtuous modes of production: “The fact that this public health crisis has very quickly turned into a global economic and social crisis shows that everything is interlinked, reflecting the fact that the three pillars of sustainable development are interdependent,” pointed out Victorien Erussard.
ENERGY OBSERVER operates in line with its ecological ambitions, and the energy balance of the first part of the voyage is positive. Thanks to the excess production made possible by the new vertical solar panels, to the new OceanWings and to improved hydrogen efficiency, the vessel was able to sail without refueling, in spite of heavy energy consumption due to electric cooking, computers, touch screens, refrigerators, etc. Overall, ENERGY OBSERVER generated a total energy surplus of approximately 500 kWh over the period of her transatlantic crossing.
“This transatlantic crossing has validated the unprecedented levels of performance and reliability of this self-sufficient energy mini-network. So much so that we could now confidently envisage weeks of exploration in the most remote biodiversity sites, from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos, even with stopovers prohibited and the majority of boats grounded at the dock. That’s lockdown at sea, complete autonomy thanks to the wind, the sun… and the properties of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe,” state the ENERGY OBSERVER team in a news release.