Hans Peter Arp, scientist for one of the JPI Oceans study programm, entrusts to you his feeling about the Race for Water solar vessel.
“Imagine that you are standing on a large deck, completely covered with solar panels, and beyond that is only the sea and the sky. There was a moment in the deep blue waters off the coast of Cuba like this, when I contemplated this sight, feeling the gentle rise and fall of the oceans, at this interface where this technological achievement of man was easing over the surface of the ocean, leaving no damaging ecological trace. It left me with a sense of immense freedom. It was hard not to feel optimistic for the future of humanity. With boats like this in future, we can advance, explore, and experience the world, without causing harm.
That was just the top deck. The Race for Water crew have put an amazing amount of work and energy to making this vessel a scientific platform. Down below, the space is vast and bright, in fact much of it is yacht-level luxury. At the very roomy rear-deck is where we launched and deployed our sampling equipment. Though we did not yet need large equipment, there would be room enough to bring it in future. In addition, there was a spacious cabin that served as ‘wet laboratory’, having access to running water (fresh, using the solar powered desalination system on board), sinks, refrigeration, electricity (solar powered, of course!) and large tables to place all our laboratory equipment. It is a well-thought-out and pleasant research platform.
A huge highlight was the crew itself. The captain and crew went out of their way to help us get our samples, from driving that extra mile, to coming up with solutions to sudden problems that emerged, to giving us several excellent hands on deck. They often gave the impression that they were there exclusively to assist the scientists. There was an excellent level of attention paid to safety at all times, particularly during sampling. Outside of the scientific work, the crew was full of humour and kindness. The food was great too! Being a predominantly French crew, the food they prepared was always a mix of locally bought ingredients and French haut cuisine. We had many pleasant evenings with the crew both on the boat and off. Because the crew was so dedicated to the cause of understanding and minimizing the harm of plastics, it gave us a shared purpose and common ground. It is rare during scientific expeditions at sea to have a crew that is so in touch with our research needs, so enthusiastic, and so accommodating.
The platform was also an excellent opportunity to gain attention for our research, both locally where we were doing the research, and abroad. The Race for Water media team documented with high quality images, videos and interviews our sampling mission, and with the help of local contacts, ensured that our research was shared with the local community. Further, the attractiveness of being on the boat made several other researchers interested in the JPI Oceans WEATHER-MIC project. I have to admit that many of my colleagues are quite envious with my collaboration with Race for Water. In this way, Race for Water helped us raise awareness among the widest possible audience, from the public, to stake holders, to research funders.
The Race for Water vessel is how I want to see the future of marine technology, the future of marine research, and the future of humanity. It is initiatives like Race for Water, and their flagship vessel, that we need to address the ultimate and common aim of preserving our oceans, fragile as they are.” Hans Peter Arp