The MS Turanor Planet Solar, the world's largest solar-powered boat which was launched in March 2010, became the first solar-powered electric vehicle to sail around the globe in May 2012. Its new mission, however, could be another important milestone for the boat which is currently being used by the University of Geneva (UNIGE) in Switzerland as a marine research laboratory.
On Monday, the vessel which measures 35 meters in length and covered by more than 500 square meters of solar panels with about 100 KW capacity, sailed in Greece's Piraeus port to participate in an ambitious archeological mission off the Peloponnese peninsula coasts to find traces of what could be Europe's oldest human settlement.
The solar-powered ship, which has a maximum speed of 26 kilometer per hour, will be used by archeologists for the TerraSubmersa expedition, which was organized by the archeology museum Latenium in Neuchatel, UNIGE, Swiss School of Archaeology in Greece, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, or HCMR, and Greece's Service for Underwater Antiquities, and aims to study the seabed of the Argolic Gulf in the Aegean Sea and Franchthi cave, which overlooks the Argolic Gulf, with the hope of findings traces of the first human settlements in Europe.
Among the specific objectives of the expedition, which will be led by Julien Beck, from University of Geneva's classical archeology department, is to investigate the prehistoric landscapes that are now submerged in the Argolic Gulf waters. The researchers plan to reconstruct these landscapes and look for potential traces of human activity. The researchers will use MS Tûranor PlanetSolar for taking geophysical measurements which they will use to create a model of prehistoric coastal zones.
Laurenz Baumer, from University of Geneva's department of archaeology, said that the area submerged in water today used to be a valley as the sea level was much lower during the prehistoric period. Archeologists likewise believe that people inhabited Franchthi cave for thousands of years and it may be one of the first prehistoric settlements in Europe.
"The ship will reprise her role as a scientific platform, lending her exclusive features in service of the UNIGE researchers, whose goal is to explore the prehistoric landscapes submerged by the water, in order to reconstruct them and identify any potential traces of human activity," reads the PlanetSolar website.
The Archeological excavations for the TerraSubmersa expedition will officially start on August 11 and is expected to last for 12 days.