June 6, 2008 Establishing a global program to study and address ecological issues from the South Pole to South America is admirable. Basing the initiative from the world’s largest expeditionary sailing ship, kitted out with an impressive array of green technology, is doing it with style. The Pangaea Expedition is a four year journey headed by Mike Horn, which will enlist a total of 144 young people from around the world in a variety of projects, including ocean clean-up, biodiversity monitoring, and improving the sanitary and hygiene conditions in villages.

Mike Horn has so many expeditions under his belt he resembles something of a modern day Indiana Jones – but instead of punching Nazis, his fight is against the more insidious enemy of global warming. Horn’s previous journeys have included a circumnavigation of the Earth around the equator, a circumnavigation of the Arctic Circle, a night expedition to the North Pole, and the ascent of two summits greater than 8,000 meters without the use of additional oxygen. The Pangaea expedition, however, might be the most ambitious one to date – because the goal is not simply to traverse the extreme territories of the globe, but to raise awareness on climate change and encourage a new generation to take an active role in the preservation of their planet. The expedition commences on October 9, with the ship sailing from Punta Arenas in Chile to Antarctica. The route then moves through Australasia, China, Russia, the North Pole, Greenland, and North America, before finally arriving back in Punta Arenas.

Over 22,000 hours of design were pumped into making a ship that can navigate through tropics and rivers as easily as it can through polar regions, without resorting to solutions that were overly harmful to the environment. The resulting ship, christened Pangaea, is an amazingly versatile piece of work. The 35-meter two master vessel has 600 square meters of sailcloth and 35 meters of mast. It can hold 30 people, and has a 16-seat conference room.

While the sails will provide the impetus for most of the journey, they are inadequate for carving through sea ice. In order to navigate through polar terrain, the Pangaea is equipped with BlueTec engines, which provide comparatively low emissions. The batteries of the boat are charged by a combination of solar and hydrogen fuel cell power. Solar panels cover the surface of the cockpit, and provide the energy required for electrolysis, which separates water into its hydrogen and oxygen components. When the hydrogen is used as fuel, the only emission is water.

The lighting system on the boat uses LED bulbs to reduce voltage requirements. A secondary, dimmed light system is also in place, to further reduce power consumption. The Pangaea has placed a large emphasis on recycling. The kitchen has separate compartments for different types of waste to make recycling simple and efficient, and the boat is equipped with large nets to collect bottles and bags from the water. Even the ship itself, which is made out of aluminium, will eventually be recycled – as recycling aluminium uses just 5% of the energy required to produce it.

Don’t let the environmental aspect fool you into thinking it’s going to be some sort of floating hippy van. The Pangaea has a cutting edge media and broadcast centre that can communicate high quality AV content from anywhere in the world. The media centre allows post-production of audio and video content on different workstations, professional HD Video, audio and DVD creation, content storage, content conversion, content copying, content backup, video conferencing and IT infrastructure with office applications, e-mail, internet and instant messaging using intranet.

The Pangaea expedition is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz as part of the company’s “TrueBlueSolutions” sustainability strategy. Mike said “It is a treasure hunt to uncover the solutions I know are there. By working together with, ingenuity, drive and resourcefulness, the energies of our individual efforts can complement each other and create a collective momentum to inspire change. Together we can tap the world’s most powerful energy source – the younger generation.”

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