Solar-powered boat crosses Atlantic

The Swiss catamaran Sun21 reached port in Miami last week after its 117-day, entirely solar-powered voyage across the Atlantic. Instead of a sail, the 46 foot Sun21 boasts a 48-panel solar array, providing enough engine power to keep the boat moving at roughly 10 km/h, day or night. Considering that very few vessels rely solely on wind power anymore, and that without its solar panels the Sun21 would've needed about 8,200 liters of diesel fuel to make the crossing, solar-powering boats could make a larger impact than you might think. Also, it sounds like a pretty smooth way to travel, according to one of the crew members: "There's hardly any vibration, the solar panels provide us with shade and, unlike a sailing boat, we make good headway even when there's no wind."

In other Atlantic alterna-crossing news, British madmen Edward Baylis and Stuart Turnbull rowed their way across the Atlantic a few months ago -- in Winter. Leaving December 20 and facing "house-sized waves" and starvation rations, they packed lightly in hopes of breaking the world record and getting across in just 40 days. But they didn't bring enough food -- they were consuming only 1,100 calories and spending at least 7,000 per day -- and may not have made it across at all if they hadn't run into some altruistic Dutchmen somewhere between the Canary Islands and Antigua. As a result, they overshot their mark by more than 23 days; it took them 67 to cross. I say a solar-powered crossing beats the stuffing out of a pec-and-bicep-powered crossing.

The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.


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