Piccard dynasty roam unknowns in sky, sea, sun

His grandfather soared to the highest altitude reached by men in a balloon while his father travelled to the deepest point underwater.

Bertrand Piccard himself circled the globe in the first non-stop hot-air balloon flights in 1999.

But the Swiss adventurer has now added another record to his illustrious family name with his solar-powered plane project Solar Impulse, which on Thursday completed a pioneering non-stop flight through day and night.

In an interview with AFP, Piccard explained where he acquired his taste for adventure.

"It comes from the taste for exploring the unknowns, exploring new domains, going further than we imagine is possible," he said.

"It's what I have seen throughout my childhood with my grandfather and my father, and it's true that's what interests me in life."

His father, Jacques Piccard, holds the record for travelling to the deepest point underwater.

Jacques - who died in 2008 at the age of 85 - and US Navy officer Don Walsh reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, 10,916 metres (35,813 feet) below sea level on January 23, 1960 - the farthest point underwater in a bathyscaphe submarine.

He also built four submarines, including the first tourist submarine that carried passengers deep into Lake Geneva in 1964 and carried on deep sea exploration up to the age of 82.

Dubbed Captain Nemo, Jacques Piccard witnessed living organisms at a depth of over 11,000 metres below sea level, a discovery that led to a ban in nuclear waste dumping into the ocean.

Bertrand's grandfather, Auguste Piccard, twice beat the record for reaching the highest altitude in a balloon, in 1931-32, and invented the bathyscaphe.

Tintin's creator Herge modelled the character Professor Cuthbert Calculus in the comic series after Auguste.

The physicist was also deeply interested in harnessing solar energy.

"My grandfather had written in 1943 in a major scientific article on photovoltaic energy," noted Piccard.

"I had always heard my father and grandfather talking about their environmental concerns. For them, it was very important to protect the environment and to use technology to do so," the 51-year-old recalled.

"Today, this technology exists, that's finally the big difference. In the past we hoped to find these solutions while today these solutions exist."

Piccard started conceiving the idea of a solar plane after completing his pioneering non-stop round the world flight in a hot-air balloon with Briton Brian Jones in 1999.

He explained that the duo had embarked on their flight with 3.7 tonnes of liquid propane, but landed with just 40 kilogrammes.

"I told myself, it's not sustainable. I would have liked to remain in flight as long as I wished and to fly without fuel. The idea came at this moment."

Over the past seven years, the adventurer assembled a 70-strong team to develop Solar Impulse, a lightweight aircraft with a wingspan comparable to a jumbo jet that bears 12,000 solar cells to harness the sun's power.

For Piccard, "the goal is to take to the air with no fuel. The goal is to show that we can be much more independent from fossil energy than people usually think."

"Eleven years ago, technologies to lower the impact on the environment, the technologies for saving fossil fuels were not so efficient. That was the beginning.

"Now we have the capacity of the clean technology that is available, but it is not used often because there is a lack of political will to push it."

He noted that if governments were to impose fuel consumption limits on vehicles, it could drive manufacturers to produce greener cars.

"Other examples are the insulation of buildings - if you insulate all homes, you give work to many people. You boost the economy and at the same time, you save a lot of energy in your home.

"And that's profitable - you can make more money than at the stock market if you insulate your home," he claimed.

With Solar Impulse's overnight flight out of the way, Piccard is setting his sights on the prospect of transatlantic and round the world flights in 2013-2014.

He stressed that "solar is a way of talking about" environmental challenges and the potential of clean energy.

"It's a way of motivating people," he said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor