Coast Guard Rescues Man at Sea in Inflatable Bubble

A long-distance runner and peace activist whose most recent trek was to take on the 1,033-mile trip from Florida to Bermuda in a homemade floating “Hydro Pod” was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday, October 6.

Reza Baluchi had hopes of completing his journey on manpower alone in order to raise funds for children through his charity, Plant Unity. However, his plans were deterred when the Coast Guard aircrew picked him up en route, 70 miles from St. Augustine in the Atlantic Ocean, due to fatigue.

The self-designed bubble Baluchi used for his risky trip is based around a 3mm-thick plastic zorb and like a paddle steamer, features outside paddles that haul it up on the water. Overall, its construction is similar to that of a hamster wheel’s as it’s housed in a large aluminum-type frame, studded throughout its stretch with inflated soccer balls.

The official mission was to trace the Bermuda Triangle—meaning 1,000 miles to Bermuda, 1,000 miles to Puerto Rico and finally, 1,000 miles back to his starting point in Florida. First signs of hardship occurred last week when the Coast Guard was called out following broadcast of a man in a bubble asking for directions to Bermuda.

The U.S. Coast Guard audio reads:

Coast Guard: “Based on this information, do you wish to stop your voyage and embark the Coast Guard vessel?”

Baluchi: “I did two years’ practice for this.”

Coast Guard: “I understand you’ve been practicing two years for this. So you are declining to stop your voyage at this time and embark the Coast Guard cutter?”

Baluchi: “I don’t know what I can do.”

Coast Guard: “You can either stop your voyage and get on the Coast Guard cutter and come back to shore or you can choose to continue on your trip, but the Coast Guard cutter will be leaving … ”

Baluchi: “Okay, I am continuing to go.”

Two days later, a tired Baluchi switched on his personal tracking device to call out the search-and-rescue crew once again. (Later, he told the Miami Herald that the switch was only turned on as a result of his disorientation, exclaiming, “I don’t quit.”) Although he is not injured, concerns are now being raised about the whereabouts of his greencard and passport as they were left behind with the bubble.

Speaking to the Miami-based publication, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer explained, “Our concern is not the bubble. Our main concern was to get him out of the water.” She continued, “It was caught up in the same Gulf Stream he was caught in. If it didn’t sink, or unless someone retrieved it, the stream shot it up north. It’s a very powerful current.”

According to the Associated Press, Baluchi was granted asylum in the U.S. after being arrested in Iran ten years ago for apparent “pro-Western and anti-Islamic activities.” He’s also not new to the media frenzy, making news in the past for trying to break running and cycling records, including a seven-year bike ride across 55 countries on six continents.

A statement on Baluchi’s website reads, “Call him “crazy” but [he] likes to roll the dice.”