Man-Made Hamster Wheel Tries to Cross the Atlantic Ocean

It's called a "Hydro Pod vessel."

An extreme runner is in a bit of trouble following an ocean voyage. The runner, Reza Baluchi, was trying to traverse the Atlantic Ocean in a structure that resembles an adult-sized hamster wheel when the U.S. Coast Guard spotted him.

According to a criminal complaint, the Coast Guard found Baluchi while transiting the Atlantic Ocean 70 nautical miles off the coast of Georgia in preparation for Hurricane Franklin. The officers saw Baluchi’s “Hydro Pod vessel” and later deemed that Baluchi was conducting a manifestly unsafe voyage when they discovered his vessel was afloat as a result of wiring and buoys.

After about three days of negotiations that included two Coast Guard cutters, knife threats and a fake bomb, officers were able to disembark Baluchi from his makeshift vessel. Three days later, officers brought Baluchi ashore at a Coast Guard base in Miami Beach, Florida. The complaint did not mention what happened to the Hydro Pod vessel.

Baluchi is charged with obstruction of a boarding and a violation of a captain of the port order. But this isn’t even the first time that Baluchi has encountered the Coast Guard in a similar homemade vessel.

Baluchi, who said he learned the automobile mechanic trade as a child, attempted similar voyages in 2014, 2016 and 2021 and was served a captain of the port order in 2015 that said his vessel was found to be manifestly unsafe. 

The order also mentioned requirements Baluchi would need to safely travel in his vessel, including clearing future voyages with a Coast Guard officer in charge of marine inspections and employing a support vessel. According to the 2023 complaint, Baluchi did not comply with the order.

So why exactly was he doing this? According to Baluchi’s website, the trek across the ocean was a leg in his charitable “Run with Reza” mission that aimed to span three continents and was dedicated to “Iran, women, life and freedom.”

A journey tracker on the website shows that Baluchi started in Southern California in January, ran across the country and began the water portion of the trip in late August. A promo video for the mission shows that he planned to reach London via the Hydro Pod vessel and continue running through Europe and the Middle East.

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