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Frenchman Floats Across the Atlantic in a Giant Barrel

Savin's handmade barrel offered roughly 65 square feet of living space. TESA photo.

For some reason, barrels are the vehicle of choice for people doing unconventional things in the water. Whether you're going over Niagara Falls or floating across the Atlantic, it's barrel or bust. Jean-Jacques Savin, a 72 year-old Frenchman, followed in the esteemed footsteps of history's barrel-riders by floating 2,930 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 127 days and six hours. According to his expedition's Facebook page, he had originally planned to make the crossing in a mere 90 days, but was slowed by weaker-than-expected winds.

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Savin set out (very slowly) from Spain's Canary Islands on Dec. 26th, 2018, and made landfall on St. Eustatius, a small Caribbean island, on May 2nd, 2019. He filtered his own drinking water and caught fish along the way, and celebrated his 72nd birthday at sea with foie-gras and white wine.

Contrary to what one might imagine, crossing the Atlantic in a well-stocked barrel is mundane compared to some of Savin's inspirations. Englishman Timothy Severin crossed the ocean in an ox-hide raft, and Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl did it in a boat built of papyrus. Most absurdly, Alain Bombard completed the crossing in 1952 in an inflatable rubber boat with virtually no provisions. Bombard self-reportedly survived by eating raw fish and drinking seawater. 

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