ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A longtime endurance runner and peace activist whose latest goal was to reach Bermuda in a homemade floating “Hydro Pod” was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday after he began suffering from fatigue.
Coast Guard air crew were able to safely pick up Reza Baluchi and the bubble Saturday morning, Coast Guard spokeswoman Marilyn Fajardo said in a statement. He was transported to a nearby Coast Guard station and found to be uninjured, Fajardo said.
A statement on Baluchi’s website said the Iranian exile had planned to make the 1,033-mile trip in his self-designed bubble to raise money “for children in need” and “to … inspire those that have lost hope for a better future.”
Baluchi has made headlines many times before with previous efforts to break long-distance running and cycling records , including one six-month journey in which he ran around the perimeter of the United States, and a seven-year bike trip that he said brought him across 55 countries on six continents. His self-professed mission is to promote world peace and unity. His perimeter run was to raise money for a children’s hospital, according to his website.
Baluchi was granted asylum in the United States in 2003 after being arrested in Iran for so-called pro-Western and anti-Islamic activities, including eating during the holy month of Ramadan, according to his lawyer at the time, Suzannah Maclay. Baluchi served 1 1/2 years in jail for associating with “counterrevolutionaries” and was hung from a tree by handcuffs for carrying a prohibited movie, Maclay said. The Coast Guard described him as a U.S. Citizen.
The “Hydro Pod” is a large bubble made of 3-mm- (0.11-inch)-thick plastic, Baluchi’s website, “Run With Reza” says. The bubble, which he propelled forward by running inside and pushing it with his arms, was housed in a large aluminum-type frame studded at intervals with inflated soccer balls. A man who appears on a video during the bubble’s construction compares it to a hamster wheel.
According to the site, Baluchi planned to run in the bubble in the mornings, cool off in the sea while leashed to the floating sphere, and sleep in a hammock inside it at night. In addition to the protein bars the Coast Guard said it found in his bubble, he planned to catch and eat fish, the site said.
Officials originally received a report of Baluchi floating in the bubble on Wednesday. The Coast Guard arrived on the scene about 70 nautical miles east of St. Augustine to find him disoriented and inquiring how to get to Bermuda. Crew members conveyed the dangers of the proposed trip and asked Baluchi to end it.
He refused, but activated his locator beacon Saturday because of fatigue, Fajardo said.