MIAMI (NYTIMES) - Even in a state accustomed to strange things washing ashore - like cocaine bricks, corpses, sharks and unexploded military ordnance - the floating contraption that beached itself in Florida over the weekend had the authorities doing a double take.
A man popped out of the top hatch of the contraption, a makeshift human hamster wheel. He had made it only 25 miles (40km) on what was supposed to be a 1,000-plus-mile journey from St Augustine, Florida, to New York, using the power of his two legs and, if all had gone according to plan, the Gulf Stream.
The man, Reza Baluchi, said in an interview on Monday (July 26) that he had spent thousands of dollars and nearly a decade on making improvements to the homemade craft, called a hydro pod. It was equipped with a satellite phone, a water filtration system, a solar array, neoprene wet suits and a stockpile of granola and ramen noodles for when he embarked from St Augustine last Friday (July 23) for what he expected would be a three-week trip.
But the next day, when Baluchi, 49, realised that his backup GPS device and charging cables were missing - he said they were stolen - he cut short his Homeric odyssey.
Baluchi, a former professional cyclist who was born in Iran and was granted asylum in the United States, said that he was hoping to use the attention from his trip to raise money to help homeless people and for other charitable causes. Over the years, he said, he has received puzzled reactions - including from the Coast Guard - after performing similar stunts on the water.
Baluchi seemed unable to fathom life without the craft.
"Now, I'm dead," Baluchi said, referring to what would happen if he were to lose his hydro pod. "I don't have a car. I put everything in my life in it."
Baluchi, who is a father and was once homeless himself, is no stranger to tests of endurance. He previously drew attention for a cross-country run for charity.
In an earlier model of the hydro pod, he said, he travelled nearly 400 miles in the Pacific Ocean, reaching Santa Catalina Island. But the contraption was destroyed several years ago off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, he said.