SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 29, 1998 — Despite jet travel, worldwide mass media, and the Internet, there are still places on Earth where people have never visited–either physically or virtually.
In response to that challenge, a German sailor on a Microsoft-equipped research vessel called Starship plans to spend the next couple of years circumnavigating the globe to seek out many of the world’s most remote sites. This 1,000-day journey, which began in Seattle on September 17 and continues today as Starship makes its first port of call in San Francisco, will document wildlife populations and highlight global environmental problems.
The project started as a personal adventure for Michael Poliza, a 40-year-old German computer entrepreneur. Poliza initially planned a worldwide pleasure trip with his girlfriend. The excursion mushroomed into something much larger after numerous corporate sponsors signed on, including Olympus, Sony Germany, Deutsche Telekom, and Microsoft Germany. Microsoft is providing the technical backbone of the 75-foot vessel, which was built and outfitted at the Northern Marine shipyard in Anacortes, Wash.
Maritime Digital Nervous System
Thanks to the technological acumen of a group of Microsoft volunteers, the ship is a high-tech tour-de-force. It uses primarily off-the-shelf components based on Microsoft technology, “a real testament to the power of the software this company has produced,” said Windows Lead Product Manager Bill Koszewski, who helped set up the ship this summer.
Microsoft equipped the Starship with the latest software and networking technology. Microsoft Studios engineers wired the ship to enable PCs to capture audio, still images from the ship’s six cameras, and video from shipboard systems such as radar and sonar.
The Microsoft-provided technology will enable a Web-cast of the voyage and allow crew members to transmit live data and send daily status reports via e-mail. The information will be published on http://www.ms-starship.com and by Europe’s largest newsmagazine, Stern–one of the major financial underwriters of the $5 million voyage.
Shipboard Microsoft software includes a dual Pentium processor NT server running Small Business Server and a 100Mbit Ethernet backbone. That infrastructure connects six built-in PC workstations and various laptops that run Windows 98, Windows NT and Office. An onboard intranet managed with Microsoft FrontPage will capture the ship’s log and allow the crew and guests to communicate and archive information.
An Inmarsat B satellite provides a real-time connection to the Web at 64Kbit. It also enables the exchange of e-mail and Web pages, as well as full-motion video produced by the ship’s onboard editing suite.
“Every hour we’ll grab a variety of data, including GPS position, current temperature, and images from the monitors and cameras,” said Christian Stark, an Office program manager who volunteered his time to coordinate the shipboard software technologies. “We’ll then put the text and image files into a server upload folder. Twice a day, the Small Business Server will dial out, connect to the ISP via the satellite, synch e-mail, and upload these files to various Web sites, which will publish the data.”
Staffed by a crew of journalists, photographers, and a number of world-renowned scientists and marine experts, the ship will traverse the world, making visits to some remote and sometimes inhospitable locales. Stops include:
The Kerguelen Islands in the Indian Ocean, which are surrounded by ice most of the year and accessible only in the summer months.
Remote locations on Irian Jaya, the western half of New Guinea and adjacent islands.
The South Sea island of Tuvalu, a land mass that is slowly emerging because of global warming.
High-Tech on the High Seas
Stark said the ship will act as a floating testimonial to the power of Microsoft technology. “We want to use it as a technology showcase to give customers the opportunity to see how our technology is used in a powerful and unique way.”
To find out more about the mission, send e-mail to the captain, or read daily journal entries by the crew, visit http://www.ms-starship.com .