TALLINN – An Estonian on Saturday began a trip around the world in a Toyota Land Cruiser that he turned into an amphibious vehicle that will cross land, oceans and rivers on a 60,000-km journey.
Mait Nilson, 44, a mechanical engineer who has been working on the project for the past seven years, waved goodbye to friends and fans as he set off from Tallinn on a journey that he estimates will take nine months.
“This has been my dream since I was a 10-year-old boy and spent summers at our cottage near Lake Peipsi in east Estonia,” Nilson said before his departure in the vehicle, which has been dubbed “Amphibear.” The vehicle looks much like a typical 4×4, aside from large attachments that allow it to metamorphose into a 10-meter-long boat. It sports an anchor, hydraulic pump and portable toilet. A stove has been built into the back door.
“The first sea crossing will be the Strait of Gibraltar, the first river crossing is in Senegal and the first ocean crossing is the Atlantic,” Nilson said. He will be joined by several co-pilots on different legs of the journey. The trip will pass through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, the U.S., Canada and Russia.
“Amphibear can cover 120 nautical miles in a day in ideal conditions. Most legs last less than five days and can be covered when the weather forecast is good. On land, the car-boat can drive at speeds of up to 110 kph,” Nilson said.
“So far I have spent around 200 hours at sea with my amphibious car,” he added. “As an amphibious vehicle, Amphibear has some disadvantages when compared to a catamaran or a boat. It has a higher center of gravity, less room for crew and equipment. Its big advantage is low wind drag, meaning less risk to capsize due to wind.”