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Man arrested after trying to cross Atlantic in human hamster wheel

A Florida man is facing federal charges after trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a vessel he created.
Man arrested after trying to cross Atlantic in human hamster wheel
Posted at 6:38 PM, Sep 07, 2023

A Florida man wanting to essentially walk on water just can't get past one obstacle: The U.S. Coast Guard, which arrested the 51-year-old after a dispute over his method of transportation.

Reza Baluchi was aboard a homemade, human-sized hamster wheel in the Atlantic Aug. 26 when the Coast Guard spotted him amid preparations for Hurricane Franklin, a criminal complaint filed in Miami said.

Some 70 miles off the coast of Georgia, the 51-year-old told officers he was headed to London by way of the "Hydro Pod vessel." But after inspecting the human-powered vessel, afloat from buoys and wiring, the Coast Guard had to halt his more than 4,000-mile journey. 

This didn't sit well with Baluchi, who said he had Florida registration to pilot the vessel, though he wasn't able to locate it for the officers asking.

When officers told Baluchi he had to disembark his "manifestly unsafe" vessel onto their small boat, he told them he "was armed with a 12-inch knife and would attempt to commit suicide should the USCG officers attempt to remove him from the Vessel."

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Attempts to get Baluchi to disembark his vessel continued over the next several days as he continued threatening to hurt himself and even displaying two knives. He also threatened to blow himself and the vessel up while holding wires in his hand, which the Coast Guard took as a valid threat, the complaint said. This prompted officers to contact the U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit to determine the alleged bomb's radius.

Coast Guard vessels offering Baluchi support, food, water and hurricane predictions arrived on Aug. 28, according to the complaint. Though he continued to refuse disembarking orders, he told officers the bomb wasn't real, the complaint said.

Finally after a three-day standoff, Coast Guard officers were able to safely disembark Baluchi from the hamster wheel on Aug. 29, bringing him ashore in Miami Beach on Sept. 1. 

He was charged Tuesday with obstruction of boarding and a violation of a captain of the port order. Court filings show he posted a $250,000 bond.

This wasn't the first time Baluchi's had a voyage intercepted by the Coast Guard.

He attempted a voyage on a similar homemade vessel in 2014. The next year, the Coast Guard served him a captain of the port order, barring him from any future voyages on homemade vessels. But he was intercepted on another one in 2016, and again in 2021. 


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