Scientists Sail Among The Tree-Tops With This Canopy Raft

Exploration of forest canopies is no easy task — since researchers can't cross between tree-tops, they have to clamber up trunks, explore, descend, and then climb the next. Or they did, until the advent of the SolVin Bretzel Canopy Raft.

A canopy raft is, basically, an inflatable PVC pontoon frame with high-tension netting spread between. They're pre-inflated and lifted into positioned via airship, dirigible, or helicopter. Once in position, the rafts are set down among the tree-tops, allowing researchers unfettered access to the uppermost reaches of the forest ecosystem. Scientists can observe from the raft, rappel from it too — they can even live on its temporary floor for several days at a time.

The pretzel shape of the raft in the top image is known as a SolVin Bretzel, created by architect Gilles Ebersolt (yes, like "Pretzel" but in German), a recent design that replaced the previous, octagonal raft shape. Its unique 400sqm area offers numerous advantages over its predecessors. It's a more structurally sound platform that maximises surface area, preventing any outlying section from folding or collapsing. It's also extremely lightweight — meaning it doesn't crush the new growth of the canopy upon which it rests.

[Neat-O-Rama, Solva Plastics, Radeau Des Cimes, Gadling, Gilles Bersolt Designs (PDF)]

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