Is there an alternate timeline where America is known as the United States of the Pickle-Dealer? It seems unlikely, but there’s an element of truth to this half-sour hypothetical. Amerigo Vespucci didn’t discover the Americas, contrary to what the map-makers who named the continents believed, but his given name did end up lending itself to the so-called “new world.” And Ralph Waldo Emerson once called Vespucci “the pickle-dealer at Seville,” a derisive label that may have stretched the truth a bit, but pointed towards a very real part of the itinerant Italian’s biography.
Before traveling to the New World himself, Vespucci worked as a ship chandler—someone who sold supplies to seafaring merchants and explorers. These supplies included foods like meat, fish, and vegetables that had been pickled, which meant they would stay preserved beneath a ship’s deck for months. Without pickling, expeditions had to rely on dried foods and ingredients with naturally long shelf lives for sustenance. Much of the time, this limited diet wasn’t enough to provide crewmembers the nutrition they needed for the journey ahead. This made pickle sellers like Vespucci indispensable during the golden age of exploration. Vespucci even supplied Christopher Columbus’s later voyages across the Atlantic with his briny goods. So while he wasn’t the world’s most important explorer, Vespucci’s pickles may have changed history by preventing untold bouts of scurvy.
And pickles weren’t just enjoyed by 15th century sailors. From ancient Mesopotamia to New York deli counters, they’ve played a vital role in the global culinary scene. But where do pickles come from? How did the cucumber become the standard-issue pickling vegetable in the States? And what exactly is a pickle, anyway?
What Pickles a Pickle
The verb “to pickle” means to preserve something in a solution. That solution is often vinegar, which is, at its most basic, made of water and acetic acid. Most bacteria can’t flourish in highly acidic environments, so submerging a perishable food in vinegar helps create a sort of natural forcefield against the microbes that cause spoilage.
Another common pickling solution is brine, a.k.a. salty water. The brining method also relies on acid’s preserving properties, but the acid isn’t added by the pickle maker. It’s introduced by bacteria via a process called fermentation: Lactobacillus bacteria consume carbohydrates and excrete lactic acid, so if you leave a jar of vegetables in saltwater, those bacteria will eventually turn the briny solution into an acidic one.
Vegetables soaked in microbe excrement may sound unappetizing, but these bacteria and the acid they produce are perfectly safe to eat. They’re even beneficial. Lactic acid protects pickles from other, harmful organisms, while lactobacillus bacteria can boost the health of your gut’s microbiome.
Cucumbers in a Pickle
Pickles of all kinds were a hit with the ancient world. It’s thought that the Ancient Mesopotamians were the first to enjoy some pickled dishes, and Herodotus noted the Ancient Egyptians ate fish preserved with brine. Columella proclaimed that “the use of vinegar and hard brine is very necessary they say, for the making of preserves.”
But when did cucumbers enter the briny equation? While loads of websites and books talk about ancient Mediterranean peoples enjoying pickled cucumbers, according to a 2012 paper in the Annals of Botany, it’s actually unclear when cucumbers arrived in the Mediterranean region. There are definitely early accounts that use words that people have translated as cucumber, but according to the paper, the texts in question are describing something more akin to snake melons. The evidence suggests it’s not until the medieval era that Europeans were able to enjoy a cucumber pickle with their sandwich, as cukes made their way to the West via two independent paths: “Overland from Persia into eastern and northern Europe,” before the Islamic conquests, and a later diffusion into western and southern Europe, which the paper’s authors peg to a primarily “maritime route from Persia or the Indian subcontinent into Andalusia” in the southern part of present-day Spain.
As the centuries progressed, pickles continued to win famous fans. Queen Elizabeth I reportedly enjoyed them, and William Shakespeare liked them enough to reference them numerous times in his work. He even helped build a new idiom around the word when he had The Tempest’s King Alonso ask the court jester Trinculo, “how camest thou in this pickle?” Merriam-Webster speculates that the Bard may have been playing off a Dutch expression that translates to something like “sit in the pickle,” though given Trinculo’s penchant for imbibing, the line may have also been a reference to the jester’s preferred method of preservation. In any case, being “in a pickle” is now widely understood to describe any difficult situation (and—as The Sandlot's Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez taught us—has a specific, related meaning in baseball, used when a runner is caught between two bases and is at risk of being tagged out).
Scottish doctor James Lind discussed how pickles could fight scurvy, noting how the “Dutch sailors are much less liable to the scurvy than the English, owing to this pickled vegetable carried out to sea.” The pickled vegetable in question was cabbage. And Captain James Cook was such a proponent of what he called Sour Krout that he gave his officers as much as they wanted, knowing that the crew would eat it as soon as they saw the officers liked it.
But not everyone was a fan. John Harvey Kellogg, who as we’ve previously discussed was deeply concerned about eating food with any known flavor, felt pickles were one of the "stimulating foods" that needed to be avoided.
The Big Dill With Pickle Brines
For most of pickling history, people have added spices and aromatics to their pickle brines. Ingredients like garlic, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and cloves all add flavor to pickles, but that’s not the only purpose they serve. These spices all have antimicrobial properties, which could partially explain why they were added to pickle recipes in the first place.
Dill, perhaps the ingredient most closely associated with pickles today, is also antimicrobial. The herb has been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, but it was hugely popular in Ancient Rome, where it spread alongside the Empire itself. Eventually, it found its way into Eastern European cuisine—and into pickling solutions. Pickles were already an important part of Eastern European diets: They provided a refreshing and nutritious contrast to the heavy, often-bland foods that were available in colder months, and it was customary for families to pickle barrels full of vegetables in the fall so they would have enough to last them through winter. Dill became a common ingredient in pickle brines.
When large numbers of Ashkenazi Jews immigrated from Eastern Europe to New York in the 19th and 20th centuries, they brought their pickle-making traditions with them. A classic kosher pickle is made with cucumbers fermented in a salt brine and flavored with garlic, dill, and spices. There are two main types of kosher pickles: crisp, bright-green half-sour pickles and the duller green full-sours. The only difference between the two varieties is that half-sours have a shorter fermentation time. (“Kosher pickles,” by the way, aren’t necessarily kosher. Early kosher pickles may have been made in accordance to Jewish law, but today the word is used to describe any pickles made in the traditional New York style.)
Initially, Jewish pickle-makers sold their products out of pushcarts to their immigrant neighbors. When Jewish-owned delis began popping up around New York City, pickles were a natural addition to plates of fatty lunch meat. And today, no matter where in the country you are, dill pickles and sandwiches are a common pairing.
The Origins of Bread and Butter Pickles
Some people prefer bread and butter pickles, which are made by adding something sweet to the pickling brine, like brown sugar or sugar syrup, and they generally omit the garlic that gives kosher pickles their distinctive flavor. But where does the name “bread and butter” come from?
It turns out it’s a bit hard to pin down the origin of the unusual pickle name. Some say it’s a holdover from the Great Depression, when families would eat simple sandwiches of bread, butter, and pickles. People may have done that, but if you’re looking for a written record, it seems that one of the first known uses of the term came when Omar and Cora Fanning registered to trademark the logo of their product, “Fanning’s Bread and Butter Pickles,” back in 1923. GFA Brands, which at one point owned the company that came to be known as Mrs Fannings, suggested that the “bread and butter” label came from a bartering system the Fannings once used. In this version of the story, the Fannings traded their delicious pickled cukes for groceries, including bread and butter.
The Pickle Goes Mainsteam
As pickles became more popular, American food companies hopped on the pickle-wagon. Heinz started selling them in the 1800s, and at the 1893 World’s Fair, H.J. Heinz lured visitors to his out-of-the-way booth by giving away free pickle pins. The promotion was so successful that the company featured a pickle in its logo for more than a century.
Heinz was the business to beat in the pickle industry until the 1970s. That’s when Vlasic launched an ad campaign featuring a cartoon stork who delivered pickles instead of babies. The advertising approach worked—it played on the belief that women crave pickles when they’re pregnant. At one point, Vlasic even adopted the slogan “the pickle pregnant women crave.”
And that’s only the tip of the strange spear of this pickle marketing story. A 1973 newspaper reports an ad of a husband telling his wife, “Sweetie, it’s time for your 4 o’clock pickle.” Even the stork angle was part of a bizarre extended Vlasic universe mythology wherein life had been good for storks during the baby boom in the United States. Once the boom ended, the stork had to find a new job, and wound up delivering Vlasic pickles.
Pickles From Around the Globe
It's not just cucumbers that get pickled—there are many notable pickles from around the world. In Korea, the pickle of choice is Kimchi. Like pickle, the word kimchi describes both a process and a food. Kimchied vegetables are traditionally salted, covered in a mixture of garlic, ginger, chili peppers, and fish sauce, and pickled in lactic acid via fermentation. Traditionally kimchi is made with cabbage, but any number of vegetables—including carrots, cucumbers, and radishes—can all be kimchi. The food is an integral part of Korean cuisine, and can be served with almost any meal. Some families even own dedicated kimchi fridges for storing their mixtures in the ideal environment for fermentation.
But kimchi isn’t the only fermented cabbage out there. Sauerkraut is a staple of many European cuisines. It’s cabbage that’s been preserved through lacto-fermentation, but unlike Kimchi, it doesn’t contain any seafood or bold spices. The name means “sour cabbage” in German, but the condiment might not have originated in Europe at all. Food historian Joyce Toomre suggests it originated in China, and according to legend, laborers building the Great Wall first made it by pickling shredded cabbage in rice wine. The dish allegedly traveled West by way of the Mongolian army in the 13th century.
A jar of pickled eggs used to be a common sight in English pubs and American dive bars. Preserved eggs and booze may seem like an odd pairing, but it actually makes perfect sense from a nutritional standpoint. Eggs are high in cysteine, an amino acid that your body uses to help keep your liver happy. That means bar patrons might have reached for a pickled egg to go with their ale for the same reason you crave a bacon egg and cheese sandwich when you’re hungover.
Another common non-vegetable pickle is pickled herring. In Poland and parts of Scandinavia, eating the preserved fish at the stroke of midnight on new year’s is thought to boost your good fortune in the year ahead. With the success all things pickled have had around the world, we can buy it.
This story has been adapted from an episode of Food History on YouTube.
We all know getting a good night’s sleep is important, but too often, we just settle for the “night’s sleep” part and leave out the “good.” Maybe that’s because we think how “good” we sleep is mostly out of our hands—but there are ways to maximize your sleep so your waking hours are even better.
Set and stick to a schedule
You need a schedule, but not just a sleep schedule. You should be scheduling your entire day, more or less, and focusing on habit-building around bedtime. Say you need to be up at 6:30 in the morning to have time to get ready for work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get seven or more hours of sleep each night, so at the bare minimum, that puts you in bed by 11:30. What you do leading up to 11:30 counts, too.
Try unwinding for an hour before bed. Seriously, no work emails—or any emails, really. To the best of your ability, unplug completely and put your devices away. Prioritize your space and make sure your bedroom is comfortable, complete with soft lighting, comfortable bedding, or whatever makes you feel cozy and safe. Try to dedicate your final waking hour every day to relaxing in your space, whether that means taking a hot shower, meditating, or spending quality time with your partner.
Speaking of your partner, whenever possible, let your family know that you’re prioritizing your sleep schedule and shouldn’t be disturbed, starting an hour before bedtime, barring an actual emergency (or, you know, the parenting of small children). You should also set an afternoon time limit for caffeine consumption, too. No iced coffee after, say, 3 p.m. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every single day—even on the weekends.
Learn about sleep cycles
Educate yourself about sleep. It’s a basic human function, sure, but it’s still complicated—and knowledge is power.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has a handy guide on sleep stages here, but to make it simple, there are two kinds of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. REM sleep happens about 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and non-REM sleep is broken up into three distinct categories. The short period when you shift from wakefulness to sleep is a non-REM sleep, as is the light sleep before you enter deeper sleep. One deep-sleep period falls into non-REM sleep, and that’s the one you need to feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs in longer periods through the first half of the night.
What do you do with this information, which isn’t even relevant or actionable when you’re conscious? Well, you make a plan when you are awake to maximize the time spent in each cycle.
One easy—and admittedly modern—way to figure out your unique sleeping habits is to invest in a wearable. Devices like the Apple Watch can track your sleep patterns, but be warned: Overnight wear means you’ll need to charge in the morning, so you have to prioritize whether you want the wearable to measure your sleeping information or your waking movements. For a few weeks, while you’re starting your new sleep routine, opt for the former.
Caroline Kryder, who handles science communications for the Oura Ring, a health tech wearable that tracks biometric data, told Lifehacker that tracking that type of information is helpful because it helps people understand their health while arming them with accurate, personal insights. That wearable, for instance, monitors body temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, heart rate variability, sleep, and activity to give users scores for three different measurements: A readiness score shows how ready they are for the day, a sleep score shows how well they slept, and an activity score shows how well they’re balancing activity and rest. After it gets to know you, the ring will even start giving you “bedtime recommendations.”
That’s all very high-tech and fun, but you can also measure your sleeping success the old-fashioned way.
Write it all down
Try to get into a new habit of writing down how you slept each morning when you wake up. Keep a little log through the day. If you wake up feeling refreshed, jot that down. If you wake up feeling groggy, into the notes it goes. If you start to get tired every day at 2 p.m., make a note, too. Over time, a pattern will develop and you’ll be able to see how your sleep is really working for you, broadly, instead of focusing on the day-to-day fatigue you feel.
Keep track of your bedtime, how you were feeling when you retired the previous night, and anything major that goes on through the day that could impact your restfulness, from a hard workout to a major life development. Look for patterns, especially on the days you’re feeling more refreshed and energetic, then duplicate whatever you did on the preceding night.
If you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle, drinking water, eating healthy, going to bed at a set time, and doing everything else you think you should be, but you still feeling tired, talk to your doctor. Bring your wearable log or your notes and ask what they think could be the issue. Remember, various issues from your mental health to your thyroid could be messing with your sleep, even if you’re on top of all the factors you can control, so it doesn’t hurt to get a second, professional opinion.
Most of us rely on our smartphones to wake up in the morning. Unless your battery really sucks, we don’t encounter a Home Alone situation very often. But when your alarm isn’t reliable, and you have someplace important to be, you have a big problem. and that is what going on with Android’s Clock app, as a new bug breaks the alarm function so many of us use every day.
There are many reports of unhappy (but presumably well-slept) Android Clock users bemoaning their alarms not going off. The app’s page in the Play Store is flooded with one-star reviews, and a Reddit thread shows off the wide variety of Android users who are confused, frustrated, and looking for answers. While the Pixel line is among the most common afflicted, users of other devices such as OnePlus and Oppo, have also complained.
Those who have experienced the alarm clock bug say that their alarm will start to vibrate, but will immediately stop. One Redditor says that after testing their device, the alarm would go off five out of six times. Essentially, they’re playing Russian Roulette with their alarm clock; who wants to take those odds?
Is there a fix for the Android alarm clock bug?
The bad news is, unfortunately, no; there doesn’t appear to be a fix for the app at this time. Users have claimed that typical troubleshooting tactics for buggy apps—like clearing the cache or uninstalling and reinstalling the app—have no effect on the bug. If your app is afflicted, you’re bound to see the issue come back again.
It’s easy to imagine that Google is working—ahem—around the clock to send out a patch for the app’s disastrous bug. If you have auto-update apps enabled, the patch should install itself once it’s available. To check for a new update manually, go to the Play Store, and search for Clock (or tap here). Tap on the one by Google LLC; if you see “Update” as an option, tap it. We’ll update this article when that patch is available, including the software version number so you can be sure you’re downloading the right update.
Download a third-party alarm app in the meantime
Until then, the only real fix is to use a different source for your alarm. Luckily, the Play Store is rife with options. So many options, in fact, that you could likely pick one at random, download it, and wake up tomorrow morning just fine. But if you’re in the market for recommendations, we have a couple you might like.
If you’re looking for something a little different, you might want to consider Sleep Cycle. This free app actually tracks your sleeping patterns to determine which sleep cycle you might be in at any given point. It takes that info to try to wake you up when you’re in your lightest point in the cycle. By default, you set a 30 minute window you’d be okay waking up in; if you need to be up by 6:30, Sleep Cycle would wake you up anywhere between 6:00 and 6:30, whenever it thought you’d have the easiest time getting up.
If you have a really hard time waking up, you could consider Alarm Clock for Heavy Sleepers. As the name implies, the app is designed for people who usually sleep through or accidentally shut off their alarms. That’s because it allows you to set “challenges,” which force you to complete a task before the alarm can be turned off. That could be a Captcha task, math problem, light challenge, the list goes on. You might want to experiment with different challenges to find the one that best forces you awake.
Alarmy is another great choice. Like the last app, Alarmy has “missions” you can set to shake yourself awake in the morning. Take a picture, shake your phone, or choose a set number of math problems to complete before you can turn it off. And you’re going to want to turn it off because Alarmy gets loud. It also touts itself as the highest-rated alarm clock app in the world; if peer review matters to you, Alarmy might be your app.
The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world’s first cryptocurrency cruise ship
Last year, three cryptocurrency enthusiasts bought a cruise ship. They named it the Satoshi, and dreamed of starting a floating libertarian utopia. It didn’t work out
by Sophie Elmhirst
Tue 7 Sep 2021 06.00 BST
Last modified on Sun 12 Sep 2021 20.03 BST
On the evening of 7 December 2010, in a hushed San Francisco auditorium, former Google engineer Patri Friedman sketched out the future of humanity. The event was hosted by the Thiel Foundation, established four years earlier by the arch-libertarian PayPal founder Peter Thiel to “defend and promote freedom in all its dimensions”. From behind a large lectern, Friedman – grandson of Milton Friedman, one of the most influential free-market economists of the last century – laid out his plan. He wanted to transform how and where we live, to abandon life on land and all our decrepit assumptions about the nature of society. He wanted, quite simply, to start a new city in the middle of the ocean.
Friedman called it seasteading: “Homesteading the high seas,” a phrase borrowed from Wayne Gramlich, a software engineer with whom he’d founded the Seasteading Institute in 2008, helped by a $500,000 donation from Thiel. In a four-minute vision-dump, Friedman explained his rationale. Why, he asked, in one of the most advanced countries in the world, were they still using systems of government from 1787? (“If you drove a car from 1787, it would be a horse,” he pointed out.) Government, he believed, needed an upgrade, like a software update for a phone. “Let’s think of government as an industry, where countries are firms and citizens are customers!” he declared.
The difficulty in starting a new form of government, said Friedman, was simply a lack of space. All the land on Earth was taken. What they needed was a new frontier, and that frontier was the ocean. “Let a thousand nations bloom on the high seas,” he proclaimed, with Maoish zeal. He wanted seasteading experiments to start as soon as possible. Within three to six years, he imagined ships being repurposed as floating medical clinics. Within 10 years, he predicted, small communities would be permanently based on platforms out at sea. In a few decades, he hoped there would be floating cities “with millions of people pioneering different ways of living together”.
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Politics would be rewritten. The beauty of seasteading was that it offered its inhabitants total freedom and choice. In 2017, Friedman and the “seavangelist” Joe Quirk wrote a book, Seasteading, in which they described how a seasteading community could constantly rearrange itself according to the choices of those who owned the individual floating units. (Quirk now runs the Seasteading Institute; Friedman remains chair of the board.) “Democracy,” the two men wrote, “would be upgraded to a system whereby the smallest minorities, including the individual, could vote with their houses.”
In the decade following Friedman’s talk, a variety of attempts to realise his seasteading vision were all thwarted. “Seavilization,” to use his phrase, remained a fantasy. Then, in October 2020, it seemed his dream might finally come true, when three seasteading enthusiasts bought a 245-metre-long cruise ship called the Pacific Dawn. Grant Romundt, Rüdiger Koch and Chad Elwartowski planned to sail the ship to Panama, where they were based, and park it permanently off the coastline as the centrepiece of a new society trading only in cryptocurrencies. In homage to Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of bitcoin’s mysterious inventor (or inventors), they renamed the ship the MS Satoshi. They hoped it would become home to people just like them: digital nomads, startup founders and early bitcoin adopters.
Their vision was utopian, if your idea of utopia is a floating crypto-community in the Caribbean Sea. No longer was seasteading a futuristic ideal; it was, said Romundt, “an actual ship”. The Satoshi also offered a chance to marry two movements, of crypto-devotees and seasteaders, united by their desire for freedom – from convention, regulation, tax. Freedom from the state in all its forms. But converting a cruise ship into a new society proved more challenging than envisaged. The high seas, while appearing borderless and free, are, in fact, some of the most tightly regulated places on Earth. The cruise ship industry in particular is bound by intricate rules. As Romundt put it: “We were like, ‘This is just so hard.’”
As with many stories about techno-libertarian fantasies, the tale of the Satoshi begins in an all-male, quasi-frat house in San Francisco in the late 90s. Romundt – a softly spoken Canadian with the optimistic, healthy glow of someone who combines entrepreneurial success with water sports – was living with a bunch of software engineers, all of whom shared an intense dedication to personal improvement. “I was a huge Tony Robbins fan,” Romundt told me in one of several Zoom calls from his office in Panama. (Robbins’ themes of individual freedom, self-mastery and the accrual of significant wealth are evident from the titles of his books from that time: Unlimited Power; Lessons in Mastery; Unleash the Power Within; The Power to Shape Your Destiny, and, next level, Awaken the Giant Within.)
After his San Francisco stint, Romundt, the son of a hairdresser, created ScissorBoy in 2009, a popular online TV series on hairdressing, and then ScheduleBox, a website which offered a digital receptionist service for hairstylists to book in their clients. (Always digitally inclined, he had, according to his website, the world’s “most advanced mobile paperless office in 1995”.) “I used to work 17 hours a day, so I didn’t have a lot of freedom,” he told me. He did, however, make enough money to semi-retire in 2016 and then spent “no more than five hours a month” running his business. The giant fully awakened, he moved back to Canada, where he lived on a houseboat on Lake Ontario and went kayaking in the mornings as the sun came up. Enraptured by his lifestyle, Romundt wondered why everyone wasn’t living this way. On a flight one day, he saw a man wearing a T-shirt with “Stop arguing. Start seasteading” printed on it. Romundt was curious, they got talking, and the man turned out to be Joe Quirk, who was by this time running the Seasteading Institute.
So far, the Seasteading Institute had experienced variable, or zero, success with its projects. Early ideas for a “Baystead” and “Coaststead” off the coast of San Francisco and a “Clubstead”, a resort off the coast of California, never made the leap to reality. An attempt to create a floating island prototype in French Polynesia in 2017 met with fairly fierce resistance from the people of French Polynesia and collapsed a year later when the government pulled out of the scheme.
After meeting Quirk, Romundt decided he wanted to try again. Quirk introduced him to two other aspiring seasteaders, the passionately libertarian American Elwartowski and the bitcoin-wealthy German engineer Koch. Together, the trio founded a company, Ocean Builders. Using their own money, they funded the first attempt at a single residential seastead, in the form of a floating white octagonal box 12 nautical miles off the coast of Thailand. Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Nadia Summergirl, lived there for two months in early 2018, until the Thai government discovered the seastead’s existence and declared it a threat to the country’s independence, possibly punishable by life imprisonment or death. Elwartowski and Summergirl had to flee the country before the Thai navy dispatched three ships to dismantle the floating box.
Renders of a SeaPod community. Photograph: Ocean Builders
The seasteading movement did not die there. In 2019, Romundt, Koch and Elwartowski moved their company to Panama, where they had found a government willing to back their next project: the SeaPod. These would be individual floating homes held 3 metres above the water by a single column and a tripod-shaped base beneath the ocean. The man responsible for their design, Koen Olthuis, is a Dutch “aquatect”, an architect specialising in water-based schemes. In rendered drawings, the SeaPods look fantastical, like a giant’s white helmet emerging monstrously from the waves. Inside, every surface is curved, as if you were living within the smooth, colourless confines of a peppermint. Romundt compared the SeaPods to the architecture in The Jetsons, the 60s cartoon where the characters lived in glassy orbs in the sky. “It’s like that,” he told me, “but on water.” The team built a factory from scratch in Linton Bay, a marina on the north coast of Panama, hired a team of about 30 engineers and mechanics, and, in early 2020, began building the first SeaPod prototype.
Progress was slow. Even once they had a successful prototype, Romundt predicted the factory would only make two SeaPods a month. They’d had the idea before of buying a cruise ship – a quick way of scaling up the community – but the cost had always been prohibitive. By autumn 2020, though, the situation had changed. Like many parts of the travel industry, the cruise ship business was collapsing because of the pandemic: multiple cruise lines were going into administration, empty ships filling up ports like abandoned cars in a scrubby field, or being sent to the scrapyard. Cruise ships, the Ocean Builders trio realised, would be going cheap.
Sure enough, they found a bargain. In October 2020, Romundt, Koch and Elwartowski bought the ex-P&O cruise ship Pacific Dawn for a reported $9.5m. (Built in 1991 for $280m, the ship could have sold pre-pandemic for more than $100m, one industry insider told me.) They instructed Olthuis to draw up the plans, placing the ship at the heart of a floating community surrounded by SeaPods. “We had a kind of funny idea,” Olthuis told me. In his scheme, the Satoshi would connect, via two looping tunnels on the water, to human-made floating platforms designated for agriculture, manufacturing and parkland. From the air, the whole community would form the shape of the bitcoin B.
The scheme had the support of the Panama government. In fact, the Ministry of Tourism hoped that a new ocean community would be a draw for visitors. In a page-long statement, the ministry told me how a floating development fitted in with its Sustainable Tourism Masterplan 2020-2025, by highlighting the country’s biodiversity and “the blue heritage of Panama”. It didn’t seem to mind the idea of a load of crypto-investors floating off their coastline, not paying any tax.
“Out of adversity comes opportunity, so they say,” wrote Elwartowski, on 10 October 2020, introducing Viva Vivas, the new company that he had created to run the Satoshi. Its name was adapted from the Latin phrase, “vive ut vivas”, meaning “live so that you may live”.
Ten days later, he announced the venture on Reddit: “So, I am buying a cruise ship and naming it MS Satoshi … AMA.” The responses were quick (“Need an apprentice aviation mechanic?” “I know how to use a yo-yo! Any room for me??”) and included the inevitable sceptics. (“Anyone remember the good old days of the Fyre festival?”) But plenty took the proposition seriously and wanted to go over the small print. (“Where is power coming from? Gas? Internet? Food? Water? Toiletries? What taxes will she be subject to?”)
Elwartowski answered every question with grave attention to detail. There would be generators at first, followed quickly by solar power. This would be an eco-friendly crypto-ship. High-speed wireless internet would come from land; utilities would be included in the fees at first, but would be metered when the systems were upgraded: “You don’t want to have pay for someone else’s mining rig in their cabin,” he wrote, referring to the resource-intensive computational process that introduces new crypto “coins” into the system. As for tax, you would not pay any on earnings made from ventures based in territory beyond Panama. You would be free to make, or mine, as much money as you liked. It would be a remote worker’s regulatory paradise.
But as the Reddit Q&A continued, Elwartowski’s meticulous responses revealed some of the more knotty practicalities of life on board. It turned out that the only cooking facilities would be in the restaurant. For safety reasons, no one was allowed to have a microwave in their rooms – though some cabins had mini-fridges, noted Elwartowski, determinedly sidestepping the point. He offered residents a 20% discount at the restaurant and mentioned that some interested cruisers had already talked about renting part of the restaurant kitchen so they could make their own food. “We want entrepreneurs to come up with solutions and try them out,” he wrote, in a valiant attempt to convert a fairly fundamental stumbling block into wild startup energy. “This is your place to try new things.” Not all the Redditors were convinced. “No microwave but mining rig. Incoherent scam.”
The Pacific Dawn, the P&O cruise ship which later became the MS Satoshi. Photograph: Dale de la Rey/EPA
Marketing of the Satoshi soon began in earnest. Her 777 cabins were to be auctioned off between 5 and 28 November, while the ship was crossing the Atlantic towards Panama. Viva Vivas listed the options, including cabins with no windows ($570 a month), an ocean view ($629), or a balcony ($719). Ocean Builders held a series of live video calls for potential customers which attracted 200 people at a time, Olthuis told me, with Romundt, an expert steward of the multilateral video call, at the helm.
On the Viva Vivas website, a Frequently Asked Questions page covered the basics of the cabin auction process, fees and logistics. Specially trained staff would be hired to keep the ship Covid-free and through a partnership with a platform called coinpayments.net, multiple cryptocurrencies would be supported for payment, including bitcoin, ethereum, digibyte, bitcoin cash, litecoin, dai, dash, ethereum classic, trueUSD, USD coin, tether, bitcoin SV, electroneum, cloak, doge, eureka coin, xem and monero.
The final entry on the FAQ page, regarding the possibility of having pets on board, gave a bracing insight into the tension between the idea of freedom and the reality of hundreds of people closely cohabiting on a cruise ship. The answer linked to a separate document, containing a 14-point list of conditions including one that declared no animal should exceed 20lbs in weight, and any barking or loud noises could not last for longer than 10 minutes. If a pet repeatedly disturbed the peace – more than three times a month or five times in a year – it would no longer be allowed to live on board. “Any pet related conflict,” instructed point 13, “shall be resolved in accordance with Section V (F) of the Satoshi Purchase Agreement or Section IV (F) of the Satoshi Master Lease, where applicable.” Dogs would only be permitted in balcony cabins, and it was advised that owners buy a specific brand of “porch potty”, a basket of fake grass where your pet could relieve itself. (Pet waste thrown overboard would result in a $200 fine.)
One Reddit respondent – maxcoiner on Reddit, Luke Parker in real life – was as close to the target market of the Satoshi as it was possible to imagine. A longtime follower of the seasteading movement, he was also such an early and successful bitcoin adopter that he and his wife were able to retire early thanks to their investments. The Satoshi was the most plausible idea for a seastead he’d ever heard. “I did not buy a room during the Satoshi’s sale window,” he told me over email, “but it was hard to keep my hand off that button.”
A variety of considerations held him back. “The wife,” as he put it, had her doubts. He wasn’t sure about the “ginormous leap down in luxury” from living in deep residential comfort on land in the US midwest to living in a very small cabin on board a 30-year-old cruise ship. He was worried, too, by the limited facilities – “No kitchen of my own? Tiny bathrooms? Tiny everything?” Also, the constant rocking of the ship on the water: “I just can’t stomach that life around the clock.” He preferred the idea of the SeaPods. If Parker was going to live on a boat, he concluded, he’d prefer to buy his own luxury catamaran.
On 29 November, Elwartowski published another post on the Viva Vivas website, announcing the official opening of the Satoshi in January 2021. “This will be a new experience for all of us so we must manage your expectations,” he warned. The novelty was too much for Parker. “It takes a rare kind of person indeed to move your life on to a deserted cruise ship in Central America with so little information up front,” he told me. If Parker, part of that highly select, freedom-seeking, system-abandoning, overlapping community of seasteaders and bitcoiners, wasn’t going to buy, it was hard to imagine who would. As he put it: “This may have been the smallest sales demographic in history.”
Over 30 years of service, the Satoshi herself had seen enough of the world to know every permutation of life at sea – apart, perhaps from what it might be like to be a permanent home to 2,000 crypto-investors. Built in 1991 in the Fincantieri shipyard in Trieste, Italy, she is one of only two cruise ships designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. (The other, the Crown Princess, was sent to the scrapyard last year, a Covid casualty.) Her first incarnation was as the Regal Princess (owned by Princess Cruises), after which she became the Pacific Dawn (P&O Australia). Throughout her life, she has been admired for her distinctive features: a domed roof rising above the navigation bridge, water slides that curl round her funnel and a stern whose elegantly rounded form is in marked contrast to the blunt, sawn-off rears of some giant cruise liners. Those who prefer an understated cruising experience also appreciate her discreet size: compared to the largest cruise ship in the world, The Symphony of the Seas (18 decks, 23 swimming pools) she is a modest vessel (11 decks, two swimming pools).
For many years, the Pacific Dawn cruised the south Pacific, enjoying a serene phase of life, interrupted only by an onboard swine flu outbreak in 2009 and the time she lost power and came within 70 metres of crashing into the Gateway Bridge on the Brisbane River. In 2011, a devoted Facebook group was established by fans. “Dawnie was the party ship,” remembered one. “I fell in love with my wife all over again,” added another, crediting the ship for his romantic renewal. Then, in 2020, it briefly looked as though Dawnie was set to join her sister on the scrapyard, after her sale to British cruise company, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, collapsed in the pandemic. Her fans were grief-stricken, weeping emojis piling up on the Facebook group. (“Well 2020 just became even shittier,” said Kathie.) When it was revealed that the ship had been rescued by Ocean Builders, there was a wave of relief, if a little mystification at her new name. “She’ll always be Dawn to me.”
On 29 October 2020, Dawn began her journey to Panama, sailing from Limassol, Cyprus to Piraeus, Greece. A week later, she was handed over to her new owners Ocean Builders and officially became the Satoshi. Koch flew over from Panama to cross the Atlantic aboard their new purchase. The team hired a management company, Columbia Cruise Services, to run the ship and provide a minimum crew of about 40 people, mostly Ukrainian, including a cook, engineers and cleaning staff. A seasoned British cruise captain, Peter Harris, arrived to take charge. “We didn’t know anything about running a cruise,” Romundt told me, “so it was like, we didn’t want to have to figure all this stuff out.”
As soon as Capt Harris joined the ship and met Koch on board, he realised there would be challenges ahead. “I was thinking a week into the job, I can see I’m going to be resigning,” Harris told me, immaculate in a striped shirt on a video call from his home in Kent. Koch, he said, was admirable in his ambition, and a likable, law-abiding man, but he was naive about how shipping worked and had an abhorrence of rules. “He didn’t understand the industry,” said Harris, who has the frank, upbeat air of a born leader for whom hierarchy is a kind of creed. “He just thought he could treat it like his own yacht.”
To sail anywhere, Harris explained, a ship requires certificates of seaworthiness. These expired on the day the deal with P&O was completed. Usually, a new buyer would ensure they lasted a couple of months to cover any onward journey, but no one on the Ocean Builders side had checked. By the time Columbia Cruise Services came on board and informed the team of the situation, the contracts had all been signed. Before the Satoshi could cross the Atlantic, the team were obliged to sail the ship to Gibraltar and have her removed from the water, a process known as dry-docking, to perform essential repairs and renew the certificates.
The Atlantic crossing began on 3 December. Harris – who didn’t resign, grateful for the four-month contract mid-pandemic – found it oddly lovely. With only 40 or so people on board, rather than the usual 2,000-odd, the atmosphere was relaxed, if a little surreal. Among other things, P&O had left about 5,000 bottles of wine and 2,000 bottles of spirits on board. Harris asked Koch if he wanted to charge the crew for drinks, but Koch, generous by nature, said no. “Obviously, we restricted them to three drinks a day,” said Harris. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had a crew.”
As the crossing continued, questions about how the project would actually work once the Satoshi arrived in Panama grew more pressing. According to Harris, Elwartowski thought he could convince the Panamanian authorities to let the ship anchor permanently in its waters and de-register as a ship, becoming a floating residence instead, so as to avoid some of the more exacting requirements of maritime law. But while Panama was happy to have the ship moored off its coast, it specified that the ship had to remain officially designated as a ship. Which led to another difficulty: the discharge of sewage. Though the ship had an advanced wastewater management system, which could turn sewage into drinking-quality water, they were not permitted to discharge this wastewater into Panamanian waters, and so would have had to sail 12 miles out every 20 days or so to empty tanks into international waters.
Such obstacles made the ship an off-putting proposition for insurers. No one would agree to cover them. “They wouldn’t even tell us why we weren’t insurable, they just kept saying no,” Romundt said. “It’s kind of hard to remedy something if you don’t know what the problem is.” Of the several insurance experts I asked about this, none were willing to comment on the case, citing a lack of expertise, presumably because no one had ever tried to insure a cruise ship turned floating crypto-community before. Harris, however, had his theories: that a risk-averse insurance industry was wary of both a bitcoin business and a ship that would presumably be mostly populated by quick-to-litigate Americans.
After trying multiple insurers and brokers, Romundt began to realise that the cruise ship industry was, as he put it, “plagued by over-regulation”. (Along with airlines and nuclear power, according to Harris, it’s in “the top three”.) The Ocean Builders’ great freedom project, whose intrinsic purpose was to offer an escape from oppressive rules and bureaucracy, was being hobbled by oppressive rules and bureaucracy. As Elwartowski would reflect a few months later on Reddit: “A cruise ship is not very good for people who want to be free.”
To Romundt, the whole cruise ship business began to seem like an impenetrable old boys’ network. He estimated that, given six months, they could have hired a crack marine legal team and navigated a way through the loopholes. But by mid-December, the Satoshi was already halfway across the Atlantic, burning through gallons of diesel, with a 40-person crew they’d have to keep on board even when she was stationary in Panama because a cruise ship requires constant maintenance. A ship can cost, even when docked, up to $1m a month to run. “Because, you know,” said Romundt, “it’s huge.”
Previous attempts at seasteading had not been successful. Photograph: Denver Hopkins III
Fuel alone was costing the Ocean Builders trio about $12,000 a day. According to Harris, Koch wanted to try to make the ship more fuel-efficient by installing a smaller engine, which he thought he could do while the ship was at anchor. “We were like, how are you going to cut a hole in the ship’s side big enough to get the engine out, which is below water level, and not sink the ship?” Harris shook his head, his memories of Koch clearly fond, if perplexed. “I was forever saying, ‘No, Rudi you can’t do this; no, Rudi you can’t do that.’”
Before the Satoshi hove into view of the white sands of a Panama beach, Romundt, Koch and Elwartowski had to make a call. They couldn’t afford to keep the ship moored and empty for months on end while they tried to solve the insurance problem, a problem they weren’t even sure they’d be able to solve. They were insured to sail her, and they could go on sailing her, but they didn’t want to run a travel company. They wanted to run a floating society of like-minded freedom-lovers arranged in the shape of the bitcoin B. It wasn’t even clear that there were enough people who wanted to do that. Koch admitted to Harris that the cabins weren’t selling.
“It was almost like a fantasy, James Bond-ish,” said one cruise industry insider. “But to their credit they believed in it.”
The dream was over, they realised, before it had even begun. The project was dead, except it wasn’t quite, as they still owned the ship, which was still steaming across the Atlantic with Koch, Harris and the crew on board. The Satoshi, already thousands of miles into a 5,500-nautical-mile voyage, had travelled too far to be turned around mid-ocean, so on she sailed. They’d have to sell her, the Ocean Builders realised, but who was going to be crazy enough to buy a cruise ship in the middle of a pandemic? Only a company who wanted to tear her apart. On 18 December, while she was still at sea, the team announced the sale of the Satoshi to a scrapyard in Alang, India. The Satoshi was once again destined for dismemberment.
On 19 December, Elwartowski announced on the Viva Vivas website that the Satoshi’s journey was coming to an end. “We have lost this round. The New Normal, Great Reset gains another victim,” he wrote, looping in the collapse of the Satoshi with a popular Covid conspiracy theory that the pandemic and its response had been stage-managed by a global elite. (Over subsequent months, Elwartowski’s activity on Reddit would include other Covid themes, including suspicion of government vaccination programmes.) Romundt emailed their list of potential customers to let them know the ship’s fate. Deposits for cabins would be refunded.
The Satoshi arrived in Balboa, Panama on 22 December. On Christmas Eve, she anchored off the coast of Colon. There, Romundt joined Koch and the crew on the ship. Elwartowski, meanwhile, stayed in Panama City. “He didn’t want to get on board,” said Romundt. Koch spoke to Joe Quirk one evening on the phone while he was sitting in the ship’s cafe drinking a bottle of wine, feeling regretful that the onboard hospital he’d planned to open to medical entrepreneurs would never come to life. Even so, Koch was “utterly unbowed”, reported Quirk in a Seasteading Institute blog post entitled How the Grinch Stole the Cruise Ship.
Romundt, a man more driven by the practical issues at hand than the romantic symbolism of his endeavours, realised that, though the entire plan had fallen apart, he was still the part-owner of a massive cruise ship. He decided to spend Christmas on board, along with the crew. Master key in hand, he wandered around the Satoshi, making sure to enter every room that said Do Not Enter. He toured the engine room, and sat on the sun deck. He worked, because he can’t help working, even at Christmas, but he also went on all the water slides, alone. (Harris told me he’d turned them on specially for Christmas Day.) Though Romundt doesn’t usually drink, he had a glass of wine and called all his friends saying, “I’m on my own cruise ship for Christmas!” He had the kind of good time it is perhaps only possible to have when you have just made an unbelievably expensive mistake born of a desire to invent an entirely new way of living and involving the purchase of a huge floating vessel. “I was king of the ship!” he said, still delighted.
Even scrapping the Satoshi proved to be a debacle. After a deal had been done with the Indian scrapyard, the Ocean Builders team realised that according to the Basel Convention, which covers the disposal of hazardous waste, they weren’t allowed to send the ship from a signatory country (Panama) to a non-signatory country (India). The contract with the scrapyard had to be cancelled.
All was not completely lost, at least for the Satoshi herself. The cruise ship industry is a compact ecosystem. The grapevine did its thing. A ship broker heard about the plight of the Satoshi, realised it was precisely the kind of ship a new client of his was looking for, and did a quick deal.
The client was Ambassador Cruise Line, the first British cruise company to launch for 10 years. According to Ambassador’s ebullient, red-sweatered chair, Gordon Wilson, the company’s name is intended to reflect the highly optimistic idea that ambassadors, like cruise ships, take the best of their own culture with them wherever they go. The Satoshi would be the first ship in the company’s new fleet, which would offer cruises to the over-50s. Many of the new team at Ambassador had come over from Cruise and Maritime Voyages, who had nearly bought the Satoshi before it went bust in 2020. As such, they knew the ship well, which sped up the sale. Wilson wouldn’t confirm the amount – “they thought it was a good price” – but the trade press reported that Ocean Builders sold her for $12m, more than they paid for her, though possibly not quite enough to cover the elaborate costs of running an empty cruise ship for three months.
On 23 February 2021, the Satoshi set sail from Panama, heading all the way back across the ocean she’d just crossed. She arrived in Bar, Montenegro on 27 March. Wilson went over to visit her, and, like Romundt, relished the experience of climbing aboard his new asset. Exploring the engine rooms of an empty cruise ship seemed to give these men a particular sensation: perhaps just the buzz of owning something so vast and powerful; a mechanical, proprietary thrill.
The Ocean Builders team, meanwhile, returned to their own private missions. Elwartowski was on sabbatical, Romundt told me. He did not want to talk to me for this story. Koch, who also declined to be interviewed, was building his own boat in Panama, and working with Romundt on the SeaPods. Over Zoom, Romundt gave me a tour of the SeaPod factory, and showed off the hulking sheets of fibreglass that would form the structure’s mould. “It feels like touching a UFO,” he said, stroking his invention.
Seeing the pod’s nascent form, I felt a boringly pragmatic urge to ask Romundt what happened if, once afloat, you needed to buy a pint of milk. My question seemed to miss the point, too wedded to old-fashioned notions of locality and human connection. The Pods had been designed to have a hatch in the roof, Romundt said. He was talking to some drone creators and imagined people flying to their pods independently, landing on the roof and entering through the hatch. Perhaps that’s how you’d get your milk.
At her new home in Montenegro, meanwhile, the Satoshi needed some sprucing up. For the fourth time in her three decades on the water, she had been renamed. “We thought Ambience a lovely name for a ship,” said Wilson, pronouncing it in the French style, Ambi-ence. “This is a very elegant ship,” he added, proudly. “She looks like a cruise liner; she does not look like a floating block of flats.”
When Ambience finally sets sail on her maiden voyage, from the industrial dock of Tilbury across the North Sea to Hamburg in April 2022, she will offer a more traditional experience to her passengers. “Back to what cruising is all about,” said Wilson. The atmosphere will be refined. There will be promenading on deck and plentiful opportunities for photography as the horizon swallows the evening sun. There will be cocktails at the bar, a five-course dinner and a glittery show. It is unlikely bitcoin will be accepted as currency. The water slides will be removed.
This article was amended on 8 September 2021 to include the full name of Ambassador Cruise Line, and to clarify that the Ambience’s dinners will have five courses, not three.
New Details Emerge About Coronavirus Research at Chinese Lab More than 900 pages of materials related to U.S.-funded coronavirus research in China were released following a FOIA lawsuit by The Intercept.
Newly released documents provide details of U.S.-funded research on several types of coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. The Intercept has obtained more than 900 pages of documents detailing the work of EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based health organization that used federal money to fund bat coronavirus research at the Chinese laboratory. The trove of documents includes two previously unpublished grant proposals that were funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as project updates relating to EcoHealth Alliance’s research, which has been scrutinized amid increased interest in the origins of the pandemic.
The documents were released in connection with ongoing Freedom of Information Act litigation by The Intercept against the National Institutes of Health. The Intercept is making the full documents available to the public.
“This is a road map to the high-risk research that could have led to the current pandemic,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right To Know, a group that has been investigating the origins of Covid-19.
One of the grants, titled “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence,” outlines an ambitious effort led by EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak to screen thousands of bat samples for novel coronaviruses. The research also involved screening people who work with live animals. The documents contain several critical details about the research in Wuhan, including the fact that key experimental work with humanized mice was conducted at a biosafety level 3 lab at Wuhan University Center for Animal Experiment — and not at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as was previously assumed. The documents raise additional questions about the theory that the pandemic may have begun in a lab accident, an idea that Daszak has aggressively dismissed.
The bat coronavirus grant provided EcoHealth Alliance with a total of $3.1 million, including $599,000 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology used in part to identify and alter bat coronaviruses likely to infect humans. Even before the pandemic, many scientists were concerned about the potential dangers associated with such experiments. The grant proposal acknowledges some of those dangers: “Fieldwork involves the highest risk of exposure to SARS or other CoVs, while working in caves with high bat density overhead and the potential for fecal dust to be inhaled.”
Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute, said the documents show that EcoHealth Alliance has reason to take the lab-leak theory seriously. “In this proposal, they actually point out that they know how risky this work is. They keep talking about people potentially getting bitten — and they kept records of everyone who got bitten,” Chan said. “Does EcoHealth have those records? And if not, how can they possibly rule out a research-related accident?”
According to Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, the documents contain critical information about the research done in Wuhan, including about the creation of novel viruses. “The viruses they constructed were tested for their ability to infect mice that were engineered to display human type receptors on their cell,” Ebright wrote to The Intercept after reviewing the documents. Ebright also said the documents make it clear that two different types of novel coronaviruses were able to infect humanized mice. “While they were working on SARS-related coronavirus, they were carrying out a parallel project at the same time on MERS-related coronavirus,” Ebright said, referring to the virus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
Asked about the grant materials, Robert Kessler, communications manager at EcoHealth Alliance, said, “We applied for grants to conduct research. The relevant agencies deemed that to be important research, and thus funded it. So I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to say.”
The grant was initially awarded for a five-year period — from 2014 to 2019. Funding was renewed in 2019 but suspended by the Trump administration in April 2020.
The closest relative of SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, is a virus found in bats, making the animals a focal point for efforts to understand the origins of the pandemic. Exactly how the virus jumped to humans is the subject of heated debate. Many scientists believe that it was a natural spillover, meaning that the virus passed to humans in a setting such as a wet market or rural area where humans and animals are in close contact. Biosafety experts and internet sleuths who suspect a lab origin, meanwhile, have spent more than a year poring over publicly available information and obscure scientific publications looking for answers. In the past few months, leading scientists have also called for a deeper investigation of the pandemic’s origins, as has President Joe Biden, who in May ordered the intelligence community to study the issue. On August 27, Biden announced that the intelligence inquiry was inconclusive.
Biden blamed China for failing to release critical data, but the U.S. government has also been slow to release information. The Intercept initially requested the proposals in September 2020.
“I wish that this document had been released in early 2020,” said Chan, who has called for an investigation of the lab-leak origin theory. “It would have changed things massively, just to have all of the information in one place, immediately transparent, in a credible document that was submitted by EcoHealth Alliance.”
The second grant, “Understanding Risk of Zoonotic Virus Emergence in Emerging Infectious Disease Hotspots of Southeast Asia,” was awarded in August 2020 and extends through 2025. The proposal, written in 2019, often seems prescient, focusing on scaling up and deploying resources in Asia in case of an outbreak of an “emergent infectious disease” and referring to Asia as “this hottest of the EID hotspots.”
The Manali-Leh highway was restored to traffic near the Baralacha Pass in Lahaul and Spiti district this afternoon. The district administration had closed the highway in the morning after fresh snowfall at the pass and its nearby places.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had engaged its workforce and machinery to clear the snow from the highway and restored it to normal traffic in the afternoon.
However, the HRTC at Keylong suspended its bus service between Delhi and Leh from Keylong to Leh on Sunday due to snowfall.
Today, the HRTC, Keylong, suspended its bus service on the Kullu-Kaza route due to fresh snowfall at the Kunzum Pass. HRTC officer at Keylong Mangal Menepa said due to fresh snowfall on the Manali-Leh highway, which passes through the Baralacha Pass and Talang La, the bus service from Keylong to Leh had to be suspended on Sunday.
“Similarly, the Kunzum Pass received considerable snowfall on Monday, forcing us to suspend the bus service on the Kullu-Kaza route for the next few days until the road is restored,” he added.
The Manali-Keylong road was also blocked today for hours as a huge boulder rolled down onto the road at Nehru Kund near Manali.
The Manali-Leh highway was restored to traffic near the Baralacha Pass in Lahaul and Spiti district this afternoon. The district administration had closed the highway in the morning after fresh snowfall at the pass and its nearby places.