Florida man arrested for trying to cross Atlantic in giant hamster wheel

Reza Baluchi was arrested on Aug. 26, 2023 for attempting to "run to London" in a buoyant, human-sized hamster wheel. Pictured above is a similar vessel made by Baluchi in 2021. Twitter @FlaglerSheriff

A Florida man was arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) last month after he attempted to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a homemade contraption similar to a human-sized hamster wheel.

Reza Baluchi, 44, was arrested on Aug. 26 about 110 kilometres (70 miles) off Tybee Island, Georgia, according to a criminal complaint.

Baluchi, who is a marathon runner, allegedly told USCG officials he was attempting to “run to London” in his floating wheel constructed from wiring and buoys. The wheel — or as Baluchi calls it, the “bubble” — is equipped with paddles that turn as someone runs inside.

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Members of the USCG asked Baluchi “standard boarding questions” about his vessel, including a request for proper registration. After Baluchi insisted the wheel was registered in Florida, but failed to produce the paperwork, USCG officials determined he was attempting “a manifestly unsafe voyage.”

When asked to disembark from his wheel, Baluchi said he was carrying a 12-inch knife and threatened to kill himself. He also threatened to blow himself and his vessel up while “holding wires in his hand.” Baluchi later confessed to a USCG officer that he did not have a bomb in his possession.

He was escorted back to shore and brought to a USCG base in Miami, Fla.

Baluchi has allegedly attempted voyages in a similar vessel on three other occasions in 2014, 2016 and 2021, all of which were also shut down by the USCG.

He now faces federal charges of obstruction of a boarding and violation of a Captain of the Port order.

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