THIS is the moment the Exbury Egg finally ‘hatched’ after a four-year incubation.

The floating eco-lab was gently lowered into the sea at Lymington Yacht Haven, from where it will be towed to the Beaulieu River and moored near Exbury Gardens.

Award-winning artist Stephen Turner will live on the £40,000 craft for a year, studying climate change and other aspects of the environment.

Stephen, 59, poured a bottle of champagne over the bowbefore standing on the quayside and watching his new home descend into the water.

He said: “All the obvious superlatives come to mind – amazing, beautiful etc – but it’s exactly what we dreamed up. The Egg will be my laboratory, workshop, studio, and observation point. It will be the centre of my parish, with me as the custodian of that part of the river.”

Stephen, from Kent, said three webcams would allow people to follow the “unique” experiment.

“I hope to get a real understanding of how nature works at Exbury and will have the ability to share that knowledge with the rest of the world,” he said.

Data collected during the next 12 months will be analysed by students in the Oceanography department at the University of Southampton.

One of the lecturers, Dr Simon Boxall, said: “It will add to our knowledge about how we interact with the tidal environment. It will be another tool in the toolbox.”

The craft is just six metres long and has little in the way of mod cons.

Stephen will have to get used to using a chemical loo, cooking on a paraffin stove and sleeping in a hammock.

The Egg was built with the help of Romsey-based Dr Stephen Payne, designer of Queen Mary 2.

The Exbury Egg was built by Paul Baker in an old milking shed at Battramsley Farm, near Lymington.

The wooden pod is made of red cedar and comprises eight kilometres of planking, 30kg of nails and 130kg of epoxy resin. Recycled wood used in the project included a garage door and half a
garden shed.

Mr Baker built the craft over a six-month period and was present at the launch. He joked: “If I did it again what would I do differently? I’d charge more for a start!”