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Sail Against Plastic: a collaborative sailing expedition investigating and unveiling unseen pollution in the Arctic ocean

The Ocean needs you

The threats mounting against the World's oceans are immense: from floating rafts of plastic the size of small countries, to rising temperatures bleaching entire reefs in a matter of years. If we don't act soon, we will risk losing a world that we're only just beginning to understand.

Pollution is a major player amongst the myriad of threats: plastics, toxic chemicals, noise and many other sources. These all present an acute threat to living organisms, from animals becoming entangled or accidentally mistaking discarded waste as their next meal, to background noise preventing communication in animals like dolphins and whales.

Did you know?

 

  • around 8 million pieces of plastic are currently entering our oceans every single day

  • a recent study estimates that 90% of seabirds carry around 10% of their body weight in plastics

  • Plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the World, and microplastics have even been found in the Arctic sea ice

  • A plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment

Plastic production and use has not slowed down since these findings with more and more single use disposable plastic used around in the world on a daily basis. Our team want to question why that is?

Unseen and Unknown

We believe it to be an issue of what is not visible. The problem is that a lot of this pollution isn't particularly obvious to us, even though its effects on the marine world can be disastrous.

 

Only 1% of plastics actually end up on the ocean surface, for example. We still don't know where the other 99% goes -  although tiny fragments called 'microplastics' likely end up settling on the sea floor, in the water column, in sea creatures or on our beaches.

The effects of this so-called non-visible pollution on marine life, as well as its concentration and distribution, presents a major gap in our scientific knowledge. This is especially true in remote regions such as the Arctic ocean, where the focus of most research has primarily been on the impacts of Climate Change.

That's where we - and more importantly, you - come in.

Our Mission

The aim of our 12-day voyage to the icy waters surrounding Svalbard is to make the unseen seen.

We'll be collecting vital baseline data on non-visible pollutants in the Arctic ocean, such as microplastics and human-made background noise. Through film, photography and arts, we will increase public awareness by making our findings educational and engaging, whilst highlighting the actions needed to preserve this spectacular region.

Key Objectives

 > To unite sailors, scientists, artists, filmmakers, adventurers, biologists and researchers to make the unseen seen, and reveal the invisible pollution destroying our oceans

 > To collect data on microplastics, noise pollution and chemical toxins to add to a worldwide data set, which we hope will go towards informing policies and instigating change 

> To engage with the public. From locals in Svalbard to students on our university campus: we hope our findings will educate and inspire others to make changes to their everyday lives that result in a cleaner, healthier environment.

The Expedition

The Vessel

Blue clipper is a 33m tall-ship that's sailed all over the World and is ideal for Arctic conditions. Her size means we can take a large and diverse team with us, allowing the simultaneous sampling for various research projects. The vessel will serve as a mobile laboratory.

Being powered by wind will allows us to take unique samples of marine noise and travel with less disturbance on the environment.

The Research

The purpose of our expedition is to expose the unseen pollutants causing immense damage to the fragile ocean ecosystem, sampling the Arctic waters for microplastics and using acoustic devices to monitor noise pollution. Our research will aid global knowledge on this issue and gain valuable information on the potential for the buildup of toxic pollutants in marine food webs.

Why Svalbard? 

The Arctic is a unique region witnessing great environmental change. Svalbard is an icy Arctic archipelago in an extremely remote area midway between Norway and the North Pole, where baseline studies into unseen pollutants are desperately lacking.  

Ocean currents such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream meet a 'dead-end' close to Svalbard, offloading a plethora of plastics and waste carried for hundreds of kilometres. With a globally-important marine food-web of organisms, the potential for harmful impacts is a major source of concern, and studies are only just beginning to understand these effects.

As the polar ice caps melt, human access for exploration and exploitation of polar waters is constantly increasing, and the pressure to exploit these regions is extremely high.

 

Our expedition will raise awareness of the issues facing its marine environment, and give compelling evidence to act: to protect it before it's too late.