Jun 11

A team of students and staff from the University of Exeter are set to embark on a 12-day voyage to measure pollution in the Arctic

Their aim: to make the unseen seen. By collecting vital baseline data on the non-visible pollutants lurking beneath the sea’s surface and with a diverse crew of film-makers, artists, photographers, scientists and sailors, they hope to increase public awareness of issues from microplastics to manmade noise by making their findings educational and engaging; highlighting the actions needed to preserve this spectacular region before it’s too late.

Key objectives:

  • To unite sailors, scientists, artists, filmmakers, adventurers, biologists and researchers to make the unseen seen, and reveal the invisible pollution threatening our remarkable marine environment
  • To collect data on microplastics and manmade noise which will be added to a global research database, and in turn will go towards informing policies and instigating change
  • To engage with the public: from the local community in Svalbard to students, their findings will educate and inspire others to make changes to their everyday lives and result in a cleaner, healthier environment

    Microplastics & Zooplankton… take a closer look and all manner of interesting lifeforms and objects appear. Zooplankton are abundant in this sample but also microscopic plastic fragments and microfiber filaments, broken down into tiny pieces entering the very base of the foodchain.

Why?

The Arctic is a unique region witnessing environmental change on an unprecedented scale. Ocean currents such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream meet a ‘dead-end’ close to this archipelago, offloading a plethora of plastics and waste carried for hundreds of kilometers from the UK and elsewhere in Europe – essentially, the Arctic is acting as a ‘dumping ground’ for our waste.

Pollution is a major player among the myriad of threats our oceans face: plastics, toxic chemicals, manmade noise and countless others. These all present an acute threat to living organisms, whether that be through entanglement and ingestion of discarded waste, through to the disruption of communication in animals like dolphins and whales caused by an increasingly noisy underwater environment. However, many of these pollutants aren’t particularly obvious to us, even though their effects on the marine world can be disastrous.

The effects of this ‘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 is primarily on the impacts of Climate Change – no less urgent or impactful on the ecosystems here. With this expedition they strive to unveil the exact nature of these ‘invisible’ pollutants in the Arctic ocean, whilst communicating findings to the public and giving compelling evidence to act.

The team assess the levels of pollution in the waters of the Falmouth Estuary in Cornwall

The Expedition

The team will travel on Blue Clipper, a 33m tall-ship, powered solely by wind and ideally suited to Arctic conditions.  Here they will carry out a series of transects across the Barents Sea to the south-west of the archipelago, using manta trawls, drop-net sampling and acoustic hydrophones to gather data on microplastics and noise pollution in this remote area. Once the data collection finished their work will continue as they spend a week in Svalbard itself: meeting members of the local community to present findings, document opinions on global pollution, and assisting with  the beach clean initiatives already in place.

The team’s home for two weeks, aboard the magnificent tallship, the Blue Clipper

Public engagement is a strong theme running throughout the exhibition.  The team, having already reached out to school children about the impacts of single-use plastics, surveyed locally for microplastics here along the Cornish coast, hosted beach cleans and engaging film screenings, and have run a variety of fund-raising events including a ‘Ceilidh Against Plastic’ and ‘Gig Against Plastic’! All these events have enabled public engagement with the issues of single-use plastics and how areas which seem pristine and untouched can be tainted by our actions here in the UK.

Be part of the solution to save our oceans: support the project and enable them to make the unseen seen.

Find out more

Visiting their website www.sailagainstplastic.com

Keep in touch:

Facebook – @amessagefromthearctic

Instagram – @amessagefromthearctic

Twitter – @Sail4seas

Email – sailagainstplastic@gmail.com

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