Ocean Plastics

All-female crew prepares for two-year plastic pollution circumnavigation

written by Oceanographic Staff

On October 8th, the eXXpedition Round-the-world voyage will set sail from Plymouth.

The eXXpedition mission will focus on investigating the causes of and solutions to ocean plastic pollution. The two-year expedition will consist of 30 different legs, which a total of 300 women joining the research vessel at different stages of the journey. 

The complete journey will see research sailing vessel TravelEdge travel more than 38,000 nautical miles through four of the five oceanic gyres, where ocean plastic is known to accumulate.

The mission looks to celebrate women in STEM, sailing and explorers in addition to contributing to much-needed scientific research. Headed up by award-winning ocean advocate Emily Penn, the hope is that all of the individuals taking part will use their experiences at sea to catalyse change back home in their respective fields, helping to end the flow of plastics into our ocean. 

Emily Penn eXXpedition plastic pollution circumnavigation

The plastic pollution challenge our ocean faces is a global one and it will take an inspired army of passionate, skilled and experienced people to tackle it,” said eXXpedition co-founder and mission director, Emily Penn. “Our eXXpedition Round the World mission is a unique opportunity to build a comprehensive picture of the state of our seas, while conducting much needed research that will inform practical and effective solutions to ocean pollution.We’re looking forward to furthering the science and visibility of ocean plastic and toxics, and contributing to much needed solutions back on land by inspiring our passionate crew to collaborate and take lessons back to their communities.”

Participants are aged between 18 and 57, and represent over 30 nationalities. Their diverse backgrounds include psychologists, doctors, actors, scientists, community leaders, academics, artists, filmmakers, ocean activists and sustainability professionals. 

Emily Penn eXXpedition plastic pollution circumnavigation

“In recent years, tackling the plastics in our oceans has become one of our most high-profile environmental challenges,” said Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit. “It is crucial that we use innovative and informed means to develop a greater understanding of the issue’s global scale, and to identify ways to address it. This collaboration will undoubtedly help achieve that, and we are delighted to be working with eXXpedition to generate new knowledge and interest in this important area.”

Each leg of the not-for-profit expedition has been sponsored by organisations who support eXXpedition’s vision of tackling ocean plastic through scientific research and empowering changemakers. The first leg will finish in the Azores, where the crew will switch over and continue to Antigua through the North Atlantic Gyre.

To read Emily Penn’s personal account of her previous eXXpedition voyage, Changing Winds: Ocean optimism in the North Pacific Gyre, pick up a copy of Oceanographic Issue 03.

Photographs by Eleanor Church.

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