eXXpedition Sets Sail

Meet the all-female crew sailing round the world to tackle plastic pollution

On the afternoon of 8 October 2019, the S.V. TravelEdge, a 73-foot, two-mast sailing vessel, will slip its mooring from Plymouth, UK, to start a two-year journey around the world.

300 women will join the ship over 30 legs and 38,000 nautical miles.

They will visit 35 countries in pursuit of scientific knowledge and practical solutions to ocean plastic pollution.

The all-women crew led by Emily Penn, co-founder and director of eXXpedition, will sail through some of the most important and diverse marine environments on the planet. This includes crossing four of the five oceanic gyres, where ocean plastic is known to accumulate, and the Arctic.

‘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.

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.’
– Emily Penn, Mission Director

The route 2019 – 2021

Plymouth, UK – Azores – North Atlantic Gyre – Antigua – Bonaire – Aruba – San Blas – Panama – Galapagos – Easter Island – South Pacific Gyre – Tahiti – Cook Islands – Tonga – Fiji – Vanuatu – Cairns – Darwin – Perth – Indian Ocean Gyre – Mauritius – Cape Town – South Atlantic Gyre – Recife – Fernando de Noronha – Grenada – St Lucia – Bermuda – North Atlantic Gyre – Halifax – Labrador – Disko Bay – Nuuk – Iceland – Lofoten – Oslo – London, UK.

What’s the purpose of the journey?

We know that out of all the plastic we’ve ever created, only 9 or 10% of it has been recycled. And this stuff was engineered to last.

But when you have something that lasts forever used to make products intended for a single use – like a plastic straw or a water bottle or a wet wipe – you quickly end up with tonnes of plastic rubbish.

Emily at dump site in Kiribati
Emily at dump site in Kiribati

And we’re more aware now than ever that a lot of that plastic is ending up in the oceans.

Led by Dr. Winnie Courtene-Jones of the University of Plymouth, eXXpedition’s science programme will look at the global distribution of (micro)plastics, from their origin point on land to their final destination in the oceans.

The researchers and citizen scientists will be examining plastic pollution in the surface water, further down the water column and in the sub-tidal sediment in coastal areas around the world.

The purpose is to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about how plastic ends up in the oceans, how it moves with currents and what happens to it as it begins to degrade through sun, wind and waves.

Ultimately, the research will feed into solutions that industry and governments around the world can start to put into place.

The science programme has been developed with ocean plastic experts Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, and Professor Jenna Jambeck, Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia.

It is supported by the eXXpedition Science Advisory Board which includes a mix of leading academics and industry representatives, including Dr Daniel Schwaab, TOMRA Senior Vice-President for Circular Economy Strategy.

‘In recent years, tackling the plastics in our oceans has become one of our most high-profile environmental challenges. 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.’
– Professor Richard Thompson OBE

Photo Credit: Eleanor Church, Lark Rise Pictures

Who is going?

Over 10,000 women applied to be part of the crew. Whittling it down to 300 from more than 30 countries was no easy task. But Ambassadors were selected for their intention and motivation to take part over their skill set.

Aged between 18 and 57, there are scientists, community leaders, academics, artists, filmmakers, business women, psychologists, doctors, actors, ocean activists and sustainability professionals. Some are complete novices when it comes to the sea and some are experienced sailors.

‘We are starting our Round the World voyage with an amazing crew of inspirational women and some fantastic partners who help to make the dream of such an ambitious project a reality. Many great organisations are supporting our journey and share our vision of tackling ocean plastic through scientific research and empowering changemakers.

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.

– Emily Penn, Mission Director

Why the all-women crew?

Women have historically been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. The same is true in exploration and sailing.

And while progress is being made, there is still more that needs to be done to level the playing field.

Women are also affected by chemicals found in plastic pollution in a different way than men are. Not only does the plastic itself leach chemicals as it degrades, it also attracts chemicals because of its oil-based properties.

Emily had her blood tested a few years ago, and for the 35 chemicals they tested for, she had 29 of them inside her body.

eXXpedition is an opportunity to celebrate women in STEM as well as raise awareness of the health effects of chemicals and start a conversation about what women can do in their personal life to reduce long-term health and environmental impacts.

Photo credit: Sophie Bolesworth

You can find out more about eXXpedition Round the World – http://exxpedition.com/

Follow news and updates on social media via #eXXpedition

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