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All-female Crew Set for Plastic Pollution Sailing Mission

Sophie Bolesworth Image All-female Crew Set for Plastic Pollution Sailing Mission
The crew will embark on a two-year eXXpedition sailing research mission around the world to investigate the causes of and solutions to ocean plastic pollution.

The eXXpedition Round the World voyage, which sets sail from Plymouth, U.K., on October 8 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 on board the 73-foot sailing vessel S.V. TravelEdge.

Under the directorship of ocean advocate Emily Penn, 300 women will join the research vessel as crew over 30 voyage legs to journey more than 38,000 nautical miles, studying microplastics and toxics in the ocean.

Beyond contributing to cutting-edge scientific research, the mission aims to celebrate women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), exploration and sailing while creating a powerful global network of ambassadors. They will use their experience at sea when back on dry land as leaders in their respective fields, helping to end the flow of plastics into the ocean.

Since plans for the mission were announced last December, almost 10,000 women from around the world have applied to take part in the voyage.

Half of the 300 places have since been allocated. Participants are aged between 18 and 57 and represent more than 30 nationalities. Their diverse backgrounds include scientists, community leaders, academics, artists, filmmakers, business women, psychologists, doctors, actors, ocean activists and sustainability professionals and novice as well as experienced sailors. Bursary places are available and designed to increase diversity on board and maximize eXXpedition’s collective impact.

eXXpedition ImageAll-female Crew Set for Plastic Pollution Sailing Mission

“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 Mission Director Penn, co-founder of eXXpedition, in a statement. “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 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,” added Penn. “Many great organizations are supporting our journey and share our vision of tackling ocean plastic through scientific research and empowering changemakers. Special thanks goes to our Gold Level sponsors, TOMRA, a global resources productivity company; Travel Edge, a leading luxury travel agency; and the Red Ensign Group, a group of British Shipping Registers. 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."

The eXXpedition Round the World science program is being led by Dr. Winnie Courtene-Jones, eXXpedition science lead, University of Plymouth. It has been developed with ocean plastic experts Professor Richard Thompson, 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. The event is supported by the eXXpedition Science Advisory Board, which includes a mix of leading academics and industry representatives including Daniel Schwaab, TOMRA senior vice president for circular economy strategy.

Researchers will look at the global distribution of (micro)plastics, from their sources on land to their dispersal and accumulation within the ocean. The program is expected to provide novel insights into the extent and characteristics of plastics not only in surface waters but within the upper water column and in subtidal sediments of more than 35 countries.

eXXpedition ImageAll-female Crew Set for Plastic Pollution Sailing Mission

“In recent years, tackling the plastics in our oceans has become one of our most high-profile environmental challenges,” said Thompson in a statement. “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.”

“The first leg of eXXpedition ‘Round the World’ will be an exciting and challenging sail from Plymouth to the Azores. Plymouth is ‘Britain’s Ocean City’ and home of our scientific partners at the University of Plymouth, making it the best place for us to slip the mooring lines on our two-year mission across the globe,” noted Penn. “This Leg 1 journey is kindly sponsored by sustainable footwear company Rothy’s and includes a participant whose place was made possible thanks to a bursary from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). It will involve upwind sailing over 1,200 nautical miles across the Atlantic to the Azores, where we look forward to meeting and sharing our experience with local communities.”

Leg 1 Crew:

  • Emily Penn, U.K., mission director    
  • Anna Strang, U.K., skipper
  • Maggie Kerr, Australia, first mate
  • Sophie Dingwall, U.K., deck hand
  • Kirana Agustina, Indonesia, post-graduate student, IMO Developing Nations Bursary Participant
  • Aarathi Arumugam, Malaysia, business woman
  • Natalie Fox, U.K., surf and yoga Instructor
  • Breezy Grenier, U.S., marine educator
  • Sonja Jakić, Croatia, mechanical engineering student and sailor
  • Ann Jenkins, Canada, founder and director of Asociación Playa Patrol
  • Marcia Reinauer, U.S., documentary filmmaker and photographer
  • Katrin Scholz-Barth, Germany/U.S., business woman
  • Kimberly Wooten, U.S., historical archaeologist
  • Kirsty Young, U.K., police constable
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