All-female crew take to the seas for two years for eXXpedition sailing mission.

On October 9th 2019 an all-female crew embarked 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, UK will sail through some of the most important and diverse marine environments on the planet. Aboard the 73ft sailing vessel, the S.V. TravelEdge, the team will cross four of the five oceanic gyres, where ocean plastic is known to accumulate, aswell as the Arctic.

Some of the all-female team aboard the S.V TravelEdge before it's Plymouth launch for the eXXpedition.
The S.V.TravelEdge will have an all-female crew. Credit JeffCooney & eXXpedition

Under the directorship of award-winning ocean advocate Emily Penn, 300 women have joined the research vessel as the crew. Over 30 voyage legs, they’ll travel more than 38,000 nautical miles, studying microplastics and toxins in our ocean. Beyond contributing to cutting-edge scientific research, the mission aims to celebrate women in STEM, exploration and sailing while creating a powerful global network of Ambassadors. They then use their experience at-sea when back on dry land as leaders in their respective fields, helping to end the flow of plastics into our ocean. 

Much needed ‘advanced’ research

Mission Director Emily Penn, co-founder of eXXpedition, said: 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. 

eXXpedition Mission Director, Emily Penn analyses a plastic sampled from the seas.
Mission Director, Emily Penn analyses a plastic sample – Credit Sperry

“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. 

“Many great organisations are supporting our journey and share our vision of tackling ocean plastic through scientific research and empowering changemakers. Special thanks go 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 toxins, and contributing to much-needed solutions back on land by inspiring our passionate crew to collaborate and take lessons back to their communities.

Science Programme

The eXXpedition Round the World science programme 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 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, they’re supported by the eXXpedition Science Advisory Board.

The science programme will carry out research at sea and on land across 35 countries. Researchers will look at the global distribution of (micro)plastics, from their sources on land to their dispersal and accumulation within the worlds’ ocean. The programme is expected to provide unique insights into the extent and characteristics of plastics not only in surface waters but within the upper water column and in subtidal sediments.

Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit, said: “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.” 

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