On June 1st 2021, Arctic Sense, a collaborative four-month scientific and communications expedition, will set sail on a 3,000 nautical mile investigative voyage to the polar Atlantic onboard ocean conservation platform S.V. Barba.
The expedition will start and end in Barba’s home port of Stavanger and will see a diverse multinational team of experts sail via Svalbard, Jan Mayen, the Faroe & Shetland Islands, Edinburgh and London. The team will research, document and share valuable information and untold stories about marine life in the region, with a focus on keystone Arctic and sub-Arctic whale species, the sentinels of our ocean.
Why this? Why now?
The polar Atlantic’s marine life is in jeopardy from climate change, noise exposure, plastic and chemical pollution. Imminent and future changes, such as large-scale shipping and mining, may tip populations into terminal decline. Before this occurs, there is an urgent need to study marine life in the area. By combining novel research methods with historical data and storytelling, the team aims to create a call to action for conservation of the Arctic ecosystem.
Expected encounters with species slowly recovering the brink after historical hunting, such as the polar bear, walrus and blue whale, will serve as a good reminder that with the right action, a more harmonious relationship between humans and the oceans can exist.
“The impacts of climate change are unfolding far more rapidly and intensely in the Arctic than anywhere else”, says Barba’s Captain and Expedition Director Andreas B. Heide. “Soaring temperatures, rapidly melting ice, acidification and rising sea levels, combined with pervasive levels of marine plastic pollution, are all threatening Arctic ecosystems. With the clock ticking, documenting and researching the threats faced by marine life in this highly inaccessible region are more important than ever to inform and inspire effective safeguards for this fragile environment.”
Science & research at sea
In partnership with leading research institutions including the University of Iceland and University of Stavanger the Arctic Sense scientific programme will be led by collaborative research group Whale Wise.
“Using novel and exciting methods including drone-based aerial imagery and custom-built acoustic arrays to monitor the impact of human activity on whale populations, we’ll be asking: which species inhabit the region and why? How are humans influencing population health? Are these populations resilient to future disturbance? We will explore the polar Atlantic ecosystem, learning what we can from historic activities, assess its current health and predict the impact of a developing Arctic” says Tom Grove, Science Lead Arctic Sense and Co-Founder Whale Wise.
Mission Schedule: The Arctic Sense journey is divided into 4 separate chapters.
CHAPTER 1 – JUNE – THE NORWEGIAN COAST
Departing from Stavanger June 1st, we will transit reasonably quickly from southern Norway to Tromsø in northern Norway. On the way we will stop to capture elements building up the story, while we get the crew and vessel fine-tuned for the journey ahead. More specifically, we plan on making a stop in Andenes to document sperm whales, while testing our hydrophones in a familiar environment for later use along the Arctic Sense journey. This will be the 11th time we transit the Norwegian coast, and the 5th time we document whales in Andenes.
CHAPTER 2 – JULY-AUGUST – SVALBARD
Svalbard is the land of polar bears, walrus and numerous whale species. We plan on spending a total of about 6 weeks in Svalbard. The first 3 weeks will be spent with Longyearbyen as a base of operations for shorter sorties for relevant field work. The following 3 weeks we plan on circumnavigating the Archipelago.
CHAPTER 3 – AUGUST-SEPTEMBER – JAN MAYEN
We sail south from Svalbard for the longest ocean passage of the journey, that brings us to the little-known volcanic island of Jan Mayen. As part of the expedition, Captain Heide and British writer Hugh Francis Anderson will co-lead the recreation of Sir James Mann Wordie’s 1921 Jan Mayen expedition to summit the world’s northernmost active volcano, Mount Beerenberg, on the centenary of its first ascent.
The mission aims to share valuable historical and cultural stories, alongside asking questions surrounding the impact of climate change on the island’s glaciers and marine ecosystems. “This is a remarkable opportunity to recreate and share a previously untold tale of polar exploration,” says Hugh Francis Anderson. “In a modern interpretation of the original expedition, we hope to discover what impact climate change has had on this minute Arctic island over the past century.”
Barba was last at Jan Mayen in 2012, which was more of a scouting mission. This time we come prepared with a scientific survey plan, a professional photographer and a journalist.
CHAPTER 4 – JAN MAYEN – LONDON
We conclude the mission by bringing home the stories from the Arctic to London. On the way, we hope to stop in the Faroe Islands, and Shetland islands and Edinburgh en route. We expect to have a story or two to tell by the time of our arrival. After the mission is completed, we will make our way home to Stavanger, Norway at a comfortable pace, hopefully encountering some more whales on the journey.
British Ambassador to Norway Richard Wood says, “The Arctic Sense Expedition is especially timely and important in this Decade of Ocean Science, and the UK’s Presidency of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November. The expedition, and the insights gathered from it, will add tremendous value to environmental science education and to science communication in general. Raising awareness of the state of our planet, and communicating the importance of these issues are crucial. The UK, through its COP26 Presidency, and as a climate action leader, supports such endeavours, and hopes it will help push forward international momentum and action towards our global goal of mitigating climate change – today and beyond”.
Making Arctic Sense possible
It takes a huge effort from many amazing people and organisations to make an expedition like Arctic Sense possible. Massive thanks to the generous support of educational grants, pro bono support, sponsors and technical partnerships. The expedition’s main sponsor is TD Veen AS, a venture capital fund based in Stavanger, Norway to whom we are extremely grateful. At the heart of its operation is the ethos that “the investment is only good when it also benefits society”.
TD Veen’s Chairman Silje Veen says “TD Veen is the proud main sponsor of Arctic Sense 2021. As it is of invaluable importance to explore and identify the marine fauna in the arctic seas, we are very happy to help make this expedition viable. The team members´ enthusiasm and talent for communicating their mission to children and young people is also highly appreciated. For TD Veen it is a special honour “to be on board” together with the leader of the expedition, Andreas Heide, who is also from our home town, Stavanger. From ambitious expeditions in the past Andreas and his team members have shown both great performance achievement and devotion, all of which are values to be encouraged. We wish Barba and her crew a happy voyage!”
Arctic Sense 2021 Route: Stavanger – Andenes – Tromsø – circumnavigation Svalbard – Jan Mayen – Faroe Islands – Shetland Islands – Edinburgh – London – Stavanger
The crew will be rotating through the different expedition chapters. Led by Norwegian Andreas B. Heide, the core team onboard and onshore is composed of Larissa Clark, Tom Grove and Hugh Francis Anderson from UK, Alyssa Stoller from the US, Prof. Marianne Rasmussen from Iceland and Arzucan Askin from Germany. A number of other individuals will be onboard as rotating crew members throughout the expedition and are supporting via the land-based research team. More on that later!
Huge thanks to our Partners and Sponsors
Main Sponsor: TD Veen
Collaborating Partners: Norwegian British Chamber of Commerce, Bjørnson Organisational Psychologists, Click Research, Haver Advokatfirma AS, Ocean Bottle, Stargate media – see here
Technical Partners: North Sails, B&G, Jeanneau, Musto, Dubarry of Ireland, Spinlock, Yanmar – see here
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