Sailing Svalbard: a message from the Arctic

by Sails Against Plastics in Falmouth

Sail Against Plastic: A collaborative sailing expedition investigating and unveiling unseen pollution in the Arctic ocean

by Sails Against Plastics in Falmouth

We did it
On 10th February 2018 we successfully raised £1,160 with 46 supporters in 56 days

The Ocean needs you

The threats mounting against the World's oceans are immense: from floating rafts of plastic the size of small countries, to rising temperatures bleaching entire reefs in a matter of years. If we don't act soon, we will risk losing a world that we're only just beginning to understand.

Pollution is a major player amongst the myriad of threats: plastics, toxic chemicals, noise and many other sources. These all present an acute threat to living organisms, from animals becoming entangled or accidentally mistaking discarded waste as their next meal, to background noise preventing communication in animals like dolphins and whales.

Did you know? 

  • around 8 million pieces of plastic are currently entering our oceans every single day
  • a recent study estimates that 90% of seabirds carry around 10% of their body weight in plastics
  • Plastic pollution can now be found on every beach in the World, and microplastics have even been found in the Arctic sea ice
  • A plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment

Plastic production and use has not slowed down since these findings with more and more single use disposable plastic used around in the world on a daily basis. Our team want to question why that is? 

Unseen and unknown

We believe it to be an issue of what is not visible. The problem is that a lot of this pollution isn't particularly obvious to us, even though its effects on the marine world can be disastrous. 

Only 1% of plastics actually end up on the ocean surface, for example. We still don't know where the other 99% goes -  although tiny fragments called 'microplastics' likely end up settling on the sea floor, in the water column, in sea creatures or on our beaches.

The effects of this so-called non-visible pollution on marine life, as well as its concentration and distribution, presents a major gap in our scientific knowledge. This is especially true in remote regions such as the Arctic ocean, where the focus of most research has primarily been on the impacts of Climate Change.

That's where we - and more importantly, you - come in.

Our Mission

The aim of our 12-day voyage to the icy waters surrounding Svalbard is to make the unseen seen.

We'll be collecting vital baseline data on non-visible pollutants in the Arctic ocean, such as microplastics and human-made background noise. Through film, photography and arts, we will increase public awareness by making our findings educational and engaging, whilst highlighting the actions needed to preserve this spectacular region.

Key Objectives

 > To unite sailors, scientists, artists, filmmakers, adventurers, biologists and researchers to make the unseen seen, and reveal the invisible pollution destroying our oceans

 > To collect data on microplastics, noise pollution and chemical toxins to add to a worldwide data set, which we hope will go towards informing policies and instigating change 

> To engage with the public. From locals in Svalbard to students on our university campus: we hope our findings will educate and inspire others to make changes to their everyday lives that result in a cleaner, healthier environment.

The Expedition

The Vessel

Blue clipper is a 33m tall-ship that's sailed all over the World and is ideal for Arctic conditions. Her size means we can take a large and diverse team with us, allowing the simultaneous sampling for various research projects. The vessel will serve as a mobile laboratory.

Being powered by wind will allows us to take unique samples of marine noise and travel with less disturbance on the environment.

The Research

The purpose of our expedition is to expose the unseen pollutants causing immense damage to the fragile ocean ecosystem, sampling the Arctic waters for microplastics and using acoustic devices to monitor noise pollution. Our research will aid global knowledge on this issue and gain valuable information on the potential for the buildup of toxic pollutants in marine food webs.


Why Svalbard? 

The Arctic is a unique region witnessing great environmental change. Svalbard is an icy Arctic archipelago in an extremely remote area midway between Norway and the North Pole, where baseline studies into unseen pollutants are desperately lacking.  

Ocean currents such as the Atlantic Gulf Stream meet a 'dead-end' close to Svalbard, offloading a plethora of plastics and waste carried for hundreds of kilometres. With a globally-important marine food-web of organisms, the potential for harmful impacts is a major source of concern, and studies are only just beginning to understand these effects.

As the polar ice caps melt, human access for exploration and exploitation of polar waters is constantly increasing, and the pressure to exploit these regions is extremely high. 

 Our expedition will raise awareness of the issues facing its marine environment, and give compelling evidence to act: to protect it before it's too late.

The Team

We're a diverse student group of passionate scientists, environmentalists, photographers, artists and videographers. Brought together through a shared love of the ocean and protecting the natural world, we'll be utilising our collective skills to raise awareness of the hidden threats our oceans are facing. 

Based at the Cornish campuses of the University of Exeter and Falmouth University, our 18-strong research team will also be drawing on representatives from Greenpeace, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF). These are Simon Pierce, Co-founder of MMF; David Santillo, senior research fellow for Greenpeace; and Dom Ferris, Project Manager of SAS.

Our current Crew:

  • Moira Connor - Expedition Leader
  • Flora Rendell - Postgraduate Researcher (Microplastics, University of Exeter)
  • Daniel Osmond - Conservation Biology and Ecology Student, University of Exeter
  • Lowenna Jones - Postgraduate Researcher (Microplastics, University of Exeter)
  • Thomas Auld - Zoology Student, University of Exeter 
  • Simon J Pierce - Marine Conservation Biologist and co-founder of Marine Megafauna Foundation
  • Madison Bowden-Parry - Film and Photography
  • Vinny Stelzer - Film and Photography
  • Rachel Porter - Illustrator 
  • Meret Jucker - Top to Top Sailing, BSc Zoology
  • Ben Porter- Film and Photography
  • Ben Toulson - Former FXpeditions Director, Msc Applied Ecology University of Exeter
  • Ellie Brown - Environmental Science 

The Voyage

We will set sail aboard TS Blue Clipper from Longyearbyen, Svalbard on the 23rd June 2018. From there we'll embark on a series of transects to collect the desired data. These transects will be carried out in the west, south and east of the archipelago. We  will further stop off at a number of the country's Fjords to acquire samples from a range of oceanic environments - shallow and deep waters. Our expedition will draw to a close - providing we're not  whisked away by some ferocious Arctic winds - on 5th July.

Though our data collection will finish with the departure from Svalbard, a large portion of the work only begins then. Back in Cornwall, UK several members of the team will analyse the data, while others will focus on public engagement by editing the film footage, organising events, school visits and getting the results out to the world. The aim is to have the film released to various adventure and wildlife film festivals by September 2018.

What we'll do with the money raised through your support

The 10K you help us raise will be a crucial element for our Arctic odyssey, and will go towards the following:

  • hiring out the magnificent tall-ship The Blue Clipper for the expedition
  •  film, photography and dive equipment to help document the research and produce our short documentary films
  • research equipment, including an acoustic recording device and a manta trawl for microplastic surveys

In addition, we commit to at least 10 public viewings of the resulting documentary raising awareness of these key issues. Our film will be broadcast to as wide an audience as possible, and your names will be included in the credits as a thank you from the team!

Be part of the solution to save our oceans: support our project and its funding to enable us to make the unseen seen.

If you aren't able to contribute to the expedition's funding but like what we’re doing, then get the word out! Give us a like on Facebook,  tell your friends and family, and please don't hesitate to get in touch: email


Collaboration is a key aspect of our Arctic quest: our current partners include the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, Paddle Against Plastic, Falmouth Marine Conservation Group and Cornwall Wildlife Trust.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£5 or more

Credits in our Film

You'll appear in the (hopefully!) long list of contributors in the ending credits of our documentaries post-expedition.

£20 or more

Prints and Artwork

A signed photo print or piece of artwork from the talented photographers and artists on board

£30 or more

Reusable Water Bottle or Keep-cup

Be part of the solution to end single-use plastics: by donating £30 you'll receive a durable water bottle or reusable keep-cup that can last years, as opposed to being used once and then ending up in our precious seas.

£50 or more

Branded T-shirt

You'll receive a t-shirt made with the ethical company Rapanui, branded with the logo designed by our expedition artist.

£100 or more

Branded Hoodie

You'll receive one of our own branded hoodies made with the ethical company Rapanui, bearing the logo designed by our own expedition artist.

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