FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Scientist-adventurers to disembark on pioneering sailing voyage to uncharted waters off Greenland
Ocean Research Project teams with NASA, Smithsonian, 5 Gyres to study climate change, ocean acidification and marine plastics in one of the most remote regions of the world
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (June 15, 2015) – A team of two scientists, researchers and sailors leave for uncharted fjords off western Greenland this week to conduct first-of-its-kind scientific research in a vessel uniquely outfitted to access and study the most remote – and least-understood – places on the planet.
The 100-day expedition is organized by the Ocean Research Project, a Maryland-based environmental nonprofit. The group will use a 42-foot, steel-hulled schooner called the Ault as a platform for gathering cutting-edge scientific data on some of the central environmental challenges of our time, including climate change, ocean acidification and marine plastics.
“Melville Bay in Northwest Greenland is one of the few blank spaces left on the map,” said ORP founder Matt Rutherford, who in 2012 was the first person to circumnavigate the Americas solo nonstop and has led two previous sailboat-based scientific surveys in far-off ocean environments. “The effects of climate change, ocean acidification and plastic pollution are hardly understood in Greenland. Groundbreaking research in a place that’s barely been touched by humankind makes for extremely exciting science.”
The research will include “ground-truthing” salinity levels for NASA’s Aquarius satellite; gathering data on the carbon content of the ocean for the Smithsonian; and deployment of small cylindrical devices called CTD casts to depths of up to 1,500 feet and as far north as 77-degrees North – well above the Arctic Circle – to conduct research for NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland program.
The CTD casts will be deployed in fjords that have never been studied before. The devices, designed detect where warm water from the Atlantic Ocean impacts Arctic marine environments, will help scientists understand how and why Greenland’s massive glaciers are being undercut at the point where they meet the sea.
“This data will provide great insight into the stability of polar glacial systems,” Rutherford said of the CTD tests.
Using finely webbed nets, ORP will also conduct long-distance trawls that will collect for one of the first times in an Arctic environment small pieces of plastic refuse. Even a few samples yielding “micro-plastics” could be analyzed for their composition, presence of harmful toxins, and presence of various micro-bacteria. This research will be conducted in conjunction with SEA and 5 Gyres that can be used to support international models that show how much marine debris is in various climactic regions.
ORP’s Nicole Trenholm, a former NOAA scientist, will help lead the expedition. She said the marine debris research builds upon previous ORP surveys.
“ORP has established itself as the premier surveyor of long-distance, remote marine plastics research,” Trenholm said. “Our work this summer will build on that track record – and deliver to the scientific community data that will fill important gaps in research. The amount of plastics in our oceans is staggering. Understanding what plastics are where will help us deal with the problem and keep our oceans safe and clean for future generations.”
Trenholm and ORP will also work with more than 300 public school students in Maryland who will act as virtual crewmembers and will describe in blogs emerging marine threats in the Arctic.
In addition to making Rutherford, Trenholm, and other expedition participants available for media interviews, the following resources about the expedition are available to press:
- ORP’s regularly updated Facebook page is available here.
- Photos of Rutherford, Trenholm and the Ault are available here.
- A map of the expedition is available on the ORP current project page.
- To follow the education component of the journey, see here.
The Ocean Research Project (501c3) sails for science, education and exploration in order to direct the sustainability of the oceans. We serve the scientific and scholastic communities by providing a worldwide alternative of affordable and environmentally benign oceangoing data collection platforms.