Gyre to Gaia II | Azores to Canaries

$2,990 / £1,990
Jul 30 – Aug 8 2015

Depart: Horta, Azores
Arrive: Lanzarote, Canaries
Length: 10 days, 9 nights
Focus: Plastic pollution in the North Atlantic Gyre





‘There is no more urgent intellectual task facing the human species… than thoroughly to re-imagine its relationship with nature’     Robert Macfarlane

Would you care to join us for:

  • An ocean voyage adventure aboard 72ft yacht ‘Sea Dragon’
  • Sailing through the North Atlantic Gyre, northern Europe’s oceanic dump
  • Supporting key scientific research on plankton and microplastics
  • Exploring little known seas, human/nature relations, and pressing marine environmental issues
  • Debating effective, original solutions for ocean plastic pollution
  • With a unique and lovely group of people?

Building on the success of two expeditions in 2014,  Gyre to Gaia II aims to further our scientific knowledge of the relationship between plankton and microplastics; understand this issue in the wider context of human impacts on marine ecosystems; explore our relationship with nature in general and the sea in particular; and debate much needed solutions for one of the most challenging ecological issues of our time – ocean plastic pollution.

Gyre to Gaia II, originally convened by the Ocean Friendly Design Forum, is calling for an inter-disciplinary crew to sail from the Azores to the Canaries, across the edge of the North Atlantic Gyre. As well as sailing Sea Dragon, we will take part in daily scientific trawls in support of the plastics/plankton research; and facilitated discussions about ocean plastic pollution and its wider context, including other marine issues and human/nature relationships. Why do modern societies persist in treating the oceans as an infinite source of resources (like fish) and an infinite sump for waste: and what can be done to change this story and our treatment of the seas?

Crew include:

  • Adam Porter marine plastics scientist from the University of Exeter will turn the yacht into a laboratory and ask, are plankton ingesting microplastics?

The aims?

  • Inspire a connection to the significance of the seas and their awe-inspiring biodiversity
  • To take ourselves physically to the heart of the issue of plastic marine pollution and other marine issues and challenges
  • Create new stories, narratives and creative ways of expressing our interdependence with the ocean
  • Develop practical solutions for tackling the issue of ocean plastic, from design standards to changes in behaviour, values and world views
  • Provide a creative space away from ‘land noise’ with a lovely bunch of people

Exeter Microplastics Research Info:

The microplastics research team at the University of Exeter, led by Professor Tamara Galloway and Dr Ceri Lewis, are investigating the uptake and biological effects of microplastics by a number of important marine animals.

Microplastic debris is made up of tiny plastic beads, granules, fibres and fragments less than 5mm in diameter.  Work in the laboratory by the Exeter scientists has shown that these smaller pieces of plastic can be mistaken for food by a range of important marine animals, including zooplankton – the small animals at the bottom of the marine food chain. This has so far only been shown in laboratory experiments, and the aim of the Exeter scientist on the Gyre to Gaia II expedition will be to look to see if this occurs in the real ocean. Do microplastics occur in the same parts of the ocean as the plankton and, if so, can we find ‘real world’ evidence that plankton accidentally eat microplastics? What consequences, globally and locally, would
follow from this?

Whilst on board, scientist Adam Porter will be assessing the plastic problem first-hand. By taking sea-surface water samples, he will look at the different sizes and types of plastic littering our seas and consider its impact on the co-existing zooplankton that he finds. This work will form part of larger research projects across Europe and around UK coastal waters to better understand where microplastics occur and whether they impact marine zooplankton.

Use crowdfunding to get on board!

Several people have successfully raised money through crowdfunding to join previous expeditions on board Sea Dragon. The possibilities for this are endless, but we have resources and a few examples available here.

Blogs from the 2014 Gyre to Gyre voyage can be found here and here.

(Image credit: Maarten Vanden Eynde)

Adam Porter – Lead Scientist

Adam is a new member of the Exeter microplastics research team, having just started his PhD looking at the impacts of microplastics on marine zooplankton. Adam joins Exeter fresh from a project in Saudi Arabia looking at the impacts of coastal developments on coral reefs and also has experience of investigating the benefits of marine protested areas. Adam’s PhD will be to look at the co-occurrence of microplastics and zooplankton around UK coastal water working with the government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (Cefas).

Dai Rice – Skipper

Background & Expertise

I escaped from my main occupation a couple of years ago and am now a professional skipper. With over 50,000 miles of ocean sailing in both racing and cruising boats (and rowing boats!) I have first hand experience of the impact that pollution is having on our oceans and global well being.

Expedition Goals

My job as skipper is to ensure that Sea Dragon and her crew travel safely and happily across the oceans. It’s important to me that each member of the crew achieves their own personal goals, be they scientific, artistic, adventurous, philosophical or educational. And of course I’m always on hand to help teach saling, seamanship skills and bread making!

Andy Jeffrey – First Mate

Background & Expertise
Born and brought up on the west coast of mid-Wales, I started learning to sail at the age of seven – and am still learning! Following an early career in engineering and motorsport, I have moved progressively back towards sailing, which is now my full time occupation.
Having gained a number of RYA qualifications, in both personal competence and performance coaching, I relish any and every opportunity to share knowledge and experience with other people. The sailing environment provides so many metaphors for life that conversation is rarely limited to the immediate without reference to a broad outlook on a range of topics!
Expedition Goals
To support the aims of the expedition by contributing to the safe operation of Sea Dragon. I would also like to learn more about the way in which we interact both as an ‘intelligent’ species and with our natural environment.

Lizzy Fitzsimmons – Deckhand

Background & Expertise
Marine Biologist turned professional sailor. After completing my masters in marine biology at Southampton I worked as a research diver in Hong Kong before moving to London to work as an environmental consultant. After 3 years behind a desk I broke free and, after completing the Clipper round the world yacht race have taken to a live on the ocean waves.

Expedition Goals
I am looking forward to doing some great expedition sailing whilst going back to be scientific roots and joining in great discussions on the oceans, its future and how we can start to make a difference through exploration, research and education.

Seth Shelden

Background and area of expertise
I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker in search of compelling projects and a meaningful existence. My professional expertise is as an intellectual property attorney and law professor/lecturer, but I’m also a performer and artist and, in general, a generalist.
Goals and aims for the expedition
I want to learn more about sailing. I want to explore my concept for global plastic reduction. I want to meaningfully contribute to a solution for ocean health. I want to sit on the bow of the Sea Dragon in the middle of the ocean, with nothing but water as far as I can see. I want to have an extraordinary adventure. I want to help my fellow crew be happy and fulfilled. I want to do right by people, and right by life in general.

Lynn Harles

Background and area of expertise

I’m a communication- and productdesigner from Luxembourg (living in Germany), but first of all I’m a passionate outdoor nerd, backpacker and amateur surfer. I love to spend my free time as much as I can on the seaside, especially with my camera. Since I was child, I’m was always fascinated by marine science documentaries. During my studies, I began to work as “voluntary graphic designer” for a young group of marine scientists (Odyssea). This collaboration was so inspiring that I decided to combine my skills in the creative field with my passion for the sea and the outdoors, and so I founded the Start-Up outdoor label „Heroes of Nowhere“ this year. The label focus on fighting plastic pollution in our oceans : that means all the products will be mainly produced from recycled plastics recovered from the ocean and from beaches. One of the first products is backpack, which is already nominated for several design awards. But the mission of “Heroes of Nowhere” is not only to develop ocean-friendly products, but especially to make people aware of the plastic pollution in our oceans. This is why I started my own research project in order to showcase the consequences of our “plastic age” and especially to find people who dedicate their life to find solutions and raise awareness for this ecological issue. No matter if they are sailing the oceans, collecting plastics in the middle of nowhere, cleaning up beaches, creating whole new ways of living and trying to live plastic-free – they are for me the real heroes of our time!

Goals and aims for the expedition 
In terms of my research, I’m working on a documentary which showcases the problem of the different types of plastic pollution and the work of scientists, activists and amateurs who are trying to find solutions for this challenging topic. This documentary is called “The plastic age expeditions”. Joining Pangaea Explorations on this expedition is the perfect opportunity for me to get very close to the “heroes”, working on their their research/projects in the middle of nowhere of the North Atlantic. I’m looking forward to sit together with the other crew members from other parts of the world and to listen to their experiences, points of view, ideas and visions. I want to become myself an active member of this ocean-aware movement and to play a small part in contributing to a cleaner marine environment! Being 10 days on board, also be a personal challenge for myself – surrounded by nothing but the ocean and far away from the usual every day life. I can’t wait to forget about all my To-Do lists at home and to start focussing on the one thing I’m really passionate about, to enjoy every single moment of this challenging adventure and to meet like-minded ocean-nerds and to share this trip of a lifetime with them!
Jul 30th Crew meet at noon in Horta, Azores. Afternoon/evening getting to know each other, relaxing ashore. Introduction session. This night will be at anchor.
Jul 31st Safety briefing and then depart. Learn the basics of sailing.
Aug 1st-6th Sailing, science and facilitated discussions
Aug 7th Arrive in port
Aug 8th Final discussion session. Crew depart at midday.

*Itinerary subject to change based on weather and willingness to ‘say yes more’ to spontaneous possibilities 😉

Travel documents:
Crew will require a passport from their home country that will allow them to travel to Portugal and Spain.

Contribution Includes:

  • 9 nights accommodation on board Sea Dragon
  • All meals, snacks and drinks on board
  • Sailing instruction
  • Safety equipment and foul weather gear

Payment does not include:

  • Transportation to Azores and home from Lanzarote
  • Transportation to and from the dock
  • Personal expenses while in port

Kit List
Please see our Travel Kit List. This trip is considered tropical but do please bring at least one warm layer too.