Crew of eight set off on a 900-mile journey to the Northwest Passage for citizen science expedition
Eight sailors will set off on a 900-mile journey to the Northwest Passage for a citizen science expedition to collect data on wildlife, weather conditions, microplastics and phytoplankton levels.
It’s the first time that the route – a challenging series of sea channels between North America and Greenland – has been ice-free for 15 years. More people have reached the summit of Everest than have cleared the Northwest Passage.
The crew will sail in a 13.5m aluminium yacht named Aventura for around eight weeks including 14-year-old Nera Cornell, who will become the youngest Briton to sail the Arctic Circle.
Jimmy Cornell, a BBC World Service reporter and experienced sailor designed the Garcia Exploration 45 to meet the challenges of sailing and living aboard at high latitudes.
Partnered with Unesco’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the citizen crew will collect specific data for 5Gyres – a US research and plastic pollution reduction organisation.
“All of projects are very much based on the idea that we are not professional scientists and we are doing citizen science,” Doina Cornell, crewmember and daughter of Jimmy told BBC News.
The phytolankton levels in water will also be collected for the University of Plymouth’s Dr Richard Kirby.
The data will be collected using a piece of equipment known as a Secchi-disk, which measures the transparency of the water by logging how far it can descend before it disappears.
Dr Kirby told BBC News; “It is a very robust method and not prone to error and it is a good measure of phytoplankton abundance.”
“[This expedition] will give us the first Secchi-disk data from the Northwest Passage, which will establish a baseline for future studies.
“When we go back in future years, we will be able to look at when it changes because we are there at the beginning (of an ice-free era).”