Crew of Ocean Watch Safely Navigates the Northwest Passage – East Coast Leg of Around the Americas Expedition Begins With First Port Stop in St. John’s, Newfoundland

September 8, 2009

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ — After 13 weeks, 5 days since departing Seattle on May 31 bound for the Arctic, the Ocean Watch crew successfully completes the first of four legs of the Around the Americas expedition including the challenging transit through the Northwest Passage.

The Around the Americas expedition is the first environmental project of its kind to take an intimate, often scientifically focused, look at the health of the world’s oceans and the impact of global climate change on local environments and ecosystems. The project, organized by Sailors for the Sea (Newport, Rhode Island and Boston, Mass.) in partnership with the Pacific Science Center (Seattle, Washington), has received major funding from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Unilever.

The Passage – Incredible Accomplishment of Epic Proportions

At 0835 local time (1335Z) Friday, August 28, 2009, Ocean Watch sailed to its most northern point, 73 degrees 53′.034 on her voyage Around the Americas. As Captain Mark Schrader notes, “Virtually all sailing for the next four months will be south and east toward Cape Horn, approximately 8,000 nautical miles from our current position. The Bering Strait was our western most point, the horn of Brazil will be the eastern point and Cape Horn will be our most southern point. As milestones go, the northern point makes this a big day.”

One day before, on Thursday, August 27, Schrader reported that the previous day the “sea temperature was below freezing but currently was a full four degrees warmer – a great indicator that our ice days are over, at least for awhile.”

As the crew compared notes about the last few days of the expedition and discussed things to come, Schrader shares that “the interesting part of this was how we’d all avoided talking about what might happen after Bellot Strait or Peel Sound because it was by no means certain that we’d make it out of either and into Lancaster Sound and Baffin Bay – this year.”

While Ocean Watch made its way toward Bellot Strait she encountered very heavy ice that was unpredicted as well as most of the surface water between the ice floes being either frozen or in the process of freezing. Schrader recounts, “Each bay we passed was chock full of ice – that’s precisely how boats for the past 300 years found themselves suddenly and unexpectedly bound into an arctic winter, something none of us wanted to experience. Whether we all thought it was tempting fate, bad luck or just plain silly to talk about actually making it out of the historically difficult part of the Passage it was interesting that the crew of Ocean Watch were all on the same mental page. By our count only six small boats in the recorded history of the Passage have made it from the west to the east through Bellot Strait, pretty thin company and significantly poor odds on making it – which made our breakfast sunshine in Creswell Harbor even more enjoyable for all.”

Northwest Passage Notables

Since departing Seattle in May, the Ocean Watch crew, four professional sailors, a scientist and an educator:

  • completed eight planned ports of call and additional stops along the way
  • participated in several research projects (see release dated August 18, “Deployment of Research Buoys in the Arctic by Around the Americas Project Aids Collection of Data on Changing Oceans and Consequences of Global Warming”)
  • weighed anchor in protective inlets and harbors along the route as they sought refuge from nature and unpredictable turns in weather
  • shared poignant moments with residents they meet throughout the transit through the Northwest Passage

These interactions recounted personal observations and perspectives, and real-time accounts of the impact of climate change on local ecosystems in recent years and across generations. Many of these observations and those of the Ocean Watch crew are recorded and chronicled in the daily logs, along with photographic images and video, which are all available at www.aroundtheamericas.org.

Referring to early explorers, Schrader notes, “Sailing into these waters from the east with no real charts, only wind for power and a useless compass for navigating makes me shudder.”

With the satellite communication equipment and services provided by Iridium Satellite LLC (Iridium) and Stratos Global Corp. (Stratos), the crew of Ocean Watch had the unprecedented capability for voice and high-speed data connections throughout the entire transit of the Northwest Passage. These communications capabilities will continue throughout the entire circumnavigation. “Faced with some of the most demanding marine environments during the first leg of this expedition, the crew of Ocean Watch was provided with the ability to transmit reports and images, and connectivity for calls with families and supporters,” said Jim Parm, president and CEO, Stratos. “The deployment of Iridium OpenPort during the first leg of this expedition is testament to global capabilities of the mobile satellite system that will carry the communications responsibilities of this expedition over the next 10 months.”

Chance for the Public to Learn First Hand the Expedition’s Findings

St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, has a long and prosperous history in the fishing industry. It is the oldest established city in North America and has long been a place of business for European fishing fleets, and a safe haven for ships caught in storms at sea. The city, known as a centre of ocean excellence, is a leading centre for the oil and gas industry in Eastern Canada.

The Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University of Newfoundland will host Ocean Watch, scheduled to arrive St. John’s on Friday, September 11 and remain docked in the St. John’s Harbor at Pier 11 until it departs on September 15.

On Sunday, September 13, 1-4 p.m., following a day of preparation and provisioning in advance of its sail to the next port stop (Halifax, NS), the crew of Ocean Watch invites the public to an open house event – dockside at Pier 11 across from the Fortis Building – to see the vessel and to meet crewmembers. The open house will include a dockside exhibit tent with marine science demonstrations for all ages conducted by Around the Americas educator Zeta Strickland from the Pacific Science Center. These events, along with a photographic presentation, narrated by the crew of Ocean Watch about the challenging transit of the Northwest Passage to document the most recent impacts of climate change, and lecture about the history of Newfoundland and Labrador’s marine economy, scheduled for 5 p.m., September 14 at the Marine Institute’s Hampton Hall, are open to the public.

“The Marine Institute is proud to welcome the Ocean Watch to St. John’s and I want to thank the captain and crew for making St. John’s the first port visit on the eastern North American leg of their trip,” said Glenn Blackwood, executive director, Marine Institute. “The Marine Institute is honored to host a group of individuals who are dedicated to protecting and restoring our oceans and coastal waters. As Canada’s foremost oceans-related post-secondary institution, we appreciate the crew’s efforts to promote safe environmental practices in the water and we look forward to discussing the data they have collected regarding the health of the world’s oceans.”

Ocean Watch will continue to traverse the east and west coasts of North and South America over the next 10 months. Daily reports of their progress are filed from the boat along with photos and video. Opportunities to meet the crew exist during the planned port visits. The daily reports, images and current port schedule are available at www.aroundtheamericas.org.

About the Funding Organizations

Established in 2000, The Tiffany & Co. Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations working in two main program areas: the environment and the arts. The Foundation’s environmental conservation program promotes responsible mining, healthy marine ecosystems, the enhancement of urban environments and the preservation of culturally significant landmarks. In addition, the Foundation fosters design excellence by supporting organizations dedicated to the decorative arts. For more information on The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, please visit www.tiffanyandcofoundation.org.

Unilever’s mission is to add vitality to life. We meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people feel good, look good and get more out of life. Each day, around the world, consumers make 160 million decisions to purchase Unilever products. In the United States, the portfolio includes major brand icons such as: Axe, Ben & Jerry’s, Bertolli, Breyers, Caress, Country Crock, Degree, Dove personal care products, Hellmann’s, Klondike, Knorr, Lipton, Popsicle, Promise, Q-Tips, Skippy, Slim-Fast, Suave, Sunsilk and Vaseline. All of the preceding brand names are registered trademarks of the Unilever Group of Companies. Dedicated to serving consumers and the communities where we live, work and play, Unilever employs nearly 12,000 people in both the United States and Puerto Rico – generating nearly $10 billion in sales in 2008. For more information, visit www.unileverusa.com.

The Rockefeller Family – advocates for environmental protection. For almost 40 years, the Rockefeller Family has worked at the cutting edge of advocacy in such areas as environmental protection, advancing the economic rights of women, and helping citizens hold public and private institutions accountable for their action. The Family is best known for its creative and leveraged grantmaking, its role as a catalyst in the nonprofit as well as the funding communities, and its record of public policy innovation.

The Osberg Family Trust is a Pacific Northwest family foundation.

About Around the Americas

Around the Americas is an historic 25,000-mile clockwise-circumnavigation of the North and South American continents, never before undertaken in continuous fashion. The sailboat, equipped with some of the latest technology, along with scientists and educators who join during various legs of the voyage, is making 31 stopovers in 13 months to draw attention to the changing condition of the oceans. With major funding support from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Unilever, a non-profit consortium has been formed to make the public more aware of the plight of our oceans. The project was developed by Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit organization that educates and empowers the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and coastal waters, in partnership with Pacific Science Center, a nationally recognized leader in informal science and environmental education. The crew includes Captain Mark Schrader, a world-record-holding, solo circumnavigator and ocean race director, and three talented, experienced, professional sailors, who all care about ocean conservation. Daily updates of the voyage and posted from the boat are available at www.aroundtheamericas.org.

SOURCE Around the Americas

Source: newswire

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