Ocean Warrior project: New accent on climate research in the Arctic | Polarjournal
The wooden schooner S/V Linden is the platform for the Ocean Warrior expeditions in the Arctic – powered by the wind, a highly sustainable way to conduct research. Photo: Ocean Warrior

The first of two “Foundation Expeditions” of the Ocean Warrior project started last Friday in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. They are intended to be the prelude to a decade of scientific climate research in remote areas of the polar regions.

The Ocean Warrior project was launched by renowned British polar explorer Jim McNeill, which will see citizen scientists join scientists on Europe’s largest wooden schooner to collect important data on climate change in rarely studied regions.

The S/V Linden departed from Longyearbyen last Friday on the first of two ten-day “Foundation Expeditions” in the Arctic Ocean. These two expeditions are to prepare for the first research voyage of an expedition that will start next year and be repeated every year for a decade.

The goal of the Foundation Expeditions, as the name suggests, is to lay the foundation for the next decade of ocean exploration, Jim McNeill tells us. He and his 18-member team of crew, scientists, naturalists, journalists, filmmakers and “ordinary” people will install and test scientific and technical instruments on board.

“Scientifically speaking we have some instrumentation and we will be ‘playing with it’ but I don’t expect to gather much, if any, data,” Jim McNeill told PolarJournal. This includes equipment such as weather stations, a FerryBox (an automated instrument box for ships of opportunity such as ferries, freighters, etc.), a CTD probe (to measure salinity, temperature, and depth), and instruments for communications and security.

“I am someone who does my nth degree of homework so the whole emphasis is on assessing what we can achieve that will be practicable and the most important contribution we can make.”

The Ocean Warrior project aims to use scientific measurements in the Arctic Ocean over the next decade to help measure, assess, monitor, and ultimately better understand changes caused by climate change and other factors. Starting in 2024, Jim McNeill plans to travel 10,000 nautical miles each year between June and October with his rotating teams, collecting data on water quality, salinity, ocean acidity, plankton, eDNA (environmental DNA) and other parameters. In addition, data collected by satellites will be verified.

This will help scientists get a more accurate picture of the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems and how the Arctic and its fauna and flora will develop in the future.

The expedition, divided into eight cruise legs, will take “144 ordinary people on an extraordinary journey, from Svalbard, Norway to Resolute Bay, Canada – via UK, Iceland, Greenland and return,” according to the project’s website. Participants are trained in sailing and, after receiving instruction, actively contribute to climate research. What makes it special is that each year there will be ten fully funded places for people who lack the ability to fund their own participation.

Ocean Warrior’s scientific partner is the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, a world leader in marine research. Other partners include Valeport, which develops and manufactures oceanographic and hydrographic instruments, Mole Energy, Dartmoor Brewery and Henri Lloyd.

Ocean Warrior is part of the Global Warrior project that Jim McNeill began 22 years ago as Ice Warrior and is now expanding to include the entire planet. In the coming years, the Desert Warrior, Mountain Warrior and Jungle Warrior projects are to follow. With continued support from Ocean Warrior, McNeill is considering expanding the project to Antarctica.

Jim McNeill has led numerous expeditions and has been training modern polar explorers for 22 years. Photo: Ocean Warrior

An environmental scientist to begin with, Jim McNeill had a career in the Army, Commerce, Fire & Rescue and the Royal Household, before pursuing his passion for polar exploration. A veteran of more than 38 years of polar exploration and expeditions, Jim has led expeditions to Antarctica, High Arctic Canada, Svalbard, and Baffin Island among many others.

In addition to leading expeditions and training aspiring explorers, Jim is an extreme safety expert and has advised on some of the BBC’s most prestigious and award-winning natural history series, including Frozen Planet, and Human Planet working with luminaries such as Sir David Attenborough. Jim has also consulted on numerous expeditions including many of Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ expeditions.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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