Ocean Warrior Project prepares for first research season | Polarjournal
In June, Europe’s largest wooden schooner, the S/V Linden, will set sail on the first scientific Resolute expedition. On board, scientists will measure essential ocean and atmospheric parameters with the support of citizen scientists.

The unprecedented long-term project Ocean Warrior is in the midst of final preparations making great progress: The scientific leadership has been confirmed, further partnerships are being negotiated, additional financial supporters are coming on board and the available places are filling up.

The first leg of the very first Resolute expedition of the visionary Ocean Warrior project will start in less than four months. Over the next ten years, between June and October, alternating teams will travel 10,000 nautical miles between Svalbard and Resolute in the Canadian Arctic, collecting valuable data, particularly on climate change and pollution in the Arctic. But before it’s ‘all hands on deck’, there is still a lot to do for British polar explorer Jim McNeill and his team.

Over a period of ten years, the alternating teams will collect data between Svalbard and Resolute Bay in the Canadian Arctic in several expedition legs from June to October. The route will lead from Longyearbyen along the north coast of Norway to Plymouth, then on via Reykjavik and Southern Greenland to Resolute Bay and Upernavik. Map: Ocean Warrior

The project is currently gaining significant momentum, particularly thanks to interest from universities and institutes. While the collaboration with the Marine Biological Association, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and the University of Plymouth has been established for some time, Jim McNeill is currently negotiating other possible scientific partnerships. Among others, a meeting was held last week with the British Met Office, the UK’s meteorological service, which had signaled its interest in a collaboration, he told PolarJournal.

“Since the announcement [in early February, editor’s note] we had two almost definite more universities coming in […] and several commercial manufacturers of instrumentation. It’s all building up and there are lots of others in the offing,” Jim McNeill said, who has almost 40 years of experience in polar research and as a leader of expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic.

The CTD probe, which measures salinity, temperature and depth, is just one of the scientific instruments that will be used. Photo: Ocean Warrior

One important aspect that Jim McNeill is currently working on is completing the scientific equipment. A CTD probe and a FerryBox are already on board and were tested last year during the Foundation Expeditions. There are also plans to use autonomous instruments and possibly even develop new sensor systems.

Unlike conventional research expeditions, the findings are to be made available in near real time. “The whole idea is to get more immediacy from the figures. So, rather than wait for publication we will share whatever data that we can speak about and that is indicative,” Jim McNeill said in the interview with PolarJournal.

Citizen scientists support research

The heart of the project is the research team: International scientists from various disciplines will investigate the changes in the Arctic with the support of citizen scientists who will bring additional, valuable diversity on board the wooden schooner S/V Linden. Interested (citizen) scientists, students and crew members can now apply for participation in expedition legs. Around 25 per cent of the available places are already filled. While Ocean Warrior charges a fee to take part in the expeditions, Jim McNeill is helping to find sponsors.

During one of the two Foundation Expeditions last year, the team listened intently to Jim’s stories about the Canadian Arctic. Photo: Ocean Warrior

“Our aim is to raise awareness, educate, and inspire diverse audiences about the crucial significance of Earth’s extreme environments in humanity’s quest for survival,” he explained in a press release from 6 February. “Through this partnership, we seek to empower individuals from all walks of life to combat the greatest crisis facing humanity – climate change. No previous sailing or expedition experience is required as comprehensive certified training is provided.”

Pioneering: environmentally friendly and state-of-the-art marine research

With its novel initiative, Ocean Warrior and its partners want to show that cutting-edge and innovative marine research can also be carried out in an environmentally friendly way and that traditional sailing ships can serve as a state-of-the-art, ocean-going platform for science.

“PML is delighted to be a scientific partner with Ocean Warrior and are extremely excited about the prospect of delivering responsible net zero research. To support a sustainable future for the Ocean we need to be in a position to monitor the changes which are happening. Ocean Warrior will be a valuable addition to this pursuit and I’m looking forward to seeing how we can develop the project over the years ahead,” Professor Icarus Allan, Managing Director of Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Chief Scientific Advisor to Ocean Warrior, said in the press release.

The project also aims to show that state-of-the-art marine research is possible on board ordinary sailing ships without harming the environment. Photo: Ocean Warrior

The pollution of the Arctic with plastic, pollutants etc. is just as worrying as the rapidly advancing climate change. The partnership with Professor Richard Thompson OBE FRS, Director of the Marine Institute at the University of Plymouth and a world-leading expert on marine litter, is therefore also of great importance. He said: “If we are to innovate for the future health of our ocean, we need to fully understand the impacts of our actions on the planet. Working with Ocean Warrior will enable us to generate critical data, while minimising our impact in the regions we are studying and ultimately seeking to protect. It is an exciting collaboration that has the clear potential to benefit all involved.”

Last but not least, further financial partners are still being sought for the project, but Jim McNeill is very confident that he will be able to raise the necessary funds.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

Link to Ocean Warrior: https://www.global-warrior.com/expeditions/ocean-warrior

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