eXXpedition Round the World is an all-female sailing voyage and research mission founded by Finisterre Ambassador Emily Penn. Starting and ending in the UK the project will see 300 women take to the seas and conduct vital research, exploring plastic pollution and toxins in our oceans.
Retracing the steps of the voyage that started a year ago, the second leg took the crew across the Atlantic, from the Azores to Antigua and through the North Atlantic Gyre – a plastic accumulation zone where the team recorded samples containing an average of 70 pieces of microplastic.
After a weather delay that kept the crew on shore a bit longer than expected, the crew for the second leg of the trip, from Azores to Antigua, set sail across the Atlantic, with the 14 women on board set to travel over 2273 nautical miles.
The extra time on land allowed the crew to kick off the science programme by conducting the Circular Assessment Survey, sediment samples, and a nurdle hunt across Santa Barbara beach where they found 424 nurdles in less than 30 minutes!
They also partnered with the Azorean Government to engage the community at the Parque Atantico Mall and the University of Azores, talking to locals not only about their mission but also what the community can do to help solve the plastic crisis. A visit to the Musami Waste Management facility only reinforced the need to reduce plastic consumption.
What is a gyre?
An ocean gyre is any large system of circulating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements. Gyres are caused by the Coriolis effect; planetary vorticity, horizontal friction and vertical friction determine the circulatory patterns from the wind stress curl.
During the second leg of eXXpedition Round the World, the crew sailed through the first of four gyres they planned to explore as over the course of the voyage. These gyres are plastic accumulation zones, and in each sample collected there was an average of 70 pieces of microplastic. Every sample was then analysed using an FTIR machine from PerkinElmer, and the vast majority of what the crew found was HDPE.
The weather conditions allowed for smooth sailing and plenty of scientific research, including using the Niskin bottles for the first time to collect samples from the oceanic water columns, allowing the project to go beyond what lies on the surface. All of the data collected out at sea was sent back to the University of Plymouth and shared with the team’s science collaborators for further analysis.
When they weren't doing science, the multidisciplinary crew hailing from Malta, Austria, Latvia, Denmark, UK and the United States managed to cook up some delicious feasts – including catching two Mahi Mahi! – and even took a moment to celebrate the halfway mark across the Atlantic with an impromptu dress up party on deck. There was even a special moment of wildlife interaction for the crew, when a pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins decided to play in the wake at the bow of the vessel
Upon arrival in Antigua, the crew shared their stories of travelling through the North Atlantic Gyre with an audience of 100 people at the Club House at Antigua Yacht Club. The event was also attended by the Antiguan Minister of Tourism, the honourable Charles Fernandez, who was also able to discuss the government's approach to plastic pollution in Antigua.
On the Saturday following the crew’s arrival (23rd November 2019), 10 new women joined the S.V. TravelEdge to take their place among the crew for the next leg of the journey – exploring Antigua and the surrounding Carribean Sea via Green Island.
Keep an eye out for our summary of the next leg of the voyage, coming soon.