Arctic bound: The Ocean Warrior project prepares to expand the frontiers of marine science with its foundation expeditions
24 August 2023
A unique voyage to build a greater scientific understanding of the marine environment in the Arctic and the impacts of global climate change will see a team of scientists and ‘citizen scientists’ setting sail from Svalbard at the start of September aboard Europe’s largest wooden schooner.
The Linden in icy waters. Image courtesy of Jim McNeill | Global Warrior
Ocean Warrior is the brainchild of internationally-renowned explorer, Jim McNeill, who has been running scientific expeditions to the Arctic for over two decades and has acted as a consultant for natural history programmes such as the BBC’s Frozen Planet.
Designed to collect critical scientific measurements from remote areas of the Arctic Ocean in order to build up an improved picture of the changes taking place due to climate change and other factors, Ocean Warrior will also help to ‘ground-truth’ data collected via satellites.
For the first ten-day leg of the expedition (departing Svalbard on September 1st with a subsequent departure on September 11th), the 18-strong team, including crew members, scientists and citizen scientists are tasked with building an understanding of the vessel and her capabilities, in order that the potential for scientific data capture can be maximised. The expedition aims to install and test scientific and technological equipment such as weather stations, FerryBox, CTD, Bathymetry, Communications, and Safety. Additionally, an online dashboard will be created to convey the findings and capture stories through digital and broadcast content capture.
The project is being supported by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), a world leader in the field of marine research, Valeport, (which designs and manufactures oceanographic and hydrographic instrumentation), Mole Energy, Dartmoor Brewery and Henri Lloyd.
Travelling to seldom-visited areas of the Ocean each year between June and October, Ocean Warrior intends to cover 10,000 nautical miles each year, over the next ten years, collecting data on a range of key ‘indicators’ – in areas such as water quality, plankton, eDNA, salinity and ocean acidity.
This will help scientists gain a clearer understanding of the pace of changes taking place, their impacts on marine ecosystems, and what the future may hold for the Arctic region and the wildlife, populations and economies which depend upon it.
"Our quest is to help scientists put a better, more immediate 'finger on the pulse of our planet’ by exploring the extreme environments on Earth in the greatest detail. These are the indicators of change and by measuring, benchmarking and monitoring over a 10-year period we should be able to detect changes, both good and bad. Through the citizen science aspect of the explorations we’re also enabling people from different walks of life to come and be part of something that will generate highly important scientific research." said Jim McNeill. ”I am so honoured and delighted to have Icarus and his team at PML spearheading the science. As one of the centres of excellence, worldwide, I look forward to pushing boundaries together.”
Prof. Icarus Allen, Chief Executive of PML, who will be part of the team for the first leg of the expedition, said:
“We’re delighted to be the scientific partner aboard Ocean Warrior and are extremely excited about the prospect of delivering research with her over a sustained time period. 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.”
Guy Frankland, Head of Marketing at Valeport, said:
“We understand the pressing importance of expeditions such as this, and are proud to be supporting Ocean Warrior with the provision of our leading-edge marine sensing and monitoring equipment. On board the project team will be using our SWiFT CTDplus profiler to gather important data. High quality, precision data is fundamental to the expedition’s success, enabling the team to measure and benchmark environmental change as the project develops.“
About Jim McNeillAn 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.
Jim established the Ice Warrior Project in 2001 which has since trained over 450 individuals from diverse backgrounds to become competent and safe modern-day explorers. So far, they have undertaken seven major expeditions that have been recognized in scientific magazines, papers, and publications worldwide. Jim's goal is to help scientists gather empirical data from seldom-sampled areas by developing people who can discover change and deliver their stories to a broad audience. He believes this approach will engage everyone in the climate problem we face and foster a better appreciation of the world we live on, ultimately helping us survive. Jim's rationale is that if we don't examine these extreme environments, which are the indicators of change in the greatest detail, we won't know if our efforts to mitigate global change are working. In 2023, Jim launched the Ocean Warrior strand as the second series under the umbrella brand Global Warrior. Plans for Desert, Mountain and Jungle strands will be rolled out over the next few years.
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.