UN logos
Statsraad Lehmkuhl
Haakon vatle

One year at sea!

almost 2 years ago
Written by Haakon Vatle
Statsraad Lehmkuhl > One year at sea!

One year at sea!

almost 2 years agoStatsraad Lehmkuhl
Written by Haakon Vatle
Haakon vatle

Today, August 20, it is exactly one year since One Ocean Expedition cast off from Arendal.

It took five years of planning before Statsraad Lehmkuhl could embark on The One Ocean Expedition (OOE) - a twenty-month circumnavigation of the globe, focused on the ocean and an official part of the UN's Decade of Ocean Science.

OOE is made possible due to a broad partnership of educational and research environments, business and political leadership, both locally and nationally, where everyone supports the main goal of the expedition:

To create attention and share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development from a global perspective.

cast off from arendal
Cast off from Arendal, 20 August, 2021. Photo: Ronald Toppe

In one year, Statsraad Lehmkuhl has sailed over 35,000 nautical miles, around 65,000 kilometres, which is 25,000 kilometres more than the length of the equator.

The Atlantic Ocean has been crossed twice, the ship has sailed through the Caribbean Sea, around Cape Horn - the southern tip of South America, down towards the Southern Ocean to take scientific samples, westward into the Pacific Ocean, and is expected to arrive in Palau east of the Philippines on August 24. Almost to the day one year after we left Arendal.

sailing ship
Sailing in The Caribbean Sea. Photo: Isak Okkenhaug

Close to 70 % of the journey has been done under sail. Several of the legs, like the one from Cook Island to Fiji, has been done without using the engine at all.

An ongoing pandemic

We cast off from Arendal during an ongoing pandemic and dealt with several outbreaks along the way. The bureaucracy during several of the port stays has been exceptionally demanding. In collaboration with the outstanding Norwegian foreign missions and our eminent crew and administration, the challenges have been solved in the best possible way. And we are still on track. Hurray!

c19 testing
Everyone is tested for before boarding. Photo: Isak Okkenhaug

Training - education - research

For over a hundred years, Statsraad Lehmkuhl has engaged in sail training and leadership training. As part of the planning of the circumnavigation, the ship was also equipped with advanced research equipment that continuously collects data on, among other things, CO₂ content, microplastics and ocean acidification. Scientists are on board taking measurements all along the route.

Scientific sampling. Photo: Malin Kvamme

Several scientific articles are soon ready for publication. One of the articles is about how internal waves in the ocean take part in moving plankton floating in the water masses up and down in the depths. The researchers have seen that such movements occur, but they know little about the mechanism behind it. The fact that the ship covers a very long distance, gives the researchers a global data set to work on.

One of the instruments on board constantly measures the temperature in the ocean. This is now helping the researchers to adjust the model that calculates the movements of the Gulf Stream. Satellite measurements did not show the same vortices at the outer edge of the flow as the model, but which one was right? The model or the images taken from space? The measurements from the ship showed that the satellite images could be trusted.

Studenter tar vannprøver i Karibia. Foto: Isak Okkenhaug

Research students operate the scientific instruments on board on every leg. They ensure that the automation works as it should, take water samples that are filtered to record the content of micro plastics, and examine the content of eDNA, i.e. environmental genetic material. The eDNA reveals which organisms live in the bodies of water we sail through. At regular intervals, the ship is completely stopped, so that the students can lower instruments that take samples of the water and the organisms that live deep below the ship.

At all times, Statsraad Lehmkuhl is manned by our eminent permanent crew of around 30 people, in addition to the voyage crew of up to 135 people. Who is in the voyage crew varies from leg to leg.

Some of the ship´s professional crew. Foto: Isak Okkenhaug

1800 voyage crew

During the past year, close to 1,800 different voyage crews have sailed with us on various legs. Right now - across the Pacific - the voyage crew consists of 90 students from the University of Bergen. They combine operating the ship with taking the course “SDG200”, which has sustainability as its theme.

Studying in the banjer. Photo: Malin Kvamme

The students come from various faculties and departments, and study everything from psychology and law to marine biology. Including the ship's permanent crew, around 120 people have thus sailed over 14,000 nautical miles, and nearly 80% of the journey has been under sail since they mustered in Valparaiso at the end of April (Are we talking about a small record here?). When 90 wise minds, with a common desire for a more sustainable future, live and study together for such a long time, I am convinced that this will have positive effects in the years to come. I am excited to see what this generation of students can accomplish!

We have also been joined by voyage crew from The Bjerknes Centre, the Institute of Marine Research, the Polar Institute, the Norwegian and the Dutch Naval Academies, the University of the West Indies, the University of the South Pacific, and many more, all bringing their own coursers and education on board.

For the remaining legs, we will welcome on board, among others, the Western Norway University of applied sciences, The Bergen Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Nansen Centre, The Norwegian Shipowners' Association and Maritime Bergen. Each one of them muster on and create content that supports the main goal of the expedition. I am hopeful that this contributes to make everyone muster off as inspired "ocean ambassadors".

Hard work on the main deck. Photo: Malin Kvamme

Not a luxury cruise

A voyage with Statsraad Lehmkuhl is definitely not a luxury cruise. No matter what title and background one has, everyone musters as members of the voyage crew, live close together in hammocks, man sea watches, stand at the helm and lookout, man the fire watch, scrub both decks and toilets and participate in the operation of the ship under the skilled management of our professional crew.

I truly believe that many leaders would have benefited from joining a voyage with us in the future. It provides a very special learning experience to meet outside the normal comfort zone and experience that we are all "in the same boat together". We have to work together to achieve our goals. In the same way, I am convinced that the synergies that arise when wise people with common goals meet on board will have immeasurable value in the years to come. This is one of the reasons why the naval academies, both at home and abroad, use our ship in their leadership training for a reason.

The Norwegian Naval Academy i Rio. Photo: Hanna Thevik

A lot of attention

Since we cast off from Norway one year ago, Statsraad Lehmkuhl has generated a lot of attention in national media around the world. Al Jazeera made a documentary film about the expedition in the Caribbean; top-heavy gatherings took place on board with visits from Jamaica's prime minister and Fiji's president, both of whom are members of the UN's Ocean Panel. Several collaboration agreements between Norwegian and foreign educational and research institutions have been established in connection with OOE.

In Fiji, a summit was held between the Pacific region's heads of state, the Norwegian foreign affairs apparatus, and the University of Bergen. During the UN's Ocean Conference in Lisbon, the Japanese research institution OPRI singled out OOE. Researchers from OPRI will participate in the upcoming leg from Palau to Yokohama. They will also host a maritime symposium in Yokohama when the ship arrives in Japan.

Photo: Malin Kvamme

Both nationally and internationally, several primary and secondary schools use OOE in their teaching - Elevkanalen, providing online teaching material for schools, has made the project available to all pupils in Norway. A school in Durban in South Africa has made its own OOE-film where they show the collection of plastic on the beaches. Bergen Aquarium in has its own live centre which conveys the expedition to thousands of young people.

Both the UN's maritime ambassador, Norway's prime minister, Portugal's UN ambassador, the artist Kygo, and others, are dedicated "Goodwill ambassadors". They have created a lot of positive attention to the project, both at home and abroad. Via our own digital channels, our 70,000 followers receive daily updates from the ship's journey around the globe.

Photo: Malin Kvamme

Climate account

We have asked the consulting company PWC to create and manage the climate accounts for One Ocean Expedition. The amount of greenhouse gas emissions for each leg is logged, how much fresh water is used, how much rubbish we produce. Flights were one of the first things we problematized when we started planning OOE in 2016. Flights are unfortunate, but still unavoidable in order to complete the circumnavigation. The climate account is updated continuously. View the climate account here.
Where to next?

We have been out at sea for a year, and we still have many nautical miles to go before we return to Norway. For the next eight months, we will visit several cities in Asia, sail across the Indian Ocean, celebrate Christmas and New Year in Maputo, Mozambique, round the Cape of Good Hope and cross the Atlantic again, two times, before we dock in Statsraad Lehmkuhl’s home port in Bergen on 15 April 2023.

The Pacific. Photo: Malin Kvamme.

The homecoming will be the start of the One Ocean Week - a whole week where the Municipality and the City of Bergen will host national and international conferences, high-level meetings and a packed program for both young and old. All the activities will focus on a more sustainable ocean.

The municipality and city wants the One Ocean Week to become an annual event for the ocean as what Arendalsuka is for politics. An ambitious goal, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am glad to see that Statsraad Lehmkuhl and the One Ocean Expedition are significant reasons why the One Ocean Week will be implemented. The results of the Ocean Week lies in the future, but there is every reason to believe that it will have a positive effect for the ocean in the years to come.

We are very much looking forward to the continuation of the circumnavigation, and to the return home! Big thanks to everyone who sails with us and to all our dedicated partners who make this grand project possible! Last, but not least: An endless thank you to the world's best crew and administration. Together they make up a team that handles all challenges in the very, very best possible way. We will surely celebrate when the ship returns to Bergen!

All the best,

Haakon Vatle Director Stiftelsen Seilskipet Statsraad Lehmkuhl

Expedition leader One Ocean Expedition

sailing ship
Photo: Katja Enberg
One Ocean logoUN logos

The One Ocean Expedition is a circumnavigation by the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. We aim to to share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.

Website by TRY / Netlife