‘University at sea’ sets sail to circumnavigate the world

The Bergen tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl sets sail on Friday 20 August from Arendal in Norway and will spend 20 months circumnavigating the world. The One Ocean Expedition is going to be a ‘university at sea’, with the aim of drawing attention to and sharing knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean in global sustainable development, and uniting people from all over the world in the process.

The event is a part of Arendalsuka, Norway’s popular political-scientific festival, being held again this year after being cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020. In 2019 the festival was attended by an estimated 100,000 people and had more than 1,200 events arranged. It is modelled after the Swedish Almedalsveckan and has been arranged since 2012.

One Ocean Expedition – the ‘floating university’

The One Ocean Expedition is going to be a ‘university at sea’ that unites students, scientists, leaders and people all over the world, said Haakon Vatle, CEO of the Statsraad Lehmkuhl Foundation, in an introductory video presenting the project.

“We are going to be a potent voice that can inspire people to engage themselves in work for cleaner and sustainable seas,” he said.

The project was launched by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg in August 2020: “I find the One Ocean a fantastic project because it gives a platform for discussing many of the grand challenges that we have been engaged in around the oceans with people from all over the world.

“We need more people that develop knowledge and engagement for the oceans. It therefore was obvious for the government to enter into cooperation with the One Ocean project.

“The oceans are the key to reach many of the UN sustainable [development] goals related to poverty, hunger, energy and health. But the oceans are also under strong pressure from climate change, from loss of biodiversity, from overfishing and pollution,” she said.

“One Ocean is bringing together scientists, young people, governments, businesses and the civil society to a common ground knowledge gathering on the sea. They are going to learn from each other and from the experiences they share on the cruise, even if it is in Havana, Valparaiso or on Fiji. This will make them dedicated ambassadors for clean, healthy and productive oceans for the future,” Solberg said at the launch.

The One Ocean Expedition starts on 20 August 2021 and lasts until April 2023. Over these 20 months Statsraad Lehmkuhl will sail 55,000 nautical miles and visit 36 ports worldwide. The ship will regularly send home reports to different schools and higher education institutions.

At each of its 36 port visits*, the research team will participate in public events and meetings to share and discuss their findings and build connections. “The ship will be used for conferences, high-level meetings and corporate hospitality,” Vatle said on the video.

According to the expedition’s website, “the main goal is to create attention and share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for sustainable development in a global perspective”.

The expedition will end with the One Ocean Week in Bergen on 15 April 2023, and with an international week arranged by the Bergen local council with courses, conferences and workshops related to marine research.

Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development

The expedition is a recognised part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.

The ship is equipped with modern instrumentation and will collect high-quality data of ocean physics, chemistry and biology throughout the voyage. Everyone can follow the expedition online and parts of the expedition will be open for paying passengers. Some of the legs are sold out, but some are also available for booking.

Scientific and educational collaboration

The world circumnavigation is organised so that different collaborating partners hire the ship during different legs of the journey. The University of Bergen, the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research, the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL) and in total 13 research institutions and Norwegian ministries are participating in the project, which has a financial outlay of NOK180 million (US$20 million) to NOK200 million (US$22 million).

“Most of these legs [of the journey] are now hired out and, for instance, the [Norwegian] Institute of Marine Research is contracting the ship from Havana to Nassau; students from the Bjerknes Center [for Climate Research] at the University of Bergen, Harvard University and the University of the West Indies and several others are entering the ship in the Caribbean; the Nansen Center is taking the ship from Maputo to Cape Town; while the Norwegian Polar Institute is taking one leg from Ushuaia to Puerto Montt,” Vatle told Khrono, the web-based Norwegian university newsletter.

In November this year the University of Bergen postgraduate course ‘Climate action field course: Causes, consequences and solutions to the climate challenge’ will be run while the ship is sailing from Curacao, via Kingston, to Havana, Cuba.

Then from May to August 2022, a new interdisciplinary course in sustainability at the University of Bergen – Ocean, Climate, Society – will be run on board the Statsraad Lehmkuhl while the ship sails across the Pacific Ocean from Valparaiso to Palau.

The course is open to students from the University of Bergen and dedicated partner universities who have passed at least 60 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) points. The course will be open for applications between 1 and 30 September 2021.

* An outline of the route and tickets are available here.