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Everyone on board has received basic sail and safety training and we’ve had quite an interesting start to our voyage.

Sea cadets Ollie taking the helm.

Out of Cumberland basin and under the Clifton suspension bridge, down the Avon and into the Severn Channel…

Jo Morley from City to Sea, with whom we are collaborating on the Darwin200 voyage saw us from Bristol’s shores.

…where the ‘fun’ started, with a lot of people looking and feeling decidedly ropey.

(no pictures!!!)

A night sail under starry skies, bioluminescence in our wake and seasick feelings were left behind.

We rounded Land’s End in the morning in the company of common dolphins, gannets and a fulmar.

Sails set and the voyage becomes more sustainable.

We’re all busy with the watch routines, setting and handing sails, daily cleaning and helping in the galley.

That’s an important learning process for the three young scientists, who will lead the citizen science programme during the Darwin200 voyage. Their understanding of how the professional crew is working the voyage crew will help the smooth running of the scientific programme.

I am here to hand over the citizen science programme I wrote for Seas Your Future to the science coordinators, recent graduates of ‘salty’ degree programmes with decidedly biological flavours.

Discussions with Rachel, Miles and Hannah are stimulating and every day, we’re learning something from each other.

Pelican has been in Albion Dockyard for maintenance and is now ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, an expression that, according to our captain Ben Wheatley, was coined here, as a reflection of the superb craftsmanship of shipwrights in this historic dock.

Before leaving, we commissioned a TriLux fluorescence sensor on loan from Chelsea Technologies. For me, it is always a delight to ‘play’ with a new instrument, and this one did not disappoint: easy to operate, no-nonsense data logging and seamless plug-and-play with our laptop. ‘Shipshape’, too!

The science coordinators Rachel, Miles and Hannah on the poop deck of Pelican, discussing the method of our first deployment of TriLux for a depth profile in Albion Dock.

We’ll use TriLux for spot sampling of depth profiles along a Secchi disk to determine key algal parameters involved in photosynthesis (chlorophyll a and phycoerythrin), as well as turbidity.

TriLux sensor, cable and Hawk data logger from Chelsea Technologies.

We will contribute our data to the Secchi Disk Foundation, who research the global distribution of primary producers that underpin the marine food web.

Going to sea again – a special treat in a time when UK covid lockdown is pealed away layer by layer, like the skins of an onion.

We are aboard tall ship Pelican of London in Albion Dock, with just a shed and the dry dock’s lock gate separating us from the SS Great Britain.

An awe-inspiring adventure of sail training and citizen science awaits a young voyage crew: a 13 week long circumnavigation of the British Isles!

We will study the natural environment and invasive species, collect litter from the beaches and study sea weed for signs of climate change.

The data we collect will support a range of organisations, such as the Sea Watch Foundation, Marine Conservation Society and Secchi Disk Foundation, in their efforts to understand the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and biodiversity loss.

Follow Seas Your Future and Darwin200 to learn about the powerful combination of sailing and science to transform our connection with nature and perspective.

A large seagrass restoration project is underway in Plymouth Sound.

That’s great news for the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park, conservation and drawing down carbon.

Learn more about seagrass meadows and their many benefits at the Ocean Conservation Trust.

The importance of seagrass to the marine ecosystem has been highlighted for a while, and a great insight has been provided by Dr Rohan Holt in the context of a research project in Wales.

Featured Image: “seagrass Halodule uninervis” by Paul and Jill is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At the University of Plymouth, we will celebrate World Ocean Day with a conference for schools that showcases our expertise in marine research and technology in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Our exciting programme of talks covers all scales: local to global, pole to pole, plankton to top predators and eons of time in evolution. It also celebrates human ingenuity for investigating and solving the plant’s most pressing challenges.

Learn more and join us at the event via this LINK.

As we are preparing for the 2021 Darwin200 voyage with a whole new set of Citizen Science Projects for young people to engage with, the videos of our science projects piloted during the voyage in summer 2020 are being published.

Watch Joe Ellison summarising our large fish and cetacean project, which contributes to the database of the Sea Watch Foundation:

Explore the underwater world of Britain’s coasts with Dr Rohan Holt and Kerry MacKay:

Consider what you can do to reduce microplastic pollution after Shaolin Casey provides you with food for thought:

Discover how Charles Darwin undertook sea surface temperature measurements on his voyage around the world and how modern techniques compare, explained by Molly Brennan:

How much litter is found on remote beaches on our coasts? Find out from Aoibhinn Lynch and Kerry MacKay:

…and watch out for another five videos to be released soon…

Featured Image: Dr Rohan Holt

Ever since I became aware of the incredible intelligence and social behaviour of octopus, I just can’t bring myself to eating cephalopods anymore.

I mean, nine brains!

This new study just highlights an incredible similarly between the way mammals and cephalopods sleep and dream…

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/03/octopuses-humans-sleep-two-stages?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=1bc0fb97f8-briefing-dy-20210326&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-1bc0fb97f8-45313974

Featured image: “Key West Octopus” by Joe Parks is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Almost like a watercolour painting.

Only better: it’s real.

A little farther than strictly local, I stretched my range a little beyond 7 miles to enjoy a good walk along the Cornish coast.

Blackthorn like a bridal wreath

Beautiful, uplifting, entertaining and even more so because I enjoyed this scene with a friend and our dogs.

This is haunting!

Sperm whales are even more intelligent and organised than we knew, which makes it even more sad and outrageous that we hunted them to near extinction and some of us still do.

Read the ‘easy’ version in the Guardian and the research paper I. The reference therein.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/17/sperm-whales-in-19th-century-shared-ship-attack-information

What have we failed to learn about all the species we eradicated out of greed, ignorance and ‘don’t care attitude?

Darwin200: wind energy!

The perspective of Jasper and Lorimer on wind energy around the British Isles is told in this video:

https://darwin200.com/a-project-to-explore-sustainable-wind-power/

It’s good for my spirit to be near (or on) the sea.

The horizon, the sound, the smell and the breeze!

…and things to discover…

Littering is one of my pet-hates. This reminds me: I’ve said that before, during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the first series of ‘Outdoor Daily’ (now, there is consistency for you…).

Anyway, littering is unnecessary, careless, inconsiderate, unsightly, polluting, damaging to wildlife…need I say more?

The featured image shows a common occurrence in the Tamar Valley, where my daily walks with my dog T’isker take place these days. They are the plastic skeletons of shotgun cartridges and their contents. I find them in fields and along hedgerows, on field margins and in the reed beds of the estuary and the beaches of the Cornish coastline.

Likely sources are people using shotguns for controlling vermin (rabbits, rats, perhaps some crop-threatening birds) and people shooting for fun (pheasant and partridge, also rabbit and wild geese).

Question is: how many of the people using shotguns and other guns in the countryside are actually picking up their spent cartridges?

My friend Alan told me that it is a no-no to not pick up your spent cartridges…

Between 2008 and 2019, UK sales of cartridges and other ammunition were worth between a stunning £51000000 and an even more stunning £79000000. Wow! I don’t know whether this includes ammunition for the police (I doubt it) or the armed services (I doubt that even more).

Let’s just have a little back-of-the-envelope calculation:

  • say 50% of the money spent is on shotgun cartridges for use in nature (around £30 million)
  • perhaps people buy large volume to get a discount, and popular brands go for £200 – £300 per 1000 cartridges
  • so, at around £250 per 1000 rounds, that makes around 120 million individual shotgun cartridges

Perhaps that calculation is inaccurate, so I’ll try another one:

  • some 60 million game birds are reared and released into the wild every year by the industry, around half of which are killed during organised shoots
  • that’s 30 million dead birds, perhaps that means 30 million cartridges fired, but I guess it is more like four or more times that number (Alan also told me that a 1:4 hit rate is pretty good)
  • so, that leaves around 120 million shotgun cartridges spent on shooting pheasants and partridge on organised shoots
  • the rest of the cartridges are fired elsewhere, for other purposes

Either way, we are talking tens of millions of shotgun cartridges fired each year.

How many of the spent cartridges are being picked up? 30 million? 60 million? Most of them?

Either way, there is a mountain of waste generated, including valuable resources for recycling (e.g. metal from the primer)

What happens to those that are left in the landscape? Well, they contain quite a mix of stuff:

  • A plastic (sometimes paper) case
  • Primer (the metal end of the cartridge, steel or brass)
  • Propellant (the powder that goes ‘bang’)
  • Wad (plastic, cork or fibre – determines how the shot disperses)
  • Shot (metal pellets in steel or lead, containing 2-5% antimony, perhaps some nickel or copper coating)

I guess the propellant will get burned and becomes atmospheric pollution, the shot finishes up in the game and on the ground or in the water, the primer, wad and the plastic case drops to the ground or in the water near the gun. That’s a lot of plastic and metal introduced to nature…antimony is quite toxic and so is nickel is.

The good news: there are shotgun cartridge collectors on the market, so I guess some people pick up after themselves. Perhaps a well organised shoot will lay down some rules and see that they are followed. There is a legislative move from lead shot to using steel, which is less toxic and more inert in the environment and therefore less polluting. And the use of plastic wad is increasingly frowned upon, again something that could be encouraged by rules on well managed shoots.

The bad news: I keep finding these debris in nature…and so do other people:

"Shotgun cartridge on beach" by Robin Kearney is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
“Shotgun cartridge on beach” by Robin Kearney is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Featured image: plastic shotgun cartridge wads in the reed bed of the Tamar estuary, UK.

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