– The ocean has changed
Captain Seidl is worried, there is less life and more garbage in the ocean than before.
It is a beautiful and peaceful morning on Statsraad Lehmkuhl. The ship has just passed the Cape Verde Islands and changed to a more westerly course towards Curaçao. The crew is doing maintenance, and the trainees are busy with sail handling. Captain Seidl is having a good time.
– The days become fantastically relaxing routines. As you get more and more into the rhythm of the ship you start to worry less and less about what’s around you. Many of us have come onboard after stressful days on shore, being bombarded with media all the time. Now we’re free from all of that. There is nobody texting us, telling us what they’re doing or what they’re having for dinner or when to meet them. Nobody’s expecting us to be in touch all the time. That liberty is fantastic.
Marcus A. Seidl has sailed the world’s oceans since he was five years old, with his family on his father’s self-built ship Illahee. He has been working at sea since 1980 and captain on Statsraad Lehmkuhl since 1994.
Less life, more garbage
This is his 25th Atlantic crossing, his first was way back in 1973 on Illahee.
- I notice that the world has changed. There is less sea life and more garbage to be seen, and in general also the climate has changed a lot, Seidl says.
For the last 20 years he has taken cadets from the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy across.
- Year by year, we see a slight change in the weather patterns. The wind patterns are not the same as they used to be 20 years ago, Seidl says.
Seidl is concerned, both as a seaman and on a personal level.
- Until a few years ago, you could use weather charts that were made in the 1960s and the 1970s. I find it very troubling that many of these don’t really match too much anymore. Another thing that worries me is the fact that we are finding garbage everywhere around us. We constantly get reports of people seeing something floating by in the water. Imagine then, how much garbage there must be in the ocean as a whole.
When Marc was a teenager, his father fought as an activist against the industrial whaling that nearly led to the extinction of the blue whale and sperm whale in the mid-last century. Marc’s father also taught him about the threat of oil spill in the Caribbean Sea, where One Ocean Expedition is now headed.
- This made me aware of the vulnerability of ocean life and nature in general, from a young age. Sadly, many have yet to learn to respect and care for our oceans and the environment.
Fishing from the ship is not like it used to be. A small dorado has been hauled on board, and the crew also managed to hook two yellowfin tunas - that got away. That’s all.
- Our student researchers are fishing every day using state of the art equipment. When we were doing these voyages - in this area especially, in the early 2000s, we were normally catching at least a few fish every week, Seidl says.
- We don’t see many birds around us either. We’re still not far from the coast, so that normally means there is not much sea life to be chased.
Seidl's ambition is that the One Ocean Expedition communicates his concerns, and promote a responsible way of travelling and interacting with the ocean.
- It is easier to get people’s attention when sounding the alarm from a 107-year-old barque than by writing a scientific article. We will try to tell our story in a manner that's not too technical or sterile. Our old lady will be a spokesperson for the oceans, he says.
Statsraad Lehmkuhl was one of the world’s first ever hybrid sailing ships - combining wind power with engine power. On the One Ocean Expedition, the crew is using the engine as little as possible. The route has been planned according to wind patterns, and the schedule allows waiting for fair wind if needed.
But, even a sailing ship needs electricity and there is always an engine running, powering generators creating power for ventilation, water filtration, lights and other equipment. Current consumption of fuel for the generators is ca. 3-500 litres per day.
- We’re constantly monitoring our energy consumption and try to keep our electricity usage at a minimum, says Seidl.
Seidl believes the future of seafaring is hybrid.
- There is lots of interesting research on vessels combining engine power with wind power, either in the form of huge single sails, kites, or rotating masts. Cargo ships don’t have the time for travelling via the traditional sailing ship routes like we do, but all ships will sometimes have a following wind, and this free energy should be taken advantage of, Seidl says.