Ascension 2015 was an eXXpedition mission aboard SV Sea Dragon sailing across the South Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Brazil via Ascension Island on the 3rd to 26th November 2015.
Meet the team that made huge waves all the way across the Atlantic Ocean
Imogen Nash – Skipper
IMOGEN feels that being on the water is the most natural thing in the world. Her family are all great water lovers, and from a very early age she has loved being on boats, sailing and taking part in all kinds of other water sports.
Growing up, Imogen learnt to dinghy sail in South Devon, UK. She was a competitive swimmer for 12 years, and learnt to wakeboard and waterski when she was just 10 years old.
In 2010 Imogen decided to take her love of the water to the next level and got her Yachtmaster Ocean and Cruising Instructor tickets. Since then, she has primarily worked within sail training. Being onboard the Atlantic Rowers support yacht and numerous other crossings has meant a lot of time spend on the Atlantic already. Also sailing across the Pacific over the past couple of years, has only grown Imogen’s passion for the world’s oceans and how important is to protect and spread awareness for current environmental issues.
Imogen is skipper for both Ascension and Amazon voyages, and not only does she get to cross the Atlantic again but she also gets to skipper Sea Dragon from Recife to Guyana!
Imogen is a self proclaimed sea addict, and in her spare time she loves to surf, dive and kite-surf – the true definition of a water baby!
Emily Caruso – First Mate
EMILY is an RYA Yachtmaster Ocean and Yachtmaster Instructor from the Somerset Levels. Emily’s love of sailing came from her late father who had a boat when she was very young. It was only later in life that she revisited her love of the water and became a professional sailor.
Emily is predominantly motivated by her love of sharing her passion for sailing and exploration with others, with a special interest in promoting more female involvement in the sport.
Emily has worked for many years training the crews for the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race, working with the Ellen MaCarthur Cancer Trust, instructing students to Yachtmaster level in the UK and as an expedition Skipper in the Baltic.
Emily is First Mate for both Ascension and Amazon eXXpeditions and will have clocked up over 4,500 nautical miles by the end of both legs!
Holly Vint – Deckhand
HOLLY has harboured a lifelong love of the ocean and finally got the opportunity to sail in 2012 when she stepped on board STV John Laing as crew, and those two incredible weeks crossing the Bay of Biscay completely changed the course of her life.
After volunteering on Sail Training vessels as much as possible to cram the experience in, she eventually took the plunge and decided to leave University to run away to sea one year ago.
“I have since gained my Yachtmaster Offshore ticket and completed one amazing season as First Mate on 70ft steel ketch STV James Cook for Ocean Youth Trust North, working with young people of all backgrounds and abilities”.
Holly is thoroughly looking forward to crossing the Atlantic on board Sea Dragon for many reasons; to increase her awareness of oceanic environmental issues, to develop skills as a sailor, to see new parts of the world, and to meet inspirational people.
AMANDA simply loves the outdoors, growing up North of 60 in Whitehorse, Yukon Canada. Whitehorse was named after the breath taking Rapids that resembled the flowing main of a white horse. The Yukon is mainly known for its rich history from the Klondike gold rush, today mining still remains an important industry. Amanda experienced first hand the world of mining threw her parents family business, and was always surrounded by natures simple beauty.
She is a High School Graduate, Dive master, equestrian rider, and sailing advocate, and developed a need to always be outdoors riding her horse and embrace every opportunity for adventure from a very young age. Her passion for the ocean began on a few family vacations to Maui, Hawaii, where she couldn’t get enough of the salt water and marine life while diving.
Through multiple outdoor and experiential school programs such as Class Afloat: an international school aboard a Traditional Tall Ship. The crew sailed the Great Lakes of Canada followed by two South Atlantic Crossings with many ports of call through the semester.
Amanda understood the great power of the seas and saw first hand the pollutants that were being dumped of the coast of under developed countries that simply could not afford to dispose of it properly. She gained her confidence to expand her goals to having a global impact once realizing the varsity and remoteness of the ocean.
“I would like to become the representing voice and roll model of all young adults while aboard eXXpedition to make a change starting in my home community, and branching out to protect the ocean that I love”.
Amanda is excited and eager to learn from her fellow crew all that they have to offer and have hands on research experience before starting at James Cook University in February 2016 in Townsville Australia, studying Marine Biology
CHRISTINE is a Sustainable engineer, underwater explorer and overwater sailing champ. She grew up in Norway – a small country known for its beautiful coastline and fjords, and took to sailing from a very small age, becoming Norwegian dinghy sailing Champion in 2007, and working as a sail instructor – motivating children to be confident on the sea and curious about the environment.
“When you spend five days a’ week practicing sport on the ocean surface, it triggers your curiosity on the world that’s hiding under the waves”.
Christine recently graduated from the University with a Master of Science specialized in underwater technology and sustainability. Studying underwater robots (micro-ROVs) has become a huge passion, and Christine now hopes to bring this exciting technology to eXXpedition, with these little ‘drones’ on board the crew will have the opportunity to see what goes on below the surface, sending live video back up to Sea Dragon.
Ascension won’t be Christine’s first voyage as an eXXpedition ocean advocate. In July 2015, she set sail with eXXpedition Norway around the Norwegian coastline to research plastic pollution, monitor the seabed with submersible ROVs and conduct beach clean ups along the way.
Diana Papoulias – Mission Leader
DIANA is a fish biologist and aquatic toxicologist. In 2014 she retired after 25 years of conducting research on the adverse effects of chemical and non-chemical stressors on fish and aquatic health for the U.S. government’s contaminants and environmental health programs.
The applied research she conducted has been used by natural resource agencies to identify exposure and effects of pollutants at many levels of biological organization from the molecular level to the population level. Much of her work has focused on the many environmental chemicals that affect the endocrine system of fish and amphibians and the adverse effects these chemicals have on reproduction.
Diana has worked on projects on remote Pacific atolls contaminated with wartime legacy chemicals, the effects of industrial chemicals along the US-Mexico border, on small stream fishes affected by hydraulic fracturing in Kentucky, and the largest inland oil spill in the USA.
Earlier in her career, Diana worked for the Arizona Game and Fish Department as a non-game biologist trekking into remote areas to study threatened and endangered fish species. Prior to that, she spent four years living in central México working at the orphanage, Nuestros Pequenos Hermaños, where she built a fish farm to feed the 1,000 resident children; she continues as an advisor on that project today.
Currently, Diana works with Hughes Environmental Consulting, and with the non-profit E-Tech International as a technical expert assisting indigenous federations of the Peruvian Amazon in their efforts to remediate their seriously contaminated lands after 40 years of oil spills.
In her work, Diana strives to explain the connection between human and wildlife health and the consequences of polluting the planet and to resolve environmental issues associated with natural resource use. She has authored or co-authored nearly 100 peer-reviewed publications and has presented her research at many national and international conferences. In 2014 she joined eXXpedition Atlantic from Lanzarote to Martinique: an inspiring 3-week trip that is guiding her shapeshift to an encore career!
FIONA is a holistic health professional, with over 20 years experience, firstly as a register nurse, yoga instructor, T.V presenter, and more recently she has taken on a new exciting challenge, as company Director of True Purpose Health.
Fiona is a firm believer that health and well-being can only be fulfilled through a delicate balancing act of mind, body and soul – a personal journey of her own, that has led her to developed a range of treatments from conventional, to naturopathic , spiritual, to holistic, all encompassing the natural world and our surrounding environments at their core.
Fiona is a keen musician, with the philosophy that “the stranger the instrument, the more I want to learn to play it” She believes that music brings people closer, and is very much looking forward to being the resident musician aboard Sea Dragon, for sunset drumming sessions and storytelling.
Sailing is a hobby that Fiona wishes she had more time for. She is no stranger to setting sail around the Scottish islands or further afield around the island of Corfu, where her daughter now lives, and after Ascension is over, Fiona dreams to start a permanent life on the water by buying a houseboat.
Fiona sees eXXpedition as a way of directing her energies into a true purpose to help save our planet and promote healthy living, meeting up, sharing and exchanging life stories from like minded people, and in particularly, she is most excited about being involved in an all women mission.
“My objectives are to learn more about the ocean and the toxics forced into our earth, and to learn about toxics in our bodies, and then how to introduce ways of communicating this to our many audiences in a fun but effective way”.
HEATHER is a retired sheet-metal worker from San Francisco, California.
She worked for thirty years in the building trades and says she is very handy to have about!
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Heather believe life is made up of a series of opportunities, and it’s our job to grab hold of them with both hands and grow.
In April 2015 she reached Everest Base Camp 5,364 metres (17,598 ft) deep into the heartland of Nepal. Heather completed her greatest challenge to date via Kongma la Pass after being forced down the mountain the previous October due to snow.
“If we are the sum total of our experiences, then I really want experiences that help me enter a new world of opportunities”.
JAN is a marine chemist from the UK, and has over 17 years experience, carrying out and managing research into contaminants in the marine environment, focusing on identification of toxic (particularly endocrine disrupting) chemicals in marine sediments, and the development of new technologies designed to detect and identify emerging chemicals in sediments and water.
She is an experienced sailor, having started sailing with her parents as a child.
“I began racing at a young age and have raced many thousands of offshore miles, mostly in the North Sea, English Channel and Irish Sea, both fully crewed and short-handed”.
Jan is most excited about the opportunity to be able to bring her familiarity and expertise as a marine chemist and keen sailor together to be able to contribute to such a novel and exciting experience. She hopes that her journey with eXXpedition will broaden her mind even further, enable her to meet some amazing people, and contribute to fascinating and critical science, while exploring one of the most beautiful parts of the world.
KATIE loves wild places. Born and raised in South Yorkshire, on the edge of the Peak District, she graduated from Bournemouth University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Safety, Health and Environmental Management.
After graduating Katie followed her passion for conservation and stewardship of our natural environment, and focused on delivering educational training and implementing environmental management systems for businesses, specialising in the food, drink, and manufacturing industries. Her work has taken her to all four corners of the UK and across Europe. Katie has worked across all sectors of business in her consultancy roles, for non for profit organisations, private industry, local government, and the Environment Agency.
She has lobbied government on many issues related to packaging and waste legislation and has regulated and licenced producers, reprocessors and compliance schemes in line with the fulfilment of the Producer Responsibility Regulations for Packaging, Batteries and Waste Electronics.
Katie has a diverse history of non-profit work, from advocating and fundraising for wounded veterans in the UK and USA, community engagement with under privileged children in Marrakesh, and more recently she has pledged her commitment to help rebuild the Children of the Universe orphanage, destroyed in the April 2015 Nepal earthquakes.
No stranger to expedition life, in 2010 Katie got the bug for high altitude exploration when she trekked to Everest Base Camp, through the Khumbu Valley of Nepal. Last summer she reached her highest point to date when she summited Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain, and one of the 7 Summits.
Now based in the South West of England, Katie founded the Intention Project in 2015, a platform that inspires change through engaging, educating, and empowering people to focus their Intention to create a sustainable future. Katie is a firm believer that we all have a unique gift to share with the world, and she is passionate about connecting people with their unique purpose, to unlock and reach their full potential.
When she’s not exploring, Katie loves all pursuits that allow her to be creative, anything from painting and jewellery design to yoga, blogging and cooking. Clean living is her highest priority, and Katie hopes that through eXXpedition she can better understand the implications of this up and down the food chain, and also champion more conscious consumer choices amongst her peers.
Katie is a proud and passionate Plant Powered athlete, and as Head Chef aboard Sea Dragon, she is excited to show off the benefits of a clean, organic, plant based diet. Our mental and physical well-being all start with our food choices, and Katie is keen to explore and carry out research into the diet and lifestyle choices of the crew, to compare the levels of pesticides present in their bodies before setting sail and again after docking in Recife, following a 23 day ‘sea-tox’
Katie believes that connecting people to the natural environment through the power of story telling and creating a dialogue around the unseen affects of ocean pollution, and the affect this has on human health and wellbeing is critical to the future of conservation. Only when people realise their own health is damaged when the health of the oceans are damaged, will people take responsibility and act to instigate change.
SARAH has been resident storyteller onboard the S.S Great Britain in Bristol, UK for the last five years, creating stories, characters and games about life onboard, and tales of the high seas.
Sarah is narrative director and performer with the Whispering Wood Folk, an outdoor ritual and performance company that tours around woodlands.
She is dedicated to womens’ work, holding various red tents, moon lodges and circles.
Sarah is passionate about creating narratives that provoke thought, compassion and stewardship for the natural environment and Mother Earth, and she hopes to use her time onboard Sea Dragon to expand her understanding of plastics research, and translate this through the power of storytelling, to reach a wider audience once her feet are back on the earth.
Go and support Sarah’s CrowdFund campaign here. Amongst the ‘rewards’ Sarah is offering copies of her Limited Edition story book ‘Star Seed Story’…. it’s a beautiful and captivating read.
TEGAN is a marine biologist from Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up sailing with her family on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay and later raced one design dinghies for her high school team.
Nowadays she spends more time on diesel, rather than wind powered vessels, heading offshore as a researcher and educator on board commercial whale watches.
As a biologist Tegan is interested in how the physical and biological environment impacts and influences animal populations. In 2014 she started a study looking at the distribution of debris, mainly plastics, in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, so that we can better understand the degree of risk to the whales that feed in this area every summer.
“eXXpedition is an amazing opportunity for me to learn more about marine debris research and bring both that knowledge and the story of this incredible adventure back home with me”.
SIMONE read a book in college called Our Bodies, Ourselves now published in 30 languages. It was revolutionary. Published by 12 women in the late 1960’s it discussed women’s bodies, health and sexuality which challenged the medical establishment of the day.
It also changed the patient doctor relationship for the better for everyone in the U.S. Since then I decided I wanted to do something that made a positive impact on people’s lives and realized progress for women is fought for, usually by women.
Finding strong women role models making big changes like those authors would be very inspiring. After short jobs with the U.S Forest Service, commercial fishing, abalone and sea cucumber diving in Alaska Simone worked in video production.
She began making in-kind promotional videos and public service announcements for charities, T.V and non-broadcast. Simone became a Board Member of the local women’s shelter and the United Way of Anchorage which helped her find out about the needs in the community.
“Using video I was able to get the message out and meet pioneers doing amazing things”.
One example is Susan Butcher who won the Iditarod consecutively, a 1,500 mile sled dog race in the freezing Alaska wilderness and climbing Denali aka Mt. Mckinley by dog sled. Simone’s most memorable endeavors were a T.V news style program called Young Alaskans where the positive achievements of teenagers were highlighted, a promotional video for a charity Moving Mountains in Kenya to assist Nairobi’s street children to attend school and Kham Aid Foundation to help marginalized Tibetans living in the Autonomous Region of Tibet.
Although she has not worked in the video industry for some time since she is raising two home birthed boys, she is still involved in the community. Most recent hosting a fundraiser to assist sex trafficked women and supporting a center for abused children.
Simone is very inspired about the research, message and achievements of the other crew with eXXpedition. This is the first time her activist spirit combines with her hobby of sailing. When not cruising with the family in the summer Simone takes care of her eighty-nine year old mother and runs an art gallery in Sarasota, Florida.
Since then she decided she wanted to do something that made a positive impact on people’s lives and realized progress for women is fought for, usually by women.
Her goals are to learn about the ocean research so that I may be able to do the same with her family on their Camper Nicholson 35 foot sailboat. She also hopes to assist with the video needs and increase her sailing knowledge to prepare for her Yachtmaster Offshore and Ocean exam.
Simone will be teaming with Suncoast Waterkeeper during the next year to raise awareness about the toxics in our seas. Based out of Sarasota, Florida it has a similar mission to eXXpedition. Suncoast Waterkeeper is protecting and restoring Florida Suncoast’s waterways through enforcement, fieldwork, advocacy, and environmental education for the benefit of the communities that rely upon these precious coastal resources.
JESS loves adventure, exploring and learning about the world. Having always been a sports enthusiast, the outdoors and being active is her favourite pastime.
Jess was born in London, but shortly after moved to Germany. The first language she spoke was German in Kindergarten, and can credit her operational efficiency to her german schooling! Living so close to Austria, Jess started skiing at the age of 3 and has loved it ever since.
Once back in the UK, Jess went to school in Berkshire, played Lacrosse for Junior England, learnt to sail in South Devon, went to Exeter University, carried on sailing in South Devon, and graduated with a BSC in Psychology and a MSC in Tourism Development and Events Management. Since 2008, she has been working as an operations project manager on large scale, international events such as the FIFA World Cup, Asian Football Cup, Olympics and Rugby World Cup. These events have enabled her to live in cool places around the world and given her time to travel and experience many countries in between events, fulfilling a major passion of hers.
“Jess has recently started her own company, Perky People which encourages people not to spend their lives behind a desk, instead, celebrating people who are getting out there, being active and living life”.
Sport, health, fitness and the outdoors has continued to be a big interested throughout her life and now Jess wants to get more serious about helping raise awareness of the current issues we face and find ways of helping to make a difference. Jess has recently started her own company, Perky People which encourages people not to spend their lives behind a desk, instead, celebrating people who are getting out there, being active and living life.
Sailing across the Atlantic has always been a life wish of Jess’ so joining the crew on Sea Dragon is not only exciting, but combined with such an important mission, Jess is looking forward to understanding more about the condition of our oceans and what can we can all do to help make a difference for the future.