It’s been just over a month since our pioneering Round Britain sail was completed and the team have been busy wrapping up all the post-expedition work. Over the course of 28 days, the eXXpedition Round Britain crew sailed through UK waters and visited Plymouth, Cardiff, Belfast, Arran, Edinburgh and London.
The three crews travelled over 2035 nautical miles between them and collected nearly 100 scientific samples for further analysis. These samples have been sent out to our amazing scientific partners (don’t forget, you can read more about just some of our scientific partners here) and we will be sharing more insights as we receive them. Many of our samples will feed into and inform larger studies, so we will see results appear over the course of the next two years.
Unfortunately, we know already that, as expected, microplastics were found in all areas tested throughout the journey. Although more will be learnt from the lab results, from general observation on board while collecting samples, it is clear there is considerable plastic pollution in UK waters. This appears to be particularly apparent in areas of higher population.
The trip was not without it’s unexpected challenges, but the all-female crew rallied and pushed through. Weather conditions on the first leg struck down most of the crew with sea sickness and the conditions around the top of Scotland were considered too dangerous to sail in, so Sea Dragon had to be diverted through the Caledonian Canal. This turned out to be a great opportunity to collect samples from our inland waterways – an area that is increasingly drawing attention from the scientific community in relation to plastic pollution.
Image provided by Emily Penn & Carol Devine, leg 2 Caledonian Canal: “First order of the day… science! We took samples of sediment, nano plastics, PFOS, salinity, pH and turbidity… and changed the air filter!! All before 7:30am…”
We received media coverage across all the major UK networks and platforms (visit our media page for just some of the coverage). Following on from the sail, the eXXpedition crew are hoping that the media attention around ocean plastics and toxics will continue, and are calling for long-term systemic change.
“We are campaigning for upstream solutions, particularly for single-use packaging,” says ocean advocate and eXXpedition Co-founder Emily Penn. “We are asking industry to rethink and redesign products, government to legislate solutions, and you and I, as consumers, to make good choices to use less plastic.”
The good news is the tide is turning, with changes on the horizon for plastics in the UK even as the dust was settling on the Round Britain sail.
“As we have sailed, plastics and toxics has risen up the agenda,” says scientist and eXXpedition Co-founder Dr Lucy Gilliam. “We welcome the implementation of a bottle return scheme in Scotland – something we discussed at length with campaigners at our Scottish Round Britain stops in Arran and Edinburgh. Our hope is that this initiative is implemented UK wide and that our studies drive ambitious actions to tackle plastics and toxic pollution in our water and globally.”
This is time for celebration, but it’s not time to step off our mission. eXXpedition is working on current and future projects to aim to capitalise on the growing understanding and action on plastics in our oceans. We’ll keep you updated with information on what we are doing and how you can get involved.
Finally, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our inspirational crew, amazing partners, fantastic organisations and individuals who helped make the eXXpedition journey as successful as it was. We couldn’t have done it without your help and support. You can find out more about all our Round Britain partners, by visiting our partners and sponsors page.
You can read personal experiences and related content about our Round Britain journey by checking out our Round Britain blog posts.