A formal agreement was signed recently between the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO) and Cornell Sailing Events, confirming the scientific and research projects that will be undertaken by sailors during the Odyssey events.
The aim of using amateur sailors and their yachts as resources for the scientific community has been at the heart of the Odyssey events ever since the Blue Planet Odyssey was launched at the end of 2012 with the intention of raising awareness of climate change.
In 2013 a successful pilot project was run during the Atlantic Odyssey as four autonomous drifter buoys were deployed during the transatlantic voyage from Lanzarote to Martinique on behalf of NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration).
JCOMMOPS (the Joint WMO-IOC Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology) maintains a global array of 3,400 Argo floats and 1,250 surface drifters throughout the oceans. Once the instruments are deployed, they activate automatically and transmit via satellite data on salinity, ocean currents and temperature. The data collected in this way has enabled scientists to observe previously unknown oceanic and climatic features have contributed to revelations about ocean dynamics that are helping understand and forecast global climate.
The deployment of the buoys was done until recently by research vessels or commercial ships. The advantages of using sailors on cruising yachts is that they often sail through remote areas, where commercial or research ships rarely go, the deployment of instruments in such areas making an invaluable contribution to scientific knowledge.
Of special importance will be the routes sailed by participants in the Blue Planet Odyssey, a round the world sailing rally aiming to raise awareness of the global effects of climate change starting in late 2014; and the World Odyssey, a round the world race via the three “big capes”: Good Hope (Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and Horn (South America) in 2016-2017.
This unique partnership is pioneering an exciting new area of citizen science by using amateur sailors to gather information about the oceans. It is recognised that the future of our planet depends on the health of the oceans, which are increasingly affected by human activity, and yet scientists still know very little about the ocean at a time when scientific research budgets are under increasing pressure.