Bergen: Floating university to gather ocean data from Norway to Caribbean

01 Oct 2021 | Network Updates | Update from University of Bergen
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

The University of Bergen invites students on board the Norwegian sailing ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl on an adventurous voyage in the Caribbean and in the Pacific Ocean.

The sailing ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl left the port of Arendal in Norway in the end of August 2021 and set sail for its circumnavigation One Ocean Expedition.

During the next year and a half, the Norwegian sailing ship will be on its longest voyage ever. The One Ocean Expedition is a part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The main goal is to create attention and share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.

The ship is equipped with modern instruments and will collect high-quality data of ocean physics, chemistry, and biology continuously throughout the journey. It will also serve as a floating university, bringing crews of students and young leaders together at different legs. High-level meetings and public events will happen during port visits.

Real-time access to data, video and stories from the ship will serve to inspire and engage not only scientists but also citizens for ocean-based action towards sustainable development worldwide. You can follow the expedition via

The University of Bergen is one of several partners to the expedition. Our researchers will use the data from the ship, and we will take students on board on two courses.

In November 2021 the course SDG313 will be conducted on board the ship in the Caribbean Sea. The field course focuses on causes, consequences, and solutions to the climate challenges.

“This year, our Climate Action field course focused on SDG-13 and Agenda2030 includes a highly interdisciplinary group of students from many different countries, including Norway, North America, Africa and the Caribbean. The voyage starts in Curaçao, with a stop in Jamaica and ends in Cuba. In each port the students will host local school children, who will be introduced to climate and ocean sustainability through hands-on activities on deck. In addition to the modern oceanographic and meteorological instruments onboard, we are bringing a replica of a 1000-meter-long original hemp rope. With the students we will repeat and hope to calibrate some of. the important original measurements of ocean temperature and salinity that were made during the first global oceanographic expedition in history on board the sailing vessel HMS Challenger 150 years ago, says UiB professor Kerim Hestnes Nisancioglu who is responsible for the course thought in the Caribbean.

Pacific sailing

After arriving in Havana, the ship continues, first north toward New York, before turning again and sailing south along South America, around Cape Horn in Chile, and to the port city of Valparaíso, where the University of Bergen is mustering with 90 students in May 2022.

On an adventurous voyage across the Pacific Ocean, UiB takes the students on a very special semester. For four intensive months, the students will study sustainability through the course SDG200 at the same time as they live and are trainees at Statsraad Lehmkuhl.

“How often do you get the opportunity to sail across the Pacific Ocean and visit destinations such as Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Palau? This is a fantastic opportunity”, says an enthusiastic associate professor at UiB, Katja Enberg.

Interdisciplinary sustainability topic

Enberg will lead UiB's four-month stage in the Pacific Ocean and looks forward to bringing students on board the ship. The new course, SDG200, addresses knowledge from various disciplines - which is crucial to solving the challenges of the future.

“Students will learn what opportunities exist to solve the sustainability challenges, and how to work together across disciplines to find solutions. Interdisciplinarity is essential to be able to solve sustainability challenges and teaching and learning in interdisciplinary groups forces us to look at the challenges from different points of view. Therefore, the course is open to students with any disciplinary background”, she says.

Trainees on the ship

The voyage from Valparaíso to Palau is as much as 12,000 nautical miles (over 22,000 kilometers). Along the way, the students will be trainees on the ship, and participate in duties on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl. The ship is often far from land, and the students must therefore have good physical health (get a seafarer’s medical certificate before boarding) and be mentally prepared to be on a sailing ship without internet and mobile coverage over long periods of time. For example, the first leg from Valparaíso to Tahiti is a full 36 days at sea without setting foot on land.

“The students are divided into three shifts, each working twice four hours every day. When you are on duty, you are assigned specific tasks, such as standing at the helm, have the man over board watch, being a fire guard or galley guard - and of course hoisting up, lowering and adjusting sails! For the remaining 16 hours, the students study, rest and eat”, Enberg says, and continues: “Because all the students need to contribute in order to make the ship travel from one port to another, this voyage is a perfect parallel to how we need to tackle the sustainability challenges – if some are neglecting their responsibilities, everyone will suffer”. 

This article was first published on October 1 by University of Bergen.

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