Our OBR, Will's Farewell

sailing, tall ship, New Zealand
Final tips from our Onboard Reporter on how we can all take part in protecting the ocean.

William Harnisch is Sailors for the Sea’s Onboard Reporter for the Sea Education Association (SEA) S-270 class. He’s been sailing on the tall ship SSV Robert C. Seamans in the Southern Pacific offshore New Zealand since mid-November.

Here is Will's final words about his adventure:

There are very few words that can encapsulate the experience I just had on the Seamans. My shipmates were my family, the ship our home and the journey was beyond profound. From the minute we stepped on the ship, to our very difficult and saddening goodbyes, the learning never stopped. Of course we gained a vast amount of sailing and academic knowledge but we also gained life knowledge. This was general life advice as well as knowledge about others but most importantly ourselves. Among the gained knowledge, we have endless stories from swimming in waters two thousand meters deep to eating tuna hearts, not to mention the days of winds over thirty knots and/or seas over ten feet. We saw some incredible things, some of which we may never see again.

Something to recognize is the fact that we are among the first to research our topics of interest in the areas we sailed through. In regards to plastics, what Kaia and I studied, we had some interesting findings. Currents have an influence over them and they are most consistently dense around land and closer to the gyres just as we predicted and as most research has supported. We focused mostly on microplastics and their distribution throughout our cruise track/the oceans. We found that if you are to dunk a one liter bottle into the water at any given point along our cruise track you will find sixty-six pieces of microplastic - which is terrifying! In addition, we found that most of those microplastics were microfibers, which is a result of laundry. We were on the lookout for microbeads from face wash and similar products, and only found twelve total, which is awesome. This means regulation of these cosmetic products is working as microbeads have been banned in most places throughout the world. One thing boaters and everyone can do to help reduce microfibers ending up in the ocean is to re-wear clothes several times before they are washed. Not only will this help reduce microfibers in the water, but will also reduce freshwater consumption.

The average person on land uses over seventy gallons of water per day as opposed to the eleven or twelve each crewmember of the Seamans used daily during this trip. Water consumption is easy to cut back on, yet very few people think about it. Simple changes like turning off the water while brushing your teeth, washing your hands or soaping up in the shower will save a lot of water. Too many places around the world are without freshwater and others starting to run out. In addition to cutting back on water consumption, we can all try to limit our meat consumption, which plays a major role in deforestation. I challenge each person who reads this to try to reduce your water and beef consumption if you can, and challenge ten people throughout your life to do the same. One person cannot change the world, but if the world worked together, it isn’t so hard. Thank you to all who have followed me on my journey and thank you to all those I sailed with for being such an amazing family. I love each and every one of you and will never forget this experience. “This is the first and last time we will all be together, but we are shipmates now and we always will be.”

Read about Will’s adventure >>

In collaboration with Sea Education Association (SEA), Sailors for the Sea is offering an award for a SEA Semester student to become an Onboard Reporter. SEA is an internationally recognized leader in undergraduate ocean education through their study abroad program. As a recipient of the new Sailors for the Sea Onboard Reporter award, William Harnisch is chronicling ocean health issues observed during his voyage aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, one of SEA’s tall sailing ship research vessels, off the coast of New Zealand. William is a University of Rhode Island undergraduate student currently studying off campus with SEA Semester’s Ocean Exploration program in fall term 2016. This program gives undergraduates of all majors the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of our world’s oceans.