Going Bananas!

This video pretty much sums up exactly how I am feeling today:

Just so many exciting and wonderful things going on, and kind of hard to put into words all the things swirling around inside my head right now, so I’ll try and go through things one by one!  Going to be more like the minutes to a meeting of my past week, so I have to apologise for that!!

OPG Saturday Session

Another great session with the kids, though a lot of them were a bit flat this week and we lost a few of them.  There is a nasty bug going around at the moment, Georgians would probably say it was because of the sudden change in seasons, from 02 to more like 15degrees or more, pretty much overnight.  But, kudos to the kids for letting us know that they couldn’t come to the session and wanting us to actually set them homework, and to those who looked pretty awful but still came regardless.  Many of them had fevers of around 38c too!  I think that gives you some idea of how special our young folks are and how much they love project and being involved.  We also lost our lovely Elen Mc, but for very good reason…..she was going to be on tv, with her dance group.  Check her out:

We also interviewed the kids about oceans project and why they wanted to go on their expeditions with Earthwatch, and they were very nervous and serious, so it was good to push them out of their comfort zone a bit, ready for leaving Georgia for the first time in many cases, and to meet new people.  I haven’t edited or uploaded them yet, but promise to share them when I have.  It is great to see how far they have come since September, especially in terms of their English as a foreign language.

It was also really great to see them organise their own activities outside of project, and they have organised to go and clean up rubbish and make their own educational and fundraising videos at the botanical gardens, so I can’t wait to see what they produced.  And great to see them mixing together for a common cause, especially as some of them are from the same school and had never spoken to each other until they joined project, and they come from really diverse backgrounds, including very wealthy kids and refugees, so that is fantastic from my view point.  It wasn’t something that was planned when I initially conceived the idea for oceans project, but is a really important part, and an aspect that I really wish to focus on in the future, starting with the groups of ex street children and orphans, and later something with young people in Georgia’s neighbouring countries.

Tik and Bubbles

I’ve also applied to be on the Board for a really innovative and exciting project called Tik and Bubbles.  It is the brain child of Australian, Lloyd Godson, a marine biologist, here is a video of his underwater house at Lego Land in Germany:

In 2007, Lloyd was announced Australian Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year, and with the money  he won, he has continued to do some awes inspiring projects.  His latest project is based on the cartoon characters from his educational book, called Tik and Bubbles.  And the project will involve building an educational centre in the Netherlands which will be under water, and includes submarine driving lessons for kids.  It will be a great honour to collaborate with Lloyd on this project, and to be on the Director’s Board. Check out the project here: http://www.tikandbubbles.org/activities.html

Film Crew Documenting the Work of OPG

I also had contact this week from a documentary film crew in the USA, who want to come and follow me for the year to document the work and innovation of OPG, and to put together a film about us.  This company make documentaries for NGOs worldwide, so it is a great opportunity for us, and will tie in with many things perfectly.

ChangeMakers and ChangeShop

This week I came across this crowdfunding kind of platform, which is specifically for NGOs and charities, and those who are looking to help or sponsor them.  It is a great tool, and we have received some great response already.  Here is my Changemakers page: http://www.changemakers.com/users/sarah-weldon and here is a ChangeShop: http://www.changemakers.com/changeshop/oceans-project-georgia Through this we have been nominated for two awards, one from Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, and the second for a competition called Activating Empathy: Transforming Schools To Teach What Matters  I’ve also been invited to have an interview as an innovator.  ALso made a connection with an amazing lady in San Francisco who works on this great project with children in the USA who are in Foster Care, and looking forward to some collaborations with them in the future: http://www.changemakers.com/changeshop/home-within-long-term-emotional-support-foster-children 

Sarah Outen

This week, the very special and amazing ocean rower, Sarah Outen also agreed to be our Patron, along with Paul Rose from BBC Oceans.  Sarah Outen received an MBE from the Queen last year, and is about to row across the North Pacific Ocean.  Not only is she going to be our Patron, but she is also going to call our kids from her satellite phone, and they will be sending her lots of questions.  Here is what wikipedia says about her:

Sarah Dilys Outen MBE FRGS (born 26 May 1985) is an English adventurer. She is the first and only woman and the youngest person to row solo across the Indian Ocean.  Outen attended Stamford High School before reading Biology at St Hugh’s College, Oxford where she started rowing in 2004

Rowing solo across the Indian Ocean

After an eleven day failed attempt which she dubbed her ‘Warm Up Lap’[citation needed], Outen set out again from Fremantle, Western Australia, on 1 April 2009 in her 19ft boat calledSerendipity. She rowed for 124 days, 14 hours and 9 minutes before arriving at Bois des Amourettes, on the island of Mauritius, on 3 August 2009. She was the first woman to attempt the crossing single-handedly, and only the fourth person to ever complete a solo crossing.[1]

Her journey raised more than £30,000 for two charities, Arthritis Care and Arthritis Research Campaign. She dedicated the crossing to the memory of her late father who passed away in 2006.[2] She was elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society shortly afterwards and awarded three Guinness World Records for her crossing. She currently holds a total of threeGuinness World Records

Current projects

She is a popular motivational speaker both in the UK and internationally.

On 1 April 2011, Outen set off on her latest expedition – ‘London to London: Via the World’. This Sarah-powered loop of the planet will involve the first ever attempt by a woman to row across the North Pacific Ocean. She will row, cycle and kayak her way from London back to London, sharing stories about the adventure and experience. The 20,000 mile journey will take 2.5 years to complete. During her expedition, she will be cycling across Europe, Asia, America, Canada and rowing the North Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans.

Here is a section from a short documentary about her:

And here is her website: http://www.sarahouten.com/  So, you can understand why this is such a mega thing for us, and she is a great person to have as Patron.

Coxless Rowers

I have great pleasure, and probably the reason why I am just so hyper today, is because yesterday evening, I discovered that I had made it through the rigorous selection process and would be the third member of the Coxless Rowers team!  So, next year I will be leaving San Francisco at the end of May on a 6 month row across the South Pacific Ocean to Cairns, Australia, calling at Hawaii, Fiji, and Samoa to avoid currents and crazy weather.  This is just a great thing for me, and feels like destiny, and just fits perfectly with everything happening with Oceans Project right now.

If you haven’t done so already, then I really encourage you to follow us on our epic journey and our attempt to set 5 world records.

  •  First ocean row from mainland North America to mainland Australia,
  •  First all female team to row the Pacific Ocean,
  • •First ever team of four to row the Pacific Ocean,
  •  Youngest female to row the Pacific Ocean,
  •  Break the current speed record for a Pacific Ocean row.

and you can follow us:

  1. via website: http://coxlessrowers.com/
  2. via twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/coxlessrowers
  3. via facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Coxless-Rowers/298233093565190
  4. via Coxless Rowers blog: http://annabelgracehancock.wordpress.com/

Since we an all female team, we are going with the ‘branding’ of being four ordinary girls out to achieve the extraordinary, and each of us hopes to inspire women around the world to do what they dream in life.  We are also going with a ‘luxury’ and girly angle, so we will be looking for corporate sponsors who get this aspect. Any ideas or contacts, then please send them this way:)

The plan is to do the row as the Coxless Rowers, but for each of us to generate publicity and sponsorship for our own charities in the process, mine being Oceans Project Georgia.  My role on the expedition is that of scientist and educator.  My two team mates are Laura (a physiotherapist for the GB Paralympic team), and Annabel (a speech and language therapist).  Both are from the south west, and so BBC Bristol are taking a huge interest in the row and will be following us throughout.  If you live in the UK, or have a dodgy way of interacting with BBC things online, whilst not in Britain, then you can hear Laura talking on BBC Radio Bristol a couple of days ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00pkrr1 talking about ‘women in sport’.

And we also just heard that we are going to get ‘in kind’ sponsorship from some lovely people at NAKD who make snack bars which are really healthy and don’t contain any unnaturalness.  The NAKD name fits us perfectly given that we will be rowing naked across the ocean, in order to avoid too many sores and things from the sea salt.  Check out the NAKD bars, and send them a thank you if you like, for supporting such a great team of ladies:)  So, we are going to be tucking in on these between now until the end of our journey compliments of these people: http://www.naturalbalancefoods.co.uk/

Lush are also on the ball with us, and OPG, and now just need to flesh things out a bit more.  Lots of other exciting plans and sponsorship things on the go, but keeping them all under wraps for now.

By biggest needs at the moment are securing £800 to cover my expenses for one year, to work on OPG/Ocean row/my PhD until I can get formal funding, as applications for grants take a lot of my time, and things are hectic.  I also need a new mac as my 6year old mac is starting to struggle some now and just doesn’t have the memory or speed I need for all the current demands.  Going to be looking to Mac for sponsorship at some point for OPG, but it is on a list of very many things still to do!  And most importantly, I need to find a gym in Tbilisi, such as the Marriott Courtyard Hotel, where I can start my training for the Ocean row, or alternatively a running or rowing machine that I can have at home.  For now, I need to focus on just building basic muscle strength and bulk rather than cardiovascular fitness, but I’d like to get training ready for our first team meeting whatever.  So if anyone has any ideas, then I would love to hear them.

Have to say a special ‘thank you’ to Sally Kettle here as she has been an absolute super star in terms of all things ocean rowing so far (as has Sarah Outen, despite being busy preparing for her own North Pacific row).  Sally has been giving me lots of tips for training and things, and as a personal fitness instructor and twice world recording holding Atlantic Ocean Row (once with her mum, second as part of RowGirls) she knows a lot of very useful stuff, and is perfect because she pretty much started from where I am at now, and learnt everything as she went.  If you haven’t read her book, then I would highly recommend it ‘Sally’s Odd at Sea’ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sallys-Odd-Sea-Sally-Kettle/dp/0955075157).  For her second row, Sally raised money for a charity called Shelter Box, and now works for them, going out to deliver the shelter boxed to people left homeless due to natural or man made disasters.  Here is Sally’s Showreel:

and here is a clip of Sarah Outen training for her current expedition London to London:

I’m most worried about two things right now: my addiction to tea (with milk) and rowing naked! Thoughts on a postcard please:) I’m also going to really miss my dog Isla and my cat Izzy, and that is my biggest issue right now, but I know they will be fine, and I’m already teaching Isla how to use skype, so will be great to ‘chat’ with her there via satellite skype if its possible! Also toyiong with the idea of a 6th world record…..first Italian greyhound or possibly just dog, to row an ocean!! She wouldn’t mind at all I’m sure, but I bet there would be a lot of people out there who would protest!

The Next Step…

The next big thing is to update all the social media, both from OPG perspective and from Coxless Rowers perspectives.  In May or June, I somehow have to find the funds to go and meet with the girls in the UK, as we plan to run a selection weekend in Cornwall for the final lady in the team.  If you are female and British and want to apply to join the row, then drop me an email: sarah@oceansproject.com or info@coxlessrowers.com

We also have a photo shoot to do, lots of publicity interviews, a physiology test with an Olympic Trainer, and with our Ocean Rowing Trainer, the infamous Tony Humphreys who is based in Plymouth but originally from Marlow near where my granny lives and where my mate Phil runs a lovely wine shop.  Tony is described as:

An active sailor with three Atlantic crossings to his credit, Mr. Humphreys is also very familiar with the raft construction and design and is assisting Mr. Batchelor in its construction.
Mr. Humphreys has assisted in the setting up of various Atlantic-rowing attempts and is familiar with all the aspects of organizing such crossings. Logistically the An-Tiki is no different.

Unflappable and reliable. (http://gasballoon.com/antiki/?page_id=48)

Here is a picture of Tony building a raft which the An-tiki folk used to cross the Atlantic Ocean:

What Tony doesn’t know about Ocean Rowing is just not worth knowing! SO it will be great to catch up with him in Plymouth, and to have our physiology assessments, meet the nutritionist, and to get our personal training programmes organised.

It will also be a great chance for me to finally get my wisdom teeth removed, and I’m hoping to have them removed by Laura’s maxfax colleagues at the hospital where she works if possible.  I think that will be the ultimate test of how we will get on as a team over 6 months at sea in a confined space…..break my jaw, cut into the bone and remove three wisdom teeth (apparently I only have three!), leave me puffy, swollen, eating through a straw and unable to speak for a while….that sounds like the perfect test of character to me, especially as I know I’m a bad patient and pretty much just like to hide under a rock and feel sorry for myself for a bit, and then emerge after extreme bordom and cabin feverl!!  Probably best to get the team photos done before the teeth are removed I think  Sure I am exaggerating, but always best to prepare for the worst I say.

The PhD Plan

So, after faffing around with three PhD offers, I’m still feeling best about the one with Plymouth University/Schumacher College.  I love this one because it is trans-disciplinary, and fits my personality best, and the Supervisors feel a bit more open and experimental, which I really like.

If things work out, then I will be able to use PhD funding (if I get it) to fund my living costs for the year, and my travel to Plymouth to meet with my supervisors, and tied in with the rowing this would be ideal.  That also gives me time to focus on three very integrated projects: ocean row/PhD/Oceans Project Georgia.

I have a long list of funds I can now apply for with regards to all three, and the difficult bit now is to set in stone a firm plan and motivation or agenda for each.  Since they are really intertwined this works well, and means I can then focus on the grants which best match those, plus funding or sponsorship for each of the three parts will pretty much cross over and enable the other activities to, i.e. funding for my PhD will cover my expenses for the ocean row, and allow me time to dedicate to the three.

I have two supervisors lined up, Martha and Michael, here is a little info about them:

Michael Punt is a Professor of Art andTechnology at the University of Plymouth. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Leonardo Reviews which publishes inexcess of 200 reviews a year on art, science and technology. Between 1969 and1994 he had over one hundred exhibitions of his work including one-personshows, and has made 15 films. He gained his PhD at the University of Amsterdam(Early Cinema and the TechnologicalImaginary, 2000 http://dare.uva.nl/document/100064) and has jointlyproduced two books. He has published over 80 articles on cinema history anddigital technology in key journals includingTheVelvet Light TrapLeonardoDesign IssuesTechnoeticArts and Convergence. Between1996 and 2000 he was a regular contributor to Skrien, the Dutch journal of record for film and televisioncriticism. During that period he wrote a monthly column on cinema, art and theInternet. In the past five years he has given papers and keynotes in more than a dozen countries and is currently working on a two volume book project on technology and imagination during the ‘long twentieth century’. He currently leads a large joint research project with the VU, University Amsterdam, the University of Applied Arts, Vienna, the  Netherlands Filmmuseum and The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. This project, funded through HERA, ‘Technology, Exchange and Flow: Artistic Practices and Commercial Application’ focuses on experimental film and advertising in Europe.

and Martha:

Martha Blassnigg is a Cultural and Media Anthropologist, trained in Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy, and parallel in Film and Cinema Studies, with a background in film restoration, documentary filmmaking and photography as research practice. She has completed two documentary films and has previously worked as film restorer at the Netherlands Filmmuseum (now EYE Film Institute Netherlands).

She undertakes historical and philosophical research in order to situate the metaphysical dimensions of technology and art within the processes of human perception and consciousness. in this she focuses on the perceptual experience of audio-visual media in both a historical and contemporary context in relation to issues such as time, memory, intuition, affection and consciousness. She combines empirical research (anthropological methods) with historical and philosophical studies of issues concerned with epistemology, knowledge versus belief, agency and free will, aesthetic intuition and holistic approaches to the body-mind correlation.

It might not seem that either of these people would be interested in a PhD about the environment, but the plan is to span many disciplines, and to look at the role of plastic in our lives from many angles, and the relationship that we have with, for example, a plastic bag.  I’m interested in plastic pollution in the ocean, but working with these two supervisors, I will be able to look at the psychology of why we use the bag, how we perceive it, and why we perhaps fail to use alternatives.  Why are some people environmentally aware, and others not, why do plastic bag campaigns work in some countries or town, and others not. How can I help environmental campaigners or advocates to get their message across in a more successful way in the future?And how can film making be used as a tool in the change making process?  At first it looked a bit of a hippy come media studies kind of topic, but it actually really fits in with my Steiner education roots, and Oceans Project Georgia as an educational project which takes it’s lead from the kids and is different to your standard educational project.

Environmental Neuropsychology?

I had one idea which really excites me, and combines my passion for environmental education with by background as a Neuropsychologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, and the many hours I spent soaking up everything neuro at Functional Imaging Lab (FIL) in Queen Square.

It is all just random thoughts right now, but I somehow need to pull everything together, so that I can make the funding applications for my three ‘babies’ (OPG/PhD/Ocean row).

What if I could take photos and make videos during my ocean row, and also use pictures and videos from other people, and invite volunteers to come and have an MRI, so I could see their brain’s responses, particularly emotional, to viewing these things.  What if there was a difference to which pictures of videos had the most impact on emotions, and what if campaigners and educators knew this? Could this new information be used to assist in the education process? It could of course be quite unethical, I mean, I’d be giving advertisers the key to making you buy things!! But, I think it would be really fascinating. And it would be great to do something in my old field and to collaborate with other neuroscientists to help on my quest of not keep throwing rubbish into our rivers and oceans.  A new approach to environmental conservation!

These films or pictures could be divided into three categories, plastic pollution: and people/animals/environment.  For example, people:



and then I could look at which of the three categories had the most brain activity or emotional response.  Did it matter whether the animal was dead or alive, what species it was, did it matter what age the person in the photo was, or their ethnicity?  What about the colours used in the picture, or complexity? And what about the videos, do people respond more to messages of action and hope, or to doom and despair? Does too much negativity put people off because they feel it is too late to do anything about it, and does too positive make people think it won’t happen to them?

That kind of project excites me, and would be really interesting!

On the Ocean Row

Whilst, on my ocean row, I plan to do more marine biology and physical science type research.  This will be really important for scientists studying the 5 gyres and the Pacific Garbage patches as we will be on the outskirts of the northern gyre and going pretty much through the middle of the southern gyre.  Here is a nice video about the gyres:

My plan is to:

  • collect water samples
  • use a small net that won’t slow us down too much (since we are tryingto set a speed record!)
  • dissecting the stomachs of any flying fish which get killed in the process of dive bombing our boat as we row, or any other fish or small animals we find floating on the surface.

Then when we are on land, sitting out weather and tides in Hawaii, Fiji,and Samoa, and perhaps also at the start in San Francisco and at the end in Australia, I will also collect data on the island:

  • dissect fish stomachs from fish purchased at the market
  • look for ‘nurdles’ or collect sand samples from beaches, which can be sent off for analysis.

Mermaid’s Tears (aka ‘nurdles’)

This will be the main theme of my PhD.  Nurdles are basically little round balls of plastic, which are used to make everything plastic, chairs, cups, bags, and they even fill the insides of cuddly toys.  Sometimes the term ‘nurdle’ is used to refer to any pieces of plastic less than 5mm in diameter, or little pieces like the ones found in the picture of the fish above.  But when they are found on the shore, then this kind of pollution is referred to as ‘mermaid’s tears’.  If we could stop the demand for these to make plastic products, or could cut down their use as much as necessary, then there wouldn’t be so much plastic around to get into the water.

I’m curious about the nurdles which are used in cosmetic products as I genuinely had no idea about their existence here.  This would be an interesting one, that ties in well with the ocean rowing being very ‘girly’ and also with our interest in Lush who make natural cosmetics.  Check out these three videos, two about nurdles and the second about Lush’s environmental policy:

The International Award

The third part of my research will focus on the impact of the Duke of Edinburgh/International Award as a tool for environmental awareness.  And I hope to meet with Award participants in San Fran, Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa, and Australia, and ideally on our Earthwatch expeditions too, as well as here in Georgia of course.

Would be great to find out how many of the participants are doing environmental work for any of the four sections: service, physical, skills, adventurous journey. And the kinds of activities they are doing, and how many hours are generated for the environment.  Be nice to film these too.

That is pretty much the basis of my PhD: nurdles and three different approaches to them: Neuropsychology, marine science, and International Award

One Final Crazy Plan

So, I have this one crazy plan to try and tie things together, which would be amazing if I could pull it off.  I’d really like to make Oceans Project Georgia available on a website, that could be accessed by anyone in the world, and have people upload their own video presentations and things to Youtube.  Then, once we have finished writing our Oceans Project workbook, this could be sold along with the BBC Oceans DVD and anyone anywhere could buy this from Amazon books or whatever, and really partake in our project.

I would probably look to run this during the Ocean row over those 6 months, but get everything up online prior to that and have someone manage it on my behalf.  I could then upload videos each week live from the ocean and take questions, thus sharing my research on the nurdles and the meetings I have with International Award participants in each country.

There are 7million young people taking the International Award, so would be great to open up OPG to them, and also to do regular updates for the Lush Times to their readers, and maybe to Earthwatch too if they were interested.

That way, I could also put out surveys and questionnaires, collect the results and analyse them for my PhD, but there would also be a lot of peer learning which would be nice.  Might be able to run some competitions in exchange for prizes of Lush Soap that people could distribute to people in their community, like patients with no family or friends to visit them, orphanages, refugee camps. And maybe Earthwatch could donate an expedition, and 5 gyres too.  Would be a massive target audience and could have a great impact globally.

Well, lots of exciting things going on, even more than I have energy to write about today, but all exciting and lots of potential!!!



About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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