Artists and Scientists Return from Arctic Expedition

Mission Blue

Mission Blue Expert in Ocean Conservation

orso biancoA team of 60 of the world’s leading marine scientists, photographers, filmmakers and fine artists recently returned from an expedition to the icy waters of Norway, Greenland and Iceland to explore and document the impacts of climate change on the fragile high Arctic region. The two-and-a-half-week Elysium Artists for the Arctic expedition was orchestrated by photographer Michael Aw—director of the Ocean Geographic Society—who co-led the trip alongside Mission Blue founder and National Geographic Explorer in Residence Dr. Sylvia Earle and acclaimed photographers David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes and Ernie Brooks. The team traveled from North Spitsbergen to North and East Greenland and on to Iceland aboard the 71.61-meter MV Polar Pioneer—a Finnish ice-strengthened research vessel specially charted for the expedition.

The team experienced incredible panoramas of glaciers, icebergs and mountains, went snorkeling and diving in frigid high Arctic waters and documented numerous polar bears, walruses, Arctic hares and kittiwakes. They also observed stark evidence of climate change, with sea ice cover this year at the fourth lowest minimum ever recorded. The team went above 82 degrees north of the Equator in search of pack ice and didn’t find any older than one year—an ominous discovery.

With the expedition complete, it’s up to the Elysium team to use their experiences and talents to inspire hope and raise awareness among citizens around the globe. With climate change already taking a toll on Arctic marine species, we are all responsible for protecting them, and our planet, for the future. For starters, add your name to this petition urging world leaders at the upcoming COP21 climate change conference to give the ocean a voice during their negotiations, and share using #OceanForClimate.

Marine conservation advocate Ellen Cuylaerts, a contributing photographer for the Elysium expedition, shared her stunning photography from the voyage with us below. Enjoy!


Mission Blue Expert in Ocean Conservation Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance (SEA), a 501(c)(3) organization, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.” Currently, the Mission Blue community includes 100+ respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations — from large multinational companies down to individual scientific teams doing important research.SEA’s purpose is to inspire a sea change in public awareness, access and support for marine protected areas worldwide, ranging from the deepest ocean to sunlit reefs, and from the seamounts of the high seas to coastal seagrass meadows. Under Dr. Earle’s leadership, the SEA team has embarked on a series of expeditions to further this vision and shed light on the ocean Hope Spots. Mission Blue also brings the discoveries and stories of a network of ocean experts to the public through documentaries, social media, grass roots campaigns and traditional media. Additionally, the organization supports the work of many conservation NGOs with whom we share the basic mission of ocean protection and public awareness.

Artists and Scientists Return from Arctic Expedition