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Dr Sylvia Earle speaks on sustainable cruising

The key to a sustainable future is a collaborative relationship between those who protect the oceans and those who sail upon them, writes Laura Barry.

Dr Sylvia Earle’s achievements are prolific. In her 88 years, the marine biologist and oceanographer has become the first female chief scientist of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a National Geographic Explorer-at-Large, founded ocean conservation initiative Mission Blue, earned 29 honorary doctorates and published more than 200 scientific papers. Dr Earle is also aligned with two cruise lines, relationships some are surprised by, given environmentalists typically criticise the industry’s sustainability. Conversely, Dr Earle believes working with the industry is the key to reducing its environmental impact and provides a platform for conservation advocacy. And in recognition of the partnership, Aurora Expeditions named its newest voyager Sylvia Earl. The vessel lives up to its namesake, boasting an Ulstein X-BOW® design to reduce noise, vibration and fuel consumption, and employing a sustainable food program on board. Aurora Expeditions was also one of the first operators to become members of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.

“By travelling with Aurora Expeditions on Sylvia Earle, I feel it is an incredible opportunity for people to learn about these extraordinary marine habitats in situ, and as a result, become ambassadors for protecting them,” Dr Earle says. “Ninety-seven per cent of the Earth’s water is ocean – it is our life support system and we need to learn everything we can about it.

“I see great synergies in working closely with a company that shares my vision for the future and that is, from the top down, passionate about the wonderful marine environment.”

Aurora Expeditions Sylvia Earle exterior
Aurora Expeditions' Sylvia Earle © Aurora Expeditions

Explora Journey’s

This year, Dr Earle became godmother to Explora Journey’s exceptional new vessel, Explora I, a role she describes as “a tremendous honour and also a responsibility”. The vessel demonstrates the future of sustainable technology with shore-to-ship power connectivity that reduces carbon emissions when docked, an SCR system that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 per cent, underwater noise reduction that minimises the acoustic impact on wildlife, and a ballast water treatment system to reduce the threat of species transportation. At the ship’s christening, Dr Earle told attendees the power to usher in positive change lies in us all.

“Everyone, everywhere could benefit from a good example of what can happen… when people come together and really take action,” Dr Earle said. “It’s hope, to action, that leads to a safer, better world.”

Explora I at sea

Sustainability in the cruise industry

And the cruise industry is leading by example. Cruise Lines International Association aims to achieve net-zero carbon cruising across ocean-going companies by 2050. More ships are now powered by Liquified Natural Gas, a marine fuel that reduces air pollution by 95 per cent and nitrogen emissions by 84 per cent compared to traditional fuels. Shoreside electricity, advanced wastewater treatment systems, and practical energy-efficient installations further support the cause, and in some cases, cruise operators can repurpose up to 100 per cent of waste generated on board.

The future of luxury and expedition cruising is clean, green and conscious, working hand-in-hand with conservationists to ensure sustainable and ethical voyages that prove the efficacy of Dr Earle’s methodology. As Dr Earle told attendees at Explora I’s launch, “protecting the ocean should be a high priority for everyone who likes to breathe, and everyone who cares about what tomorrow will bring.”