Philip Beale, Yuri Sanada and a crew of about 10 people have embarked on an expedition to prove the possibility of the Phoenicians as the first ancient sailors to have reached the Americas over 2,000 years before Christopher Columbus. Aside being passionate about the Phoenician history and culture, the crew is collecting sea samples to record the extent of marine litter pollution across the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans during the Phoenicians Before Columbus Expedition.
“With a strong belief in the role of people in protecting the environment, the expedition seeks to raise awareness about marine litter,” says Beale . The voyage, which runs from September to January 2020, commenced from Carthage, Tunisia with the Americas as its final destination. The voyage has stops in Gibraltar, Cadiz, Essaouira and the Canary Islands.
Beale hopes to use the voyage to increase the visibility of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Clean Seas campaign as a call to action to fight marine litter. The expedition seeks to collect and analyse samples of marine debris across the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and make the data openly available. The data will contribute to existing data on surface concentrations of marine litter pollution.
“Each time a crossing is made, and more information becomes available on the condition of our oceans polluted by marine litter and microplastic pollution, we increase our knowledge of the harm plastic does to life below water. By heightening awareness among the public, we can inspire action against the sources of marine pollutants,” said Michael Stanley-Jones, Communications Officer, UNEP.
Beale and Sanada dream of a world in which people are connected to one another and to the environment. Though sailing is less harmful to the environment thanks to its low-carbon footprint, it faces its own challenges. Along the voyage, the crew has been exposed to the extent of marine litter, particularly plastic in the oceans. “We were alarmed by the amount of plastic floating in the ocean and had a first-hand encounter with the damage it causes. The propeller of our ship was entangled in a plastic rope floating in the ocean,” Sanada said.
The treacherous winds of the high seas pose another threat to the ship’s voyage. The crew, onboard the 20-metre Phoenician vessel, made up of people of different nationalities, battle daily against motion sickness and the difficulty of being away from family over a long period of time. Resolute to make it to the Americas and to document marine litter, the crew is committed to forging ahead. For the Phoenicians Before Columbus Expedition captain, Beale, embarking on the journey means to validate a theory and to provide data on marine litter.
Beale and Sanada are optimistic the expedition will inspire and make an impact on young people to do more to protect our oceans.
Philip is the ship owner, captain and expedition leader. Yuri is a film producer.