One Ocean Expedition brings global focus to ocean sustainability

The Statsraad Lehmkuhl prepares for circumnavigatory 19-month voyage

Photo: Vegard Wivestad Grøtt/NTB
Statsraad Lehmkuhl finds its home port in Bergen.

Assistant Editor
The Norwegian American

In August 2021, the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl will set sail on a journey that will take it across the world in the One Ocean Expedition. Throughout its journey, the ship and its crew will take on partners, researchers, students, and supporters from around the globe and serve as a “floating ambassador” for Norway. As a nation with a long and storied history of seafaring, from the Vikings to Roald Amundsen’s polar voyages to the Kon-Tiki expedition, Norway is a fitting home for this courageous project.

The oceans are one of the most significant resources available to humankind. Around 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the oceans, containing 97% of the earth’s water. Over 3 billion people live in coastal communities that rely on marine and coastal ecosystems for their livelihoods and economies. Oceans are also one of the most important regulators of the global climate; critical for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat; and the home of much of the earth’s biodiversity. And yet human behaviors, such as pollution and overfishing, and consequences of climate change, such as ocean acidification and rising sea levels, have devastating impacts on ocean and coastal ecosystems. 

As part of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the One Ocean Expedition will work to further the decade’s aim to “reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for the sustainable developments of the ocean, seas, and coasts.” In this effort, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl will be both a sail training and state-of-the-art research vessel.

Over the course of 19 months, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl will circumnavigate the globe, traveling 55,000 nautical miles and visiting 36 ports across the world. The journey begins Aug. 21 of this year in Arendal, Norway, a city in Agder County on Norway’s southeastern coast. The ship will return to Norway at the end of its journey, docking in Bergen on April 15, 2023. A complete map of the One Ocean Expedition can be found on their website at 

Both the One Ocean Expedition and the Decade of Ocean Science began to take shape about five years ago. Operating with the idea that the global ocean unites all citizens of this planet, the expedition will both highlight the common challenges like climate change and ocean acidification and the ways in which working together can help us to face these challenges in more effective and sustainable manners. 

the Statsraad Lehmkuhl tallship out on the water for the One Ocean Expedition

Photo: Anette Karlsen/NTB
The barque Statsraad Lehmkuhl, considered to be one of the most beautiful tall ships in the world, will start a circumnavigation of the globe in August 2021.

During its 19-month voyage, the ship will collect data about elements of our oceans’ biology, chemistry, and physics from a wide array of environments. At each of its 36 port visits, the research team will participate in public events and high-level meetings to share and discuss their findings and build connections. According to the expedition’s website, “the main goal is to create attention and share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.”

Backed by an impressive coalition of government, academic, business, and civil partners, the One Ocean Expedition hopes to “inspire and engage not only scientists but also citizens for ocean-based action toward sustainable development worldwide.” The ship has been described as, in part, a “floating university,” having students participate in the expedition on certain legs. The expedition also hopes that the online experiences and activities on shore when the ship docks can be used by schools and universities. The Bergen Aquarium has even dedicated its biggest room to follow the expedition and display its data findings.

At 321.5 feet long, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl is a sight to behold. Built in Germany in 1914 and updated, owned, and operated by the Statsraad Lehmkuhl Foundation in Bergen, it is one of the largest and fastest tall ships in the world and one of the largest tall ships in year-round operation. The sails on its three masts are made with over 21,528 square feet of material. Though the ship can be carried by its sails around 70% of the time, its new hybrid battery also makes it one of the world’s most environmentally friendly sailing ships in its class. 

The One Ocean Expedition invites the public to be a part of the journey. Certain legs of the itinerary are open for people to participate. Currently, there are three legs with tickets available for those who want to participate, but it seems likely that more openings will be announced in the future. Tickets are available for purchase on the One Ocean Expedition website.

For those who are unable to sail on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, the expedition is creating an experience for “digital passengers” on their website and social media. 

To learn more about the One Ocean Expedition and the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, visit the expedition’s website at

Read more about Norway’s involvement in the U.N. Decade of Ocean Science: “The UN Decade of Ocean Science,” Ilan Kelman, The Norwegian American, Feb. 12, 2021.

This article originally appeared in the July 23, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Courtney Olsen

Courtney Olsen is a writer based in Tacoma, Wash. She is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and the University of Oxford in England and has been writing for The Norwegian American since 2020. A historical fiction enthusiast, she spends her free time working through her ever-growing reading list with a cup of tea in hand.