From climate change and plastics, to deep sea mining and overfishing -  the threats facing our oceans are growing and becoming more urgent by the…

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Setting out on a journey from pole to pole in April 2019, Greenpeace undertook one of our most ambitious voyages yet. For almost a year, our ships travelled from the Arctic to the Antarctic, stopping off in key locations to document the threats facing our oceans, and what must be done to protect them.

The images taken on our journey form the most beautiful visual diary of a year on the High Seas, and we’ve picked some of our favourites for you to enjoy here.

Icescape Svalbard, ice sheets, pole to pole, Global Ocean Treaty, oceans sanctuaries
Icescape at Svalbard Ice Edge.
Will Rose / Greenpeace

The Arctic is a beautiful, frozen wilderness; but this unique place is already seeing impacts from climate change, oil exploration and other human activities. While in the region, scientists onboard Greenpeace vessels undertook research to better understand the changes happening here.

Walruses, glacier, Svalbard, Arctic, Arctic icea, Dahlbreen glacier
A family of walrus are seen resting atop an ice floe at Dahlbreen glacier in Svalbard, image taken by
© Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace

Sea ice core samples measure snow and ice thickness, and water column properties below the ice. This was one the key pieces of work carried out while in this region, at the start of the pole to pole last April.

This next image of Beluga whales was taken in the Fram Strait, between Svalbard and Greenland. A group of US scientists collected daya at the Arctic sea ice edge during the time of spring algae blooms to study the interactions between melting sea ice and the local ecosystem.

Beluga whales, greenpeace pole to pole, Greenpeace ships, Arctic, Svalbard, Global Ocean Sanctuary
Beluga whales feeding at the ice edge.
© Christian Åslund / Greenpeace

The Amazon Reef off the coast of Brazil was only discovered in 2012. Greenpeace has been there twice to document the life in its waters, as part of our campaign to protect it. With this region under threat from oil exploration, being able to show what could be lost to an oil spill, or damaged through exploration and drilling, is imperative to ensuring this place gets the protection it deserves. In the below image, you can see a team of expert divers heading down to document the reef, the halocline effect shows the variation of salinity in different layers of water.

The reef, that’s found at 100 meters depth, is a mesophotic coral reef characterised by the presence of both light-dependent coral and algae, and organisms that can be found in water with low light penetration.

Amazon reef, greenpeace pole to pole, Greenpeace ships, Amazon region, Global Ocean Sanctuary, diving photography
Divers on their way to explore the depth of the Amazon Reef.
© Pierre Baelen / Greenpeace

Here’s a video still from what the divers found when they reached the reef. Pretty amazing.

Amazon Reef, greenpeace pole to pole, Greenpeace ships, Global Ocean Sanctuary, corals, dep sea corals
Mesophotic reef
© Alexis Rosenfeld / Olivier Bianchimani / Greenpeace

Next up, we have one of the amazing black water images taken in the Sargasso Sea. A flying fish is pictured at night near the surface. The Sargasso Sea is known for its diverse array of marine life, including loggerhead and green sea turtles. Researchers who joined the mission studied the impact of plastics and microplastics on marine life and the importance that the Sargasso’s drifting Sargassum seaweed habitat for the development of juvenile sea turtles.

Sargasso sea, flying fish, pole to pole tour, global ocean treaty
A flying fish at night near the surface in the Sargasso sea.
© Shane Gross / Greenpeace

Next we have a shot from the bridge of the Arctic Sunrise, in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. The Greenpeace ship and crew were investigating distant water fishing fleet practices in the region during September and October 2019.

Renowned for it’s ‘washing machine’ effect, the Arctic Sunrise pitches and rolls on the high seas, causing effects like these. Makes for cool pictures, and some very sea-sick campaigners.

Arctic Sunrise, pole to pole tour, Atlantic ocean, sea sickness,
The Arctic Sunrise hits a wave during rough weather in the South Atlantic.
© Tommy Trenchard / Greenpeace

The final part of the pole to pole journey took us to the Antarctic, the most remote wilderness on our planet. Teams of scientists on board the Arctic Sunrise and Esperanza surveyed penguin populations, tracked whales, took environmental DNA, microfibres and plankton samples; all to improve our understanding of this unique place.

While there, scientists observed a 50% decline in chinstrap penguin populations studied on the Antarctic peninsula, a likely consequence of climate change.

Antarctic, gentoo penguins, pole to pole, Global Ocean Treaty, Half Moon Island
Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins fish on an iceberg off Half Moon Island.
© Abbie Trayler-Smith / Greenpeace
Humpback whales, Greenpeace, Global Ocean treaty, Antarctic
Humpback whales approach a Greenpeace RHIB off Cuverville Island during whale identification and hydrophone work in the Errera Channel, Antarctica. (This picture was taken in 2020 during the Antarctic leg of the Pole to Pole expedition under the Dutch permit number RWS-2019/40813)
© Abbie Trayler-Smith / Greenpeace

The Southern Ocean is full of life: from Humpback whales to Gentoo penguins, Orca to Weddell seals. But it’s not just the wildlife that takes your breath away. This silent and sublime landscape is a sight to behold in its own right, with giant icebergs, snowy peaks and mirror-like waters.

Paradise Bay, Antarctica, Icebergs
Icebergs in Paradise Harbour in Antarctica.
© Abbie Trayler-Smith / Greenpeace

What you can do at home

In March, representatives from around the world were meant to meet for the final round of negotiations over a Global Ocean Treaty. A strong treaty would allow for the creation of protected areas around the world; a network of ocean sanctuaries spanning our blue planet.

Covid-19 meant these negotiations were postponed, but when they do take place, it’s imperative those negotiating on our behalf know what we want out of this historic opportunity.

46,000 New Zealanders say they support a strong Global Ocean Treaty, and three million worldwide. It’s up to us keep up the pressure on our leaders, to ensure we get the treaty we need. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition, or share it with friends. You can also tweet your support to help spread the message.