Update 18 May 2017
Announcing the Expedition to Celebrate & Protect the Heart of the Coral Triangle
RAJA AMPAT ENVIRONS
29 September -13 October 2018
The Bird's Head Peninsula region is comprised of the northwestern end of the island of New Guinea. To the east is Cenderawasih Bay, and to the south is Bintuni Bay. To the west, across the Dampier Strait is the island of Waigeo in Raja Ampat, with Batanta Island lying just off the northwest tip. To the south of the region is the deep Banda Sea.
THIS IS PLANET EARTH’S EPICENTRE OF MARINE BIO-DIVERSITY – THE HEART OF THE CORAL TRIANGLE.
In the heartland of this region is the crown jewel of coral reefs - Raja Ampat. The exceptional level of biodiversity here has been well-recognized since the 1850s when famed naturalist and evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace travelled through the Malay Archipelago (Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia) collecting specimens and studying natural history. His keen observations of the significant zoological differences in species between Asia and Australia led to the designation of the Wallace Line: a boundary that delineates Australian and Southeast Asian fauna. While his discoveries pertained to terrestrial ecosystems, it is undeniable that he would have been equally stunned by the range of marine life had he been able to study it in the same way. Encompassing around 4.5 million hectares of land and sea, the archipelago is home to more than 1,400 species of fish, 553 species of reef-building corals and 25 species of mangrove. Scientists affirmed Raja Ampat as the home to the world’s highest known diversity of hard corals for an area of its size, as well as 13 species of marine mammals – including dugongs, whales and dolphins. The Bird's Head Peninsula also includes the Pacific’s most important Leatherback Turtle nesting site.
BUT the region is in need of extensive protection. While the area has been previously stressed from overfishing and highly destructive fishing techniques, climate change is now the force capable of inflicting the most severe trauma on the Coral Triangle ecosystems. The effects of climate change in the form of rising water temperatures, sea levels and ocean acidity are distressing coral reef habitats with increasing mass coral bleaching and mortality occurrences. Without action on climate change, scientists estimate that we could lose up to 70% of remaining coral reefs in the next 50 years. In addition, the ability of the region’s coastal environments to feed people will decline by 80%, and the livelihoods of around 100 million people will have been lost or severely impacted. Under the present trajectory of unfettered growth in greenhouse gas emissions, many parts of the Coral Triangle will be largely unliveable by the end of this century.
In 2010, the Elysium Shackleton Visual Epic directed attention to climate change issues of krill and penguins in the Antarctic. In 2015, Elysium Artists brought urgent attention to polar bears and vanishing ice shelves of the Arctic. In 2018, the Elysium project will focus on bringing worldwide attention to the cradle of marine life in the Heart of the Coral Triangle. This project shall endeavour to capture the most magnificent visual interpretations of the bulls-eye of marine biodiversity. With the use of arts and science, Elysium aims to foster appreciation, education, and bring about deeper awareness and understanding of the impacts of climate change on coral reefs.
ELYSIUM – ARTISTS FOR THE CORAL TRIANGLE engages the world’s finest artists, photographers, scientists, musicians, and writers to produce a benchmark record of the flora, fauna and vista of the HEART of marine biodiversity in a perspective no one has ever seen before.
Call to Action
The Unprecedented level of biodiversity in the Bird’s Head Peninsula can be more than partially attributed to the deep-water basins that surround the entire Coral Triangle. These basins have served as a barrier to environmental change throughout a substantial part of Earth’s geological history, shielding the Coral Triangle region from encroaching glaciers during our planet’s ice ages. Since cooling was mitigated by the protection of deep-water trenches, there was never a temperature-induced reduction in species diversity, meaning that life has continued to proliferate for millions of years. Conversely, these trenches also protect the Coral Triangle, and Raja Ampat in particular, from rising temperatures. But even with this incredible natural barrier, climate change is beginning to take hold.
If even a place as environmentally isolated as Raja Ampat is starting to feel the effects of climate change, we as stewards of our planet must listen to what this is telling us about our warming world and to act responsibly to protect it for the future. We are at a tipping point in terms of how much carbon we can add to the atmosphere without warming our planet so much that we significantly alter all life on Earth and throw ourselves into a downward spiral that cannot be stopped.
We call upon a special team to produce a momentous documentation of the Coral Triangle. Opportunities are now open for individuals who wish to participate in this benchmark expedition that will define a legacy of achievements, explorations and conservation of our planet. Participants should be passionate about our natural world and preferably possess artistic, and/or scientific and/or communication skills that may be of benefit to the mission of this project.
You can be a part of the solution.
Elysium Artists for the Arctic Expedition Confirmed for 2015
World’s Leading Nature Artists Raise Awareness of Impact of Climate Change on Arctic Region
A team of some of the world’s leading artists has joined Elysium – Artists for the Arctic, an expedition that will capture images of the flora and fauna of the high Arctic to raise awareness of this unique region’s severe threat from global warming. Sixty team members from around the world will launch from Longyearbyen in Norway on August 2015 and navigate one of the most at-risk ecosystems in the world. Their mission is to raise awareness of the fragility of the region by documenting stunning visual interpretations of the flora, fauna and landscapes of the Arctic.
To achieve these ambitious goals, some of the world’s most celebrated nature artists, explorers and scientists have joined the expedition as principal team members. They include Dr. Sylvia Earle PhD, David Doubilet, Jennifer Hayes, Wyland, Amos Nachoum, Leandro Blanco, Ernie Brooks, Cabel Davis PhD and Michael AW (Project founder and Leader).
The project aims to launch a systematic global awareness campaign that increases public and government understanding of the impact of climate change and ocean change in the Arctic region, and how changes in our oceans have a significant impact on global warming. The Elysium team will create a range of compelling visual stories, including exhibits, events, a documentary, a one-of-a-kind commemorative photography book and other media to raise awareness of the issue globally.
The expedition will launch on 29th August, 2015 from Longyearbyen, Norway, and will travel a route that brings them into the high Arctic, visiting North Spitsbergen, North and East Greenland and Iceland. Besides panoramas of glaciers, icebergs and snowy mountains, the team will also capture images of polar bears, walruses, belugas, narwhals, arctic fox, auks, snowy owls, muskox, arctic hares and fin and blue whales.
The expedition platform is the 71 meter MV Polar Pioneer, also known as the Akademik Schuleykin. Specially chartered for the expedition, the ice-strengthened research vessel was built in Finland in 1982 and will be supported by six zodiacs.
“We believe we can avert the global climate change collision course and save the Arctic,” said Michael AW. “This special team will produce a momentous documentation of the Arctic and its marine life, and will inspire, invigorate and call people and governments to action to ensure the survival of this unique ecosystem –and ultimately, ensure our survival on planet Earth.”
Many species of Arctic animals, including polar bears, sea birds, whales, seals and artic fishes will have trouble keeping themselves fed as changes to the Arctic region limit their ability to feed due to sea ice loss and its impact on the entire food chain. The expedition goal is to encourage people and governments to act now to prevent further irreparable damage to the region, and our planet.