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Yachtsman Sails World To Save Seas

Sail around the world in record time. Win the coveted America's Cup. Get knighted by the Queen of England. Successfully defend the cup in New Zealand. Retire from racing. Tap into the Internet. Take people on an Internet voyage to exotic locales. Compel them to love the environment.

Such is the life of Sir Peter Blake.

Aboard the Seamaster, a 118-foot (36-meter) aluminum-hulled vessel that has two 89-foot (27-meter) masts and twin 350 horsepower engines, Blake is on a mission to help protect life in, on, and around the waters of the world. He said he hopes people will follow his journey via the Internet on his Web site and television documentaries and be inspired to join the mission to save parts of the world that are key to the planet's ecosystem.

"I've spent a lot of my time at sea, racing, and cruising, and over the years I've seen a lot of changes take place. Not too many have been for the good," he said. "Around about five years ago, I started putting together a plan. The aim is to show how fantastic the environment is, to get people in love with it."

First Stop: Antarctica

Armed with the tools of modern communication and a documentary film crew, Blake set off for Antarctica in November 2000. Earth's polar regions are expected to exhibit the greatest reaction to climate change and Blake went to document the changes that are already taking place.

In early February, Blake and his crew took a satellite phone out on an iceberg at the King George VI Ice Shelf in the Antarctic Peninsula, a place where no boat had been before, and called government ministers at the United Nations Environment Program's (UNEP) office in Nairobi, Kenya, which is a supporter of blakexpeditions.

Blake reported that he had just sailed a hundred miles (161 kilometers) through open water in a region usually covered with ice. Klaus Topfer, executive director of the UNEP program, applauded the report as anecdotal evidence in line with predictions of sea ice retreat as a result of global warming. Projected warming is likely to break up ice shelves further south on the Antarctic Peninsula, exposing more bare ground and triggering biological changes on land and sea.

Blake will not say whether the reduced sea ice cover in Antarctica is a result of global warming or just a particularly warm year. He leaves the interpretation of his observations to science. His goal is to portray the changes in layman's terms via documentary films and a daily log, which he posts on the blakexpeditions Web site.

"To be here on Seamaster, on a piece of sea that no one has ever been on before [because it is normally frozen] really brought home what is actually happening to the ice in this part of the world," he wrote in his log February 8.

Next Stop: Amazon

Blake is currently transporting his vessel, Seamaster, from Ushuaia, Argentina to Buenos Aires where it will be prepped for a journey to the upper reaches of South America's Amazon and Orinoco rivers beginning in September. The mission is the same, to teach a love for the environment through adventure and entertainment.

"We [the crew] are practical people who have fallen in love with the environment from our lives at sea. We can be like a snowball," he said. "That snowball can get to enormous proportions…where enough ordinary people understand the problems [facing the environment] and they will make sure the governments will make the right decisions."

Peter Blake

The Seamaster stops in Antarctica, and Blake poses with the penguins.
Photograph courtesy of Blake Expeditions

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