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ALDEBARAN: Communicating the Ocean
08/ 06/ 2011

ALDEBARAN: Communicating the OceanThe concept was ambitious from the very start: Bridging the gap between profound science and entertaining broadcasts. And providing crucial and continuous information on the climatic challenges of the ocean - using all kinds of media. 19 years ago, ALDEBARAN Hamburg set its sails and began to pursue this vision no matter what.

From the beginning on, it was clear that a land base wouldn't be sufficient when trying to fully grasp the world of the ocean. That's why on top of its busy office in Hamburg's harbor region, ALDEBARAN also operates a science and media vessel.

Aboard the unique research and media ship, scientists and journalists can team up to join forces. Equipped with a state-of-the-art radio studio and a professional research center, the ship has been travelling the ocean as far as to the Caribbean.

The history of ALDEBARAN set off as early as in 1992 when marine biologist and journalist Frank Schweikert founded the organization. Only a few months later the first live on the air radio show was broadcasted from the ship in cooperation with German broadcaster NDR.

A "Swimming Broadcasting Van"

In the following years, ALDEBARAN served as a "swimming broadcasting van" for radio and TV productions. Since 1992, more than 1000 radio pieces, documentaries and more than 500 TV programmes have been produced and broadcasted.

At home in Hamburg, ALDEBARAN's land base has continuously developed and realized events in order to raise the public awareness on the pressing issues of climate change and sustainability.

In 2007, ALDEBARAN even contributed to the international "Live Earth Concert" by realizing parts of the PR campaign and a series of broadcasts reaching an audience of many millions around the globe.

In the course of the years, ALDEBARAN has assembled a large portfolio of environmental projects. One example is the "Climate Week", Hamburg's most visited climate event assembling more than 100 actors from the field of climate research. One of the event's locations alone, the shopping mall "Europa Passage", is expected to receive some 100,000 visitors this September.

In 1995, Frank Schweikert received the special award for environmental journalists awarded by the German Environmental Foundation. And in 2008, ALDEBARAN's "Oceanic Competition" was honored as an official project of the United Nations' "Decade of Education for Sustainable Development".

Turning Science into Excitement

The "Oceanic Competition" enables student groups to pursue their own scientific projects under the guidance of professional scientists. During their summer holidays, the winning teams travel the North Sea on board of the ALDEBARAN and experience first hand how exciting scientific research can be.

Also this summer, another of ALDEBARAN's many visions is going to become reality: the "Sea Foundation" will work to promote quick, coherent, and attractive information on scientific discoveries by the use of the latest media technologies.

And even though ALDEBARAN will soon turn 20 years old, its work has only begun: For the pool of projects to be realized and stories to be told is as vast as the ocean itself.
Plastiki is another research boat that has sought to research the problems of the marine world. Its captain, David de Rothschild, was inspired to start the Plastiki project after reading a study of marine ecosystems and biodiversity by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and by fellow adventurer Thor Heyerdahl's famous 1947 Pacific expedition on the Kon-Tiki raft. Plastiki's ten-member crew set sail from San Francisco to Sydney last year.

In the early stages of the voyage, the Plastiki crew sailed through the North Pacific gyre ? also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and estimated to be around the size of Texas. The gyre, a swirling mass of marine waste, contains some 3.5 million tons of trash and is the largest of the world's five known gyres.

UNEP reports have found that:

Over 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square kilometre of ocean

Plastic accounts for over 80% of all marine litter

Some eight million items of marine litter are thought to enter the world's oceans and seas every day

UNEP has since supported and guided the development of twelve Regional Action Plans to address the problem of marine litter worldwide.

Further Resources
UN World Oceans Day
Plastiki official website
UNEP Regional Seas Programme
Emerging Issue: Plastic Debris in the Ocean (UNEP Year Book 2011)