Not so Fantastic, Plastic: Claire's Ocean Research

Hello – my name is Claire and thank you for visiting my fundraiser page!

In a nutshell – I have been chosen to take part in a truly exciting research project called eXXpedition Round The World. This pioneering sailing voyage will bring together 300 skilled women from all walks of life, to investigate and find solutions for the problem of microplastics in our oceans.

In February 2020, I will jump aboard leg 7 of the eXXpedition Round the World journey and cross 2000NM of the Pacific Ocean, to gather data around the South Pacific Gyre  – one of the world's biggest plastic accumulation zones.

Please read on to see how you can support me to support our oceans – which support EVERYONE. And as a bonus, I can offer you original artworks, knowledge, kudos and more in return!

~ A bit about me ~

I am a visual artist, technician and teacher from Ireland. Today I live in the heart of Dublin City, but I grew up in Co Monaghan – a place not known for its sea faring community! I was always shy around water and not prone to getting my feet wet, but in 2015 I decided to feel the fear and dip a toe... and in a dramatic turn of events, I co-organised a sailing adventure across the Atlantic Ocean and back (you can read all about it here!) I survived and I h­ave been in love with the sea ever since.

Photograph (c) Claire McCluskey_Mid Atlantic with Rogue Trader

The first thing I noticed about the Ocean when I met it is that its fairly big... like HUUUGE. So observant, says you (!) but think about it: there is something truly remarkable to be observed in the sense of scale and the immense    -  v a s t n e s s  -    that the ocean presents to us. It is so remote and removed from our lives on terra firma; when you go offshore, out of sight of land, it is the ultimate wilderness experience. It is scary, and incredible. This sense of perspective was one of the most valuable things about my time at sea - it made me realise how humbly we are placed on this planet, and how vulnerable.

So, you can imagine our dismay, as a small crew, on a lone sailing boat, in the centre of an enormous blue circle contained by unbroken ocean horizon (exactly the very middle of nowhere) witnessing pieces of plastic floating by us, day after day after day.

~ So what is the problem? ~

You can't deny it - plastic is a fantastic material! In the last 60-70 years, it has facilitated incredible advancements in manufacturing, technology, medicine and has shaped the economy of our modern world. It makes life easy-peasy, safe and comfortable! And yet.

It's no longer breaking news: we know we have a SERIOUS problem with plastic choking our oceans.  And despite the short term bonus improvements that plastic can bring to our lives, it takes a very, very long time to go away.  Not only that, it doesn't even go away! As plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces, they enter our food chain and our bloodstream, potentially leaching hormone disrupting chemicals and other bad stuff.

Photograph (c) eXXpedition_Eleanor Church Lark Rise Pictures - North Pacific leg 1 Hawaii to Vancouver 573

But I recycle! You (hopefully) recycle! And fair play to us all for doing so - HOWEVER -  this is but a drop in the ocean, if you'll pardon the pun. It ain't working, and yet we keep consuming faster and faster; half the resins and fibers used in plastics were produced in the last 13 years alone. (I mean, don't stop recycling, but be informed.)

So we've got a problem. If we keep doing what we're doing, studies estimate that by 2050 there could be more plastic in our seas than fish. If our   e n o r m o u s   oceans are soon to be full to the brim with plastic – that is a LOT of waste, in a very short space of time. And we are almost out of time.

~ But there is still some time left to take action! ~

I agree – it is depressing – these quantities of scale are overwhelming, much like the ocean tempest itself. We are literally and poetically drowning in this situation of our own making. But I do believe the tides are turning, as collectively we are starting to take notice, and changes are beginning to happen. (How many people do you know with a keep-cup? See? That's a start. Keep it up, cup. )

The eXXpedition voyage  is a mission rooted in both science and communication. We will be going to look at the facts of the issue, but this means nothing if we can't spread the word and show the world what we see. As such, our motto is all about making the unseen, seen.

Photograph (c) eXXpedition_SorayaAbdelHadi_4102NP_18_MantaTrawl

Photograph (c) eXXpedition_Eleanor Church Lark Rise Pictures - North Pacific leg 1 Hawaii to Vancouver 265

"In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught." (Baba Dioum, 1968)

At present the onus is on the consumer to make proactive choices and bear the brunt of responsibilty for reducing plastic waste (which we still should do - so please do think twice about reaching for that coffee cup or water bottle!) But what we really need is industry suppliers and manufacturers to find solutions at a higher, systemic level, and for that, policy needs to change. To take this step we need to make our voices heard, and for that we need to know what we are talking about.

We also need new ways to think about the issue, because change can't happen without a better solution! That is why the eXXpedition voyage has carefully selected teams of thought-leaders from all sorts of industries and disciplines, so that we can put our heads together and see what new approaches might emerge. Oh the possibilities!!!

~ How your support will help me: ~

As you may have guessed by now, I am tremendously excited to have been chosen as an eXXpedition crew member and to contribute my own knowledge and experience to the mission. In my creative practice  I am fascinated by how we understand ourselves through our engagement with the world, and I believe that through growing our awareness of this relationship we can implement real and positive change toward the environmental crisis.

Image (c) Claire McCluskey. 'Navigational Aid': ink, paint and pencil on paper, 2019.

When I join this voyage, in addition to helping with the important science and communication mission on board, I will be gathering my own research and impressions towards making a new body of artwork, that will offer my audience new ways to understand this issue.

My most recent project was based on extensive research within a psychiatric setting, and explored how metaphors and rhythms in nature - namely the ocean tides - can help us to understand and cope with mental illness and our experience of being in the world. I want to take these ideas further and investigate how we understand ourselves through our engagement with nature, and question if ocean pollution may be causing psychological as well as environmental damage.

As a self-employed visual artist I am in charge of finding my own opportunities and making my own discoveries. By supporting me with this project you are also helping me to sustain and grow my practice and carry out unique and valuable research that pushes the limits of what I can do with my work.

I need to cover costs associated with my participation, including my berth and subistence on board, travel to and from the boat, vaccinations and insurance. This is why I am turning to you, dear patron, for support! My crew contribution also counts towards the eXXpedition science project and helps make a mammoth voyage like this happen - so you can help make all this happen!

~ What's in it for you? ~

On the back of your donation - in addition to your support of grass-roots environmentalism, contribution towards break-through scientific research, promotion of the representation of women in sailing and S.T.E.M. subjects, saving the ocean AND becoming a fabled patron of the arts (what a busy day!) – I will also humbly and graciously acknowledge your kindness with some original artworks and rewards!

Image (c) Claire McCluskey, Photoseries: 'Colours and Textures from Portrane Shoreline', 2019.

If you donate:

< €30    (You're a pal!)
I will send you a personal email of thanks and an eye-catching wallpaper image for your mobile or computer, that you can use to show off how into saving the world you are!

(Please message me your email address when you donate!)

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€30 +    (You're a pen-pal!)
I will send you a handwritten note of thanks on one of my very special postcards, based on my photoseries 'Colours and Textures from the Portrane Coastline' .

(Please message me your postal address and let me know your favourite image when you donate!)

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€70 +    (Wish you were here, pal!)
I will send you an ON LOCATION postcard from either the beginning or end location of my eXXpedition voyage! Choose from the Galapagos or Easter Island, and I will write you a warm hello and share with you an exciting discovery about my surroundings!

(Please message me your postal address and preferred location when you donate!)

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€150 +    (Share the love with all your pals!)
I will send you a full set of 12 postcards featuring images from my Portrane photoseries, that you can use to write messages of love and environmental concern to YOUR friends! (Keep the posty in business I say!)

(Please message me your postal address  when you donate!)

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€300 +    (Original and Limited Edition!)
I will send you a limited edition photographic print from my 'Portrane' photo series! 60x60cm, signed, archival prints on Hanemuhle paper - these are only available in editions of 10, so when they're gone, they're gone!

(Please message me your postal address and preferred image when you donate!)

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€500 +    (An evening of sea shantys!)
When I return from the Pacific Ocean I will come to your company or club and deliver an all singing, all dancing (by that I mean powerpoint) presentation to your team about the discoveries I make at sea, AND I will lead a workshop on easy ways that we can start to reduce our impact on the ocean without even leaving our comfy seats. I will also feature your logo on my eXXpedition crew profile page, which has a growing international reach, so everyone can see how great you are.

(Please send me an email when you donate and we can take it from there!)

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ABOVE AND BEYOND...   (Absolute BFFs 4eva!)
If you would like to become a super-duper supporter of my work I will be forever in your favour and will be MORE than happy to tailor a sponsorship reward that suits your company's goals - such as a talk, workshop, blog post OR EVEN a bespoke, original artwork for your home or business. So let's talk!

(Please send me an email when you donate and we can take it from there - also you are the BEST!!!)

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In all seriousness, no contribution is too small, and I am eternally grateful for all your support. I am even thankful that you read this far down the page! When I first became aware of the staggering levels of plastic pollution a few years ago, it really changed my outlook and my habits and the way I relate to the world around me.

It is my goal that through this research and the work that comes from it, I can communicate this message to a wider network, and contribute to the growing awareness that we need to take better care of our planet.

From the bottom of my big blue heart, thank you!

XX Claire

Photograph (c) eXXpedition & SophieBolesworth_ S.V.TravelEdge_PlymouthSept2019

Donations (154)

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  • Maura Clerkin
    • €40 
    • 2 yrs
  • Sean/Philomena Clerkin
    • €50 
    • 3 yrs
  • Toal Truck Services
    • €800 (Offline)
    • 4 yrs
  • Kate K
    • €50 (Offline)
    • 4 yrs
  • Shabra Plastics & Recycling Ltd.
    • €50 (Offline)
    • 4 yrs
See all


Claire McCluskey

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