Press Releases

Rapa Nui Port Visit for Tall Ship Oosterschelde and DARWIN200 Darwin Leaders.

On June 4th 2024 DARWIN200, the two-year planetary conservation mission aboard the magnificent Dutch tall ship Oosterschelde, arrived in Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

Tall ship Oosterschelde will be in Rapa Nui until 14th June 2024 having sailed over 1,900nm from the Galápagos as part of a 40,000+ nautical mile voyage and conservation mission. The DARWIN200 Global Voyage is retracing young Charles Darwin’s famous journey on HMS Beagle and aims to change the world for the better by empowering 200 next-gen conservation leaders.

During the DARWIN200 visit, three Darwin Leaders from Argentina, Canada and Ecuador will join the expedition in Rapa Nui.

They will be embedded with local conservation organisations and experts to study:

PROJECT: Conservation impacts of microplastics and commercial fishing
Darwin Leader: Taleya Sabrina Ouellet of Canada
Partner: Dutron (Tuti) Lillo Haoa / Te Mau o te Vaikava
Rapa Nui, one of the most isolated island communities in the world, is faced with receiving the world’s trash. Being located inside of the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre the community faces threats from microplastics on the shores of sacred beaches to fishing gear washing ashore on the coast from irresponsible commercial fishing. Darwin Leader Taleya Ouellet, guided by Tuti Lillo, will investigate how this plastic arrives to this island while amplifying Rapa Nui voices on their perspective towards the plastic problem.

PROJECT: Understanding the impact of tourism on birds
Darwin Leader: Celeste Giardinelli of Argentina
Partner: Pedro Lazo Hucke / National Forestry Corporation – Chile CONAF
Rapa Nui, a highly isolated island in the Pacific, once had a major seabird colony. And although they have historically been part of the culture, recent human activity led to their decline, confining them to two smaller islets near the island, like Motu Nui. Today, about 20 seabird species attempt to repopulate the main island but face human-induced challenges such as introduced predators and irresponsible tourism. Darwin Leader Celeste Giardinelli, guided by the expert Pedro Lazo, will address how to understand, and set a balance between tourism as the main income of people on the island and the future of birds.

PROJECT: Soil and ecosystem community rehabilitation
Darwin Leader: Samuel Cortese McLean of Ecuador
Partner: Felipe Rivera Nunez / Municipality of Rapa Nui
Rapa Nui faces severe ecosystem degradation, including soil health and agricultural sustainability issues due to resource overexploitation, deforestation, and soil erosion. Urgent restoration and sustainable practices are needed to conserve the environment, ensure agricultural sustainability, and build climate resilience. Darwin Leader Samuel Cortese will face the challenge of soil and ecosystem rehabilitation, making use of community involvement, native traditions in combination with modern agricultural technologies and the island’s biodiversity in order to provide a path towards sustainable agriculture.

Darwin Leaders: Young conservation leadership programme in Galápagos

In each port of the DARWIN200 global voyage, small groups of ‘Darwin Leaders’, selected from around the world for their outstanding achievements in conservation, join the program for a week-long immersive conservation leadership training programme. Two hundred in total will take part over the two-year expedition. Working alongside local conservation experts, each Darwin Leader uses the ship as their base camp and goes into the field to study a species of animal, plant or an ecosystem, assesses its population status and how it has changed over the past two centuries, learns about conservation initiatives currently in place to protect it and develops their own ideas on how to better conserve the chosen species in the future.

The intention is that each Darwin Leader will be empowered with new ideas, skills, and experience that will have a positive impact on the work they are already doing in their home countries and inspire their future careers in conservation.


Adventure seekers can sail the ship

The general public can sign up to sail the magnificent tall ship Oosterschelde between ports alongside adventure travellers and environmental researchers, who are tasked with steering, navigating and manning the ropes of the three-masted topsail schooner under the guidance of a professional crew. People ranging from 11 to 86 years old and of more than 25 nationalities have signed up to take part as guest crew on the voyage. The voyage legs range in duration, from a single day, to the longest being an epic 5,300 nautical miles and taking 48 days to Cape Horn. Previous sailing experience is not always required for those wanting to join.

See more information on dates, costs and availability at


The World’s Most Exciting Classroom

In continuation of Charles Darwin’s work aboard HMS Beagle, the DARWIN200 ship offers a unique platform to support research into many of the world’s most critical environmental problems. This includes eight engaging research projects, featuring real-time data feeds, informative results presentations, interactive online lectures, and insightful interviews with the talented teams of researchers driving each initiative. Four research projects will be undertaken aboard the tall ship Oosterschelde while it is sailing, the other four will be undertaken in the ports that we visit. Through these research projects, DARWIN200 aims to captivate global audiences, particularly students, enabling the public to delve into and gain deeper insights into some of the world’s most critical environmental challenges.

DARWIN200 Founder and Mission Director Stewart McPherson says: 

Charles Darwin was only 22 when he set sail on his life-changing voyage in 1831, famously saying that it was by far the most important event in his life, determining his whole career. We wanted to create a similarly transformative experience for members of the public and 200 of the world’s brightest young environmentalists, who have the potential to be the STEM and conservation leaders of tomorrow and the catalysts to change the future of planet Earth for the better

With a focus on practical solutions, each project will delve into actionable measures and ways in which we can all play a role in addressing these issues, working together to build a more promising and sustainable future.


About the ship Oosterschelde

Oosterschelde is a three mast tall ship, and one of the world’s finest, fully restored historic tall ships and the largest sailing vessel ever to be restored in the Netherlands.

She is registered by the Dutch Government as a monument of great cultural and historical value. The ship is one of the oldest and most authentic ships in the international fleet of Tall Ships. Oosterschelde relaunched after a major refurbishment in 1996 and was recommissioned by Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of The Netherlands. She is a bastion of Dutch ship building and is described by the ship’s Director and Captain Gerben Nab as having had at least five lives, starting in 1917 as a cargo vessel. Over the past 30 years Oosterschelde has welcomed thousands of sailors and adventure seekers on board including royalty, politicians, presidents and pop stars, even once hosting a birthday party for Sir Tom Jones!

Oosterschelde was the first Dutch commercial tall ship to sail to both the north and south poles and successfully tackle the infamous Cape Horn, a rocky headland on Hornos Island, in southern Chile known for its hazardous waters. During the pandemic when the world was locked down, a team of Dutch ship builders worked tirelessly to elevate Oosterschelde to the next level in preparation for DARWIN200. As part of the DARWIN200 voyage Oosterschelde will once again navigate Cape Horn, considered the Mount Everest of sailing.

Oosterschelde’s Director and Captain Gerben Nab says,:

The history of the ship and the passion of our crew tell a story that gets under the skin of all who sail aboard her. Not only in Europe, but also in South America, in Africa, in Asia and Australasia. Oosterschelde’s restoration for many was deemed an impossible dream. But not for Dick van Andel who was a young man of just 27 years in age whose vision and enthusiasm saw the dream realised with the efforts and support of many others. We have proven that it is possible to do something outside the box and make it into a success. Connecting to the Darwin200 project, we hope to empower that project in the same way, and show ‘the world’ that with a clear vision and spirit of adventure it is possible to achieve the impossible


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