Gulf of Maine Expedition

Gulf of Maine Expedition LogoIn 2002, Sea Grant MET member and expedition team leader, Natalie Springuel, embarked on a five-month sea kayaking journey called the Gulf of Maine Expedition. She and six additional team members and program staff organized the journey along the entire coast of the Gulf of Maine, from Provincetown, MA, to Cape Sable Island, N.S. The trip was intended to raise awareness and caring about the ecology and cultural legacy of this vast international watershed and to promote low-impact coastal recreational practices, safety, and stewardship principles. In addition, data gathered during the expedition provide a permanent “snapshot” of the ecological and cultural condition of the coast of the Gulf of Maine during these five months of 2002. This can all be found in the 90-page Gulf of Maine Expedition 2002 Final Report.

While underway, the group kept systematic records of weather patterns, salinity, phytoplankton, water clarity, birds, plants, marine mammals, shoreline type and condition, and human activity. They stopped to talk with people using the water and shores for commerce and recreation to see what they think about the present state of their home areas, and collected stories, songs and other cultural information. Their records include photographs, digital still and video images, drawings and watercolors, environmental data, and written reflections.

During scheduled stops at towns and cities, the group met with local communities and gave formal and informal presentations on their objectives, experiences, and observations to date. They showed slides, discussed low-impact recreation and ecotourism, provided information on safety and navigation, and initiated discussions of local coastal conditions and issues.

Springuel and the expedition team established a nonprofit organization called The Gulf of Maine Expedition Institute to support ongoing and future expedition-based learning and citizen stewardship programs in the Gulf of Maine, and as a “home” for the data and cultural information gathered through the 2002 journey. Currently under re-construction, the Gulf of Maine Expedition Institute Web site will serve as a host for information and educational materials and as a communications tool for several other expedition-based learning programs that were recently launched in different parts of the Gulf of Maine.

For more information on the 2002 journey or ongoing plans for Gulf of Maine Expedition Institute, please contact Natalie Springuel, or visit the Gulf of Maine Expedition Institute Web site.

The Expedition sought to help people understand the Gulf of Maine, its ecology, oceanography, shoreline, watersheds, habitats, people, and places. It was an ecological and cultural awareness trip. The Expedition team hoped that in traveling slowly, by kayak, they could gain, and convey to others, a sense of the Gulf that could not be obtained by other means of travel-a personal, immediate sense of time and place. Starting in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the 1,300-mile journey followed the shores of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, ending five months later at Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia. Team members met with over 3000 people either through formal programming or impromptu educational opportunities along the shore. Along the way, the Expedition team stopped in 25 communities where they presented the Gulf of Maine in an evolving slide-show, delivered safety and stewardship workshops, and learned from local residents about the issues affecting them in these changing times. The Expedition captured the imagination of people far and near through media coverage in over 60 newspapers, radio and TV stations and website. Maine Sea Grant was the lead sponsor of this unique and successful educational effort. The Expedition was a partnership of many organizations, agencies, and businesses including the Maine Coastal Program of the State Planning Office, the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment, Rippleffect, and the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors. The team maintained a website for duration of the journey. Field logs, photos and much more are still available at The 100-page Gulf of Maine Expedition Final Report covers the journey extensively. Team members explain: “In this account, the Expedition team hopes to provide readers with a snapshot of the Gulf of Maine, as we observed it during the summer of 2002. This is not a comprehensive analysis of the Gulf; rather it is a representation of the diverse people and places we met during the Expedition. We hope that the stories we have captured will form a basic understanding of the important issues facing the Gulf at the beginning of the 21st century, ranging from fisheries to coastal access, from recreational use to pollution, from coastal land use to tourism. We encourage you to use these stories and data to trace the Gulf of Maine’s changing land and seascape, and to help find solutions to complex problems, both locally and regionally. For those interested in the nuts and bolts of planning expeditions, in general, or the Gulf of Maine Expedition, specifically, we have included information on our safety and Leave No Trace protocols, as well an overview of our educational methods.”

Springuel has continued to present the findings of the Gulf of Maine Expedition to audiences throughout the region. The following powerpoint presentation, Voices from the Gulf 5.64 MB, provides a visual canvas of the shoreline of the Gulf of Maine and the issues most important to those with whom the team met during the journey. This presentation was specifically prepared for the Fall 2004 Gulf of Maine Summit. For more information about the Gulf of Maine Expedition, contact Natalie Springuel.