Pioneering Sustainable Oceanic Research

ORI social media

Oceanic Research Institute” is a not-for-profit Company and Registered Australian Charity.

Oceanic Research Institute” facilitates Discovery Science for world-leading researchers and students with traditional sailing expeditions to the earth’s wildest places using zero carbon and acoustic technologies. “Oceanic Research Institute” research vessels (REVS) are powered by 100% renewable energy. New concept field boats for the Pacific fleet will be built from natural materials, without any carbon products.

Oceanic Research Institute” is Australia’s first independent oceanic and climate research organisation designed to operate internationally in remote regions that are largely unknown to science. “Oceanic Research Institute” is aimed at multidisciplinary research aboard traditional wooden sailing ships – the most sustainable vessels available today. ORI is aligned with the founding concept of Tara Expeditions, of Paris, by being fully independent and privately funded, and is operationally aligned with the infrastructure model of Australia’s Antarctic Division.

Every “Oceanic Research Institute” voyage, planned to comprise several specific research expeditions, will place an early career researcher with a senior scientist during each expedition, for mentoring and career development. This will enable ORI to increase Australia’s skilled research capacity.

Oceanic Research Institute” founding concept draws on Earle’s deep love of the sea. From solo sea kayaking at 11 years old, through racing modern yachts (FYC & CYCA), to restoring and racing traditional boats, the sea has always been his passion. In 1979 he was a member of Australia’s first modern major sea kayak expedition, a 70-day, 1,600km circumnavigation of Tasmania and later he led the first northerly sea kayak crossing of infamous Bass Strait.

Fragile planet


“This is a brilliant, beautifully written testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. The book tells Earl de Blonville’s own story as the leader of Australia’s first expedition to the Arctic in 1985-86. It illustrates the power of one man’s vision and the courage of the author and his men to rise above extreme adversity to carry it out. But if you are looking for a recipe book on leadership you won’t find it here. Earl has crafted a multi-layered narrative, splicing together self-critical—at times hilarious—reflections on his own leadership with the excitement, vitality and extreme danger of young men kayaking and sailing in wild seas of Arctic ice. It offers rare glimpses into the extraordinary weight of responsibility he shouldered together with a boatload of philosophical nuggets. Yet what most inspired me to read on was a barely articulated compassion for humanity and growing wisdom that infused Earl’s decisions and actions, shaping his leadership character as he journeyed. This book should appeal to anyone seeking to chart a course for themselves or their organization in the rapidly changing uncharted landscape and uncertain futures of our fragile planet. This inspiring true story has the mythical power of an archetypal ‘hero’s journey’ – a 21st century Odyssey. Given the high incidence of suicide and violence among young Australian males, Earl offers an inspiring role model—so urgently needed today. This book should be recommended reading on the new Australian National High School Curriculum and in youth detention centres, globally.”

Professor Jennifer M Gidley PhD.

President. World Futures Studies Federation (UNESCO Partner)

Utterly engrossing


“When I first sat down with this book I expected to read a few chapters a day. Just 36 hours after opening it, I closed the last page at midnight and collapsed into bed. The action is utterly engrossing. However, with each harrowing tale I expected to learn how leadership saved the day and how the lesson could be applied to my own situation. When the lesson didn’t appear I was frustrated. I pushed on – increasingly impatiently – waiting for the infallible secrets of leadership to be revealed; for the universal aphorism, the checklist of do’s and don’ts, the user’s manual to leadership. 

But that lesson never came. It was not until I finished the final chapter that I understood the book’s real point: that leadership cannot be taught, no leader is infallible and there is no single recipe for success. The important thing is that whatever the circumstance, we must continue to lead, to make decisions, to not sit still and simply wait for the tide to take our kayaks. On reflection I was also relieved; relieved in the knowledge that even the greatest leaders are not superhuman but sometimes make the wrong call and suffer guilt, indecision and cowardice. I can now approach my own life with renewed confidence. It has been an extraordinary 36 hours.”

Richard Gilmore.

Executive Director: EarthWatch

Appalling weather


“Throughout the expedition, danger was ever-present. The crew faced appalling weather conditions, as well as cramped living quarters, so it was no surprise that tensions boiled over on a number of occasions. It would have been miraculous if it had happened otherwise. I’m sure that without Earl’s doggedness and leadership, the expedition would have been aborted.

 This is a page-turner for all readers, young or old – in every sense a boy’s own adventure story.”

Dr Phillip Murray.

Medical Director, Ireland

Thought provoking


“I started reading this book expecting to find instructional advice on leadership, what I found was an exciting journey and a story I couldn’t put down. It was a great read! The insights into what makes people tick was thought provoking for me, the abilities to push beyond what seems possible was inspiring. I’m glad I wasn’t on Desperation Island!”

Justin Page.

Company Director, International Yachtsman

Incredible survival


“I discovered this book in a box, covered in dust, half way across the Gobi Desert. We were travelling by 4WD from Melbourne to London via Mongolia. It was autumn. Camels drifted past as freezing winds swirled down from snow-capped mountains, billowing our exposed tent. The book was a perfect choice for such a wild place. Of all the incredible survival situations the author encountered, Desperation Island was the highlight. I finished reading it before we left Mongolia for Kazakhstan, understanding the difference between what really matters and what doesn’t, and realizing that on my next trip, I wanted to explore some of the world’s more challenging places. This is a really inspiring book and I recommend it to anyone interested in people and adventure.

Will Gairns

Central Asian Adventure Traveller

Gripping tale


“This engrossing book tells the story of two Arctic expeditions. In 1930 a 23-year old Englishman named Gino Watkins took a motley band of young adventurers to East Greenland, ostensibly to explore the possibility of a trans-Arctic air route. Some 60 years later another remarkable young man, Earl de Blonville, returned to the same unforgiving coast to lead an expedition that was largely inspired by Watkins’s dangerous appeal. As Gino’s nephew, I was brought up with only the legend of his life, since the man himself had vanished in an icy fjord when aged only 25. De Blonville makes this legend real, partly with a forensic re-appraisal of Gino, but more vividly with his no-holds-barred account of his own expedition. This is a gripping tale of extraordinary complexity. As one would expect of an Arctic adventure, there are crescendos of excitement, with storms, near-fatal incidents and shipwrecks. But this derring-do is counterbalanced with a more thought-provoking theme, involving disappointments, betrayals and self-doubt. For Gino, the appeal of the Arctic lay largely in the solitude. Perhaps most explorers share the same desire to escape the social world to pursue a private dream. But for any expedition to survive extreme conditions, its members must be prepared to live and work as a team. ‘Hell is other people’, as Jean-Paul Sartre observed. If that axiom is true of a Parisian café, it is, as de Blonville shows, still more so in an Arctic tent.”

Hamish Scott


Hamish’s father, Jamie Scott, was Watkins’ sledging partner and biographer

What makes a leader?


“If there was a golden age of Australian adventuring, it was the late 20th century. From the 60s to the 90s there was a palpable spirit of possibility, an alchemy with our affinity for wilderness and an almost nation-defining pride in the Big Crazy Undertaking. Earl de Blonville was a part of this mix, from the time of his solo sea kayak baptism at the age of 11 through a paddling circumnavigation of Tasmania that no one thought possible. Fast forward past countless other Big Adventurous Ideas, to the primary subject of this tome, Earl’s seventh major kayak expedition tracking the 1000km, 1930s Arctic route of British Arctic explorer Gino Watkins who disappeared in Greenland. Gino was the inspiration for this 1986 expedition. Earl’s inspired writing and willingness to go into dark, ego-busting territory has us gripped, as his expedition goes from ambitious to haphazard to downright foolhardy. It provides fertile environment for Earl to peer into the mirror and contemplate – what makes an adventurer? What makes a leader? This is exploration of the explorer as much as of the expedition.”

Chris Ord.

Editor: Outer Edge Magazine

Disarmingly frank


“A disarmingly frank account of the personalities that battle, not only the extreme landscape, but each other as they overcome wild storms, mechanical failure and near deadly dunkings as the winter freeze descends. The writing soars when the author describes scenes of beauty including the northern lights and the iceberg-ridden coastline that the expedition must battle through. A fascinating insight into ambition, courage and perseverance against the odds.”

Andrew Hughes.

Outdoor Education specialist

Dare to dream


“How Earl and his hard-bitten team survive their battle with the elements is nothing short of a miracle.  Earl is a romantic who knows how to bring history alive. He is a fine lyrical writer with enchanting passages on the subtlety and spirituality of polar seascapes. Importantly, he is brutally honest with descriptions of modern Inuit culture, with the rawness of basic living in makeshift camps ashore and with the agony of personality clashes. Every nautical mile of this journey is hard-won.  For Earl, there could be no turning back. Thankfully, even in today’s straightjacket world, there are still those who put everything on the line and dare to dream.”

Colin Monteath.

Polar explorer and wilderness photographer