As a marine conservation writer, I’m lucky to meet lots of interesting and inspirational people working to protect our planet. Andreas B. Heide, mission director and founder of Barba, is one of those. I interviewed Andreas a while back for Sidetracked magazine and our conversation stuck with me. Andreas believes that conservation and communication are closely connected. His expeditions involve researchers and scientists but also storytellers who can help him spread the word about his critical conservation mission. I hope you enjoy hearing from him.
Tell us a little about Barba and Arctic Sense?
Since 2010, Norwegian organisation Barba has been on a mission to bridge science and storytelling through sailing expeditions. The organisation’s Arctic sailing vessel and innovative ocean conservation platform S.V. BARBA is used by a community of scientists, ocean ambassadors, storytellers and educators to research and protect our planet's arctic marine ecosystems.
Arctic Sense is a 3,000 nautical mile voyage to research and explore the polar Atlantic ecosystem onboard the ocean conservation platform S.V. Barba. Onboard, Heide brings together a team of scientists and storytellers to find and share information about the marine life they find on their journey. They hope this will help to improve awareness and knowledge around important issues regarding ocean health – in particular, for whales.
Why do you care about the ocean?
I grew up next to the ocean and I’ve been exploring it for as long as I can remember. From the early days when we used to look for crabs between the rocks to building rafts to go out on, even before I could swim. We used to stay out so long that we’d be so cold we’d need a hot shower. I’ve been drawn to it ever since and I've kept that will to explore.
How did you get into conservation?
I started diving when I was 16 or 17. Then I did two years in the Navy where we learned the military approach to diving, which is quite different from the civilian one. It's simple, efficient and more solutions oriented. This military background is important for the work I do now. I like always having a backup plan and thinking ahead. I also have a Masters in aquaculture. I’ve worked in marine research as well as seafloor mapping for oil, gas and renewables – whenever you put something on the seafloor, you need to understand its structure – and this gave me yet another angle of understanding of the ocean. I think this background has proven valuable on the conservation side, the commercial side, the scientific side. All this gives a better holistic understanding of the ocean and has led to where I am today.
What's a surprising fact you can share about the Arctic?
The polar bear, along with the Arctic’s other top predators, are especially prone to pollutants. When a mother polar bear nurses its cub, that milk will have a high degree of contamination. It's one of the things you wish you didn't know.
Do you think communications is an important part of your conservation work?
Growing up in Norway, we only had national television and they often featured BBC documentaries. It was this captivating and visually strong storytelling that made me care about nature. That later led to an interest in biology. I think there's so much power in communication. I feel the biggest gap in nature conservation is not a lack of knowledge but a lack of reaching a greater audience.
I recognise the need for it and I really enjoy the challenge of capturing it. As part of the Barba story, we like to highlight what we’re doing with a clear human element to our storytelling.
What are your hopes for the future of the ocean?
I wish for everyone to be respectful of the ocean and our planet. One of the things that struck me being in the Arctic is the remoteness: how pristine it is. How untouched by humans. It’s so beautiful and so alive. Some of the things I’ve seen on expedition are beyond belief. These encounters will stay with me for life.
When you see the animals that live there, you have the knowledge that the blue whale and all the great whales were so close to extinction and have made a recovery. That makes it so much more special. I hope we can bring about a recovery for many other threatened species.