Atlantic Ocean wide

How inappropriate to call this planet Earth, when clearly it is Ocean.

Arthur C. Clarke

Over 70% of the Earth’s surface is water. The oceans that surround us today – and for much of the planet’s 4.6-billion-year history – comprise our planet’s largest ecosystem, showcasing an infinitely rich spectrum of marine life.

Our oceans’ survival is in jeopardy

Oceans do much more than simply provide a home for giant mammals and microorganisms to live side by side. Their natural forces drive weather systems, regulate land temperatures and ensure our survival.

Despite the oceans’ omnipresence, more than 80% remains completely unmapped and unexplored. We need to know more.

Plymouth has a rich tradition of exploration and discovery. We want to develop innovative new ways of understanding our world. Sometimes, this means taking inspiration from the past to inform our future.

Sea storm
Climate change – warmer waters are leading to more frequent powerful storms
Marine plastics and coral reef
Destroyed underwater ecosystems threaten our marine species – marine litter and pollution
Barren coral reef
Increased prevalence of carbon dioxide is causing damaging levels of ocean acidification

Echoing a 400-year-old voyage of discovery

In 1969, IBM’s pioneering technology helped put man on the moon. Today, the company is working with us as we reflect on Plymouth's own history. 
The Mayflower set sail from Plymouth to America in 1620 in search of a new world of opportunity. That historic voyage has become an inspiring symbol of discovery.
The University is working in collaboration with Promare, MSubs and IBM, to innovate an autonomous ship, which will conduct ground-breaking research as it emulates the Mayflower’s oceanic path in the Spring of 2021. 
Our shared goal is to evolve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of our research within autonomous technology and artificial intelligence.
Mayflower Autonomous Ship logo

Voyage to highlight the possibilities of autonomous ocean science

If successful, the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) will be one of the first self-navigating, full-sized vessels to cross the Atlantic and opens the door on a new era of autonomous research ships.

Professor Kevin Jones, Executive Dean of Science and Engineering at the University, said:

“Through vessels such as the Mayflower Autonomous Ship and our very own CETUS, the University is at the forefront of using unmanned vessels for cutting-edge ocean science. This technology has the undoubted potential to be a game changer in the field, enabling us to capture data which can transform our understanding of the oceans and the impact climate change and other factors are having on them.”

The research element of the voyage will focus on core areas including marine mammal detection, marine plastics and ocean chemistry.

Mayflower Autonomous Ship - credit Rachel Nicholls-Lee
at Whiskerstay Ltd
IBM logo
Mayflower Autonomous Ship - credit Rachel Nicholls-Lee at Whiskerstay Ltd

The new Mayflower’s research endeavour...

Professor Richard Thompson
“In 2004, we were the first to describe ‘microplastics’ in the ocean” – Professor Richard Thompson OBE

Nurturing a new generation of ocean explorers

Ocean exploration doesn’t just take place hundreds of miles off the coast – our cutting-edge marine facilities lie at the threshold of land and sea.

In Plymouth, we are fortunate enough to be blessed with local fieldwork locations that present us with a rich petri dish of marine biodiversity.

Globally relevant marine degrees

falcon spirit

Top 10 University for Geology, Environmental, Earth and Marine Sciences in the UK

Video: Professor Richard Thompson OBE describes the variety of marine biology courses available to study at the University of Plymouth