Pangaea Exploration: Writing at Sea with Elizabeth Alberts

by Lana Bluege
Marketing & Social Media Editor, Whole Terrain

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“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”
Albert Einstein

“In every walk with nature one receives more than one seeks.”
John Muir

We recently learned about a writing and sailing trip with Pangaea Exploration, and we are partnering with their April expedition from the Dominican Republic to Florida by encouraging participants to submit pieces that connect with our theme of trust and environmental practice. We will publish the best pieces on our blog. Check out the upcoming Dominican Republic to Florida trip, led by Elizabeth Alberts.

10-11-south-atlantic-gyre-28When we at Whole Terrain heard about Pangaea Exploration’s writing and sailing trips, we thought these endeavors fit well with our current call for submissions on the theme of trust. As Americans, we can feel stuck in a world of stability and safety. A little adventure, dare I say danger, allows an artist to stir up emotions and, if we’re lucky, evokes pure imagination and truth. These thoughts may not come from a desk, no matter how beautiful the view.  To travel into the sea is a venture requiring an inordinate amount of trust in the skipper and the staff to guide the ship to a distant horizon. Putting trust in the environment is also an act that may be difficult for the majority of urban “landlubbers.” Trusting the sea will allow safe passage to strange travelers is a risk that requires vulnerability, but also reflects hope that each person will receive a glimpse into hidden wonders, invisible from one’s comfortable plot of land.

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Elizabeth Alberts, who will lead Pangaea Exploration’s upcoming Writing at Sea expedition from the Dominican Republic to Florida

Nature is the ultimate muse for thinkers and artists throughout the centuries. Elizabeth Alberts, an American-born journalist and writing instructor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, learned this early in her life. She had a passion for both writing and the environment, but struggled to express both passions. “I had always been interested in environmental issues and always had a big divide in my life.” As she mused on how to overcome this divide, she realized, “The answer was so obvious. I thought — why aren’t I writing about these issues?” Environmental writing became a wonderful niche where she can pursue both her passions.

It is with this enthusiasm for environmental writing that Alberts approached Pangaea Exploration to host a creative writing trip on a sail boat. Although she has been working on ocean conservation projects for a number of years and has some sailing experience (you can read about her ocean conservation experiences in the eco-memoir anthology Stories of the Great Turning), this will be her first experience writing and sailing. Alberts volunteers with Pangaea Exploration in order to spread inspiration, leading others toward creative writing for positive environmental change. For ten days and nine nights this April, Alberts will take writers of all levels to the sea. There, participants can experience creative writing workshops, learn sailing techniques, snorkel, participate in beach trawling and clean up, experience excursions to Bahamian islands, and ultimately have a life changing adventure. Alberts also hopes the sail boat will come across humpback whales leaving the Caribbean shores during the month of April.

11-01-south-atlantic-gyre-8This adventure promises to deliver a change of pace for writers and ultimately a change of topic to benefit environmental conservation. Writing can be an intense form of expression, and now more than ever the environment needs a strong voice to speak of, for, and with it. Alberts speaks passionately of the plastic pollution found in our waters and the effects this pollution has on wildlife: “You can go to these amazing, pristine beaches and you think, ‘There is nothing here,’ but then when you go across the tide line you will see little pieces of plastic. You think, ‘Well where did this come from, and how did it get here?’ Your own story then comes forward and you think, ‘This may not be mine, but I use a plastic pen and there is a pen lid.’” She hopes to address this environmental issue as well as many others that the group may come across during this sailing expedition.

During my interview with Alberts, I mentioned my own love of creative environmental activism and expressed a hope to create a documentary on plastics killing sea dwelling animals. Alberts replied that any type of artist can come on this sailing adventure. “We are open to any ideas that people want to bring and we are hoping for different types of people.”  Ultimately Alberts hopes that the trip will allow people “to think about the environment and use that to create something.”

I grew up on the shoreline of Connecticut and would often venture out into the deep water, but no farther than I knew I could always come back to land, where I can sink my feet into the earth and feel safe. However, in those moments when I am gazing out into the water and see a layer of glistening blue, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of wonder and imbalance. During these times I feel freedom. To me the sea is a wild frontier, where people are the minority and anything can happen. On the sea there is no choice but to trust the waters below. I suspect that this instability and wonder can bring about amazing ideas.

The Writing at Sea adventure sounds like a great opportunity, outside our normal comfort zone. Past computer screens and fluorescent lighting, it provides access to portions of the natural world we don’t come in contact with on a regular basis. Perhaps the experience would introduce us to creative parts of our beings, waiting to emerge when we explore. Perhaps putting our trust in parts of the natural world that are not human can draw us toward a space where we can listen to the voice of our environment, and give it our own voice through the written word. I, for one, would prefer the voice of a writer who can paint a word portrait based on experience, compared to those who do not leave their desks to witness the beauty and devastation all around us.

I wondered why Alberts is donating her time and energy to this expedition. She simply replied, “As a writer myself, I hope that everyone gets inspired to do something with their writing, and I want to urge people to use their writing to create change.” I look forward to reading the adventures of Alberts and the writing and sailing expedition participants, giving us the chance to sail with them upon the open sea.

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