Emily Penn is an expedition leader, skipper, artist and oceans advocate who has extensive exploration experience in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Upon graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in Architecture, Emily received a job offer in Australia and decided to get there without taking an aeroplane. She landed a ride on the world record-breaking biofuelled powerboat Earthrace, and as Operations Manager she spent a year running the onboard campaign to promote the use of alternative fuels. Sailing 25,000 miles, presenting to schools, liaising with media, engaging politicians and connecting with the public in 120 cities around the globe, this journey across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans opened Emily’s eyes to the degrading state of the oceans and the challenges faced by small islands and their communities.
Post Earthrace, Emily spent 6 months living on a group of remote islands in Tonga, where she implemented an environmental education program and waste management system. Living on bread fruit and staying with a local family, Emily organised one of the largest clean-up campaigns ever instigated, motivating 3000 people (nearly 70% of the total population) to collect 56 tonnes of rubbish in a single day. They diverted a New Zealand freighter to haul eight shipping containers full of waste from the low-lying islands.
In 2010 Emily hitchhiked back across the Pacific on freighter ships, soon afterwards started work with the 5 Gyres Institute in California on the first comprehensive study of plastic in the world’s oceans. A subsequent sailing voyage to discover the South Atlantic Gyre led Emily to co-found a new organisation – Pangaea Explorations – on a mission to take everyday people, scientists, journalists and artists to the most remote parts of the planet to study critical issues including plastic pollution, coral reef biodiversity and changes in ocean chemistry.
Aged 23, she became the first woman to earn the title of Yachtmaster of the Year, awarded by HRH Princess Royal in recognition of Emily’s skills and expertise as a skipper. Emily has gone on to lead several scientific expeditions on Pangaea’s 72ft sailing vessel Sea Dragon, with Oceanographic Institutes Scripps and Woods Hole, as well as NOAA and UNEP.
Still aligned with Pangaea Explorations and 5 Gyres, Emily is exploring new individual directions and projects in 2013. Naturally, her next step is to return to the Pacific to develop a zero waste system for a line of remote islands, as well as producing a series of paintings and sketches for exhibition later in the year.
Other things you should know:
Speaking: Emily is an established speaker and has presented, lectured and held workshops at various International events and organisations, including the Royal Geographical Society, the UN and numerous Universities.
Art: With a background in architecture and a vast portfolio of sketches and paintings from her travels, Emily is now placing greater focus on her art, with small products already available for purchase and plans for a first exhibition in late 2013.