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Since leaving Southampton in the UK on 23 September 2001, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is now about half way through its 32,000 mile journey around the world and the eight competing yachts arrived in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil last week. This race is also equipped to enable the first ever world-wide phytoplankton research study through the collection of environmental data and imagesi.

Leg One - Southampton, UK to Cape Town, South Africa

The Sahara Dust Storm
Satellite images tracking the yachts on their first leg from Southampton to Cape Town show a dust storm blowing off the coast of West Africa. The storm was first seen in the area between The Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands on 25 September, when the yachts were still a long way north of the affected area.

NASA's SeaWIFs project has put together a sequence of images for the Volvo Ocean Adventure, showing the storm's development.

View at: www.volvooceanadventure.org/article.php/nz_2_van_z1_99980.html

Phytoplankton Bloom
A week later Team SEB is shown approaching the northern flank of a massive phytoplankton bloom extending nearly 600 kilo meters westward from the coast of Senegal and Mauritania.

Team SEB did not report any change in water colour, but they did report a huge number of flying fish in the area. This may well be an indication of the bloom. Fish are attracted to bloom areas such as this because of the extra food to be found there.

View at: www.volvooceanadventure.org/article.php/nz_2_van_z1.html

Leg Two - Cape Town to Sydney, Australia

Satellite Images from 12 November, the day after the yachts left Cape Town, indicate that there are high concentrations of chlorophyll along the South African coastline. Strong east winds pushed surface waters away from the coast and caused an upwelling of cold, nutrient rich water from the continental slope, creating ideal conditions for phytoplankton growth.

High plankton concentrations were also seen where the warm Agulhas current that flows down the African east coast meets the cold water of the Antarctic Circumpolar current.

View at: www.volvooceanadventure.org/article.php/rz_9_arc_01_oc_200111.html

Leg Three - Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand

Smoke from Australian fires
Over the Christmas and New Year period a number of wildfires raged across New South Wales and 1.2 million acres of land and 170 properties were destroyed, making this one of the worst bushfire seasons in Australian history. True colour satellite images show how smoke from a number of wildfire rises into the atmosphere from New South Wales on the Volvo Ocean Adventure website.

Whilst some these recent fires are suspected to be the result of arson, the weather exacerbated the situation. Strong, dry winds fanned the flames and made the fires difficult to control.

View at: www.volvooceanadventure.org/article.php/nz_2_van_x3_99890.html

Leg Four - Auckland to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Chlorophyll concentrations mean feeding time
The daily ocean colour image for 30 January shows the chlorophyll blooms at the Cahtham Rise ridge east of New Zealand, as the yachts sailed through them. The red and brown coloured blooms indicate that high levels of phytoplankton provide a good base for the marine food web in the area.

On 10 February 2002 the first Volvo Ocean 60 rounded Cape Horn. The satellite images of the region at the time show intense chlorophyll concentrations along the tip of Cape Horn and north of the Falkland Islands. The abundant growth of phytoplankton on the Patagonian shelf provides food for fish, which become lunch for the largest colony of Magellanic Penguins in the world. However, birds and marine mammals must compete with the fishing industry in this area for a good catch. The development of a sustainable fishing industry will help maintain this ecosystem.

View at: www.volvooceanadventure.org/article.php/rz_9_arc_01_oc_200202.html)

Brazil and Beyond

Brazil, the Ocean Race fleet's latest destination, has a coastline which stretches over 7,000km and oceanic waters which cover two million square kilometres. The country boasts a wealth of marine life yet, over recent years, has been hit by a succession of devastating of oil slicks, and many environmentalists believe it may take up to 10 years for marine life to recover.

From Rio, there are four more legs of the Volvo Ocean Race until its finish in Kiel in Germany on 9 June. As the journey continues young people around the world can use the Volvo Ocean Adventure to focus on the environmental issues along the way. They are also encouraged to develop their own environmental projects that will make a real difference at a local level.ii
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