All photography provided by Jared Chambers

The Voyage of the Odyssey was a 5-year program conducted by oceanographic research and education non-profit Ocean Alliance, which collected the first baseline data set on contaminants in the world’s oceans. 

It was launched from San Diego in March 2000, and ended five and a half years later in Boston, August 2005.

The focus of the program was on Sperm whales, a cosmopolitan species found in every major ocean. As long-lived apex predators, Sperm whales represent a useful bioindicator of health in the marine ecosystem in a toxicological context, owing to the effects of three key processes: bioaccumulationbiomagnification and the generation effect. Sadly, these three processes also make Sperm whales, and other apex predators, at great risk from toxic pollution. As mammalian apex predators that nurse their young with milk, they are also relatively similar to us, and thus are seen as the ‘canaries in the golf mine’ regards humanities relationship with the oceans.

Genevieve & Chris Johnson took part in the entire expedition leading a robust educational and outreach program. In every country visited, they met with government leaders, students, teachers and journalists-many of whom kept promoting ocean health after the Odyssey departed for its next research location. The program was also the focus of a major online educational webseries through American broadcaster PBS -


In a 1979 National Geographic magazine article Ocean Alliance founder and president Dr. Roger Payne predicted that toxic pollution would replace the harpoon as the next greatest threat to whales. Recognizing the stark lack of data on the subject, Roger set his organisation Ocean Alliance with the task of obtaining a global baseline data set on contaminants.

The Voyage of the Odyssey has proven irrefutably that ocean life is becoming polluted to unacceptable levels by metals and human-made contaminants.’
— Roger Payne, Ocean Alliance

What we achieved Together

  • Sighted and photographed the incredibly rare Longman’s beaked whale.
  • Helped train next generation scientists including Professor Peter Madsen, Dr Asha de Vos, and Dr Cormac Booth.