Expedition to Retrace 1897 Canoe Journey Across Florida Everglades

A team of five explorers will embark on a daring and dangerous trek that has not been completed in 125 years. The 2022 Willoughby Expedition team will attempt to retrace an 1897 canoe journey across the Florida Everglades that was first completed by explorer and scientist Hugh de Laussat Willoughby.

Willoughby’s charts aided in creating the first accurate maps of the region, his water sampling provided the baseline water chemistry for the Everglades, and his book is primary reading for all Everglades scholars.

To gauge humanity’s impact on the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in North America and a UNESCO Wetland Area of Global Importance, the 2022 Willoughby Expedition team will sample and test for the same water constituents that Willoughby did more than a century ago. They will also look for water pollutants that Willoughby couldn’t have foreseen, including microplastics, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and antibiotic-resistant genes, all of which are adversely affecting plant and animal species globally.

To help conserve wildlife, the expedition team will also document the abundance and location of apple snails, which are the sole food source of the federally endangered Snail Kite, a bird of prey.

Starting at the mouth of the Harney River in the Gulf of Mexico on October 27 and ending in downtown Miami in early November, the coast-to-coast expedition will also commemorate the 75th anniversary of Everglades National Park. It will traverse the saltwater of the Gulf of Mexico, the brackish water of inland rivers, pristine freshwater sawgrass, canals in suburban Miami and, ultimately, a maze of skyscrapers to Biscayne Bay.

Historically, the Florida Everglades stretched from the north near modern-day Orlando to the south at Florida Bay. Willoughby completed his studies of the Everglades before large-scale drainage and reclamation programs began in the late 19th century. Today, the size of the Everglades has been reduced to approximately one-third its original size to make way for the modern cities of South Florida and their millions of residents.

The 2022 Willoughby Expedition will bring awareness to the major scientific and conservation goals of its more than 50 partners, including the University of Florida, National Park Service, Everglades National Park, South Florida Water Management District, Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach International Boat Show, and Cox Science Center and Aquarium.

Learn more at: willoughbyexpedition.org

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