Seakeepers was a program for grade schools done in association with the Hypermedia Unit at the University of Auckland and Telecom New Zealand in 1996 - just after the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW).
Seakeeper's objective was to introduce school children between the ages of 6 and 10 to people who had dedicated their lives to looking after the oceans and waterways of our world - people I nicknamed Sea Keepers.
The program has currents of the New Zealand Maori underlying the direction and exercises for students. This quote explains why.
"Underlying the Maori thinking about natural resources is the concept of Maori - the life principle that resides in all things. A river is a treasure and it has its own life force. Therefore extraction of water or the introduction of waste into rivers is not just a matter of physical degradation or ecological compromise. It can be seen as an offence in the cultural sense. The river has values stretching beyond the immediate needs of clamouring users."
The project was my third major experiment in ways to improve our social awareness of the ecosystems that create and sustain us.
The first experiment, in 1981, involved changing the attitude and behavior of Australians towards marine mammals kept - especially dolphins - held in captivity. The dolphin experiment was a success but - like all attempts to force ideas on a public using an external agent of change, it was a revolutionary and confrontorial approach (a fairly common way of changing entrenched social patterns).
My second community environmental improvment project in 1984-1994, was the Kingdom of Tonga Giant Clam circles where I attempted to change the grass roots social behavior of Tongans towards their natural resources using Giant Clams as a focus of change. This was an evolutionary and educational approach aimed at getting the island people to shift their own behavior patterns towards their natural resources. During this project I worked with Earthwatch teams of volunteers and this gave me the basic idea for the Sea Keepers project.
The Sea Keepers New Zealand project took a new approach, linking sociological change into two zones of New Zealand culture - Maori traditional beliefs (which modern European New Zealanders were using as a kind of environmental myth) and a focus of community participation in scientific studies modeled after the highly successful Streamwatch program in Australia. If people (especially children) participate in real scientific investigations of their own natural resources it forever changes their behavior patterns.
I began by reviewing the active conservation and environmental education projects in New Zealand. My preliminary research quickly unveiled that almost all the dedicated "sea keepers" I interviewed had begun their careers because of a moment of "awakening" or perhaps "imprinting" between the critical ages of 6 and 10. You will find references to this in the sea keeper profiles on this website.
From birth until 4 or 5 a child's mental horizons are fixed upon parents, siblings, pets, home, and of course, themselves - we are, during those early years, discovering ourselves and our immediate social interactions. Then, one day, one instant, a child's horizons may suddenly expand beyond their personal and social environment to discover the beauty and wonder of "nature". That moment of imprinting may be the awe of seeing the vastness of a star filled sky or the beauty of a seascape or the absorbing wonder of a tiny bird hatching from its shell on a small sand island.
The Seakeepers project was designed to inspire teachers to take children on field trips along the coastlines and rivers of New Zealand and give the children an opportunity to experience one of those special moments that could awaken their understanding and appreciation of the natural world for the rest of their lives.
The lessons presented here are as useful and important as they were back then. The goal of creating "situations" where a child between 8 and 10 might awaken to the beauty and fascinaton of the natural world is even more critical today as the planetary ecology continues to suffer at the hands of the fossel fuel magnates.
In 1995, Barry Fen, a computer expert working with the Hypermedia Unit of the University of Aukland, helped me build this web site (he did all the "rain drop" section) and arranged for the Hypermedia Unit to host the website until his untimely death.
For more about the history of the environmental awareness ideas and experiments see:
For a more serious, but still entertaining, look at the intricate and beautiful communications that created social and environmental systems of islands, dive into This Magic Sea
Beyond these attempts to mix fun and astonishment as primers for self discovery you can also learn more about experiments towards improving our social interactions with the sea in the study of community participation in science Tellus Consultants and you can get your hopes up with the Integrated Clean Energy for Peace and Climate website Ice-Pac.org
And if you are interested in "getting away" to explore some of the more beautiful places of our planet where humanity's will has not entirely goofed things up, why not plan a Vanuatu Vacation? The Rocket Guide to Vanuatu and the Rocket Guide to New Caledonia (Annuaire de Tourisme Nouvelle Caledonie) will give you all the information you need on the Vanuatu CD-ROM tourism guide and the New Caledonia tourism guide that you can order on these sites.
The Cruising guide to Vanuatu, Cruising guide to New Caledonia, and the Guide Nautique Nouvelle Caledonie provide in depth information on sailing and holidays in Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the South Pacific.
If you can't sail away or get away at the moment you can virtually visit these south Pacific destinations by checking out the images at:
You'll see why so many superyachts visit the New Caledonia Lagoon World Heritage Site
Vanuatu Photos has photos of the people and sites of Vanuatu.
Richard Chesher, Noumea, 2017