Oceanic Research Institute (ORI @ResearchOceanic)
partnership with Southern Cross University
Click image for details of royalty free clip art
Earl de Blonville's latest project is the "Oceanic Research Institute".
Between March and September of 2017 Earl added back the "e" to his first name (that he had dropped nearly 20 years ago when he changed his name from Earle Bloomfield to Earl de Blonville) and gave himself a new website using that name. If you would like to see Earl's original website, you'll need to go here. This name change obscures his original website.
The registered URL of ORI, http://ori.net.au/, defaults to a new URL, oceanicresearchinstitute.org. ORI follows on the heels, over the last dozen years, of three other schemes which never went beyond the creation of a website; arcticexplorer.net and arcticexplorer.com and 9sails.com.
Further information on ORI can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oceanic-research/ ( an archived version from November 10, 2018, for comparison, is available on request) and here: https://earldeblonvillewordpresscom.wordpress.com/earl-de-blonville-frgs/ and here: https://twitter.com/ResearchOceanic .
There was a link to an archived copy of ORI's linkedin page from November 10, 2018 here. I've checked with Linkedin on their policy about copying and reposting and while their answer is somewhat ambiguous, I'll err on the side of caution and not post a link. If you would like to see a copy of the 2018 version, which clearly suggests that ORI is a fully functioning entity, drop me an email. The purpose in archiving was to be able to track changes in the page over time. Archiving of web pages is one of the important tools for tracking changes in web content and can paint a picture of both honest evolution or efforts to alter or disguise previous content.
The current (May 2019) LinkedIn page lists ORI as being operative for six years, but the URL registration and the business registration only two years old. The Linkedin page also asserts that ORI has been "planned" since 2013. Yet from 2014 to October 2016 La Boheme was listed for sale on numerous yacht sales websites. This listing from October 2016 is one example.
Jennifer Gidley is listed as ORI's "Director of Research" in spite of having no academic training or apparent experience in "Oceanic Research". Gidley's Ph.d is in "Future Studies".
Earl de Blonville is listed as the "CEO" and skipper of both of the ships discussed below. He is also listed as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS) where membership is available to anyone with an interest in Geography, a pulse and the annual fee of 110 GBP.
Mr. de Blonville is also listed as a "lifetime member" of the Australian New Zealand Scientific Exploration Society (ANZSES), an organization which ceased to exist in 1996.
The Global Headquarters (GHQ) of ORI is at the Ramada Inn Hotel and Suites in Ballina, New South Wales.
ORI is posited on the claim that decades old traditional wooden sailboats are more "sustainable" and appropriate to marine research than modern vessels. This begs the obvious question of what is meant by "sustainable" since anyone who owns a wooden sailboat knows how much money and maintenance is required. It may well be that a sailboat with it's engines off has advantages for acoustic research. The other question is how will this program be financed? Will there be paying customers, will ORI be subsidized by Southern Cross University? Will an "angel donor" underwrite this scheme? If Earl de Blonville's unsuccessful past efforts to fund raise are any clue, this will be the critical question.
Southern Cross University Adjunct Appointments: On or around September 2017 Earl de Blonville and Jennifer Gidley were appointed Adjunct Full Professors, the highest rank of adjunct which, according to SCU policy, requires credentials equal to a Ph.d. By August 2, 2018, Earl de Blonville was changed to Adjunct Professional Fellow, the lowest rank, with no explanation beyond that it was "more appropriate".
By April, 2019 Earl de Blonville's staff page included a biography (typos apparently from "cut and paste" of text from this page). The biography references de Blonville's "planned management and leadership of maritime scientific expeditions to the world’s most remote locations, travelling in traditional wooden sailing vessels", a departure from earlier ORI information which clearly gave the impression that ORI was already functioning and running expeditions including a Twitter account which features a photoshopped image of the ORI "flagship" (see below).
To recap: ORI is owned and operated by two people with no discernible credentials typically associated with oceanic research, whose credentials as adjunct Full Professors at Southern Cross University the public is not allowed to know without undergoing a lengthy GIPA process. The LinkedIn page claims that ORI has existed for nearly 6 years though it has only been registered as a company for two years. ORI has not actually done anything relative to oceanic research in those last two years besides rent a store front and try to sell books. The books are written by the two owners, none of which deal with oceanic research. Ballina-based ORI's two research vessels are both in Denmark where one is (according to the harbormaster) in danger of being hauled ashore and destroyed so as not to become a hazard to navigation. What Gidley and de Blonville HAVE done in their first six months on Twitter is create a blizzard of retweets and a few original tweets to gain visibility in the ocean climate science community. Oceanic Research Institute created a twitter account (@researchoceanic) in October, 2018 and has, as of April 25, 2019,"tweeted" 794 times. Of that number, 635 are "retweets" of other people's comments.
Since the two ships, La Boheme and Carola are core to the operations of ORI, let's examine their history and current status.
Carola/Courage: This ship has had a number of names. It was Carola when owned by the Reith family for 25 years who then sold it to a German Youth Sailing Organization in 1996. Carola suffered significant damage in a collision in roughly 2012 and for that reason was purchased for one Euro by Earl de Blonville in 2013 from the Sailing Organization . Mr. de Blonville now calls it the Courage, (except for when he was trying to sell it in December of 2016 as a fixer-upper). On the ORI page, Carola is shown in an old photo (taken long before de Blonville owned her) traveling under full sail. The ORI page discusses how she will be used and gives the impression that she is in serviceable condition. In fact, Carola has been tied up in Rudkobing Harbor in Denmark since 2013 and after five years without maintainence is, according to the previous owner, Phillip Reith (who has inspected the ship in Rudkobing) a "wreck". Mr. de Blonville approached Reith with an offer to sell the boat back to him, as is, for far more than one Euro. Rebuffed, he appealed to Reith to contribute funds to restore the ship, based on the family history. Reith instead offered to fund a dignified destruction of a ship beyond repair. Mr. de Blonville's reaction to that and more can be found on this web page which tells some of the history about the Carola and her condition.
The bottom line is that if Carola is ever to sail again she will need many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on her major renovation (Mr. de Blonville has publicly claimed he will invest 3 million dollars!). de Blonville claimed to have money to restore her when he bought her. de Blonville claims that Danish authorities stole 100,000.00 dollars of his possessions from the boat including her rigging, electronics, etc. This begs the question of why, if components of the ship were that valuable, the Youth Sailing Organization didn't "part her out" and use the money to maintain their other ship the "Zuversicht". Mr. de Blonville generally blames every one besides himself for the current condition of Carola (the harbormaster, the Danish Government and Mr. Reith, the former owner who would not pay to fix de Blonville's boat). None of this explains what happened to the restoration funds Mr. de Blonville claimed to have when he bought the boat. And all this makes this quote by de Blonville particularly ironic. "Of course, we can never really own a great classic boat: we can only enjoy being the caretakers of maritime history. And in doing so, we become a part of that history, a privilege that ensures the vessel is kept alive with all it’s stories and significance for future generations". Earl de Blonville
Carola/Courage as represented on Linkedin:
and the ORI website:
Carola/Courage as she actually is in January, 2019 in Rudkobing:
Mr. de Blonville, on his Twitter feed, claims he is going to spend 3 million dollars restoring the Carola/Courage. Given that "Courage" has been unmaintained for 5 years, one wonders where the $3 million will come from. Perhaps from Mr. de Blonville's Australian government pension. One also wonders how many used sailboats in great working condition could be purchased for 3 million dollars.
This 100 year old ship was purchased from the Warnholtz family of Gothenberg, Sweden in 2011 by Jennifer Gidley for roughly 350k Euros (plus 60k Euros repair after the near sinking). Prior to purchasing the Tarnan, Ms. Gidley had no apparent record of sailing experience, especially none on large, old traditional sailboats. Earl de Blonville, on the other hand, claims extensive experience and competence as a "skipper". In speaking to the former owner and others on board during the ill-fated crossing to Denmark, Earl was clearly in charge of all things nautical and Ms. Gidley just another passenger. In May of 2011, within 24 hours of Gidley and de Blonville taking possession, the Tarnan had to be was rescued by the Danish Navy. The passenger who took this video describes the ship as "sinking". Offered the chance to inspect the ship in drydock before purchase, de Blonville had declined and the ship began to leak as soon as it hit open water. The ship was purchased to be the core of the 9sails program, a business to make money teaching already wealthy businessmen how to be better leaders. The 9sails.com website appeared in 2013 and though no programs were ever run, they did have logoed rainwear. Three of the most prominent "adjunct faculty" listed on the website claim no knowledge of the program. By January of 2014 the ship, now renamed La Boheme, was on the market (confirmed by a potential buyer who inspected the ship in Summer 2014). The 9sails program was never more than a website and a fantasy on the part of Gidley and de Blonville. Unsuccessful at selling the La Boheme, the ship has sat in Svendberg harbor in Denmark since 2013. This is the "flagship" of the ORI fleet and if it is to participate in marine research off the coast of Australia, obviously will need to be moved from Denmark to Australia. This will require a competent crew and considerable expense. The two original professional crew that de Blonville recruited for 9sails.com were an experienced German sailmaster and the former commandant (retired) of the Norwegian Naval Academy. The former commandant's characterization of de Blonville as a "megalomaniac" and someone who would never be chosen as a "leader" in the Norwegian Navy is based on the entirety of de Blonville's behavior during the near sinking.
Here is the rationale for renaming the Tarnan: "But to Dr Gidley, there was just one small issue to resolve: the name. As many old sailors will attest, some boats have powerful souls: you can sense it a mile off and feel it as soon as you step aboard. Dr Gidley felt that Tärnan’s name belonged to Pelle’s heart (deceased 6previous owner) and that it should remain with him. To her, the vessel’s feminine lines and flirtatious sailing spirit called for a suitable new name: one that appealed to European romantic sensibilities and reflected her worldly essence. And so she became La Bohème, ‘The Bohemian’ (unconventional, artistic, creative, free of old restrictions), an inspired choice for a new life which all have since applauded." (I would love to hear from any of the "all" who have "applauded".)
For perspective, Ms. Gidley had spent, in total, barely 24 hours sailing on the Tarnan and in that time she experienced near sinking, Danish Navy rescue, collision with another ship entering harbor, deep acrimony between Gidley/de Blonville and most of the other people on board including professional crew and the epiphany that she would be spending another 60 thousand Euros to make Tarnan seaworthy. Little wonder then, that she intuited the ship's "flirtatious" spirit and renamed her La Boheme.
The renaming of Tarnan to La Boheme seems ironic in light (again) of this quote from Mr. de Blonville: "Of course, we can never really own a great classic boat: we can only enjoy being the caretakers of maritime history. And in doing so, we become a part of that history, a privilege that ensures the vessel is kept alive with all it’s stories and significance for future generations". Earl de Blonville (bold my emphasis).
Here's Tarnan/La Boheme in Summer 2014, repaired after the near sinking:
La Boheme in January 2019:
Here's a picture of Tarnan (from before Gidley purchased it) on the ORI twitter page.
"Oceanic Research Institute", "La Boheme", "Jersey" and an Australian ensign have been photoshopped onto the picture:
Multiple Schemes in the last 18 years:
Earl de Blonville has a history of spruiking grand schemes involving sailing ships and leadership, all with himself as the impresario and guru. None of those previous schemes ever proceeded past a nice website and unsuccessful efforts to raise funds. Arcticexplorer.com (listed as beginning in 2010) was an Arctic version of 9sails.com, where wealthy businessmen would learn "leadership" from de Blonville at 100k dollars per person. Arcticexplorer.net (listed as existing for 6 years) was a program to take high school students on expedition to Greenland and train them to be future climate change policy "influencers". These are audacious programs with de Blonville as the center of gravity with lofty ideals, nice websites and no money. None of them happened. That did not stop de Blonville from representing them on his CV as ongoing, multi-year programs. Then there was 9sails.com offered in 2013. The program purported to teach already successful businessmen how to be "leaders" in the style of Earl de Blonville, himself, arguably a failed businessman. (de Blonville's self-published book, Seventh Journey is estimated to have sold fewer than 1000 copies, de Blonville claims to have been cheated out of a playground company he started in Britain in the 2000's). That's three distinct programs all following the same model and all came to naught. ORI is de Blonville's fourth such program whose story is just unfolding.
Earl de Blonville and Southern Cross University:
In addition to the multiple failed schemes described above, Earl de Blonville has been trying, since 2008, to gain academic credibility for himself and his concept of "Postformal Leadership". "Postformal Leadership" is a term that de Blonville himself coined which appears to have little or no presence in the literature, other than circular references back to de Blonville. In other words, de Blonville has declared himself an authority on an obscure field of study he invented. Earl did not graduate from his high school, Ballarat School, and has no traditional academic credentials beyond second year of high school. No college time, no BA, no MA. He is, apparently, a certified practitioner of a scientifically dubious discipline called Neurolinguistic Programming. In 2008 Earl enrolled in Rushmore University, an unaccredited online university commonly understood to be a "diploma mill" and sought a Ph.d on the subject "Seventh Journey". This is also the title of his self-published book about leadership. According to Rushmore, de Blonville completed his assignments, such as they were, and would have received his degree if he had paid the tuition owed. Three years later in 2011, Earl applied to a Ph.d program at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where his new girlfriend, Jennifer Gidley, was on the faculty. de Blonville was accepted in spite of his lack of traditional credentials and his thesis was on "Postformal Leadership". No mention of his previous tenure at Rushmore was on his CV. After questions were raised about the vetting process and the veracity of de Blonville's CV, he left RMIT without a degree and under murky circumstances. In RMIT documents obtained through the FOIA process de Blonville himself refers to being "kicked out".
In 2017 de Blonville and Gidley moved to Lismore, NSW and convinced the administration of Southern Cross University to grant them both adjunct Full Professorships. Jennifer Gidley was previously on the faculty of SCU from 1995-2002. It is clear from internal documents obtained through a GIPA (FOIA) request that those appointments were integrally linked to the creation of Oceanic Research Institute with acknowledgment by SCU that they have entered into a business relationship with ORI. In plain language the appointments and the business connection to SCU are a package deal. Again, given that Earl has no discernible credentials in "oceanic research" this all begs the question of what kind of vetting process convinced SCU to make the appointments. Jennifer Gidley does have a Ph.d but in a field (Future Studies) that has no apparent link to "oceanic research". That did not stop SCU Vice-Chancellor Nancarrow from recommending de Blonville to other staff as "very high profile in oceanic research" (GIPA document). Not long after questions were raised by multiple individuals about the process and propriety of de Blonville's adjunct Professor appointment, Nancarrow changed de Blonville to "Professional Fellow" without explanation. Of the five levels of adjunct appointment, Professor has the highest level of requriement and Professional Fellow the lowest. This in and of itself begs for some explanation of how the original vetting of someone with no traditional qualifications could be so off the mark.
Invoking privacy laws, SCU administration refused to explain anything about what the roles and responsibilities of Gidley and de Blonville would be and required this author to file a GIPA request to try and ascertain the answer to that question. Several months after filing, partial results were released, heavily redacted including the most obviously germane document, Earl de Blonville's CV, which presumably makes the case for him being "very high profile in oceanic research". Other GIPA release documents suggest that there were doubts raised about the CV. Here's what John Jenkins, the other Vice-Chancellor signing off on the appointment had to say 30 minutes after getting Nancarrow's email about "very high profile". "The CV indicates he has an extraordinary professional CV as well as written, audio, and other published works though not much I can see that is truly scientific." Not much time to do any actual checking of the CV before passing judgement!
This is de Blonville's CV from 2011 and the annotations speak for themselves. There is nothing in the 2011 CV that speaks to "oceanic research". Mr de Blonville has made no effort to explain or refute the annotations and the various examples of embellishment, inflation, falsehood and disingenuous claims. Between when he was "kicked out" of RMIT and his arrival in Lismore, Mr. de Blonville has accomplished the following; 1. talked his girlfriend into buying the Tarnan/La Boheme, 2. tried and failed to launch 9sails.com, 3. tried and failed to sell the Tarnan/La Boheme and 4. purchased a second damaged sailboat (Carola) and made no repairs. And somewhere in there he became "very high profile in oceanic research". Anyone Googling "Earl de Blonville" would have come across the 2011 CV and could have compared it to the CV that he submitted to SCU. But apparently SCU Vice-Chancellors don't have access to Google. Multiple sources describe de Blonville as smart, well spoken, charismatic, charming and a prolific name dropper. Just like the adminstration at RMIT, SCU Vice-Chancellors seem to have just taken de Blonville's CV at face value. And this for qualifications that must, according to SCU's own guidelines, be the equivalent of a genuine Ph.d.
If SCU's Marine Studies program wanted to enter into a business relationship with a dive boat owner in order to regularly use his boat for research or student training, that would be entirely reasonable. But you would not expect that agreement to include making the dive boat captain an adjunct Professor! So it appears that the "deal" very much intends to link SCU's prestige with ORI's fund raising efforts by creating the impression the two institutions are joined at the hip. Without the adjunct appointments, de Blonville and Gidley's chances of obtaining funds to run ORI would be significantly reduced.
If, in fact, SCU failed to properly vet de Blonville and Gidley, vesting them with the prestige associated with adjunct status and thereby boosting their business credibility, that could be an institutional embarrassment. And it can't be discounted that invoking the privacy laws over a question as basic as "what will this guy be doing for SCU?" could be explained as an effort to cover that embarrassment.
All of the above is not to say that it is impossible that de Blonville will raise the millions of dollars needed to refurbish the Carola, that he will successfully move the Tarnan to Australia and start eavesdropping on cetaceans with SCU students handling the hydrophones. It could happen but pigs may also fly. Perhaps ORI and SCU are eyeing the basket of dollars to be dispensed by The Great Barrier Reef Project? Based on de Blonville's record over the last 20 years the real question is what liability does SCU or any other organization potentially face from partnering with ORI?
Update: This complaint to Google was filed on February 7, 2019. It purports to be from an unnamed lawyer representing Mr. de Blonville and alleging that this page you are reading is defamatory. Mr. de Blonville has an open invitation to specify what it is about this page or any part of earldeblonville.net that he feels is defamatory. He has never made any effort to do so. While Australia's defamation laws put more onus on the accused defamer to prove statements are true (rather than the aggrieved party having to prove they are NOT true) the fact remains that truth is a complete defense to a claim of defamation. I am happy to provide to Google or Mr. de Blonville's "attorney" the factual background of every statement on these pages. If ANY of this information is factually false, I will remove it and publicly apologize. The simple way of determining the facts regarding Mr. de Blonville's time at RMIT and now at SCU is for Mr. de Blonville to give those institutions permission to share the documentation of his tenure(s). The reader can come to their own conclusion about why Mr. de Blonville has made such vigorous efforts to obscure those facts.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me, Kent Madin, at email@example.com or +1-406-595-2310 (text or call)