Oceanic Research Institute (ORI @ResearchOceanic)
partnership with Southern Cross University, based in Ballina, NSW
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If you are considering donating funds to the Oceanic Research Institute, please read this:
There is an obvious gap of ethics and transparency between ORI's claims that "we operate as a transparent, ethical organisation, governed by strong principles and values" (ORI website) and these four facts: 1. Neither sailboat is currently in Australia or functional as a research vessel (without extensive investment), 2: both sailboats are the private property of the ORI directors (i.e. tax deductible donations are being sought for private gain), 3: images of the sailboats used to garner donations are disingenous and misrepresent the ACTUAL condition and location of the sailboats and 4: the Approved Research Institute, tax-exempt status requires all donations to be used for research, not improving private property or travel expenses to conferences where ORI staff are marketing their aspirations, not presenting a research paper.
While it is technically feasible to have a fully electric sailboat, both of ORI's sailboats currently have diesel motors and generators and would need extensive and expensive conversion to electric. A large volume of storage batteries would be required. Solar panels would be unreliable for charging anything other than house demand (lights, comms). Recharging while under sail, using the prop as a turbine, is also feasible but the bottom line is that if your batteries drain, you and your schedule of activities are subordinate to recharging, whatever that takes. So when ORI asks for funds for "maintainence" and to "upgrade" they are asking donors to pay for major overhauling of their personal property.
I cringe to see money squandered on a personal vanity project built on bluster and vague, emotional "Save the Ocean" rhetoric. And let there be no doubt, I am not a "climate denier". I grew up with marine biologist and a geologist brothers and, at 69, have been aware of the dangers of both climate change and major earthquakes for my adult life.
There are plenty of genuine, established research projects which can use your donations. Do your research before donating.
ORI ABANDONS OZ?
UPDATE January 2020: With Australian bushfires focusing the country's attention on the challenge of climate change, you might think that ORI's pleas for donations to combat climate change would be productive. But ORI has been unsuccessful convincing Aussie government, business and public to donate funds to "upgrade" and refit their private sailboats so that ORI can "save the ocean". ORI wonders if they are "wasting" their time in Australia and asks the public's opinion whether they should abandon Oz for Europe because, unlike Aussies, Europeans will be supportive.
The ORI Story:
ORI's purpose is nothing less than to save the ocean (and by extension, the planet) through the topical application of aging wooden sailboats. ORI claims that they will operate with "100% renewable energy generated on board with zero carbon and acoustic emissions". This suggests that diesel generators and a diesel engine will not be used at all unless you filled the fuel tanks with old french fry oil, which of course, would be absurd and impractical. But any machinery will have acoustic emissions. Not to mention the dinghy's outboard. Will they toss the outboard and row? Or perhaps ORI will just run on hyperbole.
Earl de Blonville is listed as the "CEO" and skipper of both of the ships discussed below. He allows no one to forget that he is an "FRGS" (Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society). To be a Fellow you need a: an expressed interest in Geography b: a pulse and c: 110 GBP per year dues. That's it.
In the documents submitted to Southern Cross University in support of his application for adjunct professor Earl claims that his FRGS is the equivalent, in the British Education system, of a Masters Degree. The administration at Royal Geographical Society says that is entirely false.
Jennifer Gidley is listed as "Director of Research" in spite of having no academic background or apparent experience in "Oceanic Research". Gidley's Ph.d is in "Future Studies".
ORI is posited on the claim that decades old traditional wooden sailboats are more "sustainable" and appropriate to marine research than modern vessels.
By happy concidence (!?), Gidley and de Blonville own two such aging sailboats but lack the funds to make them seaworthy and move them from Denmark to Australia. Research cannot take place on boats that are not seaworthy.
In September 2017 Earl de Blonville and Jennifer Gidley were appointed Adjunct Full Professors at Southern Cross University (SCU) in Lismore NSW. Adjunct Professor requires, according to SCU public policy, credentials equal to an accredited Ph.d. By August 2, 2018, and after questions were raised about the veracity of his credentials, Earl de Blonville was demoted to Adjunct Professional Fellow, the lowest rank, with no explanation beyond that it was "more appropriate". The appointments were directly linked to a business relationship between SCU and ORI.
ORI, as a charity, has been approved for Designated Grant Recipient (DGR) and Approved Research Institute (ARI) status by the Australian Tax Office. The ARI status more narrowly defines how donated funds must be used. A Research Committee of a majority of academics must approve how donated funds are spent and they must be spent for research. So far, ORI's largest publicly aknowledged donation (from a brewery for $5000) appears to have been spent sending de Blonville and Gidley to a conference in Noumea and is otherwise intended for repair work on the sailboats. ORI's current public funds appeals all talk about needing to fix the two privately owned sailboats. No research.
To recap: ORI is owned and operated by two people with no credentials typically associated with oceanic research. The directors claim ORI has existed for 6 years though it has only been registered as a company for two years. In a recent LinkedIn entry, de Blonville made this claim: "While ORI is an advancement of an earlier project (Arctic Climate Leadership Challenge), preparations for ORI began in earnest in 2013 with purchase and work on our tow (sic) research vessels."
Arctic Climate Leadership Challenge (ACLC) was initiated in 2005 and never did anything except create a website and fail to attract funding. ORI has not done anything but attempt (and so far) fail to attract funding.
It has rented a store front at the Ballina Ramada Hotel and tried to sell books written by the two owners. The books do not deal with oceanic research. ORI's two "research vessels" are La Boheme and Courage, both docked and moldering in Denmark without moving since 2013. Both are in fair to terrible condition. Courage is unseaworthy, dismasted and in danger of being hauled ashore and destroyed so as not to become a hazard to navigation.
ORI has not done ANY oceanic research, ever, period.
What Gidley and de Blonville HAVE done is create a blizzard of retweets and a few original tweets to gain visibility in the ocean climate science community and drive efforts to get donated funds. 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 or news about climate change and oceanography.
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: as currently represented on Linkedin:
and the ORI website:
These first two pictures (above) were taken long before Earl de Blonville owned the Carola.
These pictures, below, taken January 2019 in Rudkobing, Denmark are Carola/Courage as she actually is. Note the damaged bow.
That damage is why Earl de Blonville could buy the Carola for one euro.
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 2012 and the sailing organization opted to take the insurance money to use for their other ship. So Carola was purchased for one Euro by Earl de Blonville in 2013 with the promise he would repair it. 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). The ORI page gives the impression that she is in serviceable condition. According to Phillip Reith Carola is a "wreck" and de Blonville a "total crook". Mr. de Blonville tried to sell the boat back to Reith for far more than one Euro. Rebuffed, he appealed to Reith to give him money 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 was to lash out at Mr. Reith on this web page (which tells some of the history about the Carola and her condition).
If Carola is ever to sail again she will need major renovation (Mr. de Blonville has publicly claimed he will invest 3 million dollars!). 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 sailing organization didn't "part her out" and use the money to maintain their other ship the "Zuversicht". Mr. de Blonville blames every one besides himself for the current condition of Carola (the harbormaster, the Danish Government and Mr. Reith). 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
Given that "Courage" has been unmaintained for 5 years, one wonders where the $3 million will come from. One also wonders how many used sailboats in great working condition could be purchased for 3 million dollars.
Here's Tarnan/La Boheme in Summer 2014, repaired after nearly sinking under Mr. de Blonville's command:
La Boheme as she actually is as of November, 2019, bowsprit broken:
The next three images taken September, 2019. The first image is of the starboard side of La Boheme. "Oceanic Research Institute" is not printed on the side.
Here's a picture of Tarnan (from before Gidley purchased it) on the ORI twitter page.
"Oceanic Research Institute", "La Boheme", "Jersey" and a Jersey Red Ensign have been photoshopped onto the picture.
Jennifer Gidley, Earl de Blonville's girlfriend, with no prior experience in sailing or boat ownership (especially on large, old traditional sailboats) purchased the Tarnan in 2011 from the Warnholtz family of Gothenberg, Sweden in 2011. She saw the boat for sale in a magazine and, inspired, bought it. Earl de Blonville, on the other hand, claims great competence as a "skipper" and experiened traditional boat sailor. Gidley and de Blonville took posession of Tarnan in May of 2011 planning to move her to a shipyard in Denmark for refurbishing for their new program 9sails.com. According to others on board during the ill-fated crossing to Denmark, Earl was clearly in charge of all things nautical and Ms. Gidley just a passenger. Hours after leaving Gothenberg Tarnan had to be was rescued by the Danish Navy. The passenger who took this video describes the ship as "sinking". de Blonville himself has confided "we nearly lost her". The ship was the core of the 9sails program, a business for teaching already wealthy businessmen how to be better leaders. No programs were ever run but they had already purchased 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 multiple potential buyers). Unsuccessful at selling the La Boheme, the "flagship" of ORI has sat in Svendberg harbor in Denmark since 2013. Moving it from Denmark to Australia will require a competent crew and considerable expense. The two professional crew that de Blonville recruited for 9sails.com were an experienced German sailmaster and the former commandant of the Norwegian Naval Academy who characterized de Blonville as a "megalomaniac" whose lack of leadership skills would have precluded his consideration as a Norwegian naval officer.
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 previous 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 have been unable to locate any of the "all" who have "applauded" and would love to hear from an "old sailors" who can substantiate this rationale for renaming.)
For perspective, Ms. Gidley had spent barely 24 hours aboard her purchase 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 many thousands more Euros to make Tarnan seaworthy. Little wonder then, that she intuited the ship's "flirtatious" spirit and renamed her La Boheme.
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 guru and central figure. 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 creative force. None of them happened. That did not stop de Blonville from representing them on his CV as if they were 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.
NOTE: Until late 2019, the websites of arcticexplorer.com, arcticexplorer.net, 9sails.com, earldeblonville.com (Earl de Blonville's ORIGINAL website) were all archived over the span of roughly ten years at archive.org (Wayback Machine). de Blonville has now gone to the considerable trouble of demanding that those archives be destroyed. He has intentionally obliterated the online records of his own professional history.
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 just made up with 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 he 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! Both Nancarrow and Jenkins have now left SCU.
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 it is now clear that months before approaching SCU about the appointments, Mr. de Blonville had succeeded in his fraudulent efforts to have this website blocked from Google searches IN AUSTRALIA only. So any vetting of Mr. de Blonville using Google search would only have shown results of his own website and self-serving interviews. SCU administration has been fully informed of this gap in their vetting and has chosen not to respond.
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?
Arcticexplorer.com, Arcticexplorer.net, 9sails.com were three websites as much as a decade old which were projects of Earl de Blonville's which never happened.
When you click on those links above, you'll be directed to a page from archive.org that says the site has been "excluded". The site WAS archived but now has been "excluded". If the page existed but had not been archived, you would be asked if you want to archive the page now. If the page contained HTML text designed to tell the Wayback Machine NOT to archive an existing page, that brings up a different message. Only the confirmed owner of the page can request the page be excluded and the archived data removed.
Prior to October 9, 2019, you would have found archived versions of the websites back to when they were first posted, some as much as 12 years ago. You could have seen for yourself the various claims of experience, expertise, accomplishment that Mr. de Blonville posted and could have followed the evolution of those claims. Here, for instance, is the now erased index of archives of arcticexplorer.net (the student program to Greenland).
Mr. de Blonville has now caused the links and his professional history which they document to be erased from the Wayback machine.
Let that sink in.
Mr. de Blonville is actively obliterating the record of his previous business endeavors, claims of experience and expertise, etc. on his own websites. He is erasing his own reputation. However, separately archived pages of those websites exist and will be posted shortly. In addition to hiding his past, Mr. de Blonville also created a new personal website with a subtly different URL, earledeblonville.net.
It will take a little while to replace links to "excluded" with copies archived elsewhere. Feel free to contact me for access to those archives.
20 years ago Earle Robert Bloomfield changed his name to Earl de Blonville because he believes he is descended from French knights who invaded England under William the Conqueror in 1006. Between March and September of 2017 Earl began adding back the "e" to his first name and gave himself a new website using that name Earle de Blonville. This is also the time period when Earl pitched Southern Cross University about appointing him an adjunct professor. This name change obscures his original website which contains little information that would support the notion that Earl is "very high profile in oceanic research". ( There is strong evidence that Earl is still his legal name, so I will continue to use it here for consistency). His new website has a brand new front page, but after that, is the same content as the old website, except that a lot of extra "e"'s have been tacked on to Earl.
Obviously, this labor intensive minor name change, creation of a new website and destruction of historial records of his previous websites and schemes begs some questions.
Oceanic Research Institute:
There was a link to an archived copy of ORI's linkedin page from November 10, 2018. 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.
Earl de Blonville and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
On July 4, 2019, Earl de Blonville, tried to
blackmail WHOI into doing something that was entirely outside of their power
Click here to read for yourself.
Earl de Blonville and the Australian Government.
Mr. de Blonville wonders why the Australian Government isn't funding ORI. Here are some thoughts.
If you have questions, feel free to contact me, Kent Madin, at email@example.com or +1-406-595-2310 (text or call)