Oceanic Research Institute (ORI @ResearchOceanic) partnership with Southern Cross University
Earl de Blonville's latest scheme is the "Oceanic Research Institute". The website since October, 2017 is a single page http://ori.net.au/.
Further information on ORI can be found here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oceanic-research/ and here: https://earldeblonvillewordpresscom.wordpress.com/earl-de-blonville-frgs/ and here: https://twitter.com/ResearchOceanic .
If the Linkedin page is not visible, an archived copy is here: http://earldeblonville.net/Oceanic%20Research%20Institute%20_%20LinkedIn%20nov%202018.pdf
The LinkedIn page lists ORI as being operative for six years, but the URL registration and the business registration are only two years old.
ORI is also described as a non-profit organization. As of December 1, 2018, it does not appear in a search of the ACNC database.
Jennifer Gidley is listed as the "Research Director" of ORI 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). (Anyone expressing a sincere interest in Geography who can pay the annual fee can be an FRGS). Annual FRGS membership is considerably cheaper (110 GBP) than membership in LinkedIn ($720 USD) as an example.
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. But one has to wonder, if this claim is true, why is the vast majority of research done with modern vessels? 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.
To recap: ORI is owned and operated by two people with no discernible credentials in oceanic research and whose credentials the public is not allowed to know, were both granted adjunct Full Professor status at Southern Cross University. The only public document (Linkedin) with any detail at all about ORI's purpose claims that ORI has existed for nearly 6 years. ORI was only registered as a company two years ago. 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, books written by the two owners, none of which deal with oceanic research. Ballina-based ORI's two research vessels are both in Denmark (and have never been anywhere near Australia) where one is apparently abandoned and in imminent danger of being hauled ashore and destroyed so as not to become a hazard to navigation.
Since the two ships, La Boheme and Carola are critical 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 owned by the Reith family for 25 years and then sold to a German Youth Sailing Organization in 1996. When purchased for one Euro by Earl de Blonville in 2013 from the Sailing Organization it was named Carola. 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). We will stick with Carola for purposes of this discussion since that is the name that is most commonly used on website pages. Carola is shown in an old photo on the ORI Linkedin page as 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 after de Blonville bought her and after five years without maintainence is, according to the previous owner, Phillip Reith (who has inspected the ship in Rudkobing) a "wreck" and not worth salvaging. This web page tells you just about everything you need to know about the Carola and her condition: http://earldeblonville.net/Carola%20TSG%2073%20-%20Historischer%20Hafen%20Flensburg%20annotated.pdf. The bottom line is that if Carola is ever to sail again she will need many thousands of dollars spent on her major renovation. This is money that de Blonville claimed to have when he bought her. In fact, 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 the stingy previous owner who sold the ship 17 years ago and refused to give de Blonville money to fix de Blonville's boat). 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 as represented on the ORI information at Linkedin:
Carola as she actually is today in Rudkobing:
This 100 year old ship was purchased from the Warnholtz family of Gothenberg, Sweden in 2011 by Jennifer Gidley for roughly 300k Euros. Prior to purchasing the Tarnan, Ms. Gidley had little or no sailing experience, especially none on large, old traditional sailboats. Earl de Blonville, on the other hand, claims extensive experience. In May of 2011,within 24 hours of Gidley and de Blonville taking possession, the Tarnan nearly sank and was rescued by the Danish Navy. The ship was purchased to be the core of the 9sails program, a scheme to make money teaching already successful (and wealthy) businessmen how to be better leaders. The 9sails.com website appeared in 2013 but no programs were ever run and two 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 (as reported by a potential purchaser). 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 now is moored 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, at some expense, from Denmark to Australia. This will require a competent crew. The original crew that de Blonville recruited for 9sails.com, an experienced German sailmaster and the former commandant (retired) of the Norwegian Naval Academy will not be available since Gidley and de Blonville reneged on their promise of payment of expenses to the two crew members. 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 the experience of sailing with de Blonville, not just because de Blonville and Gidley broke their word.
Multiple Schemes in the last 18 years:
Earl de Blonville has a history of spruiking grand sounding schemes involving sailing ships, climate change and leadership all with himself as the impresario and guru. None of those previous schemes ever proceeded past a flashy 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". Again, 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 a failed businessman. It revolved around a 100 year old wooden sailboat that Mr. de Blonville talked his non-sailing girlfriend into buying. That's three distinct programs all following the same model and all came to naught. ORI is de Blonville's fourth such program.
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 some degree of 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. It is important to remember that 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 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 and presumably the Ph.d would deal with the issue of leadership in modern times. 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. 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). Note: Not long after questions were raised by multiple individuals about the process and propriety of de Blonville's adjunct Professor appointment, Nancarrow demoted de Blonville to adjunct "Professional Fellow" without explanation. Of the five levels of adjunct appointment, Professor is the highest and Professional Fellow the lowest. This in and of itself begs for some explanation of how the original vetting 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 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.
It must be said that 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 thousands 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 potentially face from partnering with ORI including, presumably, SCU students and staff aboard the ORI ships?