Creator wants to raise money for ocean research vessel


Donald Wicklund pulls out an old letter from a folder filled with aged pictures of ships and sites from his life at sea. The letter, he explains, is why he believes in his cause. It’s from a sixth-grade student who explains that while he doesn’t enjoy school, he will never forget what he learned on Wicklund’s oceanographic cruise.

Those cruises began in Sandy Hook, N.J., during the 1990s, when Wicklund gave oceanographic tours to students on his 70-foot vessel, the Challenger.

“It blew up from word of mouth. We wound up having over 10,000 New Jersey students on board the Challenger,” Wicklund said.

After ending the tours in 2000 and selling his ship, Wicklund is hoping One Spark will provide him with another chance to inspire future mariners and oceanographers.

As a candidate at One Spark, Wicklund said he is hoping to gain $25,000 to acquire a new boat. He would also need a marine biologist to accompany him on the tours, Wicklund said
Wicklund also wants to offer his oceanographic vessel to universities in Florida with a marine biology program, such as Jacksonville University.

“We are very much interested in it. If it (Wicklund’s tours) were available we would probably utilize it,” said Quinton White, executive director of Jacksonville University’s Marine Science Research Institute.

The benefits that students would receive from the tours create would improve their knowledge of the ocean and also introduce them to the functions of a boat, Wicklund said.

Being no stranger to open waters, Wicklund has enough experience on the sea to rival Ahab. His career ranges from sailing around the world for marine biology firms to salvage diving millions of dollars worth of silver coins from a sunken Civil War era ship off the coast of Savannah.

If Wicklund is able to restart his tours, children would have the opportunity to interact with another part of the world that would never exist on land in a classroom. His proposal would generate a non-profit ocean tour for students with all proceeds going toward funding the vessel and research of the marine ecosystem.

Now, with the support of One Spark, Wicklund hopes to mesmerize children once again by showing them a stranger, wetter half of the world. The chance to examine different species of fish, identifying plankton and learning the functions of a boat to survive on the open water will be available to young students in the Jacksonville community if Wicklund catches the attention of attendees to the crowd-sourcing event.

Students will be brought on board the new vessel and taken out to a safe location within international waters and most likely on the St. John’s Rivers, Wicklund said. To play it safe, he plans on keeping the tours close to shore where the kids are less likely to get sick or run into any danger, Wicklund said.

With One Spark’s help, Wicklund will once again be able to pass on his experiences to new generations of students in Jacksonville by showing them that an enjoyable hands-on experience is the best way to learn.

This story was reported by Ignite Media, an independent news bureau created by University of North Florida students.

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