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Vessel for Inquiry – Working On S/Y Diva Andaman: Tasneem Khan

Marine and coastal expert Tasneem Khan is piloting a boat-based project out of Phuket that seeks to involve students and yachts in education and research.

Sep 02, 2019 | By Yacht Style

Your yacht is in its best shape when its working on the water. The expense and care that goes into moored crafts often doesn’t justify the short spells of leisure in return. So, what are some ways to engage your boat in a continued and beneficial manner? After over a decade of using the ocean as a classroom, laboratory and studio, I wanted to take this concept aboard a sailing vessel and have done this with ‘The Vessel for Inquiry’.

Diva Andaman is hosting 'The Vessel for Inquiry' project

Diva Andaman is hosting ‘The Vessel for Inquiry’ project

A boat provides a literal and conceptual learning environment. Wooden ships are among the most complex wooden structures devised by man – three-dimensional sculptures built from countless pieces fitted together like a jigsaw. They offer a unique platform for education and enquiry.

Also, they provide access to a cross-section of ecosystems, the constant need for critical thinking, applied concepts, physics of sailing, energy and resource management, physiology of diving, socio-ecology, marine ecology, and building improvised technology.

In today’s complex landscape of ecological cascades, economic pressures and the dwindling health of our natural resources, I’m among those in the field of research and conservation who believe in the value and urgency of creating educational avenues for youth and communities.

I believe there is an unmatched learning and value instilled from direct connection, immersion and a sense of belonging. As such, my core goal has been to generate a sense of biophilia (an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world) and systems-thinking among youth around the Indian Ocean region.

For me, there is no better way to experience the ocean than from a boat, which gives access, mobility, perspective and reach while providing an intimate interaction with this universe unto itself.

Imagine being able to understand the concepts of maths and physics through the art of sailing and the science of diving. Imagine living on a floating structure, where participating in the engineering and integrity of your home is critical.

Imagine being inspired to ask questions and seek answers from the waters surrounding you. Imagine becoming deeply familiar with the bio-chemical soup we call our ocean.

Imagine being a part of communities that rely on this most vital ecosystem and resource. Imagine the impact it can have on how we understand, think and respond.

‘The Vessel for Inquiry’ project is the coming together of this vision and was piloted in June 2018, aboard the Diva Andaman schooner in Phuket. We used the boat as a free, open-source and mobile learning platform to change the way people interact with our oceans.

We believe impactful experiences and creating an interconnected view of systems help students and practitioners:

  • become aware of the fact that each of our lives and work is intrinsically linked to our ecosystems
  • develop an integrated understanding of technology, ecology, critical thinking, improvisation, regional complexities
  • begin to thrive in and enjoy their learning environment
  • feel a tangible connection with their ecosystem

We will be hosting several schools and mixed-interest groups for a series of educational voyages in Phang Nga Bay. Each learning expedition is designed to cover a wide range of topics from diving, mangrove documentation and plankton analysis to coastal economics, oceanography, woodwork and marine engineering.

The diversity of topics linked to the ocean help illustrate the many connections that exist between humans and marine systems. And voila, without preaching about conservation
or preservation as a linear process, every participant has embodied a deep motivation to conserve and protect their ocean.

Next year, ‘The Vessel for Inquiry’ will set out its gangway for long-term artist residency programmes and providing sponsored positions for researchers or institutions who require continued access to the Andaman Sea.

We see this as the beginning of revolutionising the use of yachts and are working towards developing a network of vessels that can actively participate in and act as tools for:

  • water-based education
  • large-scale ecological monitoring
  • research vessel networks
  • citizen-science labs in port cities and towns

And hopefully, more yachts in this region will have reason to be working on the water.

Tasneem Khan

TASNEEM KHAN: Happiest underwater or with her feet in a swamp, Tasneem Khan is a biologist, educator, sailor, photographer and diver. Formally trained in zoology, she has spent the last 13 years in the fields of ecology, conservation, education and art, including seven years with the Centre for Island Ecology, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team. Co-founder of Earth CoLab, Khan has created ‘The Vessel for Inquiry’ – a mobile and floating laboratory and studio aboard the Diva Andaman – in order to explore the Andaman Sea from the perspective of scientific research, education and art.

The original article appears in Yacht Style Issue 48. Email for print subscription enquiries or subscribe to the Magzter version at:

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