Being There

17 Jul 2013

Students on Ice Arctic Expedition 2013

We are about to leave for Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where we board a ship that will be our home for the next two weeks. This year's Students on Ice itinerary is to head north along the Greenlandic coast to Uummannaq, a small community that is celebrating its 250th anniversary. From there we turn west and cross the Davis Strait to Baffin Island and then travel through Lancaster Sound and the Northwest Passage to Resolute, the second most northerly community in the country, before flying back to Iqaluit and Ottawa. All of this depends on the ice conditions and current, of course. A quick check of the Canadian Ice Service charts shows that some parts of the route may have to be altered. 

But no problem: Students on Ice's motto is "flexibility is the key". If there's ice, we will simply change the route.

The students are an interesting lot, as usual. Some have travelled a great deal. Some have never left home before. There are about 30 students from the Canadian Arctic, a couple from Greenland, two each from Norway and Monaco, a bunch from Switzerland and an assortment of Americans. As well as kids from across Canada - from Newfoundland in the east (which is well represented this year) to the west coast. 

During the trip, the students will learn about glaciology, oceanography, biology and palaeontology (there is a plan to visit Dinosaur Valley on Bylot Island, on the north tip of Baffin Island for a legally sanctioned fossil hunt - all permits are in place). Students will also learn about the impact of climate change and pollution in the Arctic, Arctic geopolitics, organize a mock Arctic Council and spend a lot of time on deck looking for birds, whales, walrus, polar bears and maybe even narwals. 

Students on Ice provides a unique floating classroom. It's an opportunity for young people who are beginning to think about their future directions to experience a part of the world few get to visit. And they make the journey with people who do live there. There are a number of Inuit leaders and elders on board, including former Arctic Council Ambassador Mary Simon. The Inuit perspective on history and contemporary issues is woven throughout the educational programme. 

The combination of Inuit students with those from other parts of the country and the world provides a unique mix of experience and expectations. Teenagers are teenagers, of course, so it doesn't take long for the group to resemble a large and rather noisy family.

This is my fourth Arctic trip with SOI and I'm looking forward to connecting with these young people and watching them as they experience this incredible part of the planet. There is a truism that when it comes to climate change, what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. This might also apply to the students, too, who will take their experiences back into their lives and different worlds. SOI provides the kind of experience that can be formative and life changing. At least that's the goal.

The planned route for the Students on Ice trip.



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