Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday July 8th, 2013 – SOI Arctic Expedition 2013 - T minus 4 days

Adventure is worthwhile in itself.
Amelia Earhart

Four years ago, I put this quote in my very first blog as I had arrived in Ottawa to start my first Arctic expedition with Students On Ice. I look back on those first few entries, and indeed the entire expedition, with a bit of whimsy and nostalgia – I had no idea what was about to happen, and was literally a wide-eyed tourist jumping into an adventure feet first. It was a whirlwind of emotions and experiences that left me a little bit stunned, quite a bit amazed… and a LOT exhausted. But I knew one thing - I wanted to experience this adventure again.

And so I did… in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

And here I am, preparing for my FIFTH Arctic expedition with Students On Ice. I am honored and privileged to once again be involved with this great organization and this year’s voyage looks to be as exciting and action-packed as all the others. Of course, with four days left to go until I leave for Ottawa, there’s not much to describe just yet. Unless you want to hear the finer details about my packing, which probably isn’t that interesting. What I’m packing this year is quite different than what I packed in 2009 – experience and practicality have taught me some lessons about what I personally need to bring versus what SOI recommends . In the end, it all fits… hopefully.

There have been some changes to the SOI program this year. Of course, each and every expedition with SOI has been different and varied in many ways – itinerary, ship, staff and naturally, the students. But this year marks a somewhat different path for the SOI educational program. For starters, our amazing and diverse group of field staff will be conducting a series of TEDx-style sessions called “Arctic Hour”. These will take place numerous times throughout the expedition and will replace the lecture-style talks from previous years. A heavier focus will be on experiential and interactive workshops… which pleases me greatly, as that’s where I feel I can play a part. And of course, there will be the “usual” zodiac runs, shore landings, and community visits. I definitely invite you to check out the expedition website at

In reviewing our expeditionary staff bios, I’m surprised at how few “veterans” are coming along this year. Of course, there are a plethora of new faces to join with us – and that is definitely one of the highlights of each expedition. This year, I’m noticing a definite swing to staff with political and economic backgrounds – a former Assistant Deputy Minister for Environment Canada, current President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council of Canada, a CEO of an Arctic mining company, a policy advisor for the International Development Research Centre – just to name a few. But science isn’t being ignored – we have a paleobiologist, botanist, oceanographer, glaciologist, a couple of geologists amongst many others. Geographers, historians, musicians, photographers and artists also dedicate their time. And of course, there are educators of all stripes and backgrounds.

Our itinerary is also unique. After two full days exploring Ottawa and getting to know one another, we fly off to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where we board our floating home for almost two weeks. This year we are back on the ship we sailed with in 2011, although she’s been renamed the Sea Adventurer. After we set sail, we visit numerous stops along the west coast of Greenland, before heading across the Davis Strait to sail the Northwest Passage! This will be the farthest north I’ve travelled yet, as we wind our way along the north edge of Baffin Island, all the way to Resolute, Nunavut! From there we fly out to Iqaluit, where we drop off many of our Northern students, and then back home to Ottawa.

As usual, it’s a whirlwind itinerary, and it will change – guaranteed. Ice, weather, and any other factor can change our course or delay things. But one thing is for certain – it’s certain to be a worthwhile adventure!

Next blog: the best part of an SOI expedition – the students!

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