Trapped In A Human Zoo – an interview with France Rivet (part 3)

Today is the last instalment of my interview with France Rivet.  But there is still plenty to learn about this story. If you’d like to learn more, I’d encourage you to buy a copy of France’s book, In the Footsteps of Abraham Ulrikab: The events of 1880-1881.

I found myself wondering what it would be like for France, after all of her research, to finally come face to face with the skeletons of Abraham and his colleagues. Would it be sad? Would it be a happy moment, after 3 years of searching? Here’s what France had to say….

“Honestly, I had no clue how I was going to react the moment I would be standing in front of the skeletons. On my first visit to the anthropological collections of the Natural History Museum in Paris, I started by asking to look at their archives, at the actual papers. Finding new information, new pieces of the puzzle, was a higher priority for me. But, obviously, the time came when the person responsible for the collection asked: “Would you like to see the skeletons, now?” I didn’t have the choice. I had to say, “Yes”. I dreaded that moment, but everything went well. In fact, it may sound heartless but I didn’t have any reaction. Maybe it was because the five skeletons stood among a collection of 2,000 who all looked alike! I did not recognize Abraham, Ulrike, Tigianniak, Tobias, nor Maria in the skeletons I was seeing. They could have shown me the wrong skeletons and I would not have known. The names engraved on their skulls, and the identification numbers matching those of the certificates and other archival documents, were what confirmed that they were indeed the right ones. I was a lot more impressed by a collection of 19th century busts made on living people. Those looked so real! Had I come face to face with the Labrador Inuit’s busts, I probably would have had an emotional reaction.

Here’s a link where you will see a photo of a selection of these busts: (http://www.theguardian.comartanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/oct/14/paris-musee-de-l-homme-museum-reopening)

I must also say that I found the remains in the very early stages of my research. Five years later, with thousands of hours spent researching, writing and telling their story, the bound is somewhat stronger. What I remember is that when I left the museum, as I was walking in the Jardin des Plantes, I told myself that these skeletons did not belong in reserves covered under plastic bags. It became clear that it was now my responsibility to do whatever I could to make their dream to return home a reality. These people had left Labrador in good faith. They tragically died, and scientists studied them as much as they could before, and even after their death. To me, they had given enough to science. I felt that it was time for them to come home and rest in peace.”

France’s writing of this final chapter of the story of Abraham and his companions was the culmination of 5 years of work. I asked France, what do you feel is your proudest moment or greatest accomplishment associated with this project?

She answered, “I guess my proudest moment is whenever someone from the Inuit community comes up to me to thank me for what I have accomplished. Whether it is a simply thank you, a hug, or a handshake, I know that all of my efforts were worth it. They are making a difference for them. They are allowing them to finally close the chapters on one of their sad stories.

The other moment that made me very proud is after we ended the filming of the re-enactment scenes for the documentary film. To see the pride in the eyes of the Inuit actors, and to see Charles, who plays Abraham, jump up and down because he was so proud of himself, was just priceless.

I can’t change the life of everybody, but knowing that I’ve had a positive impact on the life of at least one person, makes it all worthwhile.”

We look forward to knowing what happens next. Currently, the Nunatsiuvut government is discussing the repatriation of the remains of the Inuit, back to their home in Labrador. I hope that this does indeed happen. I think it needs to happen. Abraham had realized the mistake he had made by taking his family and colleagues to Europe. He wrote about looking forward o the day that they would go home. Abraham did not live long enough to have his wish fulfilled. But thanks to France and the governments of Nunatsiuvut, Canada and France, hopefully Abraham will finally come home.

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October 2014 when Johannes Lampe and myself visited with Sylvie Bédard and Pierre Guimond at Canada’s Embassy in Paris.

Trapped In A Human Zoo – an interview with France Rivet (part 1)

I hope you were able to watch, “Trapped In A Human Zoo” on this week’s Nature of Things. What a story! It’s hard not to feel emotional about it. It’s a tragic tale, but sadly, not an uncommon one back in those days.

France is a very good friend of mine and it’s been fascinating to watch her on her journey, researching this story and getting to this point of telling the story very publicly, in a wonderful and fascinating documentary. And with the remains of Abraham, his family and the other Inuit likely to be repatriated back to Labrador, France is ensuring that the last chapter of this story is finally being written. Over a number of dinners over the past 4 years, France has shared with me, the things she was uncovering as she did her research.

France’s research (visit her Polar Horizon’s website for more information) for this project was self-funded. Funds raised through a crowd funding campaign as well as her own personal money, were what she used to uncover this mystery. Clearly she was driven by curiously, passion, and a desire to provide the Inuit of Labrador with a concluding chapter to this terrible story. She made a promise to two people, including an Inuit woman from Labrador, to find the answers about what happened to Abraham and the seven other Inuit. Finally, she is able to tell the story of their fate.

I interviewed France last week to ask her about her experience in uncovering the mystery of the fate of Abraham and the other Inuit. What follows is a multi-part blog post interview of France and her journey to write this final chapter.

I asked France, “How did you get involved in this project and what was the path that led you to the point where you are now?”

France: “I got involved in this research in 2009 following a promise I made to two people I met on a cruise along the Labrador Coast. The first person, Hans Blohm, is an Ottawa photographer of German origin. In 2005, Hans and his friend, German professor Hartmut Lutz, published a book entitled “The Diary of Abraham Ulrikab: Text and Context”, the English translation of the diary of a Labrador Inuit who had been taken to Europe in 1880, with his family and three other countrymen, to be exhibited in zoos. Since the ship was heading in the communities where these eight people came from, Hans highly recommended that I go to the ship’s library to read the book. That’s what I did.

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Hans Blohm and Zippie Nochasak on board the Lyubov Orlova, July 2009. They are the two people France made the promise to, to find out what happened to Abraham and the other Inuit that had been exhibited in the human zoo.

The story fascinated me, but there was a piece missing. The book said nothing about what happened to the Inuit when they were in Paris. Five of the Inuit died in Paris. On the ship with us was an Inuk lady whose family originates from Hebron, Abraham’s place of origin, and she has the same name as Nuggasak, the first of the eight Inuit to die in Europe. This lady had just learned about Abraham’s story and she was very upset by what had happened to her people. In the fall of 2009, the three of us met in Ottawa and Abraham came on the subject. By that time I had reread the diary and I had many unanswered questions, so I promised both Zippie and Hans, that since my mother tongue is French, whenever time allowed, I would try to see if I can find any information about what happened in Paris. One thing I was hoping to find out was where the Inuit had been buried.

It took me about a year to finally find a lead to a wealth of articles about the Inuit’s presence, and death, in Paris. But never had it crossed my mind that I would actually find the Inuit’s remains. Being told that they were still in Paris, patiently waiting in the reserves of a museum was a total shock to me. This discovery was THE turning point. I knew from reading Abraham’s diary how much he wanted to come home to Labrador. All of a sudden, my research was no longer a simply matter of finding facts, but a new dimension was being added: could the remains be brought home?

Within a few weeks, I was sitting in the office of Mr. Philippe Mennecier, the person in charge of the anthropological collections at the Natural History Museum in Paris. He’s the one who had taken the initiative to reveal to me that the skeletons were part of their collection. Mr. Philippe Mennecier confirmed that the Museum’s policy is not to oppose a repatriation request for remains that are identified. That is definitely the case of the Labrador Inuit. Knowing that, it became obvious to me, that life was giving me a mission. I would not have been able to simply walk away and ignore the fact that Abraham’s skeleton was there, and that he wanted to come home. The people in Labrador had to be told. They had to know the truth. The little voice inside me told me that I had to see this mission through. Life had picked me. Life must have known that I could do something about it. I had no clue how I was going to cross that mountain, but hey, I started walking! Slow but steady! Slow but steady!

 

An exciting year is coming for BIOSPHERE Environmental Education

Copyright Shelley L. Ball

Copyright Shelley L. Ball

Hello Everyone!

It’s been a long, long time since I last posted on our blog. I’m amazed at how life seems to drive us in a different direction, at least temporarily, sometimes. The past year has been a challenge for me (Shelley). I returned from the amazing arctic expedition I was on last July. It was a phenomenal experience. I began to post about my adventures when my Dad became very ill. Hence, I wasn’t able to finish posting about our expedition. Sadly, in September, my Dad passed away. I spent the winter settling his estate, which was a massive amount a work and stress. And then, in spring, my husband of 10 years and I, divorced. We’re still friends, which is great. It’s been a challenging year to say the least.

But as we learn from life, challenges make you stronger. Challenges are part of any adventure, any expedition. They test your mettle. They push you to your limits, physically, psychologically, emotionally. But when you come out the other side of the adventure, you come out stronger, more resilient, and having learned something from your experiences. Certainly, this is true for me and the kind of year I’ve had.

I’ve really missed posting here on the BIOSPHERE blog and it’s been hard to have to put BIOSPHERE on hold for a while. But I’m back and raring to go.

The necessary hiatus I’ve had to take from BIOSPHERE makes my return all the sweeter and not the least because of all the exciting things unfolding. I’ll be posting about these in upcoming blog posts, but here’s a snapshot of what’s to come….

In December of 2016, I’m headed to Antarctica! I’ll be headed there with 77 other women scientists from around the world on a women-in-science leadership expedition. I can’t wait to tell you about it. So look for info on this here on the blog in the next few days.

May 2015 – was when our Arctic Impressions photography exhibit was installed in the largest art gallery of the Ottawa International Airport. The images are from last summer’s arctic expedition. But they are not my images. They are the images of the students on the expedition. I taught a photography workshop on the expedition and then issued the challenge to students to make great photos because the best of the best would be exhibited at Ottawa Airport. And they were! I’ll post more about that soon, but I’m in the process of getting the images online at our BIOSPHERE Environmental Education website. I’m also working on finding another venue for the exhibit in the hopes of turning it into a travelling exhibit. Stay tuned for more on this in the next few days.

2017 – there’s still a LOT to plan and this is fairly tentative, but I’m aiming for 2017 to be the very first of BIOSPHERE Environmental Education’s Environmental Learning Expeditions! This will be the full roll-out of the Youth Environmental Ambassadors Programme. I’m so excited! There’s a ton to do to even get to the point of formally announcing the expedition and getting the advertisement out there to students. But I’m determined to get it going. So stay tuned for more on this in upcoming blog posts.

I hope you’ll tune into our blog regularly for our exciting news. And feel free to pass the link to our blog and website on to others you think might enjoy it.

All the best,

Shelley

Founder & CEO of BIOSPHERE Environmental Education

www.biosphere-ed.org

Arctic Expedition 2014 – the story of our adventure…sailing from Kuujjuaq

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On July 12th, Day 4 of our adventure, we woke super early, gathered up all of our gear and headed for the school buses, which took us to the Ottawa International Airport. There we loaded our mountain of gear and hoped that we weren’t about to overpack our First Air charter flight. It’s happened on previous expeditions, apparently. Sucks to be on the tarmac, scratching your forehead and wondering what to leave behind because the plane just can’t handle the weight of all of it. In the end, it was beer bottles that were left behind. But that’s another story that I’ll tell a little later. And it does have a happy ending.

The excitement over the start of the northern part of our adventure was palpable, despite the early hour of the morning

The excitement over the start of the northern part of our adventure was palpable, despite the early hour of the morning

 

Our charter flight was headed to Kuujjuaq, a remote community on Ungava Bay, in northern Quebec. Our ship would be waiting for us in the bay. And we were so anxious to get on board and begin the expedition component of our adventure together. Our flight time from Ottawa to Kuujjuaq was about two hours.

Boarding a flight from Ottawa to Kuujjuaq in the early morning. The air was buzzing with excitement.

Boarding a flight from Ottawa to Kuujjuaq in the early morning. The air was buzzing with excitement.

Welcome to Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec. Population ~ 2,400.

Welcome to Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec. Population ~ 2,400.

We arrived to overcast skies, much cooler temperatures than we’d had in Ottawa, and an incredible landscape. We walked about a mile from the airport to the town’s community centre and then had a walk around town, headed down to the beach and then back to the community centre for a BBQ that the town had put on for us. Youth from our expedition connected with local youth and soon, friendly challenges of Inuit games and rapping and beatbox were being exchanged.

The village of Kuujjuaq, home to some of the students on our SOI expedition.

The village of Kuujjuaq, home to some of the students on our SOI expedition.

 

Stretching our legs on the beach and enjoying the fresh, cool air.

Stretching our legs on the beach and enjoying the fresh, cool air.

After a few hours in town it was time to head for our ship, the Sea Adventurer. She had come upriver a bit and anchored, waiting for our arrival. But we still had about a 30 minute zodiac ride to get to her. Exciting! Our first ride in the zodiacs! As we sped down river, the wind in our hair and the northern sun on our faces, the rhythmic bouncing of the zodiac on the waves, we soaked up the scenery as we went.

The shoreline as we headed downstream, from Kuujjuaq, towards the Sea Adventurer, our floating home for the next 12 days.

The shoreline as we headed downstream, from Kuujjuaq, towards the Sea Adventurer, our floating home for the next 12 days.

The landscape around Kuujjuaq and along the river is rugged. Kuujjuaq is located just at the edge of the boreal forest treelike. So you see some trees to the south, but they are small spruces. And the treelike quickly disappears as you head north. The shoreline is rocky and rugged. Looking out onto the massive pieces of rock, one expected to see a polar bear lumbering across the landscape.

The rocky and rugged shoreline near Kuujjuaq

The rocky and rugged shoreline near Kuujjuaq

The crevices in this ancient rock creates its own version of art

The crevices in this ancient rock creates its own version of art

Leaving the tree line behind us, the ruggedness of the landscape seemed more apparent

Leaving the tree line behind us, the ruggedness of the landscape seemed more apparent

As we made our way down river in the zodiacs, everyone was pretty quiet. Talking above the sound of the outboard motor was difficult. But part of the silence was that we were all just taking in our surroundings. For many on the expedition, this was the farthest north they had ever been. The magnitude and magnificence of the landscape was something many had not experienced before and none of us could help but just look and watch as we sped along.

Our first zodiac ride of the expedition. One of many, but in some ways, the most exciting as we had no idea what adventures awaited us.

Our first zodiac ride of the expedition. One of many, but in some ways, the most exciting as we had no idea what adventures awaited us.

As we headed down river towards our ship, we began to notice camps dotted across the landscape. One of our northern students said that families were out on the land now, hunting and camping.

Temporary camps along the river

Camps along the river

Many of these temporary camps consist of canvas tents

Many of these are temporary camps with canvas tents

 

As we sped downriver, the outline of our ship came into view. And as we got closer, it’s size and magnificence became apparent. It was hard to believe this would be home for the next 11 days! There was definitely a palpable excitement in the air as the zodiacs circled, waiting their turn to tie up to the ship’s platform and step aboard.

Arriving at our new  floating home, the Sea Adventurer

Arriving at our new floating home, the Sea Adventurer

The Sea Adventurer, is a 100 m long ship with an A-1 ice class rating. So technically, it’s not an icebreaker, but its reinforced hull can find its way through plenty of  ‘bergy bits’ that often litter the waters of the northern Labrador coastline in July.

Total excitement as we are greeted by those already on the Sea Adventurer

Total excitement as we are greeted by those already on the Sea Adventurer

Welcome aboard!

Welcome aboard!

The Sea Adventurer, with 10 zodiacs that allowed us to get to shore to explore

The Sea Adventurer, with 10 zodiacs that allowed us to get to shore to explore

The Sea Adventurer staff had already kindly installed all of our luggage in our cabins by the time we arrived. Our cabins were tidy, modern and comfortable. Sure, they’re small, but we were just there to sleep (and as we’d find out, grab whatever rare nap-time could be stolen during our busy days).

Our two person cabin. Very comfortable and a great sized window for iceberg watching.

Our two person cabin. Very comfortable and a great sized window for iceberg watching.

I remember on Day 1 of our adventure, during our introduction, Geoff Green was describing the Sea Adventurer. His comment was that this ship is far, far too nice for us on us. Ya, sure. 😉 It wasn’t until I began to explore around the ship and came upon the dinning room that I understood what Geoff meant. Just peeking into the dinning room, I felt as if I should have brought my evening gown on this arctic expedition! Note to self for next time – don’t just pack the rubber boots and blackfly jacket, include evening wear as well. 😉

Our ship's dinning room - not what I expected on an arctic expedition, but hey, I'm not complaining! ;)

Our ship’s dinning room – not what I expected on an arctic expedition, but hey, I’m not complaining! 😉

But it gets better. Not only is the dinning room fancy-schmancy, but all of the serving staff were wearing tuxes. And they were the most incredibly friendly people. By the end of the expedition, we’d all become friends. And… we certainly didn’t starve during our expedition. How could one starve while eating 5-course meals for dinner, for 12 days? Seriously! They fed us 5 course meals for dinner! Breakfast and lunch were buffets. And all I can say is that the food was phenomenal! I normally don’t eat dessert, but I did for these 12 days! Although I just couldn’t bring myself to eat the delicate pastry that was shaped like a swan. Seriously, it was ‘pastry origami’! Talk about roughing it on our arctic expedition. 😉

I didn't think you'd believe me about the 5 course meals, so here's the menu from lunch

I didn’t think you’d believe me about the 5 course meals, so here’s the menu from lunch

And…. the menu from dinner one night… some evenings we ate fresh arctic char that members of our expedition had caught that day.

And dinner. Oh... how we suffered! ;)

And dinner. Oh… how we suffered! 😉

Here's more of how we suffered. Dessert one night. I think it was a blueberry cheesecake, but I can't remember because my head is still swirling with delight. Oh so many desserts...

Here’s more of how we suffered. Dessert one night. I think it was a blueberry cheesecake, but I can’t remember because my head is still swirling with delight. Oh so many desserts…

After dinner, I wandered up on deck with my camera, soaking in the fresh evening air as we made our way through Ungava Bay. The land disappeared and the open water lay before us. As the sun began to sink in the sky, many of us took some time on deck to jus have some quiet time to ourselves, to reflect on all that had happened up to this point and what our next 11 days would be like.

Time to reflect as we leave head out of Ungava Bay

Time to reflect as we leave head out of Ungava Bay

Watching land disappear...

Watching land disappear…

And the sun sink low in the sky. It never got completely dark because we were so far north. But we were treated to some of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen.

And the sun sink low in the sky. It never got completely dark because we were so far north. But we were treated to some of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

This is how our days ended. Falling into bed, tired from the days activities. But what more could you ask for... arriving in your cabin to find your bed turned down and a mint sitting there.

This is how our days ended. Falling into bed, tired from the days activities. But what more could you ask for… arriving in your cabin to find your bed turned down and a mint sitting there.

Our floating home, the Sea Adventurer, was INCREDIBLE. All of the staff were more than outstanding. So friendly, courteous, the food was out of this world. The cabins so comfortable. We all complained when we got home that our beds at home seemed not to be nearly so comfortable as those on the ship. Our captain was phenomenal. You’ll hear more about him later and how he’s given us the adventure of a lifetime.

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Tune in  next time for the first BIG day of our adventure, exploring the beauty of the Labrador coastline…

Arctic Expedition 2014 – the story of our adventure… part II

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What’s one way to get 100+ people who are total strangers to bond really quickly? Answer: FEAR. I’m kidding…. but doing something that forces everyone outside their comfort zone and puts everyone on an equal playing field is a great way to create bonds between people. And so that’s what we did on Day 3. Well, that’s what most of them did. I declined due to a back injury I didn’t want to aggravate. I was having premonitions of being in a body cast as we boarded our ship for the arctic. NOT the way to see the north…. from a porthole window and a body-cast. Hence, I acted as motivational coach, keeper of the sunglasses, iPhones, cameras, hats and hoodies and cat-herder. 🙂

"So, what are we supposed to do with these thingies again?" "I think we hook ourselves to the structures so we don't fall to our death". "Oh, really?"

“So, what are we supposed to do with these thingies again?” “I think we hook ourselves to the structures so we don’t fall to our death”. “Oh, really?”

Day 3 has us head to the Aerial Park and Zip-line at Camp Fortune not far from Gatineau, Quebec. I was intrigued by this activity. A way to get the students to burn off some of their nervous energy. They had already begun to bond with each other, but by the end of the zip-lining, bonds were far more cemented. The glue that bound them? Fear of death? Well, not quite. But there’s nothing like experiencing uncertainty, fear, and questioning one’s abilities to bond people. The students were great. They embraced the ropes course with gusto. They encouraged each other. Coached each other. They didn’t need me. OK, well I was keeper of all their stuff that would fall off while they were on the course. And sure, I did encourage them all. But they were superstars!

Some tentative initial steps...

Some tentative initial steps…

But after a few minutes, the students were attacking the course...

But after a few minutes, the students were attacking the course…

I watched these young adults confront their fear of heights. Sure, there were nervous moments, but every one of them stretched outside their comfort zone to embrace the challenge. They climbed ladders, traversed rope ‘bridges’, swung their way across gaps between trees on swinging ‘steps’, zip-lined at top speed from tree to tree. And at the end of it, the only thing I saw were smiles and high fives. Awesome! Just awesome!

Combating fears of heights...

Combating fears of heights…

Using muscles that hadn't been used in a while...

Using muscles that hadn’t been used in a while…

And looking like pros from a swat team… :)

And looking like pros from a swat team… 🙂

 

Our next stop for the day was back at the Canadian Museum of Nature, but this time, to see its public side. We had a guided tour of the museum and were treated to exhibits that showed us the many of the animals that call Canada home, some of which we may see on our arctic adventure. Our tour ended with a wander through the dinosaur section. Not the fossils, but huge replicas of various dinosaur species which once roamed the earth.

Students look into a diorama of muskox in the high arctic.

Students look into a diorama of muskox in the high arctic.

I'm not sure if these were to scale, but some of them were certainly scary enough! Can't imagine meeting one of these grumpy beasts millions of years ago...

I’m not sure if these were to scale, but some of them were certainly scary enough! Can’t imagine meeting one of these grumpy beasts millions of years ago…

That evening, tired, sore, and happy students filed into one of the lecture halls at Carleton U for more inspiring presentations – by Mary Simon ( a prominent Canadian who played an important role in the creation of the 8-country Arctic Council), Trevor Taylor (former Fisheries Minister for Newfoundland) and Donovan Taplin, an impressive young SOI alum who at the age of 19, was elected to his town’s municipal government. Donovan’s presentation was nothing short of phenomenally inspirational -for me! I wonder what the students thought of it because it blew my socks off.

 

Although zip-lining through the Gatineaus seems a far stretch from an arctic expedition, it was anything but. Team building, building confidence, forcing people outside their comfort zone – all great things to prepare us for the next 12 days of adventure….

Tune in to the next blog post for the start of our northern adventure – flying up to Kuujjuaq and boarding our ship, the Sea Adventurer…

 

[All images on this blog post are copyright Shelley L. Ball. All rights reserved]

Arctic Expedition 2014 – Icebergs at Sunset

Icebergs at Sunset in the Labrador Sea. © Shelley L. Ball

Icebergs at Sunset in the Labrador Sea. © Shelley L. Ball

Some of the most incredible experiences on this expedition were the moments I was out on deck at night, alone, listening to the hum of the ship’s engine, gently rocking back and forth in the sea, the wind caressing my face, and my eyes being treated to scenes like this. Those were truly magical moments…almost spiritual moments. The overwhelming vastness of our earth only became apparent at these truly humbling moments.

What an INCREDIBLE expedition!!!!!

The view from the bow of our ship, the Sea Adventurer, as we made our way up the SW coast of Greenland and crossed the arctic circle about 4am. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

The view from the bow of our ship, the Sea Adventurer, as we made our way up the SW coast of Greenland and crossed the arctic circle about 4am. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

Hi Everyone! I’m just back from our Arctic Expedition 2014! I arrived home about 36 hours ago after an absolute whirlwind expedition. I can’t wait to share it all with you! I’ve had experiences that I will never forget, met the most incredible people, seen crumbling glaciers with my own eyes. And I’ve done my best to capture all of this in my photographs so that I can share with you the story of my expedition.

Exploring Labrador through several zodiac outings. What a great way to explore the landscape, to see wildlife, and to experience our surroundings with all of our senses... Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Exploring Labrador through several zodiac outings. What a great way to explore the landscape, to see wildlife, and to experience our surroundings with all of our senses… Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

I’ll be blogging about the highlights of our adventure – the things that really stuck with me and that I want to share with you. Being on an icebreaker with 131 high school students, educators, and support staff was nothing short of a remarkable experience. The expedition, led by Students On Ice, was truly a life-changing experience, not just for the 86 students on board, but for all of us.

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Here are a few images to share with you some of the incredible things we experienced. There’s LOTS more to come to keep tuning in. Or even better, subscribe to this blog so that when I post more about our adventure, you’ll get notification of it.

I can’t wait to share my stories with you…

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

Image copyright Shelley L. Ball

 

An inukshuk atop the rocky shoreline at Kuujjuaq, Ungava Bay, Quebec. This was where we began our northern journey. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

An inukshuk atop the rocky shoreline at Kuujjuaq, Ungava Bay, Quebec. This was where we began our northern journey. Image copyright Shelley L. Ball.

Arctic Expedition 2014: gear, gear, and more gear!

With just 11 days left until we begin our adventure to the arctic, I’m madly gathering together the last of the gear that I’ll need to take. I’m making lists because it’s impossible to remember everything. Brain overload.

With teaching environmental communication through photography and videography, most of my gear is for this. Cameras, lenses, batteries, tripods. We’ll be on an icebreaker of European origin. It has 220V power outlets so I also have to bring a step-down transformer since I’ve got a gazillion batteries to keep charged. I’ve also been warned to bring a good surge protector. Done.

Here’s a smattering of gear that I’ll be using for teaching the students how to shoot video. For good video shooting, you absolutely need to keep the camera either still or moving fluidly. There’s nothing worse than watching video where the camera has been swaying from side to side. Great way to get motion sick. 🙂

Two rigs for stabilization that I’m taking are a Glidecam DNA 1000 camera stabilizer. And a shoulder rig stabilizer. The Glidecam will allow us to shoot video while we’re walking or running, but without the bumping up and down to make us motion sick while we’re watching the video footage. The shoulder rig will help us keep the camera steady and is also great for panning.

If you’re shooting video, you also need to record good audio. The built-in mic on my Nikon D7100 is ok, but not great and you just don’t have as much easy control over recording volume as with an external recorder. So I’ve got a Tascam DR-05 for audio recording. And to plug into it, a Rode Videomic with a dead cat (that’s the name of the fuzzy cover that goes over the microphone to prevent that annoying sound when the wind sweeps across the mic. I know… I didn’t name it. That’s just what it’s called 🙂 ). I’ve also got a boom pole for the videomic and a lav mic (lapel microphone) for interviews.

Here’s a look at some of the video gear I’ll be taking…

Some of the video gear I'll be taking with me to the arctic. From left to right - Rode video microphone, Glidecam camera stabilizer, Varavon multi-finder viewfinder, shoulder video rig stabilizer.

Some of the video gear I’ll be taking with me to the arctic. From left to right – Rode video microphone, Glidecam camera stabilizer, Varavon multi-finder viewfinder, shoulder video rig stabilizer.

This is just a small bit of all of the gear I’ll be taking. That’s why I’ll have two big lockage plastic cases on wheels, as well as a duffle bag of clothes and my tripods, as well as my carry on camera gear. Here’s hoping my back holds out! :0

Arctic Expedition 2014: our home afloat for 12 days

The Sea Adventurer, our home and classroom afloat for 12 days.

The Sea Adventurer, our home and classroom afloat for 12 days.

We begin our adventure on July 9th, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with a few days of orientation and ‘getting to know you’ activities. On the 12th, we fly up to Kuujjuag, in northern Quebec, to board our temporary home – the incredible Sea Adventurer, a 90 m (295 foot) icebreaker. It will carry 132 of us through arctic waters for 12 days. We’ll be a maximum capacity as the ship’s capacity is 132.

With an ice-strengthened hull and state of the art Sperry Gyrofin stabilizers, state of the art communications and navigation equipment, she is an incredible vessel. Her ice class rating of A-1 means that she can go to places in the arctic and antarctic that other cruise ships can’t get to safely.

10 zodiacs will be used to get us all ashore at various stops along the way, so that we can get out on the land and experience it with all of our senses.

10 zodiacs will be used to get us all ashore at various stops along the way, so that we can get out on the land and experience it with all of our senses.

There are 10 zodiacs on board and a special boarding platform so that we’ll be able to get to land for our field studies.

We’ll be on-board the world’s most magnificent classroom for 12 days. This, combined with the incredible time we’ll spend out on the land promises to be an adventure of a lifetime!

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Arctic Expedition 2014: our environmental education program

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I’m so excited to be one of 46 educators and staff on the 2014 Students On Ice arctic expedition. Those of us who are educators will be delivering educational program to the students during our 12 days aboard the icebreaker, while we explore Labrador and Greenland. We’ll have zodiacs to get ashore so that we can get out onto the land and show the students first hand, the incredible beauty, fragility, and value of the arctic.

In my role as biologist, environmental educator and visual storyteller, I’ll be launching our Youth Environmental Ambassadors Program, teaching photography and videography to students. Specifically, I’ll be teaching the students the tools of environmental communication. They will be learning to use their cameras to capture the beauty of the arctic landscape, ecosystems, culture and history. And then they’ll learn how to assemble their photos and videos to create professional presentations about the arctic environment that they can share with their schools, clubs and the world.

So I’m busy creating a series of educational workshops that I’ll be teaching and still assembling the equipment I need. Busy times! But I can’t wait to get aboard that ship and begin working with the students. I think it’ll be an experience of a lifetime not just for them, but for me too!

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