Arctic Expedition 2014 – some experiences just change your life forever…

Getting out in zodiacs to explore was one of the huge highlights of the trip for me. I love that the students (and staff) got to see, smell, taste, touch, hear - to experience the north with all of their senses. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

Getting out in zodiacs to explore was one of the huge highlights of the trip for me. I love that the students (and staff) got to see, smell, taste, touch, hear – to experience the north with all of their senses. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

A few days ago I returned from the trip of a lifetime. No, not a trip of a lifetime. An experience of a lifetime. I was an educator (biologist, photographer, and environmental communicator) on the 2014 Students On Ice Arctic Expedition. I, along with 45 other educators and support staff and 86 high school students from Canada, the U.S., Scotland, China, Monaco, and Greenland, spent 12 days together on an icebreaker, exploring the arctic – northern Quebec, the coast of Labrador (including the absolutely spectacular Torngat Mountains National Park), and then southwest Greenland.

The incredible rugged beauty of the Labrador coast near Torngats Mountain National Park. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

The incredible rugged beauty of the Labrador coast near Torngats Mountain National Park. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball)

It was 12 of the most spectacular, action-packed, eye-opening, inspiring days of my life. And for those 86 high school students on board, it changed their lives. For some, profoundly. In subsequent blog posts, I’ll share some of those stories. In my 20+ years as an educator, I have never seen such transformations in young people in such a short time. It may sound corny, but what I witnessed on that ship in those 12 days renewed my hope in humanity. There are truly good people out there who will do good things, not just for themselves, but for our entire global community. I have no doubt that some of those 86 students on our expedition will be the ones to go on to do great things – big things –  for our world. But also small things too. I think it’s important to be reminded that big isn’t the supreme goal. We can all do something good for our world, in our own ways, no matter how small. So I believe that all of the 86 students on this expedition will have an important influence on the world, in one way or another. Every effort, every action matters, regardless of magnitude.

Me, teaching a photography workshop on shore. I wanted to inspire the students to use their images to share their experiences with the world and to share their concerns about the health of the arctic environment and its cultures, with the rest of the world.

Me, teaching a photography workshop on shore. I wanted to inspire the students to use their images to share their experiences with the world and to share their concerns about the health of the arctic environment and its cultures, with the rest of the world. (photo copyright Lee Naraway).

If I had to sum up the achievements and milestones of the expedition, it would be difficult, because there were so many. We learned about the arctic environment – plants, animals, geology, ocean currents…. We learned about the peoples of the arctic – their culture, history, and some of the tragic stories of contemporary times, when Inuit were forced by the government to leave their homes, their communities, to live elsewhere, and to adopt ‘southern’ ways of life. This was all part of the governments strategy, decades ago, to assimilate our northern peoples into ‘southern’ ways of life. We learned about climate change. We learned about the geo-politics of the north. From early in the morning until late at night, we were busy – outside exploring on the land, exploring the shoreline by zodiac, participating in workshops on board our ship, listening to presentations given by educators, hearing ‘life stories’ that inspired us. There were so many great things we experienced and that resulted from this expedition. But I would have to say that watching the students stretch – to muster up the courage to step outside of their comfort zones in order to experience life to the  fullest and to connect with the people in our group, was by far, the most incredible result of our experience. For me, it did a lot to reinforce my desire to follow my passion – to take youth around the world on life-changing expeditions that will teach them about themselves, help them reach beyond their limitations, to show them some of the earth’s most incredible places, and to inspire them to preserve them and the cultures of the people who live in them. This is my dream. And now, more than ever, I’m determined to make it happen.

Our arctic sunsets were some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball).

Our arctic sunsets were some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. (photo copyright Shelley L. Ball).

 

Over the next several days, I’ll be blogging about my experience on this Arctic Expedition 2014. I want to share with you the things we saw, the things we learned, the experiences we had, the insights we had, and the stories that developed over our 15 days together (12 of which were onboard the Sea Adventurer, our floating home).

I hope you’ll come back to read more. And please pass the link to this blog to anyway you think would enjoying reading it. Thanks!

Shelley

Me, aboard the Sea Adventurer, with a massie glacier in the background. Our wonderful ship's captain took us down some of the most incredible fjords in Greenland.

Me, aboard the Sea Adventurer, with a massie glacier in the background. Our wonderful ship’s captain took us down some of the most incredible fjords in Greenland.

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: 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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Arctic Expedition 2014: our expedition route

"Not all those who wander are lost..."

“Not all those who wander are lost…”

Our adventure will begin in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, where 86 high school students and 46 educators and staff will meet for a few days of orientation and getting to know each other. After touring around our Nation’s capital  and enjoying our introductions, we’ll hop on a charter flight headed to Kuujjuaq, in northern Quebec. Kuujjuaq is on the coast of Ungava Bay and this is where we will board our icebreaker for our 11 day adventure. The map below shows our planned expedition route although that’s subject to change depending on weather and a whole lot of other factors. But that’s half the adventure, wondering what’s going to happen next!

Our planned expedition route that will take us to the coast of Labrador and Greenland.

Our planned expedition route that will take us to the coast of Labrador and Greenland.

Below is an outline of our itinerary. For more details, visit the Students On Ice expedition website:

July 9 – students and staff meet in Ottawa for orientation and introductions and team building exercises

July 12 – fly to Kuujjuag to board our icebreaker

July 13 – Explore Button Islands, Nunavut

July 14 – Arrive in Torngat Mountains National Park

July 15 – Saglek Fiord, Torngat Base Camp & Research Station

July 16 – explore Naffak Brook & Rose Island as well as experience a polar dip in the icy arctic waters

July 17 – Crossing the Davis Straight to Greenland

July 18 – A visit to the town of Nanortalik, Greenland

July 19 – exploring Tasermiut / Prins Christian Sund Fiords 

July 20 – exploring the area and wildlife of the Paamiut Area, Arsuk

July 21 – exploring Nuuk, Greenland’s capital and oldest city

July 22 – exploring the fjords of Kangerlussuatsiaq Evighedsfjorden

July 23 – time to head back to Ottawa from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland

July 24 – Our end-of-expedition celebration in Ottawa

It’s an absolutely packed itinerary that promises plenty of adventure. I really look forward to sharing my adventures with you through photos and stories on  my blog posts. So keep checking back here for updates. And to get a better idea of what the expedition is like, click HERE to see an overview of the Students On Ice 2013 arctic expedition.

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