Silas Jones, a 16-year-old biology enthusiast from St. John’s, was recently the recipient of a $10,000 scholarship from the provincial Department of Fisheries and Agriculture to travel to the Arctic this summer with the Canadian organization Students On Ice.
The trip, which will span July 14-28, is scheduled to begin with a short stop in Ottawa before participants fly to Southwest Greenland, board a ship, and sail to the eastern arctic.
“The main goal (of Students on Ice) is to inspire students to think more about the world around them and about protecting the environment, and also about enjoying the world around them,” Silas said.
Silas says he’s wanted to work as a marine biologist for as long as he can remember, although he has recently acknowledged the possibility of working in some other subfield of biology. He plans to pursue his studies in the field at MUN after he graduates from high school next year.
His interest in aquatic life is not limited to the classroom. Silas started scuba diving at 13 and is working at Ocean Quest dive shop this summer, where he escorts tours diving the four Bell Island wrecks and swimming with the whales.
“I’m currently certified in advanced open water,” Silas said.
“I’ve only ever done diving in Newfoundland, but Newfoundland has a very interesting submarine environment, I have to say. It is very odd, and strangely beautiful,” he said.
“Well, when you see coral reefs and stuff (elsewhere), they’re all super colorful and there’s thousands of fish. In Newfoundland, the main dominating colours down there are kind of greyish blue and dark brownish red. The seaweed and stuff usually varies from orange to brownish red. There are usually schools of connors, these small sea perch-like fish, and depending on where you go it’s all different.”
Ocean Quest is letting him off the hook for a couple of weeks to take advantage of this exceptional opportunity, for which he is currently hunting down Arctic gear — hard to find, at this time of year, given that most places pack away their winter-appropriate clothing in summer months.
According to the Students on Ice website, the trip “will involve 70 international high school students, 14-18 years old, a team of 35 world-class scientists, historians, artists, explorers, educators, innovators and polar experts, and 30 public- and private-sector leaders.”
Silas said as the students travel across the Arctic, they will be doing research with scientists, artists and musicians.
“I’m not really scared about anything, but I don’t know what I’m most excited about,” Silas said.
“I’d have to say that working with scientists, and other people who share my interests is very exciting. And the whole adventure aspect of it all is fantastic, too.”
For Silas, July 14th can’t come soon enough.
Students on Ice said there are also five other students from Newfoundland and Labrador going on the trip — Neria Aylward, Erin Gear, Samantha Groves, Camille Thistle and Sarah Veber, as well as a number of others from across the globe.