While most people were enjoying the hotter than normal summer weather, some young people from Labrador were in a cooler climate, as members of the Students on Ice expedition from July 23 to Aug. 7.
Petshish Jack, 24, from Sheshatshiu, Labrador, a recent Travel and Tourism graduate from Algonquin College, says the Students on Ice experience was interesting and fun.
“It was definitely an eye opener to see the different cultures, homes and languages,” Jack said.
“What I enjoyed the most was being able to see all the wildlife and landscapes. The mountain, and fjords were amazing and I was able to see animals such as polar bears, whales and seals.”
Students on Ice, which started in 2000, is an immersive educational program that takes students through western Greenland and the Canadian High Arctic with a team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scientists, artists, elders and leaders.
The 2018 program focused on climate change adaptation, ocean literacy, sustainable development goals and truth and reconciliation with a goal of creating understanding and connections between youth from around the world.
This year’s expedition included 130 students and over 80 staff from 20 countries worldwide.
Onboard were nine students from Newfoundland and Labrador: Trevor Dicker and Sydney Dicker from Nain, Denver Edmunds from Hopedale, Danika Mitchell from Makkovik, Petshish Jack from Sheshatshiu, Ocean Pottle-Shiwak from Rigolet, Adena Peters and Polina Konstantinova from St. John's and Brady Reid from Corner Brook.
Reid, 23, who is working on his MA in Environmental Policy at MUN’s Grenfell Campus, was with Students on Ice as part of his summer position with Parks Canada’s Northern Engagement team. He says the expedition was a great match for his research goals.
“My thesis is about what Indigenous knowledge looks like in environmental policy,” Reid said. “A big part of the Students on Ice program is reconciliation and indigenous knowledge. I learned so much from the elders.
“It was a really cool to be able to take what I have been learning through my research and see it in the real world, in a place like the Arctic.”
The expedition ran into some complications with sea ice that prevented them from being able to explore as much of Canada’s High Arctic as they intended. That led to them having to alter their plans and return to Greenland rather than flying out of Resolute Bay.
Reid’s first sight of a glacier had a profound effect on him.
“Looking up at this glacier, it was just was so immense. I spent 10 or 15 minutes just looking at it, thinking about that amount of ice and thinking of it melting,” Reid said. “Climate change became real when I saw how massive that ice was and to think of it receding.”
For Denver Edmonds, 17, a student at Amos Comenius Memorial School in Hopedale, a personal connection to the effects of climate change came in a workshop aboard the ship.
“I think my favourite workshop was the one about climate change,” Edmonds said. “I got to hear about how someone couldn’t go seal hunting because of the bad ice, and how it affected people going off on skidoos and boats. And things like having a late spring and early fall and stuff like that. It was just kind of interesting to hear about how the climate changed over the years.”
Whether they were learning through workshops or by spending time in the natural environment, the students had a lot of fun. And they would encourage others to try the Students on Ice program.
“I would definitely recommend the Students on Ice program to students who really enjoy learning new things and visiting new places,” Jack said.
“I liked going to the little communities, and seeing the high mountains, and seeing glaciers for the first time and I liked taking pictures,” Edmonds said. “I loved the whole trip. I’ve already told all of my friends to apply.”