SOI Arctic 2016: Guest blog by Dr. Fred Roots

Here we go !!

Fred Roots_Arctic 2015 (c) Lee NarrawaySo,  it’s become  a reality!   After all the weeks –and years – of preparation and anticipation, and after all the real support and moral support and warnings and good wishes, nearly 200 of us have assembled in Ottawa from more than a dozen countries in three hemispheres to form, almost instantly, a family to travel together to a distinctive part of the planet.   The part of the planet we are going to is familiar to a few of us but utterly new to most of us ,– and our purpose is to observe, to ask questions of one another, to learn, not only from each other but to learn from the surroundings, from the people and plants and the animals who are there;– and to relate what questions we ask, and what we learn, back to ourselves, to our own past and present and to our future.    This is a tremendous task, and it won’t be easy—it will be no leisure trip–; but it is a tremendous opportunity, and all sorts of people and all sorts of technologies are helping to make it a success.   Tomorrow we head north!!

We have had a wonderful send-off.   Yesterday, the Prime Minister himself dropped in  (how many people from thirteen countries can say that, simply, and have it true?) not just to wish us a good voyage but to throw us a real challenge to make ourselves deeply aware of the world and take responsibility for it, from politics, to wildlife and all living things, to changing climate and the state of the oceans.   We each, and all, took that challenge seriously, and we won’t let it go;– not on this trip, and not in all our studies and actions ahead.

And today, we had the perfect background to our trip.   At the Canadian Museum of Nature, wonderfully displayed and enthusiastically explained by the curators, the collections of animals, plants, rocks and fossils, from the DNA in our own chromosomes to the remains of giant reptiles now found in the Arctic but who lived in warm seas when those lands were in the sub-tropics, showed us how all things are connected, and how all are always changing, at different time scales and different space scales.   This, too, brought home to us how we all are part of Nature, and how we are part of the changes, and how what we do affects the changes in the whole world.

The smooth but complicated send-off  shows that SOI is an experienced but very worthwhile event, and we are fortunate to be part of it.   When in 1999 Geoff Green came to a meeting of the Canadian Committee on Antarctic Research and asked whether a group of Canadian polar scientists would be willing to accompany high school students to learn about Antarctica, and the answer was “YES!”, and the

Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs said that this was a good idea, an idea was launched.   Sixteen expeditions and 3000 students later, here we come!

 – Dr. Fred Roots, O.C.
   Polar scientist, explorer & founding member of the Students on Ice Foundation

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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.