In January 2008, while scouting for possible landing sites for the Students on Ice Antarctic 2007 expedition, Geoff Green and Dr. Roy “Fritz” Koerner found themselves on an unnamed pillow icecap in Antarctica’s Wauwerman Islands.
Fritz thought the icecap was like a microcosm for the Antarctic ice sheet, and he felt collecting data from it could help us better understand the changes happening in Antarctica. The icecap was also easy and safe to access thanks to rocky outcroppings near the shoreline, and it was near other landing sites that SOI frequently visits. It was the perfect spot to undertake a study.
So a proposal was made during the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007 – 2008 for two young Inuit from the Canadian Arctic to join the following Students on Ice Antarctic expedition and begin monitoring and observing the icecap, which would continue each year, undertaken by students and overseen by climate scientists.
The international IPY Secretariat accepted the project, and although Fritz did learn of its acceptance, he never got to see the project come to fruition, as he passed away later in 2008.
Fritz left behind a rich legacy of extraordinary scientific contributions and exploration. He frequently studied a glacier near the northern Inuit community of Grise Fiord, and he became well known there for taking the time to engage with the community, informing members about his research, and even bringing people with him onto the nearby glacier to assist. This kind of community engagement was uncommon during this time, and the hamlet appreciated it so much they gave him an Inuit name, Immirqutaillaq, which means Arctic Tern, a bird that flies between the Arctic and Antarctic.