On March 12, 2016, legendary explorer and one of the founding members of Students on Ice, Dr. Fred Roots, will be recognized by the historic Explorers Club in NYC with their highest award – the Explorer’s Medal. This medal is awarded for extraordinary contributions directly in the field of exploration, scientific research, or to the welfare of humanity. SOI Founder & Executive Director Geoff Green reflects on Dr. Roots’ history, character, and this well deserved honour.
Dr. Fred Roots is one of the World’s greatest living explorers, now 94 years old. He is both legendary and extraordinary, and an explorer in the greatest meanings of the term. He has been a major force in global polar, circumpolar and bipolar activities. He once gave a speech at Princeton University with Albert Einstein sitting in the front row, as his student!
The list of Fred’s contributions, achievements, roles, expeditions, discoveries are massive, including ground-breaking expeditions to the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Himalayas, the Rockies…and much more. He was a member of the famous Norwegian, British, Swedish Antarctic Expedition in 1949-1952. He still holds the record (which will never be beaten) for the longest un-supported dogsled journey in the world, a six-month scientific journey into the Antarctic interior. He has a mountain range named after him in Antarctica. He planted a Flag at the North Pole in 1969, a few decades before the Russians did it. Except that the “pole” Fred and his colleagues planted had all the flags of the United Nations on it, reflecting the true spirit of the North. He is renowned and respected worldwide as a scientist, leader, visionary, intellect, diplomat, explorer and gentleman.
Fred received his PhD in geology from Princeton University. He was senior geologist in the first international scientific study of Antarctica, the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1949-52: co-leader of Operation Franklin, the major study that established the petroleum potential of the Canadian arctic Islands in 1955; and leader of Operation Stikine 1956 and 1958, the first integrated geological study of the Canadian northern Cordillera. In 1958 he organized the Polar Continental Shelf Project and served as its coordinator until 1971. From 1968 he became involved in discussions of the environmental responsibilities of the Canadian government, which led to the organization of the Department of the Environment. In 1971 he was appointed Advisor, Environmental and Northern Programs, Department of the Energy Mines and Resources, and in 1973 he became Science Advisor to the Department of the Environment, and served in that capacity until becoming Science Advisor Emeritus in 1989, where he remained until retiring in 2003.
Fred has been very active in international and non-governmental scientific and environmental activities and researchers for decades. He was a member of the Polar Research Board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 1970-83 and subsequently on several of its technical committees. From 1979 to 1983 he was President of the International Commission on Snow and ice, served on the Science Advisory Board of the Geophysical Institute University of Alaska 1976-88 (Chairman 1980-84). He was a founder of the International Arctic Science Committee and served as its first President (1991-94) and since 1983 has been chairman of the Northern Sciences Network of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program. He is author of over 250 scientific papers and published reports on Polar, environmental and global change subjects. He helped to write the Antarctic Treaty.
His many awards include the Gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society and the Order of Canada. Fred has also been bestowed four Polar medals (Britain, Norway, Sweden, Russia), and the RCGS Massey Medal (1979).
In recent years, Fred has been an invaluable advisor, mentor, participant and founding father of the international Students on Ice expedition program. In doing so, he has continued to share his vast knowledge, passion and experience with a new generation of young explorers. At 94 years of age, he once again joined our SOI Arctic Expedition this past summer!
He is an inspiration. He is humble. He is an unsung hero. He represents what an explorer should be. He understands our Planet like very few others do or ever will. Awarding the Explorers Medal to Dr. Roots is a fitting tribute to both an Explorer’s life well lived, and to The Explorers Club itself and I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Dr. Fred Roots.
– Geoff Green, C.M.,
Founder & Executive Director of Students on Ice