Off to the Arctic onboard sailing vessel Arctic Tern I

by Pascale Otis
– biologist, photographer, videographer and first mate of Arctic Tern I


The funny thing is that when someone asks me what my job is, I truly don’t know what to say anymore. I’ve given up on trying to explain that I’m an animal physiologist specialized in cold adaptations in polar birds, but I don’t work in the field anymore because I happen to be the first mate onboard a sailboat my husband and I run in the Arctic… when we’re not in New Zealand making kids’ movies. Do you now see why I avoid answering the dreaded “What kind of work do you do” question?


So lets keep it simple and just say I spend half of my time sailing up North. Sailing vessel Arctic Tern I is a proven polar voyager, with a steel hull, retractable centerboard and all the necessary equipment conforming to an ocean-going expedition yacht. She serves a safe, cost-effective and versatile platform for polar research, education, inspiration and action. In 2012 and 2013, we left Gananoque Ontario, and made our way up North. This is where the true adventures began.

Kieran with TBMU (small)   © Students on Ice - photographing Orca

While managing science, outreach and media objectives, we got to meet amazing people along the way, which is a real privilege and highlight of every trip. For example, we’ve had a film crew from Al Jazeera TV doing a story on climate change, scientists taking samples from places that have never been studied before, WWF representatives visiting isolated communities, and we’ve even climbed cliffs to attach geolocator tags on birds!

In bad weather, the ugly side of Mother Nature is truly awful in the Arctic. But on a sunny day, there is no other place on Earth I’d rather be; there is always something stunning to look at and the scenery is constantly unfolding around us as we sail through the icy waters onboard Arctic Tern I. Our film, “Anchors Aweigh in the Arctic”, takes you on an incredible journey to the far North. You might even discover that, whatever my “job” is, it is definitely NOT boring!!!

To learn more about Arctic Tern I visit


Explore the Arctic at Winterlude!
January 31-February 17, 2014

Look for the video Anchors Aweigh in the Arctic in the back of the RBC Blue Water Gallery on the big screens—during Winterlude only! Duration: 10 minutes. Cost: Included with museum admission.

Also during Winterlude, make your way to Confederation Park and enjoy a photo exhibit titled “Explore our Arctic Here”. This is a display of incredible Arctic images and information regarding Students on Ice expeditions, research on board Arctic Tern I and SOI’s many partnerships to research and better understand the changing Arctic and its effects on biodiversity.

SOI Winterlude 2014

This exhibit was developed in partnership with the Canadian Museum of Nature, WWF-Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Canada Goose, Parks Canada and First Air.

Photo credits for “Explore our Arctic Here”:  Lee Narraway, Martin Lipman, Pascale Otis and Thorsten Milse.



Students on Ice is proudly supported by bv02.

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