Remembering Dr. Fred Roots, O.C.

Dr. Fred Roots, O.C.
5 July 1923 – 18 October 2016

Dear SOI community,

As SOI alumni and friends, we can each identify with the depth of connections and relationships that are made through our shared expedition experiences. We become a family on each expedition and an even bigger family as we stitch together 35+ expeditions over the past 17 years of SOI history.

So it is, as with the passing of a loved family member, that I share the very sad news that the great Dr. Fred Roots has died.  Diz and I learned the news Friday evening at our home through a call from Fred’s youngest of five children, Robin.  At the age of 93, Fred passed away unexpectedly and peacefully at his home beside the ocean in East Sooke, British Columbia.

As most of you know, Fred‘s legacy is enormous and quite impossible to sum up in words.  He was a loving husband, father and grandfather.  A mentor and inspiration to many.  A true scientist and explorer. A founder father of Students on Ice, continuing his advisory and mentorship role right up to our most recent Arctic expedition.  From Pole to Pole, he has touched so many lives, organizations, planetary processes, treaties, agreements, discoveries, and he truly made Canada and the World a better place.

On March 12, 2016, Fred was awarded The Explorers Club’s highest award, The Explorers Club Medal at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, where he received two standing ovations.  It was a most fitting testament and tribute which Fred accepted, as always, with humility and grace. Fred was not an award-seeker, quite the contrary, but over the course of his life he received many national and international awards and recognitions, including the Order of Canada. This short video was put together last year as an attempt to capture some of Fred’s life work and the quiet grace in which he went about his legendary efforts to build a better understanding of our planet and the relationship we, as humans, have with it.  Click on the image below to watch the video.

Fred‘s passing feels like the end of an era. It is still hard to believe he won’t be with us on another SOI expedition, or be there to mentor us, answer questions, and provide his contagious optimism and passion for knowledge, science and making a difference. He was someone quite remarkable, filled with integrity, intellect, and he is absolutely irreplaceable. Born on July 5, 1923, Fred‘s life story is legendary and inspiring. We all feel blessed in so many ways to have had the amazing fortune to have Fred Roots in our lives.  I know if he was reading this right now, he would say something like, “Get over Green. We all die eventually. Now get back to work and stop wasting your time worrying about old man Roots!”

The following Obituary will appear this week in the Ottawa Citizen, Globe & Mail, and National Post:

Dr. Ernest Frederick Roots, O.C., born in Salmon Arm, BC, died peacefully at home in East Sooke on Tuesday 18 October 2016.
Dr. Roots was a geologist who made significant contributions to polar science and international environmental research and policy.
He is survived by his wife June Blomfield and his daughters Fran (Gareth Richards), Hannah (Gordin Warner), Jane (Neil Ward) and Robin (Ron Johnson), daughter-in-law Mary Ann Annable, and grandchildren Matthew, Logan, Galena, Mitchell and Grantley.
He was predeceased by his son Charlie.
A tribute to his life will be held at a later date.

We will share plans for this Tribute for Fred once plans are made – an event that will allow friends and colleagues, including those from the scientific, government, international, and SOI communities to celebrate Fred. For now, Fred’s family are grieving privately.

We would like to start to compile stories, photographs, and tributes of Fred from SOI alumni that we can share with his family.  Kindly forward these to over the coming days/ weeks.

For those of us who had the honour of sharing an expedition with Fred to the Arctic or Antarctica over the years, you will recall a poem that he would always recite from memory at one point on every expedition.  Below is the 1939 poem by Berton Braley, Shoot the Works.

In loving memory of Fred,
Geoff, Diz, Fletcher, Nellie and the SOI team








“Shoot the Works” by Berton Braley

Q&A Fred Roots: Canada’s ‘greatest living explorer’
Blair Crawford, Ottawa Citizen
August 13, 2016

The Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition, 1949-52
Science News, 1953, No. 26, pp. 9-32.
by ROOTS, E. F.

Antarctica : background information.
by Roots, E. F., Canadian Polar Commission, Antarctic Sciences Workshop (1993)
[S.l.] : the Commission, 1993.
Location: NCR Library / Bibliothèque de RCN
Call number: TD 171.5.A6 A57

Basic science and its relation to Arctic marine engineering
by Roots, E. F.

Canada and polar science / W.P. Adams … [et al.].
by Adams, W. Peter (William Peter), 1936-, Burnet, P. F, Gordon, M. R, Roots, E. F., Northern Affairs Program (Canada). Circumpolar & Scientific Affairs Directorate
Ottawa : Circumpolar and Scientific Affairs Directorate, Dept. of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1987.
Location: Yellowknife Library
Call number: G 587 C3613 1987

Cooperation in arctic science : background and prospects
by Roots, E. F.
Stockholm : Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1988
Location: Saskatoon Library
Call number: Q 180 A67

Lancaster Sound : issues and responsibilities : Environmental Science Workshop for the Lancaster Sound region : Kananaskis, Alberta, 6-8 November 1979 / edited by E.F. Roots.
by Roots, E. F., Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, Environmental Science Workshop for the Lancaster Sound Region (1979 : Kananaskis, Alberta)
Ottawa : Canadian Arctic Resources Committee, 1980.
Location: Yellowknife Library
Call number: QH 541.5.P6 L35 1980

The role of science in environmental impact assessment : workshop proceedings / E. Fred Roots … [et al.] ; edited by Eric Higgs, Mary Richardson, Rick Riewe.
by Higgs, Eric Stowe, 1958-, Richardson, Mary, 1946-, Riewe, R. R. (Roderick R.), Roots, E. F., Canadian Circumpolar Institute, Athabasca University
Athabasca, Alta. : published jointly by Athabasca University ; Edmonton : Canadian Circumpolar Institute, c1994.
Location: Yellowknife Library
Call number: TD 194.6 R64 1994

Transformation of northern ecosystems under stress : Arctic ecological changes from the perspective of ecosystem health / David J. Rapport, Mikael Hildén, E.F. Roots.
by Rapport, David, Hildén, Mikael., Roots, E. F., University of Guelph. Eco-Research Chair in Ecosystem Health
Guelph, Ont. : University of Guelph, [1997].
Location: Burlington Library
Call number: QH 541.15 E265 D57 no.16


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