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SOI Educator Q&A with Grant Redvers

Grant Redvers is an environmental scientist and sailor, he’s been on numerous Arctic and Antarctic expeditions, even spending nearly two years locked in the Arctic ice to study climate change. He’s the captain on SOI’s expedition ship, the Arctic Tern 1, and we’re thrilled that this summer he’ll be on the Arctic 2015 expedition!


How did you get involved with Students on Ice?

I first met Geoff when we were both giving presentations at the opening of Jardin des Glaciers in Baie-Commeau, Quebec. My wife Pascale (who is also on the trip with us this year) had worked with Geoff on the Canadian vessel Sedna IV and on previous SOI expeditions. From that meeting I was invited to join SOI trips to Antarctica and the Arctic. Most recently Pascale and I have been running the SOI expedition sailing yacht, Arctic Tern 1, taking scientists, film-makers and students to West Greenland and Baffin Island for the past three summers.


How did you become interested in sailing?

Kind of by accident!! Long story short…I met a Welsh glaciologist through working as a scientist at Scott Base in Antarctica. He needed crew to sail from New Zealand to the Antarctic Peninsula for a research and climbing expedition, and I was crazy enough to quit my job to jump aboard his small leaky yacht. Surprisingly I wasn’t put off after six months “camping at sea” in the Southern Ocean…life aboard was pretty basic; no heater, no hot shower, just eight smelly guys on a mission! After this expedition I continued to jump from one boat to the next and before you know it I’ve been bobbing around on various research support yachts in the Polar Regions for the past 15 years!


What are some of your most memorable experiences working in the Polar Regions?

That’s always a hard question. Down south, the exhilaration (after you get past the fear!) of surfing down 10m high Southern Ocean swells on a small yacht sticks in my mind, also the diversity of wildlife. Up north a highlight has to be meeting the locals, always so many warm smiles and friendly welcomes when we visit communities in the north.

Photo provided by Grant Redvers

Photo provided by Grant Redvers


What are some of your most memorable SOI experiences?

Again, too numerous to list everything…from seeing the power and beauty of breaching whales and calving glaciers in Antarctica, to Inuit drum dancing, throat singing and cooking fresh-caught Arctic Char on the beach in the North. Seeing Geoff’s final night performance talents would also have to be up there in terms of memorable SOI moments!!


Tell me a bit about the Tara Arctic expedition, and what it was like living on a ship in the Arctic for almost two years?

The Tara Arctic expedition was a dream come true for me. It allowed me to be involved in a large multi-national climate research program as part of the International Polar Year, and also live a fantastic adventure reminiscent of the early days of polar exploration.

We sailed north as far as the sea ice would allow off the coast of eastern Siberia, tied up to an ice floe and waited for the winter freeze to lock us in. We then drifted across the Arctic Ocean to be spat out of the ice a couple of years later on the east coast of Greenland. It was a lot of hard work and certainly not all fun and games, but overall it was an amazing research expedition to be a part of, and an awesome personal voyage of discovery.


Do you have any advice for students who are interested in sailing and/or expeditionary sciences but don’t know where to start?

One of the key things I’ve learned by being involved in science support in the Polar Regions over many years is that it’s essential to have a diverse skill-set. You don’t necessarily need to be the best at one thing, but if you can do a bunch of things well, and get on with people in isolation for long periods, often in challenging confined conditions, then you could be cut out for a life at sea! Or you could just do what I did and hitch a ride on a leaky boat sailing south…the rest should fall into place!!


Do you have any upcoming expeditions that you’re currently planning?

Pascale and I are currently living in New Zealand and we’re always scheming and dreaming about the next adventure. There are a few pots on the fire!

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