Now that the SOI Antarctic 2014 expedition has drawn to a close, it’s time to draw our educator Q&A to a close. Last but not least we have Trevor Taylor. He’s been part of the SOI family since 2010 in multiple capacities, from driving zodiac, to lecturing on fisheries and politics.
How did you get involved with Students on Ice?
I got involved in SOI back in early 2010. I had become aware of the expeditions and aware that there were very few students from Newfoundland and Labrador participating. I contacted Geoff, whom I had not met at that time and said “I have some experience running around on boats and if I can be of use to you I would gladly like to go along on an expedition as a zodiac driver, do some presentations on fisheries and conservation challenges, and on politics, governance and political engagement. I also suggested that if he wanted I would help in trying to identify sponsorship funding from government, corporate and other sources in Newfoundland and Labrador. He said ok! And here I am, five expeditions later!
What makes Antarctica and the Southern Ocean interesting to you?
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean have much the same appeal on one level for me as the Arctic. Growing up in northern Newfoundland and Labrador, in a sub-arctic environment, with northern pack ice a yearly occurrence I always felt a strong connection to the polar regions. Newfoundland captains, sailors and ships have long been used in support of polar exploration, the most famous being Robert Peary’s Ice Master, Captain Bob Bartlett, from Brigus, Newfoundland, so the awareness was something I grew up with. Most young outport boys of my generation, and many girls imitated the seal hunters that were common then, by jumping from ice flow to ice flow in the spring of the year when the pack ice passed by our coast. The Arctic always felt to me to be next door and by extension Antarctica represented something sort of similar a world away.
What are some of your favourite SOI memories?
When we arrived at Elephant Island on the 2010 Antarctica expedition Geoff asked what did I think. I said it is all gravy after this, if I don’t see anything else or do anything other than visit the place where Shackleton landed and subsequently rescued his men, the trip would have been all worth it. It is an amazing place, at the foot of a glacier, at the edge of one of the nastiest seas in the world, 800 miles west of nowhere, South Georgia Island; Point Wilde, Shackleton and his crew are a testament to the power of the human spirit to overcome in the face of extreme adversity. It is an inspiring place.
Running zodiacs through the icebergs of Disko Bay, west Greenland; watching polar bears wake up on the pack ice of Cumberland Sound, Nunavut, Canada; and showing students who have never been to sea how to drive a zodiac are some of images I will never forget.
How do you take your experience in politics and managing fisheries and incorporate it into the SOI education program?
When many people think of oceans and the environmental protection they often think of oil and gas development, oil spills, the impacts of shipping on the environment particularly in the polar regions. I like to suggest they think and talk about the sexier issues. Rare is the discussion about or the awareness of the impact of fisheries on the world’s oceans. I try to talk about my experience in the fishery in eastern Canada, the challenges of fisheries management, the socio-economic pressures that often make fisheries management decisions less than ideal sometimes. Often people associate big with bad, and in some cases people have a somewhat romantic view of how the small boat individual fisherman works in harmony with the ecosystem. For every generalization there are a platitude of exception. I have seen many of them.
I am a political junky so I try to get students involved in political discussions. They are too young to be getting cynical though many are. They have plenty of time to become cynical by the time they are my age! Now is the time of their life to believe they can change things and each in his/her own way will. You only truly fail when you fail to try.
How do you hope Canada’s role in Antarctica will evolve and change in the coming years?
As an Arctic coastal state Canada has much to offer in both polar regions. While the discussion of late in Canada has very much focused on the economic development side of the equation I hope Canada regains its focus on Arctic environmental protection and in so doing becomes one of the international leaders in polar affairs.