18 September 2019
A keen geographer since discovering cold environments for the first time in Year 9, Anna was thrilled to be able to expand and enrich her knowledge, and this trip proved to be the ideal vessel for it. Along with 131 other school and university students from around the world, she travelled to the Arctic via Ottawa, Greenland and many other astonishing locations around the Arctic Circle.
Anna’s group began in Ottawa, flying to Kangerlussuaq in Greenland to set sail for the fjords and islands along the country’s west coast, and then crossing the Davis Strait. Anna said of the journey aboard the Ocean Endeavour, “Words cannot do justice to the immensely beautiful landscapes surrounding us,” when sailing down Sonderstrom Fjord.
Visits to one-of-a-kind features such as Pikialasorsuaq, the North Water Polynya or ‘The Great Upwelling’ provided glimpses into parts of the world which are seldom seen by those who don’t live there. Discussions, debates and workshops on the ship also added an important sense of engagement with the people as well as the landscapes the group were visiting. Anna recalled a panel discussion called ‘Arctic Hours’: “I chose to attend the session on the culture of the Sami people and their deep connection with reindeer herding. Several of the Sami students were involved and hearing about the challenges that they face both politically and in the face of global warming was really eye-opening.”
Meeting some of the different communities of the Arctic made a deep impression on Anna, both on board ship and on coastal visits: “I have met so many First Nations and Inuit students and staff, all of whom have been delighted to talk about their histories, cultures and daily lives and it has been so interesting to hear about the Arctic from people who know it so intimately.”
She also said of a visit to Coutts Inlet on Baffin Island: “It was so special to witness the joy of the Parks Canada Inuit as they returned to their former homeland, and I learned so much about their resilience and resourcefulness in living off the land.”
Anna’s love of geography and interest in the environment have been richly expanded by her travels. Her experiences are already clearly benefitting her as she moves forwards in her A-level studies – her recent EPQ presentation topic was ‘How does the geographic mapping of data inform our perception of a place?. She also has a clear sense of where her knowledge can take her in the future: “I applied for Students on Ice because it is an incredible opportunity to experience these places in real life. I felt so privileged to be there and I’ve developed a better understanding of the Arctic, which I hope to use in the future to promote positive change.”