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    Students on board

    Herb Mathisen
    Northern News Services
    Published Monday, August 18, 2008

    IQALUIT - Travel in the North is fraught with unpredictability and this is not lost on the Students on Ice's 2008 Arctic Expedition director of education.

    He told the 65 Northern, Canadian and international students who will be part of this year's tour of the North, "flexibility is the key," when talking about their itinerary.

    The collection of 107 students, educators, artists, chaperones and dignitaries set out from Iqaluit Aug. 4 to begin a two-week Arctic expedition that would take them around south-eastern Baffin Island, up the Davis Strait past Qikiqtarjuaq, and then down to the north coast of Nunavik.

    Their aim is to observe the impacts of climate change in the Arctic and how it is affecting its people.

    Nunavut commissioner Ann Meekitjuk Hanson greeted the expedition in the legislative assembly Aug. 4 and spoke in lieu of Iqaluit mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik, who was stuck in Yellowknife due to bad weather.

    "Welcome to Northern travel where we're usually delayed or cancelled altogether," she said.

    Meekitjuk Hanson, who joined the expedition, gave a brief history of the territory and its people to the assembled visitors.

    Students On Ice director of education Tim Straka said this was the 18th expedition the organization has operated in the Arctic or Antarctic since it was founded in 1999 by Geoff Green.

    "We want to open peoples' eyes to the natural world," said Straka, adding daily lectures from various scientists and experts on the boat will be available to students over the course of the trip.

    This will include teachings on geography, flora, fauna, Nunavut history and traditional Inuit knowledge. As well, workshops will be given on such subjects as botany and various other arts, while also giving students the chance to go out in Zodiacs to do things like plankton tows.

    "The perspective we offer students, by going to remote locations, can really transform them if they are open to it," said Straka.

    "We want this experience to be relevant to their lives at home.

    "We want them to become ambassadors," he said, adding that many former students have gone on to organize climate change conferences or become vocal advocates for the cause.

    Twenty-two students from the North will be part of the trip, which will connect southern and Northern students.

    Journals written by students have been posted on the group's website.

    Stan Suvissak, from Kugaruuk, wrote on Aug. 5: "I can't wait to see Pangnirtung."

    He continued, "I hope to make new friends and learn a lot of things and teach other people to play Inuit games and tell a little bit of Inuit stories."

    Students from nine different countries are members of the expedition.

    Michaela Lurger, 17, from Austria, earned a spot on the expedition by winning a school competition of projects about the Arctic.

    "I hope to change my attitude with the environment," she said.

    She was also excited with the personal aspects afforded her from the experience.

    "I look forward to meeting new lovely people and new friends," she said.

    Nora Bales, 14, from Berkeley, California, said she believed this would be a life-changing experience.

    "I want to have my views change," she said. "I want to see what's happening first hand."

    Bales, making her first trip to Canada, also had her eyes set on seeing the Northern wildlife.

    "I want to see a polar bear," she said.