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Students on ice headed for Antarctica

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 1, 2008

AUSUITTUQ/GRISE FIORD - Two young men from Grise Fiord will spend their Christmas holidays clear on the other side of the globe.

Grade 11 students Terry Noah and Jason Qaapik will travel to Antarctica for a two-week educational expedition as part of Students on Ice.

They're the first Ausuitturmiut to take part in the program.

"I wanted to go to the bottom of the world, the other side, and see how different it is from here," Noah said.

The pair will depart around Dec. 23 and return around Jan. 12. The trip, which is part of International Polar Year, will be an opportunity for both to learn about things like glaciology and oceanography, according to Ummimak school teacher Cara Cormier.

"It's an expedition to the South Pole for two weeks with 60 other students from about 14 different countries," she said.

"They'll be taking some courses, taking some sampling, living on a ship with jobs and responsibilities. It will really show them what the South Pole is like."

The biggest challenge will be simply the travel necessary to make it to the land of penguins, according to Noah and Qaapik.

The boys, who will both be travelling outside of Canada for the first time, will land in a total of three continents, and travel more than 18,000 kms.

After leaving Grise Fiord for Ottawa, they will have layovers in Miami, Florida, and Argentina.

While aboard the vessel, Noah and Qaapik will also be expected to lecture on their knowledge of things such as climate change.

From their vantage point in the Arctic, they already have firsthand knowledge of its effects. Early storms and more animals are just a couple of the things the students said they have noticed.

The trip is made possible in part by the late Fritz Koerner, a well-known glaciologist who visited Grise Fiord every year for more than a decade. He helped apply for funding to have two Ummimak students take part in the expedition, according to Cormier.

Upon their return, Noah and Qaapik will share their newly-acquired knowledge with fellow students and people in the community.

As for their other pressing travel preparations, the boys said they will definitely be filling up their iPods.

"Maybe some heavy metal," Qaapik said.