One Fort Smith high schooler will be trading part of his sunny summer in the South Slave for a two-week expedition in the High Arctic this week.
Shawn Tourangeau, 17, was selected as one of 111 students from 18 countries to participate in this summer’s Students on Ice expedition, an educational nautical journey through the Canadian North and Greenland.
“I always wanted to go to different places and experience different parts of the world,” Tourangeau said. “I always wanted to go higher up North and see what it’s like up there and just learn about the environment and the ecosystems and everything that’s going on with the Arctic and climate change. I like to know what’s going on in the world.”
Recent high school graduate Goliah Makletzoff Cazon of Yellowknife was also selected to attend this summer’s adventure.
“Growing up in the NWT and the Yukon, my parents granted me every opportunity to be on the land learning new things. The wilderness was where I thrived, and I have become an outdoor enthusiast,” reads a statement from Cazon. “My goal is to pursue a career in outdoor guiding to be able to provide other people similar opportunities and experiences on the land. I’m excited to learn more about the Arctic and meet new people to share this experience with.”
The duo started started their journey on July 26, leaving home to fly to Ottawa to meet and train with their fellow explorers before going all-aboard the ship.
Over the next two weeks, the group will check out the communities, coasts and fjords of western Greenland before crossing the Davis Strait to Canada’s High Arctic. From there, they will explore the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage, taking time to visit Pond Inlet, Sirmilik National Park and Beechey Island.
“I think that’s really exciting,” Tourangeau said. “You hear about all these explorers who have tried to go through there and it’s like, I might be going through some of that!”
In addition to the multicultural group of students – 30 per cent of whom identify as indigenous – Tourangeau will get the chance to work with a group of 80 educators, scientists, artists, Inuit leaders and polar explorers. The list includes Dr. Fred Roots, scientists Paul Sokoloff and Kieran Shepherd of the Canadian Museum of Nature, Inuit leader Mary Simon, polar adventurers Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry, singer/songwriter Sarah Harmer, Inuk artist Jolly Atagooyuk, author James Raffan and polar experts Dr. Bianca Perren and Dr. Don Walsh.
In between workshops and discussions on Arctic history, climate change, policy and governance, the group expects to experience encounters with wildlife while taking cruises on Zodiac crafts among icebergs and floes. They will have the opportunity to explore the Ilulissat Icefjord UNESCO World Heritage site, otherwise known as the “iceberg factory,” and will build their own traditional Inuit qajaqs (kayaks), which they will get to test out in the Northwest Passage.
It costs a pretty penny to partake in the journey, but luckily for Tourangeau, Parks Canada – a partner of Students on Ice and his current employer – supplied him with a full scholarship.
Over the past 15 years, Students on Ice has taken more than 2,500 students to the polar regions of the world. The organization’s goal is to foster a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, ecological diversity and changes facing these regions, creating an army of youth ambassadors to share the stories of the Arctic and Antarctic environments.
“I don’t think there are a lot of things that are known about higher up North,” Tourangeau said. “I want to go up there, experience it for myself and see what’s actually going on, come back and share my experiences with people.”