PARTICIPANTS IN THE NEWS!
Green to the core: B.C. activist’s trip to Antarctica gives first-hand inspiration to do all she can for environment
By Kristen Lipscombe
Published in The (Halifax) Chronicle Herald
When Zoe Caron says she’s going green, she means it.
The 22-year-old Dalhousie alumna took 2½ months to travel by train, bus and boat from British Columbia to Antarctica. After arriving at her destination in late December, she spent 10 days witnessing the effects of climate change on the remote region’s breathtakingly beautiful landscape and diverse wildlife.
"Any decisions that I make, I just think of how I can make the least amount of impact – even if it’s really small," she said in a phone interview from Ottawa.
"In the environmental world, it’s a sin to fly, really . . . so I decided to travel over land as much as possible," said the environmental activist from Procter, B.C. "I know that me doing that didn’t save the world, but I’d like to think that by doing that it’s showing other people that it’s possible."
And it’s possibility for the planet that keeps Ms. Caron going.
She said her optimism was renewed while listening to ice chunks falling off mountain faces and seeing bare beaches that were once snowy hills and testing glaciers for carbon dioxide content. Those were just some of her adventures while visiting Antarctica’s western peninsula with international youth leadership group Students on Ice. She raised almost $10,000 to participate in the program, which promotes the outdoors as "the greatest classroom on earth."
"It was incredibly bewildering and mind-blowing and heart-stopping at all the same time," Ms. Caron, who acted as student leader on the expedition, said of the sights and sounds she experienced. "It’s the only place where I’ve ever been where I actually felt like a visitor. It felt like we didn’t belong there."
While taking in Antarctica’s awesome scenery, Ms. Caron was also inspired by lessons learned from environmental researchers she met.
"It is a thriving ecosystem and there are a lot of resources there, yet it’s the only continent in the world where there’s never been a war and where there’s this high level of international co-operation and high levels of environmental protection," she said.
The Antarctic Treaty has been signed by 46 countries with a focus "around science and peace," including no oil exploration or military action, she said.
"It basically just gave me kind of a new level of hope," Ms. Caron said.
She passes that sense of hope on to others, most recently by sharing stories and photos from her trip at a public presentation at Dalhousie University on Feb. 6. Ms. Caron graduated from the Halifax university in October with a B.Sc. in environmental science and international development.
Next on the agenda is the fall launch of her book Global Warming for Dummies, which Ms. Caron wrote with Elizabeth May, federal leader of the Green party.
"It’s all the simple questions that can be answered really easily, but people don’t know where to go to get them," Ms. Caron said of what readers can expect from the book.
She certainly seems to be an expert on the subject. Not only was she named one of the nation’s top emerging leaders in Alternatives Journal for her two years as Atlantic co-ordinator of the Sierra Youth Coalition, but she was also photographed with other environmentalists for Vanity Fair’s green issue.
Ms. May said her young co-author exemplifies the environmental leadership coming of the next generation.
"The commitment to live differently – to walk the talk and reduce greenhouse gas emissions – is very strong among a lot of young people," she said during a brief break in her schedule.
But Ms. Caron remains modest about the steps she takes to reduce her own carbon footprint and the strides she makes by encouraging others to do the same.
"Not everyone has to go out and write a book," she said. "In terms of making the shift that we all need to make, it’s just people being aware and understanding the little ways that they both create impact and how they can . . . alleviate that impact. I think it’s those little things that really help build a collective awareness," she said.
Sundance Social Studies
Teacher on Ice
February 20, 2008 – Published by
Arizona Public Schools
PEORIA, AZ – Students in Sundance Elementary social studies teacher Lori Bostick’s class followed her all over the world during the holiday break as part of their social studies assignment. The trip fulfilled Bostick’s life goal of visiting all seven continents.
Bostick was selected to lead a journey to Antarctica with 30 junior and senior high school students from across the United States. The two-week adventure was offered by the People to People (PtP) Program which partnered with Students on Ice (SOI). There were 40 students from 15 countries represented in the delegation as well.
The teacher’s Project Ideal students were involved in assisting with the planning and preparation throughout the second quarter. They researched the SOI website, and then created their own website on the Peoria Unified School District’s intranet. Each student was responsible for different legs of Bostick’s trip. They wrote questions for Bostick to answer while she was gone. The teacher taught a short mini-lesson to all Sundance seventh-graders the week before her departure.
Each day of her voyage, Bostick blogged about her experiences so that her students could follow her activities. They read about her life on an icebreaker ship for nine days and nights and her zodiac landings on the coast three times a day. The teacher shared her new knowledge about how humans can change their daily lives to maintain our planet’s sustainability. She came home with a new understanding about the powerful continent, marine and animal life, the weather, the ice, the history, the effects of global warming and the ozone depletion.
“My goal was to reach all seven continents, and now I want to use this knowledge and do some writing about my travels,” said Bostick. “I will continue to teach to share my travels with my students. But I think I want to continue to travel and reach every country in the world. Who knows? Maybe outer space next?”
She has been a leader for PtP since 1989, and has been the Area Director since 1996. In this capacity, she identifies outstanding teachers and trains them to become leaders.
The People to People Program was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who believed that ordinary citizens of different nations, if able to communicate freely, could solve differences and find a way to live in peace. In 1969, he put those beliefs into action. The PtP mission developed around firsthand experiences with other cultures.
Sub-Arctic to Antarctica
Yellowknife student travels to Southern Hemisphere;
enjoys mild weather
By Jessica Klinkenberg
February 8, 2008 – Published in The Yellowknifer
A Yellowknife student recently had the chance to see what it's like in Antarctica.
Zander Affleck was part of the Students on Ice Antarctic Expedition, and said the Dec. 23 to Jan. 6 trip was eye-opening.
Affleck is a Grade 9 student from Sir John Franklin high school. He said he and his family had decided to apply for the trip when they saw it advertised as part of International Polar Year.
The trip is geared towards educating students about Antarctica and about climate
While winter had Yellowknifers shivering in their coats, Affleck encountered a different season in Antarctica. The continent was experiencing summer.
"It was actually warmer there than it is here right now," said Affleck. "There it was around 0 C the whole time we were there. It was a lot windier there though."
Trying to describe Antarctica, Affleck struggled. He said it was nothing like Yellowknife.
"It was a whole new world," he said. "There were lots of mountains and glaciers,
But he also experienced something familiar: round-the-clock sunlight.
"It was almost 24 hours of sunlight, like here," he said.
Travelling to Antarctica involved one day of flying and then a two-day journey by boat. He spent a week offshore of Antarctica on the boat.
"Almost every day we left the boat and we went to a different spot on the peninsula," he said.
Landing on the icy continent was tricky because there were only a couple of safe places safe to dock the boat.
But once on land he saw more than he ever expected.
"I thought it would be more barren, but everywhere (we went) there were penguins and seals and all types of birds and whales."
He said the penguins stank.
"There were quite a few (of the penguins) so the smell was from all the fish that they eat," he said.
They listened to lectures from scientists about Antarctica and climate change.
The group also visited a few of the science bases on the continent.
"We went to an Argentine base … there had actually been some kids that had been born there that had never really left," he said.
Affleck found out that he was going on the trip last minute and his family helped to pay for the trip, he said.
Students from across the world were on the boat, he said.
He was prepared with his winter gear from the North, unlike some of the students on the trip.
"For lots of the people who lived in more southern places they'd never seen snow before."
Affleck said he would like to visit Antarctica again and said he would be willing to work at one of the bases.
Christmas near the South Pole
By Dez Loreen
February 7, 2008 – Published by
Northern News Services
Student Alex Groepper was chosen to take part in a scientific expedition to Antarctica. He spent the Christmas holiday on the continent and returned in early January.
INUVIK – The Christmas holiday was very different for Alex Groepper this past year.
He spent it learning about climate change in Antarctica.
Groepper, a high school student at Samuel Hearne, was part of the Students On Ice program, which educates youth about the effects of climate change and exploration in remote regions.
The 17 year-old said he first heard of the trip through his guidance counsellor at the school.
Groepper is scheduled to take part in a summer activity with the Students On Ice program as well.
"I went on their website to learn more about them and found out about the Antarctica trip," he said.
"I was interested in it and got more information on it."
He left Inuvik on Dec. 21 and arrived in Ontario on Christmas Day.
"I was expecting the flights to be quiet, because it was Christmas Day, but the airports were still packed," he said.
Continuing his trip south, Groepper had a few more flights to catch before reaching his destination.
"From Toronto, we went through to Chicago, then on to Buenos Aires," he said.
After a few more days of travelling, Groepper said he arrived at the southernmost city in Argentina, where he met up with the rest of the crew and other students from around the world.
"There were students from Mexico and a lot from the United States," he said.
"We packed all our stuff onto the ship we would take to the continent of Antarctica."
Groepper said all the travelling to that point was a bit different for him.
"The farthest south I'd been before that was Detroit, but we drove there," he said.
"It was something else, travelling to a different hemisphere."
Groepper and the rest of the group boarded a ship that took them across the ocean on a two-day ride.
It was during the trip across the ocean that the group passed through Drake's passage, where three oceans combine.
"It was pretty rough for a while," he said.
"A lot of kids got really sea sick."
Upon landing on the actual continent, he said a nesting area for penguins was near their point of arrival.
"I'd never seen anything like that before," he said.
"It was amazing."
It was summertime in Antarctica, which meant the weather was around 0 to -10 C.
"I brought the clothes I wear here at home," he said.
On the final day on the continent, Groepper and the crew were able to sit and spend some time on a piece of glacial ice that was stuck in the ground.
Groepper said it was the first holiday season he spent without his family.
"It was the first time being away, but it wasn't weird or anything," he said.
Back from Antarctica with a message of hope
Activist intrigued by international co-operation among climate scientists
By Rachel Mendleson
February 6, 2008 – Published in The (Halifax) Daily News
Zoe Caron has literally written the book on global warming.
But after returning from a recent expedition to Antarctica, the 22-year-old environmentalist says she's surprised that it's hope, rather than 11th-hour warnings, that she most wants to share.
"The most intriguing thing about Antarctica is that it has this level of environmental protection that no other continent has, it has this dedication to peace, and to scientific collaboration and international collaboration that no other continent has," Caron said.
Over the holidays, the recent Dalhousie University graduate chaperoned a group of high-school students during a 10-day mission to the icy continent, led by polar experts and educators.
Instead of flying, the author of the soon-to-be-released Global Warming for Dummies (co-authored by Green party Leader Elizabeth May) travelled mostly by land and sea - to keep her carbon footprint to a minimum.
But when she arrived on the western peninsula of Antarctica, instead of the "big sheet of ice with a couple of research stations" she was expecting, she found an endless parade of seals, whales and birds.
"It's the only place I've ever been where I felt like I shouldn't have been there. It's just not a place for people. It's overrun with wildlife, and it's their place," Caron said.
As a first-time visitor, she couldn't see the effects of global warming. But she says the other expedition team members often pointed out rocks, beaches and entry ways that hadn't been visible even one year earlier.
Never doubted urgency
The urgency of global warming, however, was never something she doubted, she says.
Since attending a climate-change conference in 2005, the Nelson, B.C., native has led several student sustainability initiatives and was one of the young environmentalists included in Vanity Fair's 2007 green issue.
During that time, Caron says her idealism has been somewhat jaded by the obstacles the environmental movement continues to face.
But Antarctica, largely untainted by humans, is the one place where the world works together, almost as it should, she said.
"It's just this symbol of hope to me, and I want to convey that to people, not just people working on environmental issues," she said.
A southern adventure:
Wilton teen intrigued by Antarctica's beauty
By Justin Reynolds
February 4, 2008 – Published in
The WIlton (Connecticut) Bulletin
Shipley Foltz, 13, stands on sea ice off the coast of Antarctica, where she spent more than a week studying over the holidays.
Shipley Foltz is a 13-year-old who’s been to six continents, though she admits she was too young to remember her time in the Philippines.
Instead of spending the holidays with her family, Shipley recently set foot in her fifth and sixth continents, traveling to Antarctica via Argentina to study the chilly continent’s history, geography, flora and fauna and environmental issues facing it today. She arrived back in America on Jan. 8.
“It was amazing,” Shipley said of her trip, which was organized by People to People and Students on Ice, two educational organizations. “It’s really, really beautiful there.”
Shipley left Wilton on Christmas Day, flying to Miami with her father, where she met up with other students. There, the group flew to Ushuaia, Argentina, before proceeding through the Drake Passage to Antarctica.
Shipley said she and many of the other students got seasick during their initial voyage, and at that time, she wished she stayed home. But once she recovered, Shipley said she was very grateful she stuck it out.
“It was the most amazing experience of my life,” Shipley said. “I definitely want to go back, and soon.”
The group of 64 students from countries like the United Arab Emirates, Portugal, Mexico and Japan took three or four day trips to land each day, where they would go hiking, Shipley said. The students would take Zodiac boats to shore.
“We hiked up glaciers,” Shipley said. “There was one covered in snow that we got to slide down.”
This wasn’t Shipley’s first trip with the People to People organization. As a fifth grader, she traveled to Australia. Two years ago, she went to Europe. But Antarctica was very different, she said.
“It’s just so pretty there, it’s practically untouched by human mistakes,” Shipley said. “I wish everywhere looked like that.”
The group saw “billions and billions” of penguins, she said. “I thought we’d see a couple, but they were stretched out as far as you can see.” Penguins turned out to be rather social animals, she said.
Shipley said that although the students ranged in age from 13 to 19, “everybody became friends with everybody else.”
Other animals spotted by the students include seals and whales, with albatrosses flying over their boat and sometimes sitting on the water, she said.
The trip was held during the austral summer, when the weather is best on the icy continent. But summer in Antarctica is certainly different from summer closer to the equator.
“We took the ship into a volcano crater that filled with water,” she said. “They told us it was going to be warm” and we could go swimming. When we got in, “it was five degrees above freezing.”
“I would definitely encourage people to visit it, but I really want it to stay pristine,” she said of Antarctica.
Shipley said she still keeps in touch with friends she made on her trip and would like to have a reunion, though it would be difficult because everyone lives far apart.
As for the future, Shipley wants to have stepped foot in all seven continents as soon as possible.
“I want to go to South Africa next winter,” she said, adding she wants to go back to continental Asia because she doesn’t really remember the Philippines.
The tip of the iceberg
Dal grad on a voyage to the bottom of the world
By Zoë Caron
January 30, 2008 – Published in DALNEWS
I feel helpless when asked to describe Antarctica. It is the command centre of our world's ecosystems, yet the slightest mention of the word 'Antarctica' sends your mind to a place seemingly farther and more foreign to humankind than the moon. Only through poetry could anyone even begin to do it justice. A summary of the experience is just the tip of the iceberg, but I have a feeling it might be worth it.
Getting there was half the journey. I made an effort to fly as little as possible in order to lower my impact on climate change. Amidst those over-land travels, I spent time visiting fast-disappearing glaciers of the Andes mountain range and indigenous farming communities, speaking to locals about changing seasons, admiring solar panels and wind turbines in the most peculiar and unexpected places, reading the daily energy bulletin in Spanish, thinking about links between poverty, societal structure and abilities to adapt to climate change, and wondering how 20 people manage to fit into a small Volkswagen van for the daily commute to work.
Joining the expedition Students on Ice in Buenos Aires was like having a bucket of ice-cold water dumped over my head, waking me from a dream and pulling me back into a familiar world. Most students were from the U.S. or Canada, giving me an unexpected dose of culture shock, although still in Argentina. Not knowing what to expect, our new family of 100 (from more than a dozen countries) set out to sea across the Drake Passage. Two days later we saw land again: Antarctica.
If you weren't grinning, it was because you were too busy picking your jaw up off the floor. And if you weren't learning, well, you probably weren't there. Landscapes were heartwrenching. Wildlife was abundant. Thought-provoking lectures spanned the history, politics and science of Antarctica, yet speaking to the polar experts one-on-one while peering over the edge of the ship or sitting on a glacier was where most learning happened. The icing on the cake was the personal stories from researchers and explorers who have been having a love affair with the continent for more than 50 years.
From hiking to wildlife research, from scuba diving to safaris, there is nothing as intimate as the natural world in Antarctica. It is the one place on earth where humans are truly guests in another's home. And no one can deny the intensity of that unique feeling. The albatross accompanied us across the sea, riding the wind at the stern. Humpback whales graced our first evening with their silhouetted playfulness in the sunset. Adelie penguins would stare back at us from the top of icebergs mimicking the size of our ship.
Once we crossed 60 degrees south, we took the Zodiacs (small inflatable motorboats) to land on the mainland of the Western Peninsula and surrounding islands. The central regions of Antarctica are white and flat, whereas the Western Peninsula is a spiked with glaciers, jagged mountain peaks, curving ice caps and dramatic icebergs. On one landing, we came upon a rocky beach with ice cubes the size of your body washing up on shore. Another landing took place on a slab of sea ice in a bay as calm as glass. Meanwhile, avalanches sounded regularly from mountain peaks high above us. Yet another took us to the beach of an active volcano crater where we went for a slightly brisk swim followed by digging into the gritty sand to find the hot thermal waters to de-numb our bodies.
On shore, it was like being transported into another world. Even polar experts who had been making these landings for 50 years are dazzled by the continent — "Every time is like the first time," they would say. We would find ourselves staring out over thousands upon thousands of penguins as their eggs hatched beneath them and mothers and fathers returned to feed their young. The smell of guano was distinct. Hawk-like Skuas would circle above, diving in at eggs or chicks in unguarded nests. Sitting on rocks at the water's edge, we would watch penguins swimming as if they were dolphins, rapidly and in the style of renowned synchronized swimmers. The event doubled its audience when a leopard seal appeared and began chasing its dinner — the back-up troops of penguins dove in from the shore to help distract the seal. Every moment was enthralling.
Perhaps the most important part of this story is why Antarctica is the way it is. The Antarctic Treaty has been active since 1959. The treaty outlines only peaceful activities are permitted, the environment must be respected, and no land claims may be made. This means no weapon development, no oil exploration, no fishing or whaling, no garbage and restricted numbers of visitors at a time. Is there any other continent on earth that has not seen a war? Is there any other continent with as stringent environmental protection? Is there any other continent with as strong international cooperation?
I could only describe it as the "perfect world" we are taught about as children; "peace on earth" and "reduce, reuse, recycle" were the mantras of my generation. The idealism is still there, but falls to the sidelines as you learn there are still wars and people are still altering the environment. You might call it jaded, or you might call it reality, but that state of mind changes over time — or at least it did for me.
But by the time we had returned to the Beagle Channel, any jaded feelings I might have had before were erased. As I stepped off the ship with wobbly sea legs, the six-year-old idealist in me breathed a sigh of relief; I was filled to the brim with hope, optimism and a whole deeper level of calmness and sureness that I never before thought possible. Feeding this renewed mindset into my daily life and work will not be through one or two specific actions, but through a sustained effort to share and build those same feelings in others, so that we may all be one step closer to understanding our modest place on this earth.
And that is how I would begin to describe Antarctica.
Zoë Caron graduated with a BSc in Environmental Sciences & International Development from Dalhousie University last spring. She is the co-author (with Elizabeth May) of Global Warming for Dummies.
Students on Ice
This unique expedition, lead by Geoff Green, is one of few expeditions in the world that is directed entirely towards youth (ages 13 to 21), and focused around an education program of sustainability. It goes once a year to both the Arctic and Antarctic. The idea is to educate and inspire students in the best classroom in the world: the outdoors. The end goal is for these young leaders to leave with a sense of respect, awareness, and ideas for positive change upon return to their home country. Photos, videos, maps and journals from the expedition can be found online at www.studentsonice.com/antarctic2007.
Local teenager spent New Year’s in Antarctica
By Barry Smith
January 24, 2008 – Published in Wicked Local Hull
It’s a safe bet the memory of last New Year’s Eve won’t blur into all the others over time for Sara Hollingshead of Hull.
The 18-year-old, a senior at Notre Dame Academy in Hingham, was on a ship off the Antarctic Peninsula. It was still dusky light outside at midnight in the Antarctic summer, she said.
“We made resolutions for the New Year and then rang in the New Year with music and a dance party,” she said.
“A few people ran outside and ran around on the deck,” she said.
Sara, daughter of Hull’s provisional fire chief Robert Hollingshead, joined about 65 U.S. and international students on a trip sponsored by the Students on Ice expeditions organization of Canada.
It coincided with the International Polar Year being observed 2007-2009.
The expedition gathered for orientation at the Argentine port of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego at South America’s southern tip two days before setting sail Dec. 28.
The oldest passenger, Dr. Fred Roots, 86, a Canadian researcher, has been going to Antarctica more than 50 years, she said.
The Ushuaia, a 278-foot “ice-classed” and “ice-strengthened” ship, spent the next two days crossing the Drake Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet, Sara said.
First landing was at Elephant Island where, she said, explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton had left some of his shipwrecked men before he continued on to South Georgia island to get help.
“And when they returned, they were all alive,” she said of the 1916 rescue.
Near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, at Brown Bluff, “we were greeted by over 5,000 penguins,” she said. “It was amazing.”
The expedition went off without trouble unlike a Norwegian cruise ship that after losing engine power Dec. 28 reportedly drifted or got pushed by wind up against a glacier or iceberg near the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula.
“Nothing like seriously happened - nobody fell overboard,” expeditioner Chanel N. Lufkin, 14, of Quincy, a ninth grader at South Shore Christian Academy, said.
It was very windy never really cold, surprisingly, Sara said.
Obliged to respect wildlife, like the elephant, leopard and Weddell seals students saw, students could let animals come up to them but were not allowed to go to them, Sara said.
“It was interesting to see humans take a backseat in Antarctica.”
When she and a friend were sitting on a rock, a penguin came up close, not much more than arm’s reach away, she said. “It was very cool.”
One time it was announced some humpback whales had been spotted. “So everyone ran from the dining room to the bow,” she said.
On Jan. 4, the expedition’s last full Antarctic Peninsula day, “People were enjoying snowmen, snow angels, snowball fights and just enjoying the view around us.”
“Her goal is to hit all the continents before she’s 21,” Kathleen Hollingshead, Sara’s school nurse mother, said of her middle daughter.
Sara Hollingshead has been to China and to Europe under the People to People student ambassadors programs.
With two of the seven continents -- Australia and Africa -- to go, she just might make it.
Girl hopes Antarctica trip will pave way for others
By Alia Al Theeb
January 22, 2008 – Published in The Gulf News
Dubai – Nour Al Falasi, a young Emirati girl who went to Antarctica on a student expedition, says she wanted to open doors for other Emirati women to seek out and achieve their passion in life.
Nour, a 17-year-old second year student at Zayed University, said she also aims to spread awareness and undertake research on the importance of protecting the environment and curbing the negative impact humans have on the environment.
She said it all started when her university invited two Canadian photographers who visited Antarctica to talk to students about their experience.
Nour, who is specialising in environmental health sciences, said she asked the phototgraphers if students could go to Antarctica as well.
"They told me about an organisation called Students on Ice, which is a student learning expedition to Antarctica and the Arctic. That was it for me," Nour said.
She needed a sponsor to enable her to go on the expedition and she approached her own university, who had sparked the interest she had and could make her dream a reality.
"I wanted to go to Antarctica ever since I was a kid to see penguins because I am fond of wildlife. This opportunity was a once in a lifetime," she said.
Nour said she invited her elder brother Jamal, who is also a student of environmental sciences at Sharjah University, to join her in the expedition.
Jamal Al Falasi said, "I also had to find a sponsor ... and thankfully the Global Information Technology company sponsored my trip and I was also able to accompany my sister and accomplish our dream."
Nour said the trip was not only fun, but a lot of hard work and effort was also involved.
"We attended many lectures, workshops, naturalist seminars, and small group discussions. The programme also included shore landings, hikes, community visits, and ship-based exploration," she said.
Jamal said they are also considering going to the Arctic as part of another expedition.
"Kids should see this!"
By Susan Jones
January 19, 2008 – Published in The St. Albert Gazette
FIRST FOOTPRINTS . . .
On their last day in Antarctica, the members of the Students on Ice expedition had the opportunity to visit a site that had never been explored by humans before. While visiting the unnamed bay, they talked about their experiences and established how they were going to go home to their countries and make changes to the environment and the world.
Iain Bauer, 15, has a new definition for cool. It’s called Antarctica.
"Everyone asks me if I have a favourite memory but I cannot say one thing was better than another. It was all so cool," said Bauer.
Last fall, Bauer, a Grade 10 student at Paul Kane High School, entered an essay contest sponsored by Canadian Geographic. The $11,500 grand prize was a spot with the Students on Ice expedition to Antarctica.
His essay was the winner and on Dec. 27 Bauer and the 65 participants in the Students of Ice adventure boarded the Ushuaia and left Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina and headed for the continent of Antarctica.
For the next two days the Ushuaia crossed Drake Passage, reputed to have the roughest seas in the world.
Bauer was seasick but excited to see the large flocks of birds, including albatross, which followed in the wake of the ship. He learned that albatrosses almost never touch land and can live as long as 70 years.
"They followed the boat because it broke the wind for them. I saw one wandering albatross that was so majestic! It had a 10-foot to 12-foot wingspan and it was so close to me, I could have touched it."
Whales and penguins
Dec. 30 stands out as a day of "firsts" for Bauer. That day marked his first glimpse of Antarctica, his first up-close look at an iceberg, his first whale sighting, his first look at seals and, most impressive, his first whiff of the penguins, who stood on an iceberg and appeared to be looking at him.
"It was foggy and dreary crossing Drake Passage, but beautiful still. Then the fog just vanished and we saw icebergs and whales. It was as if the fog transported us to Antarctica."
On New Year’s Eve the students visited a penguin rookery and he saw thousands of the birds. One even stepped on his foot.
"I sat on a rock and watched them and they looked at me, too. I saw a baby hatching."
That same day the students went ashore in Zodiacs to visit an Argentine base. The visit was a highlight because Bauer met youths, who were similar in age, who live full time on this frozen continent without ever meeting other people.
"We met the kids who live there. For more than a year they hadn’t visited with any other outsiders," said Bauer.
The weather changed while the students were inside the base and they nearly spent New Year’s Eve with their new friends.
"We were almost stuck there because they told us the wind could flip the Zodiacs," Bauer said.
Six hours later, the expedition’s leader Geoff Green announced that the wind velocity had dropped to 55 km/h and they returned to the Ushuaia, despite the crashing waves.
"At first they had said they would not leave even in 35 km/h winds but we left in 55 km/h winds. The waves would catch the zodiac and we would fly. It was scary and by the time we got to the ship, we were chilled and soaking wet."
In contrast, New Year’s Day was spent swimming at Deception Island. Bauer and his fellow travellers joined together in a polar swim in the ocean before jumping into trenches and then basking in volcano-heated water. The kids ran into the ocean, where icebergs floated and the temperature was only just above freezing, and then ran as fast as they could back to the steamy, warm trenches.
Bauer learned that Students on Ice is much more than a sightseeing tour because, in keeping with founder Geoff Green’s goals, he and the other youths attended daily lectures presented by world-class scientists, geologists and climatologists.
"I started Students on Ice because I was already leading tours to Antarctica and to the Arctic and I witnessed something happening when adults were exposed to the polar regions," said Green, adding that one day in 1999 he sat on a beach in Antarctica and decided, "Kids should see this!"
In addition to getting the youths turned on to the beauty and fragility of the Earth, he also wanted them to bond with each other and that happened on this trip. After sharing thecexperience of seasickness, the first sighting of a penguin, the excitement in the Zodiacs and the polar swim, Bauer made many friends.
Together the kids made snowmen on the deck of the ship and one goofy day, Bauer’s new buddies from New York and Mexico hoisted him up before the mast, so he could do his Titanic imitation.
"It was pretty amazing. I met people I know I’ll hear about later. They were leaders on the ship and I know they’ll become world leaders," he said.
On their last day in Antarctica the students were taken to an unnamed bay. They stood at the bow of the Ushuaia and watched as the icebreaker cut an arrow-shaped line into the unblemished ice and snow.
"The sky was so blue and the captain rammed the ship into a sheet of ice. We were the first people that ever went there and we played on the ice all day," Bauer said.
The youths lay on the ice and meditated about their journey. They formed activist groups and began to outline goals for the future of the Earth and what they could do to make positive changes in their home countries. Bauer joined the climate change group with youths from Dubai, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, the United States and other Canadians. The students are still connected via the Internet and are working together to set up a website and a fundraiser so that in the future, other students can take part in Students on Ice expeditions.
"I cannot easily describe Antarctica because there are so many colours and your senses are overwhelmed. There’s so much to take in — too much. But at the same time, I have a powerful feeling for the world now. I felt so much hope for the world."
International students absorb Antarctic adventure
By William Lin
January 3, 2008 – Published in The Ottawa Citizen
David Brock stood against the railing of the Argentine icebreaker and gazed up at the giant birds trailing the ship as it cut toward the Antarctic. And the tears came.
Michal Rosenthal, a student from Ramat HaSharon, Israel, was also overcome as she stood on the same ship.
Last Sunday evening, hours after the group reached the Antarctic's outlying islands, the ship's captain noticed whales in the distance. Everyone ran down to the deck. There, the giant mammals were spotted slapping their heavy tails on the water's surface.
"I could hear them so well. At least 10 whales surrounded the ship on each side. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Suddenly, I was out of control, I was so small in front of nature," Ms. Rosenthal wrote in her journal, which was sent by satellite to Gatineau, the expedition program's headquarters.
"I had tears in my eyes."
Later reached by satellite phone, the 17-year-old said it was the first time she had ever felt such emotion when encountering nature.
"Seeing it in front of my eyes 10 metres in front of me, and hearing the splashing. ... I figured out how small humanity is in front of the scope of nature."
In those moments, it seemed that all the seasickness was worth it for the students.
Ms. Rosenthal is among 64 students hailing from around the world -- including Mexico, Iran, Canada and Japan -- who are on a two-week learning expedition to the Antarctic.
The trip is organized by Gatineau-based company Students on Ice.
Yesterday, the group entered Day 9 of their trip as they explored the Antarctic Peninsula, describing their journey in intimate detail in their daily journals sent by satellite and in phone interviews.
The journey started roughly for some of the students as their ship tossed gently for two days as it traversed the Drake Passage through thick fog. Some swallowed pills or wore a patch to battle seasickness.
"I haven't eaten anything because I can't. It was horrible," wrote Felicia Vanacore early in the trip.
But, as the icebreaker sailed toward Antarctica, she began to feel better. The sun shone through blue skies.
"I felt terrible, but once we sat down and I looked out into the horizon, I was amazed," she wrote.
On Dec. 30, the group encountered drifting icebergs as they approached Elephant Island. On New Year's Eve, they approached Brown Bluff, where they saw adelie and chinstrap penguins, their chicks nestled underneath them, trying to stay warm.
They spent Jan. 1 at Deception Island, where the students took a polar dip in the icy water, followed by a warm bath on the geothermal sands.
"You don't feel it until you get out because it's so cold you're just trying to breathe and scream and laugh at the same time," said Serin Remedios, a 17-year-old Calgary student, by satellite phone yesterday.
Yesterday, before breakfast, the group hiked up to the top of Danco Island, where they paused to listen to the wind howl and glaciers calve. They also looked down to see the Errera Channel, their ship and penguins dotting the landscape.
"Just looking out into the ocean and seeing the icebergs and just actually realizing where we were, and surrounded by penguins as well, was emotional for me," Ms. Remedios said.
Alex Groepper, a 17-year-old student from Inuvik, N.W.T., described in his journal "the cold wind piercing (his) lungs with every breath."
But, just looking at the vast waters made him feel "unworthy," he wrote.
"This is truly unlike anything I was expecting. This is Antarctica."
A classroom on ice
By William Lin
December 25, 2007 – Published in The Ottawa Citizen
Students from a Chelsea-based program are spending their winter break in Antarctica to learn about the effects of global warming - and with a polar swim, they are sure to test their sense of adventure, writes William Lin.
Antarctica. The frozen land frontier - and the exploration playground for student voyageurs on icebreaker M/V Ushuaia. Their continuing mission: To explore strange new glaciers, to seek out new flora and fauna, to boldly go where their young bodies have never ventured before.
And with a swim suit, no less.
Before the students started their trek, they were told to pack a bathing suit for a swim in icy waters after a two-week learning program.
About 65 students from a Chelsea-based program, Students on Ice, are spending their two-week winter break in Antarctica to learn first-hand about the effects of global warming - all this capped by a chilly swim.
"It's more of a polar dip. They're just in and out. It's a lot of fun," said Reina Lahtinen, the program co-ordinator.
The students, who hail from around the world - including Iran, Portugal, New Zealand and Japan - won't be forced to walk the gangplank. But, at least 75 per cent of the students who went on an earlier Arctic expedition took the plunge, Ms. Lahtinen added.
On Christmas Day, several students left from Toronto to meet up with the others in Miami. The group, which includes seven Canadian students, is then headed to the world's southernmost town, Ushuaia, Argentina.
Boarding the Argentine icebreaker, M/V Ushuaia, which was a former U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration vessel, the students and 25 staff members will traverse the Drake Passage, the tumultuous sea waterway tying the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
From the ship's deck, students are able to watch whales and spot the occasional wandering albatross, a bird that possesses the longest average wingspan of any bird (3.1 metres), and is able to glide for kilometres without flapping.
The program has a "no-technology" rule: students are told to leave their iPods, portable video games and DVD players at home.
Their only method of communication with their outside world: a satellite.
With few outside distractions, students will be able to focus on nature, including the effects of global warming, the group said.
"The polar regions are where the effects of climate change are really being seen first and foremost. By taking these kids to the Antarctic and them seeing it first hand, it's going to make the issue of climate change a real and personal issue for them," expedition leader Geoff Green said.
The students are joined by a raft of experts: a marine biologist, a glaciologist, a polar scientist and educators, historians, a musician, oceanographer and a Russian cosmonaut, Mikhail Tyurin.
After two days at sea - with onboard lectures and workshops - the group is expected to make their first landfall at Point Wild on Elephant Island, known as the ice-capped rock where Ernest Shackleton and his crew were stranded for more than four months in 1916.
"It's this little godforsaken piece of rock and ice in the middle of nowhere. Where the men had to camp on Point Wild is this little spit of land. They'll actually go and see firsthand where these men were. It's pretty powerful," Mr. Green said.
Students will likely experience warmer temperatures there than in Ottawa, even with Antarctica holding the title as the world's coldest continent.
The students wake at 7 a.m. and are in bed by 10 p.m. But the continent doesn't slumber at this time of year enjoying 24 hours of sunlight.
In this southern summer wonderland of towering glaciers and winding channels filled with icebergs, Ms. Lahtinen hopes to see one particular flightless bird: the penguin.
"Just to see them in person!" exclaimed Ms. Lahtinen, who has never visited Antarctica.
On New Year's Eve, they'll travel to Paulet Island and visit the Esperanza station.
The students will likely spend New Year's Day in Whalers' Bay on Deception Island were they'll take their polar dip in 2 C water. That icy jolt will be followed by a soak in geothermic warm baths by digging into the beach's sand.
"The rule is they first have to jump into the freezing cold ocean. Otherwise, they don't officially join the Antarctic swim team," Mr. Green said.
"It's pretty shocking and numbing. It just takes your breath away immediately. There's usually some pretty good expressions on people's faces as they come up," he added.
On the island, the students will likely come across an abandoned whaling station and equipment, remnants of the whaling days.
The following day, they will hike to the top of Danco Island's icecap, where they'll find a sprawling view of towering icebergs and their ship below. They'll also likely visit a Ukrainian station, where the students will visit laboratories.
On Jan. 3, the group is expected to cruise the Lemaire Channel and make landings at Petermann, Pleneau and Goudier islands.
They'll move on to Cuverville Island, home to many Gentoo penguins, before heading back across the Drake Passage.
The trip has also become a symbol for peace. Two students will be joining them from Israel and Palestine.
"The idea is we're taking these two high school kids from the most war-torn part of the world to the Antarctic, which is the only continent in the world that's never had a war."
Canadians among those visiting Antarctica Dec. 25
December 24, 2007 – Published on CTV.ca
A group of 65 students and 25 scientists and educators from around the world will be spending Christmas morning making final preparations before leaving for Antarctica, where they'll spend two weeks studying in the harsh environment.
Geoff Green, executive director of the Canadian organization Students on Ice, told CTV's Canada AM the students will study environmental and polar issues first-hand, from Dec. 25 to Jan. 8
"In many ways, the Antarctic is the greatest classroom on Earth," he said.
"It's an incredible platform for so many issues, for science, for history, for culture, for flora and fauna. And it's a cornerstone of the global ecosystem. So taking a group of high school kids there, it's a way of connecting them with nature on a level that I've never seen before. It's a real life-changing journey."
The polar regions are the "barometres" of the planet's health, Green said, because the effects of climate change are being experienced in a more dramatic fashion due to the sensitive nature of the climate.
Green has taken more than 800 students to the Antarctic through eight years the Students on Ice program has been in existence. He said the experience of seeing the impact of climate change first hand, from the deck of a ship equipped to study the region, can be life-changing for the students who participate.
"When you see it with your own two eyes, especially a teen at the beginning of your life, it immediately makes it a personal and real issue," Green said.
"So we're hoping these kids are going to come back totally motivated and inspired as future environmental leaders."
The organizers of the expedition also hope the trip helps inspire a different type of change this year. Two students, one from the Palestinian territories, another from Israel, will be joining the group.
"It's a symbol of peace and understanding," Green said, noting that the Antarctic is the only region in the world that hasn't experienced war.
"Bringing these two kids from the most war-torn part of the world to this platform we're hoping is going to allow their voice of peace to be heard."
Besides Canada, the 65 students on the expedition come from 14 countries, including Iran, Mexico, Israel, the Palestinian territories and New Zealand.
The age range is from 13, right up to 86 -- the age of Dr. Fred Roots, a Canadian scientist whose expertise is in polar issues.
The organization's website pledges to keep people updated on the participants' adventures while they are away, with photos, journal entries and expedition updates going up on the website on a daily basis.
Ice-capades – Wilton student goes to Antarctica
By A.J. O’Connell