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Janet completes first stage of journey

By Elliot Furniss
December 31, 2009 - Published in the East Anglian Daily Times

A BARRISTER who is undertaking an epic adventure to Antarctica has completed the first stage of her journey.

Mother-of-two Janet Bettle, 46, has arrived at the southernmost city in the world - Ushuaia, right at the tip of Argentina.

The city is the embarkation point for 90% of all Antarctic expeditions and in her latest message, Mrs Bettle, from Tendring, explained that it had taken 48 hours and connections in Madrid, Lima and Santiago to get there.

She said: “I'm sitting in a hotel that overlooks the Beagle channel, with snow clad mountains looming prettily over the cruise ships waiting to take on their passengers.

“It's summer here, of course, so it's still light as I sit in the lobby at 9pm. There's a light breeze, not enough to make the flags in front of the hotel flap, and it's warm enough to be outside without a coat.

“The ozone hole means that we have to wear sunscreen here, even when it's cloudy.”

Mrs Bettle, a family lawyer at East Anglia Chambers, is working as a chaperone with Canadian group Students on Ice, which organises educational adventures for young people to both polar regions.

She said her eventful journey to Argentina had involved passing through an Amazonian thunderstorm, a missed flight connection in Peru and lots of “cheap airline cava”.

She said: “We've all met up, students and staff. The teenagers are a lively bunch, lots of Americans and Canadians, a girl from Shanghai and a boy each from Israel and Palestine, who are sharing a room.”

Mrs Bettle will soon start the next stage of her trip, travelling even further south down the Beagle Channel on an ice-class ship and over the coming weeks she will spend time at research stations and take part in experiments.


Janet's journey to bottom of the world

By Scott Tomlinson
December 28, 2009 - Published in the East Anglian Daily Times

FOR someone who claims her biggest risk was walking on the cycle side of a footpath, it is not surprising Janet Bettle is a touch apprehensive about her impending adventure.

That's because the 46-year-old barrister from Tendring has decided to swap her cosy home this Christmas for the frozen landscapes of Antarctica.

The mother-of-two flew out to South America on Boxing Day to meet up with a group of students and science experts before embarking on a ship to the icy continent, where they will spend several days studying its ecosystem.

Speaking before leaving for her epic trip, Mrs Bettle, who is married to 46-year-old Vernon, a GP, said: “I'm not intrepid. I love my family, my home, my job. I also care about my whippets, my cats and my garden.

“Yet come this weekend, I will load the dishwasher, put on my balaclava and head off to the bottom of the world. It's been a huge process just to get selected, but it is reality check time now.”

Mrs Bettle, a family lawyer at East Anglian Chambers, will be going as a chaperone with Canadian group Students on Ice, which organises educational adventures for young people to both Polar Regions.

They will joined by top scientists at research stations, have the chance to take part in experiments and hopefully see a range of wildlife including penguins, whales and leopard seals. Mrs Bettle will be keeping a blog along the way.

She said: “I have always wanted to visit Antarctica, but have never been in a position to go. I love extreme landscapes and wildlife.

“I'm also very interested to meet people who have spent their working lives in this environment - what force is so powerful that it pulls men and women to such a place?

“My eyes are open to the challenge. I hope to have an experience which will expand my horizons.”

For more information on the expedition and to follow Mrs Bettle's journey visit



Expedition Chaperone Jacqueline Phillips

Stoney Creek teacher set for journey to Antarctica

By Mark McNeil
December 26, 2009 - Published in the The Hamilton Spectator

You've heard about the March of the Penguins.

Well, here's another journey that's almost as inspiring:

It starts in Toronto with a flight to Miami. Then onto Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentina. Total flying time -- 18 hours.

Then there's a 1 1/2-day ship passage aboard an "ice class vessel" to the Antarctic Bay to take a Zodiac and other vessels to the icy shore.

Length of the journey: more than 15,000 kilometres.

Local Grade 3 teacher Jacqueline Phillips is among a group of staff and high school students on the trip of a lifetime organized by Gatineau, Que.-based Students on Ice.

And through the magic of the Internet, she will keep in touch with her students at Gatestone Elementary School in Stoney Creek with daily blog posts.

Phillips is among nine chaperones on the trip that leaves today and lasts till Jan. 11. She will be joined by a staff of 14 scientists, oceanographers and glaciologists, as well as an artist and 65 students from Canada and around the world.

Phillips says the ship has six laptops that students and staff can use and once a day the ship will upload the information onto the Internet via satellite.

"While I'm away, the students with their supply teacher can log on every day to see where we are and what we're up to," she said. "They will be able to see pictures and keep track of me while I'm away.

"It's great for (the students) to see me down there exploring. After I come back, we can have conversations in the classroom about climate change and environmental sustainability."

Niki Trudeau, Students on Ice participant co-ordinator, says students on the trip are encouraged to spread the word about it while it's taking place and after they get home.

"We describe the experience as being a transformative learning experience," she said.

"We hope the students gain a respect and understanding of the place and how it relates to their lives at home. They will hopefully understand how ... actions at home more directly have an impact on polar regions than you would think."

Trudeau took part in last year's trip and is going again this year.

"It's awe-inspiring. It's spectacular. It's beautiful. It's remote. It blows you away."

So what does one bring for such a journey?

A good coat, for one thing. It's summer there but temperatures are still brisk, hovering between -10 C and 10 C.

A camera and sunscreen are a good idea. And so's a bathing suit -- Trudeau says the students will take a dip in the ocean, taking advantage of geothermal activity in the area.

Expedition Educator Remy Rodden

Yukoner feels 'blessed' by Antarctic excursion

By Chuck Tobin
December 16, 2009 – Published in The Whitehorse Star

Remy Rodden is off to the Antarctic.

The Whitehorse musician and environmental educator has been invited to serve as one of the teaching staff to assist with the 65 international students on 16-day journey beginning on Boxing Day.

Students on Ice was initiated 10 years ago to provide youth with an opportunity to expand their awareness of the Antarctic and Arctic, to get a better understanding of the two polar regions, and how they may be affected by climate change.

Rodden has spent the last 20 years as the environmental educator with Environment Yukon, and works closely with the Yukon government’s Climate Change Secretariat.

“Basically, they asked me to come with a mixed bag of tricks, to be available to do some music, write some songs and work with the kids on environmental literacy and creative thinking,” he told the Star this week.

It’s summer down under right now, and Rodden said the temperature may dip to below zero only at night, so he’s not packing his parka.

“But they did tell me to bring rubber boots.”

He will leave Toronto on Boxing Day to meet up in Miami and then Santiago, Chile with other staff, and the students from nine countries.

From Santiago, they will fly to Ushuaia, at the southern tip of Argentina, where they’ll board the SOI Polar Ambassador.

“As we cross the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica, the team will participate in workshops, lectures and will be out on deck, spotting whales and sea birds,” reads the itinerary for Dec. 31.

Students on Ice, Rodden assures, is very aware of the environmental cost of fuelling its expeditions, and does take steps to offset all the carbon.

“It’s one those things ... that may be benefit in the future,” he says. “They may save the planet some day.”

Students pay $12,500 for the odyssey, which, in the case of Canadian students, includes air travel and everything else from Toronto and back.

Students on Ice, which is supported by several national and international businesses and organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, is picking up Rodden’s expenses from Toronto, and Environment Yukon is paying for his costs to get out east.

“So I guess the department sees a value in this,” he says, suggesting the experience will be a two-way street: him sharing what he brings while gaining from the experience of other educators, and hearing what students from around the world have on their mind when it comes to the environment and climate change.

“These things I can pass on to the Yukon through our programs, and to our staff, as well as to our youth,” he says. “It’s that type of multiplier effect.”

“Really, I just want to learn as much as I can about the Antarctic, and about climate change and work with the youth and develop youth leadership.”

Many of the students on these trips are dedicated and raise their own money, or have jobs to at least contribute, he explains.

Rodden says on one trip he knows of, there were two students from New York’s inner-city who had likely never set foot outside the Big Apple, but were able to make the trip on the goodwill of a local sponsor.

“Our mandate is to educate and inspire the next generation of polar scientists, researchers, and environmental leaders – and in doing so, help to provide them with a greater understanding and respect for the planet,” reads a brochure explaining Students on Ice.

“We believe that the Polar Regions are the world’s greatest classrooms. They are the cornerstones of the global ecosystem and a tremendous platform for education.”

Rodden says he knows of two other Yukoners who’ve made the Antarctic trip as instructors:

• Tyler Kuhn, who works for Environment Yukon as a wildlife technician and is just finishing his masters degree in paleontology with a focus on the ancient caribou of the Yukon; and

• Amber Church, who is finishing up her masters in glaciology and who is currently in Copenhagen as the head of Canada’s Canadian Youth Coalition.

John Streicker, a local environmental scientist and activist, has been a teacher on a number of excursions to the Arctic with Students on Ice.

Since serving as a chaperone with a minor teaching role in the Antarctic five years ago, the 29-year-old Kuhn has also been an instructor on a couple of the Arctic journeys.

He said the Antarctic jaunt provided him with a life experience he won’t forget.

A certain power comes from a visit to an environment where humans are not the dominant species, and where the environment belongs to somebody else.

It’s an experience you just don’t encounter everyday, he said.

“That, in terms of my impression of the Antarctic, is one that is still with me right now.”

He saw the same in the eyes of the students he was with.

“One girl from the inner-city of New York turned to Amber and said ‘Well, I have never heard silence before,’” Kuhn says of the moments after the ship’s engines were turned off and those aboard just sat in quiet awe.

“All you could hear was the ice moving and cracking . . . kind of the power of taking humans out of their environment.”

Rodden is excited, more and more everyday.

He was invited to go along last April, though plans were not confirmed until just last month.

The local environmental educator met the founder of the Students on Ice, renowned polar explorer Geoff Green, back in 2006 while he was involved in the early planning exercises for the International Polar Year.

They started chatting and they just hit if off, says Rodden.

“It is a trip of a lifetime, for so many people,” he says. “I feel pretty blessed.”




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