The Encounter

A guest post by Lisa MooreMinty_20160706_210545_copy[1]

We are cruising out of haunting Hebron, where the remaining wooden houses bow and bulge in the wind, get down on their knees, collapse in the grass, where inside the church attic there is graffiti, written with a finger on the dusty glass of an old window, just some names and some dates, a teenager’s joke at the expense of history, see how ephemeral we are?  And where the apology from Danny Williams is mounted on a plaque, and where on the same plague the Inuit respond to William’s apology, and say that they accept it, without diminishing the trauma suffered by the community, accept it with such honesty and grace that the letters blur and enlarge under a smooth lens of tears because you can’t read it without tears, you can’t, trust me.

And where the sun bursts in shafts through blistering, silvered windowsills and the old paint flakes off the walls, and the church is being restored, yellow beds of insulation piled in one corner, a rusted woodstove, ornate with curliques and clawfoot legs, sinks into the dead yellow grass. Inside the dry wood smell of shut-up buildings and the ghost-voice of the choirs and brass bands and, as we emerge from that music and shadow we walk down to the water, step into the Zodiacs, patterns of sediment swirling on the landing rock, and where Billy gets the Arctic char, willing it out of the water with a wrist-flick or Vulcan mind control, or just the fresh air hunger for something salty and sweet. If you eat something that fresh, like the gutted roe, it will give you prophetic dreams.

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Later in St. John’s Harbour: some hikers on the mountain are as tiny as insects against the skyline. We look up at the sun and try to wave but they don’t wave back. Maria picks red berries left over from last year, points out the flock of ducks at the pond’s edge, and Pavel’s drone catches us all in our garish bright jackets against the lurid emerald grass messy with boulders, there we are, making our way, caught in a god’s eye, and the mosquitos come out all at once. Stick their thin and stately needles in, guzzling our blood, and then they float off drunk or sullen or bloated or blitzed and glutted and lazy and slow enough to catch in a single clap. We cruise away, leaving the Inukshuk standing watch, pointing the way to Nachvak Fjord. 

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And in the afternoon? 

Stealth. A rumour. A momma and two cubs. The Zodiac swings on the crane, an ink blot in the middle of the sun. Hits the water, and the chain coils up, and another Zodiac sways down. The drivers zip out. The ocean is a bed of harsh, sharp sparkles. Everything lit up, hyper-bright. The bay is calm; it should be cold but it isn’t. 

Five Zodiacs, another hanging up there, and swaying like a cradle. 

The rumour says a cove further down the bay, lolling in the grass, soporific, snoozy and rubbing all that fur against the sand. More yellow than white, paws bigger than your face, fifteen Zodiacs in the water now. Engines idling, drivers standing with legs apart, braced against the tiller, silhouettes. Splat of radio static, but the drivers are talking low. The drivers are using bedroom voices. Copy that.

Nineteen Zodiacs in all, load them fast, hurry up. Fast, but quiet. That’s the first ten. Copy that. Go, Tina, to the left. That’s the next ten. Let’s keep our voices down. Go, go, go.  

A little ride around the bay while we wait. We have to go together. Give everyone a chance to see. If they’re there, we won’t scare them off. We won’t get too close. 

So, we zoom up to the waterfalls. Fans of spring melt, thick as concrete where it spills off the black rock, and then shrapnel, bullets or feathers or glass bead far flung dazzle, icy cold. Drilling the water below, drilling down to where the phytoplankton at the bottom of the food chain gorge on whatever billowing energy the tumbling water stirs up and the other sentient beings, blind or numb scoot around the  boiling turmoil to feast. 

Will the Zodiac engines send the bears gambolling through the long grass. Can we see them? Is it different? To see a polar bear in the wild? Is it different than a zoo? Can 198 passengers, staff, and Zodiac drivers sneak up on the momma? Not disturb her? 

There was a polar bear in the water as we entered the Nachvak Fjord, swimming. The smooth pellet of a head, tiny in the distance, imagine the churning paws the drive and power, holding up all that weight maybe a mile from shore. All that power concentrated in the work of keeping his black nose up above the surface, held high, sniffing.

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The Zodiacs, nineteen now in a line, approach the shore. How blue and eye-hurting the ocean is in the binoculars when you touch the focus dial, and a single sparkle bursts like a bomb in one of the lenses and a tiny bump makes the mountain blur in a slo-mo jerk, so the solid rock goes unsolid and seems to pour. Squish the two sides together, fold them in and the visual shock of the shore crisp as close and clear. Vivid and sharp enough to cut. You can see each blade of grass for an instant, the another bump on a wave and it all goes liquid and runny again. Then we stop, we idle. Nineteen Zodiacs and you can hear, on the wind, passengers saying: I can see them. I see them. A momma and two cubs. And the shuck-shuck of the camera.   

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Search the landscape. Each boulder yellowish and could that be the momma? Could that be a cub? A kind of stabbing disappointment with each boulder that is just a boulder.

But, oh god? The elegant, awkward clambering from a grass roll, standing now, and the shimmer the binoculars make of mist and distance. Standing now and turning her head, looking back over her shoulder. Shaggy and shapeless and bigger than you thought. Much bigger. And the cubs, someone says, have got to be two years. The cubs are big.

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Turning to sniff the air, turning to acknowledge. And the cubs beside and there is no hurry.  Hand the binoculars over. There, there. But it’s yellow, it’s not white, and bigger than I thought and slow/fast. Dangerous and peaceful. Mother and monster. Silent and arrogant. Powerful and endangered and solitary. The fur has no pigment. Each hair is hollow. The skin beneath is black. So what is that colour, why white? Why does it look ancient? It might be made of ice.

Impressions of Labrador

A guest post by Lisa Moore

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In the sand, bear paws.

Noses of the Zodiacs scrudging into the sand. Haul. Wet ropes, lean back, heels sliding on wet pebbles, tug the Zodiac up snug.  Slap down the bright yellow wooden step. Swinging legs over the side, walking poles, knapsack, step. Step on the block. Step into the water and feel the tug on your rubber boot. Water rushing up over the top of the wooden step, swirling  away in all directions, smooth pebbles tumbling end over end, everything stirred up underfoot. Stab the walking stick, lapping kelp, up, up, on the beach. Bright GoreTex jackets, red, aqua, mosquito net hats, hiss of radios, MJ, MJ, Jason. Jason, MJ.

The resettled Moravian/Inuit community of Ramah—bear paw. Some of them still filled with water. Claw scrapes on stone. The bear had just rambled through. Haunch and rippling muscle/chunks of hunger and force, but gone. The print a cup surging with water, gleaming in the sun.

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Partridge eggs. Hold back the alder branches. Can you see them? Speckled. See them? I can’t see them. There. The mother just flew. Where? There, the mother.

On the ridge overlooking the beach the bear monitors are just fluorescent orange flecks on the grey stone. They were far away but I could hear them checking in with each other on the radios.

The fjord last night. But impossible to capture the intensity, the depth. Cracks running through the mountains, the black dykes, old molten lava, rust, caramel, cream, brown, black, white splotches of snow, the green like an old rug worn in places, the light slicing through. Light slashing up the mountains. Clouds bunched like grapes, like marbles, like bowling balls. Still blue up there. Blue as a GoreTex jacket. I wish you could see this. I miss you. How can I tell you about this? You would love this. There was no wind. It was still. A black bear just a dot.  A moving dot on skyward straining granite. 

I felt tears lifting up inside me. Like the water rushing around the yellow block by the Zodiac, swirling all directions around my rubber boot, and tugging on my ankles, my leg, this answer in my body to beauty all mingled up and confused with you would love this and I miss you and my god, my god, what is this, the tears are disorienting, salt water—what is this? This is wordless. This is big. This is still. This is forever. This is infinity. This is a fork in the fjord. This is which way do we go? Do we ever go back? Can one go back from this? This is every path ever taken. Never taken. This is giving up, giving over. This is smallness. This is a blasting apart of the inner things. This is we are together, aren’t we? We are in this together. This is missing you and wishing you could see. This is a bunch of people on a deck, on all the decks, nosing in, deep and deeper. This is nowhere. This is the only place. 

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The rocks are cinema and the light is unrequited. The light is, don’t mess with me. The light is, you have never seen anything like this light. You will never see it again. Okay, this is vast. The light is a love affair. The light is going. The light is pink now. The light makes creases and folds in the mountains. The light fingers through. The lit up caves and the lit up faces of the people on the deck. The light is a last hurrah. The pink of inner things. The pink of new things, like the cry of a grandchild, like don’t stop, please don’t stop. This is the pink of the fresh salmon pulled from the water this afternoon and cut up with a pocket knife, and dip/flicked in the ocean on the side of the Zodiac and we ate in raw like religion, like a gift.

On the beach this morning Michelle told us about sod houses. The windows were made of seal intestine, translucent. Just imagine in a snowstorm. Just imagine a child born. The frame might have been wood or whale bone. This is so long ago. The ghosts are translucent. The ghosts are windows made of brass. They sang in four voices. They covered houses in cured skins, and then sods, and when there was a fall of snow, the sod house was very warm. 

The floor of the house might have been slate or wood. Now it has collapsed and grasses overgrown. Let’s not walk over it. Let’s leave it alone. There would have been a cold trap built in the entrance. A depression in the earth into which the cold would sink. But keep your eyes on the water, because bears can approach from there. Swimming sometimes as much as eight miles. Keep your eyes on the land. Be alert. I wish you could have seen. What a fjord that was last night. The way the light slashed across the uppermost blade of mountain. The way it faded. Or lasted. Went dark. Bellowed like a trumpet in the dining room. Looked all sultry and come thither, crooked its finger, said the truth. Flipped a coin, told a joke; the light was a pole dancer a circus, a dream with monsters and empty streets and everything was wet. Everything it touched turned to gold.

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I was talking with another writer on the deck about how hard it is to write. We laughed about ‘hard’ work. Because it isn’t coal mining after all. It’s pure pleasure. It is one-hundred voltage thrill. But it is hard. That’s what we said. And we said of course it wasn’t hard. Nobody twisting your arm to write. What is the difference between intense pleasure and pain. What is the difference between desire and discipline? If we follow this fjord forever where will we end up.

In the sod houses they had soap stone lamps with a wick made of woven beach grass burning in seal oil. The idea of that tiny flame, the halo it must throw out, in the midst of these  mountains,standing up in the dark. I hear Maria, on the radio, say she has spotted a white beluga. Mathew James, Mathew James, Maria, she says. And he answers: Maria, Maria, Mathew James. The hiss and clutches of sound bursting out of the radios. Maria, Mathew James. It is still very early in the morning.

The truth is I got up at five to write. I stumbled out onto the deck, almost blinded by the morning sun. Did it ever go to bed? Did it get tiny like that little flame in a sod hut, maybe a hundred and fifty years ago, glowing through the intestine of a seal? A line of radiant mist on the horizon. Pure white, where it touched the earth. Burning upward. On the hill in Ramah this morning, a little graveyard. Grey stone, half devoured by the grass, sunken, almost gone, splotches of orange lichen and the dates softened by the rain. It’s only ten thirty in the morning, but I feel like I have experienced a century since that mist on the deck burned away. I cannot wait to see you. I have a lot to tell.    

A Boatload of Kids

IMG_2212Working at Adventure Canada certainly has its highlights. Every voyage brings new peak experiences—that’s part of what keeps staff, as well as passengers coming back time and time again.

The best part is, you never know what’s in store in a given season, on a given trip, even on given day.

This spring, on my seventh trip with Adventure Canada, I finally had the opportunity to bring my wife and two kids aboard as we travelled the Mighty St. Lawrence from Quebec City to St. John’s. Better yet, it turned out we were not the only family with children on the trip.

In all there were eleven kids, every one of them a pint-sized explorer brimming with enthusiasm for what each new day brought.

The highlight of the trip for me was driving the Zodiac with all eleven of those kids on a morning cruise around Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island. The feeling of excitement and freedom was as fresh and stimulating as the morning breeze. To see kids embrace the fullness of nature’s bounty and the glory of a day at sea made an impression that will last a lifetime for me—and perhaps for them too.

Here’s the best shot we could get, with waves and wind (I got big props for taking a selfie stick along!). Clockwise from left, here are kids Olivia, Julianna, James, Leah, Ethan, Dylan, Jasper, Alexander, Islay, Brian, and Sage, plus parents Tammy, Steve, Cedar, Alana, my wife Meghan, and me—the luckiest Zodiac driver in the world!

It just doesn’t get better than this.

Up Periscope from Hopedale!

Lisa Moore reports in from our 2016 Greenland & Wild Labrador expedition:

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Before leaving the Ocean Endeavour, we watched a tremendously sad and powerful documentary by France Rivet called “Trapped in a Human Zoo.”

The “human zoo” was created by German Carl Hagenbeck in the 1880s. Hagenbeck, an entrepenure, endeavoured to feed a growing euro-centric appetite for  the “exotic” by sending head hunters to remote corners of the globe in search of people who would become “human specimen” for his zoo. These people were exhibited in traditional, indigenous clothing, and made to “perform” traditional hunting and gathering practices as well as rituals, alongside wild animals from the same regions.

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This nightmarish and grotesque appetite for the exotic shaped decades of systemic racism and stereotypes about cultures and people from all over the world. For a time, a small group of Inuit from Labrador formed the most popular ‘display’ in Hagenbeck’s exhibition and as a result were trapped by the voracious crowds, with sometimes as many as 17,000 viewers. Filmmaker France Rivet traces the journey of this small group Inuit travellers, who quickly succumbed to smallpox. 

Derrick Pottle gave us a presentation about modern-day Inuit lifestyle, including hunting and gathering practices. Seal meat is still the major staple in the Inuit diet. The animals are harvested using humane hunting practices to ensure the animals do not suffer. All parts of the seal are used in cooking, except the gallbladder and lungs. In communities where a twelve pound turkey might sell for $70, Derrick says, “We couldn’t be here without the seal.” Duck eggs, gathered in season, are considered a delicacy, and the bright orange yolks look like you’d be eating undiluted sunshine. Inuit hunters apply annually for a license to hunt polar bear. Twelve polar bears licenses are given out each year, shared among a community of 8,000.   

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The sun blasted down on our short Zodiac ride to Hopedale and we landed on a gorgeous mound of gneiss rock (pink as strawberry ice cream, swirled of blacks and greys). We were greeted on the dock by the community and treated to generous hospitality of Hopedale. Traditional snacks were on offer at the Inn (bannock with partridgeberry sauce, a pork and molasses cake with caramel sauce) and we ate some tasty pitsik in the gorgeous new building which houses the Legislative Assembly.

Inuit students demonstrated traditional games for us. We saw the one-armed push-up competition, the musk ox, and the one-foot high kick. Very dramatic!

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The church in Hopedale was built in 1865—and whether it is the balanced dimensions of the building, or the bright white paint, old beams and floor boards, or the lived experience those walls have seen, one experiences an undeniably good feeling inside there. The church has an aura. The pipe organ has been there since 1847.

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Back on the ship we celebrated Explorers night with a conga line of Explorers in costume. There were two Mina Hubbards, a Marilyn Monroe (go figure! I didn’t know she had another career as an explorer but Blair makes a very convincing Marilyn!), a couple of James Cooks, ( one with a spatula) A Carl Jung, ( who was exploring the inner recesses of the mind and soul), several Vikings ( including “Broom” hilda) and Billy, who explored the tickle chest and came out wearing a fuzzy wig and nightdress which was very becoming. 

And…all of this was followed by the Newfoundland Bluff! Jason, Billy, and Kevin are all liars extraordinaire. After last night I wouldn’t believe a word coming out of their mouths! They were hilarious. Thankfully, Dennis kept them in line. And if you don’t know what a hinderdatter is, don’t let anybody try to tell you that the etymological root has something to do with the word “daughter”. Come on, who would believe that? I laughed so hard I nearly split my sish.

lisa moore

Guest post by Lisa Moore

Seven Ways to Stay Warm in the Arctic

Even though we travel to wonderful northern destinations in the height of summer, it never hurts to prepare for the chill! In the sun, there’s often nothing to worry about–but temperatures can swing quickly in the Arctic. These handy tips will help you stay nice and toasty during your expeditions to the far north.

1. Dress in layers

RaffanWhile a big, bulky parka might be best for urban wear, it will rarely be the best choice for Arctic summers. Instead of one large, cumbersome coat, choose multiple layers of synthetic fibres. A wicking layer close to your skin will help regulate your body temperature, while an outer waterproof shell will protect you from wind and sea spray. If further insulation is required, lightweight down and fleece layers should be used.

2. Stay dry

It’s hard to warm back up once you’re wet! During Zodiac travel, be sure to wear a waterproof shell over your expedition clothing. Even if it’s not raining, this barrier will protect you from sea spray and generally pack down quite small should you wish to remove it on land. Choose wool socks over cotton (which retains almost no heat when wet) and make sure that your hiking shoes have a degree of waterproofness built in–we’ll supply the rubber boots!

3. Protect your extremities

We lose the most heat through our hands, feet, and heads–so do your digits right, and always keep a light pair of gloves and a toque close by. Thick mitts help when it’s truly cold, but often gloves are sufficient–and let you use your camera!

At the foot of Executioner's Cliffs, Icy Arm, Nunavut

4. Warm yourself

The human body is a remarkable power plant, producing heat constantly. If you find yourself catching a chill, try moving about quickly to raise your heart rate and increase blood flow. It’s remarkable what just a few minutes of physical activity will do for your body temperature. And once you’ve created the heat, your layered clothing will trap it in and keep you nice and toasty.

5. Pack warm drinks

You can never go wrong with a thermos of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate–all of which the Ocean Endeavour has on hand twenty-four hours a day for your convenience. So stock up and bring along a hot cuppa to sip from a scenic vista!

6. Stoke the furnace

Being well-fed–meaning consuming more calories than you are expending–will help your body source the energy it needs to keep you warm. We recommend starting each day with a big breakfast and keeping your blood sugar up to make sure that your built-in furnace has everything in place to work effectively. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered–the Ocean Endeavour’s restaurant features three delicious meals each day, not to mention an afternoon tea and evening snacks. We find it’s hard to stop eating, frankly!

7. Skip the booze

Sure, a brandy or a hot toddy might feel like a good way to warm up after a trip around a glacier or brisk Zodiac ride–just make sure you save the hooch for after your expedition! Studies have shown that drinking alcohol before exposure to cold as it lowers core body temperature even as it creates the illusion of heat–a dangerous combination!

Seven Tips for Zodiac Travel

2009-Heart-of-the-Arctic-Andrew-Stewart-3870Our Zodiac landing craft make Adventure Canada expeditions truly special. With these hardy, rigid-hulled inflatable outboards, we are able to bring adventurers ashore efficiently and in comfort. They can land on beaches, rocks, and everything in between—and they are stable at speed with large groups of passengers. Ideally suited to expedition travel, the Zodiac allows us to explore incredible wilderness safely and easily. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your Zodiac experience:

1. The Zodiac driver is in charge of the boat and its operation. Please promptly follow their instructions at all times (singing is optional but encouraged).

2. Always wear the provided lifejackets when travelling in the Zodiacs.

3. Familiarize yourself with the “sailors’ grip” for use when stepping in and out of the Zodiacs at the gangway and at shore. Always accept a helping hand, and grasp each other by the wrists. This provides far greater support than a more traditional handshake grip.

4. Minimize the number of separate items taken along with you. Backpacks are ideal for consolidating objects such as cameras, binoculars, extra shoes, etc. Waterproof backpack coverings can be purchased, and are recommended. Remember to pass any backpacks, walking sticks, etc. to the Zodiac’s driver or ship’s crew before embarking or disembarking.

5. Never disembark or embark the Zodiac over the wooden transom at the boat’s stern. The slightest wave could bring the heavy box down on your foot; wait for instructions and assistance if a stern disembarkation is necessary.

6. Never smoke in the Zodiacs. There are exposed fuel tanks connected to the outboard engines. Lit cigarettes are also hazardous to the rubber construction of the boats themselves.

7. Always ask permission before standing in a Zodiac.

Following these tips will help ensure that our Zodiac operations are safe and fun for all aboard!

Arctic Photo Tips from a Pro: Guest Post from Michelle Valberg

MichelleValbergD4S5471.105926Nikon Canada Ambassador Michelle Valberg has been travelling with Adventure Canada for years, and her incredible photography plays a large role in helping us tell our story through exciting trip logs, brochures, and around the web. In addition to the successful photography business she runs in Ottawa, Michelle is the founder of the non-profit Project North, an organization dedicated to supporting northern communities with donated sporting equipment. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, the London Tribune, MORE magazine, Canadian Geographic, and In Style. She has self-published four books, including Arctic Kaleidoscopeand has been exhibited at the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Ottawa Hospital, the Wall Space Gallery, and the Trinity Art Gallery.

A mainstay of Adventure Canada’s expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavour, Michelle delights in being out on deck and on the land, capturing the wide world around her through an ever-present lens. In anticipation of our 2016 sailing season—and in light of Adventure Canada’s new partnership with Nikon Canada—we caught up with Michelle to ask her a few questions about Arctic photography, to help our guests make the most of their expeditions to the far north.


Adventure Canada: What is the best technique for photographers to best capture the scale of the Arctic landscape?

Michelle Valberg:  For the vast and stunning Arctic landscapes, I suggest using a wide-angle lens.Buchun Gulf 812830

Ideally, a focal length between 14–28mm; I use a NIKKOR 14–24mm for most landscapes I shoot. You can also photograph a panoramic image which tells of an even greater story with a very wide perspective—one that might represent more of how it felt to be there.

Pay attention to the rule of thirds, and where you place the horizon line. Avoid placing the horizon line in the centre of the frame to achieve better composition and interest to your viewer.

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AC: Is there a specific recommendation you have for photographers seeking incredible wildlife shots?

MV: In contrast to the landscapes, a longer lens is very useful for wildlife photography. Most often than not, you aren’t that close to your subjects and it is great to have a longer reach. For versatility I like to use the NIKKOR 80–400mm or 200–500mm. Both are incredibly sharp lenses.

If possible, shoot in the early morning or late day; don’t be in your cabin at prime shooting times! In these magic hours, light angles are lower and create more texture and interest in your image. Shadows and contrast are increased, and, typically, you get more wildlife activity (since it is feeding time). Play with front, back, and side lighting to see how you can photograph your subjects in different ways. Most importantly, watch and change your camera settings to get better results.

Narwal tail 7948Pay close attention to your background and positioning of your subject when photographing wildlife. Experiment with different foregrounds for landscapes. Change your vantage point often while in the same shooting area. Composition can make or break your image, and it is critical to creating and capturing that first-class photograph. Look for ways you can capture motion—whether with a bird in flight or a waterfall. Maybe you want to create a sense of motion with water. Remember your tripod and change your shutter speeds to achieve different affects.

Finally, watching animal behaviour and anticipating their next move can help you get better results. An animal can change the tilt of its head ever so slightly and take your image from good to fantastic. Watch a bird’s wing position, or how an animal walks or swims. Above all be patient—very patient!

King Eiders 0292AC: What’s the biggest mistake you see amateurs make in the field? How can they correct this?

MV: I find that many people don’t shoot enough!  SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT—and don’t stop shooting until you have your ultimate image. Always carry a lot of memory cards so you don’t have to worry about how many images you can take. The beauty of nature is all around, and you don’t have to go far to photograph it. Photograph in your backyard, a park or on a trail; pay close attention to your ISO, shutter, and aperture and experiment, practice, and continue to learn. Try to be unique with your approach and creativity so your images stand out and command your viewer’s attention.

AC: Do you have any tips for shooting from a moving ship? How about from a Zodiac?Icy Arm Polar Bears _D4S2599

MV: With the continued improvement and development of today’s cameras, you can shoot at much higher ISO settings that any of us probably thought was possible. Since you are shooting on a moving ship or Zodiac—and perhaps with a longer lens—you need a faster shutter speed (at least 1/250 second). If you start with a higher ISO setting, it will give you the ability to shoot at a faster shutter speed. I would also recommend setting your camera to shutter priority so you can choose your shutter speed. Stay steady and be aware of your fellow passengers. When you see a polar bear, it is hard to contain your excitement!

AC: What’s your favourite memory of shooting with Adventure Canada? Do any wildlife encounters or expedition stops stand out?

MV: There are so many favourites or special memories—too many to name! Every trip I have taken with AC is outstanding and gifts me with amazing and precious moments.


Join Michelle in 2016 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation, and the Heart of the Arctic Nikon expedition!

MYACWhat does Canadian adventure mean to you? Photographers who answer this question through the #MyAdventureCanada photo contest could win passage aboard Heart of the Arctic 2016 (where they can hone their skills in the field with Michelle), as well as gear from Nikon Canada!

All photos by Michelle Valberg

Welcome Back, Chief Mi’sel Joe!

Mi’sel Joe was born in Miawpukek in 1947 to a family with strong ties to the community. Both his grandfather and uncle have held the office of hereditary Saqamaw—a high ranking spiritual leader traditionally tasked with spiritual and cultural leadership. His great great uncle, Morris Lewis, was the first appointed Chief in Newfoundland by the Grand Chief in Mi’kmaq territory. Mi’sel was educated in the Mi’kmaq ways and traditions, and at sixteen was given the alternative to either leave the reservation to seek employment, or travel to a neighbouring community to attend secondary school. He chose the former.

During his years away from the community, Mi’sel travelled widely and cut his teeth on a wide variety of professions. He worked in farms and factories, in construction and on railroads. He drove trucks and operated heavy machinery. He worked on fishing boats and in mines underground, and acted as labour foreman. But years passed, and in 1973 he moved back to Miawpukek.

Since then, Mi’sel has been been involved in First Nations Politics, initially as a councillor. After the death of his uncle, Chief William Joe, in 1982, Mi’sel became Saqamaw and Newfoundland District Chief for the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. He is currently in his sixth consecutive two-year term as Administrative Chief for the nation, and is recognized prCHIEF MISEL JOEovincially, nationally, and internationally as a spiritual leader and healer, ambassador of his people. He has presented on native medicines and traditional healing practices at international medical conferences and hosted the 1996 International Healing Conference at Miawpukek. He is on the board of Parks Canada, a mentor of the Trudeau Foundation, a member of the First Nations Trust Fund, and sits on the Executive Council of the Atlantic Policy Congress. In 2004, Mi’sel was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador in recognition of his contribution to the economic, social, and political development of the Mi’kmaq people of the province.

Adventure Canada is delighted to be setting sail with Chief Mi’sel Joe yet again in 2016 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation. This stunning itinerary takes in the sights and sounds of Newfoundland the way they were meant to be discovered—by sea! Chief Mi’sel Joe will be on hand as a member of our elite team of resource specialists, helping to share his wealth of knowledge and experience in—as well as his lifelong love for—the region. We are also thrilled to be stopping in Miawpukek (Conne River), where we look forward to meeting with the community and sharing stories.

Just one more way Adventure Canada is helping to spread culture, knowledge, and community.

Polar Bear Sightings: Some Guidelines

Polar bear sightings can be a highlight of our expeditions, and we do our best to visit areas where bears can safely be seen. We must, however, be aware that the polar bear is a predatory animal. We must also be mindful that the polar bear is vulnerable; as a responsible tour operator, we are committed to avoid disturbing all wildlife.Polar Bear, South Baffin

Select licensed and experienced members of our expedition team will be outfitted with firearms and other deterrents to ensure the safety of our group, as well as that of the bears. It is imperative to adhere to the instructions of the expedition team, and safe behaviour around polar bears is part of your responsibility as a visitor. The following are our guidelines to ensure safe and responsible interaction with the world’s largest land predator:

• We will never follow or approach a swimming polar bear, from any angle.
• We will position our Zodiacs so they may be operated in a safe and controlled manner.
• We will maintain a minimum distance of thirty metres between polar bears and our Zodiacs.
• We will always increase our distance from polar bears should they demonstrate any signs of distress.
• If you spot a polar bear, stay calm and immediately inform a member of the expedition team.
• Never approach a bear for any reason
• Never stray from your group.
• Never leave food or garbage anywhere.
• Always follow the direction of the expedition team.

Polar Bear at PlayThese guidelines will ensure that our encounters with the majestic polar bear will be moments to treasure forever. There is something unforgettable about seeing a polar bear striding across the Arctic landscape or dismembering a fresh kill along the shore of a rocky fjord. They are truly an embodiment of the spirit of the north–and, with our respect, will hopefully remain so for generations to come.

The Light Returns to Inuvik

There is a town far, far in the north by the name of Inuvik. It lies near the northwestern border of the Northwest Territories and, like many of the other communities north of the Arctic circle, its inhabitants eke out lives in conditions far harsher than those experienced by their southern countrymen and women. The community averages low winter temperatures of -30°C, though fierce winds have taken the mercury as low as -67°C. For the last thirty days or so, Inuvik has been shrouded in near total darkness as the earth’s axis leans it away from the sun.

But today, the light returns to Inuvik.

Today, and for the rest of this weekend, the town’s inhabitants take the the streets for their annual Sunrise Festival, celebrating the first sunrise in over a month. The event has brought people together since 1988 to celebrate the light, and there is an abundance of ways to do just that. Local food, dance, music, and winter activities like snow carving and snowmobiling take place across the town and a giant bonfire and fireworks display keep locals warm on Saturday night.

All of which we find truly inspiring. To us, Inuvik represents a true triumph of the human spirit; it represents all that we can do when we are pushed to our limits, together. The welcome return of a ray of light after a long, cold darkness shows us our capacity for resilience. In the cheerful, goodhearted revival of spirt and the rebirth of another year under the sun, Inuvik and its inhabitants remind us to be thankful for what we have. To be good to one another. To cherish the little things that make us whole and make us human.

The light at the end of the tunnel reminds us to look for the guiding flame even when things seem at their darkest. The dawn at the end of a long night reminds us that our time on this swiftly tilting planet is not destined for perfection–nor should it be. Instead, Inuvik turns its face into the sun today, nourished by its healing power, but, perhaps, all the more secure in the knowledge that in its absence they still endured. And flourished. As they always, year in and out, again and again.

It is a new year for all of us. But the light has returned to Inuvik; some would say that it never left.

Nunatsiavut celebrates ten years

Bustling Nain, Nunatsiavut

Imagine coming from a small community, in a mostly undeveloped district, of a remote region of an isolated province of a very big country. You wouldn’t feel far away, especially if your homeland was rich and beautiful, culturally vibrant and blessed with a unique history and heritage. But it might just take a while for the rest of the world to know your story.

That’s what life must be like for the inhabitants of Nunatsiavut—the self-governing territory of the Labrador Inuit. As Nunatsiavut celebrates its tenth anniversary, many Canadians remain completely unaware of the word, or the region it defines. This is a pity, because Nunatsiavut is both a proud Inuit homeland, and a unique Canadian story.

Traffic in the Torngat Mountains

Ten years ago, when the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement went into effect, binding the Inuit of Nunatsiavut, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Government of Canada, it culminated decades of work and struggle for recognition by the Inuit of Labrador, who have dwelled in Nunatsiavut (“Our beautiful land”) for centuries.

The agreement, among other things, establishes the Inuit right “to make their own laws relating to cultural affairs, education and health”. It covers 72,520 square kilometres of land, of which more than 15,000 are owned outright by the Inuit. The agreement also established Torngat Mountains National Park, one of the most beautiful natural wilderness areas in Canada, or anywhere.

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At anchor off Torngat Mountain National Park

Adventure Canada has been a proud supporter of Nunatsiavut since before the Agreement was ratified. Our expedition cruises to the region are an important cultural and economic contribution to Nunatsiavut, and we proudly employ Inuit from the region as culturalists, bear guides and boat drivers. Visits to centres like Hopedale (the seat of government) and Nain (the administrative centre) and to important historic sites like Hebron and Ramah help create markets for local goods, and foster among our passengers a sense of the wonder and importance of Nunatsiavut.

Please join all of us at Adventure Canada in celebrating this important milestone. Nunatsiavut, you’ve only just begun!

Visit Nunatsiavut on Adventure Canada’s Greenland and Wild Labrador voyage, June 29-July 11, 2016. Book before December 18, 2015 and save up to 30% on available berths!

All photos by David Newland.

The Northwest Passage!

A legend made real: that’s how the Northwest Passage feels for those who have the rare privilege of travelling there. The mythical sea route between Europe and Asia holds a peculiar fascination. The many failed attempts to find, and later, to traverse the passage through the ice-choked waters of what is now the Canadian Arctic archipelago only increased its lure and its lustre, through the era of exploration to the present day.

The story most associated with the Northwest Passage, that of Sir John Franklin‘s lost expedition, deepened last summer with the discovery of the wreck of his flagship, the HMS Erebus, on the sea floor off King William Island, by the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition.

Yet the great irony of the Northwest Passage is that a route across the North American Arctic had long existed—in the form of the migration and hunting routes of the Inuit and their predecessors. The recent increase in loss of sea ice due to global warming makes all the more poignant the oft-overlooked fact that the Northwest Passage traverses the Inuit homeland.

And of course, even before the ancient human presence in the North, whales, seabirds and other migratory creatures delved the waters of the Passage, while seals, walrus and polar bears depended on its sea ice for food.

All of this is very much on the minds of travellers aboard our Northwest Passage excursions. There is the place, and then there is the sense of place—which is exceedingly difficult to express. This video, by film maker Jason Van Bruggen, with its impressionistic, highly cinematic approach, comes as close as anything we’ve seen to conveying the magic, and the mystery of the Northwest Passage.

Travel the Northwest Passage with Adventure Canada:
Into the Northwest Passage, August 26-September 11, 2016.
Out of the Northwest Passage, September 11-26, 2016.

Bidding farewell to Bill Freedman

Dr_Bill_FreedmanIt’s a sad and reflective time for Adventure Canada: beloved AC staffer Dr. Bill Freedman has died of cancer at 65.

It’s difficult to imagine Bill as anything other than ALIVE. He practically defined that word, with his boundless enthusiasm, his unflagging cheer, and his remarkable passion for the preservation of the natural world.

Bill was a true original: fun, funny, and astonishingly well informed. An ecologist, researcher, and professor of biology, Bill was also an environmentalist whose efforts helped preserve vast swaths of land in a natural state. A brilliant communicator with an evident love for all living things, Bill combined scientific rigour with infectious humour and energy.

geniusBill had travelled with Adventure Canada in 2007, but I first encountered him in 2013 on a video conference about Adventure Canada’s planned trips to Sable Island. I could not help but smile from the moment I saw him on screen with his trademark walrus moustache. It was as though the animated Einstein character from Office 97 had come to life! And Bill’s detailed extemporaneous lecture on the ecology of Sable Island merely underscored the mad-scientist image—one he appeared to relish.

A few months later, I got to know Bill well: we were roommates on my first Adventure Canada trip, Into the Northwest Passage in 2013. Bill’s charm, his zeal for nature, his lengthy presentations chock-filled with facts, fun, and occasional eyebrow-raising humour endeared him to staff and passengers alike. But he was also a man of many small kindnesses: he would share his cookies with a staffer on the run; offer his elbow to an elderly passenger. He once threw me a pair of mittens when he knew I had to make a frigid Zodiac trip, stoically putting his own cold hands into his pockets.

When Adventure Canada launched our inaugural trips to Sable Island, Bill was there in all his glory, expounding the virtues of coprophilous fungi, which might otherwise have been outshone by the rare birds, seals, and horses that make the island oasis home. He travelled with AC again that year, up the coast of Labrador. Sadly, it would be his last trip with us.

Bill showed great courage and fortitude when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. His Facebook posts cheerfully detailed his current condition and prognosis. We often speak of people ‘battling’ cancer; Bill, ever the scientist, expressed his situation instead as a series of carefully presented facts, and thoughtfully interpreted options. Occasionally, he’d lampoon his own progress reports—posting a picture with a watermelon over his face, or one of himself as a child with a wry update.

But perhaps the most touching of Bill’s posts was a recent one of his daughter Rachael, proudly pregnant. Bill’s joy was evident, as was his sense of the continuity and beauty of life itself.

Despite his great gifts and his impressive resume, what stood out most about Bill was his heart. Though his wife George-Anne did not accompany Bill on his Adventure Canada trips, she was ever-present in Bill’s constant fond references and anecdotes. His children, Jonathan and Rachael, were likewise a source of great joy and pride for Bill.

DrBillInTireBill was such an easy-going guy, and such a remarkable character, that his extraordinary achievements as a scientist and conservationist might easily go unmentioned. He certainly never tooted his own horn. Yet Bill authored more than 100 scientific papers, publications and textbooks. He had been the chair of Dalhousie University’s biology department and was a professor emeritus. For more than twenty-five years, Bill volunteered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, serving as a regional and national chair and literally writing the book on the history of the organization.

In honour of Bill’s work with the conservancy, which led to the preservation of vast areas of land, a 150-hectare site at Prospect High Head, Nova Scotia has been named the Bill Freedman Nature Preserve. In addition, the Dr. Bill Freedman Science in Conservation Internship has been established in his honour.

Adventure Canada will be making a donation to the NCC in remembrance of Bill. We wish all love, warmth and healing to George-Anne, Rachael, Jonathan and all of Bill’s extended family and friends. Bill showed us all how to live more deeply. He will be deeply missed.

 

Meet Matt Szczepanski

1Meet Matt Szczepanski, filmmaker. He’s fresh out of high school, and he’s taking a year off to “figure it all out,” before attending university. He’s planning a backpacking trip through Poland later this year. He’s a Students On Ice alumnus. And he’s headed back to the Arctic. Again.

Matt has seen more of Canada in his eighteen years than most people do in a lifetime. The Mississauga native has always had a penchant for film, but it was during a Students On Ice expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour last summer that his ideas really began to coalesce.

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“I started in elementary school,” Matt tells me over the phone as he gears up for this summer’s trip, Adventure Canada’s Out of the Northwest Passage expedition. “I would always make films for school projects. Little random things, like a Shakespeare play, or a science project. They always seemed to end up as films.” Now, a decade later, Matt’s lens is honing in on work in the Arctic. “I’ve started doing my own projects for the sake of doing them,” he says, “I love the idea of adventure film. Documentary filmmaking. Right now, I want to stay behind the camera … but that’s because I don’t really have anyone to work with! I do it all. I film, I edit, I direct. And I like being in front of the camera, too.”

3The call of the Arctic is heard by many, and so it was with Matt and the friends he made aboard the Students On Ice expedition in 2014. In May, he and his friend Justin Fisch, a Montrealer, went to Naujaat (Repulse Bay), NU to meet up with Edmund Bruce, a third SOI alumnus, who lives there. Together, they planned to snowmobile into the recently established Ukkusiksalik National Park—in fact, they planned to be the first to visit. They planned to document the whole operation as an examination of how young people interact with these kinds of spaces. But alas—their film project documenting the adventure, Hello Ukkusiksalik, was put on hold due to inhospitable weather.

“Total white-out, seventy-kilometre-an-hour winds, constant snow,” Matt laughs. “We had it all. We waited out two weeks in Naujaat, but it wasn’t to be. We ran out of supplies and had to head home.”

I comment that this is exactly how expedition travel tends to happen, and we talk about deviation from the plan. Matt agrees: “Of course! And now the story isn’t about visiting the park so much as it’s about how we failed to visit the park. But the good news is we got more funding. And we’ll be heading back in April!”

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Matt is excited to be back aboard the Ocean Endeavour and back travelling to new and exciting places in the Arctic. The jumpstart that Students On Ice provided has certainly done wonders for the young filmmaker, who will be using his time aboard the Adventure Canada voyage to hone his technique and build his portfolio. He’s looking forward to being back among the amazing people in the north: “Kids here always asked me, ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ — My long hair was very misleading for them!” He’ll be working alongside an elite team of resource staff, all experts in the area, all of whom—like him—have dedicated their lives to answering that strange call when it is heard.

And, like most who venture through the storied Northwest Passage, he’ll never be the same.

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All images by Justin Fisch.

Presenting: Adventure Canada’s Scientist-in-Residence Program


We are proud to present an exciting new program debuting for the 2016 sailing season aboard the Ocean Endeavour. Read on to find out how we are helping spread love for and knowledge of the areas to which we travel through innovative intersections between research-based science and Arctic expedition cruising!

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The Concept:

Adventure Canada is keenly interested in expanding world knowledge of the areas to which we travel. We believe that only though better knowledge and understanding, will we be able to protect these areas and inspire the general public to take an actionable interest.

To that end, starting with our 2016 expeditions, Adventure Canada will be providing one cabin—two berths—aboard each of our voyages, for the purpose of scientific study. The cruise itself, as well as any charter flights will be provided. Transport to and from the point of embarkation will be the responsibility of the applicants. We would like to offer the scientist-in-residence an opportunity to observe the environments and communities visited by the cruise and interact with individuals on the ship with and interest in the research area.

Please note that Adventure Canada is interested in all types of science—from social science experiments, to ethnobiology, climatology, geological, oceanography, and beyond.

 

The Process:

Adventure Canada will have a RFP process through which interested scientists can apply for the space available aboard our voyages.

Proposals must take into account our proposed itineraries and the constraints that come along with the need to move along a predetermined—but sometime changing —sailing schedule.

 

Proposals will be judged on the basis of:

  1. Passenger Participation — does the proposal involve our passengers?
  2. Community participation — does the proposal involve the stakeholders in the regions we visit?
  3. Perceived interest to the public at large.

 

Adventure Canada would also like to be able to promote the type of science and the specific projects that are taking place onboard the vessel though its website, social media, and any other outlets it deems appropriate.

We would also like to be notified on studies or reports published so that we can share the results with our passengers and constituents, to help promote the knowledge base we are helping to build.

Should there be insufficient interest, or should the applications not be deemed to have enough merit, the spaces will not be allocated, but Adventure Canada will endeavour to source as many proposals as possible.

A board comprised of Adventure Canada’s executives and the scientists they currently employ on board will judge proposals. They will meet twice yearly to evaluate proposals.

 

Guidelines for Applications

Proposals should be short and succinct: less than 1000 words, yet including enough information for Adventure Canada to make a decision with the information below. An existing research program or funding proposal with a cover letter briefly outlining the below is also acceptable.

 

  • Problem Statement — How their research would be supported by participation on an Adventure Canada trip. 
  • Research Project Participants
  • Anticipated Results and Benefits                               
  • Proposed Activities during trip
  • Equipment Needed                                                           
  • Timetable of Activities                                                
  • Proposed Passenger Participation (if relevant)
  • Proposed Community Consultation or Participation (if relevant)

 

Please send all inquiries and proposals to science@adventurecanada.com, to the attention of Clayton Anderson.

We’ll be kicking off the program through our partnership with Beakerhead, Canada’s premier science festival, taking place in Calgary from September 16–20, 2016. Co-founded by Adventure Canada friend Jay Ingram, Beakerhead is a hands-on, citywide celebration of science. As in-kind sponsors Adventure Canada will announce the Scientist-in-Residence program to a captive audience of Canada’a top scientists across all fields, encouraging those interested to apply to be a part.

“We have always been keenly interested in expanding world knowledge of the areas we travel,” says Cedar Swan, Adventure Canada CEO. “We believe that only through better knowledge and understanding will we be able to protect these areas and inspire the general public to take an actionable interest.”

 

The Labrador Revelation

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Margaret Atwood scans the coast of Labrador, looking for birds and bears

What does Margaret Atwood know about Labrador that the rest of us should?

Having visited The Big Land several times aboard Adventure Canada voyages, the author of The Labrador Fiasco has had the unusual experience of having seen this extraordinary region of Canada first hand. With her keen eyes, the veteran birder and traveller is a valued addition to the wildlife-spotting team aboard the Ocean Endeavour.

Many Canadians, if they think of Labrador at all, think of it as a backwater of the already-distant province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

But Atwood and her fellow voyagers know that Labrador has a unique culture and diverse history all its own. Numerous First Peoples made their homes here in a rich history dating back thousands of years. Thule, Maritime Archaic, and paleoeskimo artifacts abound. Ramah chert from this ‘remote’ region was traded widely across eastern North America. Today, the region is home to Inuit, concentrated on the coastal region, with Innu communities at Sheshatshiu and Davis Inlet.

Viking explorers reached these shores, which they called Markland, by 1000 AD. They were the first of the European visitors. Red Bay, Canada’s newest UNESCO world heritage site, was home to a Basque whaling station through the 1500s that comprised the New World’s first export industry.

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Adventure Canada geologist David Bathe and explorer Milbry Polk in Red Bay

Portuguese, Spaniards, English and French all plied the Labrador Sea for whale and fish. Later came Moravian missionaries from Germany, whose abandoned outposts now dot the coast. The resettlement of the people of Hebron and other missions is a painful chapter in Labrador history. Medical missionary Wilfrid Grenfell’s humanitarian work drew volunteers from around the world, and sent many Labradorians for training abroad.

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Remains of the abandoned Moravian mission at Hebron, Labrador

Today’s visitors to the Labrador coast are often shocked to realize the scale of Labrador: 294,330 sq km, more than twice the area of Newfoundland. And much of that is rugged mountain coastline, where the human spirit is humbled by geography rendered sublime.

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The Ocean Endeavour in Eclipse Harbour, Nunatsiavut, Labrador

A mere one percent of Labrador is developed. The region’s largest city has fewer than 10,000 citizens. There are few roads in the south, and none in the north.

Ships and boats are still the best way—often the only way—to visit the extraordinary locations that dot the virtually unpopulated coastline along the Labrador Sea.

Yet the biggest thing about The Big Land is the people. Hardy, thoughtful, hard-working, and welcoming, the people of Nunatsiavut are survivors—there are many hard stories here—whose hardship has not hardened their hearts.

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Brass band welcome, Nain, Labrador

From the brass band playing from the wharf in Nain, to the bear guard scanning the landscape of Nachvak Fiord, to the culturalist revisiting her abandoned home at Hebron, to the grandfather welcoming his toddler granddaughter from Toronto, the people of the Labrador coast show themselves at every turn to be the most welcoming of hosts.

Among a myriad of surprises and aha! moments, that’s the Labrador revelation. Perhaps that’s what keeps travellers like Ms. Atwood coming back time and again.

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Exploring Torngat Mountains National Park by Zodiac

Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Adventure Canada present , June 29-July 11, 2016.

All photographs by David Newland.

Exploration is for Everyone

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AC passengers enjoy the midnight sun while exploring Ragged Island, Nunavut

The June issue of Canadian Geographic magazine names Canada’s Greatest Explorers. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the minds of those who seek new horizons—and return to tell the tale.

In our epoch, the poles, the peaks, and even the moon have all been visited, mapped, and made familiar. Exploration is no longer just about being the first one there (and back). As editor Aaron Kylie, diver Joe MacInnis, and author James Raffan all note, today’s explorer also has a responsibility to tell stories.

Director, diver, and documentarian James Cameron understands this implicitly. Having created two of the great popular myths of our time in Titanic and Avatar, he has also delved the ocean depths, whose stories most of us can only know through such work.

Likewise, Jill Heinerth, who has explored the iceberg caves of Antarctica and swum with Team Sedna, an all-female snorkelling expedition from Labrador to Greenland. Team Sedna brought back a story of disappearing sea ice that affects us all.

It’s important who tells the story—and where the story came from. Louie Kamookak gathered oral history from Inuit elders that would prove essential to finding the Erebus, Sir John Franklin’s flagship, off King William Island. Louie’s work reminds us there is a vast web of indigenous oral tradition only now being given its due.

Too frequently, we picture an ‘explorer’ as a bearded man, pitting himself against the unknown. Women like ocean rower Mylène Paquette are changing that perception. We must remember that some of history’s greatest feats of exploration have been undertaken not by lone trekkers, but by family units, migrating, on foot or horseback or by boat, all over the world. The umiaq, or ‘women’s boat’ played a pivotal role in the pre-European exploration of the Arctic.

We must consider that when known places are visited in novel ways, new and important stories are born. Think of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion tour, or the empowering trek of the Cree youth who walked from James Bay to Ottawa, at the height of Idle No More. Are artists who plumb the human experience, like Buffy Ste. Marie or Leonard Cohen or Margaret Atwood not explorers, too? What of the philosophical journey of Jean Vanier?

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AC passengers at Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland

Most importantly, we must remember that exploration is not just for heroes. Every one of us faces the terra incognita of his or her own life, an exploration we symbolically enact when we travel. We are forever exploring not just the new places we may visit, but the vast frontiers of our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual geography as well.

As with the living legends among the 100 Greatest Explorers, it’s the stories we come home with that matter most. That’s what makes exploration for everyone.

Adventure Canada is proud to have worked with Louie Kamookak, James Raffan, Jerry Kobalenko, Mike Beedell, Edward Burtynsky, Geoff Green, Bill Lishman, David Pelly, Peter Rowe, Mark St-Onge, and David Suzuki—all listed among Canada’s 100 Greatest Explorers. Congratulations to all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Kathleen Merritt

kathleen merrittKathleen Merritt is having quite a year. The Rankin Inlet native is gearing up for the Alianait Arts Festival, for which she is training to replace the Executive Director; she’s also releasing her debut record, Ivaluarjuk, and preparing for her first trip with Adventure Canada. We caught up with her over the phone, just returned from a whirlwind press tour through Ottawa and Winnipeg.

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Adventure Canada: Tell us about your work with Alianait.

Kathleen Merritt: It’s been a crazy time, for sure. I started working with the festival in 2010 as a volunteer. I guess they enjoyed me. [laughs] For the last two years I’ve been preparing to succeed the executive director—I love working in arts administration.

AC: What is it about AAF that attracted you initially?

KM: We truly believe that through the arts and connecting people, a lot of healing is possible. It’s about so much more than presenting art. When you see a bunch of northern people connect—magic happens. Our mission is to help build a healthier Nunavut through the arts. It’s obvious in all our programming that it’s geared towards a positive impact; we run alcohol-free, tobacco-free programming, we enter into real partnerships with communities. We work with World Suicide Prevention Day. We work with National Remembrance Day and Tobacco Has No Place Here. We want to promote and present healthy living more generally, and of course, share the artists’ talents with everyone.

AC: And the response has been positive?

KM: Absolutely. That’s the backdrop, but on the surface we’re not confronting—but really thinking—about different social justice issues and trying to target them through the arts. It’s a positive angle, not combative. When the big top goes up every year, the children come running. They volunteer; everything is open to the whole community free of charge, and we put together teaching workshops and musical jams and make it up as we go based on who’s coming. We really focus on creating on the spot—that’s where the magic happens. The audience has the chance to interact one-on-one with the performers; the artists are so willing to share their time. It’s beautiful.kathleen merritt 2

AC: Can you tell us anything about Ivaluarjuk? You must be excited about the new record!

KM: Yes! I’m working part-time with AAF this year, so that gives me the time and the space to focus on my own art. I started singing in 2008; I moved to Ottawa to study traditional throat singing. For two years, every day, I practiced and practiced and practiced. I’ve always enjoyed performing, and at first I was immersed in more traditional Inuit art forms; throat singing, drum dancing. But the more involved I got, the more I realized that I wanted to learn everything, try everything. Hip hop, beat boxing, and electronic music have begun to have a real impact on traditional throat singing—any throat singer wants to try to work outside the box like that.

AC: Are those influences present on the record?

KM: [laughs] No, not so much. The last couple of years I’ve been wanting to put together a project that really represents me; who I am, where I come from. So that meant it’s somewhere between Celtic music—my dad is Irish—and traditional Inuit sounds. It’s very folky, very much a collaborative project.

AC: Why do you feel like your work is a good fit for Adventure Canada?

KM: Well, I’ve lived around. I grew up in the North, but I’ve travelled extensively. I hope that my perspective—someone who’s lived in northern communities but also in the south—will be valuable. I do my best to educate people; the perspective of someone from up here is so important. The colonial experience and the history of the North and how that has shaped Inuit culture—it’s important stuff to think about. More than anything, I want to share that the North is a place of wicked, harsh environments, but that life is about so much more than just survival, you know?. There’s so much beauty here, and so much life. That’s what I want to share with everyone.

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Kathleen’s record will be released in July, around the same time she joins Adventure Canada aboard the Ocean Endeavour for the 2015 Arctic Explorer expedition. You can check out the forthcoming record Ivaluarjuk here, find more of her music through the CBC, and read more about her work in the latest issue of Inuktitut magazine. Alianait Arts Fesitval runs from June 26–July 1 in Iqaluit.

What Farley Knew

The late Canadian author, environmentalist, self-promoter, and shit-disturber Farley Mowat was born on this day in 1921. Nearly ninety-two years later, on May 6 of 2014, he died. Between those dates Mowat led a legendary life. A polarizing personality, he was widely loved and yet frequently reviled.

Pinocchio MowatIt’s Mowat’s storytelling that will remain his greatest legacy, and drew his most vociferous criticism. “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” was his mantra, and Mowat was duly dubbed “Hardly Know It” by many serious scientists, experts, and ordinary folk—especially Northerners—fed up with his penchant for myth-making. Saturday Night magazine depicted Farley Mowat as Pinocchio in a cover story that catalogued his errors, exaggerations and outright fibs.

For his part, Mowat claimed his wildly popular books—he sold 17 million of them, all over the world—brought much needed attention to serious causes: the starvation of the Ahalmuit (People of the Deer); the demonization of wolves (Never Cry Wolf); the plight of whales (A Whale for the Killing), seals and other marine life (Sea of Slaughter).

The factuality of Mowat’s work may often be sketchy, but his skill as a storyteller is undeniable. As Up Here noted in a reevaluation in 2009, (Farley Mowat: Liar or Saint?) the North has been hard on its writers at the best of times, and Hardly Know It might well have been reviled for his unpopular stance even if he’d been a stickler for accuracy.

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Certainly, if history judges his books by their emotional substance, Farley Mowat’s legacy will be a favourable one. Sympathy for wild creatures was once considered sentimental. Criticism of British and Canadian patriarchal authority in the North was weak-kneed. And advocacy for the Inuit way of life was anything but common when Farley Mowat first put pen to paper.

These were ideas Mowat introduced, and stood by, early on in his career. All are clearly in evidence in his Top of the World Trilogy. This compendium of old explorer’s journals, spanning several centuries, edited with commentary by Mowat, is well worth re-reading now: it’s vintage Mowat, and yet, published in 1973, it was well ahead of its time.

Favouring overlooked, underdog explorers like Samuel Hearne, Francis McClintock, and Captain Thierry Mallet, Mowat’s selections and commentary subvert the typical hero narrative, heaping scorn on hapless colonizers of the North acting on orders from far away, including the otherwise iconic Sir John Franklin.

Such views are common, if not dominant today, even in the South. Would that be the case without Farley Mowat? Clearly his most egregious missteps and misstatements will not stand the test of time, nor should they. But on what would have been his ninety-fourth birthday, perhaps we can admit that on some subjects, at least, Farley Knew It after all.

Editor’s note: the late Farley Mowat travelled as a special guest aboard Adventure Canada expeditions in 1995 and 1997. Among his many contributions he taught us invaluable lessons about garnering cheap publicity.

For a definitive take on this issue, see Ken McGoogan‘s thorough and beautiful overview of Farley Mowat’s literary legacy from the National Post.

Expedition to the End of the World

It’s one thing to travel; it’s another thing to travel without a specific destination in mind. It’s still another thing to travel to where few—if any—have gone before.

Expedition to the End of the World, from Danish writer-director Daniel Dencik chronicles such a journey, one that has an immediate appeal to Arctic travellers. The scenery, shot on the ice-choked Greenlandic coast, is achingly beautiful. But this film subverts the ‘nature film’ genre, creating not so much a portrait of a journey, or of a place, but of a late Western state of mind.

The premise is simple: a multi-national group of artists and scientists sets sail aboard an old wooden schooner for fjords along the northeast coast of Greenland, newly accessible due to climate change. That should be a straightforward story to tell. But there’s a catch: while exploration is the obvious purpose, the real goal of the expedition is shrouded in mystery.

ExpeditionToTheEndOfTheWorldHow many are aboard? We never get a clear picture. Where are they actually going? Somewhere up the coast of Greenland. How long are they at sea? We don’t know. How did they come together? Again, we don’t know. Most importantly, what are their motivations?

This last question is the key to the film’s hidden heart. Through a series of vignettes featuring individual artists, scientists, and ship’s crew, we learn that each traveller is really on his or her own, unique journey.

Amid genuine moments of discovery—potential new species of tiny sea creatures; evidence of human habitation revealed by retreating ice—there are quiet scenes beneath pristine mountain ranges, surrounded by looming ice, cruising through limpid waters. And silly moments, too: a scientist trying to wrestle a salmon bare-handed; the launching of a flying Zodiac, quotes from Futurama. The film veers from unnerving, to hilarious, to breathtaking, in bathetic lurches, just as the soundtrack jumps from Mozart to Metallica.

Ship of destiny, or ship of fools? This truly is an expedition ‘to the end of the world’—not just to the polar region, but to the edge of our own knowledge about the world, and, with the looming threat of climate change, perhaps of the world itself.

The symbol is too compelling to ignore: what are we all but passengers aboard a single ship, sailing for parts unknown, with no real goal in mind…and no clue what happens next?

Yet the journey, for all its unsettling moments, is a sublime one; the characters are so compelling, the landscape so beautiful, and the story so compellingly told, that we must conclude that it has been worthwhile.

And that perhaps, as with Expedition to the End of the Earth, it will all come out well somehow in the end.

Visit the coast of Greenland on these amazing Adventure Canada voyages:

Heart of the Arctic 2015
Arctic Explorer 2015
Into the Northwest Passage 2015
Out of the Northwest Passage 2015
Greenland & Wild Labrador 2016
Heart of the Arctic 2016
Arctic Safari 2016
Arctic Explorer 2016
Into the Northwest Passage 2016
Out of the Northwest Passage 2016

Meet Michael Crummey

Our staff profile continues with one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s foremost authors and storytellers.

MichaelCrummeyMichael Crummey was born in Buchans, Newfoundland and Labrador and grew up between there and Wabush, where he moved with his family in the late 1970s. He studied at Memorial University in St. John’s, where he received a BA in English in 1987. It was there that he began to write poetry, a love that he continued to nurture while completing his MA at Queens University. Michael dropped out of his Ph.D program to pursue a career in writing, and returned to St. John’s in 2001.

Michael has written five collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, and four novels, all of which are mainstays of east coast literature. He is also the author of a non-fiction volume, Newfoundland: Journey Into a Lost Nation and his works have been published in many major anthologies of literature. His writing has garnered numerous awards and accolades, including a win in the Memorial University’s Gregory J. Power Poetry Contest, the first Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award, the Writer’s Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Poetry, the Thomas Head Raddall Award, and the Independent Booksellers’ Choice Award. He has been shortlisted for the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and the Books in Canada First Novel Award. He also researched and wrote the 2014 National Film Board short film 54 Hours on the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster. His most recent novel, Sweetland, has been released to great acclaim.

Crummey’s writing draws on the history and landscape of his home province. While some poems and prose—Hard Light, for example—are inspired by stories of his father and other relatives, other works draw on coastal mining communities and historical sources for their narrative force. His novels, in particular, tend to chart contact and conflict, from the European settlers of the eighteenth century to Newfoundland’s involvement in World War II. His unique flair for capturing the rhythms of life on Canada’s east coast make him an invaluable member of the Adventure Canada team—the destinations to which we travel are the very same that have inspired his outstanding body of work.

Michael is also an accomplished outdoorsman, and when not giving talks on board the ship, he can be found waist-deep in frigid water, giving guests a helping hand as they head ashore.

Michael joins Adventure Canada’s 2015 Newfoundland Circumnavigation aboard the Ocean Endeavourwhere he will be sharing experiences of his home province with travellers.

Field Report: Jerry Kobalenko in Labrador

Our staff profile series continues with one of Canada’s foremost explorer-adventurer-authors, recently returned from a four-hundred kilometre snowshoe trek across Labrador.
jerrykJerry Kobalenko has been travelling in and around Labrador for over twenty years. A perennial adventure-seeker, Jerry spends as much time as possible out on the land. He has logged over ten thousand kilometres on some thirty-five skiing, hiking, and kayaking expeditions and typically spends three months of the year in a tent in the north. He has, notably, kayaked the entire coastline of Labrador and modestly notes that he is among the few to have seen each of its bays up close, from the water, under his own power.

His recent snowshoe expedition took Jerry inland with one travel companion, writer James MacKinnon. “Partly, it was just an excuse to see Labrador,” says Jerry—not that he ever needs an excuse—”but it was also a chance for me to stitch closed the circuit I began by travelling the coast.” The two men journeyed from Happy Valley / Goose Bay to St. Augustine in thirty-four days, each hauling a sled containing the nearly two-hundred pounds of gear they would need to survive the elements. Gear like sleeping bags rated to the savage temperatures—as low as -50°C—they would encounter as they trudged through one of the coldest Canadian winters on record.

To maintain their strength, the two men routinely ate more than six thousand calories daily. This amounts to a third of a family-size box of granola for breakfast, and dinners comprising mounds of potatoes, cream, and swiss raclette cheese. “It’s very fatty, that stuff, the perfect expedition food,” says Jerry.

manhaul

Cooking in the evening is one thing, but finding sustenance mid-day is another kettle of fish. “At the core of our lunch is this massive thousand-calorie peanut butter-and-jam sandwich,” Jerry laughs. “It’s terrific fuel, but peanut butter is rock hard at forty below! It’s like gnawing a baseball.” Even with all this gorging, both men managed to lose about three kilograms over the course of the trip. Laughing, Jerry suggests that Adventure Canada look into snowshoe trips as a weight loss program for their staff after all the fine dining they’ll be doing aboard the Ocean Endeavour this summer. (I’m not sure whether or not we should be insulted! —ed.)

“It was the slowest trip I’ve ever done,” Jerry says, “totally a factor of the snow conditions.” He explains that they travelled a total of a hundred kilometres in their first sixteen days, when they should have been averaging about fifteen daily “We were just killing ourselves, struggling to make a kilometre an hour … further north, where we started, the snow was softer. And that means you sink into it. And you’re just hauling your gear … it’s abrasive as sand and just as hard to walk through.”

kobalenkosnowshoe

Later in the trip, mercifully, they found the colder climate they sought. The snow became harder, denser, easer to walk across instead of through. The two men finished in St. Augustine on schedule, covering their last hundred kilometres in just four days. Just in case it wasn’t apparent by now that this guy really knows his stuff.

 

 

Jerry joins Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland & Wild Labrador expedition aboard the Ocean Endeavour, July 5–17 2016, where he will be sharing his vast experience with the province’s natural wilds with travellers.

Meet Milbry Polk

Our staff profile series continues with the founder of WINGS WorldQuest, preeminent worldwide organization of female explorers.Milbry Polk

Since her earliest years, Milbry Polk has held a passion for visiting new places and discovering new cultures. She grew up in Egypt, Virginia, and Massachusetts and studied anthropology at Harvard University—there, her passion only grew, and she went on to hone her exploratory talents roaming through north Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as a freelance photographer and writer. Having, in her words, “unusual and often challenging experiences as a woman,” abroad inspired her to co-found an organization dedicated to supporting women in exploration. This project went through several iterations, and is known today as WINGS WorldQuest.

From the organization’s website:

“WINGS WorldQuest’s mission is to celebrate and support extraordinary women explorers by promoting scientific exploration, education and conservation. Our work is focused in the following areas: recognition, grantmaking, outreach and community-building.

“Through Women of Discovery Awards and WINGS Fellows program, WINGS recognizes and supports the groundbreaking work of women scientists and explorers, whose discoveries advance scientific inquiry and lead to better understanding of our world.

“Outreach projects provide a platform for WINGS Fellows to share their work and inspire the next generation of intrepid explorers and global problem-solvers.”

Milbry has made waves as a pioneering ambassador for female explorers around the world. Over the course of her diverse and varied career, she has founded and directed programs for the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian; she was Vice-Chair of the Conference on Affordable World Security in 2012. An award-winning author, her writings include Women of Discovery with Mary Tiegreen (Library Journal award Best Books of 2001 and School Library Journal, Best Books of 2002) and Egyptian Mummies (Margaret A. Edwards Award Best Books of 1998). Her impressive list of accolades and honours include the Anne Morrow Lindbergh Award (2011); Alumnae of the Year, Madeira School (2011) and the Environmental Leadership Award, Unity College. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club. She served on the Board of Governors of the National Arts Club, and on several advisory boards for organizations such as the New York School of Visual Arts Graduate Program in Communications, the Wilbur Mills Polar Prize, George Polk Journalism Awards Committee and Takster Foundation. She has lectured at more than 150 schools and universities, inspiring others with her tireless work ethic and lifelong dedication to the field of exploration.

This summer, Milbry will join Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland and Wild Labrador and Heart of the Arctic expeditions aboard the Ocean Endeavour.

 

Alex Trebek heads to the Arctic

Alex Trebek, widely known as the host of the hit TV series Jeopardy, has a keen interest in geography. Among his many accomplishments, Alex has hosted the National Geographic Bee for years. A winner of the prestigious RCGS Gold Medal for his contribution to geographic education and the popular study of geography, Trebek, who was born in Sudbury, Ontario, is also a noted philanthropist and conservationist.
We are delighted to welcome Alex Trebek aboard our Adventure Canada expedition, Arctic Explorer 2015, as a special guest of our partners at the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Says Alex:“I’ve just finished reading John Geiger and Owen Beattie’s book on the Franklin expedition, “Frozen in Time“, and I’m looking forward to retracing some of their steps this summer.  I’m also looking for additional ammunition that I will use to confront global warming doubters”
Welcome aboard, Alex Trebek!

Carol Heppenstall says goodbye

Carol Heppenstall Adventure Canada

 

There are some things in life that are harder to accomplish than others. For me, telling Adventure Canada that I was retiring was one of those.

I have just passed my seventy-first Birthday and after twenty-two wonderful years of adventure, it’s time to pass the baton (or Wellies) to the next generation of art and culture lovers.

I joined the company because I wanted to share the arts of our Inuit and First Nations people. As an art historian, I believe the best way to understand a culture is through its artistic expression. When I joined Adventure Canada, we had three staff, most brochures were xeroxed, and we designed and went on all the trips. I can’t describe how exciting it was and what a privilege it has been. The Swans are like family—I’ve watched Cedar, Alana, and Matthew James grow up and seen their addiction to travel develop alongside their keen sense of humanity. Of course, they come by it naturally with June as their incredibly talented mother, Matthew, their wise (and most often, goofy) father, and a host of relatives who were always on hand with advice and support.

The resource staff that I was privileged to work with were extraordinary in every way. Names like Beedell, Catt, Houston, Peters, Reid, McGoogan, St.-Onge, Thomson,
and Tamblyn are award-winning Canadians—but I am pleased to call them my friends. Our special guests over the years exposed us all to a world of wonder, often sitting next to us in a Zodiac! Names like Davidson, Suzuki, Bateman, Piqtoukun, Ashevak, McCarthy, Lopez, Hallenday and Atwood come to mind, but there were so many others.

Perhaps the greatest rewards were travelling with friends and clients and sharing the landscapes of those “empty” places, as Matt likes to call them. As we soon discovered, they were, in fact, filled with the most generous and resourceful people we are likely to encounter. What memories! What photographs!

Back in Mississauga is a core of committed people who have made my life of adventure so easy. Laura Jane, and later Loretta, Sheryl, and Clayton have been with me a long time—but Judy was my go-to gal who held all of my endeavours together. Without her, my dreams would never have fit the schedule or happened on time. Thanks to all of you for your loyalty and good humour.

I have retired to Santa Fe, got a dog and and named him Bodhi, and yoga classes are my adventures these days. Life is rich and fulfilling; I see my children often, and get to my cottage on Lake Winnipeg every spring. Travel is not a priority these days, but don’t be surprised to see me now and again. I long for the exquisite opportunities of travel … and Adventure Canada does it best.

Yours in adventure,

Carol.