My Arctic

Out of the Northwest Passage 2016 - Day 14 - Ilulissat - 10 - PSCC - © Scott ForsythA guest post by Shoshanah Jacobs. Photo by Scott Forsyth.

My mother says that the reason I spent three years in Ushuaia, Argentina, was because it was the furthest I could get from home.

Well, half of that is true; it was the furthest that I could get—but the goal was never to distance myself from home specifically. Travel, adventure, exploration…these are things that have become synonymous with our species. It was difficult for me as a child to contend with the fact that I could not just pick up and head off on my own. For several years now, home has been my big black canvas bag that can, miraculously without explanation, contract and expand between eighteen and twenty-three kilograms depending on weight restrictions.

I am a wanderer; a person without a fixed address.

Every destination that I am lucky enough to visit inspires me to continue to explore—and the list of places I haven’t been seems endless. Though this lifestyle gives me the freedom to wander aimlessly, there is one part of this tiny planet that keeps me coming back as though it was home: the Canadian Arctic. My Arctic.

2001 marked the first time that I ventured north to work. I was aboard a scientific expedition to a remote bird colony near Resolute Bay, and since then I have retuned to the Arctic every summer. In the Arctic I found the sense of home that many wanderers often seek but never find. It is at once familiar and alien, wondrous and haunting, inviting and harsh, exciting and tranquil and desolate and powerful. It is a land of contradiction and complexity, and it sings with a delight that makes you care for it as a loved one. It is the place that gave me glimpses into the secret lives of foxes, seals, musk oxen, and the great marine mammals that roam the deep. It is the place that sent my heart pounding at the closeness of polar bears; the place where stories shared become the torches passed between old friends. It is the most difficult place through which I have ever travelled, but it has also brought out the best in me and in my companions. It challenges us, it teases us—and then it rewards our toil with all its beauty and its grace. Our Arctic is a land of culture, of nature, of true wilderness, of landscapes beyond compare. It is my home. And I invite all to explore it.

Shoshanah became a sailor when she was six years old and her parents bought a twelve-meter motor yacht. Originally from Ottawa, she moved to the east coast of Canada where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Biology. She studied harbour seal population dynamics, and compled an independent study on the shark distribution around San Salvador Island, Bahamas, while spending as much time in the water with them as possible. Her MSc dissertation focussed on the acoustic ecology of seals and the effects of aquaculture on their population distribution. She returned to Ottawa in 2001 to complete her Doctoral dissertation on the energy dynamics of Arctic seabirds. She is currently studying Arctic seabird populations in Alaska and has been living in Guelph since 2012, where she is a professor of biology at the University of Guelph. She speaks English, French, and Spanish.