Interview with an Expert: Dr. Latonia Hartery

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Latonia in L’Anse-aux-Meadows, NL. Photo by Dennis Minty

Archeologist and filmmaker Dr. Latonia Hartery celebrated her thirtieth trip with Adventure Canada this past season. Beginning in 2005 with a tour of Newfoundland, Labrador, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Latonia has worked with Adventure Canada every year since, doing several expedition voyages each season. One of Adventure Canada’s most experienced and respected resource team members, Latonia’s work aboard the ship (and ashore) includes interpretation of archeological sites, screening and interpreting films, and presenting her research.

Behind the scenes, Latonia manages Adventure Canada’s archeological sites’ permitting process, and is frequently consulted on best practices and new potential landing sites. She works alongside the Adventure Canada team to develop and implement approaches to sustainable expedition travel in sensitive environments.


Looking back, what were your first impressions of Adventure Canada?

My first impression was the natural camaraderie of the company as a family, which spilled over into how the passengers responded to staff and to each other. I was the youngest resource staff member at the time, and I noticed that people could have a lot of fun and adventure in a warm, safe environment.

What I also noticed was the easy access—getting to all these places that, even as a travelling archeologist, I had only seen on maps. All this coastline, all these places that you never in your wildest dreams think you’re going to reach.

What do you love about sharing your home province, Newfoundland & Labrador, with visitors?

I love showing people how fortunate I am to have grown up in this environment, surrounded by a rich culture that has afforded me the opportunity to follow my dreams about archeology and history.

I was born in a place where people have a very secure sense of identity, and they take care of each other. Not to say that living in Newfoundland doesn’t have its challenges, but there are many great things about this magical place that makes living here worthwhile—and this inspires me to do my best and to work toward helping Newfoundland be the best place it can be, as well.

What does it mean to share the archeology of this region?

Sharing archeology and history isn’t just interpreting—it’s helping people understand why we are the way we are. That is where the passion and love that many Newfoundlanders feel about their home probably comes from. There’s a bit of a misconception that people have been living here for only five hundred years, because of the fishery. That’s incomplete and inaccurate. You can’t understand the full history of Newfoundland and Labrador by starting around 1500AD.

It’s my job to illuminate the nine thousand years of life in the province, which began with the arrival of Indigenous people. And when you start there, it becomes apparent that every group that has been here interacted with the environment in similar ways—and within all of those different cultures, you find a through line that brings us to today. My own research at Bird Cove has helped reconstruct five thousand years of culture-history, both Indigenous and European. Some of our discoveries on the Great Northern Peninsula provided a flip side of how we saw past life in Newfoundland. It filled some gaps in the archaeological record, and shed light on how people dealt with changes in climate thousands of years ago.

What’s special about visiting Newfoundland & Labrador aboard an Adventure Canada trip?

Adventure Canada trips allow me to help people understand complex history and to reconstruct it. Whether through interpreting out on the landscape, or in a presentation, or even when having dinner together, I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about the diverse nature of NL livelihoods.

People have a general perception about what Newfoundlanders are supposed to be like and the critical thing that Adventure Canada does is to hire locally, so that the passengers get to interact with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who interpret their own culture and heritage.

I also feel like my job is, generally, to interpret the province with as much enthusiasm as I can.

L’Anse-aux-Meadows is one of the highlights of Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland Circumnavigation. What makes it so special?

The site has both fascinating European and Indigenous history. L’Anse-aux-Meadows is probably one of the most affecting stops that we have, in terms of understanding just how early Europeans—Norse—were here.

Vikings in general are fascinating. It’s a wonderful exercise for people to try to imagine how the site would have been working a thousand years ago. Plus, a female archeologist – Anne Stine Ingstad, excavated this famous archeological site; with the help of locals and professionals, and it became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites.

What about Miawpukek First Nation?

Miawpukek is in the Bay D’Espoir region. I grew up in Milltown which is also part of the Bay D’Espoir area. That’s always one of the best days because I interact with friends I’ve grown up with, and my family. Smallwood once said that at the time of Confederation that there were no Indigenous people in Newfoundland, which of course, is not true. But unless people come to visit, it’s difficult to truly know Miawpukek and understand the Mi’kmaq history there.

I encourage travelers to come with us to Miawpukek and meet everyone there—they are thriving and living in one of the most beautiful, fastest-growing, and successful First Nations in Canada. Miawpukek is really showing a way forward— that’s a source of pride. It’s a very special experience for anyone who goes there.

You also travel in the High Arctic. What’s different about the Newfoundland & Labrador trips?

Arctic trips are incredibly adventurous, and can feature extreme hikes. But the Newfoundland & Labrador trips, while having some hikes and trips to isolated areas, is heavily community-visitation based. People come away feeling very nurtured, well taken care of, like they’ve had a lot of warmth run through their bodies. It is also very music focused, and feels lively and uplifting in that way.

You are a filmmaker with a focus on women’s stories. How does that dovetail with Adventure Canada trips?

I love getting more women’s stories out there, having a more equal playing field for women is something I strive for and AC is also taking a lead on this — they employ people myself, Holly Hogan, who’s one of the foremost seabird researchers, musicians like Geraldine Hollett of The Once—a lot of very competent female resource staff are on these trips, plus Cedar and Alana at the company. Exceptional women are met on land too during these trips, one being Cindy Gibbons, in Red Bay— who manages that National Park/UNESCO site.

In Newfoundland & Labrador, whether a woman had a career in the workforce, or worked at home, she was a strong pillar of her community. We learn to grab the world by its tail from our mothers and our grandmothers. They were, and are, very active. My grandmother had thirteen children. I watched her do anything and everything. When you come to Newfoundland & Labrador you will meet a lot of strong women!

Dr. Latonia Hartery runs a nonprofit called Amina Anthropological Resources Association Incorporated (AARA Inc.), specializing in researching and promoting Newfoundland & Labrador. Her own research station, Bird Cove in northern Newfoundland, is having its twentieth anniversary in 2018. She has received the JCI Outstanding Young Person Award, and a Cruise Vision award for her role in bringing Adventure Canada trips to select locations in Newfoundland & Labrador. She was named a Newfoundland & Labrador Emerging Artist in 2016. Her film production company, LJH Film supports stories about women, women writers & directors, and has a focus on the East Coast. She is currently working on a female feature film anthology featuring six different women directors.

Join Latonia in 2018 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation, where she will explore the culture and history of Canada’s youngest province! Until April 15, save 15% on the berth cost of this one-of-a-kind expedition!


Remembering Bill Lishman: No Ordinary Life

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William Lishman

1938 – 2017


It was with great sadness we learned on December 30 that our dear friend and colleague Bill Lishman had passed away at home. He was surrounded with family and friends at Purple Hill, near Blackstock, Ontario.

It came as a shock. Bill had been labouring with some health issues–but his medical advisors thought, with luck, that he would be around for another ten years.

Little did we know it would be just ten days.

My brother Bill Swan was the one that first introduced Bill Lishman to Adventure Canada after seeing him as a guest speaker at the Wings Over the Rockies Bird Festival in Invermere almost twenty years ago. Brother Bill reported, “we’ve gotta get this guy”.

We did. What followed was many years of great travel in Canada and around the world with Bill as a presenter. He was beyond a pioneer. The US Department of Wildlife described Operation Migration–where Bill’s team taught geese, and then whooping cranes, to follow ultralight pilots on faltering migration routes–as “the wildlife equivalent of putting a man on the moon”.

And Bill was much more than that. He was an inventor, sculptor, filmmaker, underground house pioneer, activist, naturalist, author, family man, and an inspiration to those that knew him. Bill never saw limitation; for him, the world was only full of possibilities. As our colleague David Newland has stated, he was a true genius and a modern day Renaissance Man.

Bill was certainly one of the most imaginative and creative people I have ever met. That creativity also runs through the Lishman family, with his sons Aaron and Geordie, his daughter Carmen, and his partner, fur industry pioneer Paula. Signs are that this trend will continue with the three Lishman grandkids.

There is also another side to that genius. Bill had a learning disability; he was dyslexic and colour blind. But, as we use to chuckle, he was also “beautifully unencumbered by formal education”. Even in his seventies, Bill remained a seven-year-old at his core.

There was a delightfully silly side to Bill. He had an immediate appreciation of Adventure Canada’s sense of foolishness-and that humour was oil for the heart against life’s sorrows. We towed my old Chrysler minivan to the auto wreckers a few years back. The towing procedure wasn’t quite right, and the front bumper of the van flew forty feet into the air. We had a hard time not giggling for the rest of the day. On another occasion, when the question arose as to what to do with leftover pumpkins, we blew up a dozen at an AC Reunion at Purple Hill. Bill loved to blow stuff up.

Even though he could be crusty and grumpy, Bill was also one of the most compassionate and least judgmental people I’ve known. He had tremendous affection for the Inuit of Canada’s North. His many travels there were reflected in the design a revolutionary igloo-style dome housing concept, and the installation of a forty-foot stainless steel iceberg sculpture at the Museum of Nature in Ottawa.

For those of us that had the pleasure to know and spend time with him, he was a luminous companion.

God speed, Bill. Let us know when you have something to report back.


Matthew Swan

Adventure Canada




A Memorial and Celebration of Bill Lishman’s life will be held on January 20 at the Robert McLaughlin Art Gallery in Oshawa from 1:00 to 4:00 PM.

Donations in lieu of flowers to Bill’s name to his favourite organizations:

International Conservation Fund Canada

Green Durham Association

Bill was passionate about saving the Pickering Lands, whose expropriation for the proposed Pickering Airport he had protested in the 1970s. Here, Bill explains how these lands could once again become family farms, providing food security to Canada’s biggest urban region.

Canoeing the Keele: a New Expedition with Adventure Canada

“What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other travel. Travel a thousand miles by train and you are a brute; pedal five hundred on a bicycle and you remain basically a bourgeois; paddle a hundred in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.” —Pierre Elliott Trudeau


One of the best ways to explore Canada is by canoe. No other vessel has shaped our nation’s history more completely—no other mode of transport, except perhaps the kayak, seems more central to our ethos as a northern nation. The canoe is elegant in its simplicity, a craft that is as at home in the world of modern travel as it was essential to the lives of Canadians centuries ago. At Adventure Canada, we’re always concerned with looking backward as much as we look forward, and carrying a reverence for tradition into the new ways we explore our great country (and beyond). With that in mind, we’re proud to present a brand new expedition for 2018: Keele River by Canoe. Set against the rugged backdrop of the Northwest Territories, Keele River offers an iconic Canadian wilderness canoeing experience through the rugged Mackenzie Mountains; turquoise water flow from high in the divide between the Yukon and Northwest Territories through towering mountain scenery and broad valleys full of rugged black spruce with inviting vistas on every curve.

Adventure Specialist Sheryl Saint recently travelled alongside expert guides and excited guests to try out this fifteen-day trip of a lifetime for herself! When she got back to the office, we sat down for a chat—because she had a lot to say about the experience!

Mike Strizic: Hi Sheryl! How many trips have you done with Adventure Canada?

Sheryl Saint: I’m gonna say eighteen or more? I should count!

MS: What is your canoe tripping experience?

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 1.21.48 PMSS: Zero! When I was thirteen I did a canoe trip through a camp I went to. It was in Algonquin Park. We got initiated by rain, the entire week. We looked like drowned rats. And of course the canoe I was in got tipped. By me.

MS: What was most exciting aspect for you in preparing for this canoe trip?

SS: I was just blown away by where I was going. I was so excited to get up to the NWT and see some of the pictures I’ve seen in real life. The mountain ranges, the rivers.


MS: What were you most worried about? How did that play out?

SS: [laughs] lots! I was a nervous wreck! The biggest thing was having not canoed for twenty-some-odd years … or even camping! I haven’t done that in at least twenty-five years. Or at least, in a tent. I also have a moderate fear of water … at least, water that I can’t see through! But I persevered through those fears and after my first day on the trip they had been completely assuaged.

MS: What was the most useful piece of kit you had with you?

SS: Quick-dry clothing, and a good Thermarest [air matress]. It makes all the difference being able to stay warm and dry, and having that one-inch cushion to keep you off the ground is hugely important. People may not be aware that an air matress actually keeps you warm—because you’re not losing body heat into the ground. So that was huge for me.


MS: What was the most spectacular moment of the trip for you?

SS: Our first wildlife viewing. We saw a caribou swimming in the water. AT first it looked like a log, and then it started to move onshore directly opposite our camp. As it emerged out of the water, it was so dramatic and magnificent. It stared at us for a good three minutes before moving on. It made me feel that we were really with mother nature … it was the first day. One of those moments of being welcomed to the wilderness.

MS: What other kind of wildlife did you see on this trip?

SS: We saw a big black wolf! Also, two types of foxes. We saw lots of evidence of bears, and saw a few moose. Porcupines were around, ground squirrels, and tons of birds—eagles, hawks, whooping cranes, a variety of duck species. We had a birder along for the ride who was pointing out the never-ending bird calls.

MS: Who would you recommend this trip for?

SS: Anyone who is active! You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to know how to hold a paddle! One of our team was seventy-nine years old, which was incredible. As long as you know that you’ll be paddling six to eight hours a day—with lots of breaks—you can handle this. If you want to get close to nature, and really see the land by travelling through it, this is the trip for you.IMG_6196

MS: How was the food?

SS: The food was beyond exceptional! We had bacon, eggs, pork loin, pancakes, French toast, all cooked on a fire or on propane as the situation warranted. There were two guides who assisted with the food prep and obviously did all the shopping and packing—but we were assigned to teams that helped out in the campsite kitchen on any given night. It was actually a ton of fun to work with each other like that, as a team. It really gave us a sense of ownership over our experience and adventure. And food tastes so good after a day of paddling. Which was probably a good thing whenever I was on duty [laughs]. There’s also great fishing for those interested—both fly fishing and traditional.


MS: What was campsite life like?

SS: It was great. Every night we’d gather to get to know each other and tell stories, or reflect on the day. One day, we were trying to wait out some rain to pitch tents—and instead, ended up holding tarps up for each other while people pitched their tents underneath! It was amazing how quickly we shifted from being strangers to being friends, partners, and teammates. We were a well-oiled machine by the end of the trip.


MS: What surprised you about this trip?

SS: A few things. I found everyone came back feeling more self-confident. Everyone gained new nuances about themselves that they didn’t know they had. For me, it was strengths that popped out that I had been afraid of, previously. One woman confessed at the onset that she was out of her element and feared that the trip would break spirit. Instead, she found herself rising to and surpassing the challenges before her, and just loved every second of it. I guess that’s the transformative power of the wilderness … and doing things under your own steam. It’s such a great opportunity for Adventure Canada types—you know who you are—to experience the vastness of the north from the ground up. This type of intimate setting—fourteen people maximum—really lays it all out for you. We didn’t see another soul the entire time. It was utterly unlike anything I have ever done. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


Click here to learn more about Keele River by Canoe 2018!

“Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.” —Henry David Thoreau

Student, On Ice

A guest post by Alexia Galloway-Alainga.

image2.JPGMy name is Alexia Galloway-Alainga. I was born and raised in Iqaluit, Nunavut. I am Inuk, meaning that I am part of the three different Indigenous groups in Canada. I am a third-year University student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am majoring in Social Work and minoring in Psychology. I enjoy being on the land and outdoors, keeping active, throat singing, and learning. I participated in the 2017 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition which sailed from Resolute Bay, Nunavut, Canada, to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Here is a tiny look into my wonderful Students on Ice journey!

My 2017 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition experience began in Ottawa, Ontario with a pre-program for the Northern participants. This included participants, elders, educators, and leaders from all across the circumpolar North. Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, Inuvialuit Region, Greenland, and Alaska. This pre-program ran for a couple days where we got to know each other through ice breakers, workshops, and sharing of our stories and talents. It was a great way to build on your own knowledge of Inuit homelands, by getting to know the experience of life on Inuit Nunaat from others across the circumpolar North. One particular eye opener for me, was meeting a participant from Alaska. It was interesting to learn about the differences in culture, in part due to the national border that separates the US and Canada. But more specifically, I was fascinated to learn about our similarities in life as Inuit, or as Indigenous Peoples, the border between us notwithstanding. These similarities span from Nunavut to Alaska, and East, from Canada to Greenland—values of the land, of family, and of practicing and preserving our traditions and culture. The pre-program for the expedition was meant to bring us together, with the knowledge of our homeland, and prepare us as ambassadors of the North. The remaining participants, those from other provinces in Canada, and from different countries around the world, came after the two-day program. We had a couple ice breakers the night before boarding the Ocean Endeavour, to get to know each other. We played some Inuit Games, and tried to do a square dance.

Day One rolled around and we flew from Ottawa, Canada to Resolute Bay, in Canada’s Arctic. There we attended the announcement of Qausuittuq Park, from Federal Minister Katherine McKenna, PJ Akeeagok president of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association, and the Deputy Minister (I believe) of Environment, David Akeeagok. Along with the announcement, artist Celina Kalluk, who originates from the area, sang songs that were related to the families and land of the area.

Students on Ice was also fortunate to attend the announcement of Canada’s largest Marine Conservation Area, Tallurutiup Imanga (Lancaster Sound), measuring an area of 109,000 square kilometres. The protection of this area in Canada’s Arctic is comparable to twice the size of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. It was an honour to attend an announcement so important to Inuit, to Canada, and in the long run, to the world.

After the announcement of the opening of Qausuittuq National Park, we boarded our floating home for the next two weeks. On board, we attended workshops of our choice. These workshops varied in topic from science and climate change to reconciliation and cultural identity. We participated in these workshops throughout the expedition.

It was my goal to make Students on Ice as much of a learning experience as possible, so some of the workshops I chose were sometimes outside of my comfort zone. Some of them include, Finding Your Political Voice, held by Bruce Heymen and Nancy Karetak-Lindell, History of Inuit Dog Sledding, by Shari Fox Gearheard, Indigenous Identities, which was a panel that included Becky Mearns, Jessice Bolduc, Ivalu Rosling, and Brandon Pardy. These are just a few of the amazing workshops and presentations that were available to all of the participants and staff aboard the ship this year.

As the days continued, many of us began to lose a sense of time and day. With day-filled schedules, no cell phone or internet service, and so much learning at our fingertips, nobody really cared about what day it was. Our days were never set in stone, but each day typically consisted of attending workshops, eating delicious food (thank you, Ocean Endeavour crew!), adventuring on land to a historic site, or simply going ashore to do workshops, and reflecting on our own experience individually or in groups. The experiences created, either on land, learning about the history of Inuit at historic sites, visiting different communities along the way, or in workshops aboard the ship, were life-changing. As an Inuk, I found that it was an opportunity to share my culture, share the beauty and vastness of my homelands, and meet new faces from all over Canada, and the World. Students on Ice was an opportunity to build upon the knowledge I have about Inuit and our land, but was also an opportunity to witness other people and their discovery of the Arctic through their own lenses. These moments were my absolute favourite part about this year’s Students on Ice expedition. Sharing what I know, building on that knowledge, but also witnessing people from all around the world grow an appreciation for the Arctic, for Inuit, and for Indigenous Peoples.

I personally would like to thank the Students on Ice Foundation, from the staff on board to the staff in Ottawa, the sponsors who brought this wonderful group of people together, and the staff aboard the Ocean Endeavour for creating an experience that touched and/or changed the lives of everyone on board. The Students on Ice experience contributes to building a knowledge about Indigenous Peoples in Canada, that undermines what many Canadian youth are taught in schools. This experience shines light to some of Canada’s history that the government has repeatedly attempted to hide and/or doesn’t propagate. This was a life-changing and educational experience that will contribute to creating a healthier, safer, and truly multicultural future for Canada. Thank you to the International participants and staff who came into this experience with an open mind and heart, and for carrying this knowledge with you for the rest of your lives. Students on Ice was educational in the realization of the reality and rapidity of climate change and sea level rise, of the reality for Indigenous Peoples in Canada today and in the past, and was also an opportunity to meet many people with curiosities and lenses that sprout from all over the world. I am truly grateful to have participated in this year’s expedition, and will continue to be thankful for this experience for the rest of my life.

Alexia is a third-year student at Carleton University. Click here to read her profile on our blog. Each year, Adventure Canada sponsors an Inuk youth from one of the four Inuit regions of Canada to take part in Students On Ice, established in 2000 “to educate the world’s youth about the importance of the Polar Regions, to support their continued growth and to inspire initiatives that contribute to global sustainability.” We are proud to partner with such a worthy organization, and delighted to have sponsored Alexia on her journey.

Alexia Galloway-Alainga: a born ambassador

Each year, Adventure Canada sponsors an Inuk youth from one of the four Inuit regions of Canada to take part in Students On Ice, established in 2000 “to educate the world’s youth about the importance of the Polar Regions, to support their continued growth and to inspire initiatives that contribute to global sustainability.” Alexia Galloway-Alainga will join this year’s expedition, from August 8-23.


Born and raised in Iqaluit, Alexia, a third year undergrad in social work at Carlton U, may have been destined to play the role of cultural ambassador: Her mom’s side of the family hails from Arctic Bay, NU, while her father’s family is from NS. Alexia feels her roots are firmly planted in Nunavut, and she plans on returning to the territory when she’s completed her studies.

Alexia’s experiences in the south have taught her that southerners really don’t know a lot about Inuit. “I think people who, maybe are coming to the Arctic for the first time, or who aren’t familiar with Inuit—we’re not as represented, I find. That’s something I’ve really learned in my schooling in Ottawa. Ninety percent of the time people say they never got any education about indigenous peoples.”

Frequently, that leads to a knowledge gap, even at the most basic level: “Inuit, First Nations, and Metis people are all different groups of people. We don’t all have the same traditions. We don’t all do the same practices. We have different forms of dancing, different forms of singing. We live such different lives in such different environments.”

Alexia is excited to bring her own traditions and understanding to Students on Ice—but is also looking forward to learning from others. “Having come from Nunavut and spent my entire life here, I think my familiarity with Inuit cultural heritage and traditions is something I’ll bring. And being open and learning! My role is definitely learner.”

Thanks to a presentation in elementary school, Alexia had long been aware of SOI, and realized it could be a great fit for her after several acquaintances benefited the experience. “I figured, you know what, I should do it. I am a representative of the Arctic, I’m a throat singer… I know that I do hold knowledge about Inuit and Inuit Nunangat, but I know I have much to learn.”

image3.JPGAs someone who effectively lives in two worlds, North and South, Alexia is conscious of the unique perspective that comes with mixed heritage. She’s written a poignant blog post about being a red-haired, fair-skinned, freckled Inuk.

Alexia is just as keenly aware of the way her experiences while aboard SOI will contribute to her ability to represent Inuit, especially in the south. “Having that experience, widening my experience of Inuit Nunangat will help me a lot. This is an opportunity as an ambassador. Having that knowledge and having that experience that SOI will give me is a good asset… When people meet me (down south) they’re often super curious and don’t know much about the Arctic.”

Alexia realizes exploring the Arctic offers special learning opportunities. “I have never been to Resolute Bay. I have been to Arctic Bay only when I was younger. I have yet to go up further north…. I’ve been to Greenland but not to the three communities we’ll be visiting.” An experienced camper and traveller, Alexia is also excited about the SOI expedition as a chance to get outside. “I’m definitely looking forward to the land. I love being on the water. I love hiking, I love seeing plants, berry picking… that’s something I very much look forward to. Just being outside and doing these things.”

Photos courtesy of Dan Iqqaqsaq

Nunavut Day 2017: in the Words of John Houston



“There’s a gulf between the Nunavut that southern Canadians hear described in the media and the one that actually exists—there’s no substitute for going there and having the people share their land and communities with you.” —John Houston

With our team of resource staff, Adventure Canada travels the world’s wildest places. Our expeditions take us to the west coast of Greenland and the east coast of Canada, down the mighty St. Lawrence River, and even into the Tanzanian Serengeti. Next summer, our ship sets sail for Scotland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. And today, we’re anchored off the coast of Sable Island. But there is one region that has always been at the heart of all that we do: Nunavut.

Today is Nunavut Day, which marks the anniversary of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, which This agreement gave the Inuit of the central and eastern Northwest Territories a separate territory called Nunavut. It is the largest Aboriginal land claim settlement in Canadian history. The NLCA provided the Inuit of Nunavut with a number of new rights, including representation on wildlife, resource, and environmental management boards. When the territory was officially created in 1999, it represented the culmination of work that began in 1973 by the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada. On April 1, 1999, Nunavut as an independent territory with an independent government became a reality. This was a huge boon for the nearly 60,000 Inuit people who call the Canadian Arctic home, scattered across fifty-three communities in the vast North. Nunavut itself comprises a staggering 350,000 square kilometres—accounting for over twenty percent of Canada’s landmass—making it one of the most sparsely populate territories on Earth.

That being said, the Nunavut Inuit population retains a rich and vibrant culture, heritage to its origins over 6,000 years ago as the Thule culture. Nomadic hunters and fishermen originally, Nunavut art and culture follows a rote-oral tradition with a deep-seeded focus on storytelling, song, and a reverence for generational knowledge kept by elders. Today, the capital of Nunavut, Iqaluit, is a vibrant hub of culture including the widely attended Alianait Arts Festival, hometown heroes The Jerry Cans, and more. A new generation of young Inuit are making waves around the world as they find their place within a modernizing world, preserving their cultural heritage while working with contemporary organizations to carry those skills forward in a modern Nunavut.

Heart of the Arctic, Adventure Canada’s upcoming expedition, is by far and away our most community- and art-focused voyage, paying a visit to Kinngait (Cape Dorset)—epicenter of the Inuit printmaking movement. John Houston, son of James and Alma Houston, widely credited with introducing Inuit art to the world at large, has been travelling with Adventure Canada since 1991, making him one of our longest-standing resource staffers.

“My great thrill,” says John, “is the ongoing collaboration between AC and the Inuit of Nunavut, which is where I come from. Having the community greet us at the shore as we step out of Zodiacs that contain Inuit as drivers, Inuit as resource staff, Inuit as Expedition Leaders … seeing the looks on the faces of the young people gathered as they witnessing that collaboration, and perhaps see a path for themselves. That’s immensely gratifying for me.”

John grew up in Kinngait and, while watching westerns with the community at about six years old, decided that he wanted to make films and show them to his community. Since then, he’s dedicated his life to the creation of art and craft of filmmaking, and to continue the promotion of Inuit art and culture in the footsteps of his parents.

“Adventure Canada has grown up as a company with Nunavut,” John says. “We were up there getting going in the run-up to Nunavut becoming a terrority. We’ve had a number of Nunavut leaders aboard as staff and guests—like Tagak Curley, Ann Hanson [first commissioner of Nunavut]. The spirit and excitement of Nunavut becoming a territory matched our own spirit and excitement of exploration and getting to know the people who call the region home. In the early days, we didn’t know the first thing—we relied on local knowledge and understanding to equip ourselves with the skills to explore the region safely, responsibly, and sustainably. We do to this day.”

Tradition and Transition—Sharing the Work

Guest post by Ossie Michelin

arch research at Joahnnes Pt summer 2016

Arch research at Johannes Point, Summer 2016

Hundreds of years ago—in the late 1400s as Inuit spread east from the Western Arctic—groups made camp in what is now known as the Johannes Point on the north coast of Labrador. The point sits within the steep cliffs of barren rock that makes up Hebron Fjord. The deep inlet provides protection from the harsh weather of the Labrador Sea.

Few besides local Inuit have ever stepped foot inside the Hebron Fjord, but each year Adventure Canada passes by, brining visitors to this breathtaking location as part of its voyage up through the North Atlantic traveling between St. John’s and Greenland.


A traditional qulliq — photo courtesy of Tradition and Transition

Last summer, with the help of Adventure Canada’s and the Ocean Endeavour, archeologist Peter Whitridge and his team from Memorial University traveled to the remote fjord to study the archeological site. Whitridge is a researcher with the Tradition & Transition Research Partnership—a five-year research partnership between the Labrador Inuit, Memorial University, and many other partners—including Adventure Canada. The partnership aims to work with Inuit communities to protect, preserve, and promote Inuit culture and language—and to provide long lasting resources for the communities.

It is not hard to see why Inuit have been coming here for centuries. The area is abundant with wildlife and, to this day, remains a popular location for hunting, fishing, and harvesting. Many Inuit have cabins in the area and there were thriving Inuit settlements here until they were relocated in the mid-twentieth century.

Nachvak Fjord, Torngats National Park

Nachvak Fjord, Torngat Mountains National Park. Photo by Dennis Minty.

The cold temperatures of the subarctic mean that many archeological remains left behind by early Inuit are remarkably preserved. For archeologists like Whitridge, the pre-European contact sites at Johannes Point can shed some light on what life was like for early Inuit in the region hundreds of years ago. “This site can show us an interesting part in the story of the Inuit peopling Northern Labrador,” says Whitridge. “We were at Johannes Point for about five weeks this past summer mapping a really interesting Inuit site, and excavating small test units next to a couple features, especially a pre-contact Inuit winter house.”

The weather conditions can make entering Hebron Fjord tricky for large parts of the year. When Whitridge and his team tried to embark from the Ocean Endeavour, ice had blocked their entry. It took multiple tries but the researchers finally made it ashore, and the ship continued on its way to further adventures in Greenland.

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Adventure Canada brings visitors to the shores of Nunatsiavut each year. The entire area is steeped in history as Inuit lived, traveled, hunted, fished, and gathered all across the region for centuries. Because of this many of the visits include archeological sensitive areas. Michelle Davies is an archeologist with the Nunatsiavut Government, which represents the Labrador Inuit and PhD candidate at Memorial’s Department of Archaeology working with Tradition & Transition researcher Lisa Rankin. Davies traveled with Adventure Canada last summer to see how those policies unfold in the real world.


Arch Midden test at Johannes Point, Summer 2016 — photo courtesy of Tradition and Transition

“It was a great experience! It was pretty different from what you read in a report versus what is happening on the ground and what leads to certain decisions,” says Davies. “Even though I was working as the Nunatsiavut Government archeologist, I still gave a few lectures aboard and talked about the importance of archeology. I spoke about why it is important to protect this stuff and not to touch anything, and how to visit an archeological site appropriately, so that won’t be damaged over time.”

Davies says that ships like the Ocean Endeavour that bring visitors to Inuit communities have a lot of potential to boost the local economy and teach people from around the world about Labrador Inuit.

“Tourism is a growing industry in Labrador, as more ships and tours are coming in we really wanted to address this growing industry because it could potentially damage sites in the future if we don’t address it early on,” explains Davies. “I have to say that I was really impressed with the way that Adventure Canada approached us about this, and all the protections they had lined up and in place already.”

With partnerships like Tradition & Transition in place, Labrador Inuit, archeologists, and visitors can all make sure that the beauty and culture of the area are celebrated while making sure that history is preserved.

Ossie Michelin is a freelance journalist from North West River, Labrador. He grew up with his family going off on the land—hunting, trapping, fishing, and foraging. His heritage and upbringing instilled in him a lifelong love of the natural world—and of the Labrador environment in particular. He holds a BA in journalism from Concordia University and worked for five years with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, eventually helping them establish its first home-based bureau in Labrador.

Explore more of Tradition & Transition’s work here, and follow them on social media here and here.

Adventure Canada will visit Nunatsiavut again this season with the Greenland & Wild Labrador expedition from September 23rd to October 7th.

Photography Tips for Your Next Adventure Canada Experience (Part 1)

Guest post by Kristian Bogner — Nikon Ambassador


Choose the Right Gear

Adventure Canada rips provide spectacular photographic opportunities and its important to bring the right balance of gear to capture it all while only carrying the amount of weight and equipment you are comfortable with. As a pro photographer I would bring at least three camera bodies, and an assortment of lenses ranging from fisheye and 14mm wide-angle to at least 600mm. I would also bring some adventure cameras like Nikon’s new Keymission 360 waterproof camera to capture video. For many people this would be way too much weight to bring. For those people I would recommend a camera like the new Nikon D7500, which has great high ISO capability, fast focusing, DX crop factor to extend the zoom of lens choices, great video and a lot more. Another more compact camera I would recommend is the COOLPIX P900 with a huge zoom range from 24-2000mm equivalent. Last year people with this camera got some wonderful up-close polar bear, whale, and bird shots.

Whatever you choose for a main camera, make sure you are familiar with it and it feels good to you. I would recommend taking a wider lens for shooting icebergs, villages and interesting trips to shore and a long telephoto lens for capturing wildlife, birds, and icebergs up close.

I also recommend bringing a backup camera just in case. It can be a smaller, less expensive camera or even a good cell phone, but make sure you have a backup option just in case something happens to your main.

You may also consider bringing an adventure camera like Nikon’s new Keymission 360 or Keymission 170. They are waterproof and shockproof and are great for capturing immersive videos and stills on hikes, in the zodiac and more. You can check out a 360 video I just did with some recent adventures here.

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Bring Extras

Some days on can be filled with non-stop visual surprises from polar bear to whale sitings, incredible icebergs, to unique birds and more. One of the most common issues that I see photographers run into is running out of battery power or memory card space before their day is done, causing them to miss capturing some of the magic.

I highly recommend bringing and extra one or two batteries for your camera and remembering to bring your charger.  I also advise on bringing several memory cards and buying cards of large capacity and good write speed. For capacity I recommend 64GB or 128GB cards, they have come down in price a lot in the past few years. I also recommend a fast write speed which will ensure that it is less likely to have a write error and that you can shoot video on your camera without dropping frames.


Get Steady Images from a Moving Vessel

Getting steady imagery can be challenging all by itself but while on a moving ship even more so. Here are some pro tips for getting images without camera shake:

First of all, and it may seem obvious, adjust your camera grip, use dynamic pressure and push with the butt of your trigger hand and hold the tip of the lens with your other hand and pull to create a locked grip. Next, shoot with a fast shutter speed like 1/2000sec where possible, especially outdoors on a nice day where there is lots of light and where you are using a longer lens. Even with a wider lens I would advise shooting at at least 1/500sec.  In order to make this easy, you can set your camera to Auto-ISO and dial in the Aperature and Shutter speed you want. The ISO will compensate to give the correct exposure. If your camera doesn’t have that feature try Shutter Speed Priority. With either of these options you can use Exposure Compensation on your camera to adjust if the meter is giving you a subject that is over or under exposed.

  • Vibration Reduction (Lens VR) can help you shoot up to two f-stops slower while avoiding vibrations and camera shake. If operation from a moving vessel I recommend using the Active option if your VR has it. I would warn however that under some circumstances VR can error and actually make the shake worse. In the situation where you are on a moving ship and your subject is moving and the water or waves are moving in different directions, test your VR, zoom in and ensure that your images are sharp. In these scenarios I would actually turn off Vibration Reduction, especially if its bright enough for you to shoot at 1/2000sec which should eliminate any vibration issues anyways.
  • Monopod or Tripod: Sometimes we are on deck for some considerable amounts of time and thats were a monopod, or light tripod like my Manfrotto Befree Carbon are great to rest your camera on, yet still have it ready to shoot if wildlife appears. A monopod or tripod can also help steady your camera and reduce shake considerably.


Protect Your Camera

We often go on smaller Zodiac boats to visit shore, go on hikes, etc. I recommend a lightweight waterproof bag to put your camera in if the waters get a bit rough or there is a bit of sea spray. You can buy these at MEC or other outdoor shops and camera stores. You can also get splash and rain proof lens and camera covers.

I also like to keep my main camera handy and immediately accessible while offloading the weight from a neck-strap to my shoulders by using my Lowepro Toploader Pro AW camera bag. These are amazing and also have an All Weather rain cover in case you start getting wet.

I also recommend a waterproof memory card holder hard case to protect any extra memory you might take on a day trip. At least bring a double zip-lock bag to put your memory card case inside just in case.


Master In-Camera Settings

Here are some in-camera settings that I would recommend for getting better images:

  • Picture Control Settings — One way to get better images right out of your camera is to adjust your picture control settings right in-camera. I recommend setting sharpening to about 6 out of 10 and saturation to nearly the max if you are shooting wildlife and nature. If you are photographing people set it to +1 so their faces don’t get too red.


  • Image Preview — Having image preview come on after each picture you take uses a considerable amount more battery, so I recommend turning that off and just previewing every couple of images or when your lighting or settings are changed. I also recommend setting your preview to display highlights so that you can see flashing highlights that are blown out or overexposed and compensate for that if necessary.


  • D-lighting — If you are shooting with a Nikon you will have a D-lighting option. This is a great feature to help fill in your subject in the midtone range. I recommend this setting at Medium to help balance the bright icebergs and darker water, along with many other high contrast situations.


  • White Balance — Another important in-camera feature is your white balance. Changing your white balance manually is like adding a warming or cooling filter to your camera. Auto white balance is fine for many situations but by changing your camera to shade or cloudy setting you can warm up the shot or use tungsten or other settings to cool it down and create some really interesting and creative effects.

Kristian Bogner is a third-generation pro photographer, speaker and ambassador for Nikon Canada, Broncolor, Lowepro and Manfrotto. His work has received numerous awards including 3-time Commercial Photographer of the Year for Canada with the Professional Photographers of Canada Association and 2015 Master Photographers International Commercial Photographer of the Year. Join him this summer aboard our Heart of the Arctic expedition, and put his photo tips to use in the #MyAdventureCanda photo contest—where you can win an Arctic expedition—presented in partnership with Nikon Canada!


Photography Tips for Your Next Adventure Canada Experience (Part 2)

Guest post by Kristian Bogner — Nikon Ambassador


Evaluate Your Images

I encourage photographers to have a look at some of your images each evening when you are back in your room, either on computer or in your camera and see how you did and what you could improve on for the next day. Zoom in to your images, preferably to 100% zoom and see if your images are in focus, if there is any camera shake and see what worked and what didn’t. This simple step can make a big difference and help you take your photography to the next level.

While on board attend any photo workshops that are being offered to get pro insights throughout the trip and ask Adventure Canada photographers to help you if you have noticed any issues in your nightly evaluation or if you want more tips for capturing unique subjects and situations that you might encounter. They will be happy to help you get your own spectacular images to take home with you.


Shoot the Light

There are exceptions to this rule but generally early morning and late evening provide the lowest, warmest and most unique and pleasing lighting situations to photograph outdoors. On my last Adventure Canada trip I would get up really early and capture that blue light time and sunrise and also be on deck before, during and just after sunset. I then tried to have a quick nap throughout the day at some point if it was possible to stay caught up on sleep. If that is too extreme, then just pick the early morning or late evening to shoot and get on a routine that allows it.


Use a Sharp Focus

I judge a lot of photo contests and one of the things I love to see is nice sharp focus on whatever the main subject or focal point of the image is to be. Here are some tips to get great focus. First make sure your camera is set to AF-C (continuous) vs AF-S. This will ensure that when you have that whale sighting in your viewfinder and you press the shutter, the camera will fire without delay, even if it thinks the subject isn’t in focus. Next use a smaller selection of points and your joystick on the back of your camera to set where the camera is to focus. I personally use single point focus selection, but some of you may prefer a bit larger cluster of points or group point focus if you have that as an option. I set the focus point where in my image frame I want the subject to appear and precompose the image, then I just make sure that point is on the subject for razor sharp focus.


Level Out the Horizon

The other big thing I like to see in images is a nice level horizon line. Most new Nikon cameras have a feature called Virtual Horizon which shows you if the camera is level. I like to go into my custom button settings and set the extra Function button on the camera to toggle between exposure metering and virtual horizon. That way once my exposure is set I can have the camera viewfinder show me if the camera is level and then I can quickly adjust accordingly.


Maintain Your Camera

On any longer trip I recommend a bit of ongoing camera maintenance to ensure that your camera performs at full capability throughout. First, bring several soft or microfibre lens cleaning cloths to wipe your camera lens and screen. Fingerprints, water droplets and dirt on the lens can degrade your image.  I always bring several of these and put a few in individual zip-lock bags just so they stay dry.

Next, I recommend an emergency sensor cleaning kit like Visible Dust swabs that fit your sensor and the Blue-capped cleaning solution. When on deck with the wind, etc., sometimes dust can get on your sensor during a lens change. If its a big piece of dust it could be on all of your images and having the ability to do a quick sensor cleaning in the field can be really useful.

Lastly Wipe Down your cameras and lenses at night with a towel and some fresh water just in case it got some ocean spray on it.


Keep the Passion! 

A child-like enthusiasm wins every time! An Adventure Canada expedition is truly a spectacular opportunity to photograph. Stay positive about your photography, bring a zest and a child-like wonder and enthusiasm to each new day and let your passion for capturing the amazing nature around you guide and inspire your next photograph.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Check out for more tips, instructional videos and workshops throughout the year. I will be on the Arctic Safari this year and have many exciting talks and more great tips to share throughout the trip. I can’t wait and hope to see you there!


Kristian Bogner is a third-generation pro photographer, speaker and ambassador for Nikon Canada, Broncolor, Lowepro and Manfrotto. His work has received numerous awards including 3-time Commercial Photographer of the Year for Canada with the Professional Photographers of Canada Association and 2015 Master Photographers International Commercial Photographer of the Year. Join him this summer aboard our Heart of the Arctic expedition!

Canada 150 Considered

Canadian Treaties Map_0

Canadian Treaties map produced by GIS and Cartography Office, Department of Geography, University of Toronto for the exhibit Canada By Treaty: Negotiating Histories, co-curated by Heidi Bohaker, James Bird and Laurie Bertram. ©2017. Click for large, downloadable version.

Adventure Canada is celebrating this year—celebrating many things, in fact. We are celebrating our own thirtieth anniversary as a company; we’re celebrating anniversaries of our partners, the World Wildlife Fund (fifty years), as well as Nikon (one hundred years) and—perhaps most importantly—we are celebrating 150 years of Canadian Confederation.

That last one, of course, is being observed across the country. (Though the year of Confederation depends on the province—for our friends in Newfoundland & Labrador, to give just one example, it was 1949, not 1867!)

Many of us will be spending July 1, Canada Day aboard the Ocean Endeavour in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where so many currents meet and swirl together. A voyage by sea is an apt metaphor for the national project: Sometimes the waters are smooth; sometimes, stormy, but we journey together on the tides of history.

The Canadian story is complicated, and in choosing to celebrate it, we acknowledge its complexity—and its imperfections. While we celebrate diversity, we recognize that Canada does not work well for everyone. While we celebrate democracy, we recognize that not everyone has equal influence, equal power, or equal privilege. While we celebrate our many cultures, we acknowledge that power and opportunity are not equitably distributed among them. While we celebrate the natural world, we acknowledge that the environment is under constant threat.

Importantly, we acknowledge that Canada only exists as a nation, in both law, and history, because of Indigenous peoples. We acknowledge and affirm the principles of self-determination and the sovereignty of those nations with whom Canada has entered into treaties and land claims, and those whose territorial and claims are pending or unceded. We recognize that these relationships are formative, and binding, and as much a part of the rights and obligations of our nation as the British North America Act, the Constitution, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For Adventure Canada, this year of celebration is also an opportunity for reflection. How can we be better partners with the First Peoples, in whose traditional territories we live, work, and travel? How can we support local economies sustainably, create more opportunities for cultural engagement, and be better stewards of the natural world together?

All these questions add up to one thing: how can we be better Canadians? In 2017, more than ever, we have the opportunity to ask, and to listen.

We think that’s something to celebrate—and we hope you’ll celebrate with us!

The Great Migration


Guest post by AC passenger Johanna Hickey. Photos by David Simmonds, Karen Simmonds, and Clayton Anderson.

Jet-lagged, disheveled, and clutching my visa-stamped passport, I searched the row of smiling faces at Kilimanjaro Airport. Suddenly the sign appeared: “Adventure Canada”, held welcomingly by Cunio, my driver. The long journey had ended. I had finally arrived in Tanzania, that magic place which we all dreamed about as children—but had difficulty spelling.

As we exited into the warm, moist air the sounds and smells of the country enveloped us. This was east Africa, and we were here to witness one of the most phenomenal natural occurrences in the world—the migration of over three million wildebeests and over two hundred thousand zebras in search of water.

As we drove towards our luxurious accommodation at Raintrees Country Inn, near Arusha, the first of these exotic animals darted across the road, a black-and-white blur. Was it a bush baby? mongoose? “What it?” I excitedly asked Cunio. He replied, with a perfectly straight face, “That, Madame, is a domestic cat.” Thus was my introduction to the marvelous deadpan Tanzanian sense of humour which we all grew to love and appreciate during the rest of our trip.

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On the first day of our trip we were comfortably flown by Excel Air to the Serengeti, where we were introduced to our amazing guides. Robert and John became our source of all knowledge for the next ten days. There was absolutely nothing that these two gentlemen did not know, and their patience and expertise as well—as their dry wit—greatly enhanced our safari experience. No question was too trivial, nor too complex for them.


Our safari days took on a luxurious and comfortable rhythm. The Thompson Africa tents—in fact, it would be a disservice to call them tents—came with every luxury, from custom showers at any time of day or night to gourmet meals which—although cooked without electricity—included excellent local produce and inevitably included a vegetarian and lactose-free option.

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Each morning after a “Jambo” (Swahili for “Hello”) wake up and a hearty breakfast with locally sourced coffee, we set off with our guides. As there were only twelve of us, including our wonderful and energetic guide and photographer par excellence Clayton Anderson of Adventure Canada, six of us fit comfortably into each of the customized, four-wheel-drive safari vehicles. As many of the group were serious photographers, this allowed everyone a window seat, as well as access to the open roof for more serious viewing. We usually spent the morning spotting and photographing the various animals which became more numerous as the days progressed. On day one, our excitement was enormous when we saw our first giraffe; John and Robert just laughed. By day seven, we realized just how many giraffes called Tanzania home—not to mention the lions, elephants, hyenas, cheetahs, leopards, every kind of gazelle imaginable, pools of hippos, and even the elusive white rhino.) Then after a substantial lunch either back at the safari camp or as a huge picnic out on the plain in a prearranged spot, it was more excellent wildlife viewing in the afternoon. The days passed leisurely with adequate time for photo-taking or with time just to observe the animals in their natural habitat at such a close distance.  The day concluded with drinks, (occasionally around a campfire) and a very generous dinner with lots of choice together with much animated conversation and the sharing of photos or videos about the day’s viewing.

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However, the purpose of our trip was to witness the great migration of the wildebeest and the great migration of the zebras. And see them we did! Day after day, thousands of wildebeest and thousands of zebras stretched across the horizon as far as the eye could see. We stopped the safari wagons and watched and watched and watched and still they came. It was the most amazing sight that most of us had ever seen. Clouds of these powerful animals appeared accompanied by their zebra friends, walking, running, jumping or just standing watching us.


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The days flew by far too quickly. We moved to three different Nyumba Camps, all with the same high level of service, two at various locations in the Serengeti and one in the the Ngorongoro in order to give us access to the various locations of the animals. The rim of the Ngorongoro crater and the crater floor was magnificent—far more lush than the previous areas, and, consequently, absolutely filled with animals, including the perpetual wildebeests and zebras who still kept coming in droves.


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DAVID'S_ANIMALS-15Although the purpose of out trip was to view wildlife, (and did we ever view wildlife!), we also learned about the life of the Maasai people who populate the area. Because Thompson Africa has worked hard to improve the lives of the Maasai people and the lives of the other tribes in the area (through the payment of fair wages and through providing good working conditions), we were invited to visit one of the local schools. The school itself was built by the government, but the houses for the teachers were all built by Thompson. We also had the privilege of visiting a medical clinic and we met with some of the Maasai women who who have started a crafts co-op through which they sell their wares with the currency going to improve their quality of life as well as providing school uniforms so that their children, both girls and boys, can attend school.

The lovely Gibb’s Farm was our final destination. Voted the most beautiful hotel in Africa, we luxuriated in the magnificent views and relished the gourmet food which we watched being harvested for our supper. Here we learned more about the local way of life from traditional story tellers we and visited a local village which specialized in local crafts such as wood carving.

As we headed to the airport with a brief stop in Arusha for a final substantial lunch and to refresh ourselves before our long journey home, it was with a note of real sadness that we passed our last giraffe and said goodbye to our last zebra.

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I still think of those wildebeest and zebras on their great migration. They are probably still migrating as I write. I hope that one day I too might migrate back to Tanzania and see them again.

Join the migration in 2018! With two possible mid-winter departures, Adventure Canada’s Tanzania safaris are the perfect way to see more wildlife than you ever thought possible!


Arctic Survival with Survivorman

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Survival should never be about fighting against nature.” — Les Stroud

Best known as the Canadian Screen Award winning producer, creator and star of the hit TV series Survivorman (OLN Canada, The Science Channel US, Discovery Channel International, City TV (Rogers) Canada), Les Stroud is the only producer in the history of television to produce an internationally broadcast series entirely written, videotaped, and hosted alone. With Les known as the original genre creator of ‘Survival TV’, Survivorman is one of the highest rated shows in the history of OLN Canada, the Science Channel US and Discovery Channel US and remains the highest rated repeat show on the Discovery Channel. Survivorman is licensed for broadcast worldwide, with ratings in the US hitting 2 million on individual episodes. He has been nominated for twenty-one Canadian Screen Awards (formerly the Geminis) and has won for Best Writer (twice) and Best Photography.

A proud member of the prestigious Explorers Club, Les received Fellow (highest rank) of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Les has received both the Distinguished Alumni award and was nominated for the Premieres award for excellence for work in his field. He contributes to dozens of charities and benefits, is an ambassador for Shelterbox, and is an advanced survival trainer for the Canadian Military Armed Forces as well as sits on the board of advisors for the Sea Shepherd Conservation Organization.

Adventure Canada recently caught up with Les to pick up on Arctic survival tips from the master!

Adventure Canada: What type of special considerations would one take into account in order to survive in an Arctic environment?

Les Stroud: Nothing about the Arctic in terms of survival can be taken casually, but twenty-four hours of total (or near-total) darkness is like nothing else on earth. Yet even when the sun is up for twenty-four hours a day, conditions can be some of the harshest on the planet. It pays to be your own survival shelter—which is to say that your clothing is the first most vital bit of shelter you should consider. The traditional Inuit clothing—caribou hide and sealskin—was and still is the perfect material to be your own kind of ‘walking shelter’.

AC: What’s the coldest place you’ve personally endured? How did you do it?

LS: I happened to be in a place called Wabakimi Provincial Park in northern Ontario when it hit -47°C during a solo survival expedition. A twenty-four-hour fire was the only way to survive such extreme temperatures, along with staying out of the wind.

AC: How does the presence and nature of Arctic wildlife factor into a survival strategy?

LS: There are two things to consider here for survival: danger and food—the most obvious danger being polar bears, for which carrying a rifle for protection is of the utmost importance. For food, everything depends on whether or not you are in a hunting scenario, a fishing scenario, or a ‘lost it all’ survival scenario. The addition of fishing tackle and a good rifle with ammunition and skill would make a huge difference. 

AC: What’s the single most essential piece of gear for an Arctic expedition? Why?

LS: There is not one single piece of essential gear as all situations differ, sometimes slightly and sometimes drastically. Shelter is vital, as is a way to create warmth, but then a rifle for both protection and hunting is indispensable.

AC: What kinds of Arctic vegetation would a survivalist take into account? Why?

LS: The most abundant are the small shrubs and root greens that, in many locations, can cover an entire hillside and keep you fed for weeks—at least in terms of greenery. 

AC: What are the most common mistakes you see people making in the wild—both with regards to their own safety, and the sanctity of the environment?

LS: In a survival situation, panic is the first big mistake. But the overriding mistake that can allow for things to turn ugly is not respecting the land, the wildlife, and the weather. Survival should never be about fighting against nature, or tackling the wilderness. It must always be about going with the flow of the land, being able to read the signs of the environment, and respecting the possibility of what may lay ahead.

AC: What are you most excited to bring to the Adventure Canada expedition this summer?

LS: I have a deep and profound love of nature, the land, our wilderness. My goal of life has always been to re-connect people to the earth. Places such as the Arctic make it easy to boast a powerfully beautiful landscape that can inspire and change someones life, just by seeing and visiting it. My passion for the land will be in full force on my Adventure Canada expedition!

AC: Thanks Les! See you this summer!

Les Stroud joins Adventure Canada’s Heart of the Arctic expedition this summer as a member of the onboard expedition team. Until March 31, save 15% on the berth cost of this extraordinary sailing, and join Les along with celebrated author Margaret Atwood in some of Canada’s most remote and wonderful communities.

The Last Ice

A guest post by Pete Ewins, WWF-Canada. Photo by Dennis Minty.

In fourteen years of travel with Adventure Canada, I’ve shared many magical moments with fellow passengers on the viewing decks, marvelling together at the enormous wild landscapes, seascapes, cultural history, and diverse and wonderful Arctic wildlife.

But one August morning stands above all others.

We were crossing Lancaster Sound in incredibly dense fog, lucky to see a few harp and bearded seals, and a polar bear. But overhead, hundreds of thick-billed murres and kittiwakes confidently commuted between cliff breeding colonies and rich foraging areas which we knew to be as far as two hundred kilometres away. Somehow they could navigate perfectly—without the benefit of the ship’s high-tech radar.

We were sailing over an area where years ago, long before rapid climate change was ever talked about, Canada had granted oil and gas exploration leases to oil giant Shell.

Everyone aboard the Adventure Canada ship knew the risks associated with oil spills, particularly in icy waters where, even to this day, there is no proven technique for effective cleanup.

That morning, the clash of values became so very clear: pristine ecosystems, concentrations of Arctic wildlife, Inuit coastal communities and their subsistence-harvesting lifestyle, and then the spectre of high-risk, big-oil developments and the inevitable accidents and long-term mess it would leave. Thankfully, the opportunity to safeguard Lancaster Sound and apply strong protection to these high Arctic marine and sea-ice areas is still intact.

The current federal government has committed to protect ten percent of Canada’s marine areas by 2020, and indicated at WWF-Canada’s Oceans Summit in 2016 that Lancaster Sound could soon receive designation as a large National Marine Conservation Area. Local Inuit, via the Qikitani Inuit Association, have been supportive of full protection for an even larger area of Lancaster Sound than the site suggested by Parks Canada—but this bigger boundary had long been thwarted by those Shell oil and gas leases. To unjam all this, WWF-Canada filed in federal court, and thankfully sense prevailed—Shell surrendered those old leases, removing the final barrier to marine protection for the incredible seascape we had sailed. Now, we’re eagerly anticipating a terrific Lancaster Sound announcement.

In this Anthropocene era of unprecedented rapid change, it is very clear that the Canadian High Arctic and its surrounding sea-ice areas—Lancaster Sound and north to the tip of Ellesmere Island, and west to the Beaufort Sea—will be an increasingly crucial home and refuge for wildlife species that evolved in persisting sea-ice conditions. We call this region the Last Ice Area (see map)—where Arctic sea-ice is projected to persist the longest in a region experiencing very rapid warming and loss of summer sea ice.

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Throughout the Arctic, these large areas require strong protection from high-risk human activities. This is what the sea-ice dependent species need in order to retain resilient populations and habitats in the face of dramatic change—species like the polar bear, narwhal, bowhead whale, walrus, ringed and bearded seals, and the food-chain species that support them.

This is at the core of our work at WWF-Canada. We thank all who travel with Adventure Canada to see wildlife and their habitat for themselves, and then help communicate the need for a modern approach to protecting these treasures while we still can. I’m already looking forward to this summer’s Arctic Safari, to celebrate important birthdays—Canada’s 150th, Adventure Canada’s 30th and WWF-Canada’s 50th—in this incredible northern Canadian home.

Pete Ewins is the lead specialist in species conservation with WWF-Canada. His polar bear-human conflict prevention work helps people and bears adapt to rapid climate change. Along with other WWF-Canada representatives, he will be joining the 2017 Arctic Safari expedition.

Why Antarctica? Reasons to visit in the Spring Season


Everyone has a reason for visiting Antarctica—maybe, whether they know it or not—all of them unique and personal. For many, it can be the final checkmark on the map—the end of a lifelong bucket list to visit all corners of the earth. Others are captivated by its remote, pristine wilderness and its incredible wildlife-viewing opportunities. The call of an untouched world of glacial ice and rugged coastline is without a doubt one that is heard by many.

Whatever your reasons for visiting, there are some strong benefits to visiting the Antarctic in November, as the first rays of summer arrive on the world’s southernmost continent. Following are a few of the reasons you’ll want to reach Antarctica early in the year.

  1. The ice is sharp, crisp, and fresh. Over the summer, sun and sea take their toll on the innumerable icebergs that dot the Antarctic coastline. As the ice is weathered by heat and wave action, they change colour from blue to white as the volume of air trapped within changes, and the bergs become pitted and cracked. But in November and December, icebergs are at their most massive—they’re fresh from the winter season, sharp, and massive, towering in crenellated peaks over azure waters.People_zodiac_cruising
  2. The snow is immaculate. Early in the summer season, snow in Antarctica is fresh, white, and crisp—a true tabula rasa. As we cross the sea from South Georgia to the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, the most common reaction is reverence and awe. The sheer scale and immensity of the Antarctic coastline often leaves us speechless; the sparkling snow, the gleaming blue glacial shelves—unmarked with mud and impurities that are revealed by summer melt—are truly unparalleled sights to behold. Arriving early in the season means we see them at their best.Places_Neko_Harbour_ice_shelf
  3. The penguins are partying. Early expeditions offer the best opportunities for penguin viewing, as it’s their mating season and energy is at a peak. You can expect to see penguins mating, nesting or—often, and hilariously—stealing pebbles away from the nests of others. Chinstrap penguins lay late in November, and typically hatch two chicks each summer. They will occupy their colonies until the start of summer the following March, when they leave the pack ice for winter. These birds feed just offshore of their colonies, plumbing the sea for krill and fish which are shared with the chicks. The second most abundant species on the continent, the chinstraps are easily at their best early in the season—which is when we visit them.Wildlife_penguins_chinstrap_rookery
  4. The world’s largest carnivores are primed for action. It may surprise you to know that the southern elephant seal—also known as Beachmasters—are the largest carnivores alive, with some adult males surpassing even polar bears in size! In summer, these giants come ashore to moult and will lay beached for weeks at a time! Some can go up to three months on land before returning to the sea to hunt. By visiting South Goergia in November and December, we ensure that our arrival is perfectly timed to see these magnificent creatures, and hear their fearsome roars.FSG_seals_elephant_males

Sound like something you’d like to be a part of? Well look no further. Join Adventure Canada this November aboard the Hebridean Sky for our Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica expedition and travel in style to the bottom of the world.

Menace, Manor, Myth

sable 1

A guest post by Jill Martiin Bouteillier. Photographs by Sarah Beatrice (“Trixie”) Bouteillier.

For as long as I can remember, Sable Island was part of my family’s collection of narratives: whenever we visited my grandfather and great aunt in British Columbia their stories, expressions and memories brought that spit of sand floating off the coast of Nova Scotia in the North Atlantic into the room, where it leaped to life in vivid technicolour. Both Clarence, my grandfather, and his sister, Trixie, spent the better part of their childhood and young adulthood on the island where their father was the Superintendent. Robert Jarvis Bouteillier held that post from 1884 to 1913.

When I began my research for my two books on Sable Island, I realized that Sable Island exhibited multiple personalities: a deathtrap for the unwary or cocky, a warm hearth of gentle aspect, and a mysterious labyrinth inhabited by beasts and ghosts. Veritably, the stuff of myth.

Birthed by the confluence of two mighty currents, the Gulf Stream and the Labrador, Sable Island clings tenaciously to the edge of the Grand Banks. Its waters, teeming with fish, dared the Portuguese, Basque, French, English, American, and Italian fishermen to risk life and limb to fill their holds with the lucrative cod.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s flagship, the Delight, part of Queen Elizabeth I’s 1583 expedition to the new world, foundered in the deadly surf of the South East sandbar of Fagunda Island, as it was called by the Portuguese.

Richard Hakluyt, a young geographer, had been removed from the expedition at the last moment. He lived to meet the seven survivors of the Delight and to write their story. As more ships foundered in the Isle de Sable’s clutches, this temperate island in the middle of the Atlantic, was soon recognized by mariners as a place to avoid and earned the moniker, Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Once a permanent lifesaving outpost was established by the Colonial Government of Nova Scotia in 1801, men of strength and hardworking character added their names to the list of Superintendents. For six hundred pounds a year, these brave leaders dispensed justice, medical care, lifesaving expertise as well as managing supplies for the residents at the two lighthouses and four rescue stations ready to sacrifice their lives to save others. Although they were isolated in ways a modern dweller could never imagine, they raised their large families, grew massive gardens, and treasured the finer things like music in dwellings which rivalled the finest homes in Halifax.
sable 2

So when did Sable Island grow to mythic proportions?  I think it started with strange sightings of other worldly beings: ghosts of shipwrecked sailors, fishermen and lost travellers. With an estimated 2000 souls caught in the ribs of the shoals which stretch out from each side of the island, there is much fodder for spirits to linger. When the fog was just right, the sea conjured up fantastical forms. Those who saw them struggled to keep the vision secret, for fear of bad luck. But the stories were whispered around the fire—the lost coxswain, the bloody finger of Mrs. Copeland, the monk chanting his prayers along the north beach.

In addition to the spirit world, wild horses were left to range in the late 1700’s. With their arrival the island was touched by magic pixie dust. Imagine a place where hundreds of chestnut, sable and soft amber horses run free unhindered by man. Indeed some were trained to become work horses for the residents and some were sold in Halifax auctions, but many ran free in well-established gangs.  To such a place, scientists, photographers, politicians and poets came to watch in awe.

In 1858 a young Joseph Howe visited the Island. On his return to civilization, he wrote a poem about his transcendent experience on the island. What follows are the opening  and closing stanzas of his poem:


Sable Island

Dark Isle of Mourning–aptly art thou named,
For thou hast been the cause of many a tear;
For deeds of treacherous strife too justly famed,
The Atlantic’s charnel–desolate and drear;
A thing none love–though wand’ring thousands fear–
If for a moment rests the Muse’s wing
Where through the waves thy sandy wastes appear,
‘Tis that she may one strain of horror sing,
Wild as the dashing waves that tempests o’er thee fling.

Farewell! dark Isle—the Muse must spread her wing,
To seek for brighter themes in scenes more air,
Too happy if the strain she strove to sing
Shell warn the sailor of thy deadly snare;
Oh! would the dogs but hear her fervent prayer,
The fate of famed Atlantis should be thine—
No longer crouching in thy dangerous lair,
But sunk far down beneath the ‘whelming bring,
Known but to History’s page—or in the poet’s line.

Within days, he increased the funding to support the good efforts of the lifesaving station.

In 1905, the Skidby foundered on Sable Island. The Captain and crew were marooned on the island for a month. It was a long month during which no one including the ship’s owners knew the fate of their crew or cargo. Captain Pearson penned these lines:


Oh Isle of Sable, stormy Isle.
The tempests blasts around thee whirl
The angry seas around thee swirl,
Uncertain currents doth beguile
Good ships to doom; thou Sable Isle.

sable 3

Sable Island is all of that and more. I was honoured to be able to share a bit of the history and lore of this wild, beautiful place – still rugged and very isolated, but made accessible by companies such as Adventure Canada. For me, the most magical moment was on our second Zodiac ride to the island. Off the starboard side, the hull of the Skidby was visible below the turquoise sea. Myth became reality.

When Lunenburg Academy closed its doors in 2012, Jill turned the key on a thirty-year career in education, but the historian in her would not be silenced. Consulting for both the National Film Board of Canada (2003) and White Gate Films (2013 and ongoing) inspired her to develop her distinctly Maritime non-fiction voice. In 2015, Jill crafted the successful novel, Return to Sable. Her most recent work, Sable Island in Black and White (Nimbus) is a pictorial anthology of the island, narrated by compelling stories and illustrated with tintypes, glass plates, and old Brownie photographs. Jill sits on the Board of Directors for Friends of Sable Island Society. Join her in 2017 aboard our Sable Island expedition.

Siqiniup Qilauta

Heart of the Arctic 2016 - Day 5 - Lower Savage Islands - welcome ceremony Beedell- © Mike Beedell

A guest post by Heidi Langille and Lynda Brown. Photo by Mike Beedell.

There is a legend among the Inuit about the halo that appears around the sun. Known in some parts as siqiniup qilauta—roughly translated, “the sun’s drum”, it is a good sign; a symbol of good luck.

There are approximately 56,000 Inuit living in Canada in four distinct areas, as well as in urban centres such as Ottawa. Led by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the National organization representing Inuit in Canada, each area—Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut—shares common cultural practices, but celebrates different histories. For instance, in Nunatsiavut in northern Labrador, the Moravian missionaries have been present since the eighteenth century—but in Nunavut, ongoing contact with government representatives didn’t really start to happen until the 1950s. Inuit is the Inuktitut word meaning “the people”. One person is an Inuk, two people are Inuuk, and three or more are Inuit—pronounced ee-new-eet. You may have heard the term ‘Eskimo’—commonly used until recently. Eskimo is a northern Cree word meaning “eaters of raw meat”—and while there is some truth to the name, Inuit much prefer to be called Inuit!

Siqiniup Qilauta is also name of our musical group. Located in Ottawa, we have travelled nationally and internationally demonstrating traditional and contemporary Inuit throat singing, drum dancing, and games—as well as providing interactive workshops on the history of the Inuit, and their current realities. We believe strongly in the strength and resiliency of a cultural people that moved from igloo to iPod in such a short time. We enjoy sharing our culture and the many questions and interests that people have surrounding Canada’s northern people. Sharing the beauty and the strength of this dynamic culture, we hope to create a better world, full of understanding, for our children—and for all Inuit children.

You can hear Sunsdrum performing at Adventure Canada’s upcoming event in Toronto, Northbound!

Heidi is an urban Inuk with family roots in Nunatsiavut. She is one of the founders of the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre which empowers Inuit families in Ottawa with many programs and services. Heidi was nominated as one of the National Aboriginal Role Models in 2010–2011 which has enabled her to motivate and inspire Aboriginal youth across Canada. One of the many things that Heidi enjoys is providing interactive presentations to all Inuit walks of life including throat singing, history, current events, drumming, and Inuit games. She lives with her husband and their six children.

Lynda was born in Nunavut, her mother’s family originates from Pangnirtung, and her father is of Scottish descent. Upon graduating from Trent University with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Native Studies and Psychology, she moved to the nation’s capital. In Ottawa, home to the largest southern Inuit community, Lynda and her husband Rob Nicholson, raise their three young children. Lynda loves her work with the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre and is very involved with her community. She volunteers her time, primarily focussing on Inuit women and children and affordable housing. She is the President of Inuit Non-Profit Housing Incorporation, and has been serving on this board for six years. She participated in the 2008 Governor General Leadership Conference. Lynda is a traditional throat singer and drummer, and shares her cultural knowledge through demonstrations, information sessions and workshops. She performs locally, nationally and internationally.

Qujannamiik, Tunngasugitsi

Arctic Bay

A guest post by Robert Comeau. Photo by Scott Forsyth.

During our trip out of the Northwest Passage this past September, we made a community visit to the hamlet of Arctic Bay. We’d been unable to make our stop in Grise Fiord due to ice conditions—and our Expedition Leader, Jason Edmunds, wanted to make sure we stopped into an Inuit community in Canada before crossing over to Greenland. So, we made an impromptu stop into Arctic Bay.

As soon as we landed on the shores of the community, a snowball fight erupted between about two-dozen kids and some of our resource staff. After the snowball fight, we were able to explore the community with these youth showing us some of their favourite spots to hang out.

These kids reminded me of the kids in my community. Even though Arctic Bay is over 1,500 kilometres north of my hometown of Iqaluit, it felt like I was in a smaller version of home. This sense of familiarity was strong. In the case of Arctic Bay, it was these young Inuit that welcomed us so warmly. It was similar in the Greenlandic communities.

This hospitality extends throughout Inuit Nunangat, which is the Inuktitut term for everything that encompasses the Inuit Homeland. Southerners know this as the Arctic. I think this is a distinction that is very important to make—because when people think about the Arctic, many don’t think of its inhabitants, us Inuit. So, being able to travel as one of the Inuit Resource Staff aboard the Ocean Endeavour offered me the opportunity to help passengers understand our culture and our way of living in Inuit Nunangat. Each year, more and more expedition cruise ships are coming into Inuit Nunangat. With this increase, it is important that Inuit are present on expeditions to make sure that passengers experience our homeland to the fullest extent.

Inuit are very proud of our culture and ways of knowing. We are even more proud to be able to share this culture, this knowledge with visitors—or each other. Travelling from one end of the Northwest Passage to the other, we cross through many different Inuit regions with both similarities and differences. In almost every community we visited, we were lucky enough to cross paths with hunters coming back from being out on the land. In Illulissat, hunters were bringing ashore some caribou from their harvest and you could hear the Inuit Resource Staff commenting on how delicious the country food looked. This allowed us to share with the passengers our experiences and knowledge about harvesting caribou in our respective regions. I am tremendously grateful to have been able to help passengers understand our distinct way of life.

For me, one of the best parts of our expedition was when passengers had the opportunity to try some of our country food for the first time. This included frozen caribou meat, smoked fish, dried fish, frozen fish, and maktaaq (narwhal blubber/skin). “This is actually really good,” was the verdict! It was hard not to eat too much of it while cutting it up and handing it out, though…

The inclusion of Inuit Resource Staff by Adventure Canada enables the passengers to experience Inuit Nunangat as Inuit have since time immemorial. Simple rituals bring us all together; a game, a shared meal, a handshake. A smile. Who knows what expeditions to come will bring to us, but that’s the fun part.

So: to the passengers we were lucky enough to have aboard this past summer I say: Qujannamiik, a warm thanks. To the future passengers that will be aboard next summer and the summers to come: Tunngasugitsi, welcome.

Robert is a culturalist, hails from Iqaluit, and is currently studying History and Political Science at Carleton University. Robert has lived in, quite literally, all four corners of Canada and has experienced the west coast, the prairies, the east coast, and Ottawa. Home will always be the Arctic for Robert. He strongly believes that youth should be not only participating in the dialogue but helping also helping direct this dialogue. Robert is engaged in his community in Ottawa with organizations such as the Ottawa Inuit Children’s Centre and he hopes to help improve the overall quality of life for Inuit and ensure that youth in the Arctic have opportunities to have their voices heard. Join him in 2017 aboard Into the Northwest Passage.

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.

Phantom Power

Aaju and Matthew by Michelle Valberg © Michelle Valberg

A guest post by Tom Barlow. Photo by Michelle Valberg.

Music plays a major part in all of our lives—it influences how we feel, what we want to feel; it forms the emotional markers of our lives. The inclusion of music as a key component of Adventure Canada’s adventures is a unique and, I believe, integral part of the company’s philosophy of opening up our minds and spirits to the cultures and landscapes we visit.

Every culture in the history of the human species has had music as a central cultural touchstone. Many academic disciplines have ignored this remarkable fact for centuries. With modern developments in MRI technology, we have been able to look into our brains and see the effects of music on neural activity and other physiological processes for the first time.

The influence of music on the developing human brain and on human social interaction has spawned an exciting new branch of music-based research. Bestselling books like This is Your Brain on Music examine the power of music to profoundly affect our minds, our bodies, and our interactions with each other.

The inclusion of musicians on Adventure Canada expeditions not only entertains passengers; it also acts as a social passport to the various isolated communities we visit. Music allows conversation to begin where language leaves us disconnected; music conveys ancient stories and passes on traditional learning; it is the great unifier, the great common denominator, the heartbeat by which all people are connected.

Hearing Aaju Peter sing in Inuktitut as we approach Baffin Island, or Daniel Payne striking up a fiddle jig in a tiny outport community in Newfoundland connects us to those places in a magical, primal way. In turn, it connects those places to us.

Tom has been a writer and performer on the Canadian music scene for twenty years. During that time he has garnered three Juno Award nominations, a Canadian Radio Music Award nomination, and won the Canadian Independent Rising Star Award. His latest record, The Fire, is available now.

Natural Beauty

A guest post by Jack Seigel. Photo by Dennis Minty

The Arctic voyages of Adventure Canada travel to what southerners consider to be the most remote parts of Canada. From the tundra ponds of the western lowlands to the glacier-sculpted mountains of Devon and Baffin islands, this landscape presents an exciting diversity of wildlife.

From the ship, distant shore appear barren—but as we approach, the tundra presents a patchwork of colour and texture. Through the season it is a palette in constant flux. The purples and mauves of saxifrage and moss campion flowers in early spring give way to the yellows of dryas and Arctic poppy in summer, which are finally replaced by the spectacular golds and reds of autumns arrival.

The ankle-high growth of willows, birches, and heathers hides the runways of lemmings as they fly from predatory jaegers. A herd of some forty-odd musk oxen casually grazes valley grasses. Their dark hair hands like curtains with the last of winter’s wool marking their passage as it snags on scattered shrubs. The entire herd seems unconcerned with our group as we raise binoculars and cameras to watch them. On nearby ponds, tundra swans gracefully guide their young among noisy cackling geese and red-throated loons. Buff-breasted and semi-pelmated sandpipers wander the insect-rich margins.

In isolated bays, we board Zodiacs and watch a pod of belugas hunting the shallows. A single bowhead whale casually drifts in the lee of the white whales. On a gravel bar, a group of walrus rests. The large male rolls his head, scribing an arc with half-metre tusks, jabbing at his neighbour and claiming his space.

Crowding the bow deck, passengers watch as the ship negotiates the final summer remnants of pack ice. Off the starboard side, ravens and glaucous gulls draw our attention to a blood-covered floe. Excitement mounts as a polar bear is sighted swimming to the distant ice, glancing back at us with indifference.

Steep cliffs fairly vibrate with life, the narrow ledges providing safe nesting for thousands of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. In late August, the young murres—still flightless—leave the cliffs, plummeting to the ocean far below. Escorted by their fathers, they begin their long migration, swimming as many as a thousand kilometres before learning to fly at last. Below these cliffs, we see Arctic foxes patrolling the talus slopes in search of those unlucky chicks unable to reach the water.

Every year we land at new sites, awed by the beauty and excitement of wildlife encounters. But no matter how remote an area appears, we always find tent rings, sod houses. Ancient reminders of this land’s true owners. The opportunity to visit the Arctic in its glory, to meet its people and see its wildlife, is a great privilege. We leave with a renewed sense that we must begin to take the problems that we have created on this planet seriously.

After thirty-five years teaching post-secondary biology and environmental studies, Jack remains committed to conservation, education, and the hope of a sustainable future. Over the years he has consulted on ecotourism development and taught guide training internationally. Jack has guided nature tours and conducted travel study courses in in North, Central, and South America as well as in Africa and South Asia. With an extensive knowledge of plants and animals and their ecological relationships, he enjoys introducing the big picture in a relaxed and entertaining style. Jack has travelled throughout the Arctic since 1978 and first joined the Adventure Canada resource team in 1994.

Living Rock

A guest post by Marc St-Onge. Photo by Michelle Valberg.

Four billion years of Earth history—and not a day less.

From the Beaufort Sea to the south-eastern shores of Iceland, the Arctic’s geological past is not only remarkably rich and turbulent, but also unique on this planet. No other place on Earth can claim the full planetary rock record as documented in the Arctic, with the polar record including the oldest rocks in the world. These range in age between 3.8 and 4.03 billion years old; the Earth itself is only slightly older at 4.55 billion years. It’s a unique rock record that includes some of the earliest traces of life itself—specifically, circular plate-sized mounds called “stromatolites” formed by bacterial colonies of blue-green algae once living at the bottom of shallow, warm equatorial seas and now to be found, 2.9 billion years later, in the Canadian Arctic.

This unique geological record includes Earth’s first Himalayan-scale mountain belt with the ancient, now-eroded mountains that extended beneath Hudson Bay through northern Quebec and southern Baffin into western Greenland. These mountains formed 1.8 billion years ago when the Quebec-Ontario landmass collided with that shared by Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Greenland. The resulting ranges were similar in every way to the modern Himalayas in south-central Asia.

At the younger end of the geological spectrum, the unique Arctic record includes the most compelling evidence for what is known as the “Little Ice Age”, a period of long, cold winters and short, cool summers that characterized the climate of the northern hemisphere from the late fourteenth century to the end of the nineteenth. Inconveniently, the Little Ice Age was also the historical period when polar explorers ventured into Arctic Canada, beginning Sir Martin Frobisher (and continuing with Franklin, Ross, McClure, and many others). Geologically speaking, this was definitely a cast of not checking the weather prior to departure!

Four billion years of Earth history, full of violent volcanism and flooding that would have impressed Noah—there were several—colliding continents, wandering supercontinents … and yet, life persisted throughout, somehow. The record graven the Arctic’s living rock is a gripping tale open to those who learn its language, and read it closely. Like any truly great book, it leaves those who peruse it utterly awe-struck.

Marc is Senior Research Scientist and Head of Regional Geology at the Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada. His passion for and knowledge of Arctic geology served as inspiration for a recent short story by Margaret Atwood (“Stone Mattress”), and his innovative work led to the publication of the “Geological Map of the Arctic” in 2011, the “Tectonic Map of Arctic Canada” in 2015, and the GSC’s first-ever geological maps in Inuktitut, also in 2015.

Looming Large in the Arctic

A guest post by Pierre Richard. Photo by Dennis Minty.

A platoon of long-walkers made their way up a hill on Devon Island. Upon reaching the top, they fell silent and pulled out binoculars and cameras, silently creeping along the hilltop. Below, some six hundred metres into a valley, a dozen round brown shapes with golden mantled were standing in a sedge meadow. “Musk ox,” the trekkers whispered excitedly. The scene was amazing; the musk oxen were in full light, between us and the shore—and a kilometre away, listing gently at anchor, the ship waited.

Later that week, along the Greenlandic coast, the sea was perfectly calm and the setting sun bathed the land in rapt golden hues. Suddenly, a tall blow rose ahead of the bow. It was followed by the raspy sound of a whale’s breath. Soon, another blow followed … and another, and another. The ship was surrounded by six large whales, which lingered for nearly half an hour until we lost them in the receding light…

The Arctic’s treeless landscape and its vast waters provide priceless opportunities to admire terrestrial and marine mammals. While seabirds are the ship’s constant companion on expeditions, the sudden appearance of a group of musk oxen, a polar bear, a large whale, or a pod of belugas sends a wave of excitement through us all, whether on board or ashore. Large mammals are plentiful in polar environments, but they tend to be aggravated by our presence—many are shy, so spotting them tends to be feast and famine. We go for days without any sightings, and suddenly they are everywhere. Here, a herd of harp seals; there, three walruses. Finally, a polar bear.

The Inuit rely heavily on large mammals for sustenance but they also marvel at their majesty and ability. Their conversations are rich with stories about these mammals and the value—literal and cultural—of their meat, their skin, their fat. While stories of the demise of Arctic mammal populations abound, they are often exaggerated. Most Canadian large mammal populations—with a few exceptions—are plentiful. They are, nevertheless, the subject of much debate regarding sustainable hunting levels and, more recently, how climate change will affect their numbers and condition in the future. It is an important debate.

As a long-time Arctic marine mammal researcher, Pierre has focused on the population biology of belugas and narwhals of the Canadian Arctic, developing recommendations for the sustainable use and conservation of their populations. He is known in Nunavut as “Pieri, angutikutaq qilalugalerei” (‘the tall man who knows about belugas and narwhals’). He is the author of a Nunavut school book on Marine Mammals of Nunavut and several French language books on whales and mammals of eastern Canada and the Arctic. Pierre likes to spend a lot of time on the ships’ decks or out in a boat to spot marine mammals and birds.

Angry Inuk

A guest post by Aaju Peter

My travels to Europe to promote Canadian and Inuit sealing rights started in March, 2007. Anti-sealing organizations had successfully lobbied the German government to ban import of seal products and were being very successful lobbying in Holland. My son, Aggu, Jim Winter, a pro-sealing activist from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and I went to speak with the Government of Holland representatives, who were discussing to ban the import of seal products into Holland. A large anti-sealing campaign was taking place outside the Canadian Embassy, to shame Canada for killing seals. Teenage boys were holding large posters of east coast sealers and seals being harvested in an effort to influence europeans and the media that killing seals is a bad thing and should be stopped. Other demonstrators were dressed up as white coat seal pups. This in spite of the fact that white coat seal pups were no longer harvested by east coast sealers since 1983.

The Government of Holland proceeded to ban the import of seal products. The next step for the large, organized and well-funded anti-sealing organizations were to stop the import of seal products into all twenty-six European states all at once. The European politicians and their electorate were being harassed every day for years leading up to the vote in 2009. 550 for 50 against? As a small Canadian delegation of pro-sealers, we traveled to Strassbourg to try to tell the politicians that seals were not an endangered species; that we followed strict hunting regulations; that banning the import of seal products into Europe would have devastating financial, cultural, and social consequences for Inuit and remote communities in Canada. Even before the vote, the chair of the European Union sealing committee told us that even though she knew that the seal population had grown from 1.5 million in the 1970s to 7 million today, she would have to vote to ban the import of seals because that is what her electorate wanted her to do. So, the legislation to ban the import of seal products into Europe was passed because of European morality. That it is immoral to kill a seal.

Astonishingly, just after the vote, all six hundred parliamentarians and our small Canadian delegation went downstairs to a large restaurant to eat lunch. The day’s offer was rows and rows of meat from cows, chicken, and pigs. Little pictures of cows were proudly displayed on the veal. I was flabbergasted. I could not believe that all these politicians—just after voting to ban the import of seal meat and seal products into Europe—without any hesitation stuffed themselves with all these animals that had been grown specifically to be slaughtered for their own consumption. Is this moral? Absolutely, according to an old man, because the animals that are eaten in Europe are not living a free life as the seals do—and therefore it was perfectly fine. How European animals are raised and how they are slaughtered is not questioned. Somehow seals had became a holy animal. It is the poster child of animal rights organizations because they look cute, with big eyes that always seem to be crying. In fact, this is a biological process that occurs to prevent their eyes from freezing. A calf has large eyes and it is so cute. What about a chick? They are very cute. And a piglet. Oink, oink. So cute. That is a whole bunch of hypocrisy.

Alethea Arnaquq Baril, a young Inuit woman has been documenting and filming our campaign since it started. She has been screening her documentary, Angry Inuk at film festivals at Hot Docs, Barrie Film Festival and imagineNative in Toronto. She is receiving awards for her beautiful and stirring work gracefully leading a chorus of voices who patiently tell the audience and show them what they need to know about who Inuit are in the Canadian arctic and what an integral part the seal is to us. At one of the screening a young girl stood up and asked, “Where can I buy sealskin earrings?”. That was brilliant. Alethea promised to make a pair for her. At another screening another young girl says to me, “That is so wrong. They (animal rights groups) lied”.

Since the large demonstrations against sealing in the early 70s and 80s, the price for sealskins was finally up to where it had been pre anti-sealing campaigns, around $100. Leading up to the EU legislation to ban the import of seal products into Europe, the price kept falling and went down to between $10 and $20 dollars. The income for sealers went down by ninety percent. How can an Inuk hunter afford to go hunting to feed his community?

The hardship that animal rights groups, such as Greenpeace, IFAW, and PETA has caused to Inuit and coastal communities in Canada is not acceptable. In the Canadian Arctic, we now have the highest food insecurity in north America. What do we do? We have to urge others to follow the film and be more vigilant in our support of the industry and demand that the anti-sealing groups be accountable for their misinformation.

Born in 1960 in Arkisserniaq, a northern Greenland community, Aaju has lived up and down the west coast of her native country as a result of her father’s teaching and preaching career. She has travelled Greenland, Europe and Canada performing modern drum dance, traditional singing, and displaying sealskin fashions. Currently Aaju has a home-based sealskin garment business, translates, volunteers for the music society, collects traditional law from elders for the Department of Justice, and raises her five children—just recently, she graduated from Akitsiraq Law School and was called to the bar.

Click here to read more about Angry Inuk.

Filming Worlds Apart

An interview with filmmaker-photographer Jason Van Bruggen

Jason van Bruggen is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker based in Canada. His lens has previously captured an incredible Adventure Canada journey through the Northwest Passage. We are thrilled to share Jason’s latest cinematic poem featuring AC staffer and author-explorer James Raffan, and caught up with him to ask some questions about his craft.

Adventure Canada: Jason, what draws you to the wilderness as a filmmaker?

Jason Van Bruggen: Our wilderness is an endlessly fascinating subject to me. Not only for its beauty, but also for the opportunities it provides us in terms of learning and reflection. As we enter an age of scarcity and climate change, these opportunities become more precarious. As a visual artist, I have a role to play in conserving wild places and encouraging an appreciation for them in others. Not only for their visual interest but for their profound importance. My passion for wilderness locations is decades old and predates my current role as a filmmaker and photographer. My current career choice was informed by a passion for wild places rather than the other way around. A fascination with intrepid travel has spanned my whole life. Growing up, I spent my summers on unsupported canoe trips in the Canadian backcountry, which is probably at the root of it. I have worked in the most remote and austere locations on the planet ranging from the Tibetan Himalaya to the deserts of Iraq, and spent time wandering around in well over a hundred countries. Wilderness travel and exploration have been profoundly formative and continue to provide me with boundless inspiration.

AC: What extra considerations does a filmmaker have to make when shooting in remote locations like the Arctic? How did you prepare? What is the hardest part about shooting in cold weather?

JVB: There are many, many additional considerations that go into shooting in remote locations, especially when travelling with a sophisticated equipment package. Preparation involves fastidious attention to detail, starting with the planning stages. You need to be ready for contingency, for equipment failure (total or partial) and have backups of all the essentials. The hardest parts about shooting in cold weather are pretty obvious—keeping yourself warm, keeping your batteries warm, and keeping your equipment running are always crucial.  

AC: Is there anything in particular that makes a shooting location special? What do you look for when gathering footage?

JVB: The light. The fleeting point of confluence at which light, topography, and activity all meet is what yields magic.

AC: Wildlife is notoriously hard to shoot. Is there anything you take into consideration to help get the perfect shot?

JVB: First off, I don’t think I have gotten the perfect shot. In my view, the best way to capture wildlife is to research where you might find the fauna you are looking for, identify a target location, and then spend time there. I prefer to wait in one place and get to know it intimately; this allows me to develop an understanding of where the best opportunities exist. This enables me to find the best light and, hopefully, understand the habits and interests of the animals I am shooting. Observing animals candidly, without disturbing them, is always the most rewarding. That being said, you can do everything right and walk away without a single shot. It’s a crap-shoot like that, especially in landscapes as vast and changeable as the Arctic.

AC: What was the most challenging shot in this most recent project?

JVB: Many individual shots had their challenges, but I think the most delicate part of this project was trying to strike a balance between a number of competing priorities. At the end of the day, this is a piece to promote Arctic travel on behalf of Adventure Canada. It is also a portrait of a friend of mine, and one that I wanted to make candid without being overly revealing. Like many of the stories that I imagine and film, I wanted this to be honest and to steer away from a clichéed interpretation of the North, exploration, and wilderness travel.

AC: Part of what makes your northern films and images so striking is the haunting, subdued palate. Can you comment on how you achieve such a vivid representation of local colour?

JVB: I try and represent on film what I feel when I am in the North. The Arctic, as it lives in my memory, is not an overtly colourful place. It is an eerily beautiful place, though. I see a great deal of photography which feels like it stretches the boundaries of credible human experience in the Arctic. While there are flashes of brilliant colour on many of my Arctic voyages, my emotional memory of the Arctic on most days is reflected in my colour treatment of both still and moving images.

AC: How would you describe the experience of working with Adventure Canada?

JVB: I love these guys. It’s a family-run business with tremendous purchase in the communities we visit and huge respect for the part of the world in which they travel. Those relationships have taken decades to build, and aren’t something that can be bought. The resource staff aboard the AC vessels keep coming back, year after year, for the same reasons that I do—we get to work with great people in amazing places.

AC: What is your dream shoot? Somewhere you haven’t been, and always wanted to?

JVB: Tough question. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot , and get to a lot of ‘bucket list’ destinations. I want to continue to explore the most compelling and hard to get to pieces of wilderness in Canada, and around the world. If I had to narrow it down, I would say all of National Parks in Canada that I haven’t been to yet.

AC: Thanks very much, Jason!

JVB: Thank you!

Jason’s work is focussed on depicting North American wilderness, including the Far North in a manner that is authentic and narrative—building new interpretations of these landscapes. Favouring travel that brings him in direct contact with the frontier and those who inhabit it, Jason’s immersive work seeks to explore these emerging landscapes and capture the vulnerability of the ecosystems and the people who live within them, illuminating a tension between the strength and fragility of the region; the age-old resolve to survive, and the current intention to thrive in places where scarcity fosters incredible ingenuity, resilience, and hospitality. Visit his portfolio online for more information.

All photos courtesy of Jason Van Bruggen.

The Heyday and Decline of Arctic Exploration: a Case Study in Two Paintings

Guest post by Michael Engelhard

Analyzing the heroic quest narrative, the American mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out that it is crucial for the protagonist to face unknown dangers and to gain spiritually or physically value. As a placeholder for Arctic adversity, the polar bear perfectly embodied such a notion. Captured alive, pictured, described for science, or slain for its meat or skin, it signified the hero’s trophy, his travails, and his rewards.

Two English nineteenth-century paintings fall well within the Heroic Age and epitomize the polar bear’s role in visual mythmaking: Richard Westall’s apotheosis Nelson and the Bear (1806) and Edwin Henry Landseer’s memento Man Proposes, God Disposes (1864). This essay explores these works.


Edwin Henry Landseer — Man Proposes, God Disposes — 1864 — oil on canvas

Landseer’s monumental canvas alludes to the fate of Sir John Franklin (Nelson’s subaltern at the battle of Trafalgar), “the man who ate his boots,” who—with his sailors—disappeared sometime after 1845 while seeking to conquer that northern chimera, the Northwest Passage. Using dark tones throughout this painting, Landseer, who’d studied live polar bears at the menagerie at the Exeter Exchange in London’s Strand, cast long shadows upon “an English optimism and triumphalism, which was particularly apparent at mid-century.”

Franklin’s had been the largest and best-equipped Arctic expedition to embark until then. His wife, Lady Jane Franklin, who never stopped hoping for his return, attended a soirée at the Royal Academy at which the “offensive” painting was shown—and was outraged. Her indignation was caused by the inclusion of two polar bears that, in Landseer’s imagining of the aftermath, gnawed on a human ribcage and shredded a red British ensign. Lady Franklin’s shock at the sight of the disgraced flag could have been exacerbated by the fact that she had sewn it (or one very much like it) for her knight-errant before he embarked on his last journey. Allegedly, at home, she had thrown that silken flag over Franklin, who was stretched out on a divan, and he had startled, reminding her that the Navy covered corpses with the Union Jack before burial at sea.

Every animal painting is also always a self-portrait, a story we tell about Nature and thereby reflective of our own nature. The red ensign in Man Proposes, which draws the viewer’s gaze, recalls Tennyson’s “Nature, red in tooth and claw”—but to pious Victorians, the horror of men becoming bear prey was nothing compared to the evil whose name few dared to speak.

In 1854, word had reached London that Dr. John Rae of the Hudson’s Bay Company had met some Inuit who had learned from others that about forty white men had been seen in 1850, dragging a boat south, and that later, the bodies of those men had been found. They most likely had died from cold and starvation, but John Rae’s report included a disturbing detail mentioned by his informants. “From the mutilated state of many of the bodies, and the contents of the kettles,” he wrote, “it is evident that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last dread alternative as a means for sustaining life.”

Richard Westall — Nelson and the Bear — 1806 — oil on canvas

By contrast, Westall’s Nelson and the Bear—painted four decades earlier—reflects a younger, more confident empire. It poises the plucky, fifteen-year-old midshipman and future hero of Trafalgar at the edge of the pack ice, clad in a frockcoat with buckled shoes and a bonnet resembling a chef’s hat—not really dressed for such an outing. Nelson wields his musket like a club against an opponent that has flattened its ears against its head and looks more like a scared sheepdog than a polar bear.

In 1773, young Horatio’s ship, HMS Carcass, on the search for the Northeast Passage like many before it , ground to a halt in the ice near Spitsbergen. Carcass and a second ship, Racehorse, were sailing under the command of Commodore Constantine Phipps, who on that same voyage named the polar bear Ursus maritimus.

Together with a shipmate, Nelson went after a bear, whose skin he wished to give to his father. That, at least, is the story the ship’s captain, Commander Skeffington Lutwidge, started telling decades later. He added the companion and the loyal filial element only in 1809, four years after Nelson had bled to death on the deck of HMS Victory. In Lutwidge’s story, Nelson’s rusty, borrowed musket misfired and he was saved only because a rift in the ice had appeared, separating him from the bear. Westall’s painting, however, shows only Nelson, a single, steadfast Briton facing the epitome of the hazardous North. Obviously, a companion on the ice would have diminished Nelson’s glory. Westall also included, in the background, Carcass helping to scare off the bear by firing a cannon. Besides adding to the hagiography of a national hero, the work celebrated Britannia and its mariners, tougher than walrus hide.

Nelson and the Bear and, to a degree, even Man Proposes follow conventions of the exploration narrative, a genre seeking to terrify and to titillate. Such dramatizations of the quest—hand-to-paw combat, hull-crushing bergs, scurvy, and starvation—hallowed soldiers and explorers, especially in cases of premature death. By the time Landseer finished Man Proposes, more ships and men had been lost in search of Franklin. The futility of Arctic exploration was starting to register, but British hubris and vainglory persisted until 1912, when another hero—Robert Falcon Scott—perished at a pole, and an iceberg ruined both an “unsinkable” ship and the confidence of a nation.

Michael Engelhard is the author of Ice Bear: The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon and of American Wild: Explorations from the Grand Canyon to the Arctic Ocean. Trained as an anthropologist, he lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and now works as a wilderness guide in the Arctic.