Museum President Meg Beckel has joined the 2012 Students on Ice expedition to the Arctic. For one week, she is privileged to be travelling with 75 teenagers from eight countries, as well as a roster of polar experts that includes a few scientists from the museum. Meg shares her impressions from the first few days in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Well, I have experienced two amazing days with the 2012 Students on Ice Youth Expedition.

Day One was about travel, meeting people, getting settled in Iqaluit, learning about Students on Ice ‘karma’ and getting to know Jay, our chef!

Some short phrases will give you a sense of what the first day was about: the energy of youth, the buzz of curiosity, wisdom and experience, shyness when speaking, the value of strength, stamina, agility and humour, the gift of sponsorship, passion for our shared future, the diversity of language, the diversity of background, and a common purpose to learn, see, share, experience, take back and give back.

Two women sitting at table and talking.
Meg Beckel (left) talks to a student as members of the Students on Ice get to know each other. Image: Lee Narraway © Students on Ice

Day Two has been about getting to know each other as well as hearing the staff share their stories with the students. We learned about Iqaluit from Inuit leader Mary Simon, and heard about changes to the Arctic from veteran explorer David Fletcher. We saw sea ice piled high in the bay (a rare event that happens every 30 years or so!), walked away with new Inuit words (Sila), and learned what defines generation G (global, generous, grateful, green), characteristics of the teenagers that are taking part in this journey.

Six teenagers stand with arms outstretched in front of large chunk of ice.
Students were amazed to roam among large chunks of ice in Iqaluit harbour. Image: Lee Narraway © Students on Ice

We had an amazing day in Iqaluit visiting Matty McNair and her sled dogs. Matty, an adventurer and explorer who has made it to both poles, shared her technique for puffing out her chest and standing tall to show dominance over the dogs. Now, that’s something we could all use now and then in our daily lives!

Two women brush a white dog.
Grooming a sled dog in Iqaluit. Lee Narraway © Students on Ice

We then toured the Iqaluit Visitor Centre and the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum. I was amazed to discover a photo album on the museum’s second level with images from 1906… magical photographic moments from Iqaluit in the early 1900s!

A teenager looks down at glass case containing artifacts.
Looking at traditional Inuit tools at Iqaluit’s museum. Image: Lee Narraway © Students on Ice

We had the honour and privilege of visiting the Nunavut legislature with its beautiful architecture, its magnificent ceremonial mace and gifts of art presented by Canada’s provinces and territories to celebrate the creation of Nunavut. This was followed by an inspiring story of passion, strength, courage and tenacity from Eric (Matty’s son). He had kite-skied with his sister across the Northwest Passage and met more polar bears than desired!

Two girls examine plants close to ground.
Students Marine Poirie and Ariana Vaisey look at Arctic plants through hand-held magnifying glasses. Image: Lee Narraway © Students on Ice

Our evening included rap singing by Toronto-based performer Evalyn Parry that celebrates her respect for water and her love for her bicycle. We wrapped up with an inspiring talk and demonstration on carving by some master carvers from the North. What a day!

The expedition ship that will take us on the journey up Baffin Island and across to Greenland arrived last night. We should be loading and boarding any day… as soon as the ice leaves the bay!

Follow the expedition (including images and daily blog entries from participants).