A 14 year-old Tofitian is heading off on a once-in-a-lifetime Arctic expedition.
Seth Stere is one of 120 students from around the world about to set off on a 12-day Arctic voyage with the Students on Ice Foundation.
The students will travel onboard the massive, 137-metre, Adventure Canada Ocean Endeavour, which is equipped with a fleet of 20 zodiacs for daily trips to unique hands-on experiences where they will learn about the effects and impacts of climate change.
Stere learned about the program when Students on Ice representatives came to his Ucluelet Secondary School to drum up interest in the expedition and he immediately applied for a seat on the journey.
“It sounded like an amazing program to me. I’ve always wanted to go to the Arctic and learn about the culture and the animals,” he said.
“It is such a unique place that not many people get to go to with really unique animals that are nowhere else in the world.”
Roughly a month after applying, Stere was thrilled to hear he’d been selected for a scholarship from the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.
“I was pretty surprised and I was super excited,” he said. “It’s 120 kids from around the world and a great learning experience.”
He said he’s been researching the Arctic and what he’ll be seeing leading up to his trip and playfully added he’s getting ready for a change to his usual weather forecast.
“I’m preparing a lot of warm clothes,” he laughed.
Stere, a local surfer and member of the Canadian Junior Surf Team, said he’s particularly interested in learning more about how climate change is affecting the ocean he loves.
“The glaciers up there are melting and changing the sea level and all that’s connected to our surf down here,” he said. “I have a big interest in climate change because I surf a lot and the ocean is changing…You’re in it everyday and it’s something that you want to protect.”
Students on Ice’s communications manager Ashley Brasfield told the Westerly News the trip’s 120 students will begin gathering in Ottawa on Aug. 8 for workshops to “break the ice” before departing on their 12-day expedition on Aug. 10.
“It’s going to be quite the journey,” she said. “There is no typical day. Everyday will be different…They’ll walk on glaciers and learn about climate change and how it’s impacted the North. They’ll paddle handmade Inuit kayaks and, really, just connect to the land and the water around them.”
She added students will also visit Arctic communities and attend cultural workshops and that the expedition is centred around four key themes: environment, youth engagement, diversity and reconciliation. Participants will be joined on Adventure Canada Ocean Endeavour by a Students on Ice team of roughly 80 members that includes: Indigenous elders, artists, musicians, historians and scientists.
“The Arctic is changing faster than anywhere else on earth and it’s very important for youth in their formative years to see, firsthand, these changes happening to the environment and the changes happening within the culture in the North,” she said. “And, to be able to connect to the people and connect to the land in a way that’s going to inspire them for the rest of their life and, hopefully, help to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the Arctic and a determination to make a difference.”
She said Students on Ice was launched 17 years ago by its founder Geoff Green who was leading adult expeditions to the Arctic and believed students could gain valuable insights from similar experiences.
“It was during one of his expeditions that he realized, as a former school teacher, what an amazing impact this would be for youth,” she said. “It came to fruition and it’s still, thankfully, running successfully as, 17 years later, we have more than 2,700 youth from 52 countries around the world.”
Anyone wanting to follow along with Stere’s journey can find constant updates at the program’s website, www.studentsonice.com.
“It’s a life changing experience,” Brasfield said. “It’s something that stays with our youth and it’s been really incredible to watch and continue to support our youth and their dreams and how they want to contribute to their communities and countries.”