Looking beyond the Arctic horizon

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2011, 12:00am


This summer, 72 students from around the world were selected to take part in an Arctic expedition with a team of renowned scientists, historians, artists, explorers, educators, leaders, innovators and polar experts. I was chosen as one of the Arctic ambassadors and was awarded two scholarships: one from the East Asia Regional Council of Schools, and the other from Geoff Green, an Arctic explorer, environmental educator and the founder of the award-winning programme, 'Students on Ice'.

Our journey took us to Iceland, southern Greenland and Canada - in particular, the north shore of Labrador and the northern reaches of Nunavik.

When you make the world your classroom, the scope of things you can learn becomes as broad as the horizon. I could not have asked for a better classroom to learn, to explore and to be inspired.

It was a journey of discovery, of transformation that opened my eyes to a whole new beautiful world that is now a part of me - a part of who I am and what I consider home. The Arctic took my breath away, and the wilderness that touched me in such profound ways will stay with me forever.

The Arctic is one of the world's most biologically productive and diverse environments, and it is facing an uncertain future because of global warming. The Arctic is changing; it is becoming an environment at risk.

I had the opportunity to not only witness but to also experience the effects of climate change. Once, our ship anchored at the top of a Greenland fjord, or inlet. According to a chart drawn in 1966, the ship should have been sitting on top of a glacier. But that glacier had receded seven kilometres, and we realised that we were in water that did not exist decades ago.

I understood the severity of climate change, but it was this moment that brought this issue even closer to my heart. I saw the retreat of glaciers in mountain regions, and I saw how little sea ice was left. I witnessed the effects of climate change with my own eyes, and I now want to preserve the Arctic, the polar regions and our planet more than ever.

We had workshops and presentations not only on the ship, but also on land, in breathtaking fjords and glaciers. These interactive lessons included learning Inuktitut (an Inuit language), studying botany, learning about biodiversity, exploring polar-education experiments and discussing climate-change solutions.

Another highlight was taking part in a mock Arctic Council. With my deep passion for journalism, I also joined the Arctic's daily newspaper, The Daily Icecap, and was part of the onboard broadcast team. Looking back, I was able to fully immerse myself in the moment, which made the experience complete.

My expedition was not just about crossing continents or the Arctic Circle; finding icebergs or sea ice; or about seeing blue whales and polar bears. It was so much more. It was about connecting with nature. Witnessing climate change first-hand and being a part of something bigger than myself changed me deep inside. The physical journey was truly amazing, but mentally, it was a life-changing experience.

I left my heart in the Arctic. I miss the serenity, the waves and the sounds of the Earth. The journey is over, but a new one has just begun. I hope to apply the knowledge I gained from this expedition to inspire and educate people to protect the poles and the planet. The Arctic is now miles and miles away from me, but it will always be in my heart.

Beatrice, 16, is a student at Hong Kong International School