N.W.T. students voyage across Arctic Ocean to discover importance of the North

Students from around the world are voyaging from Greenland through the eastern Canadian Arctic, learning about the North and visiting remote communities throughout the region.

8 students from Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Nahanni Butte and Yellowknife on this year’s Students on Ice trip

Miriame Giroux-Paniloo, centre, is surrounded by her shipmates on an adventure from Greenland to Nunavut. (Submitted by Students on Ice)

After growing up in the North, eight students from throughout the Northwest Territories have a chance to see their homeland from an entirely new perspective.

Students from Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, Nahanni Butte and Yellowknife were selected to be part of this year's Students on Ice program, which takes youth from around the world on educational Arctic and Antarctic expeditions each year.

They are currently aboard the MS Ocean Endeavour, which started travelling from western Greenland on July 23 and will finish its voyage in Resolute Bay on Aug. 7.

"It's really interesting to see how different everything is from my hometown, but it still smells the same and feels the same," said Kirsti Voudrach, who attends East Three Secondary School in Inuvik.

She said there are similarities between Inuvik and the eastern Arctic, but Greenland and Nunavut aren't "nearly as flat."

Uummannaq, Greenland, home of Uummannaq Mountain towering behind it, is one of the stops on the Students on Ice journey. (Submitted by Students on Ice)

Voudrach and her fellow students spend their days getting up close and personal with icebergs, glaciers and bird colonies, hiking across the tundra, and learning from Inuit leaders in remote Arctic communities.

There are also educational workshops onboard, covering topics like land use, climate change, the Inuktitut language, music and biology.

The trip has provided the opportunity for some participants to connect with their homeland in meaningful ways.

"We went to this camp close to Pond Inlet, and my grandpa was born and raised in a camp close to Pond Inlet," said Miriame Giroux-Paniloo, a student at Dechinta University in Yellowknife.

"It was really beautiful to find and walk and be where my grandpa maybe, and my ancestors used to live."

For Voudrach, the trip has been transformative.

"This trip is changing my mood and changing how I feel about everything else," she said.

An annual Arctic expedition

Zodiak trips to icebergs are one of the many activities for those on the Students on Ice trip. (Submitted by Students on Ice)

The expedition is run by the Students on Ice Foundation, which brings high school and university students from around the world on educational Arctic and Antarctic expeditions to highlight the importance of the polar regions.

In an official release, expedition leader Geoff Green emphasizes the importance of providing opportunities like these to young students.

"This expedition will be the beginning of a lifelong journey, and a very important step for youth to gain the inspiration, education and motivation needed to become leaders in their communities and around the world," he said.

For Giroux-Paniloo, it's been working.

"Since I came here, my goals have been shifting and changing," she said. "I feel like I want to get more into leadership and advocating for my people. Those are skills I've been using here and it feels like I'm good at doing that."

This year, 130 students from 20 countries are travelling throughout the Arctic. Forty per cent of participants are Indigenous from Canada, Greenland or Alaska.


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