I have a new assignment in 2015 as the Field Correspondent for Lindblad Expeditions in partnership with National Geographic. As I get ready to head north later this spring, I’ve written an introduction to me, to the project, and to my hopes and dreams for the year.
A southern northerner embarks on an Arctic education
I was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, which sits just a hair above the 45th parallel—almost exactly half way to the north pole. From a global perspective, I am a northerner. On the other hand, my home town is just an hour from the United States and well below the 49th parallel which forms much of our southern border. For my fellow Canadians, I’m a southerner through and through.
I embrace my middle latitude status, but I love the north, and I’m not alone. Many writers, journalists and artists have traveled north, trying to understand something about its ecology, culture and politics. You can add my name to that list.
I’m curious about the places that have been (from a southern perspective) remote for so long, and that suddenly find themselves the objects of global attention. With the support of Lindblad Expeditions and their partnership with National Geographic, I have been given an opportunity to travel the north as extensively and creatively as possible, and to share what I find.
I will begin in Europe, head north to Svalbard, over to Greenland, back to Iceland and onward to the Canadian Arctic, all in 2015. That will be a good start.
Along the way, I’ll join as many activities and meet as many people as I can. I’ll engage, and I’ll write. Everything that I create will be based on experience—on being there. I’ll post stories from the journey here and they will include science, culture, travel, local knowledge and characters kind enough to show me the way.
I have a few tools already: some northern experience, an appreciation of small communities, a biology background, and a love of the land. Other tools, like language and culture, I will learn as I go.
I also have a promise: I will respect my role as a visitor and listen as best I can.
There is a map of the world that hangs above my desk, and my habit is to scan the northern latitudes from Point Barrow to Baker Lake to Qikiqtarjuaq, Tasillaq, Keflavik, Hammerfest, Novaya Zemlya and the Chukchi Sea. So much of the world is revealed in those places, much more than I could ever know, but now I can turn some of those lines on paper into experience.