The Royal Canadian Geographical Society
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known to Canadians
and to the world.

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Fellows Journal

Spring 2019

The RCGS celebrates its new headquarters with an official
VIP opening

Clockwise from top left: Alex Trebek, Wade Davis, Prime Minister Trudeau and John Geiger unveil the official opening commemorative plaque; Trudeau receives a copy of the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada from Geiger; RCGS Explorers-in-Residence welcome Johnny Issaluk to their ranks; Roberta Bondar presents her space-mission patches; Trebek addresses the audience in his namesake theatre; Algonquin drummer Awema Tendesi; Dr. Joe MacInnis signs the guestbook in the Sir Christopher Ondaatje Reading Room; Trebek and Trudeau with RCGS VIPs. (Photos: Ben Powless and Andrew Lessard/Can Geo)

“This is the most important moment in The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s 90-year history.”

That’s the kind of statement that might raise eyebrows in geography circles around the nation. After all, in the last five years alone, the RCGS has been part of the team that discovered the wreck of Sir John Franklin’s long-lost HMS Erebus on the Arctic Ocean bed, published the groundbreaking Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada in collaboration with Canada’s major national Indigenous organizations, and grew its cross-country education network to 23,000 teachers and volunteers.

But RCGS CEO John Geiger did not speak lightly during the official opening of the Society’s new permanent home at 50 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, on May 13, 2019 — an event that marked one year since the RCGS moved into the elegant glass-walled building overlooking the Ottawa River and began to animate it with public talks, workshops and exhibitions. The opening celebration was attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, RCGS Honorary President Alex Trebek, Honorary Vice-Presidents Roberta Bondar (the first Canadian woman in space), Wade Davis (a famed anthropologist and author) and Dr. Joe MacInnis (a legend of underwater exploration), and a host of other Society VIPs. All echoed the fact that the headquarters — a.k.a. Canada’s Centre for Geography and Exploration — is the key to the organization’s ability to continue making strides in its mandate to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world.

Standing in the building’s Main Gallery, surrounded by panoramic views of the river and Quebec’s Gatineau hills, the prime minister spoke of his government’s efforts to put a price on climate change-causing pollution, its investments in nature conservation and creation of new marine protected areas, and its emphasis on getting Canadians to explore their national parks.

“Of course, we are not alone in this work,” he said. “The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is a leader in teaching about and protecting our environment; it’s enough just to look at the work being done here to help young people learn more about climate change and energy-efficient technologies. The inauguration today consists not just of celebrating the opening of a new building, but the opening of a new chapter.” As a former teacher, he said, the work of the RCGS is near and dear to his heart.

Trebek, who was making his first public appearance in Canada since news broke in March about his stage-four pancreatic cancer diagnosis, said that he has been overwhelmed by the support of his Canadian friends and fans, and was relieved to have completed the last of his chemotherapy treatments just days before visiting 50 Sussex. “And now today I’m here for this very special dedication with the prime minister of Canada. Hey guys — my cup runneth over! Things don’t get any better than this place.”

Later in the evening, Johnny Issaluk, an actor on AMC’s The Terror, Inuit Games athlete and coach, Inuit cultural ambassador and Nunavut-based Arctic explorer, was invested as the newest RCGS Explorer-in-Residence, and Roberta Bondar presented the Society with a pair of special gifts: a crew mission patch that flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-42 on Jan. 22 to 30, 1992, and one of her personal crew patches. “I want to acknowledge the energy that’s in this room and that I can tap into, because all of you remain my inspiration,” she said, adding that the patches are her way of recognizing the RCGS’s global impact through pioneering expeditions, discoveries and knowledge.

Perhaps no one, however, spoke to the importance of the Society’s purpose and new physical location better than Wade Davis.

“This is the RCGS realizing its potential to become the locus of what it means to be Canadian,” he said. “It is the filter through which teachers can come and a place for students, but also a place where whoever is ruling in this capital city can come in a completely non-partisan way and know that this, even more than Parliament Hill, is the sacred heart of Canada.”


The new Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy, designed by artist and RCGS Fellow Susan Taylor. (Image: RCGS)

Alex Trebek, a lifelong champion of geographical education, RCGS Honorary President and a past recipient of the Society’s Gold and Lawrence J. Burpee medals, is being recognized once more for his contributions to the advancement of geography.

At the May 13 official opening of 50 Sussex, RCGS CEO John Geiger announced that “effective immediately,” the Society’s long-running annual Geographic Literacy Award has been renamed the Alex Trebek Medal for Geographic Literacy.

“Alex Trebek has inspired literally thousands of young people to learn more about our country and our world,” said Geiger. “He is a great friend, a great friend of geography and a great Canadian … I can think of no person better suited for this honour.”

Since its inception in 2000, the Geographic Literacy Award has honoured individuals in both the private and public sectors who make significant contributions to geographic literacy in Canada. Canadian Geographic Education recognizes these individuals for creating and supporting programs, initiatives and events that improve and enhance geographic education among young Canadians.

Trebek has had a particular interest in the Canadian Geographic Challenge student competition, helping to revitalize the annual geography bee, now in its 24th year, and allowing the Society to host a live national final. On May 27, 2019, the RCGS for the first time hosted the competition at its own headquarters.

“We would not have a Canadian Geographic Challenge competition without the ongoing support of Alex Trebek,” says Paul VanZant, Chair of Canadian Geographic Education and an RCGS governor. “Alex was immediately supportive of our proposal to start a geography bee in Canada, and over the years lent his celebrity, his time and his support to keep the challenge going. From its inception in 1995, the Canadian Geographic Challenge has grown from 20 participating schools to well over 500 today.”


Clearcut #1 (Photo: Edward Burtynsky)

In May, photographer Edward Burtynsky presented a two-metre-wide print of his Clearcut #1 to the RCGS for its permanent collection. The image, which depicts the abrupt divide between a palm oil plantation and lush rainforest in Borneo, Malaysia, reveals a natural landscape stripped and reshaped for agricultural use.

This photograph is part of The Anthropocene Project, the multidisciplinary body of work by photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier that debuted at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada and the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018. Through photography, film and augmented reality elements, the groundbreaking project immerses the viewer in the reality of the present age — namely that humans, not natural processes, are now the major forces of change upon the face of the Earth.


A photo from past RCGS research grantee Andrea Reid, taken in northwest British Columbia in 2018. (Photo: Andrea Reid)

The RCGS has confirmed that six researchers will receive support from the Society in 2019:

The James Maxwell Human Geography Scholarship
Miranda Monosky
Monosky will assess the planned closure of the Raglan Mine in Nunavik (northern Quebec) to determine what challenges and opportunities exist for the inclusion of Inuit knowledge, values and priorities in northern mine closures, which routinely result in dramatic ecological change, loss of income, declining populations and reduced services.

James Bourque Northern Doctoral Scholarship
Caitlynn Beckett
Beckett’s research focuses on the complex ways in which northern Indigenous communities (such as the Yellowknives Dene First Nation at the Northwest Territories’ Giant Mine) are remembering, living with and monitoring contaminated mining sites across the North. Beckett is considering how technical remediation can be shifted to Indigenous-directed healing processes that take into account deep cultural harms in addition to toxic contamination, engineering challenges and environmental monitoring.

Graduate Research Grants
Abigail Dalton
Dalton is undertaking the first comprehensive survey of iceberg characteristics and drift patterns in Canadian waters, with the goal of improving our understanding of how climate change is affecting these patterns as well as our methods for detecting icebergs.

Maeva Gauthier
Gauthier will use live video streaming as a tool to empower youth in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., to share their perceptions of how climate change, plastics and other contaminants are affecting their environment and traditional foods. The project will document community resilience and collect ideas for potential solutions.

Kirsten Reid
Treelines are shifting north and into higher elevations as the climate changes. Reid is analyzing how the presence of a host of non-climatic factors (such as microbes, invertebrates, mammals, vegetation, soil properties, air temperature, light availability and snow depth) are influencing treeline expansion in Canada’s northwest Subarctic.

Frances Nicola Shipman
Shipman is exploring how the Northwest Territories’ Mackenzie Delta — critical landscape for many migratory bird species — is being transformed by increasingly frequent and intense storms, which flood inland regions with salt water, causing long-term loss of vegetation.


Photo: John Geiger

For the first time ever the RCGS maritime ensign is flying. Only ships with the Royal Canadian Geographical Ship prefix can fly the ensign, and only one ship, One Ocean Expeditions RCGS Resolute, carries that honour. The flag was raised for the first time during RCGS Resolute’s inaugural tropical voyage, from Costa Rica through the Panama Canal. The expedition included visits to national parks to view three toed and two toed sloths, various species of monkey and anteater, the American crocodile and abundant bird life including the scarlet macaw. It culminated with the canal transit following a visit to Panama City’s Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


A view of the “limb” of the Earth showing Saskatchewan (bottom, centre) taken from the ISS. (Photo: Canadian Space Agency)

The RCGS and Can Geo Edu partnered with the Canadian Space Agency, Ingenium, The Roberta Bondar Foundation, and Western University to create the #ExploringEarth project, a learning opportunity for students, teachers and the general public to get a glimpse of how the Earth works using photos taken by David Saint-Jacques while he is on board the International Space Station. Visit the Exploring Earth website for more information.


Bondar on Banks Island, N.W.T.
(Photo: Roberta Bondar)

The first Canadian woman to go to space has received Canada’s highest civilian honour. RCGS Honorary Vice-President Dr. Roberta Bondar was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada on May 8, 2019, by Governor General (and fellow astronaut) Julie Payette. Bondar’s citation notes her contributions to spaceflight and study of astronauts’ neurological state, her acclaimed landscape photography and her ongoing efforts to promote environmental sustainability via the Roberta Bondar Foundation.


Photo: Andrew Tolson

Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th governor general of Canada, an accomplished journalist and the co-founder of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, was awarded the RCGS’s Gold Medal at an event at Toronto’s Massey College in late March. As one of the Society’s past Honorary Patrons, Clarkson has been an important advocate for its mission and values, and is herself an explorer, journeying across human, cultural and physical landscapes to foster the geographic concept of place. She has helped shape our understanding of Canadian identity for decades.


Photo: Bay Ecotarium

George Jacob, President and CEO of the San Francisco-based Bay Ecotarium non-profit, is leading the transformation of the Aquarium of the Bay into the Bay Ecotarium — a first-of-its-kind “living museum” with a focus on global warming, melting polar caps, sea level rise, ocean acidification, plastic pollution, endangered species and habitat, clean energy and carbon sequestration. It’s the kind of wildly ambitious, innovative work propagating and preserving cultural knowledge and environmental science that earned Jacob his reputation, and in late March moved the RCGS to recognize him with its Louie Kamookak Medal (named for the late legendary Inuit oral historian and explorer).


Students from across Canada celebrate at 50 Sussex after completing the fieldwork portion of the 2018 Canadian Geographic Challenge, one of the RCGS’s longest-running educational programs. (Photo: Tanya Kirnishni/Can Geo)

Thanks to our donors, 2018 was a standout year for the RCGS.

In addition to the many successes celebrated at the College of Fellows Annual Dinner (above), the Society grew Canadian Geographic Education to 23,000 educators, supporting them with national, bilingual student contests, by circulating more than 40 Giant Floor Maps among Canadian schools free of charge, and by hosting a geography teachers’ institute. We funded 10 graduate research projects, helping budding scientists pursue their passion for geography. We funded 13 Canadian expeditions, among them one that discovered the most northerly whaling wreck in the world, the Nova Zembla (see story, below). We also featured two exceptional exhibits in our new home at 50 Sussex, including a new collection of paintings by renowned Canadian artist and RCGS Fellow Chris Cran.

The RCGS is now celebrating its 90th anniversary. And while we look forward to continuing to honour this important milestone throughout 2019, we also recognize that the work has just begun. It is more important than ever that Canadians understand our country and our place in it. With your support, the RCGS will be able to help prepare Canadians for the challenges ahead by equipping them with a deeper understanding of Canada’s people, places and environment. Your donation to the Society will ultimately be part of charting a successful future for Canada.

We would love to be able to share the news that 100 per cent of the RCGS College of Fellows supports the Society’s important work in this way. Please consider helping the RCGS keep its momentum through 2019. Donate now!

As a registered Canadian charity, all donations to the RCGS over $25 will be issued a tax receipt.



Michael Wilson (left) at Rideau Hall in 2010, with then-Governor General David Johnston, after Wilson’s investment as a Companion of the Order of Canada. (Photo: Office of the Secretary to the Governor General)

Michael Wilson, former MP, finance minister, ambassador to the U.S., mental health advocate and university chancellor, passed away on Feb. 10, 2019. He was 81.

In a statement confirming the death of the former University of Toronto chancellor, U of T President and RCGS Fellow Meric Gertler called Wilson a “Great Canadian” defined by his “comprehensive excellence, his unassuming generosity and his quiet compassion … From spearheading public policy of the highest significance to publicly confronting the challenge of mental illness, Michael Wilson was a true champion.”

Wilson went from a career as a Bay Street investment executive to politics in the late 1970s, when he was elected Progressive Conservative MP for the Toronto-area riding of Etobicoke Centre. He served his community and country in this role for more than a decade, earning appointments under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney such as Minister of Finance (during which time he helped negotiate the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement), Minister of Industry, Science and Technology and Minister of International Trade (which saw him participate in negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement).

From 2006 to late 2009, he served as Canada’s ambassador to the United States. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who appointed Wilson to the post in Washington, said he served Canada with “exceptional skill and dedication,” tweeting that “From the Cabinet table to serving our country with dignity and wisdom as Ambassador in Washington, Mike embodied the best of public service.”

Wilson devoted considerable time and effort to mental health advocacy following the 1995 loss of his son Cameron, to suicide. His 2010 promotion from Officer to companion of the Order of Canada noted that in addition to his work protecting Canada’s interests on the international stage, “Wilson has championed understanding, acceptance and support for those with mental illness. A highly respected advocate, he has raised awareness, at both the corporate and community levels throughout North America, of the social and economic costs of mental illness. He has participated in various mental health round tables and forums, and has long supported the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and its Foundation.”

Obituaries have been drawn from various news and academic sources


Painting: David Goatley

The Legislative Assembly recognized the public service of the late Honourable Jim Prentice, former Alberta Premier, in February 2019 with a new official portrait by British Columbia-based painter David Goatley, which will be displayed among the permanent collection on the third floor of the Legislature Building.

Prentice died in October 2016, at age 60, when the plane he was in crashed outside Kelowna, B.C. He is remembered for an influential political career, his commitments to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and to alleviating child poverty.


AGNES C. LAUT (1871-1936)

Agnes Laut, ink on paper by artist Chris Cran. (Artwork: Chris Cran/RCGS)

Manitoba was still considered Canadian frontier when journalist, novelist and historian Agnes C. Laut was growing up in Winnipeg in the 1870s, and her memories of west-bound settlers passing through the newly incorporated city and traders carrying furs into the Hudson’s Bay store were a rich source of inspiration for her later works.

She would eventually earn fame for her historical fiction and popular histories, but her early journalism appeared in publications such as the Manitoba Free Press and the New York Evening Post. She travelled the continent from 1897 to 1899, writing for periodicals while developing the ideas and materials that would grow into dozens of novels. The first, published in 1900, was Lords of the North: A Romance of the North-West, a nomadic narrative set against the backdrop of the North-West and Hudson’s Bay companies’ struggle for fur-trade supremacy.

As a novelist, Laut was at her best when combining history with oral and folk traditions to tell stories of European explorers and settlers. Her work gained popularity so quickly that by 1902 she had moved to Wassaic, N.Y., for the convenience of being close to her New York-based publishers. Leaving Canada, she said, “hurt not a little,” and she continued to travel often between the countries.

Ever the staunch nationalist, Laut wrote historical surveys such as Canada, the Empire of the North to inform readers on both sides of the border about her homeland’s recent past and potential, and she did not hesitate to call out Canadian politicians and institutions for what she saw as divisiveness, failure to act with strength or stalled progress. Writing for Maclean’s and other periodicals during and after the First World War, her political commentary brought much-needed clarity to Canadians about American political processes, relayed a truly global understanding of the war, and framed Canada as a virile young nation with a unique cultural and political position between Great Britain and the United States. In 1919, Laut testified before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about conditions in Mexico due to the Mexican Revolution, having travelled there as a representative of the humanitarian Childhood Conservation League.

Laut helped Canadians define the way they saw and valued their nation during a chaotic global period when the balance of political and economic power was shifting from the Old World to the New.

Agnes Laut is one of 13 RCGS luminaries celebrated by RCGS Fellow and renowned contemporary artist Chris Cran, who has painted these works for the RCGS’s permanent collection. The most recent additions to this collection, called Explore, are Laut, naturalist J. Dewey “Blue Goose” Soper and Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson.

Fellows in the news

NOTE: Contributions from the Fellows are published in the language in which they are submitted.

BIRD, David

Photo: David Bird

McGill professor emeritus David Bird was among those honoured in March by McGill principal and vice-chancellor Suzanne Fortier. His ongoing commitment to sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of the avian world with the public and the media was given special recognition at the ceremony for the Principal’s Prize for Public Engagement through Media. In particular, the jury noted his impassioned advocacy for the grey jay during the national debate about whether it should become Canada’s National Bird, as indeed it has. 

When Bird first came to McGill in 1973, he became a strong believer in public outreach by the academic community. In fact, it was this interest that led to Bird being hired as an auxiliary professor. As he says of his involvement with media, “I never met a microphone I did not like!” McGill is grateful for his involvement, sharing his knowledge with the community. 

BLACK, Conrad

Photo: Sutherland House

“The bell of opportunity tolls for us, and the world, for once, will listen. It is our turn,” writes Conrad Black in his new book, The Canadian Manifesto — a work being described as a blueprint for a bolder Canadian future. Chipper, patient, and courteous, Canada has pursued an improbable destiny as a splendid nation of relatively good and ably self-governing people, but most would agree we have not realized our true potential. Canada’s main chance, writes Black, is now before it ... and it is not in the usual realms of military or economic dominance. With the rest of the West engaged in a sterile left-right tug of war, Canada has the opportunity to lead the world to its next stage of development in the arts of government. By transforming itself into a controlled and sensible public policy laboratory, it can forge new solutions to the problems of welfare, education, health care, foreign policy, and other governmental sectors, and make an enormous contribution to the welfare of mankind.

Canada has no excuse not to lead in this field, argues Black, who offers 19 visionary policy proposals of his own. “This is the destiny, and the vocation, Canada could have, not in the next century, but in the next five years of imaginative government.”


A rendering of AWN Nanotech’s atmospheric water generator (left), which harnesses a water-condensing material that biomimics the abilities of certain cactus species, which use “awns” (right), the company’s name inspiration, to condense water and thrive in desert environments. (Images: Awn Nanotech)

Richard Boudreault holds an adjunct professorship at École Polytechnique (where he is active in green chemistry, carbon capture and geoengineering), is a visiting scholar at McGill University (where he has been working on transforming carbon dioxide into formic acid, a substance normally produced by ants that has numerous agricultural and industrial applications), and sits on the board of governors for Canada’s First Nations University in Regina. His most fascinating new venture, however, is a Montreal-based company named Awn Nanotech.

There, they are using a novel nanotechnology technique to extract potable water from the atmosphere at no energy cost. Their device mimics the efficacy of desert-dwelling animals and plants to extract water from the atmosphere. The company, which has developed a 50-litre-per-day model and is now working on industrial-scale versions that can produce 1,000 litres per day, is looking for a large water NGO to work with to test their technology on humanitarian missions, and is starting dialogues with remote Indigenous communities for Canadian trials. Read more about the innovation at

On May 10, Boudreault was made a knight of the Ordre des Palmes académiques, a national order bestowed by the French Republic to distinguished academics and figures in the world of culture and education.

CATT, Danny

Photo: Danny Catt

In January, Danny Catt was featured in an interview with The Rotarian magazine:

The Rotarian: How did your passion for ecology begin?
Catt: My mom, Mariette, was an amazing woman who had seven kids in eight years — six of them boys. Every summer my father, Ozmer, would give my mom a break and would take whoever was interested on a lengthy camping trip. We went as far north as Alaska. We went to Yosemite in California, to Yellowstone, Banff, Jasper, Kootenay, and Yoho. I must have been six or seven, and we were in one of the nature houses in E.C. Manning Provincial Park. There was this fellow who was a naturalist, and I thought, man, I would love that job — to be able to take people on nature walks and inspire them about the wildlife and landscape.

TR: You’re a volunteer for the Scientists in School program. How are you seeing interest in conservation issues change?
Catt: In my visits to elementary and high schools, there is a strong interest — there are students who want to learn about and spend time outdoors. But the reality is that fewer are actually doing so. The book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv tells us that kids today are less likely or willing to spend time in nature. Many children are tied to their phones or digital devices and computer games. If they have no connection with the natural world, not knowing how we get clean water, not knowing that it’s a healthy planet that keeps us alive, then I am a little worried that future decisionmakers will not be as planet friendly as they could be.

Read the rest at

COOKE, Steven

Photo: Steven Cooke

“When we think of a river, dark, cool rushing water — full of energy and life — comes to mind. Yet, in the face of climate change we are frequently witnessing almost entirely dry river beds with barely enough water to support fish and other aquatic life.

“Dry conditions and water removal are leaving little space for the animals that depend on these freshwater systems. Australia recently witnessed the consequences of this in several massive fish kills on the Darling River.”

Visit The Conversation to read the rest of Steven Cooke’s (Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology at Carleton University) articles, “How drought affects freshwater fish” and “Freshwater wildlife face an uncertain future,” published in 2019.


Nepal, October 2018. (Photo: Luke Copland)

Luke Copland, professor in the department of geography, environment and geomatics at the University of Ottawa, recently had his University Research Chair in Glaciology renewed. This provides the support necessary for him and his students to undertake fieldwork on glaciers across northern Canada. This year’s projects include trips to Expedition Fiord on Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, to monitor glacier mass balance; Yukon’s St. Elias Mountains to study glacier surging; and a cruise on the CCGS Amundsen to deploy iceberg trackers. He also recently published the book Arctic Ice Shelves and Ice Islands (Springer Nature) with Derek Mueller of Carleton University. More information is available on his website Laboratory for Cryospheric Research.

CRAN, Chris

Photo: Kevin Baer/Trepanier Baer Gallery

Chris Cran’s exhibition Chris Cran: At Play was featured at the Glenbow Museum through February and March. as part of the One New Work series curated by former Calgary Herald arts critic Nancy Tousley. Cran’s exhibit is actually a series of new works, including eight ink-on-foam-core abstract drawings and 24 paintings — all black and white. The museum described his work as “exploring a self-imposed question like ‘What if I do this?’ or ‘What if I mix this with that?’ [letting] one visual or technical idea lead to another, and another, until his curiosity is satisfied and he moves on to the next.”

“While the ink drawings are layered abstractions, the stenciled images, some drawn from cartoony 1950s advertisements, are humorous or activated perceptually by visual devices such as screens of thin stripes or zigzag lines.”

EATON, Susan R.

Snorkeller with Orca. (Photo: Goran Ehlme/Courtesy of Waterproof Cruises & Expeditions)

WOMEN WANTED: Every winter, snorkellers and wildlife enthusiasts alike witness one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet — orcas and humpbacks congregating in Norwegian fiords, some 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, to feed on vast schools of herring.

The Sedna Epic Expedition is seeking scientists, explorers, photographers, movie-makers, artists, writers, historians and educators to participate in two women’s leadership programs and winter snorkel expeditions to Tromsø, Norway, Nov. 23 to Dec. 2, 2019, and Nov. 22 to Dec. 1, 2020. The Sedna Epic is proud to partner with Waterproof Cruises & Expeditions, who will provide local snorkel guides and a live-aboard vessel, the MV Freya.

The Sedna Epic’s leadership program in Tromsø will discuss women’s growing representation in exploration and STEMM careers. Team Sedna and its Inuit advisors hope to collaborate with Sami women and girls, gaining insights into this part of the Arctic, its history, geography, and the culture and traditions of its Indigenous peoples.

Please send your resume and biography to Susan Eaton at [email protected].

In other news, Eaton is delighted to report that her Explorers Club membership has been reclassified from Member International (MI’11) to Fellow International (FI’11).  

Susan has recently signed with Transatlantic Agency, a North American full-service literary agency, and is working on her first book, a children’s science book (ages 9-12) investigating the impacts of disappearing sea ice in the High Arctic.


Left: Garside in Altai Mountains (Photo: Robert Butler); Right: Master Eagle Hunter “Khisim” with his two-year-old female eagle. (Photo: Debra Garside)

RCGS Fellow Debra Garside put her equestrian background to good use on her recent winter expedition to Mongolia. During three days of riding in the Altai Mountains Kok-adar Range (2,900 metres) in the province of Bayan-Olgii, Garside was privileged to document several master eagle hunters as they trained and hunted with their golden eagles by horseback. The tradition of falconry with eagles has changed little in thousands of years and there are few places left where the semi-nomadic hunters still practice this art. Garside will return to Mongolia for six weeks in the fall to continue her documentation of vanishing cultures. 


Photo: Tom Gross

This past summer, Tom Gross and the rest of the Bayne Coleman Project 2018 Expedition team, comprising eight search expedition members, trekked across King William Island in search of archeological sites related to Sir John Franklin’s Expedition.

The expedition team spent 19 days in the field. The initial plan was to ride all-terrain vehicles from the community of Gjoa Haven along the southern shore of the Island into Washington Bay, overland into the Erebus Bay and then proceed into the primary search area. Once the primary area was searched the team planned to travel to Cape Felix where a secondary search was to have been completed.

The team located what may have been the exact location of the gravesite and a dismantled cairn established by Charles Hall. Not far from this site they identified an object that warrants further investigation under a class 2 permit, hopefully to be completed in the summer of 2019.

The expedition encountered a number of mechanical problems with equipment that forced them to return to Gjoa Haven, but were fortunately able to transport the entire team to the primary search site by aircraft, where investigations of potential sites were conducted on foot. The team was then downsized and a smaller group, which completed the trek across the island by ATV. Further site investigations resulted in the finding of what are believed to be Franklin Expedition artifacts.

While the team did not complete all that was outlined in the expedition plan, further investigations are planned for the summer of 2019.


Photo: Knopf Canada

Kate Harris, of Atlin, B.C., won the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize for her book Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road, published by Knopf Canada. The $30,000 award was announced on March 4 during a gala luncheon in Toronto celebrating this year’s finalists. In addition to the cash prize, Harris received a crystal trophy and a leatherbound version of her book.

Noreen Taylor, prize founder and chair of the Charles Taylor Foundation, expressed her admiration, commenting that “In an increasingly complex and volatile time, Kate Harris chose to look beyond the challenges of the here-and-now, and instead, remind us to care for one another, to care about the world we live in and to care about what makes living most rewarding. It is a much-needed message, superbly told.”

In its citation of the winning book, the jury noted that from her vantage point as a student of the history of science, explorer and adventurer,  Harris presents a rare and unique vision of world, and explores the nature of boundaries. Unable to realize her childhood dream of travelling to Mars, she decides to trace Marco Polo’s Silk Road by bicycle. Vivid descriptions of the places and people she meets inspire deep and eclectic reflections on the nature of the world, wilderness, and the struggle of humans to define and limit them. This is a book that changes how one thinks about the world and the human compulsion to define it.


Left: Penguin Random House Canada; right: GALAFILM Productions

In March, Doubleday Books released the cover of Jill Heinerth’s new memoir, Into the Planet, and opened pre-orders. Links for ordering are found at

As one of the most celebrated cave divers in the world, Heinerth has seen the planet in a way almost no one has. In a work day, she might swim below your home, through conduits in volcanoes or cracks in the world’s largest iceberg. She’s an explorer, a scientist’s eyes and hands underwater — discovering new species and examining our finite freshwater reserves — and a filmmaker documenting the wonders of underwater life. Often the lone woman in a male-dominated domain, she tests the limits of human endurance at every tight turn, risking her life with each mission. To not only survive in this world but excel, Heinerth has had to learn how to master fear like no other. With gripping storytelling, and radiating with intimacy, Into the Planet will transport you deep into the most exquisite, untouched corners of the earth, where fear must be reconciled and the innermost parts of the human condition are revealed.

Heinerth is also proud to share (along with RCGS Fellow Mario Cyr) the poster of their upcoming documentary film Under Thin Ice, produced by GALAFILM in Montreal. Several versions are currently being edited for air on CBC and other international television networks. Air dates have not yet been released, but Canadians will be treated to the film on CBC and Radio Canada in both French and English.


Laureates, dignitaries and guests assemble for a group photo on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature following the REVEAL Indigenous Art Awards ceremony on May 22, during Canada 150. (Photo: Rosalie Favell)

2017 was a special year for The Hnatyshyn Foundation. As part of our efforts to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary, we proposed the creation of a one-time program of awards to honour Indigenous artists and fuel the creation of new works for years to come. The result was a program of 150 cash prizes of $10,000 each for emerging and established artists working in all artistic disciplines, traditional and contemporary, from all regions of Canada.

The awards were made accessible through an open call, with over 440 applications submitted. Six expert jurors deliberated and reviewed the submissions over a week in Ottawa. The laureates were invited to attend a special ceremony and special receptions honouring the artists in Winnipeg in May. Of the 150 artists selected to receive an award, 109 were able to attend the two-day event, accompanied by friends and family. A reception was held at the Fairmont Winnipeg Hotel, resulting in a magical evening of artists and guests connecting with one another, many for the first time.

A formal ceremony was held at the Manitoba Legislature, with each of the laureates receiving their prizes, followed by a luncheon at Government House, the residence of Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon.


Photo: World Scientific

On May 9 and 10, Lorie Karnath served as co-chair of a program with importance for all: Planet Earth: A Scientific Journey, hosted by Stockholm University in Stockholm, Sweden, was presented under the auspices of the Molecular Frontiers Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Speakers for the global initiative included a number of Nobel laureates as well as other top scientists and explorers.

In tangent with the program, an international student competition on Solutions for Planet Earth was conducted and the winners were announced during the May conference. A book that will include a number of the top student entries is scheduled to be published later this year by Singapore-based World Scientific. The opensource magazine Molecular Frontiers Journal, for which Karnath serves as managing editor, planned a special publication to coincide with the Planet Earth program. 

These events followed the March 2019 publication of the new book The Promise of Science, which was edited by Karnath.


Photo: Colin Laroque

In late 2018, Colin Laroque, a professor in the department of soil science at the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability, received the International Council on Undergraduate Research Geosciences Division’s 2018 Undergraduate Research Mentor Award at the Geological Society of America meeting in Indianapolis, Ind. He was recognized for his interdisciplinary work and specialty in using dendrochronology to understand past climates, but also as “an outstanding prolific undergraduate research mentor … who fosters and sustains undergraduate research through curiosity-driven experiential learning, leading to publication and presentation. He engages and mentors many students through programs like his course-based First Year Research Experiences, integration of research into his undergraduate classes and extensive participation of students as researchers in his MAD (Mistik Askiwin Dendrochronology) Lab.” He was the first Canadian to win this award.


Photo: Roger Pimenta

Best known for its small-ship expedition cruises in the polar regions, One Ocean Expeditions announced that it will be venturing into yet more of the world’s remote destinations in 2019. There will be new itineraries in Chile, Central America, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland. Aaron Lawton, Director of Operations for OOE, is leading the charge to explore these new destinations in true expedition style, with small groups led by the company’s resident experts. While exploring warmer waters on board their newest vessel, RCGS Resolute, Lawton is thrilled to have added new activities for guests to enjoy, as they explore remote bays and landing sites by kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling and cycling.

For Lawton, it’s been important to not only expand One Ocean Expeditions’ portfolio, but to also have the flexibility to visit and experience rare landing sites without impacting wildlife and always respecting the local communities visited. In fine-tuning the itineraries to take advantage of smaller passenger numbers, guests are offered the opportunity to explore and learn about these unique destinations and depart as ambassadors for them, having absorbed the importance of protecting them.

LAWTON, Catherine

A family departure. (Photo: One Ocean Expeditions)

Over the last decade, One Ocean Expeditions general manager Catherine Lawton has been committed to establishing many important partnerships with universities and nationally accredited scientific organizations. As an advocate of combining passenger tourism with meaningful scientific research, she has been the driving force behind the growth of educational programs on board and making them accessible to students, professors, researchers, scientists and guests alike.

Lawton is firm in her belief that passengers should be able to get involved in real scientific research taking place on the voyages. In 2018, she facilitated the installation of the state of the art “One Lab” — an inclusive research container on board OOE’s newest vessel, RCGS Resolute. Looking ahead, Lawton will be continuing to expand OOE’s educational opportunities with new CISCO units, which will break down physical borders and bring OOE’s on-board education program to students around the world. 



Akaash Maharaj has been named CEO of the Mosaic Institute, a Canadian charitable institution that advances pluralism in societies and peace among nations. It is a pillar of Track Two Diplomacy and brings together communities and peoples separated by strife to foster mutual understanding and resolve conflicts. Its projects have included peaceful co-existence on the Tibetan Plateau, national reconciliation after the Sri Lankan civil war and remedying post-genocide trauma.

Although Maharaj has stood down from his previous role as CEO of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption, he is remaining involved in the international institution’s mandate as its Ambassador-at-Large. In this capacity, he is focussing on GOPAC’s work on integrity in defence, security and international sport.


Painting: David McEown; David with A.J. Casson Medal (Photo: Daisy Gilardini)

David McEown was awarded the prestigious A.J Casson Medal from the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour for the painting Surfacing at the CSPWC/SCPA 93rd annual juried exhibition in October 2018, hosted at the John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto. The painting of a swimming polar bear among iceberg remnants is part of a large ongoing body of work documenting the polar regions. This inspiring bear encounter took place during a recent trip to the arctic with One Ocean Expeditions.


Left: HarperCollins; right: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-250-37

Numerous books have explored the Highland Clearances (the forced mass eviction of tenants from Scotland’s Highlands and western islands, mainly to turn land to sheep pasture), which began around 1760 and lasted a century. Many more have treated the arrival of these Highlanders in pre-Confederation Canada, both east and west. Flight of the Highlanders: The Making of Canada, explains Ken McGoogan, an author and Fellow of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, intertwines the two stories. Half unfolds in Scotland, half in Canada. Those evicted Highlanders who emigrated after being driven from their ancestral homelands were a marginalized minority.

The sad irony is that, in some locations in Canada, these refugees displaced Indigenous peoples whose way of life depended on wilderness and wide-open spaces. The following chapter of the book, “Creating Red River Colony,” sets up the clash between past and future.
Read an excerpt at Flight of the Highlanders will be available through HarperCollins, in Canadian bookstores and on Amazon and other online retailers on September 17, 2019.


Photo: Oxford University Press

The third edition of Bruce Mitchell’s Resource and Environmental Management has been published by Oxford University Press. The second edition of this book was translated into Chinese, Indonesian and Spanish. With 12 chapters and guest statements from authors from 11 countries, the third edition examines the nature of complex ecological and social systems; the significance of the Anthropocene; and the implications of wicked problems, ambiguity and tipping points, visions for sustainable development and resilience, the ecosystem approach, governance, social learning, adaptive environmental management, stakeholders and partnerships, alternative dispute resolution, assessing alternatives, applying business perspectives, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. The final chapter explores the difference between doing the right thing and doing the thing right, implications of greenwashing, greenlashing and shaming, and the distinction and complementarity between leaders and followers, all with regard to resource and environmental management.

MURPHY, Jonathan


Jonathan Murphy, founder of GoGeomatics Canada, is bringing a new national “Geo” conference to Ottawa: GeoIgnite 2019, taking place June 18 and 19 at the Ottawa Conference and Events Centre.

Murphy, who has been organizing conferences and events since 2010, is bringing his expertise to this inaugural two-day event, which takes “Leadership, Innovation and Next-level Technology” as its theme and will unite senior members of government, business executives and thought leaders in the IT, geographic and geospatial sectors. Jonathan is also a career mentor, providing strategies to new geography and land-technology professionals for almost a decade, which is why GoGeomatics Canada will also be co-locating a separate career event with GeoIgnite for students, new graduates, and job seekers. This career event will take place on the first day of the conference and feature recruiters from government and industry looking to hire.
GeoIgnite is part of a tradition of “community and collaboration,” which Murphy hopes will form the basis of an annual gathering for anyone who has a stake in the current and future geographic digital landscape. For more information on GeoIgnite, sign up for updates.

ONDAATJE, Christopher

Photos: Christopher Ondaatje

An excerpt from Sir Christopher Ondaatje’s account of a turbulent camping safari in the jungles of Sri Lanka:

I hadn’t been back to Sri Lanka for 12 years. However, enticed by Lalith Seneviratne — a friend and wildlife author — I convinced my wife to embark on just one more tenting adventure in the jungles of Sri Lanka, and to cross the country diagonally (something seldom done), risking the October monsoons. It was a mistake, but a thrilling one.
After three nights resting up in Tangalle, on the south-east coast, we travelled to Kumana National Park. Kumana, located at the southernmost corner of the Eastern Province, is by far the most picturesque area of the dry zone coastline of the island. Separated from the more famous Yala National Park by the flowing waters of the Kumbukkan River, one of the most splendid parts of Kumana is a 500-acre mangrove swamp — host to thousands of migrating birds who rest and breed in the swamp: painted storks, grey herons, spotted-billed pelicans, spoonbills, white ibis, eastern purple herons, pond herons, night herons, Indian darters; as well as resident Indian water hens, purple coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, black-winged stilts, whistling teal, and little grebes. The lagoons in the swamp attract Sandpipers, Plovers, ducks and waders during the North-East Monsoon.

On one morning’s game drive we witnessed something quite remarkable. I had heard of wildlife trackers speaking to wild elephants — sometimes with disastrous consequences — so when a large bull elephant aggressively blocked our jeep it was a disturbing event. Yet tracker Shirley Perera, sitting next to me in the open seats behind the driver, calmly and with authority spoke to the elephant and appeared to reason with it while only inches from the front of the jeep: “Good morning. How are you? Why are you blocking our way? Don’t you see that we are trying to go along this road? Be a good fellow. Why don’t you step backwards and let us pass?”

Perera tried to persuade the stubborn elephant to move out of the way for five or more minutes.  And then we witnessed the elephant taking first one step backwards, then two steps, then three and four for about 15 yards, then actually backing into the jungle at the side of the road. Our jeep slowly moved forward, with Perera turning to the elephant and saying, “Thank you very much. You are a good fellow. Have a good day.”


Gordon Osinski on an expedition to Devon Island, Nunavut, in 2018. (Photo: Gordon Osinski)

Gordon Osinski was the “Featured Fellow” for the July/August issue of Canadian Geographic:

Gordon Osinski has galactic ambitions. As a geology professor at Western University, much of his work focuses on northern Nunavut’s Devon Island, where he hopes to learn more about Mars’ surface by studying the Haughton impact crater, one of the most pristine craters of its kind on Earth. Later this year, he’ll return for a second time to NASA’s Johnson Space Center to teach  planetary geology to a new generation of Canadian and American astronauts.

On learning about planetary geology by studying Earth
My research is really about understanding how the surfaces of planets have shaped and evolved. This focus is increasingly taking me to studying the moon and Mars. We know Mars is an Earth-like planet. We know there’s water there. The Haughton impact crater is almost perfect. It’s a fairly large structure, about 23 kilometres across, and about 23 million years old which, geologically speaking, is quite young. It’s also one of the most well-preserved — if not the best preserved — craters of that size we have in the world. Not only that, it’s in this beautiful polar desert environment. You really couldn’t ask for much more.

On Canada investing $26.7 million in space technologies, announced in 2018
I’m relieved that we’ve done this, and I’m excited. I hope all Canadians will be excited that Canada is involved. This isn’t going to set the course for the next five or even 10 years. This is the next 50 years. There are tangible outcomes of Canada’s focus on space. It’s about pushing the bounds of innovation and having young engineers and scientists working at the absolute cutting edge. We don’t even know yet how a lot of that technology is going to translate back into improving the quality of life for Canadians. Canadarm technology being deployed for brain surgery is a good current example of this.

See the July/August 2019 issue of Can Geo for the whole interview.


Georgetown, Guyana. (Photo: John Da Silva/Google Maps)

DE Founder and President David Oswald presented as part of a panel on “Going Global - Strategies and Resources to Grow your Startup Internationally” at CEIM in Montreal on March 26. The panel also featured Claire St. Pierre Lamy from the Quebec Ministry of Economy and Innovation, Lina Jivkova from Export Quebec, and Robert Landry from the Trade Commission of Global Affairs Canada.

“The team at CEIM have been trusted advisors and good friends since the inception of DE in 2005,” says Oswald. “I’m very pleased to have been able to share some insights as to how one can develop a startup and take it global using a lean approach.”

DE has also been chosen to work with the United Nations Environment Program to provide expertise to Guyana for Sustainable Development Reporting. The government of Guyana is aiming to enhance its reporting for progress on its sustainable development goals and sustainable development in general. This will involve assessing various sustainable development indicators and then mapping data to them. 

“It is an honour to work with the UN Environment Program to help advance sustainable development in Guyana,” says Oswald. “From the time I founded DE in 2005 one of my goals was to work with the UN and help countries with their environmental challenges.” DE has worked with various UN agencies and Secretariats over the past 10 years to bring design and environmental science to the environmental challenges that individual countries and the global community face.


(Photo: Kray Robichaud)

For International Women’s Day, on March 8, the Royal Canadian Navy brought a group of 20 women civilians on board the frigate HMCS St. John’s at Halifax. The visit was one of the navy’s multi-day Canadian Leadership at Sea programs, which showcase navy activities, the crew’s service and life at sea. Of this group of business, academic and government leaders, seven were RCGS Fellows (pictured, left to right): Janis Peleshok, Lesley Warren, Jean Marmoreo, Anne Fitzgerald, Claudia Hepburn, Wendy Cecil and Claire Kennedy.

The women were inspired by the RCN’s greatest ambassadors, our sailors, to gain a deeper understanding of their mission in service to Canada. They gained a perspective of how much the navy matters, what life is like at sea, and how each sub-team interacts. They observed a time-sensitive man-overboard training operation, the ship’s agile manoeuvring capabilities, and a coordinated simulation with a CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter. In full gear, they learned how to address safety, fight onboard fires and navigate a smoke maze.

On shore, Irving shipbuilding hosted a tour of the future fleet including the Arctic and offshore patrol vessels (HMCS Harry DeWolf and Margaret Brooke). The Fellows met with and heard stories of courageous women on board HMCS GlaceBay and Windsor.

The RCGS Fellows thank those that do extremely important work below and above the ocean in service to Canada, with the skills and technology employed in peacekeeping, rescue and other operations around the world. Fellows showed their appreciation to RCN leaders Kray Robichaud, Andrew Hingston, Peter Sproule and Nancy Setchell, and to civilian co-lead Claire Kennedy.

POLK, Milbry

Milbry Polk receiving the Sweeney medal, on stage with President Richard Wiese. (Photo: The Explorers Club)

Past RCGS medallist Milbry Polk received the Sweeney Medal from the Explorers Club in March. Awarded annually to a club member in recognition of his or her outstanding contributions to the welfare and objectives of The Explorers Club, she joins the incredible legacy of eponymous club president Edward C. Sweeney. The club’s rationale for awarding the medal to Polk was as follows:

Milbry C. Polk has served the club as an elected member of the Board of Directors since 2016, co-chaired multiple Annual Dinners, served as Reviews and Contributing Editor of The Explorers Journal since 1998, co-chaired multiple committees and co-organized multiple successful Club events and programs, including our Polar Film Festival and the Explorers Club — Adventure Canada Young Explorers Program. 

Polk’s commitment to service extends beyond The Explorers Club. In 2015, she was recognized by the RCGS with their Capt. J-E Bernier Medal. She has lectured at more than 150 schools, universities and public affairs organizations. She co-founded and was executive director of Wings WorldQuest, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting women at the leading edge of science and discovery. She also founded and directed programs for the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the American Indian. 

Polk is also a prolific author — among her writings are the award-winning Women of Discovery and Egyptian Mummies. As a field explorer, she has led or participated in expeditions to Prince William Sound, Alaska; the Western Desert of Egypt; Yemen; Southern Sudan; Saudi Arabia; Iran; Pakistan; John River, Alaska; Nepal; Brazilian coast; Greenland; Baffin Island; Devon Island; India; Chinese Tibet; northwest Greenland; and the Andaman Sea.


Photo: Jason Ransom

One Ocean Expeditions’ Managing Director Andrew Prossin has been working diligently on the development of the Port of Sydney in Nova Scotia. A Cape Breton native now based in British Columbia, Prossin has identified the Canadian port as an “Arctic Gateway” and has been working with local officials on opening a second berth for ships. While access to an expanded deep-water port will allow One Ocean Expeditions vessels to dock, refuel and provision, it will also open the destination to its passengers, as well as generate jobs and boost the local economy.

Prossin believes that not only will bringing One Ocean Expeditions ships to the port help his hometown community, it will continue to expand the cultural awareness of the Maritimes to the company’s guests, who come from across the globe. An honouree of the RCGS Burpee Medal, Prossin is known for his commitment to promoting Canadian destinations to the rest of Canada and around the world, using his platform to support the education, science and exploration of the remote destinations visited by the company on an ongoing basis.


Photos: James Raffan

For the month of April, James Raffan traded his long underwear for a full-body UV suit and headed halfway round the world to join a small team creating the first comprehensive atlas of the Marshall Islands. Travelling in a 15-metre Polynesian sailing canoe, this was a different kind of “canoe trip” and an exciting new line of inquiry for Raffan. While visiting Utrik, Taka, Bikaar, Bokaak, Bikini, Ailinginae, Rongelap and Rongerik atolls, he assisted as a cultural geographer with atlas data collection, but also conducted his own research as a writer and documentarian, contrasting the natural and cultural impacts of climate change in the Central Pacific with those he has observed and reported on over the years from the Circumpolar Arctic. In addition to pride in long association with the RCGS as a Fellow, past governor and contributor to Canadian Geographic, James carried the flags of the Canadian Canoe Museum and the Explorers Club to fly from the shrouds of the Okeanos Vaka Motu for the 27-day duration of this ambitious open-ocean voyage.

REID, David

Left to right: Marvin Atqittuq, Richard Smith, David Reid and Jacob Atqittuq, at Point de la Guiche. (Photo: Arctic Return)

From late March to the end of April, David Reid and the rest of the Arctic Return Expedition team undertook a 650-kilometre trek across Boothia Peninsula to Rae Strait — the same route taken by Orcadian explorer John Rae in 1854. The Arctic Return Expedition paid tribute to and raised awareness of Rae, one of the greatest explorers and surveyors that ever lived. The following is an expedition blog from one of the final days of the journey (read more blog updates here).

We are delighted to announce that at 2:30 this afternoon, the Arctic Return Expedition is finally at Point de la Guiche, Nunavut [on the mainland across from King William Island’s east coast], after a month’s travel. Upon arriving, we found the plaque that was presented and placed here 20 years ago, in 1999, by Louie Kamookak, Cameron Treleaven and Ken McGoogan [the plaque is an homage to John Rae, detailing the explorer’s spring 1854 discovery of the final link in the Northwest Passage, which he named Rae Strait.]

Today, it is Richard and I standing where Rae stood 165 years ago. We feel incredibly proud and privileged that we are here, that we made it, that we are able to pay our tribute to him. It is an incredibly humbling experience, and words fail to do justice to our being here at this moment in time.

It has taken us a long time to get here, but every step was well-worth the effort. Point de la Guiche marks a historic spot on the map, for Canada and perhaps the world — thanks to the strength of character and determination of Orcadian explorer and surveyor John Rae. Arriving at the very place we had read so much about or pored over pictures of has capped our efforts today. This is an auspicious day for us and the entire Arctic Return team.


Left to right: Donat Savoie, Ellen Avard and Governor General Julie Payette at the 2018 Northern Science Award gala. (Photo: ArcticNet/Sebastien Girard)

The Nunavik Research Centre of Makivik Corporation has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Northern Science Award, recognizing its significant contribution to knowledge and understanding of Canada’s North.

The NRC was nominated for the prestigious award by Donat Savoie. Over four decades, he said, the centre has proven itself to be a world-class institution and is deserving of the accolade. In a letter written to NRC director Ellen Avard, David Scott, president of Polar Knowledge Canada (the organization responsible for administering the award), said that he and the selection committee were not only impressed with the centre’s accomplishments, but also that it was created by Inuit, for Inuit, responding to the research needs of Northern communities.

The NRC is widely recognized by the community, politicians and other researchers for its successful integration of Western science and the ecological insights Inuit have acquired over thousands of years on the land. The NRC has been at the forefront of developing methodology that braids Traditional Knowledge and research together. Avard, a new Fellow member of RCGS, and her team were thrilled to receive the news, and Polar Knowledge Canada brought the nine-member team to Ottawa to receive the awards at a gala during the Arctic Net scientific conference on Dec. 13, 2018.

SORBY, Sunniva

Bamesbu, in Svalbard, Norway. (Photo: Hearts in the Ice)

Hearts in the Ice is a platform for social engagement around climate change started by Hilde Fålun Strøm and Sunniva Sorby. Beginning in August 2019, this nine-month overwintering project in the High Arctic of Svalbard, Norway, will see the pair inhabiting a 20-square-metre trappers cabin (Bamsebu) at 78’N. They will be the first women to overwinter in Svalbard without men.

The project will serve as a platform for global dialogue and engagement concerning the changes we are experiencing in the polar regions which impact the world and what we all, individually, might be able to do about it. Life at Bamsebu will be broadcast and published via Iridium satellite through social media to scientists, school children, adventurers and interested citizens from around the world.

While at Bamsebu, Strøm and Sorby will serve as citizen scientists by collecting data for ongoing research projects in the Arctic, a few of which will also be conducted simultaneously in the Antarctic and shared on social media. The pair will be pioneers in using electric snowmobiles, and will create the smallest carbon footprint possible by utilizing solar and wind energy and reducing all packaging from their suppliers and providers.

STENNER, Christian and Kathleen Graham

Left: Christian Stenner (on left) and Tom Gall in the St. Helens Fumarole Caves; Right: Katie Graham (on left) and Stenner surveying the caves. (Photos: Christian Stenner)

Christian Stenner and Kathleen Graham were part of the documentary Fire and Ice: Expedition Mt. St. Helens, which premiered in Europe in January. The film features the activities of the 2017 and 2018 expeditions in the volcanic fumarole caves in the crater glacier of Mt. St. Helens, Wash. Stenner and Graham were successful in exploring and mapping nearly one kilometer of fumarole cave passages in the recently formed Crater Glacier. This enabled integrated studies by the team, including sampling cave soils for astrobiology research and to search for antibacterial agents effective against multi-drug resistant pathogenic bacteria and fungi. Climatology work was conducted to contribute to our understanding of the formation of the caves. 

Additionally, the team tested a prototype robot created by NASA Jet Propulsion Labs —the world’s first ice climbing robot, which is able to scale ice walls underground and take samples. This has potential to be used as part of future missions to search for microbial life in icy bodies of the solar system.


Darkness can last for half the year at Antarctic research stations such as Concordia — just one of the many factors that can contribute to stress and changes in behaviour. (Photo courtesy ESA/A. Salam)

For decades, social and behavioural scientists have studied the psychology of people in various isolated, extreme, remote environments to gain an idea of the possible effects of spaceflight — especially long-duration missions. The validity of the assumption that terrestrial environments such as polar stations, submarines, deserts, etc., are useful analogues of space capsules has never been adequately established.

In his article “Antarctica and space as psychosocial analogues,” Peter Suedfeld makes that point, assesses the available evidence and suggests appropriate ways to test the validity of the assumption.

“Assuming [Antarctic stations and spacecraft] to be analogues is attractive to both researchers and space agencies as an economy measure: research in space is expensive, complicated, and limited in research time, facilities, and subjects,” writes Suedfeld. “Although research in Antarctica has some of the same problems, they are much less severe there; significant savings in effort, time, and money are possible. … Data from multi-year studies conducted in the two environments should compare both the stressful and adverse and healthful, positive effects of the two environments on human psychology in order to evaluate this question.”


Photo: Mark Terry

Mark Terry defended his doctoral dissertation on The Geo-Doc: Remediating the Documentary Film as an Instrument of Social Change with Locative Theory and Technology In January 2019 at York University in Toronto. Terry has brought his years of documentary filmmaking experience to global climate research, curating video reports in a GIS mapping platform known as the Youth Climate Report. The project presents 350 videos of climate research produced by the global communities of youth and science. The project is presented each year at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This research has been awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at York University where Terry will continue to advance his locative mapping theory in the Ecological Footprint Initiative, a program that calculates progress on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Terry’s GIS mapping project, the Youth Climate Report, was nominated for a UN Sustainable Development Goals Action Award in the category of Visualizer — one of only two Canadian projects to be recognized this year. Winners were announced at a ceremony in Bonn, Germany on May 2.

TONG, Ziya

Photo: Mark Terry

In May, Ziya Tong’s new book The Reality Bubble: Blind Spots, Hidden Truths, and the Dangerous Illusions that Shape Our World, was released by Penguin Random House Canada. From the publisher’s page:

From one of the world’s most engaging science journalists, a groundbreaking and wonder-filled look at the hidden things that shape our lives in unexpected and sometimes dangerous ways.

With all of the curiosity and flair that drives her broadcasting, Ziya Tong reveals to us this hidden world, and takes us on a journey to examine 10 of humanity’s biggest blind spots.

What she reveals is our blindness to a dimension of our society that is kept secret from us. There are cameras everywhere, she reminds us, except where our food comes from, where our energy comes from, and where our waste goes. Our blindness to the conditions that sustain us makes it impossible to navigate our future.

This vitally important new book shows how science, and the curiosity that drives it, can help civilization flourish by opening our eyes to the landscape laid out before us. Fast-paced, utterly fascinating and deeply humane, The Reality Bubble gives voice to the sense we’ve all had — that there is more to the world than meets the eye.

WALKER, Christopher

Photo: Public domain

Artist Christopher Walker is collaborating with researchers from the Arctic Institute of North America to create a formal painting of the ill-fated whaling ship, Nova Zembla.

After reading the article “The Hunt for Nova Zembla” in the January/February issue of Canadian Geographic, Walker was inspired to develop a contemporary portrait of the Dundee whaling ship. Over 200 whaling ship wrecks have been recorded in the Arctic and 116 years later, the first physical evidence of one of those ships was discovered by RCGS fellows Matthew Ayre and Michael Moloney of the Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary. One Ocean Expeditions played a vital role in this discovery; the second significant find since the discovery of HMS Erebus during the Victoria Strait Expedition in 2014. Walker will work in conjunction with Ayre and Moloney as they unravel the mysteries of the lost Scottish whaling ship which sank on Sept. 18, 1902. “After painting HMS Erebus and Terror for the RCGS Expedition Fund, I find working with scientists to develop a formal depiction of historic arctic ships a fascinating and rewarding experience,” says Walker.


Photo: National Maritime Museum, London

In September last year, Sir David Attenborough opened four new permanent galleries at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Four years in the making, with the generous support of the U.K.’s National Lottery Heritage Fund, the galleries (Tudor & Stuart Seafarers, Pacific Encounters, Polar Worlds and Sea Things) increase the museum’s permanent display space by 40 per cent, with more than 1,000 objects added to the displays.
Polar Worlds has strong links to Nunavut, particularly through artifacts from the 1845 British Naval Northwest Passage expedition led by Sir John Franklin, along with a new commission from the ground-breaking Inuk performer, Tanya Tagaq. As the curator of the Polar Worlds gallery and overall interpretation lead for the project, Claire Warrior says it is fantastic to see the reception that the project has received. The galleries were shortlisted for a Museums + Heritage Award for best new permanent galleries, and Sir David himself described them as “absolutely fabulous.” Warrior would be delighted to welcome any RCGS Fellows visiting the U.K. to see them for themselves.

WELLS, Peter

Photo: Peter Wells

Peter Wells continued to explore coastal areas in the U.K. and the Rocky Mountains of Canada through 2018, following the mantra of “wander often, wonder always,” and driven by a passion for hiking in protected wild country. In March and April, he backpacked 350 kilometres along the northern stretch of the famed South West Coast Path in England, from Minehead, Somerset, on the Bristol Channel, to St. Ives, Cornwall, on the open Atlantic. The early spring wet weather and terrain often made the path very challenging. As he stayed in small inns along the way, he often made new friends, including other Canadians who were through-walking parts of the path. In August, Wells’ seventh annual family backpacking trip took him to Banff National Park, exploring  the valleys and passes near Storm and Bali mountains between Banff and Lake Louise.

The year was capped by Wells’ participation in the Thinking Mountains Interdisciplinary Summit conference in Banff in October, where he chaired a session and gave a joint paper on early mapping and surveying in the Rockies with his surveyor brother-in-law. He was also a co-editor of a book of ocean essays, The Future of Ocean Governance and Capacity Building, especially valuable for the annual international ocean governance course at Dalhousie University: “The International Ocean Institute 5Canada has prepared a collection of insightful essays on the future of ocean governance and capacity development, written by more than 90 leading experts. The main themes parallel those of the Institute’s annual training program, now in its fourth decade at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. The book honors the work and accomplishments of Elisabeth Mann Borgese, one of the 20th century’s preeminent ocean advocates, who founded the Institute in Malta in 1972. This essential collection of current knowledge on the topic is aimed at professionals, students and citizens alike.”

WINDH, Jacqueline

Jacqueline Windh aboard the RCGS Resolute in April. (Photo: Jacqueline Windh)

Jacqueline Windh put her Chilean wilderness experience to work on the inaugural cruise of One Ocean Expedition’s RCGS Resolute, through the Chilean fiords, in April. Resolute traversed a stunning 22 degrees of latitude on this route, starting in Ushuaia, passing through the historic Beagle Channel and windswept Magellan Strait, and then travelled north along some of the wildest and most remote coastline in the world. Journey highlights include visits to some incredibly active (and hard to get to) temperate glaciers. Windh, who contributed to the route planning, was one of the specialist naturalists on board.

In June, expedition leader Windh and fellow explorer David Gilbert are carrying the RCGS Flag on a one-month wilderness journey: travelling down the wild west coast of Vancouver Island on foot and by sea kayak. They will depart Kyuquot Sound on June 9, and are expected to land their kayaks at Chesterman’s Beach, Tofino, on July 8.
Most Canadians associate our colonial history with the English and the French. Few are aware of the important role the Spanish played in the early explorations and first contacts with the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.

Now a wild and nearly uninhabited region, two and a half centuries ago this wave-swept coast was the hub of contact between four cultures: the Spanish, British (led by Cook and then Vancouver), Americans (with the two-year enslavement of sailor John Jewitt by Chief Maquinna), and of course the Nuu-chah-nulth inhabitants.

The pair’s one-month expedition will visit the remote but historically significant locations where these events occurred. They have the support of the Spanish Embassy in Canada and of the RCGS, whose mandate is to make Canada better known to Canadians. Importantly, They will visit and work with the indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth people, who still carry the stories of these early encounters in their oral histories, and integrate their accounts with the written records of the European and American explorers.


Photo: Brandy Yanchyk

Brandy Yanchyk has successfully filmed and sold episodes of her travel TV series to both Air Canada and PBS. Air Canada has purchased episodes one and two of Seeing Canada. It will be live on their entertainment players from June 1 to July 31, 2019. If they perform well, the other four episodes will be added, so please start spreading the news!

Episode one explores Nimmo Bay, B.C., and Manitoulin Island, Ont. — from the Great Bear Rainforest to an Indigenous experience with the Great Spirit Circle Trail. In episode two, Yanchyk explores Saskatoon’s local foodie scene and Waneskewin Heritage Park before travelling to Winnipeg, where she visits the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and learns about the city’s secret Hermetic Code. 

Six new episodes of Seeing Canada season two will begin airing on public TV stations including PBS on June 22 — in time for Canada Day. The series is also airing on WestJet, Eva Airlines (Taiwan) and The Times Internet (India).

N.B.: Items for “Fellows in the News” are welcomed and should be sent to Nick Walker at [email protected].

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