March this year, Robert Swan – the world famous polar explorer led a
team of 8 men from seven countries in on expedition called ICEWALK-89
the International North Pole expedition. They walked from Cape
Columbia, Canada’s northern most tip, over 450 cold miles on the frozen
Arctic Ocean to conquer the North Pole on May 14.
the same time a team of 22 student members from 15 countries went all
the way to the Canadian High Arctic to participate in the programme of
adventure, scientific studies and environmental awareness, all under the
same project ICEWALK.
all began in 1989 when Robert Swan went unsupported to the South Pole
along with this two team members and became one of the first men to go
under the newly formed Ozone Hole in our atmosphere. He got heavily sun
burnt. In order to promote greater global awareness about the damaged
ozone layer and the environment as a whole he decided on another
expedition, this time to the North Pole, and dedicated it to the
any expedition, finance is required, so he went around the world 26
times getting world-wide sponsors and finally came up with 5 million US
A student expedition was organised simultaneously to create greater awareness worldwide. Students went up to Eureka (800
North) to study the Arctic pollution and global environment as a
whole. They also did a bit of Arctic Survival training and were
thoroughly exposed to Arctic hardships.
reason why students aged 17-22 were chosen what that students can
relate with this environmental damage more easily and also because they
are the ones who would be worst affected by this environmental damages
in the near future.
was lucky enough to be chosen as the Indian student for this
expedition. My escort-instructor Mandeep Singh Soin also went along
with me all the way to the High Arctic.
We left India on the 12th
of April and arrived in London. There we were received by DEAS
headquarters’ and went to the Portuguese Embassy for dinner with the
Ambassador. A brief press conference was also held. Next day we gave a
live interview on BBC followed by the many others. We also met the
Minister of Environment of Britain, Mrs. Virginia Bottomly, in front of
the House of Lords. She had shown a keen interest in ICEWALK and its
movies. From England we moved on to New York, and then on to Ottawa.
the members gathered at Ottawa and there we all met for the first
time. They came all the way from America, Canada, Brazil, Ireland,
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Kenya, Russia, Hong
Kong, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India. There were 8
girls’ students and two lady escort instructors amongst 22 students and
their9 escorts who participated in this international student
expedition. The highlight of the stay in Ottawa was the meeting with
Mr. Lucien Bouchard, the Canadian Environment Minister , who announced a
clean-up programme in the Canadian Arctic, in order to remove all the
oil drums lying around which went there as aeroplane refuelling drums.
From Ottawa we went on to Iqaluit (660
North) located on Baffin Island, which is essentially on Eskimo
community. There we received a warm welcome. The locals taught us how
to build Igloos (Ice-houses) and acquainted us with a few techniques
necessary for Arctic survival.
From Iqaluit we went to Eureka (Ellesmere Island) via Resoulute (Cornwallis Island). Eureka is situated at 800 North
and is an environmental weather service station, which is manned all
the year around. Whilst we were there, we had 24 hrs day light and the
daily temperatures ranges all the way from 120 C to 350 C. The lowest if went down to was 450 C
with the wind chill factor. We placed ourselves comfortably and had
the help and support of five leading Canadian American scientists who
were there especially to teach us about the on-going environmental
destruction. We took a trip to Lake Hazen (82.50 North)
which is an 800 Sq. mile lake, the largest lake above the Arctic. We
went all the way to observe wild life but unfortunately no wild life
signs could be seen anywhere except a trail of lemming foot prints.
by far has been regarded as one of the cleanest places on earth. Yet
now there are traces of pollution in the form of gases causing the
Greenhouse effect, and soot-causing acid rains, as well as pesticides
carried by complex wind patterns coming right down from Texas in
America. The thinning ozone layer is another fatal threat to the High
Arctic. If all this carries on even at the present rate, the polar
ice-caps will melt causing ocean levels to up by 70 metres or so. I
need not explain its obvious effects.
now all the students had mixed very well and had overcome the barriers
of language, country, community etc. acting like mini-ambassadors of the
countries they represented.
also learnt about the Arctic as a whole i.e. its people, wildlife
geography, solar navigation etc. Later we went out on a 4-day ski trip
which exposed us fully to the rough Arctic weather. The weather there
was quite unpredictable. We were heavily geared and pulled our own
stuff ourselves, on the sledges; quite like the polar team which by now
crossed 88.50 N.
came across lots of spectacular sights of icebergs and even climbed a
few. Icebergs were rising upto 50 m, high and looking extremely
We skied on the frozen ocean, cooked out own food which at -300 C
certainly wasn’t very easy to do, slept in tents and Igloos and climbed
right to the top of the highest mountains, on the Ellesmere Island
(2150 ft. above sea level), which was quite nearby.
return was very nostalgic and sentimental, with a few girls breaking
down in tears. So fare we had lived in perfect harmony and bonds of
friendship had been permanently established amongst us all. We returned
home both happy and sad’ happy because we had achieved our goal and sad
because it was over now.
Thank you Ice-walk.
(Source: The Doon School Adventure Stores shared by Dr. S C Biala)