Educators on Expedition: Sunscreen in the Far North, Who Knew?

The following post was written by 2014 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Aimee Lampard during her expedition to the Arctic. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program is a professional development opportunity made possible by a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Education. 

Expedition Location: Arctic Svalbard, Norway

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Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Aimee Lampard on her first bright morning onboard the National Geographic Explorer. Photograph by Ellen Taylor

June 11, 2014—I have to say, when I first learned that I would be traveling to the Arctic in June, sunscreen was not one of the necessities that I added to my packing list. You are in the north; you imagine cold, ice, polar bears, and parkas…A sunburn is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, I was grateful for the advice of the good folks at National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions because this morning I woke up to our first sunny, incredibly bright day.

I began the day by hanging out on the bow with Ellen, a fellow teacher from California, messing around with my camera and enjoying the sun.

Michael S. Nolan, one of the expedition photographers, joined us and answered questions about the seals we could see from a great distance out on the ice.

We were in the midst of pack ice and Sam, our on-board piano maestro from New York, came by and told me that we were only 10 feet from the North Pole.

  He got after me when I started wiping off my lens with my gloves, but I think we are still friends.

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Ellen, our California girl, gratefully soaks up the sun on the bow of the ship. Photograph by Aimee Lampard

We spent a large part of the morning observing a bearded seal from the bow of the ship. It was awesome, and I was able to stand by Michael, who helped me adjust the light meter on my camera. He got after me when I started wiping off my lens with my gloves, but I think we are still friends.

We left the seal behind and listened to a talk from Carls-Erik, one of the naturalists onboard the National Geographic Explorer, about the environmental history of the Svalbard archipelago.

I then found myself sitting up in the observation deck, getting overheated (never thought I would say that on this trip either) in the incredibly bright sun; thank goodness I packed and put on sunscreen.

Much of our survival depends on community, a poignant contrast to the lives of these incredibly adapted animals that spend a large part of their lives alone on the ice.

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Sea ice glimmers in the early morning sun. Photograph by Aimee Lampard

I was amazed by the beauty around me, the stark emptiness of the place that is paradoxically teeming with life. The isolated lives of some of polar bears and seals is strange to think about from a human perspective: Much of our survival depends on community, a poignant contrast to the lives of these incredibly adapted animals that spend a large part of their lives alone on the ice.

While I was trying to process all that I learned, I was equally overwhelmed by the fact that I was in this beautiful, yet deadly environment. When I hear more about the trappers and whalers who first came here in the 17th century, I am amazed at their bravery and resourcefulness. They explored this place and had the skills necessary to survive, something that I feel is getting lost in our technology-saturated society. We are knowledgeable about virtual worlds and realities, but ignorant of the living world around us.

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A bearded seal rests in the quiet vastness of the sea ice, always on guard against marauding polar bears. Photograph by Aimee Lampard

In the 21st century, I fear that we have become entitled cowards who want to control the natural world, yet are outraged and surprised when it overcomes us. At the same time, our planet is changed and destroyed, sometimes permanently, by human impact.

What have we lost, and can we ever get it back?


Like this post? Each month we will feature selected stories from teachers who have seen incredible environments — to bring the stories back to their students. Learn more about how you could become one of our next Grosvenor Teacher Fellows. Applications will be available in December for the 2015 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program. 

3 responses to “Educators on Expedition: Sunscreen in the Far North, Who Knew?

  1. Pingback: Once in a Lifetime Professional Development Opportunity for Educators! Apply NOW! | Nat Geo Education Blog·

  2. Pingback: Teachers: Unique Professional Development Opportunity Now Open | RHODE ISLAND GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION ALLIANCE·

  3. Pingback: Teachers: Unique Professional Development Opportunity Now Open | Nat Geo Education Blog·

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