No man's land - Liz recalls her experiences at the Arctic's Edge
Learning to build an igloo, travelling across pure white landscapes on gamutik (sled), watching rare beluga whales frolic in one of the world’s most isolated and pristine places. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well it is, until you notice your eyelashes freezing over, your lungs struggling to take in air and that you’re dressed conspicuously like the Michelin Man.
This is Canada. It holds some of the world’s most remote, most beautiful and most extreme environments, but you need to be a special kind of tourist to experience them, and Liz Hackett is one such tourist.
“I really believe in the concept of being the change you wish to see in the world,” says Liz.
“That’s why I went on the Earthwatch Institute’s Climate Change at the Arctic’s Edge expedition in Manitoba. Not only are you visiting a spectacular and difficult-to-access area that few people will ever see, you’re helping the world’s scientists to gather data about climate change.”
As Liz explains, ten days on the Arctic tundra in Manitoba is in every sense a breath-taking experience. But it sure isn’t for the faint-hearted. As part of a small expedition team led by research scientists, you need not only be adventurous, you need a sense of humour.
“It was the dead of winter, the weather was ferocious – during the day it was minus 50 degrees Celsius – and it was cold and dark,” says Liz. “But the landscape is just beautiful. Even when you’re struggling to write with three layers of gloves on, you can’t help but feel so lucky to be there.”
During her 10-days stay at the Churchill Centre, Liz was at the frontline of climate change research. She trekked across tundra, forest and wetland landscapes to collect snow and earth samples. Each were weighed and analysed to determine the effects of climate change in the area. Large holes were dug in the tundra in order to access the gases stored in the peat-rich ecosystem. This would help to evaluate tree growth and plant development. It is hard to believe the vast land contains 20% of the world’s naturally stored carbon, most of it locked away in permafrost.
Liz and her team measured and assessed snowpack, and classified ice crystals. It is hard to believe the intricate patterns formed by the crystals were produced by nature itself. What can be formed from cold harsh weather is absolutely incredible.
After another full day of research, the team retired for bed and returned to their igloos. As Liz trudged along the vast land, she looked up to a sky to see a wonderful palette of green and purple; the Northern Lights. With beauty like this in front of her, Liz can proudly say that she has experienced one of the most beautiful and remote areas of the world.