Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy

On March 29, 2008, the Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy launched its second Global Warming 101 Expedition, a 62-day, 1400-mile dogsled expedition across Ellesmere Island. Explorer Will Steger selected six young adventurers to join him in an effort to educate youth, inspire international cooperation and empower the next generation of leaders in environmental advocacy.

The team travelled in Canada’s High Arctic, site of the last remaining ice shelves in North America, to capture disintegrating ice caps, retreating glaciers and the destruction of wildlife habitat. From the adventures of dog-sledding across exceptional stretches of Arctic Ocean ruins to the unexpected challenges of a refashioned topography, the adventurers witnessed firsthand the effects of global warming.

“In 45 years of Arctic exploration, I have never witnessed ice conditions like what I experienced on my recent expedition to Ellesmere Island. As an eyewitness to the changing topography of the Arctic, I was stunned to see the rapid repercussions of global warming for the region, its wildlife habitat and indigenous cultures. Swift loss of sea ice will considerably alter the landscape of the Polar regions as we know it.” -Will Steger

In addition to the rough ice from the Arctic Ocean’s ruins, the team experienced a three-week early spring thaw near Eureka, their final destination. The expedition aimed to be the first overland mission to visit the remnants of the Ayles Ice Shelf, which disintegrated in August 2005 in the largest break-off of the ice shelf in over 25 years. The Ayles Ice Shelf was one of six ice shelves left in Canada, remnants of a vast icy fringe that used to cover the top end of Ellesmere.

Below are excerpts from the team’s trail dispatches as they traveled through this area:

“At 82°N 80°W, at the entrance of what was to be named the Ayles Fjord, Adam Ayles erected a cairn before the expedition had to turn back due to scurvy. In the Ayles Fjord there was an ice shelf that later was named Ayles as well. It is the remains of this ice shelf that we now have our course set towards.” -Tobias Thorleifsson, Norway

“The Ayles Ice Island had been in place for at least 4500 years before it broke away. The ice island calved from the Ayles Ice Shelf because of unusually warm temperatures and persistent offshore winds. The sea ice that normally presses along the north coast of Ellesmere Island, even in summer, was replaced by open water in the days leading up to August 13th 2005, which allowed the shelf to slip into the water and drift rapidly to the west.”

-Eric McNair-Landry, Canada

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