“Imagine looking out at vistas of only white and blue with a horizon line that parts only these two colours and that you ski toward for days at a time.”
This is how Dr. TA Loeffler described her latest expedition on her blog. She left St. John’s on April 11 for Greenland. She and her three expedition mates then traversed 275 kilometres of unexplored Greenland by ski from the Brede Glacier to Gunnbjørn Fjeld, the Arctic’s highest peak at 3,694 metres.
The team summitted Gunnbjørn Fjeld on May 12, which took about six hours of climbing up and two and a half hours of skiing and climbing down.
Dr. Loeffler said she’s already brought this expedition into her classroom through stories, pictures and case studies.
“I am teaching outdoor recreation management in intersession and have been able to demonstrate several real world applications of the theories and models we are studying in the course,” she said. “I’ve also used it already in my introduction to outdoor education and recreation class as well as giving the students the opportunity to see how the skills they are learning in class can be used in longer and more challenging environments.”
The expedition was aptly named Go for Greenland and also involved seven Newfoundland schools as virtual expedition members. With the help of third-year physical education student Taylor Lynn Marsh, who helped design and implement the curriculum, Dr. Loeffler was able to get daily expedition dispatches and curriculum activities to students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 around St. John’s.
She used technology called a SPOT messenger that beamed out her location to her website each day with both longitude and latitude co-ordinates as well as flagging it on Google Maps. The students could also post comments and questions to the website which came to Dr. Loeffler on her satellite phone so she could answer them in almost real time.
“It was really rewarding to have the students follow so closely along and it was the highlight of our days to download their questions,” she noted.
This was Dr. Loeffler’s second summit success in a polar region in six months after she climbed Mount Vinson, the Antarctic’s highest peak in December.
“I hadn’t planned to do both peaks in six months but it was a thrill that it worked out that way,” she said. “This expedition also included an ice cap traverse on an un-skied route which was also a goal of mine.”
Dr. Loeffler’s next adventure, which will be closer to home, has a personal element.
“My next expedition is to the George River in Labrador and Quebec. Fulfilling a longtime dream, I will paddle a canoe and walk in the footsteps of Mina Hubbard, who did the George in 1905. She is one of my exploration heroes and has been the subject of some of my research.”
She’ll be joined by three other Memorial employees and two Memorial retirees from mid-July through early August.