There has always been an Arctic — a landscape of glaciers, which carved its mountains and plains, of char who swim its icy rivers, of polar bears who hunt in the sea-ice, of lichens that find sustenance where nothing else will grow, and of people, for whom the this ever-changing ecology has always been home.
But there is also an arctic that lives in the mind of those who have not yet been.
Perhaps it’s an image of windswept tundra, or stoic-looking cliffs, alive with colonies of seabirds that has shaped this sense of wonder. Or a curiosity, for what it might mean to engage with the people living in communities across the arctic. All fit a story, not yet complete, about how it would feel to be in this powerful and surprising place.
Whether it’s hiking or trekking, kayaking or dogsledding, boat touring or snowmobiling, listening or chatting, a journey in the arctic will reward in unexpected ways.
It is not so much what we see, but what we feel, standing on the edge of land-fast sea-ice, the Arctic Ocean before us, that changes our perspective on the world.
It is sometimes best to learn through the soles of our feet, and there is no substitute for walking through wildflowers of Saxifrage and Draba, or for looking up, to watch the Aurora Borealis dance in a sky full of stars. There is no replacement for that moment of connection, with a guide or a new friend met along the way, which stays with us years later.
There are ideas, concepts, trends and theories reported about the arctic everyday. But making the trip, experiencing the people, travelling the land, seeing the wildlife— these are what fill us with reverence and awe, kindness and warmth, humility and sense of achievement. The arctic is a lived experience, one that can’t be appreciated, until you’ve been.