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Fellows Journal

Fall 2017

One Ocean Expeditions expands fleet with the RCGS Resolute

The polar-going RCGS Resolute will set sail from its home port of Sydney, N.S., in 2018. (Photo: One Ocean Expeditions)

In the historic port of Sydney, N.S., on July 31, on the cusp of its 10th anniversary, One Ocean Expeditions announced it was expanding its fleet with a ship whose name resonates with Arctic exploration history.

The adventure cruise operator’s new vessel, RCGS Resolute, is purpose-built to withstand the severe ice of polar expeditions (but doesn’t skimp on luxury: the ship features a deck pool, sumptuous cabin suites and multiple lounges with 180-degree views). It will be the first to carry the “Royal Canadian Geographical Ship” prefix, RCGS, and will join the Akademik Ioffe and Akademik Sergey Vavilov under the One Ocean Expeditions banner.

“The Royal Canadian Geographical Society is proud to have One Ocean Expeditions as its exclusive travel partner, and proud that Resolute will become the first ship to carry the Society’s name,” said RCGS CEO John Geiger. “RCGS Resolute will, like One Ocean’s other ships, carry the Society’s Compass Rose flag, and will serve as a platform for polar research and learning — as well as expeditionary travel.”

Historically, explorers seeking the North Pole often left from Sydney. Robert E. Peary, who claimed to have reached the pole in 1909, launched five expeditions from Sydney’s wharves, and received a hero’s welcome on each return.

The RCGS Resolute will first set sail from Cape Breton in November 2018. Finland-built, the vessel offers modern stabilization and unsurpassed ice classification compliant with the polar code. Its name is imbued with northern heritage.

The ship’s namesake, HMS Resolute, was fitted for Arctic service and in the 1850s helped search for the lost Franklin expedition, contributing to further exploration of the High Arctic islands along the way. Resolute is also one of Canada’s northernmost communities, located on Cornwallis Island.

Explorer Adam Shoalts reaches the end of the Trans-Canadian Arctic Expedition

Shoalts drags his canoe against the current on the Hare Indian River, N.W.T., in mid-June, seeking a route into Great Bear Lake.
(Photo: Adam Shoalts)

After 4,000 kilometres of trekking over muskeg and canoeing up and down countless icy rivers and lakes, sustaining himself on more than 1,100 protein bars and two bush plane-delivered food crates, Adam Shoalts reached Baker Lake, Nunavut, and the end of the epic Trans-Canadian Arctic Expedition on Sep. 6, 2017.

It all started in Old Crow, northern Yukon, in mid-May. Shoalts faced east and set out from the small Gwich’in town on a solo expedition that saw him weaving north and south of the Arctic Circle across Canada’s northern mainland and three territories. Pragmatic as ever about what might seem to most a highly unpragmatic undertaking, the explorer was more concerned with the prospect of unrelenting Arctic winds than potential grizzly and polar bear encounters.

As he told Canadian Geographic the day before his departure, “The way I’m managing this whole 4,000-kilometre route is breaking it up into smaller trips. Mentally, that’s how I think about it. Physically, it’s all one continuous journey.”

Communications were sporadic, characterized by one- or two-week stretches of silence and irregular satellite phone updates made to his family and communication supports in the south. For nearly four months, their surrogate Facebook updates marked him as paddling upstream against the mighty Mackenzie River, reaching the Dene hamlet of Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. (the last community he would encounter until Baker Lake, Nunavut, 86 days later), and stranded on an island and waiting for ice to break on Great Bear Lake. By the end of his long pilgrimage, winter weather was already returning to the North.

Shoalts’s RCGS-sponsored Trans-Canadian Arctic Expedition was a monumental, meticulously-planned yet inherently dangerous migration over a cross-section of the Canadian North that few will ever see — and perhaps no one ever again in one sustained journey.

To read the exclusive post-expedition interview with Shoalts and to see images from his route, click here.

Canadian Museum of History’s Dr. David Morrison awarded the RCGS Massey Medal

Dr. David Morrison in the Canadian Museum of History’s new History Hall. (Photo: Canadian Museum of History)

The Society’s 2017 Massey Medal winner is one of the world’s foremost scholars in Arctic archeology and a leader in the museum field. Much of what is known about the long-term history of Inuit and Inuvialuit culture across the Canadian Arctic results directly from his prolific fieldwork and ground-breaking publications. In his later work in museum governance, outreach and public programming, he has made enormous contributions to the promotion of archeology and geography in Canada.

For the Canadian Museum of History, he has been, among many other things, director of the Archaeology and History Division and co-lead curator on the First Peoples’ Hall, and not only led the museum’s work on repatriation of archeological remains to Indigenous communities, but set standards in repatriation practices across North America. Most recently, he led the development of research and content for the Museum’s Canadian History Hall, presenting more than 15,000 years of archeology and history in the massive, nearly 2,800-square-metre space — without a doubt the largest and most ambitious exhibition on Canadian history ever developed.

“Dr. Morrison’s work on the new History Hall represents an enormous gift to all Canadians,” said RCGS President Gavin Fitch. “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling story better told.”

CPAC and the RCGS launch the Route 338 multimedia project on democracy in Canada

RCGS CEO John Geiger, Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly and CPAC president Catherine Cano at the September launch of the Route 338 project. (Alexandra Pope/Can Geo)

With the September 18 Ottawa launch of a new educational tool called Route 338, the Cable Public Affairs Channel aims to help all Canadians understand political process and make their voices heard.

“Democracy is precious but fragile, even in mature democracies like Canada,” says Catherine Cano, president and general manager of CPAC. “CPAC Route 338 is a vital resource, because the earlier we study and learn about our democracy, the better our chance to have a society that is curious, knowledgeable and engaged.”

The multimedia project includes a website where visitors can explore an interactive map with profiles of all 338 federal electoral districts and their current MPs. CPAC also partnered with the RCGS to create a Route 338 Giant Floor Map that will tour schools across the country, a downloadable “tiled” version of the map and 11 free, curriculum-linked lesson plans to help students in Grades 1-12 learn the different levels of government, the functions of each and much more.

Read the full story here.

Can Geo Education to launch the Canadian Geography Olympiad

Quebec City is set to host the International Geography Olympiad in August 2018. (Photo: Datch78/Wikimedia Commons)

For the first time ever, four senior geography students will be selected through a Canadian Geography Olympiad to represent their nation at the International Geography Olympiad, to be held in Quebec City in August 2018. There, top 16- to 19-year-old students from around the world will showcase their talents in an exciting four-day competition. While the annual Can Geo Challenge has drawn thousands of Grade 4 to 10s to compete for the title of top geography student since the 1990s, Canada has never fielded a senior team for the international competition.

The purpose of the Olympiads is not only to test students’ knowledge and understanding of geographic skills and concepts, but to stimulate active interest in geographical and environmental studies among young people, and at the global level facilitate interactions between students from different countries, thereby contributing — even if in a small way — to the understanding between nations.

For updates on the Canadian Geography Olympiad, including where and how to register and competition details, follow @CanGeoEdu.

Can Geo Challenge finalists explore the East Coast

The 2017 Can Geo Challenge finalists visiting Bonne Bay, N.L., with Alex Trebek. (Photo: Boomer Jerritt/One Ocean Expeditions)

Months of studying to be the best geography students in Canada paid off again this July as three 2017 Canadian Geographic Challenge finalists embarked on the One Ocean Expeditions “Fins and Fiddles” cruise — one of their prizes for making it to the final round of the national geography bee in June. Starting in Sydney, N.S., Challenge champion Ben Woodward, 16, Jake Douglas, 14, and Evan Fingerhut, 15, put their geography knowledge and skills to the test as they explored Canada’s East Coast on the adventure along with Jeopardy! host and RCGS Honorary President Alex Trebek, with whom they hosted a quiz night aboard the ship. Other voyage highlights included the Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park, N.L., Quebec’s stunning Magdalen Islands archipelago, and visiting the wild horses of Sable Island, N.S.

For more about the 2017 Can Geo Challenge finals, which were hosted in June by Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques, click here.

Alex Trebek named an Officer of the Order of Canada

Photo: Colin Rowe/Can Geo

Alex Trebek, Honorary President of the RCGS, was named an Officer of the Order of Canada on June 30 for his “iconic achievements in television and for his promotion of learning, notably as a champion for geographic literacy.”

Trebek, a Sudbury native and a house-hold name since he announced his first Jeopardy! categories on set in 1984, has long been a champion of geographic education, travelling often over the past three decades to host student geography competitions such as the Canadian Geographic Challenge’s live finals, which he continues to support through the Trebek Family Foundation.

Trebek has previously won the National Geographic Society’s Alexander Graham Bell Medal and the RCGS’s Gold Medal and Lawrence J. Burpee Medal — all in recognition of his dedication to geographic education. “Alex has done so much to raise geographic literacy,” says RCGS CEO John Geiger. “He represents the very best of us with a deep love of country, but also a global outlook and sense of humanitarianism.”

John Turner awarded RCGS Gold Medal

Left to right: Victoria University chancellor Wendy Cecil, John Turner, Kathleen Wynne and RCGS CEO John Geiger. (Photo: Jenna Muirhead-Gould)

The Rt. Hon. John Turner, Canada’s 17th Prime Minister, is the first Canadian politician to be awarded the RCGS’s Gold Medal. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne presented Turner with the honour at a June 26 event at Toronto’s Massey College, citing his distinguished parliamentary career and public service, and his contributions to the advancement of Canadian geography through his extensive Arctic travels. “There are politicians who disappear,” said Wynne, “but you have continued to be a force, and have continued to show what being a decent and compassionate person in politics really means.”

Click here for the full story.


RCGS Past-President Al Davidson (1926-2017)

The former RCGS President and head of Canada’s national parks program was a champion of protected places

Al Davidson, past-president of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society (1986-92), federal public servant and geographer, passed away on July 27, 2017. A lifelong champion for the ecological integrity of Canada’s wild spaces, he was also highly effective in carrying out his integrative, progressive approach to conservation. Parks were crucial for the protection of places and wildlife, but also for local economies, individual well-being and the national spirit. As he told those gathered for the 1980 International Seminar on National Parks, “Our shared natural and cultural heritage, the North, the concept of wilderness — all these facets of the parks evoke the spirit of the nation.”

Davidson headed Canada’s national parks program from 1978 to 1985. During that time, he spearheaded the creation and development of dozens of national parks (including Mingan, Que., Grasslands, Sask., and Ivvavik, Yukon), national historic sites and marine conservation areas, and oversaw the establishment of the Canadian Heritage River system. This was all in the years after he had helped launch the Canada Land Inventory — an immense and decades-long project that classified the nation’s lands according to their suitability for agriculture, forestry, wildlife and recreation — and assisted in negotiating the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The late Frank Roots, a geologist and one of Canada’s all-time greatest scientists, credited Davidson with convincing the government, in the 1960s, that glaciers were worth studying. Davidson’s policies have long served as models for conservation around the world.

For his dedication to conservation, Davidson was awarded not only the RCGS’s Massey Medal (for his ability to “apply sound geographic principles to an array of Canadian land and water issues”) but also the Order of Canada, which he received in 2008.

Betty Kidd

Former RCGS board member Betty Hazel Kidd passed away on Sep. 12, 2017, in Winchester, Ont. A Carleton University alumni and former high school teacher, Kidd joined what’s now Library and Archives Canada in 1966. For most of her career she was director of the National Map Collection and of the Visual and Sound Archives Division, retiring in 2001 as director general of the Canadian Archives Branch. Time and again, her work proved to be a great benefit to Canadian Geographic magazine, as she was very engaged with the RCGS and its publication through her roles on the Editorial Advisory Committee and other committees. Kidd also served on the board of the Russell Historical Society/Keith M. Boyd Museum, and was a founding member of the Association of Canadian Map Libraries and Archives.


J. Dewey “Blue Goose” Soper

J. Dewey Soper located the breeding grounds of the blue goose in 1929. (Photo: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada fonds, Library and Archives Canada)

It may be tempting to call J. Dewey Soper’s search for the breeding grounds of the blue goose a wild you-know-what, but that groan-worthy quip would be a gross mischaracterization. After all, during his six-year, 50,000-kilometre odyssey, the Canadian naturalist tracked down and pinpointed a location that had long confounded ornithologists across North America.

Soper began his search for the blue goose (a colour variant of the lesser snow goose) in 1923, when he joined a federal government expedition to the eastern Arctic, visiting Greenland and Ellesmere, Devon and Baffin islands. “I resolved then,” he wrote in a 1930 issue of The Canadian Field-Naturalist of his quarry, “to devote myself to the discovery of the Blue Goose nesting grounds insofar as I was empowered to do so.”

Over the next three years, the last two of which were spent on another expedition to Baffin Island, Soper followed every lead he could unearth, to no avail. By the end of the winter of 1925-26, during which he’d travelled more than 1,600 kilometres across the island improving maps, collecting wildlife samples and speaking with Inuit about the blue goose, he remained stumped. “After a personal residence of nearly two years in the country,” he wrote, “the species remained almost as great a mystery as before.”

But he was getting closer.

Soper's watercolour of the geese in their breeding habitat. (Artwork: Courtesy of the J. Dewey Soper family and the Arctic Institute of North America)

In the summer of 1926, two Inuit in Cape Dorset told Soper the birds nested around Bowman Bay, about 200 kilo-metres to the northeast. It was too late in the season for Soper to investigate, however, and he didn’t return until the summer of 1928, this time at the behest of the Northwest Territories and Yukon Branch of the Department of the Interior. By mid-May 1929, armed with a map of breeding grounds drawn the previous fall by an Inuk named Saila, Soper and five Inuit were heading to Bowman Bay by sledge. About a month later and not far from their camp, which they’d named Kungovik — Inuktitut for blue goose — Soper and two of his Inuit companions found what they’d been searching for: blue goose nests and eggs.

Accounts of Soper’s success appeared in newspapers and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, but in 1957 the Canadian government immortalized “Blue Goose Soper,” as he’d become known, in a way that seemed more fitting: by establishing the Dewey Soper Migratory Bird Sanctuary on Baffin Island, today home to the largest known lesser snow goose colony in the world.

For a story about Soper’s reliance on the Inuit and his use of an Inuit-drawn map of the blue goose breeding grounds, go to

Fellows in the news

NOTE: Contributions from the Fellows are published in the language in which they are submitted.

APPS, Deborah, Paul LaBarge and Valerie Pringle

Photo: Deborah Apps

Back in 2013, Governor General David Johnston unveiled an honorary section of The Great Trail between Rideau Hall and 24 Sussex Drive. In June 2017, RCGS Fellows Deborah Apps, president and CEO of the Trans Canada Trail, Valerie Pringle, co-chair of the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, and Paul LaBarge, chair of the Trans Canada Trail Board, joined Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa, RCGS CEO John Geiger and other dignitaries at the Society’s 50 Sussex Drive headquarters (above) to celebrate the official connection of this section and its iconic addresses to the main spine of The Great Trail, which passes the National Gallery of Canada and crosses the Ottawa River into Gatineau, Que., via the Alexandra Bridge.


Photo: David Barber/University of Manitoba

In late May and June, Dr. David Barber, Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science and associate dean of research for the University of Manitoba’s Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, led a research team onboard the CCGS Amundsen to conduct the first-ever bay-wide system study of Hudson Bay at a critical time of early ice melt. The project was to provide greater understanding of the timing and impacts of freshwater inputs into the bay as a result of regulation and climate change, as well as timing of sea ice melt with regard to shipping and other activity in the bay.

The undertaking was delayed and eventually cancelled due to unexpected sea ice conditions along the east coast of Newfoundland, which forced the redirection of Amundsen from scientific duty to search and rescue, icebreaking and escorting duties. While onboard, Barber managed to get his science team onto the unusually thick and dense ice floes (above) to conduct a full suite of data collection, including ice cores, water samples from melt ponds, radar imaging and aerial surveys using drones and helicopters. So despite the cancelled mission (rescheduled to May/June 2018), the science team came home with the data needed to explain the unexpectedly thick and dense multi-year ice floes that travelled from the high Arctic to jam the coast of Newfoundland, resulting in loss of life and damage to property. The press release sent from the ship, “Major Arctic climate change study cancelled due to Climate Change,” was picked up by media around the world, including CBC, CTV, Global News, CNN and The Guardian.

BURNS, Adrian

Photo: Adrian Burns

His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Governor General David Johnston and Sharon Johnston, and Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly joined National Arts Centre president and CEO Peter Herrndorf, board chair Adrian Burns (pictured, with Prince Charles) and other dignitaries, patrons and artists, staff and members of the public for the Canada Day celebration and ribbon cutting for the grand re-opening of the NAC building. The $110.5-million project to rejuvenate the NAC with beautiful spaces designed by Canadian architect Donald Schmitt honours the building’s original concept with a hexagonal glass atrium and entrance, relocated box office, and improvements to everything from the number of public washrooms to accessibility.


Photo: Dundurn Press

Full Curl: A Jenny Willson Mystery, the first novel by Dave Butler, an author, forester and biologist based in Cranbrook, B.C., will be released in paperback and available for digital download on Sep. 30, 2017.

The mystery follows Jenny Willson, “a hard-edged, caustic-witted warden from Banff National Park.” Upon discovering that animals are disappearing from Canada’s mountain parks, she begins a complex investigation that follows a trail of deceit, distraction and murder. With a growing list of victims, both animal and human, Willson finds herself in a race for justice that criss-crosses the Canada-U.S. border and pushes her to a place from which she might not return.

CAMERON, Silver Donald

Following a cross-country tour and numerous university screenings and presentations, Silver Donald Cameron is continuing his promotional work for the documentary Green Rights: The Human Right to a Healthy World, which hinges on the fact that, unlike more than 180 other nations, Canada, the United States, Australia, China and a few other countries do not legally recognize a healthy environment as a basic human right. Produced and directed by Chris Beckett, written and hosted by Cameron, the film is the capstone of the GreenRights multimedia project, a showcase of the dramatic, innovative legal battles challenging governments and industries around the world.


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In a June 29 National Post op-ed, Chris Champion, a policy advisor in Ottawa and editor of The Dorchester Review, argues that Canada’s Maple Leaf flag is the perfect embodiment of our national amnesia. The country’s original flag, the Red Ensign, he says, “vividly embodies Canada’s rich history, inclusive of First Nations, the fleur-de-lis, and the diversity represented by Scottish, English and Irish symbols.” The article was part of a series in which the newspaper’s editors “asked some of Canada’s most interesting personalities and writers to tell us what they would rather celebrate about Canada on the sesquicentennial.”


Photo: Simon Donato/

Since launching the Adventure Science podcast in spring 2017, author, endurance athlete and adventurer Dr. Simon Donato and his wife, conservation and climate advocate Chanelle Mayer have interviewed a number of world-leading explorers, adventurers and scientists who inspire, entertain and educate. From multiple Emmy Award-winning documentary cameraman Tom Fitz to paleoclimatologist and marine geologist Maureen Raymo, all speak to Adventure Science’s mission to get outside, explore the world and understand nature in a meaningful, scientific and physically challenging way. Access the podcast at under media, as well as on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify.

Photo: Gavin Fitch

FITCH, Gavin

RCGS president Gavin Fitch holds the Society’s Compass Rose Flag in front of a monument in England’s Lake District, erected in the 1920s to commemorate local men who died in the Great War. Fitch and his wife, Catherine, trekked from Keswick, the major town in the northwest part of Cumbria, to the village of Buttermere and on. In Wasdale Head, the historic centre of British climbing, they climbed 980-metre Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain.

FORD, Derek

As a leading expert in cave and karst landforms in Canada and around the world, Derek Ford contributed four chapters on these and other landforms in the Rocky and Mackenzie mountains and northern Manitoba to RCGS Fellow OlavSlaymaker’s Landscapes and Landforms of Western Canada. Just a year after being named a Senior Fellow of the Geological Society of America, June 2017 saw Ford elected as a Corresponding (foreign) Member of the Academy of Science and Arts of Slovenia for his “pioneer U series” dating studies in that country.

FREY, Joseph

NPS marine archeologist Chuck Lawson (left) and Joseph Frey search for ferrous objects potentially jettisoned from HMS Nimble. (Photo: Susanna Pershern/NPS)

When the Spanish pirate slave trader Guerrero wrecked on a reef near what’s now the southern border of Biscayne National Park, Florida, she was fully loaded with more than 500 captured Africans destined for an illegal slave market in Cuba. That occurred on December 19, 1827, when she was under pursuit and fire from the Royal Navy warship HMS Nimble, who also grounded temporarily on a reef nearby. This summer, science journalist and chair of the Fellows Committee Joseph Frey joined marine archeologists from the US National Park Service in a search of Guerrero as well as the jettisoned objects from Nimble.


Left to right: Alize Carrere, Joe Grabowski, Kenny Broad, Lee Berger and Robert Ballard at the first ever Nat Geo Explorers Festival in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joe Grabowski)

Joe Grabowski, an educator and scuba diver based in Guelph, Ont., was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2017, along with 13 other explorers from around the world. In 2015, Grabowski founded the non-profit Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, which has since brought more than 300 top scientists, conservationists and explorers — and amazing places — into North American classrooms through Google Hangouts and virtual field trips.


An Inuvialuit reindeer herder rides above his herd near Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., a sight on Tundra North Tours’ Canadian Arctic Reindeer Signature Package (Photo: Danny Swainson/Tundra North Tours)

The Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada has unveiled the new 2017/18 Guide to Aboriginal Tourism in Canada, developed in partnership with Kim Gray’s Toque & Canoe, an award-winning online magazine featuring stories on Canadian travel culture. Available for free online, the new guide aims to pique interest in Aboriginal tourism experiences across Canada, presenting each through the Aboriginal culture of storytelling. 

Throughout the guide, points of interest across Canada are presented with gorgeous photography, stirring stories and personalized testimonials by individuals who stand behind the tourism businesses. For people wanting to explore Aboriginal Canada, it opens up a world of possibilities. “Our ancestors have been sharing stories with visitors to our traditional territories since time immemorial,” says Keith Henry, President & CEO of ATAC. “Storytelling is our way of life, engrained in our culture so deeply that it makes perfect sense to present the Aboriginal tourism businesses in Canada in this way. We are thrilled that we can now share our storytelling with visitors through this new guide, which is filled with rich tales and images of our communities and relatives.”

Photo: Nunavut Arctic College Media


Author Kenn Harper’s Thou Shalt Do No Murder: Inuit, Injustice, and the Canadian Arctic was published by Nunavut Arctic College Media in July. The book draws on Inuit oral history, archival research, and Harper’s own knowledge — acquired over 50 years in the Arctic — to re-create a compelling story of justice and injustice in the Canadian far north. Thou Shalt Do No Murder is built around the show murder trial of an Inuit leader in 1923, doubt over the validity of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic and the collision of two cultures with vastly different conceptions of justice and conflict resolution, all ultimately contributing to the end of the traditional Inuit way of life.

Harper’s book Minik: The New York Eskimo, meanwhile, has been re-released as of September 2017, and now includes a forward by actor Kevin Spacey. Both books will be celebrated at an Ottawa Writer’s Festival event, hosted by author Elizabeth Hay at the Wabano Centre, on September 25.

Photo: Jill Heinerth


RCGS Explorer-in-Residence Jill Heinerth chased icebergs this summer. More precisely, she followed the path of ice from Greenland to Baffin Island, down the Labrador Coast and into Newfoundland — part of her Arctic on the Edge/L’Arctique à la Limite project. Updates were posted on Canadian Geographic and on her blog at


Karnath is leading a project to build a school for 150 children in a rural village in Burma. (Photo: Lorie Karnath)

In May, Lorie Karnath served as co-chair of a symposium on “Tailored Biology” hosted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. In June she helped launch the inaugural issue of a new open-source science magazine, the Molecular Frontiers Journal, for which she serves as managing editor. This biannual publication, published by the prestigious Singapore-based World Scientific, is available digitally and in print. She was also appointed Explorer-at-Large for JASON Learning, a non-profit organization founded by famed underwater archeologist Robert Ballard that works to inspire children around the world through science and exploration. She has also been spearheading a project building a school in Burma which will officially open in October, and collaborated on a book by Jan-Philipp Sendker called The Secret of the old Monk, on the tales and legends of Burma, that will be released first in German at the Frankfurt Book Fair.


Photo: George Kourounis

It wasn’t his first time being lowered into an active volcano, incredibly, but for seven weeks of the summer, explorer and host of Angry Planet George Kourounis documented, climbed and descended into volcanoes in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu, home to the highest concentration of lava lakes in the world. At the outset, the team was carried by helicopter to the summit of Marum Volcano on Ambrym Island (left), where they were greeted by a glowing plume of noxious sulphur dioxide gas, and where they set up base camp. 

LOPOUKHINE, Nikita and Harvey Locke

With the federal government working toward protecting 17 per cent of terrestrial Canada by 2020, Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, and Shannon Phillips, Minister for Alberta Environment and Parks, set up an advisory panel to produce official recommendations on how to achieve this goal — part of the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative. RCGS Fellows Nikita Lopoukhine, who has decades of experience at Parks Canada and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and Harvey Locke, founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation initiative, were among those named to the panel, which involves Indigenous Peoples, land trusts and conservation organizations, government groups, industry reps, academia and youth.

MAHTANI, Minelle

Photo: Minelle Mahtani

Minelle Mahtani won an award for her daily current affairs radio program Sense of Place at the recent Asian Heritage Month gala at the Museum of Vancouver (right). The show explores how Vancouverites experience their multifaceted city and how its urban spaces continually influence its citizens. Mahtani is on leave from the University of Toronto, where she is an associate professor of human geography and journalism, to pursue this new opportunity in radio until September 2018.

MCBEAN, Gordon

Five present and past assistant deputy ministers of the Atmospheric Environment Service-Meteorological Service of Canada (left to right): former RCGS President Art Collin, James Bruce, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Gordon McBean and WMO president David Grimes. (Photo: Gordon McBean)

In May 2017, the World Meteorological Organization announced that “Professor Gordon McBean of Canada is Winner of the 62nd International Meteorological Organization Prize.”  The IMO Prize (named after the WMO’s predecessor organization) — considered the most important award in meteorology — is given annually to scientists that have made outstanding contributions to meteorology, hydrology and geophysical sciences. McBean, a climatologist, professor emeritus of geography at London’s Western University and president of the International Council for Science, will formally receive the award in 2018.


Photo: Larry McCann

Imagining Uplands: John Olmsted’s Masterpiece of Residential Design, by Larry McCann, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Victoria, was recently published by Brighton Press. It recounts the efforts of American landscape architect John Charles Olmsted to create an ideal and enduring subdivision on the suburban frontier of Victoria — the first large-scale Canadian subdivision to break away entirely from the rigid geometry of the rectangular grid in favour of the naturalistic, modern style. Besides also delving into Olmsted’s upbringing, training and his other pre-First World War projects in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, the book features more than 150 historical and contemporary maps and photographs. Imagining Uplands was awarded first prize in the Prose Non-Fiction category by the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, and was a recipient of a 2017 writing award from the Hallmark Heritage Society of Victoria.


Photo: HarperCollins Canada

The advance readers are unanimous. Ronald Wright describes Dead Reckoning as “a lively and gripping tale of heroism, folly and icy death.” Bob Rae writes “Finally! A page-turning book about Arctic exploration that puts the heroism and leadership of Indigenous people at the centre of the story.” Katherine Govier discovers “our national myth finally recast on our own shores … a brilliant reclaiming of history.” Peter C. Newman hails author Ken McGoogan as “the ultimate guide to our last frontier.” And Louie Kamookak says, “This is Ken’s best book yet. I am going to post a picture with all of his books that he can show around as he travels. I will even put on a seal-skin vest and tie.”

Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage will start rolling into bookstores in September, 2017. In October, McGoogan will begin a book tour with stops in Toronto, Stratford, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver, Oakville, Niagara and Burlington. More details will be at


Photo: Season Osborne

Lynn Moorman recently returned from Belgrade, Serbia, where she and former RCGS governor Beth Dye attended the 14th International Geography Olympiad (iGeo), a competition of the world’s top senior geography students (ages 16 to 19). Moorman is a member of the iGeo Task Force and participated in the fieldwork exam planning and assessment. The two RCGS Fellows gave a presentation on the venue and plans for the 2018 competition, to be held in Quebec City next August.

In Calgary on August 31, Moorman received Mount Royal University’s 2017 Distinguished Faculty Award, which considers contributions to teaching, research and service.

As a Visiting Scholar at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, from March to June 2017, Moorman carried out research into how students learn with geospatial technologies. She was awarded an Insight Development Grant through Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to conduct her research project “Insights into Learner Requirements for Digital Earth,” and worked with teachers and students in Brisbane schools. This work will continue in Calgary schools in 2017-2018. While in Brisbane, Moorman was able to interact with the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, and gave a presentation on Canada’s Northwest Passage.


A recent post from the @OceanWise Instagram account detailing Ocean Wise-associated beluga research in the St. Lawrence Estuary.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise launched recently as a new global ocean conservation organization focused on protecting and restoring our world’s oceans. Building on the roots of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, which started as a community-based not-for-profit organization, the program aims to inspire people in every corner of the planet to participate in creating healthy oceans.

The Ocean Wise brand is already familiar to many Canadians as the sustainable seafood program created by the Vancouver Aquarium as a direct-action program to tackle overfishing. Now, the name encompasses much more: it will influence a global community to see, know, understand and think about the oceans and aquatic life in a deeper, more meaningful, and more actionable way. This new level of education, engagement and research will be achieved through a network of accredited aquariums and cooperation with preeminent teaching and learning foundations and other partner organizations, through original research by the Coastal Ocean Research Institute and the curation of peer-reviewed research. “In many ways, we’ve been working toward this transformation for decades,” says Dr. John Nightingale, CEO and president of Ocean Wise. “It’s going to take a deep, transformational change — a sea change — in humanity’s consciousness to care about and protect our oceans, and we’re in a unique position to help effect that change. To do even more in the name of ocean conservation, we need to build upon our breadth of experience and grow the choir of ocean champions.”

O’NEILL, Mark and Jean-Marc Blais

Left to right: Mark O’Neill, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History; Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly; Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Dr. James Fleck, interim chair of the museum’s board of trustees; and Graham Flack, Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage. (Photo: Canadian Museum of History)

Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall officially opened the Canadian History Hall, the new signature exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History, on July 1.

Under the leadership of RCGS Fellows Mark O’Neill, president and CEO of the museum, and Jean-Marc Blais, vice-president of exhibitions and programs, the exhibition was developed over five years by a multidisciplinary team of museum professionals aided by content advisory committees and a wide array of external experts. Their work was also informed by a public-consultation process that engaged more than 24,000 Canadians nationwide. The Canadian History Hall is the largest, most comprehensive and most inclusive exhibition about Canadian history ever developed. It tells the story of Canada and its people from the dawn of human habitation to the present, exploring the events, personalities and historical currents that have shaped and continue to shape this country. The Hall features compelling human stories and the finest assemblage of Canadian historical artifacts ever placed on public display.

Conceived as a Canada 150 legacy gift, the Canadian History Hall was an instant success, drawing enthusiastic crowds and reviews since its opening on Canada Day.


Photo: PYXIS

In July the Open Geospatial Consortium, the international mapping standards body, set a new digital spatial reference standard known as a discrete global grid system, or DGGS. Like other digital data structures (e.g., pixels of digital images or individual samples of digital music), a DGGS partitions the globe using cells, rather than lines of latitude and longitude, and is designed for information fusion, not for navigation.

Canadians continue to be at the forefront of this “Digital Earth” approach, which will allow mapping information to reside in distributed stores to be combined on-demand by the users in response to their personal enquiries — no more reliance on pre-integrated maps and GIS services to answer spatial questions.

Alberta’s TecTerra Centre of Excellence and Canadian Geographic Education worked with Mount Royal University professor Lynn Moorman and PYXIS to study the use of DGGSs in Canadian classrooms. Environment and Climate Change Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the United States Geological Survey, meanwhile, are also studying DGGSs for their technical uses, such as determining the effect of climate change on the stability of land in the Arctic. One study showed that decision-makers were able to easily by-pass their normal reliance on GIS professionals and access and integrate spatial data used in their scientific analysis unassisted.


The GeoNiagara Radio show will be returning for its second season in September 2017 on CFBU 103.7 FM Brock University Student Radio.
The show, which received almost 3,000 downloads for season one, seeks to engage and inform students, educators and the broader community about the relevance and importance of the discipline of geography and of geo-literacy as an educational necessity in a world that is increasingly being informed and influenced by geospatial technologies and information. RCGS Fellows with relevant backgrounds who are interested in appearing as guests are invited to contact Darren Platakis at

REED, Maureen

Photo: Maureen Reed/Striking Balance

Millions of Canadians have tuned in to watch the eight-part documentary series Striking Balance (which aired between spring and fall 2017 on TV Ontario and British Columbia), a cross-country journey profiling Canada’s spectacular biosphere reserves. Maureen Reed, executive producer of the series and a professor in the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability, and other members of the Striking Balance team also produced the e-book Sustaining Home: Canadian Biosphere Reserves in Action. They are now working toward making the package available for public education.

REID, David

The Bear Witness team at Canada Point, where in 1906 Joseph-Elzéar Bernier claimed Bylot Island for Canada. (Photo: David Reid)

In May, Bylot Island, which lies off the northern coast of Baffin Island, Nunavut, became the largest island in the world ever circumnavigated by ski. Explorer and polar guide David Reid and the other three members of the international Bear Witness Arctic Expedition took on the challenge of circling Bylot as a means of documenting and interpreting a remote and important part of the world, and with the help of local Inuit oral histories highlighted the massive climatic and environmental change now accelerating there. Given these trends, the team asked, will such a journey even be possible in the not so distant future? A commemorative book will be released in 2018.

RIEDEL, Doreen

RCMP at Herschel Island in 1923 for the trial of Aliomiak and Tatamigana, accused of the murder of trader Otto Binder and constable Woolams. Ian MacDonald is on the right. (Photo: Glenbow Archives)

Those familiar with the history of traders in the western Arctic will likely have heard about the mysterious disappearance during the night in 1924 of a young RCMP constable, Ian MacDonald, from the Maid of Orleans, a ship belonging to Charlie Klengenberg. MacDonald had been assigned to customs duty during the transfer of permitted goods from the Maid to Klengenberg’s family at Rhymer Point on Victoria Island. His body was not found, but his jacket and notebook listing the supplies transferred was retrieved from the icy waters off Bexley Point. 

Henry Larsen — of later Northwest Passage fame and first recipient of the RCGS Massy Medal — was navigator of the Maid on that voyage. Larsen’s memoirs give an account of what happened that night. A thorough investigation of the incident had been carried out, and an unpublished manuscript by Inspector Kemp reveals that when he later took over command of the Herschel Island post, he reopened the inquiry into the case and Klengenberg was for a second time found innocent in the matter. 

Doreen Larsen Riedel and and Gordon Larsen, Henry Larsen’s daughter and son, attended an official memorial service on August 18 in Lunenburg, N.S., when a plaque in remembrance of MacDonald was installed on his father’s monument. This event is part of the RCMP Graves Recovery Project to locate the final resting place of all past members of the RCMP and appropriately mark their graves.

RIVET, France

France Rivet (centre) with Origin Studios exhibit designer Robert Evans (left) and master photographer Hans-Ludwig Blohm at the opening of the Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation exhibit. (Photo: France Rivet)

In spring 2017, France Rivet was nominated by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television for the Barbara Sears Award for Best Editorial Research for her work on the documentary film Trapped in a Human Zoo (also nominated for Best Science or Nature Program or TV Series). On March 8th, International Women’s Day, she was the keynote speaker at the Northern Footsteps event organized by the Ottawa, Nepean and Kanata chapters of the Canadian Federation of University Women and the Ottawa Council of Women. In June 2017, in Ottawa, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany presented its exhibit Canada and Germany: Partners from Immigration to Innovation. Rivet collaborated on the section “Moravians in Labrador: A Dialogue between German and Inuit Cultures,” in particular developing the segment about Abraham Ulrikab, one of eight Inuit who travelled to Germany in 1880 to be part of an ethnographic show, and who soon died of smallpox. Rivet will be a lecturer on the Crystal Serenity’s September 2017 Northwest Passage cruise.

ROWE, Peter

Photo: Peter Rowe

For much of summer 2017, documentarian and photographer Peter Rowe explored the North Channel of Lake Huron, Ont., by sail, in preparation for a future project. In November he will travel to Colombia’s extraordinary scarlet-coloured Caño Cristales River to photograph it for Red Planet, a long-term undertaking to make a record of the red places of the world, such as Hawaii’s Kīlauea Volcano (right).


Close to 30 per cent of Canada’s approximately 60,000 Inuit now live in Canadian cities. While Inuit started moving to Ottawa in the early 1970s, the migration of Nunavik Inuit to Montreal is a more recent phenomenon, explains Donat Savoie, strategic advisor to the Makivik Corporation, the legal representative of Quebec’s Inuit.

About 1,700 Inuit now live in Montreal, half of whom work for Inuit organizations, go to Montreal for medical reasons or attend post-secondary schools. Around 50 per cent of these urban Inuit, however, are in vulnerable situations or are homeless. Savoie, who in late 2016 won the Governor General’s Polar Medal in part for his work with Makivik, has seen the organization carry out and develop its ongoing action plan on Inuit homelessness in Montreal, establishing four partnerships so Inuit in need can get access to crucial medical services and social programs.

SIGURDSON, Johann and David Collette

Battle of Hudson Bay 1697, painted by Peter Rindlisbacher. (Artwork: Fara Heim Foundation)

As reported by the Winnipeg Free Press in June, Fellows Johann Sigurdson and David Collette are continuing their efforts to mount a search for the 320-year-old remains of HMS Hampshire in Hudson Bay off the coast of northern Manitoba. This British Royal Navy man-of-war (which sank with all hands aboard), the French warship Pelican and the HBC Royal Hudson’s Bay were all wrecked in early September 1697 as a result of the three-hour Battle of Hudson Bay. None of the vessels have ever been found. Sigurdson and Collette are currently attempting to secure search permits and partners, having developed a three-phase plan to locate and study Hampshire. Visit the pair’s Fara Heim Foundation website for more information.


Photo: Springer Publishing

As publisher Springer Verlag asserts, Landscapes and Landforms of Western Canada is, surprisingly, the only book to focus on Western Canada’s geomorphological landscapes. Edited by Olav Slaymaker, professor emeritus of geography at the University of British Columbia, this exploration of the research of 34 of Canada’s leading landscape scientists encompasses a five-million-square-kilometre swath of the country, from the rainforests of the West Coast and the mighty Mackenzie River system to the rugged Canadian Cordillera, volcanic landforms and the wide-open Prairies. The final chapter, meanwhile, addresses society’s relationship with Western Canada’s landscapes — even in terms of how they have inspired art, religion, politics and culture.

STEIN, Glenn M.

“Iceberg Graveyard, Pléneau Island, Lemaire Channel, Antarctica” is one of Stein’s drawings chosen for the Library of Congress collections. (Copyright Glenn M. Stein)

The Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C., has chosen several of polar explorer and author Glenn M. Stein’s Antarctic drawings from the 2016-17 season for its collections, saying that they are “especially striking visually and will undoubtedly provide valuable visual documentation of environmental changes in the Antarctic.”

Stein presented his book, Discovering the North-West Passage: The Four-Year Arctic Odyssey of H.M.S. Investigator and the McClure Expedition, at the University of Central Florida and at Orlando Public Library, Orlando, Florida, in September, and will do so once again at The Beacon Salon Speaker Series in Leesburg, Florida, on Jan. 24, 2018.

On October 19, Stein will be attending the Women of Impact Awards Gala in Baltimore, Maryland, to accept a posthumous award for Edith “Jackie” Ronne (1919-2009) on behalf of the Ronne family. Jackie Ronne was the first woman to overwinter as a working member of an Antarctic expedition, serving with the 1947-48 Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition on Stonington Island, Marguerite Bay. The Ronne Ice Shelf, lying at the head of the Weddell Sea, was named for her.

Photo: Royal Canadian Mint

VALBERG, Michelle

Photographer-in-Residence Michelle Valberg’s image of Mathew Nuqingaq drum dancing on Nunavut’s Devon Island is set to appear in the Royal Canadian Mint’s Celebrating Canada’s 150th 13-coin series. Each installation represents a different province and territory, and have been released monthly starting in April 2017, with Valberg’s closing out the series in April 2018.


Photo: Canoe North Adventures

For its first trip of the 2017 season, Lin Ward’s Canoe North Adventures landed a group (left) in the Mackenzie Mountains for an exploratory trip of the Silverberry River, N.W.T. On this epic journey through one of most remote parts of the territory, the canoeists spent four days accessing Thundercloud Creek from Coates Lake en route to the Silverberry. It is most probable, says guide Beth Grant, that canoes have never before made this descent. Torrential rains left the team looking for higher ground as what looked like a 100-year flood washed huge trees and underbrush downstream. After two days, they were able to put in, making their run down to the Silverberry through big water and multiple canyons. Two days after a quick rescue on the Redstone River, where one of the canoes capsized in a canyon of the same name, the group made it to their fifth and final waterway, the Mackenzie River.


Photo: Bob Wilson

Past RCGS director Bob Wilson has been appointed chair of T-Ball on the Hill by Little League Canada, an annual event on Parliament Hill held on the second Sunday of June.
This demonstration of T-ball with youth five to six years of age is the kickoff to National Little League Week in Canada. With Ottawa West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld as partner and sponsor and the support of the Prime Minister, this event, now planning its third year, draws attention and support to Little League Baseball in Canada. Little League is the largest youth amateur sport organization in the world, with more than 100 countries participating and providing opportunities for youth.

Bob was also elected chair of the Ottawa Sports Awards, now the largest amateur sports recognition program in Canada. In conjunction with the City of Ottawa, the 66-year-old program annually recognizes the top amateur athletes in 65 different sports and teams that have won a provincial or higher title, presents lifetime achievement awards, scholarships for university or college athletes and a local endowment to a smaller sport group or team in need of financial support.

NOTE: Contributions from the Fellows are published in the language in which they are submitted.

NB. Items for “Fellows in the News” are welcomed and should be sent to Nick Walker at

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