Expeditions to the Arctic are full of new experiences. Part of the Students on Ice expedition exposed students to the Arctic by using all their natural senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
At the top of my list on this expedition is sight. The most compelling memory I have of the trip so far is the large visual expanse of the Arctic. No matter where you are, you can easily see the landscape for many kilometers. The Arctic seems endless. I have a camera, but often I will stare into the Arctic distance and record the expansive view in memory.
Then comes the sound of the winds blowing across the tundra. As we stood and listened to the wind at a worksite today, I got the feeling that we were exposed and in some small way a part of the Arctic tundra. It was a relaxing and calming experience.
Taste is number three on my list and was mostly because of meal time. After a cold day in the field, a warm drink or some hot food back at the ship is a feeling of ecstasy. You never appreciate every morsel of food as much as you do while working in the Arctic.
When I was hunting for microbes I relied on touch. From touching the underwater rocks or mud or plants, I can develop an idea about what microscopic life is living there. Sometimes the touch told me that almost nothing is growing or living on that rock, while the surfaces of other rocks are gleaming with life.
Smell, or lack of smell, is something that I noticed on this trip. Compared to the smells back home—from cars and buildings to trees and flowers—the balanced odor here is refreshing.
I really do think it is important to appreciate all senses while on any expedition to fully feel the true Arctic experience.