Students on Ice Arctic Expedition participants were taught about global warming on the Illulisat Icefjord in Greenland.

Polar expression

Surrey student Abhayjeet Singh Sachal, 14, learns about Canada’s Arctic region in person.

A Surrey teen’s what-I-did-for-summer-vacation story is something he’ll carry forward for years.

Never mind the polar bears Abhayjeet Singh Sachal saw on his first day off the plane; the 14-year-old witnessed first-hand, in otherwise deathly quiet, blocks of ice crack off a glacier and splash into the ocean in the Illulisat Icefjord in Greenland.

The jarring lesson about global warming took place during the Seaquam Secondary Grade 10 student’s participation in the Students On Ice Foundation’s 16-day 2016 Arctic Expedition, which explored areas of northern Quebec, Baffin Island and Greenland.

After applying in April, Sachal won a $12,000 scholarship for the trip from the U.S. embassy – a result of his academic record, school environmental activities and a piano-infused TEDx talk about creativity that he gave at Science World in 2013, when he was 12 years old.

The July 21 to Aug. 5 expedition began with orientation sessions in Ottawa (with a surprise visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau), followed by a ship launch into Frobisher Bay from Iqaluit, Nunavut.

There were 120 students aged 14-24 aboard the cruise ship MS Ocean Endeavour, supported by 80 crew, educators, artists and Inuit elders.

At 14, Sachal was the youngest on board.

“Originally, we planned to go up to Baffin Island, but there was too much sea ice in the area, so we went to the coast of Labrador,” Sachal says.

That’s where he saw nine “huge, majestic” polar bears on the first day, and later visited “ancient” Inuit villages that weren’t on the expedition itinerary.

“A big part of the expedition was just talking to all of these people around the world,” he says. “There were scientists, historians, climatologists… over breakfast lunch and dinner, because there was no Internet, we would just talk to each other.”

Sachal described a powerful moment when the expedition visited the abandoned Moravian mission of Hebron, the northernmost settlement in Labrador, where Inuit people were forcibly evangelized in the early 19th century before the settlement was finally abandoned in 1959.

(A testament to the cruelty of the times, the Inuit family of Abraham Ulrikab from Hebron was displayed in a zoo in Hamburg, Germany in 1880-81.)

“There were a lot of Inuit students (in the expedition) that had a personal connection to that place,” says Sachal. “It was very personal to many of them.”

While the expedition students took in the views, kayaked around icebergs, and made a brief polar dip, they took in lessons about global warming and the effects of its first victims, the northern peoples and ocean wildlife.

Sachal, an avid piano and hockey player,  has already given talks at Seaquam about what he learned during the trip, and hopes to give more at other schools before pursuing a career in science.

“Wherever my path takes me, I have a few years to decide.”

Sachal turned 15 on Oct. 18, and says he thinks about the trip every day.

“It won’t go away because it was something that powerful.”

More photos below.

Just Posted

Man shot dead in Clayton area of Surrey, witnesses sought by police

It happened in the 18200-block of 67A Avenue

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

North Delta crime beat: week of June 12

A selection of property crimes submitted weekly by the Delta Police Department

It’s all about the journey for Delta’s pageant hopefuls

Minette Gendur and Jaskiran Kaur will be competing for Mrs. B.C. and Miss B.C., respectively

PHOTOS: Elgin Park Secondary hosts car show in South Surrey

Students co-ordinated event to raise money for school’s tech department

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Canadian Syrian children’s choir not to attend festival over fears about U.S. travel

Many kids are recent immigrants from countries covered by Trump travel ban

VIDEO: Plane crashes in Langley farm field (updated)

Plane lost power shortly after takeoff, RCMP told

B.C. teacher ends Jeopardy! winning streak, taking home US$69,000

Ali Hasan, from New Westminster, has been gaining fans as a “one-man invasion,” says Alex Trebek

1 man in critical condition after ‘serious’ stabbing in Downtown Eastside: police

Vancouver police say there was an altercation and stabbing appears targeted

Jett Woo highlights 5 Canucks choices on Day 2 of NHL entry draft

WHL star out of Moose Jaw tabbed in Round 2

In a matter of hours, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive

Change was announced as a royal decree in 2017 by Crown Prince Mohammen bin Salman

Feds announce measures to protect endangered whale species

Canada’s Whale Initiative is part of the federal government’s $1.5 billion Ocean Protection Plan

Most Read