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Clyde River teen joins expedition

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Published Monday, September 19, 2011

When Clara Natanine heard about the work explorer Mike Horn and eight young people from around the world were doing on a sailing expedition across Baffin Island, she thought, can I come?

"I just went on the boat when they were in Clyde River because I was interested in what they were doing," the 17-year-old Clyde River resident said, "and they wanted me to be a part of the group. I asked my dad if I could go and he said yes."

The visit was the team's second to Clyde River after setting sail from the hamlet Aug. 15 for two weeks of exploration in the mountains and fiords to the north. Natanine boarded Pangaea Aug. 28 as the team was finishing its trip and spent a week aboard the boat as it headed to Iqaluit.

"It was incredible," she said. "I didn't expect it to be that way. I thought it was going to be really boring, but I got used to it. It was fun and you learn lots of different stuff from other people."

Natanine joined the team as it visited Qikiqtarjuaq, where they spoke to students and taught first aid. After leaving Qikiqtarjuaq, the ship stopped in several places en route to Iqaluit for hiking and exploration. The trip opened her eyes to the beauty all around her in her home territory.

"I didn't know Nunavut was such a beautiful place. We saw polar bears, a mother polar bear with two cubs. We were on the little boat and the polar bears were on the land. We were maybe four or five feet from the land, and the bears were on the shore. We saw a seal playing on the top of an iceberg, which was awesome. I didn't know seals could do that."

It also made her realize the impact of humans on the environment.

"Garbage is a problem everywhere, but it was weird to see garbage in the middle of nowhere," she said. "We picked up lots, and lots of it had polar bear marks on it. Who knows, that bear could be dead now because of it."

"My one wish is for them to be proud of their land," said Henko Roukema, 19, of Durbanville, South Africa, a member of the expedition, "and try to conserve it because it is so unique and beautiful."

For Roukema, the trip was his first time touching snow, but there were several other firsts for the team, including climbing a mountain and a volcano that have never been climbed, and most significantly for him, he became the first person to swim a mile in the Arctic Ocean at Moonshine Bay. He did it while wearing swimming briefs, a bathing cap and goggles.

"I've been swimming and surfing my whole life," he said. "I did an ice swim in Africa before in 4.8 C water wearing just my cap and briefs. I did the swim in the Arctic to try to get people to realize what's happening in the world as the region is changing 10 times faster than anywhere else in the world.

"I really enjoyed it. The feeling of accomplishment when you finish it, I can't describe. You feel overwhelmed with joy."

It's a sentiment Natanine may share about the journey, but perhaps not all of it.

"I thought I wasn't going to make it (to Iqaluit)," she said, noting it was her first time sailing in the ocean. "Once there was lots of waves and I thought I was going to die. I got used to it. It was kind of scary and exciting at the same time."

The Mike Horn expeditions are fully sponsored, meaning participants do not have to pay to go. To be considered, applicants must be aged 15 to 20, and must submit a video application. Sixteen young people are selected to go to a selection camp in Switzerland (again, expenses paid), where eight are chosen for the trip. The next available trip will be to the Amazon basin in April 2012, and the last of the 12 Pangaea expeditions will be to East Africa in July 2012.

"When I go back home, I'm going to tell my friends to apply," Natanine said. "Everyone is so friendly, they help you with everything, make sure you're okay and not hungry. It's a really great feeling."

To apply, visit . The deadline is Nov. 30, 2011.

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