North River to the Northern Lights

Local student heading to Arctic for student expedition

Ryan Cooke
Published on June 19, 2014
Alison MacArthur, of North River, will be travelling to the Arctic Circle next month to take part in a 15-day student expedition. MacArthur will sail to Greenland before heading northward into the Arctic Circle. A first-year student at the Marine Institute in Newfoundland, she’ll be a team leader during the trip.
Ryan Cooke/Truro Daily News

TRURO – While most university students are soaking in the sun and staying clear of anything educational, one local student is heading in the complete opposite direction.

Alison MacArthur’s excitement levels have shot due north as she prepares to sail to the Arctic Circle next month.

MacArthur first learned of the trip, Students on Ice: Arctic Expedition, while studying at the Marine Institute in St. John’s, N.L., last fall. She applied as soon as she could.

“As soon as I heard about the trip, it was like, ‘Goodbye social life!’” she said. “I knew I had to get this.”

She buried her head in the books and blocked out any distractions for the rest of the school year. Top marks were a requirement, as were perfect attendance – not a problem for the North River native.

There was one problem, however. No first year students from Marine Institute had ever been accepted for the trip before.

“They basically told me to not even bother applying,” she said. “They don’t take first years, so there’s no point.”

But there was nothing anyone could say to stop her. This was her dream.

“I went to Marine Land when I was like, four, and since then I’ve wanted to do this,” she laughed. “To see the animals – the polar bears, the whales –, in person. It would be a dream come true.”

The hard work led her to the interview stage, where a boardroom full of people stood between her and the trip.

“It was the scariest experience of my life,” she recalls. “There were so many people in there, asking me about what I can bring to the expedition.”

Whatever she answered, it must have been good. A few days later, she got the call. She was going to the Arctic.

MacArthur will leave for Ottawa on July 9, before flying to Northern Quebec to board their ship, the Adventurer. The 295-foot vessel will then head for Northern Labrador, before crossing to Greenland and heading up to the Arctic Circle.

On the rugged waters of the North Atlantic, seasickness can quickly become an issue. The orientation package handed out to participants dedicates a section to it, even suggesting the best way to cope may be to “grin and bear it.”

“People tell me I should be afraid of seasickness, but I’ve never done anything like this,” MacArthur said. “We’ll see when the time comes.”

The expedition will go until the 24th, at which point MacArthur will return to give presentations at her school. A team leader on the trip, she’ll see her name alongside master’s and PhD researchers. It’s sure to be an incredible trek with lots to learn, she said.

“I hope to take away everything, you know? It’s a huge trip and everything I can take out of it is helpful.”