Beauty of Arctic inspires address

University students were able to experience a trip through the Arctic’s Northwest Passage on Tuesday night.

Author and environmentalist Jon Waterman gave a presentation based on his book “Arctic Crossing.”

The book details Waterman’s solo journey along the 2,200 mile stretch known as the Northwest Passage.

“The reason I was drawn to the Arctic was its intense physical beauty,” Waterman said.

Waterman’s journey was accomplished through several different stages.

He traveled during much of the summer months when ice had drifted away from the shore and the sun stayed above the horizon 24 hours a day.

Most of his journey was completed by paddling a canoe from the islands that line the Arctic.

During his journey he encountered many Inuit people. Waterman presented photographs of prebuilt homes, soda and sewage trucks as a part of Inuit villages.

According to Waterman, many effects of these changes has brought negative aspects to Inuit lives.

“Many of the processes of assimilation wreak havoc upon their health,” Waterman said.

Waterman also described some near misses with wildlife in the area.

Grizzly and polar bears would follow his path.

At one point in his travels Waterman fell off his canoe and into the frigid ocean waters.

He was saved from hypothermia by being near a group of naturally smoking coals. He was able to stand above them to warm himself.

With his presentation Waterman showed hundreds of photographs and video taken during the excursion.

He presented the beauty of the area to stress the importance of keeping the Arctic Wildlife Refuge safe from oil drilling.

“I thought it was better to speak to the audience passion rather than what they don’t like,” Waterman said. “I wanted to impress upon people that if you have passions that you follow them.”

At the end of the presentation Waterman gave information that students could use to contact with Congressional representative about the issue of oil drilling on the refuge.

Waterman also spoke to a few environmental study classes. During his presentations with classes he argued for the preservation of the refuge.

During these presentations Waterman showed photographs detailing the effects of oil spills and modernization upon the habitat.

“I think it’s important for me to come to places where people will respond,” Waterman said. “So many people that want to develop ecology haven’t been out there to see it for themselves.”

Waterman was brought to the University by the Center for Environmental Programs.

The program sees Waterman as a living example of what it stresses.

“We try to get students out into the environment,” Holly Myers-Jones, director of environmental studies, said. “We try to have students understand how important actually being there is.”