18th September 2022
It's raining when we first set eyes on the Polar Prince in Saint John. My kids have come to drop me off and are in awe at the size of the boat – and, for my speed freak son, all the small zodiac boats on its deck. This indigenous-owned 67 m long icebreaker is more used to operating in the icy waters of the Arctic. But for this trip will be sailing through the Bay of Fundy and along the shoreline of Nova Scotia. It will be our home for the next 11 days while I (Dr. Claire Goodwin, HMSC Research Scientist in Biodiversity and Taxonomy) and Christina Carr (HMSC Taxonomic specialist) take part in the Students on Ice Foundation's first-ever Ocean Conservation Expedition. However, first, we must get all our sampling gear on board.
On this trip, we aim to collect as many different species of marine invertebrates as possible. We are creating a genetic barcode library of Atlantic Canadian marine invertebrate life (more about barcoding in future blogs). We'll be grab sampling, collecting on the shore, and SCUBA diving to get specimens. So, we've brought sediment grabs, a lot of SCUBA gear, a compressor for filling SCUBA tanks, two huge oxygen tanks, microscopes for examining samples, cameras for photographing animals, and many jars and preservatives for the hundreds of specimens we aim to collect. Luckily the boat has a crane, and we can lower most of the kit onto the fore deck and into the container where we will store it.
Claire and Christy supervise the deck crane lowering their gear onto the Polar Prince.
After lunch, when all our gear is safely stowed, we gather in the large hangar at the back of the deck to meet other participants and learn about the expedition from Students on Ice founder Geoff Green. The expedition will visit many distinct and critical marine environments along its route. It aims to build awareness and connection to regional ocean environments through engagement and education, enable enhanced monitoring and stewardship, and enhance local capacity for meaningful participation in conservation. As we introduce ourselves around the circle, I am surprised by the breadth of experience on board. As well as scientists, there are artists, filmmakers, and indigenous and non-indigenous youth.
As an icebreaker, Geoff asks us to say what the ocean means to us. Answers range from relaxation to wonder. For me, it is discovery – we haven't explored much of our oceans, even in long inhabited areas like Canada. What will we find on this trip?
Then it is lines off, and the pilot boat guides us out of Saint John. The sun is shining and sparkles on the flat waters of the harbour. We'll sail overnight, arriving tomorrow morning in Minas Basin at the northeastern tip of the Bay of Fundy.
The Polar Prince steams towards Minas Basin through the calm Bay of Fundy.