SUSANREATON.COM
SUSANREATON.COM

INTO THE SNORKEL ZONE: HOW ONE CANADIAN SCIENTIST INVESTIGATES THE NOT-SO-DEEP OF THE PLANET’S SEAS AND OCEANS

BY SUSAN R. EATON FOR OUTPOST MAGAZINE, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2013

Snorkelers’ paradise in the Western Antarctic Peninsula
Photo courtesy of Roger Munns and Waterproof Expeditions

I heard the deep thumping sound of the rotor blades long before the two combat-green CH-146 Griffon helicopters crested the hill and landed beside our group huddled around a makeshift Inuit hunting shed on the northern tip of Baffin Island.

Major Martin Pesant, a pilot with the 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron from St. Hubert, Quebec, strode up to me, immaculate in his flight suit, helmet and aviator glasses, and shook my hand. “You must be very happy to see us, Madame,” he said. “I’m very happy indeed, Monsieur.”

For the past 36 sleepless hours, our group of eight ecotourists and 12 guides, including four Inuit, had been living life on the edge — the ice-floe edge, to be exact.

There’s no doubt that our intrepid group of extreme snorkelers — from Australia, Canada, England, France, Japan, Jordan and the United States — had anticipated a grand adventure in Nunavut. We’d travelled to the land of the midnight sun, to snorkel and kayak among belugas and narwhals as they congregate along the ice-floe edge prior to their annual migration through the Northwest Passage.

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A Geoscientist in Antarctica: Following in Shackleton’s Footsteps One Hundred Years Later

CSPG TECHNICAL LUNCHEON AND HOLIDAY SOCIAL
TELUS CONVENTION CENTRE, MACLEOD HALL ABC, SOUTH BUILDING
120-9TH AVE SE
CALGARY ALBERTA

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2013
10:30AM-11:30AM HOLIDAY SOCIAL
11:30AM-1:00PM TECHNICAL LUNCHEON

ADMISSION; CSPG MEMBER TICKET PRICE: $45.00 PLUS GST
ADMISSION: NON-MEMBER TICKET PRICE: $47.50 PLUS GST
TICKET CUT-OFF DATE: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2013

International Antarctic Expedition 2012: 72 team members and eight team leaders from 22 nations aboard the M/V Sea Spirit cozy up to a tabular iceberg in the Antarctic Sound in March 2012. The iceberg was born when the Larson B Ice Shelf collapsed and broke up in 2002. Image courtesy of 2041 (IAE 2012).

Geology field schools can be tough — and sometimes they can be hazardous. During a recent geology field school in Antarctica, I became adept at running the gauntlet of lunging fur seals and lumbering elephant seals, their oversized proboscises flared outwards, exposing shiny pink gums and sizeable teeth…

The old adage, “their bark is worse than their bite,” doesn’t ring true in Antarctica. Our seasoned guides cautioned us that a bite from a fur seal or an elephant seal would require the immediate administration of intravenous antibiotics…

Bitten by the polar bug, I returned to the Bottom of the World, participating in my third science-based expedition in three years. From December 29, 2012, to January 19, 2013, I joined an expedition sponsored by the Geological Society of America (“GSA”) and entitled “Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands: Scotia Arc Tectonics, Climate and Life.” Led by earth scientists from Pennsylvania State, the Jackson School of Geosciences (University of Texas at Austin), Stanford University and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, the expedition investigated the interplay of solid earth systems, plate tectonics, glaciology, oceanography, climate and life.

I traveled to the Southern Ocean with an intrepid group of 100 explorers from 15 nations — fifty percent of the group was female — aboard the MV Akademik Ioffee, a 117-meter-long, Russian ice-strengthened vessel. The GSA-sponsored group of explorers included 70 earth scientists (ranging in age from early twenties to late seventies) representing more than twenty specializations. In fact, there were enough Ph.D. geologists on the expedition to staff four or five university earth science departments!

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My Neanderthal and Denisovan Roots: The Day I Discovered My DNA Contains Traces of Two Extinct Hominid Cousins

BY SUSAN R. EATON FOR THE CANADIAN SCIENCE WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION, NOVEMBER 8, 2013

Susan R. Eaton’s infographic courtesy of National Geographic’s Genographic Project

Earlier this year, when I energetically swabbed the inside of my cheek for National Geographic’s Genographic Project, I had no idea that my DNA contained genes from two extinct hominids.

A budding citizen scientist, I donated my DNA to the greater cause, intent on contributing to the body of knowledge about my ancient human ancestors.

At the outset, I knew more than most people did about their family lineages. My father’s English Protestant roots extended back 15 generations, to 1670 in London and Massachusetts. And my mother’s roots, the Irish Roman Catholic side of the family, had been traced to 1780, the year her relatives arrived in Prince Edward Island.

My Anglo-Irish lineage had seemed unassailable – or that’s what I believed – before I received the genographic roadmap of my DNA.

Like many of my fellow citizen scientists – more than 618,000 people from more than 140 countries donated their DNA – the results of National Geographic’s Genographic Project left me speechless.

I was humbled to discover that my mitochondrial DNA contained markers – unique sets of genetic mutations passed down, from mother to child, and used to identify and track discrete populations – indicated that my out-of-Africa DNA profile was comprised of 44 percent Northern European, 36 percent Mediterranean and 18 percent Southwest Asian.

I was also surprised to learn that my ancestors had left Africa, some 60,000 years ago, travelling through Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkmenistan, Russia, the Caucasus Mountains, Italy and Spain. Even more astonishing was the discovery that my DNA double helix contained a 5.5-percent contribution from two extinct hominids.

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SCIENCE AND SLOGGING MEET IN ANTARCTICA: GEOLOGISTS HIKE THE ‘SHACKLETON SLOG’ FROM FORTUNA BAY TO STROMNESS HARBOUR

By Susan R. Eaton, Explorer Correspondent, October 2013

Ruins of the Norwegian whaling station at Stromness Harbour, South Georgia, 54° 9.4′ S and 36° 42.6′ W
Photo courtesy of Jens Bludau

On Jan. 4, 2013, the Geological Society of America (GSA)-sponsored expedition retraced the final leg of Shackleton’s epic trek across the island of South Georgia. In the process, our group of intrepid explorers (which included one very determined woman in her 80s) shared, in a very small measure, some of the sights, sounds and emotions that Shackleton and his men experienced a century ago.

Symbolic in nature, the 5.5-kilometer-long hike – known as the “Shackleton Slog” – from Fortuna Bay to Stromness Harbour represented a pivotal chapter in Shackleton’s story of survival against all odds.

On May 19, 1916, Shackleton and two of his men set out under a full moon – without tents or sleeping bags – on a non-stop crossing of the largely unmapped island. Equipped with ice crampons fashioned from screws wrenched from their lifeboat, they arrived in Stromness, a Norwegian whaling settlement on the northeast coast of South Georgia, some 36 hours later.

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AAPG MEMBER RETURNS TO ANTARCTICA: PLATE TECTONICS, GEOLOGY, CLIMATE… AND LIFE

By Susan R. Eaton, Explorer Correspondent, September 2013

Dr. Rudolph Trouw of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro is greeted by an elephant seal at Gold Harbour, South Georgia. Photo courtesy of Seva Egorov

Geology field schools can be tough – and sometimes they can be hazardous. During a recent geology field school in Antarctica, I became adept at running the gauntlet of lunging fur seals and lumbering elephant seals, their oversized proboscises flared outwards, exposing shiny pink mouths and sizeable teeth.

The old adage, “their bark is worse than their bite,” doesn’t ring true in Antarctica. Our seasoned guides cautioned us that a bite from a fur seal or an elephant seal would require the immediate administration of intravenous antibiotics.

Admittedly bitten by the polar bug, earlier this year I returned to the Bottom of the World, participating in my third science-based expedition in three years, a geological field expedition titled “Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands Scotia Arc Tectonics, Climate and Life.”

The world’s last remaining wilderness, Antarctica represents an outstanding outdoor laboratory to research planetary processes, including the interplay between solid earth dynamics, climate change and ocean change. During the past 50 years, the Western Antarctic Peninsula has warmed three degrees Celsius, triggering a cascading series of geological and biological changes in this fragile ecosystem that have global implications.

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Antarctic lectures at Collegiate Peaks Forum Series

COLLEGIATE PEAKS FORUM SERIES
NATIONAL MINING HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM
LEADVILLE, COLORADO

Susan R. Eaton presents:

Thursday, October 10, 2013 “A Geoscientist in Antarctica: Following in Shackleton’s Footsteps 100 Years Later”

Friday, October 11, 2013 “Antarctica: The Nexus of the World’s Great Climate Engine”

Join Susan R. Eaton on a geologic journey to the Bottom of the World, as she explores Antarctica — from both above and below the water — and continues the century-long geologic tradition of exploration and discovery in Antarctica, the world’s final frontier.

Susan has participated in three science-based expeditions to Antarctica since 2010: she’s come face-to-mask with a 1,400-pound leopard seal while snorkeling in brash ice in the Southern Ocean, and has completed the Leadership on the Edge Program, an Antarctic Outward Bound-like school led by polar Explorer Robert Swan, OBE.

Antarctica, the world’s greatest outdoor laboratory, is the nexus of the world’s great climate engine. Susan will discuss the interplay between plate tectonics, solid earth systems, glaciology, climate change and ocean change.

Susan uses her experiences in Antarctica to inspire people (including youth), empowering them to formulate scientifically driven global solutions for today’s social, economic, energy and sustainability challenges.

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At a Glance

Susan R. Eaton is a geologist, geophysicist, journalist and ‘extreme’ snorkeler with an intense curiosity about planetary processes, the marine environment, climate change and global sustainability issues.

A member of the New York Explorers Club, Susan’s exploration interests have evolved from her scientific, environmental and journalistic backgrounds which flow together seamlessly on a continuum. She’s incorporated the sciences of geology and geophysics into field work being conducted on climate change around the world, with a particular interest and focus on polar regions. An extreme snorkeler, her area of interest — and expertise — is exploring the planet from the water-air-land interface which provides a unique window to investigate the flora and fauna of the planet’s largely unexplored oceans and adjacent land masses.

In late December 2012, Susan embarked upon her third Antarctic expedition during the past three years. Led by Dr. Ian Dalziel of the Jackson School of Geosciences (University of Texas at Austin), the expedition will explore the interplay between solid earth dynamics, plate tectonics, glaciology, climate and life. Struck to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Geological Society of America — and comprised of 70 earth scientists from more than 15 nations — the expedition marks a momentous voyage of exploration and geological discovery to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and the Western Antarctic Peninsula.

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Arctic rescuers present Susan R. Eaton with the 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron’s Wildcats Crest

By Susan R. Eaton

August 30, 2013

Susan R. Eaton emerges from a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-146 Griffon tactical helicopter at Arctic Bay.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Henshall.

I was in Montreal, Québec, on Sunday and Monday, August 25 and 26, for the filming of a TV series called “Extreme Rescuers” which will air in French Canada and France.

During the episode of Extreme Rescuers, directed and filmed by the GROUPE PVP of Matane, Québec, I was reunited with the 438 Tactical Helicopter Squadron crew who rescued my group of “extreme snorkelers” from Admiralty Bay, Nunavut. Major Pesant, deputy commanding officer of Squadron 438 at Canadian Forces Base St. Hubert and one of the four helicopter pilots who rescued us, presented me with the Squadron’s Wildcats crest which, he said, had been designed by none other than Walt Disney.

I was truly honoured to receive the Wildcats crest…

In June, I traveled to the High Canadian Arctic to camp near the ice floe edge in Admiralty Inlet (73° 31′ N and 84° 38′ W) and to snorkel with belugas, bow heads and narwhals — instead, I wound up having a very different type of adventure…

When the ice floe edge disintegrated suddenly and unpredictably, my intrepid group of adventure travelers was carried away on a floating ice island which measured nine square kilometres.

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LANCASTER SOUND’S ICE WHALES FACE MOUNTING PERILS

BY SUSAN R. EATON FOR THE CANADIAN SCIENCE WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION, JUNE 11, 2013

The loss of arctic sea ice hit a record low in mid-September 2012, shrinking to 3.41 million square kilometres.
Image courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Located on the northern tip of Baffin Island, Lancaster Sound is the gateway to Canada’s Arctic Archipelago; it’s also home to one of the world’s richest marine mammal populations. Every summer, tens of thousands of ice whales (bowheads, belugas and narwhals) congregate along the ice floe edge in Lancaster Sound. The absence of dorsal fins, in all three species, enables the ice whales to easily navigate under sea ice.

As the multi-year sea ice thins and disappears in the Canadian High Arctic due to climate change, the marine ecosystems that these ice-adapted whales depend upon are also rapidly evolving. According to NOAA, the United State’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the loss of arctic sea ice hit a record low in mid-September 2012 – at the end of the summer melt season – shrinking to 3.41 million square kilometres or an 18 percent decline from the previous record sea ice low in 2007, and a whopping 50 percent decline from the median mid-September sea ice extent, measured during the period of 1979-2000.

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Video segments released in advance of the Elysium Shackleton Antarctic Visual Epic

THE MOVIE: THE PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION: THE BOOK
VIDEO SEGMENT ENTITLED “WE DID IT!”
MAY 6, 2013

The complete movie will be released on December 25, 2013. The movie will be free, and it’s the Elysium Epic’s Christmas gift to the world. Thank you expedition members and sponsors… Enjoy this video segment called
“We did it!” Video courtesy of Michael AW.

MARCH 2010: Before we disembarked the MV Professor Molchanov — our home base for 20 days — Captain Nikolay Parfenyuk told us that we had earned the title “Sea Wolves.” Jokingly, Captain Parfenyuk said he was pleased that “we had all survived” the seas. During our return voyage to South America, we endured three to four days of horrific weather which sent about 30 percent of the Explorers to their cabins with sea sickness. Passengers were confined below decks for several days, as crashing waves made it too dangerous to venture outside.

At its height, we were caught in a Force 11 Storm with 15-metre-high waves and 65-knot winds. To put this into perspective, on the Beaufort Scale created in 1806 by British hydrographer Sir Francis Beaufort, a Force 12 Storm is a hurricane…

Perhaps due to my Maritime roots – but more likely due to the fact that I didn’t enjoy being catapulted from side to side, in my upper bunk — I joined the small gang who waited out the ‘hurricane’ in the ship’s bar, a favourite gathering place. The ‘bar’ gang shared many laughs and a few bottles of Argentine Malbec, as computers, wine glasses, and literally every item that was not secured — including people — were hurled from side to side of the bar. On the last night of the voyage, with music blaring, we even managed to ‘dance up a storm,’ so to speak…

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