North Pole voyage yields evidence of climate change
Luther College hosted guest lecturer Thorleif Thorleifsson on Wednesday, Oct. 10. The Norwegian explorer spoke about his journey circumnavigating the North Pole in a lecture entitled “A Voyage Around the North Pole: Modern Exploration and Climate Change.”
Complete with video footage of the journey, Thorleifsson shared the ups and downs of his three month arctic exploration and also called attention to the climate change occurring as a result of global warming.
Casey De Lima / Chips
“It’s too late to be a pessimist,” Thorleifsson said of global warming attitudes.
Thorleifsson encountered many challenges on the trip, including legal issues with international borders, the short summer season and copious ice.
“We followed recommendations of mythologists to take long detours,” Thorleifsson said of how they navigated their journey.
Thorleifsson traveled with a four-person crew from different parts of the world including France, Norway, Russia and the Middle East.
“We concluded that we succeed because we managed to work it out,” Thorleifsson said. “We were well-prepared for anything that could go wrong.”
Thorleifsson used a small, environmentally friendly triple-hulled fiberglass catamaran on the journey. The crew brought minimal personal items in order to prevent unnecessary added weight.
“We practiced radical simplicity with food and technology,” Thorleifsson said, adding that the boat included one laptop to check the weather, which was vital.
His inspiration for the journey around the North Pole ranged from pure adventure to environmental concerns of seeing the reduced ice caps for himself.
“I wanted to do something different,” Thorleifsson said. “I get crazy new ideas.”
Thorleifsson invited the audience to go and see the effects of global warming.
“I hope to influence you to be curious of what is up there,” Thorleifsson said. “I think it is wise for us to go and bring back stories because of what is happening.”
However, Thorleifsson also hoped to inspire students to be creative in inventing ways to stop global warming because, as demonstrated by his journey, the effects can already be seen.
“Curiosity is the first step,” Thorleifsson said. “Next, we need creativity. We can’t solve the problems in traditional ways. We need a new creative approach to a traditional approach.”
The trip around the North Pole, which once took 6 years, took Thorleifsson and his crew 80 days because the amount of ice is significantly lower.
“One important thing to know is that global warming is affecting the polar regions in a disproportionate way,” Professor of Religion Jim Martin-Schramm said. “This has a big effect on weather.”
Callie Mabry (‘94), who gave the night’s introductory speech, thought the lecture suited Luther very well and that the images provided by Thorleifsson’s lecture were very powerful.
“Whenever you see something, you are more likely to do something about it,” Mabry said. “Before, it was just an abstract idea, but actually seeing the results of climate change made it hit closer to home.”
Thorleifsson was brought to Luther College by the Norweigan Embassy in Washington, D.C. as a part of an organized tour to colleges around the country.
“The embassy works hard to maintain a connection with colleges founded by Norweigan immigrants,” Assistant to the President Karen Martin-Schramm, who helped organize Thorleifsson’s stay, said.
Karen Martin-Schramm said that the guests were impressed by Luther’s hospitality.
“[Introductory Lecturer] Mari Saether was so taken by Decorah and Luther,” Karen Martin-Schramm said. “She left feeling embraced by the community and place.”
Luther students felt that Thorleifsson’s lecture was inspiring and also relatable.
“He really applied to college kids and how we’re the next step,” Jamie Stallman (‘14) said. “We’re the reason he came down.”
Stallman was one of the fifteen representatives that had dinner with Thorleifsson before the lecture. He was particularly inspired by the similarities he found with Thorleifsson.
“He was super friendly and extremely personable,” Stallman said of Thorleifson. “At the end of the conversation, he got into life philosophy and how we should always be prepared and always improving, which is interesting because that is what I try to do.”
Lecture attendee Travie Houle (‘15) was also able to relate Thorleifsson’s environmental message to everyday life.
“The lecture proved that no matter what you do, you can incorporate environmental awareness into your life,” Houle said. “It was really inspiring.”