Belfast Telegraph

Ulster schoolgirl heading off on Arctic expedition

By Linda McKee

A Banbridge teenager is packing up her woollies as she prepares to embark on an epic expedition to the Arctic to witness climate change at first hand.

Rebecca Wilson and her ground crew at Banbridge High School were chosen to take part in the Cape Farewell Arctic Voyage, an arts and science project focusing on climate change. They won an all Ireland Cape Farewell Local top Global Video competition run by the British Council.

The winning schools — Banbridge High School and St Conleth’s College in Ireland — have each formed ground crews helping their two chosen voyagers to prepare for the expedition.

In recent months, Rebecca’s team has been raising awareness of climate change, collaborating with the local council, by running spoof stories about the potential disappearance of polar bears from Crozier’s Monument in Church Square in the town centre.

The story, covered in local newspapers, was used to highlight the real threat of extinction faced by polar bears in the wild, helping to stimulate discussion on how actions locally can impact on others globally.

The voyage from Northern Ireland to the Arctic begins on September 1 when Rebecca and George Voronov form Dublin will fly to Toronto in Canada to participate in a number of orientation workshops and training at Lake St. George Toronto & Region Conservation Authority.

Rebecca will then transfer to Reykjavik, Iceland, where she and the other voyagers will begin their journey to the tip of Greenland, ending at Baffin Island, Canada.

The ship is MV Academik Shokalskiy, a Russian research vessel built in 1983 which is small, nimble, and ice-strengthened.

Three weeks later, Rebecca will return to Northern Ireland where she will report on her trip.

“I am really looking forward to the Arctic voyage and have been preparing for months along with my ground crew colleagues in school. One of my aims on this trip is to collect data to bring back to the school and show them how climate change is really affecting the environment,” she said.

The ship's company will be made up of 28 students, aged 15-17, from Canada, the UK, Germany, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Mexico and Brazil along with 17 adult mentors, scientists, educators and staff.

Liz McBain of the British Council in Northern Ireland said: “Climate change is a core strand of the British Council's work. We are delighted that Rebecca and George will be embarking on this journey and we look forward to hearing from them as the expedition progresses.

“Cape Farewell is all about increasing the understanding of the case for tackling climate change and the expedition will enable the participating schools and local communities to engage at a local level to contribute to a global issue affecting us all.”

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