Arctic Institute features bear-escaping journalist

Ed Struzik laughed as he reminisced about the time he was placed in a metal cage, in freezing Arctic weather so he could try and take photos of a polar bear.

All was going well. A polar bear had come close to Struzik’s cage and he was able to snap some great shots. The bear walked around the cage and then started sticking his nose into it. The polar bear got on his hind legs and tried to get on top of the cage.

The polar bear became “increasingly frustrated by the fact there wasn’t an obvious way to get to (Struzik).”

The bear started pounding on the bars of his cage, and the its 800-pound body was enough to start breaking the bars.

“I started to freak a little bit,” he laughed.

It’s all in a day’s work for the author, photographer and award-winning journalist who managed to escape the risky situation.

Eventually the bear got bored and left to take a nap. Struzik, who had been sitting in a cage in-30 degree weather for over an hour and a half, was relieved to say the least.

This story is just one of many which Struzik shared with University of Calgary students and staff Wed., Sept. 23. Struzik was on campus as part of a series of talks by the Arctic Institute of North America.

Struzik travelled to the Arctic 11 times in the span of a year and a half while researching his most recent book, The Big Thaw: Travels in the Melting North (Wiley, 2009). About 50 people attended his presentation, which consisted of adventure stories, magnificent photos and discussion on the fascinating and frightening changes that are taking place in the Arctic.

“It’s difficult defining the Arctic,” said Struzik, “It’s many things to many people.”

The Arctic, and more specifically climate change, have dominated the media in recent months. The timely talk came just one day after U.S. President Barack Obama warned that failure to tackle global warming would “consign future generations to irreversible catastrophe,” and three days before 110 citizens from across Canada met in Calgary to discuss climate change.

“The Arctic is hot . . . you can’t open a newspaper without seeing issues surrounding the Arctic,” said Benoit Beauchamp, Arctic Institute executive director.

Beauchamp said the institute wants to showcase the fact that the U of C has “Canada, if not the world’s” leading experts on issues surrounding the Arctic in the form of both professors and students.

Struzik’s talk was the first in a series about changes in the Arctic. Every month until March the institute will host a different speaker to offer insight on the warming Arctic.

“There is a real demand on campus for everything Arctic,” said Beauchamp.

During his presentation, Struzik stayed away from lecturing about climate change for an hour. Instead he shared photos and spoke of his own adventures and the need for more research in the Arctic.

“We need to engage more in science in the Arctic,” said Struzik. “The Arctic is morphing into something that we don’t know what it’s going to be.”

Struzik stressed the importance of using science to learn about everything from diseases to migration and what to expect in the ever-changing Arctic.

“What the past tells us about the future is we really should be concerned. Things change and when they change in the Arctic they change very quickly.”

Luke Broemeling, a second-year science student, attended the talk and left with a lot to think about.

“I’m wondering how certain animals coped with diseases in the past,” said Bromeling, who was also curious about ancient man’s survival in the Arctic.

“(The changing Arctic) is a good issue to know about,” he said.

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