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Public Lecture Series with Stephen A. Smith

Into the Thick of It: Expeditions into the Arctic Ice Pack


Walking up to the average man on the street, the term ‘Arctic ice’ may or may not register. But for anyone who knows and cares about the North, those words are most likely to conjure imagery of vast glacial icecaps and colossal icebergs calving off of polar glaciers. Nearly all ice-related reporting continues to focus upon the meltdown of glaciers and icesheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Into the Thick of It explores the lesser-known categorization of ‘Arctic ice’: the sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean. In a setting of polar mountains, rapidly drifting floes and shimmering mirages, several expedition adventure stories are merged into a narrative informed by evidence-based cryospheric research. What is ‘ice albedo feedback’ and how is it that Northern hemisphere sea ice is tethered to the world’s ocean and atmosphere system? Stephen uses his lifetime of expedition experiences to make sense of the impressive and consequential science on Arctic sea ice.


To the 21st century travelling public, the term ‘expedition’ is a buzzword used in marketing campaigns to sell ship-based cruising and luxury base camps. But to Canadian adventurer and documentarian Stephen Smith, the descriptor is all about kayaks stuffed tightly with a month’s provisions, a landscape untouched by human enterprise, and a few hundred miles to paddle before the next resupply. For Stephen, ‘expedition’ has distinctly Shackletonian connotations.

Stephen Smith has been involved in Arctic adventure and research expeditions since the late 1970s. For over two decades he led mountaineering and sea kayaking expeditions in the High Arctic, and in 2004 he led a 5-week kayak expedition through the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island. A self-confessed pagophile, Stephen’s films have been informed and shaped by the intensity of his experiences on polar ice. His recent feature Vanishing Point (a National Film Board of Canada production) bears witness to the challenges facing indigenous hunting culture in a time of declining Arctic sea ice. Stephen’s wildlife and adventure photography has been widely published in books and leading magazines including Natural History, Outside, and National Geographic.

Date: February 27, 2017

Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm Presentation

Location: Club Headquarters, 46 East 70th Street, New York, NY, 10021

Member Ticket Price: $10

Guest Ticket Price: $25

Student Ticket Price: $5 with a valid academic ID

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Background image photography courtesy of members Christoph Baumer, Neil Laughton, Matt Harris and Don Walsh's image of the Bathyscape Trieste