professor Dr. Bill Iams, seen here at centre, poses with
expedition staff and crew from the Clipper Adventurer.
Dr. Iams explains that this shot was taken to capture
the whole group of Zodiac drivers along with five of the
Zodiacs that are used to ferry from ship to shore. “We
are pulled up at the landing at Battle Harbour after just
having crossed the Davis Strait from Greenland,”
he explains. “All appreciated the calm weather.”
The expertise of two Grenfell professors has brought them
to the ends of the earth.
Dr. Bill Iams and Keith Nicol have had the extraordinary experience
of lecturing on a world-class cruise line. The two professors
have been invited as expedition experts aboard cruise ships
that bring curious passengers to areas most of us will never
see. One such ship, the Clipper Adventurer, is an
oceangoing vessel equipped with an ice-strengthened hull –
ideally suited for cruising in remote environments such as
the Arctic and Antarctica.
Dr. Iams, a professor of earth science and oceanography, will
be lecturing in August aboard the Clipper Adventurer;
this will be his third such excursion. The cruise ship will
depart from Reykjavik, traveling to the Westmann Islands,
where passengers will see excellent examples of volcanism.
Then it’s on to Flatey Island, across the Denmark Strait
to fjords off the east coast of Greenland, and through Prince
Christian Sound to Nanortalik, an old Inuit settlement and
now a modern Greenland metropolis. Hvalsey, the last known
Viking settlement on Greenland, is also on the ship’s
route, as are Battle Harbour in Labrador, St. Anthony and
“It’s a big ship, a 300 plus footer, so it can’t
go in and dock,” he explained, adding that a fleet of
Zodiac landing craft provides access to areas where no infrastructure
exists. “In addition to lecturing and accompanying the
passengers on shore excursions, part of the job is to ferry
passengers to shore and back and, when the weather and wildlife
cooperate, to cruise the zodiac along the shore for nature
watching and photography opportunities.”
Back on board, passengers can view seascapes and wildlife
from the deck or the observation platform located below the
bridge when the weather’s good. When it’s not
so nice, the passengers tend to stick to their cabins.
“We had really nasty weather in the Davis
Strait – we had hurricane force just off Battle Harbour,”
he said. “When it’s really bad, most people just
stay in their cabins. It’s really spectacular to look
out at the sea, but it’s really intimidating too.”
Dr. Iams, who earned his BA in geology from Johns Hopkins
University, his M.Sc. at the Institute of Oceanography of
Dalhousie University and his PhD (biology/geology) at Memorial
University, teaches courses in oceanography, comparative marine
environments, global environmental change, earth systems,
and earth history at Grenfell. On the Clipper Adventurer,
he’ll lecture on geology, environmental issues and oceanography.
Keith Nicol received his BA and M.Sc. (geography)
at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. At Grenfell
he teaches courses in winter outdoor pursuits, physical geography,
resource management and quantitative methods.
Having lectured on several cruises in the waters of the North
Atlantic, in February and March of this year Mr. Nicol took
on a new adventure in the southern hemisphere – two
back-to-back cruises to Antarctica. The trips were replete
with penguins, seals and humpback and killer whales.
If you turn a globe upside down, you’ll find a peninsula
of ice that reaches out toward Cape Horn at the base of South
America. The tip of that peninsula was the southernmost point
of the cruise. Mr. Nicol flew to Beunos Aires, then to Ushuaia,
touted as the southern-most city in the world, where he boarded
the ship. The ship crossed the Drake Passage to the South
Shetland Islands in the Antarctic Circle and back again via
the Faulkland Islands.
“The water there is the roughest in the world because
there is no land mass,” he said, adding that cool temperatures
meant wearing parkas most of the time. Mr. Nicols’ lectures
actually focused on the geography of the area, uncovering
the mysteries of the driest, coldest, windiest place on the
earth’s surface. “At one point we had 160-mile
winds – the captain said they were the highest winds
he’d ever seen in his career. Luckily we were headed
for shelter when the wind came up.”
They were able to put ashore at the South Shetland Islands,
and were delighted to meet penguins face to face. “You
have penguins meeting you at every point,” said Mr.
Nicol. “They greet you as you come ashore.”
This type of scholarly activity is an excellent opportunity
for academics, added Dr. Iams.
“I’m basically on contract on an expedition cruise
line lecturing to adults,” he said. “But I get
to see places I would ordinarily never see on my own.”
Mr. Nicol agreed.
“These are opportunities that enable you to share your
expertise, but also to gain something from the experience,”