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Dr. Westgard's Arctic Adventure

May 31 2018

A 2018 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow's Arctic expedition to Svalbard, Iceland and Greenland's East Coast.

May 31 2018


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Mission Underway

It is a small world...

Some of you may know that earlier this spring, Jeff and I ran into a gentleman at Harold's Photography shop in Fargo while we were looking at camera gadgets for my upcoming expedition. This man overheard me talking about my upcoming expedition to the camera salesman and asked if I was going on the Lindblad National Geographic expedition to Svalbard, Greenland and Iceland. A bit surprised, I said yes I was, and he told us his good friends were going on that very same expedition. He called his friends and put me on the phone with Rene, and we chatted for quite a bit about the upcoming expedition. I made a note of their names in my journal, and told myself to seek them out once expedition started. My husband figured out the odds to be about 7 million to one I would meet someone on this expedition before I got on the ship.

We had our welcome dinner tonight in Oslo at the Radisson Blu hotel, and wouldn't you know it, I forgot to look at my journal for the names of these guests I needed to seek out. I grabbed my dinner and sat down at a table of 9, proceeded to introduce myself to the surrounding guests. I got to talking to the lady on my left about what I was doing as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, and the gal on my right asked if I knew a teacher from Fargo, and I was waiting for her to give me some names, thinking she knew someone from the area. Then she said she had talked to this teacher on phone, and it clicked...she was talking about me. It was a bit comical once we made the realization. So, we were sitting right next to each other in a room of about 145....what are the odds of that?

The photos you see are from earlier today. We took a short tour of Oslo's Fram Museum, which reminded me of the Hjemkomst Museum in Moorhead, MN. Both are museums with full scale boats that were used in expeditions.

The Fram, meaning "forward", was used in expeditions of the Arctic and Antarctic regions by the Norwegian explorers Fridtjof Nansen, Otto Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, and Roald Amundsen between 1893 and 1912. It was unique in its construction because it was round, making it difficult for the ice to grab hold, while the interior was flexible. Walking across the ship, it was much larger than I had thought.

The Hjemkomst, in Norwegian meaning "homecoming", was built by Robert Asp who decided his Norwegian blood was calling him to sea. From the Hjemkomst webite: "The Moorhead Junior High School guidance counselor had shared his dreams of building a Viking ship with his brother Bjarne for years, but his plans were mobilized after a severe fall from a friend's roof that summer. While recovering from his injuries, Bob studied his Norwegian heritage and found the story of the Gokstad burial ship that had been unearthed from a burial mound near Sandefjord, Norway, in 1880. Current estimates suggest this ship was constructed circa 800 CE. Bob would build a Viking ship modeled after the Gokstad and he would dream of sailing it to Norway."

There is much more to the Hjemkomst's story - check it out here. This ship was sailed to Oslo, Norway in 1982. I am finding many, many connections between home and Norway...

The other photos are from the world's largest sculpture park, the Vigeland Sculpture Park with more than 200 sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.

Tomorrow we head off to Svalbard via charter plane. I will get to posting when I can, but internet will be sporadic at best for a few days now.

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Feeling Better

Did a little exploration of Voss, Norway before getting back on the train headed to Oslo. Voss is a ski resort village, that still sees its fair share of summer tourists. The train ride was scenic, as you can see from the photos, many lakes and forests. No wonder many Norwegian immigrants came to Minnesota - the two lands are alike in many ways.

Another similarity is that thing called "Minnesota Nice"...I really think this Minnesota Nice was a result of Norwegian culture that diffused through the state. The Norwegians I have encountered have been truly nice and considerate.

I hook up with the Lindblad and National Geographic Expedition tomorrow. I plan on taking a mini-tour of Oslo in the afternoon. The next day we head out on a charter flight to Svalbard to catch the ship.

More when I am able...

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Glad you're feeling better, Kerri! I love following you - keep us updated!!

Looks like you are getting good photos with your camera. Drink plenty of water and hope you are back to normal tomorrow.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Ugly

I will start with the ugly. I think I got food poisoning along the way, probably in Iceland. Yeah, the last 24 hours were not pleasant. Add to the fact I don't remember how much sleep I have really gotten since I left, my body was exhausted. For the students reading this, who are probably too young to have experienced food poisoning, imagine everything coming out of you from all openings, and your muscles just become one big cramp. Not fun. I at least made it to the bathroom on one occasion and to poke fun at myself, I made my own waterfall of sorts at the big waterfall we stopped at during my Norway in a Nutshell tour. Embarrassing to say the least...

The Bad

Well, being in the state I was in, the Norway in a Nutshell tour was a blur. Which is too bad, as the other guests seem to have enjoyed themselves with their ooooos and aaaaaas. The twisty bus ride got to me, the boat ride was pleasant and I napped for a bit, and the final old-timey railroad trip was too much. I was to travel on to Bergen after this tour, but I was shaking so bad I didn't think I could make it. Jeff being the patient trooper called and got me a room at the same place in Voss for the night.

The Good

As I look back over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of good. I was taken care of by Lindblad Travel, who got me the 6 hour ride from Oslo to Voss so I could get my tour. I took a quick nap and shower at Voss Extreme - a great place with great service. As I had my incidences of getting sick, complete strangers looked out for me. One gave me some minty gum on the ship, and the other at the waterfall went and got the train conductor, who passed me off to the next train operator to keep an eye on me and make sure I got off at the right place. Drivers in Norway also stop for people in the crosswalks, another good thing. I also have to add to this list of good my husband, who at whatever time it was, took my call and took care of me by arranging a new hotel stay, from thousands of miles away. I was able to get some much needed rest here at Voss Extreme. After which I walked in the bright light of 11 p.m. to the grocery store to pick up some cheese, crackers and fruit. Another good thing, it seems as though the light food is staying down. I will take the extra time in Voss to explore, before getting back on the train to Oslo.

The photos are from my Norway in a Nutshell tour, lots of waterfalls and tall cliffs that are characteristic of fjords. And a look at dinner in bed.


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Oh Kerri, I am so sorry you are off to a difficult start on your trip. It can only get better right???? God bless the person with the minty gum and Jeff, your personal concierge. Hope you have a stellar day and no more travel trauma.


Well, I get to add another country to my bucket list - Denmark! It was a trying morning, to say the least. The plane out of Minneapolis was late, thus making me late to Iceland, but I was told I would be ok. Then as soon as I got to the gate, scanned my pass, an alarm type thing went off. They told me I was not going on this particular flight, that I was to switch airlines and get a later flight. Oh, and go get your luggage and recheck in through customs and security.

Finally located my luggage, it went on a trip around the airport evidently, and went to Scandinavian Air for rebooking. "Sorry" the previous airline didn't assign you a seat with us. We can fly you out tomorrow, or the next day....blah, blah, blah. I have a tour I am doing before my expedition and need to get to Norway by 10 a.m. Tuesday. So I called the awesome folks at Lindblad Expeditions and they suggested to go Norwegian Air to get to Bergen- I tried that, and they were full. I went back to Scandinavian Air, and they got me figured out to get to Oslo by midnight tonight going through Copenhagen. Lindblad is also arranging my transportation to Voss, 6 hours away from Oslo, so I can get on my Norway in a Nutshell tour. They are bending over backwards for me, and I am so grateful. I am in the Iceland Air Lounge, which is nice. First time I have taken a shower at the airport, and I have lots of beverages to choose from, with food and comfy chairs. I still have three hours before my next flight. What you see in the photos is a glass bottle of Pepsi - been years since I have had soda in a glass bottle, and in the distance is the ocean view off Iceland, from the airport lounge.

Was this change in plans easy? I will admit, I was running nervous there for about 2 hours. But, if all this goes as planned, I should still be able to get on that tour of the fjords.

Or who knows, I may get rerouted to another country I haven't been to.

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Flexibility is a hallmark characteristic of an explorer!

Thank goodness I had 3 hours to check in to Iceland Air! I waited in this line for 1.5 hours. Taking advantage of the now delayed flight to charge up electronics. Many students on going on trip to Iceland/Germany or France via this flight. I do hope they sleep on the trip over...fat chance ;) I sure wouldn't at that age. Not much else to report right now, will get on the plane and try to sleep the entire time, because when I wake up 6.5 hours into my flight it will be about 9 am in Iceland, and I am expected to be in Oslo by noon (their time).

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Well, I am sitting in the Fargo Hector International Airport waiting for the first leg of my journey. I finished packing yesterday, and if I don't have it with me, I won't need it. I wrapped up my to-do list of home chores and even squeezed in an hour nap. Jeff asked when my flight was, and to my surprise, it was actually an hour earlier than I thought. After that adrenaline rush, and a stop at McDonald's, I made my way through airport security.

My journey today will take me first to Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, then to the Keflavik Airport in Iceland. After which I will have a couple hour layover before heading on to Oslo, Norway. I have three hours in Oslo to get through customs, leave my larger suitcase at the hotel, grab some Norwegian Kroner (NOK), a plug-in USB charger, some food, and then catch a train to downtown in order to get another train out to Voss, Norway where I will start my Norway in a Nutshell tour of the fjords.

My new compression socks are feeling quite good, to my surprise.

I will post as I have time and internet is available. If you haven't signed up to follow along, you can do just that and get email notifications when I do post.

Until then...


Safe travels Kerri! We can't wait to follow your adventure


I'm leaving a trail

If you don't know, my husband Jeff is much more of an explorer than I am. His mode of transportation is one of his motorcycles, going off to destinations where there is often little civilization. Jeff is actually taking his off-road bike to Tuktoyaktuk in Canada's Arctic just hours after I get home from my Arctic adventure. I tease him that I am going further north than he is this summer.

Anyway, after a couple of serious motorcycle accidents, this nervous wife got him to invest in the Garmin inReach so I can track where he is located in these remote places.

Here is what the website says about this little gizmo:

With inReach satellite technology from Garmin and a satellite subscription, you can stay in touch globally. You can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get emergency help from a 24/7 global monitoring center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.

Now, I seriously doubt I will need to trigger an SOS, but I will be taking this gadget along to track my route. I figure the more data I can collect, the more options I will have when creating my curriculum for National Geographic as part of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship.

It is for the students

Today, I also compiled the Arctic related questions my students asked this past spring. The questions seem to fall into one of four categories - Animals, Climate, Humans and Environment. Many want to know what is happening to the polar bears in light of climate change. There are some questions about the ice, and one of the more interesting questions is "do they have an accent in the Arctic?" It is my hope to get some of the questions answered by the staff.


I feel confident in the new backpack. It is only 2lbs! And fits everything! Traveling light is the way to go, in my opinion. I will also start my suitcase packing as soon as I have vacuumed out the nooks and crannies. Yes, I said vacuum a suitcase. This will be a first, but it is part of the biosecurity guidelines for visiting the Arctic. The Arctic remains one of the most pristine environments on the planet, and taking such precautions helps to minimize the introduction of non-native species to the Arctic. I am more than happy to oblige.

I will end this particular post with the information you can use to follow my trail. Just go to the website and enter the password. I don't plan on communicating through this, it will just be a map showing my location every 10 minutes (with satellite reception of course).

password (case sensitive)= Ride

It's almost showtime!

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Plan B

All good explorers must have a plan B.

Recently I have been following fellow Minnesotan Will Steger's Barren Lands Solo Expedition through the Barren Lands of the Canadian Arctic. At about Day 57 of his expedition, not long after a grizzly bear encounter-you really should listen to day 56 of his trek- he says he is going to his plan B, and all along he had a plan B. Will had to get back to the Cities for an important fundraiser, and at the rate he was going, he felt he couldn't get that deadline. He is going to cache his equipment and head back next year to proceed on to the Arctic Ocean.

As I was thinking on how to write about my change in plans, the only thing that came to mind was Will's story. I am no Will Steger, and my plan B isn't nearly as adventurous as Will's. But mentioning Mr. Steger's plan B was also a good chance to get you to go look at his journey :)

Remember that don't-go-overboard-with-it pile? Well, that pile has changed considerably. With all that gear, plus my laptop, my carry on allowance was definitely over the weight limit. Additionally, I have been struggling figuring out how to even use that awesome camera. I went and deleted the practice photos yesterday; in the last 3 months I have taken over 1500 photos. I can point, focus and shoot. I do not have the photographer mindset of composition. Maybe someday...

My plan B is a different data collection instrument (camera)-a point and shoot Lumix FZ300 . It is based off a recommendation from another Grosvenor Teacher Fellow (GTF) Trevor Hance @TXEnvEd. It is much lighter, but will do many of the same things the Fuji does. I am also looking for a new backpack today, as I won't have the bulk of lenses and that camera body to look after.

I will be traveling much lighter, and that has taken some weight off my shoulders...

I'm really enjoying following your journey! I'm hoping to visit the Arctic including Greenland in 2020.

The Pile(s)

Like most teachers, I find the last three school months get incredibly busy. For me the schedule gets messy with State testing and I need to prep for MN State National Geographic Bee March Madness. Then there are students with spring fever, teachers with spring fever, squeeze everything into the curriculum always makes for interesting times. When I get this busy, I start making deal-with-later piles.

I was notified of being selected as a 2018 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow in early February. It was then that I started "piling".

These piles are repositories of all things I think I will need for this Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Arctic expedition. I will be going through these piles in the next few days, making sure I have the necessities, and placing in either a suitcase or backpack. By the way, I HATE traveling with a lot of stuff, but I don't think I am going to get away with just a back pack this time.


Data Collection Pile

I am going to have to bring what I will be calling my data collection instruments. This pile, as you see, has taken over the kitchen table. I call this the don't-go-overboard-with-it pile. It includes the backpack, which will house the camera, filters, cleaning stuff, and lenses my husband, Jeff, bought. Jeff knows how to use this particular data collection instrument. I have made an attempt to learn the basics. There are lots and lots and lots of dials. The options on this camera scare me. I think Jeff saw my opportunity to go to the Arctic as his opportunity to get a REALLY NICE camera ;) . I am sure I will not appreciate it like I should. Anyone on the expedition who knows anything about cameras will probably think it is a crying shame a rookie like me is walking around with this set up. I almost forgot, I will also have a tripod, that can turn into a monopod/walking stick to bring along for stability and balance. Coming in the mail tomorrow is my Ricoh Theta SC 360 camera. I plan on using this to collect still images and maybe some video, in order to develop a Google Tour my students will use in the future. Add my laptop, a portable hard drive for storage and my iPhone and I am sure I will be set. No, I better be set...

Clothing Pile

Here you will find my expedition socks (see yesterday's post), and the winter clothing I have put aside for the Arctic. There is a recliner under there somewhere. I have waterproof gloves, base layers, waterproof pants, fleeces, hats, waterproof coat, hiking boots, neck gaiter, and a Nat Geo "brandana". There are also hand warmers, which are more for my batteries so they don't die in the 40 degree temps. I'm fortunate in that I feel like I am especially prepared for this Arctic weather - it is typical Minnesota cold. A fellow GTF who just got back from her expedition suggested latex kitchen gloves to keep the skin those may find their way into this pile.

Goal tomorrow is to start packing all this, with some "normal" clothes and hope I keep it under weight.

Am I missing anything?

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Jeepers, I can see why you tired from getting ready, that's a lot of stuff to organize.


If there is one thing I have learned over my years of travel, it is that the most important thing to look out for are your feet. Yes, your feet.

Back in 1994 I was preparing for my first overseas adventure, a month long expedition studying the historical roots of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in Italy, Austria and Germany. Although at the time it wasn't called an expedition, it was Concordia College's May Seminar. Anyway, as I was packing for that trip, my step-father, Dave, was very adamant that nothing else mattered if I didn't take care of my feet. I am sure my younger self did that eye roll we give parents, but I got a lengthy story (or two) about his time in 'Nam and how protecting his feet is what saved him.

Needless to say, those stories left quite the impression on me and I have heeded the travel advice ever since. I won't get into the details of his experience, or his feet for that matter, but the taking-care-of-your-feet thing is spot on.

If you think about it, if you can't walk because of rotten feet, sore feet, swollen feet, blistered feet, corns, calluses...well, you get the are going to spend your time so focused on your feet and lack of mobility, and forget what is around you. I would rather be immersed in the location and not distracted because of my feet.

Therefore, one priority in my Arctic expedition preparation (and I may have gone a bit overboard with this one) is to make sure my feet are taken care of.


What am I doing for my feet?

  • Being in the Arctic on the Lindblad-National Geographic ship Explorer requires the use of waterproof, knee high boots for leaving the zodiacs and walking to shore. I will have a rental pair waiting for me in my cabin.
  • Merino Wool socks of varying cushion, wool is better than cotton. It insulates, can absorb moisture, dries quick.
  • Sock liners...yes, socks for socks, with Cool Max to keep feet dry.
  • Tennis shoes for on deck stability
  • Flip flops for the shower
  • I am debating my hiking boots, as I think the boot rentals will be ok for landings/walking around.
  • Band-Aid Hydro Seal Blister Heels - these are the best for cut/cracks that sometimes end up on feet.
  • Baby powder - this is apparently the secret ingredient according to Dave. Dave told me something else about Vaseline, but my younger self thought that wasn't going to be anything but slimy on my feet...yuk!

Are you of that "certain" age?

I just bought my first pair of compression socks today. Did you know they come in varying compression rates? Me neither...

As I get older, next to having to start wearing progressive lenses, probably needing compression socks rank right up there with NO! Not yet! But, I had a couple of flights this last week to D.C. and later to Nashville, and after Nashville, my feet/ankles/calves were so swollen. That has NEVER happened before. And I am a bit freaked out about DVT, so I bit the bullet and bought the compression socks. They are not cheap. A friend told me they better be awesome. Yup, I hope so...

I am a bit embarrassed by the photo. I have been buying socks for this expedition, here and there, since I was selected as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. I'd buy a pair, bring it home, and toss it in "the pile" (I will talk more about "the pile" in an upcoming post).

Don't you have something in your house that you didn't know you had, that you ended up buying another one when you were out and about, because you knew you needed it later and it was there right in front of you at the store? For my husband those items seem to be box cutters, batteries and light bulbs. Now, for me, it is the expedition socks.

So please, no socks for least for a few years.


Dave says he learned all that foot care from the old Marine, Chesty Puller. We're excited to see where those well taken care of feet go on this trip.

Preparation Stage

May 31, 2018 - A Grosvenor Teacher Fellow looks ahead...

The last day of school was today and I feel I can now focus on what lies ahead. I am giving full attention to my upcoming Arctic expedition that starts in a short 10 days. One goal of this journal is to document what it is like to be a teacher explorer. I still can't believe I can probably call myself explorer. But when I think about it, I have been an explorer all my life due to an insatiable curiosity.

Curiosity...that is something the National Geographic Learning Framework seeks to develop and nurture in students. I will also use this journal to record expedition data, and perhaps more importantly, spark student's and teacher's curiosity about the world.

How did I get here?

Persistence and Passion.

The Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program was established to honor former National Geographic Society Chairman Gilbert Grosvenor’s lifetime commitment to geographic education. Each year, pre-K–12 educators are encouraged to apply for this one-of-a-kind professional development opportunity. If you already know me, you know I pretty much breathe geography, geographic education and anything to do with National Geographic. I am a yellow-rectangle kind of gal. Applying for the Grosvenor Teacher Fellow program seemed like a no-brainer. I first applied and was told to try again. So I did the following year, and was told to try again. Third time's the charm! Lesson-do not give up!

So what exactly will I be doing?

I will enhance my geographic learning through direct, hands-on field experience and bring that knowledge back to my classroom and professional communities. Specifically, I will be exploring and learning about the Arctic (Svalbard, Iceland and Greenland's east coast), its people and environment, on board the Lindblad-National Geographic ship Explorer .

I will be heading out to Oslo, Norway on June 10, 2018. I am leaving three days ahead of the expedition in order to take personal time in the fjords of Norway. My plan is to take a train through Oslo-Voss-Flam-Bergen-Oslo and stop for a cruise of the Sognefjord. Sognefjord, nicknamed the King of the Fjords, is the largest and deepest fjord in Norway.

Once on the ship, there will be limited internet access - so posts may come intermittently, but I do hope you will follow along!


So cool Kerrl! Excited to follow along and hear your missives from the ship.

Thanks @david lang!

I am so unbelievably happy for you. You are so deserving of this opportunity and I can't wait to follow your adventure.

Expedition Background

I am a 2018 National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. I was selected to explore the Arctic region via Svalbard, Iceland and Greenland's east coast. I will take the knowledge gained on this Lindblad National Geographic expedition back into my 8th grade geography classroom in order to enrich my student's understanding of the Arctic. I also anticipate sharing my experiences with other teachers through a variety of professional development opportunities.