A former Stratford High School student will be the only New Zealander in a 3000 kilometre snorkelling expedition in the Arctic Circle.
Environmental lawyer and scientist Emily Dowding-Smith, 31, was selected for a team of 10 women who will face freezing temperatures, predatory polar bears, walruses and narwhals to raise awareness of climate change.
Dowding-Smith leaves this Saturday for a "warm-up" run comprising three weeks' snorkelling along north Canada's Labrador coast to western Greenland.
This month's mission is a test run for the 3000km expedition which Team Sedna, named for the Inuit goddess of the sea, will undertake in 2016 to raise awareness of sea ice melt and the social justice impacts of climate change.
It's the first time an expedition of this scale has been done in the Arctic, Dowding-Smith said.
She is an experienced diver, whose first dive was at the Sugar Loaf Islands off New Plymouth, but this will be the first time she has dived in ice water.
Travelling in the snorkel zone - down to 5 metres deep - would put team members in the best position to see the wildlife, she said.
New Zealand expeditions were often focused on Antarctica and many people here were not aware of the changes taking place in the Arctic, she said.
The women will wear heated drysuits and will propel themselves with the help of scooter packs and flippers.
Dowding-Smith's team-mates include an expert deepsea cave diver, an underwater film-maker and a submarine pilot.
Dowding-Smith said the expedition had multiple facets - not only would they study the impact of global warming on the ecosystem and on the Inuit people's way of life, but act as female role models while minimising their own impact on the environment.
Dowding-Smith is fundraising $20,000 to secure her place in the team and is still searching for a corporate sponsor.
Her website is http://www. givealittle.co.nz/cause/articem.
- Taranaki Daily News
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