• Johnny Issaluk

    Actor, athlete and motivational speaker Johnny Issaluk speaks after being announced as the newest Explorer-in-Residence of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society on May 13 in Ottawa. (Photo: Ben Powless/Canadian Geographic)

At 45 years of age, there seems to be very little that Johnny Issaluk hasn’t done or at least tried.

He’s scaled Arctic mountains, scuba dived in the Northwest Passage, and travelled the world promoting Inuit culture. The Iqaluit resident is one of the most medaled athletes in the history of the Inuit Games, and was featured at the Vancouver Winter Olympics in the short film Inuit High Kick. Then came a starring role in the Arctic horror film Kajutaijuq, an official entry at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015.

Since then, his acting roles have only grown in prominence. He made his stage debut in the world premiere of a new play, The Breathing Hole, at the Stratford Festival in 2017, then appeared in the award winning film Indian Horse, produced by Clint Eastwood. Last year, he appeared in the critically acclaimed television series The Terror, which told the story of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition. 

To top it all off, on Monday Issaluk was made the newest Explorer-in-Residence of The Royal Geographical Society

In spite of his success and his busy travel schedule, Issaluk remains deeply grounded and connected to his culture and traditions.

“I have a thousand years of people behind me, looking after me,” he says, adding his faith in the guardianship of his ancestors has given him the courage to face some of his worst fears. “I wholeheartedly believe my grandmother, my mother, my father, my grandfather are watching over me.”

When not on set, Issaluk visits schools across Canada as a motivational speaker, sharing his spirit of curiosity and adventure with young people.

“A lot of my work is inspiring youth, and so part of facing my fears is to show kids that no matter what, you can learn anything,” he says. 

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This episode is produced and sound engineered by Robin Dumas, and hosted by David McGuffin (@mcguffindavid). 

Explore has been made possible with support from One Ocean Expeditions, the exclusive expedition cruise partner of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society. One Ocean Expeditions offers one-of-a-kind expedition travel experiences in some of the most remote regions of the planet. 

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