Photo: Talen Rimmer
For one thing, there was So. Much. Water.
Unbeknownst to me until the middle of my journey, Lake Superior is actually the largest lake by surface area in the world, and holds about 10 per cent of the world’s drinkable freshwater. It’s also larger than all the other four Great Lakes combined. Superior, indeed.
Let me rewind a bit: I am part of a program called Ocean Bridge, created by the Ocean Wise organization to connect youth all across Canada and engage them in marine conservation. Youth from across the country develop conservation projects in our home towns, and then twice over the year we meet to learn about each other, as well as important skills related to our goals.
The first trip took place this past summer, when 40 of us youth met on the shores of Lake Superior.
Over 10 days, we spent time in several communities and parks on the North Shore of Superior, including the Pays Plat First Nation, Red Rock Indian Band, Pukaskwa National Park and Neys Provincial Park. We had the opportunity to learn what the lake means to the people who live on its shores, and how it has been such an incredible part of their history, relationships, and traditions.
There were so many parts to this trip that made it an unforgettable experience. But for the sake of time, here are four key takeaways on ocean conservation I learned from my Ocean Bridge expedition:
1. The lake is the size of a sea, and it acts accordingly
Lake Superior blew all my previous conceptions of a lake out of the water (pun intended). It is the largest lake in the world by surface area. It is more than 400 metres deep at its deepest point. And it contains enough water to cover both North and South America in a foot of water.
Because of the lake’s unique position, as well as its sheer size, it actually changes the seasons of the surrounding areas. This novel climate gives rise to some incredibly rare and important plant and animal species around its shores, including medicinal plants, arctic mosses, and all manner of insect life. Incidentally, it also changed our packing lists considerably.
2. The kids are, in fact, alright
One of the most miraculous things this program has done is allowed me to meet folks from around the whole country, and learn about marine conservation in the places they come from. For example, during an activity to discuss our perspectives on marine conservation, we were divided into groups. In my group, there was myself (Victoria, B.C.), and representatives from the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Nova Scotia. Aside from calling Canadian bingo, I felt so fortunate to be able to discuss how people tackle conservation issues around the country. And you know what I found? There are a lot of similarities.
It turns out that all of us, from all communities, are feeling impacts from the climate crisis. Many of us expressed how our cities and towns are either preparing for warming events, or already feeling the emotional effects that climate change has in our lives. In B.C., several of us shared stories about not being able to attend work for days on end in recent summers due to forest fires that have drastically increased in interior B.C. in recent years. Meanwhile, people in the Lake Superior area shared with us how they have seen record-high water levels in the Great Lakes. And, my new friend Mia told us about the worries of sea ice melt and temperature increases in her community of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.