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Canadian Explorers

Canada's greatest explorers 2015

Fred Roots

Photo credit: Lee Narraway

Polar pioneer

Expertise: Geology, Environment, Trekking, Education

By Nick Walker

There aren’t many Canadians alive today who have a mountain named after them. Sorry, make that an entire mountain chain: Antarctica’s “Roots Range” was dubbed in honour of this explorer, geologist, geophysicist and diplomat.

Fred Roots, now 92, has been part of dozens of scientific expeditions in the Arctic, Antarctic, Himalayas and Rockies — notably as senior geologist for the first international scientific study of the southern polar region, the famous Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1949-52. A few years later, he came up with the idea for the Polar Continental Shelf Program, which collected, for Canada, the first solid data about its own Arctic. Then he helped write the Antarctic Treaty, the reason the entire continent has been set aside for peace and scientific research, and for 30-plus years was science advisor to the Department of the Environment (later Environment Canada). Even those already acquainted with him may not know that he holds the record for the longest unsupported dogsled journey ever (189 days) and that once, when he was speaking on continental drift at Princeton, Albert Einstein sat in the front row. “Fred Roots” should be a household name.


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