Expeditions are a family affair

| April 3, 2020 | 0 Comments
Adventure Canada is also a family adventure. On this expedition, Islay, 4, and Charlotte, 7, joined their father, expedition leader Jason Edmunds and their mother, CEO Cedar Swan. (Photo: DENNIS MINTY)

Adventure Canada is also a family adventure. On this expedition, Islay, 4, and Charlotte, 7, joined their father, expedition leader Jason Edmunds and their mother, CEO Cedar Swan. (Photo: DENNIS MINTY)

“Expedition” is a loaded word in the travelling world.
“If you don’t know what an ‘expedition’ is, you think, ‘Am I going to be on a dogsled going to the North Pole for two weeks, fishing for my food?’” asks Cedar Swan, Adventure Canada’s award-winning CEO.
From the deck of their comfortable ship or in Zodiacs or hiking, travellers will see what they came for: wildlife and wild places. But the big surprise is the series of in-depth first-person lectures from experts.
It might be Deanna Leonard-Spitzer, senior marine biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who specializes in studying and tracking whales. Or Innu Maria Merkuratsuk, who lived through the historical forced relocations of the 1950s and 1960s. Or Andrew Bresnahan, Labrador community doctor, anthropologist and political adviser. The talks overtake travellers, who were originally focused on Northern Lights, polar bears and hiking.
Swan grew up taking expeditions with her family. Her father, Matthew Swan, recently retired as Adventure Canada’s CEO and turned over the job to her. But she’s worked there since 2002 doing sales and reservations, operations and marketing on her way to her current position. In 2018, Canadian Traveller magazine gave her a Top 40 under 40 award.
Swan and her Inuit husband, expedition leader Jason Edmunds, now take their two daughters, Charlotte, seven, and Islay, three, on regular trips. Swan’s siblings and other family members also work at Adventure Canada. Edmunds explains her first name: “She grew up on Vancouver Island where there were lots of cedars. And, her parents were hippies.”
She calls Labrador, where Edmunds was born and grew up, a place “so stunningly beautiful” and “at the edge of the world.” And her favourite place on the planet is Labrador’s Torngat Mountains.
The most frequent expedition celebrity guest is Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who does occasional readings from her books but is more often seen helping with the daily tasks involved in ship life. Artist Robert Bateman, scientist-broadcaster David Suzuki, landscape artist Doris McCarthy (mentored by some Group of Seven artists), Newfoundland writer Kevin Major and Nunavut-born Inuit singer Susan Aglukark have also joined expeditions.
Swan characterizes Mike Beedell as “Mike the kayak guy” on this trip, even though “we all know him as a world-renowned photographer.” One quickly learns that versatility rules and the person who delivered the academic lecture that morning might belt out some music that night, or drive your Zodiac. Or all three.
Swan’s clients do not seek top-of-the-line luxury with butlers and five-course meals. The Ocean Endeavour has capacity for 400, a smaller crowd allows Swan’s team to get to know their clients and maintain a ratio of one crew member per seven passengers. She also doesn’t want to overwhelm the small communities they visit.
Costs range from $4,000 to $24,000 per person for trips ranging from 10 to 17 days. “I concur, it’s a bit of sticker shock,” Swan says. The average price is around $900-$950 per day, including meals and accommodation to visit places you otherwise couldn’t visit. It’s easier to look at the cost of a three-day conference with meals as a comparison.” The business has grown about 60 per cent in five years, she says, with most repeat clients averaging three trips.
Edmunds grew up in Labrador where he and his father ran tours. He studied political science at Memorial University, but later went into carpentry — “a little bit of a rebellion.”
He started out as an Adventure Canada fork-lift operator, bear-monitor and Zodiac-driver and finally became an expedition leader. Somewhere at the forklift-operator stage, Swan saw him playing his guitar and, as she said, to much laughter, “I just had to kiss that boy.”
Despite the tremendous organizational effort, the specialists change with each trip. “We travel with locals,” Edmunds says, “to get an understanding you can’t get with generalists. When you think about the history of Inuit and southern culture, it is often a sad story and that [whole] story has not been told yet.”
On each Canadian expedition, says Edmunds, at least half the people say “How did I not know this? I am Canadian, how did I not know this Canadian history?”

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