American Polar Society honors UAF professor

The American Polar Society recently recognized the work of a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor. Dr. Lawson Brigham received an honorary medal for his polar research and policy work with the Arctic Council. Coincidentally, the Arctic Council announced Monday it would use UAF as the site for its 2017 meeting.

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Lawson Brigham of University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo: UAF.
Lawson Brigham of University of Alaska Fairbanks. Photo: UAF.

In the 20th century you might have thought the age of polar expeditions was over. But recently Dr. Lawson Brigham, UAF distinguished professor of geography and Arctic policy, was recognized, in part, for a 1994 seven-month voyage that sailed from one pole to the other.

He was captain of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea at the time and he says it was a first for any country or service.

“(It was) significant in that it was a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker that reached the ends of the global ocean — not a Russian nuclear icebreaker or a German… whatever… It was us! And it wasn’t the Navy!”

Brigham’s award also cites his international policy work with the Arctic Council.  The Council announced Monday it will meet at UAF in 2017. The intergovernmental forum allows nations in the Arctic to discuss and coordinate Arctic policy. Brigham chaired the Arctic marine shipping assessment.

“Which is really assessing and developing a framework for how the Arctic states together will chart a course forward to protect people and the Arctic environment.”

In receiving his medal Brigham is in a select company. Since 1936 the American Polar Society has honored only 62 individuals for their polar science and exploration endeavors.