Canadian Geographic - - YOUR SOCIETY - —Alexan­dra Pope

Ben Wood­ward had few ex­pec­ta­tions go­ing into the 2017 Cana­dian Ge­o­graphic Chal­lenge fi­nal. The Grade 10 stu­dent from Cen­tral Se­condary School in Lon­don, Ont., was just happy to be spend­ing the week­end in Ot­tawa with, as he put it, 19 fel­low “ge­og­ra­phy nerds” from across Canada. But in the ul­ti­mate event of the chal­lenge at the Cana­dian War Mu­seum on June 5, Wood­ward topped the score­board through eight rounds of tough ques­tions on ev­ery­thing from the Arc­tic to al­pacas to clinch the cham­pi­onship and $5,000. “I was a lit­tle ner­vous,” he said, “but once I got up on the stage I just fo­cused, and af­ter a few ques­tions, I got into the rhythm of things.” His one re­gret? “I’m re­ally into phys­i­cal ge­og­ra­phy, so I’m dis­ap­pointed I didn’t get that al­lu­vial fan ques­tion!” The per­for­mances of the five fi­nal­ists — Wood­ward, Aaron Abra­ham (Cal­gary), Thomas Em­manuel Côté (Longueuil, Que.), Jake Dou­glas (Peter­bor­ough, Ont.) and Evan Finger­hut (Dart­mouth, N.S.) — earned the ad­mi­ra­tion of the host of this year’s fi­nal, Cana­dian Space Agency as­tro­naut David Saint-jac­ques. Ear­lier in the af­ter­noon, Saint-jac­ques told an au­di­ence of mainly students that his own ex­cit­ing ca­reer, which will see him blast off for the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion next Novem­ber, be­gan with a child­hood fas­ci­na­tion with the planet. “I en­cour­age you to lis­ten to your heart and find your dream,” he said. “Some­times the dream is scary, but not chas­ing it is scarier.” Wood­ward and his fel­low “ge­og­ra­phy nerds” will now have a chance to ex­pe­ri­ence Canada’s unique ge­og­ra­phy and spec­tac­u­lar wildlife first-hand. In a first for the chal­lenge, One Ocean Ex­pe­di­tions, the ocean travel part­ner of the RCGS, has awarded the five fi­nal­ists an all-ex­penses-paid 10-day cruise around At­lantic Canada, de­part­ing July 5. Among the iconic des­ti­na­tions they’ll visit are Nova Sco­tia’ s his­toric Fortress of Louis bour ga nd Sable Is­land ( fa­mous f or its wild horses), New­found­land’s Gros Morne Na­tional Park and the French ter­ri­tory of Saint Pierre et Miquelon. “They’re in for a treat,” said An­drew Prossin, man­ag­ing direc­tor of One Ocean Ex­pe­di­tions, adding that this trip will mark the launch of One Ocean’s new youth pro­gram­ming on its voy­ages. “We’re hon­oured to sup­port our part­ner in ed­u­ca­tion in this en­deav­our, es­pe­cially in Canada’s 150th year.”

The nal­ists’ per­for­mances earned the ad­mi­ra­tion of the event’s host, as­tro­naut David Saint-jac­ques.

Clock­wise from left: The five fi­nal­ists await another ques­tion; Cana­dian Space Agency as­tro­naut David Saint-jac­ques host­ing the June 5 fi­nal; 2017 cham­pion Ben Wood­ward (cen­tre) shows off his prize.

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