Across the Vastness of Ocean and Space

This Roots to the Past column originally appeared in newspapers in May 2013.

What would you say if you were offered a trip of a lifetime? Would you go? Of course, you’d want more information about this wonderful expedition before accepting the ticket. The trip would be unlike any you’ve known in the past. You’d travel a great distance; months would pass before you reached your destination.

The trip is not without danger, so your safety cannot be guaranteed. You might fall ill or the vessel in which you travel may be destroyed. Space is at a premium, so you’d live for weeks, if not months, in a small area.

You’d have to pack only what you need because you’d have to carry it the entire way. It’s important to take tools that will help you survive when you reach your new home; sentimental items will take up valuable room, so they’re best left behind.

This trip is such a great distance with so many uncertainties that you should spend valuable time with family and friends because…because you’ll probably never see them again. The trip is one way only.


After learning more, are you still interested? Do you still want to take this trip of a lifetime?

I’m aware of many who did and one who is seriously thinking about accepting such a trip. Those who already have made the journey are my ancestors. They left homes in Scotland, England, Ireland and Germany and travelled over land and ocean to reach Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It took months to reach their destination. In one instance, it took more than a year.

They left behind family and friends, knowing they’d never see them again. The heart-wrenching day of departure was certainly filled with tears, doubts and fear. They were going to a new home in an unknown land, one that promised a better life though I’m certain not all the information they were given was fact.

It is with this knowledge that I think about someone else I know and their consideration for a journey to a ‘new world’ where humans want to settle. Just like the wilderness of Canada many centuries ago, this new world holds many dangers, many uncertainties. It will also be a one way trip.

Still, more than 78,000 people have signed up for the possibility of travelling to Mars in 2023, a journey that will take about seven months.

There are slight differences between the journey to a new land and the voyage to a new planet. Those who are destined for Mars must go through a rigorous training before they embark. Only those who prove they are fit and able to make the trek will be chosen. Settlers coming to Canada from overseas received little preparation for their new life.

Canadian settlers however, had a good chance of surviving with clean air and a habitable environment—if they didn’t fall overboard and drown or their ship wasn’t lost at sea. This is not the case on Mars. The red planet’s inability to sustain human life will be the new settlers’ greatest challenge.

So as humans sign up by the thousands to go where no one has gone before, it will be interesting to see the whole adventure transpire…from the comfort of home here on Earth, knowing they must be feeling like my ancestors did centuries ago as they set out for the unknown.

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