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2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 11

Hello from Greenland!

After breakfast this morning, we were called out on deck to marvel at the iceberg filled waters surrounding the ship and look for whales. Not long into our search, we were blessed with our first whale sightings! Several fin whales visited us, along with a few seals. Nothing like enjoying morning coffee surrounded by sea life and ice bergs!

An amazing selection of workshops followed – the diversity of staff and their extraordinary breadth of knowledge and experience is yet to disappoint. Students chose from workshops on climate change, reconciliation, vocal skills, and making your own dog harness to name a few.

After an early lunch, we saw the charming village of Uummannaq, Greenland appear out of the mist, its quaint coloured houses built into the rock on the coast of this beautiful land. We learned that this village is known as the island with the heart-shaped mountain. Although we couldn’t see the mountain due to the mist, we definitely felt the power of its heart. We imagined how incredible it would be to live in this tiny place and revelled in the special culture of this unique spot – visiting the Blubber House and local museum, which housed so many artifacts from traditional Inuit culture. We examined the extraordinary seal, polar bear, and caribou skins that make up many of the traditional winter clothes worn by Inuit for hundreds of years. We explored some sod houses that had been built back up in the 1920’s for families to live in, but are now preserved so visitors can get a sense of what life was like not so long ago.

Soccer games were played throughout the day in the hilly streets with local children; some students took their first trip on a traditional qajaq or stand up paddleboard along the shoreline against a backdrop of icebergs and mountains.

We strolled through the village, enjoying treats from the local coffee shop and grocery store, before heading to the local cultural and art centre. There, we were gifted to a truly generous cultural performance.  A longtime SOI friend and ally, Ann Andreasen, had arranged for the youth from the local Children’s Home, which she runs, to share incredible music and dancing with us. The Children’s Home is an orphanage for all of Greenland, taking in children from the several cities and towns who are in need. The performers that come out of The Children’s Home are internationally recognized, and perform at festivals around the world. The young women shared traditional and original songs that they sung, harmonized, played guitar and drummed to. They were joined by an amazing quartet, that kept us all captivated for their hour-long performance. But the fun didn’t end there – some of our SOI participants and staff collaborated with our new friends. Nelson Tagoona throat boxed with the girls from Uummannaq Music, alongside participant throat singer Alexia. Several other students participated by dancing, drumming and more. Afterwards, all of our hearts were full from such a rich afternoon sharing culture, history, language and tradition together in this beautiful place.

Thank you Greenland for all you’ve given us so far!

Read what students and staff had to say on their day in Greenland!

We were lucky enough to watch Uummannaq Music perform a mix of traditional songs as well as Greenlandic pop songs!

Karen Ehmes – Kolonia, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia

Kajilel, Kaselel, and Hello everyone. It’s Karen again. We are finally in Greenland and it is beautiful. Nohno and Pahpa, about being seasick, I actually got quite seasick the past two days. The ship wouldn’t stop rocking since the first night we finally set out to open waters after leaving Nunavut. It was a great experience and don’t ever send me to Mwoakilloa, Pingelap, or even Kosrae, or actually, just don’t ever make me go on a trip by ship if you know it’ll be rough. Thank you in advance lol. Anyways, I saw my first whale today! It was awesome. There’s so many icebergs too, here in Greenland. It’s a very beautiful and cultural place and it would be great to come and visit sometime. I’ve managed to figure out the right amount of layers I need, and I promise, the cold is no problem at all. You both don’t need to worry about me and the cold anymore. To everyone else who are reading this, I recommend that you visit Greenland! You won’t be disappointed. It is very rich in culture and they are also very welcoming.

Well, that is all for now.

Much love from the Arctic!

Erica Jacque – Postville, NL, Canada

The Best Day Of My Life: Uummannaq

Today started pretty similar to the other except… WE ARE IN GREENLAND. I went to breakfast and talked with friends about the exciting day ahead, and afterwards my friend Jamie and I went on the top deck to look for whales. There were icebergs in every direction, we called it the garden of ice. I spotted a whale around 6 times. Some came really close to the ship, and we all would point and shout “look!”

After whale watching I went to a workshop on the history of Inuit sled dogs, and made a harness for my dog, Lucy. We were all jittery during lunch whie awaiting our first stop in Greenland.

The day went by in a wonderful haze. Some students branched off to different locations around the town. First I went to ”Santa’s house” which looked like a little hobbit home. Inside there were newspaper clippings about Santa, and animal skin clothes that looked like santas outfit. Next I went tothe beautiful stone church. As we entered there was a man playing the piano, which made me feel like I was in Game Of Thrones. Then I went to 2 museums. One was Santas mailroom. I have never seen anything like it in my whole life. there were 3 foot high bags filled with wish lists and letters from all around the world, there was a board on the wall littered with letters from China, and a bag filled to the top with passifiers. I went to the supermarket and watched some kids having an intense game of soccer with some students.

We had the amazing opportunity for the Uummannaq choir to sing to us in a private concert. The room was all white with black and white photos of Inuit people on a wall, and small tables for two places neatly around the room. I got a small snack and sat at a table near the back. The choir was introduced to us and began to sing. They wore beaufiful traditional shirts with fur. Their singing sounded like what I imagine heaven sounds like. I was completely intranced by their voices. I thought to myself of how lucky I am to be here and to witness this sight.

Still on cloud nine, I walked out of the building and to Ann’s house (who manages the orphanage and choir). Then, to end off this day we went to the orphanage. As I entered I smelled home. We had homemade soup and walked around the house. It was the most beautiful and safe place I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. Sadly, it was time to return to the ship, so I said thank you to the people who welcomed us and headed to the Zodiacs. My description doesn’t live up to the time spent in Uummannaq, nor does it represent properly everything I was feeling, but I will never forget this gorgeous town, the warm people, and these memories.

Ann Andreasen, head of the Uummannaq Children’s Home welcoming us to Uummannaq!

Fathen Jusoh – Teacher

Salam from Uummannaq, Greenland!

Yeaah! alhamdulillah, we finally arrived in Greenland!

As we anchored in Uummanaq, I was so happy and glad that I could get to see another ‘civilization’ after few days sailing which I couldn’t really recall how many days now. And it’s even better when Uummanaq is literally a colourful town, literally built on the rock, by the river/sea overlooking the ice-capped mountain and hundreds of GLACIERS!!! It somehow looked like a Paint advertisement  on TV commercial, or better! Sadlly, Ummanaq had landslide last few months and many lost their houses due to tsunami! But, I only knew it when I was here!!! shame on me!  Thanks to Nuka for her presentation on the incident. She’s from greenland and I learnt a song from her which I like to try in my class later.  ^_^

At Uummannaq, we were so lucky to have an opportunity to visit children home funded by Prince Albert Foundation of Monaco. It’s a cosy place which I believe the children will call it home! it’s a home for orphans and children with family’s problem and it’s a place where they see hopes and ‘lights’. We were so lucky that Ann, the lady who  runs the children home,invited us to her house! It’s a beautiful house and it’s like a museum to me! She has a lot of Inuit and Greelandish’s traditional things/items displayed in her house that are made of bones, tusks, skins and fur.

We then were invited to the children house to have some hot chicken and fish soup! I had fish soup and it’s good to have it  in such COLD SUMMER! at children home, I’d got to talk to two of little boys who live in the house, they were rapping when we got into their room, but they welcomed us to join in. I’m amazed to see how confident they are to speak their second or maybe third language to strangers like me. How I wish all my students in Malaysia will have the same cofidence to speak to anyone. It’s not about how much you can speak, but the willingness you have to actually speak (your mind will be even better).

And i’m glad that Yusuf came forward to speak to share his highlight for today and I’m dragging both Bella and Yusuf to write today. Thanks guys! 😉

Yuliusi and a new friend chase after a soccer ball in the streets of Uummannaq.

Kimberly Pilgrim – Torbay, NL, Canada

I can’t remember what I blogged about last, which is a true reflection of this expedition considering nobody really knows what time of the day or week or month it is at any given moment. There is no concept of time. It feels like the trip began yesterday but months ago at the same time. This is not a bad thing, though. The day before yesterday (I think) was a great day, Sirmilik National Park was beautiful. We had on shore workshops about science, medicine, rocks, and did an absolutely amazing hike to a waterfall. The highlight of this trip for me so far was walking to and from the waterfall with Veronica and Caden while listening to the Brother Bear soundtack, picking blueberries, and sharing stories on the way. It was a time for me to reconnect with the land that reminded me so much of being out on the islands in Labrador. I used to run and jump from rock to rock, wearing out the bottoms of my socks as a kid. This time I had hiking boots on and I am technically an adult, but still had just as much fun.

I also got to reconnect with my old friend Veronica and share old stories from when we were ten. Eight years later, we don’t feel like we were ever apart. As important as reconnecting is, it is also important to make new connections. I never thought I’d be able to say “Yeah, I know someone from Alaska!” But there we were, two Nunatsiavummiut, talking about all our similarities with a guy from the complete west of us.

The air is so fresh out here that its almost impossible to have a bad sleep. I found that out today when I took a nap in the hub uncomfortably sprawled out with my feet up and my friends napping along or laughing at us nearby. We missed out on a couple of whales, but sleep is crazy important when you’re switching time zones every few days and having as much fun as we are.

Today, I lived a childhood dream of mine and then some. We arrived in Greenland! I have wanted to visit for so long and was so surprised when it reminded me a lot of Hopedale, Labrador. Uummannaq is a small, bright, fishing community in northeast Greenland. Santa lives here, and I cried when we landed because I couldn’t believe I am in this country. We visited shops, the post office, a cafe, a cultural building with traditional artifacts and photos representing Greenland, and more. In that building there was a beautiful lit up sculpture of a whale in a dark attic. The vibes in that attic were so beautiful. It just gave me a great feeling. We saw many dogs, and even got to see a man feed his dog team fresh seal meat. The dogs were beautiful and the puppies learning to eat and bury their food  and bones were so adorable. We had the opportuity to go kayaking in a traditional skin kayak which was incredible. I’ve never kayaked on the ocean, and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. We also tried stand up paddle boarding, which was a learning curve and very wet, but super fun. Kayaking in the ocean close to icebergs with people from all over the world in Greenland, what an experience.

It is suppertime soon, so I should get going! Until next time!

An SOI event wouldn’t be complete without some sharing – SOI musician, Nelson throat boxed with the Uummannaq Music group!

Rachael Tovar – Cranston, RI, USA

Uummannaq was magnificent. Little houses are sprinkled under the heart shaped mountain, giving it bright spots of color. It was rainy but bright out and as we walked rain clung to our coats, making it chilly. It was as picturesque as the itinerary of our trip said. Everything seemed to be worthy of a photo.  Dogs howled in the background, the sea crashed onto the rocks, it was full of different expieriences. It was one of the best days I’ve ever had in my life. I froze my hands off at 5 in the morning but it was all worth it because I got to be in the presense of hundreds of icebergs, quietly moving past me. We saw a total of 11 whales in the morning, the first whales I have ever seen in real life. I’ve been waiting almost 10 years to see a whale in person and today I finally got to see many.

After lunch I got to speak with artist Ian Tamblyn about song writing and the process he goes through when writing a song. This was an amazing talk. I learned a lot and I am really grateful I got to speak with him.

Then we went to Uummannaq,where we roamed around the town. We saw where Santa lives, the museum, and beautiful performances of Inuit culture.

As we exited the performance hall, I saw that people were playing soccer and decided to join in. We played for maybe an hour, and then the soccer ball fell into the water. We dropped rocks behind the ball to create a ripple to push the soccer ball back to shore. It took us a while but we did it.

It was a trully spectacular expierience, and a very jam packed day of looking at Uummannaq.

#SOIArctic2017 student, Papatsi Kotierk of Iqaluit.

Shuyi Wang – Stouffville, ON, Canada

The morning has been awesome, seeing a group of seals and spotting three whales on the top deck. Although it was freezing outside and at one point I almost gave up, finally being able to see wildlife after days of watching ondeck and anticipation has been really rewarding. As Geoff predicted, Greenlandic waters are often friendlier for ships to sail and for seeing wildlife. Birds were surrounding the ship, a group of harp seals were  popping their heads up in the distance, and two whales were happily feeding on the smaller marine life. Many people on the deck had been waiting for days for some signs of mammals. Soon after, we headed back into the hub and went to the different workshops. The “Hero’s Journey to Climate Change” was a really informative workshop and took a different approach to persuading us to take action, and how to take actions. The conversations sparked by the presentation were very educational and brought a lot of perspective into context. Currently everyone on the ship is in one way or another an environmentalist, so a lot of the policies currently in place might not make sense. But to others, there are higher priorities such as business and profit that comes before concerns about the environment. It is our mission to make it a top priority and advocate in as many ways possible to publicize the issue and let institutions to make key changes in their policies.

Right after lunch, we have arrived at Uummannaq, a really nice small community filled with bright colours and aesthetic buildings. The town consists of 1200 people, a larger community than Pond Inlet and has a world reknown choir that  performed for us. When we got onshore, the local community welcomed us with their flags and their warmest smiles. In the distance, the fog covered up the top of the rock but you could still tell that the rock was in the shape of a heart, which is where the name of the town came from. Lois and I wandered off away from the big group of people, thinking that we could get to some remote place or even the top of the town and enjoy the view while taking pictures in isolation. As a result of that, we rarely bumped into other people from the ship and did take some amazing pictures of the town but also lead to us being lost while trying to find the museum and the gift shop. We went to the top of the town and saw this tiny co-op store that sold regular groceries. Despite being a tiny bit disappointed that there weren’t any souvenirs, we kindly asked for directions. The store owner was super nice and tried her best to point the way using drawings and a tiny bit of English. To express my gratitude and also being a bit hungry, I bought a piece of delicious Kebab skewer and shared it with Lois. Soon after, we successfully found the tiny store “Riina” and headed for the performance. By the time we got there, the performance was near the end, but it still looked awesome with all the throat singing and guitar playing. After the performance, I wanted to go back to the store and get a pair of gloves, and was dissapointed to find the store to be closed… The moral of the story is to buy the object when you want to, because most likely the next time you go again, the object is not going to be there. Hopefully tommorrow we can have a better landing without the rain and fog along with more stores to buy souvenirs from. Wish me luck and this is me signing off.

Students paddle along the side of a grounded iceberg.

Chelsea Zhang – Richmond Hill, ON, Canada

August 18, 2017 – Day 9

Hey everyone! I’m sorry that I haven’t been blogging in a while; I have been dealing with the indescribable struggle known as seasickness. It got worse the last two days and I figured I should take a break from blogging to rest. But now I’m back to full speed!

So today we finally made it to Greenland which is incredible. It’s my first time in Greenland so it’s super exciting for me to see what it’s like. In the morning we got an opportunity to do some whale-watching as apparently Uummannaq (the place we’re visiting today) is a highly popular place for whales. Sure enough I saw three fin whales while waiting on deck. I wasn’t able to see their entire bodies; the most I could see were their tails and some fins. Luckily, I was able to snap many quick photos of what I could see of the whales and I’m glad to say that my photos were pretty good quality. I’ll just have some trouble convincing people back home that the pictures are of whales.

After whale-watching, I attended a workshop about Arctic Plants by our resident botanist: Roger. I’d actually told him the other day that I wanted a workshop about plants so I’m quite happy I got my wish. His workshop was incredible. I learned so much about plants and the adaptations they developed to survive in the harsh climate. I also really like how he took the angle of how climate change is affecting the plants thus tying in everything I’ve learned about climate change so far.

Once lunch was over, we finally arrived at the village of Uummannaq. My first impression of the village was that the houses were really colourful; I could see the various shades of red, blue, green, and yellow even from a distance. From what I learned after talking with Lyn the colours were reused marine colours that are waterproof and were originally used to paint the boats. The colour also helps attract tourists and there were dogs everywhere. Stray dogs, pet dogs, and dogs used for dog sleds. I had to use all my willpower not to cuddle them. It was really great going around and visiting the town; I think I could have stayed for days. My favourite parts include climbing the mountain in the village and reaching the top, visiting the Uummannaq Children’s Home, and watching the children’s choir perform. What wasn’t so great was that I was scheduled to go kayaking/SUPing today, but I missed the meeting. So I wasn’t able to go kayaking today… which was a bummer.

I came back at around 6 in the evening where I spent some time with Carl singing the Moana soundtrack (which was especially hilarious considering we didn’t know all the lyrics). I had dinner with Selina, Roger, Bronwyn, and Greg. What was an absolute surprise to me was the fact that Greg had lived in China for two and a half years and is able to speak fluent Mandarin. Thus, we started having a conversation in Mandarin and Selina and I couldn’t stop laughing the entire time at Greg’s Mandarin proficiency.

Looking forwards to tomorrow!

Chelsea Zhang

The midnight sun turns the Arctic into a magical place!

Gerol Fang – Toronto, ON, Canada

Hello from Uummannaq, Greenland! This afternoon we finally disembarked after over 40 hours onboard the expedition ship. Close your eyes, picture this: one small island filled with picturesque houses of blue, red, and green, incredible rock formations, and icebergs floating in all directions. Now take a deep breath. The air is crisp, but extremely clean and pure. This is what we saw and felt in Uummannaq.

During our 5-6 hour visit, we had the chance to walk around, visit the Children’s Home, and attend a concert by the Uummannaq Music singers! The performers were amazing, the group is entirely comprised of children living in the town and they perform all over the world. The hospitality of this entire community was incredible, and I will never forget all the smiles of the young Greenlandic children as we stopped to chat, even though they did not speak English.

We are now sailing towards Ilulissat, and we will be able to visit the community tomorrow. I am so, so excited to visit and see what new things we will learn!


P.S. We saw 8+ fin whales today!

Veronica Flowers – Hopedale, NL, Canada

Wow, I am having an amazing time here on SOI! Yesterday was a sea day and the sea was really rough but I didn’t get sea sick at all thanks to gravol. On our sea day we did workshops, hung out, and rested up. This morning we arrived to Uummannaq (it is so beautiful here!) and we went whale-watching from on deck. We got to see some whales. Then we had some workshops and I went to a dogsledding one and got to make a harness for my dog, yay! After lunch we went to the community of Uummannaq, Greenland by zodiacs and got to explore! We went to some stores and a couple of museums and then we continued walking and saw so many dogs! Then we went kayaking and paddleboarding and it was so much fun. We got to paddle around an iceberg (there are sooo many icebergs here!) and some people even jumped in for a swim – with dry suits of course. Even though it was rainy and foggy out we still had a blast and I am so excited to explore more communities!

The first whale sightings of #SOIArctic2017!

Selina Zhou – Jenkintown, PA, USA

Finally we have arrived to Greenland. We spent the whole day yesterday at sea, crossing the Davis Strait. As one of the major components during sea life, seasickness came to “visit” me. One of the expedition physicians, Andrew, offered me some medicine, and thanks to Jolly, who gave me a ginger tea bag. Luckily, yesterday was the only day that I felt seasickness so far.

Today we were on shore the whole afternoon in Uummannaq, where we visited a Children’s Home for orphans. I was surprised to see how big the house was and how tidy all the rooms were. They offered us some chicken/fish soups, and they were delicious. One of the managers told us that the government would only provide enough money for their daily needs and salaries to people who work there. A lot of other facilities and instruments were sponsored by other companies. These children travel around the world to perform and show their talents to the public; they even sang for the Pope. The children are all invited onboard right now, and listening to their music and laughter while writing this blog is the most satisfying moment ever.

Cell phone service and internet are accessible now, so I called my dad this morning. However, I do not want to turn on the data on my phone at all. This is not because I don’t want to spend extra money (I actually bought a data plan before this expedition), but because I am feeling a strong attachment to the land, the people, and the culture here. I would rather not let my phone disturb me. I know for sure that I will not live my life without a cell phone when I get back home, but it is still nice to have a period of time when I really have the chance to engage in communication with people.

Be sure to check back daily for updates!

Uummannaq is a village known as the island with the heart-shaped mountain.

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