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2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 12

What a wonderful day to sail into Disko Bay and the beautiful community of Ilulissat, Greenland.  We spent the morning on deck, watching the icebergs and looking for whales. Famous for the Ilulissat Icefjord, this area is full of glaciers.  Shed by the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, the icebergs from the Ilulissat Icefjord produce a huge amount of fresh ice. An amazing statistic we learned was that the ice produced from the icefjord in one day is the equivalent to the amount of fresh water used in one day in New York City!

After ship-based workshops in the late morning, we headed out in Zodiacs to visit the community of Ilulissat. We walked through the town to the UNESCO Heritage Site where there is a boardwalk out to the edge of the icefjord. What a spectacular site. We gathered together on the rocks, the sun came out to greet us, and we had a moment of silence to just appreciate this very special place. At the site, we learned from glaciologist Eric Mattson and Brendan Kelly of the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Center about the history of the glacier, how it produces icebergs and impacts due to climate change. It was fascinating!

We continued to explore the UNESCO area and then headed back to the village to enjoy time exploring on our own. We met some local residents, visited museums and galleries, and purchased souvenirs for friends and family back home. We even enjoyed some of the world’s most delicious soft ice cream!

One of the highlights of today was that we were joined by two inspiring Greenlanders, Kuupik Kleist, former Prime Minister of Greenland, and Aqqaluk Lynge, former President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, politician, and author. Tomorrow they will be speaking to SOI and we will be learning more about this beautiful Arctic country of Greenland.

Read from what students and staff had to say on Day 12!

Papatsi works on her caribou antler earrings.

Celine Do – Etobicoke, ON, Canada

Four more days left! It seems like we’ve spent a whole month here on the ship, everything’s been so routine. Yesterday was the best community visit of all time – Uummannaq, Greenland.

The minute we docked, I could feel the amount of love radiating off the town, literally translated to ‘heart’. Two girls from the children’s choir handed us Greenland flags as we walked out of the Zodiacs, and greeted us with bright smiles. I, along with everyone else, was in awe of the colourful houses arranged around the valleys. Vibrant blues, yellows, and reds scattered around us.

Since we embarked on the expedition, I’ve always wanted to visit a school or somewhere with kids. We had the pleasure of visiting a children’s orphanage that was run by an extremely generous woman named Ann, who opened up her home for us and said, “Here you are not tourists, but guests.” I made a note in the back of my mind to visit the home later, as I was chosen to kayak or stand up paddle board in the water. We explored the town for an hour before kayak time. The highlight of my day was dabbing with the children. A group of boys passed by, and I tried to ask them what their names were. They all gave me blank stares, as they didn’t speak English. I am a camp counsellor, so I know what kids their age love: dabbing and fidget spinners. I dabbed, and sure enough, the whole group erupted into a loud laughter, and dabbed ferociously back at me. I got a nice photo dabbing with them, those will be added later to my Instagram, follow me @celine_._  (Totally not a self promo)

The dogs were the cutest and kindest dogs I’ve ever seen. They loved our attention, and one of them hugged me, then grabbed my mitten in its mouth and ran off. I thankfully got it back, but covered in slobber! I attemped to stand up paddle board, but I realized shortly after that I was not cut out for it. I traded to a kayak, and that was the best decision I’ve ever made. I also filmed it with my waterproof camera, so stay tuned for my vlogs!! We visited the children’s home afterwards. I hiked up from the water to the top with my friends Stina and Lindsay: we thought we would get lost but we found the home where everyone was! The kids were all singing in the choir or playing soccer outside, so I didn’t get to see them. However, as we were leaving to go back to the ship, a few of them joined us on the Zodiac back. They introduced themselves, and serenaded us with a mini concert on the Zodiac when I said I had missed their performance because of kayaking. We got back to the ship and played a game called ninja with some of the choir youth. It was sad to see them leave; we waved to them from upstairs as they zoomed back to Greenland. The day ended with the most beautiful sunset; we don’t see those often so it was a huge treat. I forgot to mention we had a Drake dance party a few days ago, and it reminded me of home. (I’m still not dead, Grandma & family)

Brendan Kelly of the University of Alaska’s International Arctic Research Center presents about the history of the glacier, how it produces icebergs and the impacts due to climate change.

Veronica Flowers – Hopedale, NL, Canada

Wow what a great day!! Today we visited Ilulissat and we got to go to the UNESCO world heritage site. We went on a walk on a boardwalk and saw so many icebergs in a fjord. It was so beautiful! Then we got to explore the community and we got soft serves and bought souvenirs. The weather was mostly rainy and cold again but the sun came out at one point, we still had a blast though! I got so many beautiful pictures and made so many more memories. We are now back on the ship and the view is beautiful. Heading south to visit another community tomorrow! Can’t wait.

Eva Graham – PhD Student

We have crossed the Davis Straight and made it to Greenland!

Our first stop was Uummannaq, a village of approximately 2,000 on the western side of Greenland. This village showed such kind-heartedness and beauty. After wandering around the city, we watched a song and dance performance by young Uummannaq students accompanied by a few orchestral instruments. Students on Ice students and staff also joined in. We were greeted with homemade cakes and cookies, tea and coffee. We then visited a Greenlandic house as well as the Children’s Home. They had prepared soup for us and gave us a tour of this beautiful home. It includes a strong and renowned music program for children and young adults, and they perform worldwide. The generosity shown by people in Uummannaq was heart-striking.

Today, we saw HUMPBACK WHALES and visited Ilulissat. Next to Ilulissat is a UENSCO world heritage site that includes a large glacier (though it is rapidly getting smaller, I’m told). I heard 2 talks about glaciers by SOI staff and we all enjoyed taking pictures. Only 3 days left!

Selina takes in the stunning landscape!

Muriel Juncker – Münster, NRW, Germany

Yesterday, we were in Uummannaq (which means heart-shaped in Greenlandic), but it was so rainy and foggy that we couldn’t see the heart-shaped mountain it is named after (and btw, we are used to rain and fog, but we expected that the Greenlandic Arctic would be sunny…). We did wander around the community and while I didn’t buy another ugly yellow sweater, it was still fun! We visited the local orphanage that has children from all over Greenland from the ages of 7 – 22. It was very cozy and surprisingly home-like.

The children were full of life and so unafraid of us, they played soccer with us and other little games. We even got to see a show from the choir of the orphanage which is famous and has travelled all around the world to perform, for example, they have already performed for the Pope! It”s amazing how these girls could sing and dance and perform! It was one of the most beautiful thing I’ve seen and heard, them performing traditional Inuit songs from Greenland mainly, but also from all over the Arctic.

My highlight was when one of our musicians came up to the stage and performed with the girls, they were throat singing and sometimes he chimed in, but mainly he was at the guitar and beatboxing. It sounds weird and kinda messy I believe, when you haven’t seen it, but I promise you: It was amazing!

Fathen Jusoh – Teacher 

Salam and hello from Ilulissat, Greenland!

Today we’ve got to see mind-blowing biggest fjords in Greenland. it’s one of the UNESCO protected sites-UNESCO stands for United Nation Educational Science cultural organization- alhamdulillah! But to get there, we had to climb up the hilly roads in a rainy day! It got my fingers numb, but nearly 1 hour walking up the hilly road warmed my body and I felt like taking off all my rain pants and windbreaker!!! To carry them in my backpack will be even worse, so I just bear with it.

Along the way to the site, there was a big field where they placed sled dogs, many of them!! Maybe nearly hundreds? Some were tied and some were free. Seeing them in the rain made me felt really sad! Like seriously? I know they have thick fur and do look like an Arctic wolf, some were just sleeping in the rain-  they couldn’t go anywhere ,though – they were tied! I just felt so so so bad. I think if they could speak, they will yell at us, they did bark though, but I believe they’d love to take shelter somewhere dry if they could. Those dogs are used during winter for dog sleds.

At the UNESCO site, i was mesmerized with their big chunks of meringue-like glaciers! They do look like meringue to me. Eric,the glaciologist who joins us in the expedition claims this site Ilulissat has the largest and biggest glacier and fjords formation in Greenland!! One of them appeared to be 12km in depth in past few years!

On the way back, I stopped at one of the souvenir shops – that’s the only one we found though and all of the Students on Ice headed there and maybe the shop earned a lot today. But I didn’t buy anything. Just 3 luggage tags said- GREENLAND that cost me 32USD!! So no more shopping and don’t ask if i’ve got any souvenirs, they sell gold here. Lol!

Looking forward for tonight, we’re going to cruise by the fjords!

P/S-ain jo, I’m thinking of you – most of the time- like everytime I feel like I need somebody to talk to – I have you in my mind! I’ve got to be strong and chin up! Whatever it is, I will face it!

And mom and dad! I miss you!

And El, if you ever get to read this, could you send my bundle of joys – 3 creative and 3 honest’s home?  I will get something good for you, anyway I didn’t buy anything, like-nothing – not for anyone, air from Canada?   :p

Group shot!

Sasha Latchaev – Richmond Hill, ON, Canada

Yesterday we finally got to Uummannaq in Greenland. As we approched the settlement we saw many whales, and beautiful icebergs. Our ship stopped and let us enjoy the nature and wildlife of northern Greenland. But when we saw the town we were awestruck. All of the buildings were painted unique colours and stood out, the mountainous terrain was rocky, yet people still lived on the cliffs. You can really see their culture, and experience such happiness from this welcoming town. I got to explore, went to a couple of stores, cafes, gyms, museums, orphanages and performing theaters! It was truly a blast, and I know that everyone had lots of fun!

One last thing before I go for the day. From the top of the world and to bottom of my heart I would like to wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY Dad! I hope that the world will get to hear just how much I love you, and I hope that all of your dreams come true. Stay safe, happy and be the amazing person I know you are. Happy birthday!

Matthew Linehan – Ottawa, ON, Canada

We are now officially well into the Greenland leg of our expedition. I am super excited, since it means we will get to engage with and explore more remote communities. Yesterday morning when we woke up, we were sailing through a gallery of icebergs, all around the ship. We spent the morning on board whale watching and taking part in workshops. In the workshops I went to I learned about climate leadership, and becoming an influential advocate for sustainability through media and activism. On deck with my binoculars I noticed that the sunny Greenlandic waters are teeming with life. Flocks of seabirds skimmed the waters edge. A squadron of seals swam by, they look really hilarious when they swim since they seem to roll around not able to decide whether to swim on their back or their stomach. We saw two fin whales surfacing and shooting pillars of water from their blowholes into the Arctic air. Shortly after lunch we arrived in Uummannaq. Our crossing of the Davis straight was officially over. Ummanaq is a picturesque town on the west coast of Greenland nestled at the bottom of a towering heart shaped mountain. All of the houses are built on hills, and dot the island in an array of colour. We explored the town and interacted with locals for the afternoon. We got a chance to see the church, the museum, the lookout point, the blubber house, the children’s home, the grocery store and much more. We experienced a traditional dance and throat singing performance. I also got to experience a dream come true; I was part of a lucky few that got to go kayaking in Uummannaq. It was a magical experience getting into a traditional animal skin kayak. It felt like I was flying across the water and became connected with the ice and animals around me. This morning we are on our way to Ilulissat. It has been said that it is the iceberg capital of the world, since its glacier calves more and larger icebergs than anywhere else around here. Some icebergs are bigger than I ever could have expected, coming close in size almost to our ship. It seems such a shame that all that fresh water will now melt into the sea and become undrinkable after being calved from a glacier. It is truly a humbling experience to kayak up to a towering iceberg and look down only to realize that it extends far further beneath you.

This glacier pushes out enough fresh water every day to sustain New York city’s water consumption for one year!

Nangmalik Qanatsiaq – Arviat, NU, Canada

The past few days have been really exciting, especially my first time in Greenland. We had landed onshore at Uummannaq yesterday, and they were so generous and welcoming. The orphanage leader even invited all of us into her house, without her being actually there. Also, I kind of got lost with Sarah-Eve in Uummannaq, which was fun since I got to explore a bit of it. Also, I am looking forward to go home since I miss my dirt bike. Also, a few days ago, I got to fly a drone thanks to Patrick, who was kind enough to lend me the controls. Taima.

Seth Stere – Tofino, BC, Canada

Yesterday we landed in a small village in greenland called Uummannaq. All the houses were different colours, and it made for an amazing view on the zodiac ride in. All the people in the village had big smiles on their faces and were super friendly. We got to take a tour of the Uummannaq childrens’ home. It was a great building with tons of traditional Greenlandic art. The Uummannaq childrens’ home has a group of performers that have travelled the world preforming their songs and dancing. We got to see a performance by them, it was beautiful. After the performance we went for a walk around the town. It was a pretty little town; every house was different and most houses had sled dogs outside. Visiting this town was one of the highlights of my whole trip. Today we are going to land in another village. I can’t wait to see what this one is like!

Kiara, Fily and Lindsay stop to snap a picture at the icefjord edge.

Rachael Tovar – Cranston, RI, USA

Today in Ilulissat we went to see a glacier. It was breathtaking, vivid blues and greens spred along the ice. It was huge – miles and miles big, sliding across the shore. The town was bigger than the one we saw yesterday;  there were more dogs too. Similar houses to yesterday played their part too, sitting next to each other along streets. It was surely a sight to see coming into the harbor with fishing boats huddled next to each other.

The walk to the glacier was warm, a calming breeze came and went along with us. It began getting colder at 4:00pm and colder still when it began to rain at 5:00. Cars came and went into driveways of brilliantly colored homes and shops. It was a lovely place filled with friendly people, vibrant landscapes, and humpback whales!

Chelsea Zhang  – Richmond Hill, ON, Canada

After my 3-km hike, I was slightly out of breath, mostly out of excitement. I finally made it to the top of the lichen-covered cliff, where many of my friends were already seated. I looked around to absorb my surroundings, and what I saw made my brain question if this wonderful place really existed. I knew the answer of course; it was all real. This place was Illulissat, Greenland.

In the morning, I attended an Isuma workshop after my breakfast. I had been working on making a stuffed snowy owl for two days now, and I was determined to finish the owl today. I don’t have much experience with sewing; most of my sewing knowledge came from my preschool art sessions. Luckily, Annie (the lady running the workshop) is extremely helpful, so I was comforted in the fact that if I made a mistake, Annie could correct it. And after hours of intense sewing, I was finally able to finish my owl. It looked like it was going bald, so I wanted to call it “Middle-aged Hedwig”, but I decided to call it “Hedwig” after Harry Potter’s snowy owl.

 With just a couple days left of expedition there is a lot left to see! Be sure to check back for more daily blog updates, photos, videos and more!

We spotted a fox out hunting on the ice!

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