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2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 13

There is always a time when expedition begins when it seems as though the end – just 15 days down the road – is a lifetime away. It is hard, if not impossible, to imagine how much we can learn, how many new sights we can see, how many important moments we can be part of and how many stories we can listen to. Now, with today marking our third last day at sea, we can feel the power of this experience coming together. Learning is coming full circle. Ideas are sparked and the flames are being fed. Feelings are being reflected on. Promises are being made. Although we are all excited to get back to our friends and families, it is not without a small ache in our hearts as we know we will be leaving this new family behind.

With the end of expedition and beginning of a new story growing ever closer, we worked our hardest today to take in each and every moment. After another hearty breakfast and some time on deck looking at the towering fjord cliffs as we sailed passed, we broke into on board workshops. Students were able to select from a range of workshops including fascinating discussions about Women in Science, led by educators Bronwyn Keatley, Senior advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Amelia Traschel, Professional Civil Engineer; a discussion on Arctic Policy and Human Rights with Aqqaluk Lynge, head of the Inuit Human Rights Center at the Inuit Circumpolar Council Greenland, former Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada President Nancy Karetak-Lindell, moderated by Professor Whitney Lackenbauer; discussions on development in the North with Janet King and Becky Mearns; songwriting workshops with our music dream team, Mel, D’Ari, Ian, and Nelson; time to get back in the K-zone for arts and crafts; and a workshop about exploring your identity with Ivalu and Cathy.

The afternoon brought us to a 2017 expedition record – our third landing in three days! With the weather bringing many opportunities to exercise plans B and sometimes plan C during our time in the Canadian Arctic, it has been well on our side during our Greenland travels.

With that, we landed this afternoon in Itilleq Fjord. Itilleq, meaning “crossing place” is near the shores of the Davis Strait and sits almost at the Arctic circle. We spent the time on the rolling tundra, nestled between the steep mountains and the calm waters of the fjord. With the bouncy green ground under out feet and the stunning rocky peaks surrounding us, we enjoyed some land-based workshops, including a pond water workshop with Oceanographer Daniele, botany with Museum of Nature scientist Roger Bull, reflection workshops with Elders and counsellors Moosa and Pitsiulaaq, a journalling workshop with JR, and several more students were able to get out on the water in the qajaqs and stand up paddleboards. Oh, and let’s not forget – there was a square dancing workshop!

Back on the ship in the evening, we explored our wildest dreams with an inspiring presentation by JF – the youngest Canadian to summit Mount Everest – titled “How to Eat an Elephant”. JF talked about the value of setting goals and shared strategies for reaching them. As always, our hearts were warmed with amazing performances by staff and students – some performing newly written songs from the days workshops and some never having sung or performed before at all! A highlight for the entire team would definitely be the surprise throat singing and beat boxing performance by Nelson and Alexia with special guests, the Chicago team, Latarick, Cassy and former Ambassador Heyman! You can bet the room erupted into a string of giggles and cheering because that is what Students on Ice is all about.

With another day behind us, we look forward to our zodiac cruises and landings in Evighedsfjord tomorrow. Another day of learning and sharing on the land and in our floating home!

In the expedition spirit,

Students on Ice

Daniele shows students the micro-organisms they could in the pond.

Read more about today from our participants:

Marley Blok – White Lake, ON, Canada

On August 17 the Ocean Endevour crossed the Davis Strait. It was a rocky crossing but I did not get seasick! We saw some larger icebergs as we crossed and did another bottle drop. The day overall was pretty quiet with some workshops and relaxation time.

On August 18 we landed in Uummannaq, but before that we saw whales! Two fin whales greeted is as we sailed towards our destination. Uummannaq was a very welcoming community. People greeted us onshore with the Greenland Flag and welcomed us into their homes. We saw a performance by the choir at the orphanage and got a tour of the orphanage. I met lots of the kids that lived in the orphanage and played games with them.

Our next destination was Ilulissat. We saw some humpbacks on the way over that were resting on the surface and then showed us their flukes and left. We hiked up to the Jakobshavn Icefjord in Ilulissat. It was huge. Some of the icebergs were bigger than buildings and it was hard to imagine that was only the top 15%. After the fjord we got the opportunity to walk around the town. I had the worlds best soft-ice when I was there. Then we got back on the zodiacs to go back to the ship.  We got a radio that a humpback was by the ship so our zodiac went up to it and got to see it dive down from about 15m away. It was amazing! I’m not looking forward to this trip ending in 4 days.

Jamie Chan – Kowloon, Hong Kong

Today we visited Itilleq Fjord in Greenland. It was so beautiful. There were snow-capped mountains surrounding one side of the fiord, and the vast ocean on the other. It’s hard for me to describe being there, with words or even with photographs. That’s the difficult thing for many SOI alumni, which I can now proudly say that I relate to. The view was so stunning I could sit there for days.

We had workshops, and I joined one about finding your political voice. It was run by Nancy, who is the president of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, and Bruce, former US ambassador to Canada. It constantly amazes me that I’m in discussion with these incredible experts in such powerful positions, and we’re even on a first-name basis! There’s an enormous wealth of resources on this ship, and I’m trying to make use of it as much as I can.

As I was heading back to the zodiacs, I found a sock on the ground. A sad abandoned sock. Then as I kept walking I found a piece of plastic. These had to be from SOI, because there were hardly any signs of other human activity in such a remote place. I put them both in my backpack to return it to the ship. I was stuck by the natural beauty of the place, and seeing this litter from a group promoting environmental awareness (the irony!) reminded me of the detrimental impact of humans on the planet, as well as reinforced my passion for sustainability.

Sending my love to my sister Casey and mother Anna (Gladys). Sorry for not blogging much. Thanks for making me bring so many warm clothes and moisturizers. I’m warm and moisturized.

– Jamie Chan

Students square dance while Ian, JR and Jeff jam in the circle!

Da Chen – Toronto, ON, Canada

Being surrounded by daily magical sights is such an amazing experience. I am so grateful for being here and around so much knowledge and wisdom. Today we visited the beautiful Itilleq Fjord. What an amazing sight and what an unworldly place.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking a lot about this journey. Everyone around me is an inspiration. Everyone I met, every story I’ve heard. All of this really touched me in ways I did not imagine. Being here changed me in many ways but I cannot find the right words to describe most of them. But there is one thing that I do see and that is I realize that I cannot be just good enough. For many years, I only strive to be just good enough and stopped trying when I got there. However, with everything I have seen, learned and experienced, I realized that being just good enough is not enough. Being just good enough does not help my brothers and sisters, being good enough cannot help protect what I see around me and striving to be just good enough definitely won’t help save this world. As I am blessed by this amazing opportunity, I have a responsibility to push my boundary and push the limit of what is considered my best as this wonderful world deserve nothing less than our very best.

Students press flowers after a botany workshop.

Ellen Chin – Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The tangerine of the sunset

Was sparkling on the tides of the azure ocean,

And warming up the frigidness of the white Arctic.

It blew like wind through the unhurried daisies in summer,

And waved through the dress of the maiden on the ship deck,

Together with the cradlesong performed by the whales,

Lingering at the joyous gathering of creatures around the glacier.

The sunset woke up the rainbow in a drizzle,

And shone onto the feathers of the soaring seabird.

The sunset hue that decorated the blue sky

Was calling for the lonely canyon covered by snow,

Who was sighing about the warming of her homeland,

Like the drifting bottles floating in the vast ocean,

wandering around at this well-known yet unfamiliar place,

And searching for the sturdy ice cap of years past.

Polar bears howling on a thin sheet of sea ice,

And calling the lonely glacier covered with ice.

The glacier replied with a gigantic crack,

and threw her body into the well-known yet unfamiliar ocean,

As the setting sun.

      Yesterday we have been to Ilulissat, Greenland and we hiked to the side of the ice fjord. That is the longest ice fjord in the world and I was watching as a totally different scenery as before, while I was taking a boat to the ice fjord last year during evening. The ice caps in the ice fjord are totally amazing and  beautiful while the sun came out when we arrived the side of the ice fjord, leaving an astonishing blue sky reflecting in the water. We climbed onto the high rocks and having a lecture there and I felt that it was unbelievable to climb onto the cliff since the canyon beside my feet is like 10 meters deep. The moment when I was standing on top of the cliff was ridiculous but also brilliant! When we walk back to the town there were hundred of dogs along the path and they were sleeping as marshmallows among the grass. Some puppies were playing around with flowers and they ran onto the road and ran around us. They remind me of the house of dogs in Uummannaq while the dogs were performing as a choir after their lunch of some fresh seal meat. I have also seen some whales in yesterdays morning and they were cute but I couldn’t really hear their sound since the engines of our ship are too loud and I believed that this is the reason why the whales and all the other wildlife were running away from us. Anyway, I really enjoyed the time we spent in Greenland and I am looking forward for the on-shore workshops today at Itilleq Fjord!

      I was having so much fun at the Itilleq Fjord because I can finally go kayaking! When we got onshore, we were having some workshops first and I were catching some insects and organisms from the pond, which will be frozen during the winter but is getting extremely productive during the summer time. There were no fish so they will not eat up the small animals inside the pond! Also, we found lots of gigantic jellyfish around the coast and they are even larger than my hands, with reddish colours and attractive outlook. The kayaking was really fun even though it seems like the kayak will easily flip over, but it is actually safe. We were kayaking to the other side of the coast and we meet the beautiful sunset when we were kayaking back. The wind blew strongly during the sunset so our kayaks were getting up and down by the strong waves, and we often see some jellyfish and sea belt around our kayaks!

Itilleq fjord is surrounded by stunning snow-capped mountains.

Celine Do – Etobicoke, ON, Canada

Yesterday I was speechless at the UNESCO world heritage sight we witnessed in Ilulissat, Jakobshavn Icefjord. There was a long hike from the dock to the site itself, but the hike itself was really eventful. The group I was with managed to kick a soccer ball in a ditch, under a moving car, through people’s legs, the list goes on. We passed by a field filled with dogs, and my heart melted. I have never wanted a dog so badly! As we entered the site, we were surrounded by Arctic wildlife. Mountains and moss were next to us and under the boardwalk, colourful Greenlandic houses were behind us, and glaciers were in front of us. Dogs were howling in the background, joined by the waves of the ocean and voices from our group and some more tourists. As we entered the fjord, a vast amount of towering icebergs were grouped under the mountains we stood on. 2 of our educators, Eric and Brendan told us the history of the fjord, and that 2% of Icebergs in the Arctic originate from the fjord we were looking at. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it didn’t look real. After our lesson and a huge group photo, I was selected to have photos and interviews done by the media team, along with the 4 other girls who received the Leacross Scholarship as well. It’s surreal to say that I was interviewed on top of an icefjord in Greenland. When can anyone ever say that?

After the icefjord, we explored the town of Ilulissat. Many people had the soft serve, rumoured to be the most delicious in the world. I can’t confirm or deny that, as my lactose intolerance didn’t allow me to test it out. Instead, I went souvenir shopping, and bought some cool Greenland socks for myself and my brother. I caught the zodiac back to the ship and got dinner. Today hasn’t been the greatest, we crossed the Davis Strait again, which is known for getting everyone seasick. I had some gravol and slept for a few hours, so my stomach was less queasy. We are set to explore a small town called Itilleq today, and I’m really excited!

ps. Still haven’t died Grandma! I miss your Viet cooking mom! 🙂

Jayna Brulotte – Victoria, BC, Canada

Greetings from Greenland! After our 30+ hour Davis Strait crossing, we arrived at Uummannaq Greenland two days ago and have been travelling down the coastline. With the exception of feeling queasy today, I have thoroughly enjoyed how the rolling of the waves rocks me to sleep each night and especially the two nights that we were crossing the Strait and had larger swells. I anticipate that the motion will be one of the many aspects of this experience that I will miss (unless my current queasiness is prolonged) when I’m back on land in just a few short days.

Greenland is a pretty interesting and stunningly beautiful place. Colonized by Denmark nearly 300 years ago and still a part of the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland has many European qualities. Danish Kroner are used as currency and Danish is one of the country’s two official languages, the other being Greenlandic, an Inuit language. While I’ve never been to Denmark or atlantic Canada, Greenland is what I imagine as north meets Denmark meets Newfoundland. Fishing is a key industry and the harbours are bustling. There are roads within communities but not connecting them (only air or water travel between communities), and they are built on solid rock along the coast. The houses are brightly painted and most have white window frames contrasting the red, green, blue, yellow, purple, orange, etc., of the exteriors. They are often raised above the rocky ground, with external pipes connecting them to water systems. In each of the two communities that we’ve visited so far – Uummannaq and Ilulissat – we’ve had a chance to explore and meet local people. The towns are vibrant and there are dogs everywhere, as they are raised as sled dogs.

Just outside of Ilulissat is an icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ilulissat means ‘place of glaciers’ and the name is not deceiving – the icefjord is over 70 km long and the glacier produces 30 billion tons of icebergs annually. It is awesomely huge and beautiful. I took loads of pictures but, of course, they don’t do it justice.

Throughout the trip, I have had so many fascinating conversations with students and staff, and I am making friendships and connections that will last beyond the end of this journey. There is priviledge in getting to participate in this experience and with it comes responsibility. As we are emphasizing for the students, this trip is a launch pad – it’s the jumping off point to taking what we’ve learned about the Inuit, reconciliation, climate change, community, the environment, and ourselves, and making a difference in our communities and in the world more broadly.

This morning, I was able to support students through thinking about their next steps. There are several grant opportunities available to Students on Ice students through various partners. Students can access these funds to lead a project in the coming year. As the Students on Ice staffer who was scheduled to run a workshop about these opportunities was experiencing seasickness this morning, myself and my new friend from the Winnipeg Foundation were asked to step in and lead the session. As they say everyday here, flexibility is key! I really enjoyed talking to the students about what makes a great application, including clearly communicating about their project idea, the need for the work in their community, as well as the impact that it will have. I can’t wait to hear about the amazing ideas they come up with!

I’m off to participate in some on-shore workshops. Thanks for reading and have a great day!


John Gertler – Montreal, QC, Canada

We’ve made it to Greenland! It’s beautiful here. Our first day in Greenland we went to Uummannaq (which means heart shaped mountain), a charming small fishing community. There, we were given time to walk around and explore. I loved the colourful houses built on the steep rocky mountain. The people there were all smiles and we had a blast. A few of us also got the chance to paddle board and kayak out of the port and right up to icebergs. I fell of the paddle board into the water several times and I loved it. I would have stayed in and floated there on my back in my wet suit forever if I could.

During our second day in Greenland we visited Ilulissat, a much bigger fishing town. It was a busy busy Saturday in Ilulissat. Their were hundreds of boats in the harbour. Once we had arrived, we took a hike to a fjord that was full of ice. It was possibly the most stunning thing I have ever seen. The best way I can describe it is a city of ice. Any which way you looked  there were icebergs for kilometres. It was hard to believe my eyes. Once we returned to the town I went straight for “the best ice cream in the world.” where I managed to get two ice cream cones, one for free!! It gave me a big stomach ache but it was all worth it.

It was clear, as explained to us, that the Greenlandic Inuit were colonized far before the Canadian Inuit. This makes Greenland considerably different from Nunavut, however just as charming in its own way.

Merci, thank you,

John Nathaniel.

Biinia and Amber have a laugh during their square dance!

Matthew Linehan – Ottawa, ON, Canada

Yesterday floored me. When we saw the first icebergs float by at the start of the expedition, I was amazed. As they gradually grew to the size of our boat I was still amazed. Yesterday in Ilulissat we went for a hike to the edge of the Jacobshavn Icefjord. This is where calved icebergs from an outlet glacier for the Greenland Ice cap go. We crested a hill, and there was an endless field of floating icebergs, some bigger than the mountains around them. If they were to flip, the resulting wave could be over 30m high. I mailed a postcard from the town, and I am crossing my fingers that it will get to where I sent it. Today I learned about northern development through a discussion workshop by discussing a theoretically proposed goldmine for northern Nunavut. We also made a shore landing at Itilleq where we were taught about Arctic plant life. I have noticed a drastic change in climate where we are now. The well developed coast of Greenland has no sea ice, and much more grass and other plants. I really noticed the contrast from the last time we went foraging while in Sirmilik Park on Bylot Island.

The expedition is unfortunately almost over. I have learned so much here, and made so many powerful connections with other students and with staff with a wide variety of expertise. I am so grateful to everyone who helped me get here, and cannot wait to share the experience when I get back!

Cyan McLean – Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL, Canada

Having a good time with Students On Ice, Greenland is the most beautiful place I’ve visited. Today we went on the land and did some workshops, I went to the one about post secondary and I learned that I still have a lot of time to figure out what I want to do and I don’t need to be in such a rush. Through out my trip I’ve learned loads of new things about my culture and I definitely appreciate it more now then I ever did, I also learned plenty about climate change that I didn’t originally know, like how climate change in the north is effecting Micronesia. Global warming is a serious issue that needs a lot more attention. I am so happy I was given this opportunity with Students On Ice, I have a lot of information to bring home now.

This is for you mom.

~ Cyan McLean

Matilita and Janice look at the organisms that were found during the landing.

Harrison Phillips – Vancouver, BC, Canada

We are in Greenland!!! After crossing the Davis Strait we arrived in Greenland, at a village called Uummannaq. There we finally disembarked and got to explore the small town on the rocky shore. Its houses were all painted different bright colours and there were sled dogs chained up around town. We watched a performance by the Uummannaq Children’s choir, who performed some traditional Greenlandic songs and dances along with some more modern ones. The next day we sailed to Ilulissat, and saw our first fellow cruise ship, as it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site Icefjord draws in tourists. The site was an amazing thing to behold because it is like an entire bay filled with glacial ice, and this massive and uneven white surface stretches as far as the eye can see. We heard a presentation on the glacier by a glaciologist who is with us and then we were allowed to explore the town. Today we are going to the Itilleq village and fjord where we will visit the community and go for a hike on our second to last day on the ship. Time has passed so quickly!

Rachael Tovar – Cranston, RI, USA

How lovely Greenland is, I got to go kayaking. This huge mountain came upon us with snow on the top of it. I also got to SUP later in the day, and as I went along jelly fish the size of my face were here and there. At the end of my water travel portion of the day, I got into the Ocean, it was a odd feeling as I slipped in. We were equipped with dry suits so you felt a little cold but dry and the suit went up when you sunk down.

I walked up the hill from the landing site and all I could see was tundra and mountains, a little further and I began to hear music. The music grew louder as I went up the mountain and then I saw a couple staff playing a song and people holding hands in a circle and dancing together. It was amazing to see as I sat on a rock: a stream, mountains, a band, people laughing together, and the kayaks slowly cutting into the water at the bottom of the hill.

John journals during a reflection workshop on land.

Starr Webb – Nain, NL, Canada

My name is Starr Webb from Nain Labrador Nunatsiavut. Having a great time on Students On Ice, learning so much about our Inuit culture, about climate change and how to have a healthier environment. I am so happy that I got the opportunity to attend this years Students On Ice! It is an excellent opportunity to learn and explore the Arctic. I’ve learned so much and I can’t wait to take all this information back home and spread it around. On the beginning of our journey we had pre programming in Ottawa and got to explore Ottawa a bit, and learned a bit more of our Inuit culture at Nunavut Sivuniksavut. After 5 days in Ottawa we took off for Resolute, Canada. From there we embarked our home for the past couple weeks, the Ocean Endeavour. The communities are so amazing and greeted us as we got off the Zodiacs, they also performed for us, was so good to see them show off their culture proudly. We visited the Sirmilik National Park, not too far from Pond Inlet, Canada. We visited so many places and seen quite a few animals. So far we’ve only seen 3 polar bears, a lot of gulls, murres, and other birds, and a few whales. It was so amazing to see the reactions of some people who have never seen ice or these animals before. I’m glad they got the opportunity to see them and I hope they spread the news about global warming and how it’s not only affecting us from the North but the people from the South also. We left Canada a few days ago and we are now in Greenland, there was a bit of a sea on crossing Davis Strait, a few of us got seasick. Three days ago we disembarked our floating home to explore Uummannaq. Everyone was so welcoming there, everyone had a smile on their face when you passed them, and said “hi”, it felt and reminded me of home. Yesterday we visited another community and it was bigger than back home but it was so beautiful too. Today we went on land and done a few workshops, I went to the post secondary workshop. I’m enjoying my time here and the workshops and everything that the Ocean Endeavour and Students On Ice is providing. A big thank you to everyone and especially Nunatsiavut Harvesting Compensation Committee for sponsoring me to go on this trip, and to my family back home in Nain, and in Labrador and Canada. I really appreciate my culture, and my language now. Thank you to everyone!

Muriel Juncker – Münster, NRW, Germany

Yesterday we went to the Jakobshaven ice fjord in Ilulissat. After we got off the wrong mountain and on the right path, and actually got to see it, it was amazing! There is a wooden path leading to it, since the whole area is a UNESCO world heritage site and needs to be protected. Sadly, we weren’t on the wooden path to the glacier, but on a sketchy path in the mountain next to it. So we had to climb aaaall the way down and onto the wooden walkway, which itself is pretty long. And let me tell you, on long hikes you suddenly wish you weren’t above the tree line anymore…

But we arrived, we only got a bit lost and we weren’t even the last ones to arrive! Which meant we had a lot of time just to soak it all in. And you do need time to soak it all in. That view was what you imagine the Arctic to be: Ice, icebergs and more ice. Nothing but white and blues as far as you can see. Nothing but ice as far as you can see. To be honest, we couldn’t even see that far because the icebergs were so gigantic that they blocked the view, which is alright because the ARE the view

We even had a moment of quiet just to look and watch and observe. Just when it ended, the sun decided to make its first and only appearance that day! It’s our good SOI karma that came through.

When we got back to town, we didn’t only storm the souvenir shops, but also a little hole-in-the-wall food place. They were supposed to have the softest soft-serve ice cream in all of Greenland or even the world, nobody was sure about that, only that it was supposed to be very very soft! So of course, everyone went to get one. I can tell you: It tasted like ice cream-ified marshmallows which may sound gross, but is actually amazing! A lot of us also got greenlandic hot dogs, some were daring and ate the muskox hotdog, but I wasn’t. I had a plain ol’ hot dog, but it had a nice surprise> Curry Ketchup! It was awesome, and I am still not sure if the ice cream or the hotdog was better. But I think, nobody is really sure.

So all in all, it was a pretty awesome day!

Check back tomorrow for more updates as the expedition begins to wrap up!

Nooks, Nancy, Steffie, Nangmalik and Ben pose for a photo in Itilleq Fjord.

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