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2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 5

What an absolutely magnificent day! After experiencing some heavy fog and light rain yesterday, we found ourselves today in beautiful Croker Bay. We spent the morning here learning about the history of the qajaq (kayak), its origins with the Inuit and importance to their culture led by two of our educators, Inuit elders Moosa and Pitsiulaaq. Then it was workshop time! All of the participants broke into a mix of educational workshops with students selecting between a mix of science, art, music and more! To our excitement, this was briefly interrupted by a polar bear sighting! We all, of course, rushed to the deck of the ship to catch a glimpse of the polar bear meandering up the side of Devon Island, safely in the distance of our approaching vessel.

After lunch we loaded into our Zodiacs and landed on Devon Island! In two main groups we explored the land on foot and the water by Zodiac. The group on land hiked up the side of the glacier while the group in Zodiacs cruised around the front of the glacier to take in a different perspective. One small group of students and staff went out onto the water in handmade traditional qajaqs and stand up paddle boards. Even our own Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna was able to get out on the water in a qajaq!

Devon Island is incredibly unique because it is the largest uninhabited island on earth. In many places the terrain is so similar to that of Mars (yes, the planet!) that it is used for research by NASA. Although we didn’t come into contact with any NASA researchers, our time on Mars-on-earth consisted of a hike up onto our first glacier! This expedition team can now officially call ourselves students on ICE! The views were absolutely breathtaking, and the experience made even more meaningful by our resident glaciologist Eric Mattson. Standing on top of the glacier, with stunning views of Croker Bay and our expedition vessel in the distance, we learned that a glacier by definition is a mass of ice flowing under the influence of gravity and its own pressure. We also learned about glacial mass balance, how glaciers lose mass (through melt and calving of ice) and gain mass (avalanche, snow fall or snow drift) and what controls this. We learned first hand about the impacts of climate change on glaciers through temperature changes and even how a glaciers “aspect” (the direction it faces) impacts the rate of melt.

Another fascinating aspect we observed is the role that rocks on top, within, and underneath a glacier play in erosion and in the shape and character of rocks as the glacier shifts and acts as sandpaper against the bedrock. The result is an extremely fine powder that gives the water a turquoise colour – which we were able to see firsthand!

The Zodiac excursion was equally as impressive. We explored where the glacier met the water and the incredible mass, shape and colour of the ice along the coastline. The tour continued around various icebergs that had broken away from the glacier, each with their own unique shape, bright blue shining through the crevices and a flock of black legged kittiwakes perched on the edge. We sat quietly in our zodiacs listening to the sounds of the birds, the gentle drips of ice melting from the icebergs and water lapping against the walls of our Zodiac. The peaceful moment was broken by the sound of a piece of ice calving off from one of the bergs and crashing into the water.

After several hours on land and Zodiac we returned to the ship, tired and happy. We enjoyed a late dinner, evening recap and a bit of time on deck taking in the stunning landscape of Dundas Harbour as our ship continued on our path through Lancaster Sound. Another incredible Arctic day behind us and another exciting one ahead!

Read what our participants have to say about their experiences today:


Students exploring Croker Bay in traditional Inuit qajaqs.

Ivan Arsenault 

Hello Family and Friends. Three days into the Arctic adventure and the learning experience has been non-stop. Getting to meet some of the 200 student and staff participants has been one of the highlights so far – everyone is incredibly engaged and the excitement is contagious.

Since flying in to Resolute Bay on August 10th we have boarded our expedition ship, the Ocean Endeavor and embarked on our journey across the high Arctic.

On August 11th we took our first zodiac excursion to Prince Leopold Island, its 100 foot cliffs home to hundreds of thousands of Arctic birds.

Our evening outing was to Beechey Island, where members of the Franklin Expedition met their fate waiting to be rescued. As we walked from the site of Northumberland House to the graves of the three sailors,  two young women walking behind us began throat singing which created the eerie sense of a funeral procession to our trek down the beach.

Today, August 12th, we sailed into Croker Bay on Devon Island to get a look at our first glacier. I had a memorable moment when, being the first one off the zodiac, stepped onto the beach and sank into mud up to my knees! Being on the glacier was surreal – standing on a massive hunk of ice in the middle of the summer with mosquitoes buzzing in my ears.

So far, the Arctic leaves me in awe – and they tell us the coming days are even better!

Da Chen


For the past few days, this was the only word that came to my mind. Everywhere I look, all I can think of was “wow”. It’s so sureal that we are here at this part of our planet, surrounded by a world beyond my wildest imagination. My brain still cannot fully process everything that had happened, the view I have seen or the sounds I have heard. There is only one word that can express how I feel and that is WOW.

Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada President, Nacy Karetak- Lindell, giving a keynote presentation onboard the ship about Inuit Nunaat.

Julia Dicker 

One week into the expedition and I’ve already met hundreds of people. Everyone is so welcoming and we all have many stories to tell. It’s cool to hear the different Inuktitut dialects from Nunavut, Nunavik, and Inuvialiut. My friend Starr Webb and I are having so much fun and we are learning more of our culture & language. We’ve met people from Micronesia, Malaysia, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, USA, and many more countries.

We started the expedition with a pre-program at Nunavut Sivuniksavut in Ottawa. Then we travelled to Resolute Bay, Nunavut. The people are so nice and there are no trees there. I expected warmer weather, but when I stepped off the jet it felt like winter again. The next morning we travelled to Prince Leopold Island to see all the birds, went to Beechy Island to see graves from the Franklin Expedition, and we are now on our way to Devon Island. The scenery is beautiful and the polar bears are fun to see. I cannot wait to see more of the Arctic and to go to Greenland.

I love to hear the Inuit throatsingers, the piano players, and beatboxers. People mix throatsinging and beatboxing– something called throatboxing. Every day is filled with activities– I could write so much more! I am starting to miss my family and friends, but I am having an amazing time!

Delphine Doucet 

Je crois que je viens de passer la plus belle après-midi de ma vie! Par où commencer? On a fait tellement de choses incroyables. Bon premièrement, nous avons vu un ours polaire!! En fait pas un, mais bien deux. Malheureusement je n’ai pas eu la chance de voir le premier, mais j’ai observé le second malgré qu’il était très loin sur une montagne. C’était super intéressant de voir un ours polaire dans son habitat naturel.

Ensuite, nous avons fait une sortie en zodiac pour se rendre jusqu’à un glacier, un vrai de vrai glacier!! Et on ne l’a pas seulement regardé de loin, on a marché dessus. Et vous savez quoi? On pouvait même boire l’eau du glacier, car c’est de l’eau pure et fraîche. J’en ai donc profité pour remplir ma bouteille d’eau et je peux vous garantir que c’est vraiment la meilleure eau que j’ai bu de ma vie. C’était juste un moment magique et il n’y a pas de mot pour décrire à quel point je me sentais bien et heureuse. Tout le monde était silencieux et c’était un moment parfait pour apprécier la vue. On était tellement petit comparé aux glaciers qui étaient tellement énormes (surtout que nous ne voyons que 10% de leur ampleur, le reste du glacier est immergé dans l’eau).

Après cette marche qui était fabuleuse, nous avons embarqué dans un Zodiac et nous sommes allés tout près des glaciers, c’était majestueux! Nous avons même eu la chance de prendre des morceaux de glace qui étaient à la surface de l’eau et de pouvoir les manger, c’était vraiment génial. Ensuite nous avons tous ensemble chantés des chansons en prenant des photos et vidéos pour immortaliser la beauté qui nous entourait. C’était vraiment un moment mémorable que j’ai passée en excellente compagnie. En revenant du zodiac nous avons même eu la chance de voir un phoque qui était très curieux et qui est venu très près de nous.

J’ai aussi fait un workshop hier sur la relocalisation des Inuit. J’ai appris qu’ils vivaient dans le nord du Québec au début et que le gouvernement avait décidé sans leur demander leur avis de les envoyer a Resolute Bay et Grise Fiord. Les familles étaient séparées et ils devaient se débrouiller eux-même dans un environnement qu’il ne connaisait pas où tout était à faire. Évidemment, cela a laisser une cicatrice dans leur histoire. D’ailleurs, un jeune garçon qui a été relocalisé est aujourd’hui devenu un politicien et il travail pour que la voix des Inuit soit respectée et que cela ne se reproduise plus jamais.

Bref, je peux vous confirmer que Students On Ice est vraiment la meilleure classe au monde. On apprend beaucoup sur plusieurs sujets et nous vivons une expérience unique en même temps. A+

Students out on deck of the MS Ocean Endeavour looking for a spotted polar bear!

Muriel Juncker 

Today has been a cold day (what else is new?)! But, I am getting the hang of this layering thing– the more layers, the better! It doesn’t matter how uncomfortable you are. It doesn’t matter how hard it is to move around with 4 pants on. It doesn’t matter how much you sweat while you’re waiting to board the Zodiac. The only thing that matters is having enough LAYERS.

But, even though I was a human onion, being on a glacier IS pretty cool (pun intended). It was incredible, and I could kick myself because my camera’s battery died while we were still on the Zodiac… I took a nice polaroid picture, although I had to awkwardly place it against my neck in order to develop it in the cold.

The workshops are coming on nicely. I joined a robotics one, which is WAY out of my comfort or “interest zone.” It is pretty fun, and eventually losing the robot race is going to build character, I guess!

Audio Break! Take a listen to some sounds that were recorded by a student today while out on the water.

Sasha Latchaev

Wow! What a great adventure it’s been so far. Two days ago we left our Ottawa U hotel, and went on a journey to the Arctic, yet it feels like it has been so much longer! We arrived in Resolute Bay and the weather was shockingly cold, but  not unexpected. When we reached the coast we  were amazed by the size of the Ocean Endevor. This huge vessel was truly a masterpiece, and I felt safe knowing that THIS was the ship we will be sailing on for most of this adventure. For the rest of the day we talked about safety procedures, goals and our planes for the upcoming day!

Then came a new day, and with it an early morning! We learned a lot about the Inuit culture and their way of life. We also got to visit Prince Leopard Island, a see one of the few bird sancuaries in Canada. The fog made the humungus cliffside seem endlessly  tall. We learned about different birds, their physical appearence and their living style out here in the north. We also got to visit Beachy Bay, a historical home and grave for many explorers from HMS Erebus and HMS Terror. The whole island had a very creepy vibe to it. The landscape was very big, barren and scary due to the history of the bay, the endless fog and lack of any visable life.

Then came today. We woke up at 7:00, got up and went to breakfast. Afterwards we had a choice of  5 amazing workshops. I got to participate in the reconciliation group, where we talked about mending our damaged relationships with Inuit. After that the Ocean Endevor arrived at Croker Bay. There we got to ride the zodiacs around the glaciers, learn about it’s history and how they are formed. We even got to go on shore and see the spectacular natural sight. The mountains and glaciers are abousolutely ginormous! You can never catch such a breath taking landscape on film or in photos, because the whole area has an amazing atmosphere and energy to it. We were like tiny ants compared to the tall glaciers, and even taller mountains. I don’t belive that it is even possible to describe the feelings I got to experience while walking amongst these giants.

Though time flew during the last couple of days, it’s important to focus on the upcoming day, get enouph sleep, and get ready for the new early energizers that will be here tomorrow, and I look forward to the rest of this jouney as we continue sailing west, together!

Student Caroline capturing moments on the glacier.

Rachael Tovar

Got up early again today, and found myself completely alone on the deck. This powerful looming land lay in front of me, cold wind blowing at my face. It was the kind of cold that makes your bones hurt and your face feel brittle.

Later in the day, we saw our second polar bear, off in the distance. You could see  it moving slowly but surely up the mountain.

We went to a place called Deren island in Croker Bay. There was a glacier that was a beautiful blue, a massive thing that went up into the air. It looked as if it was running away from the island itself. The atosphere was a peaceful one, no rain or wind like on Beechey Island. The water was an aqua that made you want to dive into it because it was so inviting.  We saw a seal peaking its head out of the water. As we approached it dove in, but as we rode away on the zodiac it cheekily popped its head back out of the water to peer at us.

To stay here in the Arctic, even if it is only for two weeks, is an opportunity that I am so lucky and appreciative to have. It has ireplaceable lands, wildlife, and an amazing history. It is almost like a fairy tale being here. The land is so beautiful that it looks like a different planet.

Selina Zhou

Even though it is still only our second official expedition day, we have done so many interesting workshops and activities that I feel like we have already been here for a long period of time. Of course, my favorite part is the zodiac ride! Just before I started to blog, I was on a zodiac cruise around a number of icebergs. Luckily enough, we saw a huge chunk of ice falling off the glacier! It just happened suddenly, so we did not catch the moment with our cameras. We learned about healthy and unhealthy glaciers from Eric, who also mentioned that over 90% of the world’s glaciers are actually unhealthy due to the fact that they are diminishing gradually over time.  At this moment, I still cannot believe that we stood on a glacier that is thousands of years old. On our way back, we saw a walrus and two seals. Now, I regret that I did not bring any professional cameras with me because those animals are usually very far from us, and an iPhone’s camera is totally not enough. Therefore, I took a photo of a bearded seal from a camera of another student, who caught the moment when the seal’s head was coming out of water. We also saw a few polar bears today, but as I mentioned before, they were all really far from us. Although I was using the binoculars, they still appeared as tiny creatures.

Another highlight of my trip so far is talking to people from all around the world, especially the Inuit, because I have such little knowledge about the Inuit culture and their way of life. One of the Inuit whom I talked to yesterday during dinner told me that he hunted 20 caribou last year. After dinner, I asked him to record a few Inuktitut language basics on my phone so that I can show off when I go back (just kidding). He asked me to record a few Mandarin basics  on his phone also, because one of his friends back home learned how to say “hello” in Mandarin from TV, and every time his friend just says “Hello” in Mandarin to him. He is satisfied because he now knows more Mandarin than his friend does.

I think meeting different students and staff every day will be a really good way for me to build relationships with all kinds of people. And I hope to learn as much as I can from them.

I feel like everyday’s schedule is so packed during this expedition, and there are so many things that I cannot write them all at once. But don’t worry, I will try to record all of them in as much detail as possible in my journal!

Zodiac cruise along the edge of the glacier which is receding.

Sara Dubé

It’s only the second full day on the ship and already I feel the enormity of this growth experience in action. There are so many opportunities for learning that it’s hard to keep up with the pace, but I’m doing my best to take in as much as I can while taking care of my energy. The landscape is as awe-inspiring as it appears to be in pictures, but being here allows us to experience the picture with all of our senses, beyond sight. We are immersed in the sounds, smells, and feel of the Arctic too. Being Students on Ice means to use these elements of the Arctic as a platform for looking deep into ourselves and our role in the world, and I am so thankful for the team of people that we are living and travelling with who are so open to sharing  their life experience. I feel safe, supported, and inspired to ask questions and contribute my thoughts. Andrew, one of the expedition doctors brought up the idea of zooming in and out on life, and I am trying to do so, as I look into and around myself. Tomorrow will be our first day in Sirmilik National Park. I look forward to representing student jobs at Parks Canada together with my colleagues as we visit the park with our shipmates. It will be really special to finally visit one of the parks that we have been learning about and promoting all summer, together.

Shelly Leighton

Ship’s Position: Dundas Harbour!

Another jam packed day. We woke up south of Devon Island. Apparently Devon Island is like looking at Mars, and NASA is doing research here since the two are so similar.  I also gave my first workshop today: ROVs. It was a popular workshop and was full. The student’s got a start on building their ROVs.

This afternoon we did a zodiac ride as well as a hike on a tidewater glacier in Croker Bay. While I was walking around the base of this beautiful glacier I picked up rocks (like I do) and I had Janet help me identify the minerals within. I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I found Garnet. Janet is a Geologist and is incredibly knowledgable and passionate. She has pretty much spent her day answering my many questions about the geology of the area we are in. She explained the features we woke up to were that of an ocean basin, layered sedimentary rock. In Croker Bay she said the bottom of the ocean basin is known to be exposed somewhere in the area and she was looking for it. Finally in Dundas Harbour this evening she found me and showed me what she had been looking for earlier. The bottom of the basin!


Tomorrow is another jam packed day. Can’t wait!

Eva Graham

There have been many wonderful opportunities to learn about Inuit and Canadian history on this expedition. On Friday, I learned about relocation in the high Arctic through a lecture and discussion. On Saturday, the entire group was given a presentation titled “Q is for qayaq” by Pitsiulaaq Akavak and Moosa Akavak. I enjoyed hearing this bilingual Inuktitut – English presentation and was surprised by the complexity of the qayak/kayak. Later, some of the group was able to go kayaking. That night, we also had a presentation on RCMP Special Constables in Nunavut by Deborah Webster. I am thankful and humbled to hear these stories, and look forward to more as we continue our journey.

Students exploring on stand-up paddle boards.

Don’t forget to check back daily for more updates and exciting moments!

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