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2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 8

After the rain in Pond Inlet yesterday it was nice to see the sun shining when we woke up this morning on the Ocean Endeavour. We had beautiful views of Sirmilik National Park and everyone was anxious to have a chance to visit. The winds were very high during breakfast, over 40 knots, but in not too long there was a break in the weather and the winds died down for a few hours. That gave us our chance and the Zodiacs took us to shore for an amazing visit to a place in the park called Qaiqsut.

Before leaving the ship, Parks staff along with Pond Inlet Elder Elijah Panipakoochoo gave a presentation about the area we would be visiting and how Thule and Inuit had lived there for over a thousand years. They had excavated an archaeological site, and old qammaq (sod house), where they found artifacts like harpoon heads and a woman’s ivory comb.

In small groups we walked around Qaiqsut guided by Parks staff and Elders. Very carefully we made our way over the land, across a small river, stopping to learn at various places. The qammaq sites made us pause to think about the ingenuity and perseverance of Inuit in order to survive and thrive in their environment, make shelter, and find all the resources needed to provide food, shelter, and clothing for their families. The Arctic plants and flowers we saw on our walk were beautiful and so small, again a reminder and symbol of perseverance and resilience as they also thrive. We learned about how some plants have wooly hairs for insulation, to help seeds develop, and have parasitic roots that steal nutrients from the roots of other plants around them.

We’re so grateful to the Parks staff and Elders of Pond Inlet who joined us on this special landing today at Sirmilik National Park and shared their history and culture with us. It was very special to walk in the footsteps of Inuit and their ancestors who have called this place home for over a thousand years.

We returned to the ship for some reflective down time, engaging in art workshops, crafts, sharing circles, journaling and time on the deck to take in the spectacular beauty around us as our ship sailed back to Pond Inlet.

Just prior to dinner, we gathered in the Hub (our main meeting space) to bid farewell to our good friends at Parks Canada and elders from Pond Inlet for their support and knowledge sharing over the past two days. We also thanked and said our farewells to Minister McKenna for her time with us.

The last several days have provided many opportunities for the voices of our Indigenous and non Indigenous youth and staff to engage with the Minister on issues related to climate, the Arctic environment, Indigenous culture and reconciliation. As shared by Ambassador Heyman during our farewell to Minister McKenna, there are bystanders and upstanders in life. This expedition has opened our minds and our hearts to the Arctic and its people. What we do with that is up to us. Thank you, Minister McKenna for joining us! We hope to see you onboard again soon!

Expedition artist, Jolly, cuts mutuk (narwhal) with an ulu for participants to try.

Read what expeditioners had to say on Day 8!

Whitney Lackenbauer, History professor, University of Waterloo

What an exciting expedition that we’ve had so far!  The array of experiences, presentations, conversations, and other learning moments has been remarkable. As a historian, I could not be more thrilled by what we have seen and one. There was the haunting landscape of Beechey Island, which I finally experienced first-hand (after two previous aborted attempts owing to ice conditions).  The misty, sombre hues set this place in what felt like an appropriate context: a desolate spot of refuge for the Franklin expedition during its first winter in the Arctic before it sailed south to its tragic fate.  We have visiting several sites with the remains of Thule sod houses, material reminders of patterns of habitation by Arctic peoples from centuries past, as well as the remnants of nineteenth century whalers (such as a tri-pot and iron storage bin) who once plied these northern waters. We have talked about the implications of the past for how we conceive of the present and how we set priorities for the future, emphasizing the value of partnerships and the exchange of knowledge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, and the folly of thinking that human beings can “conquer” nature rather than learning to listen to and follow its rhythms. We have also witnessed history in the making, through the event announcing the expansive national Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound which serves as a landmark achievement in protecting the marine environment. It has been wonderful to have the Hon. Catherine McKenna on board and to see her strong commitment to action both to address climate change and to promote the central role of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples in Arctic governance. I have thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of workshops and presentations by our passionate, knowledgeable, and inspiring team of educators, Northern leaders, knowledge keepers, and young people. We have talked at length about how applied science and traditional and local knowledge work together to illuminate the complex changes that our taking place in the Arctic and what steps we should consider to protect this region, which is intrinsically connected to the rest of the world. We have talked about how we can promote healthy Arctic communities, better understand and celebrate Indigenous cultures and identities, and take practical steps to ensure that our activities today do not compromise the lands and waters that are essential to sustain future generations.  As I soak in the endless beauty of the Arctic environment and its people, and find myself continuously impressed and inspired by the intelligence, creativity, and commitment of our remarkable community of SOI students from across Canada and around the world, I think of my sons Harrison, Rendall, and Pierce and hold out tremendous hope that they, with the other members of their generation, will become strong advocates for a more sustainable world.

Nicole Baines – Iqaluit, NU, Canada

Yesterday we were in beautiful Pond Inlet. Other than the fact that it was pouring rain,myself getting soaked, slipping and getting splashed by a truck, the visit was so amazing. The community was so warm and welcoming and I got to see an old friend. You can just feel the positive vibes the community was giving out; you didn’t see a person without a smile on their face. I bought a couple of sweaters and one of them had a narwhal on the front and now it’s my lucky narwhal sweater. And I hope that when I wear it the luck works and I see a narwhal. People came onto our ship from the Canada C3 ship and also people came from the community. I heard the most extravagant stories from those people and I will forever cherish them. There were workshops on the ship after lunch and I chose a drum dancing work shop. I was always interested in learning how to drum dance. I would watch people perform at my school and I have always wished to do what they do. So when I got the opportunity I took it. It was amazing learning the ways Inuit used to do it. We had amazing mentors, one from Pond Inlet and my fellow shipmate Nooks. I learned so much and I got into drum dancing very quickly. I felt so connected with my culture, and drum dancing helped get my bad energy out and I felt so calm. I even got to perform with my friend Caden and the guy from Pond Inlet who taught me, in front of everyone. Those moments were my favourite so far on this expedition. I love the good energy people hand out here, and I love to give the good energy back. This expedition is going by so fast, I’m not taking anything for granted here. I can’t wait to soak in more knowledge.

Breyn Banks – Victoria, BC, Canada

Hello again friends and family! It has been a crazy last couple days here on the ship. Yesterday we went to Pond Inlet where we were able to see Minister Catherine Mckenna announce a new protected area of Canada’s coast line. This protected area will account for 2% of Canada’s coast and is roughly double the size of Nova Scotia. After that we were invited aboard the H.M.C.S. Montreal for a tour. When we came back on the boat for dinner we were joined by the Canada C3 crew, the sailors from the H.M.C.S. Montreal, and some elders and other community members from Pond

A view of the MS Ocean Endeavour from the shore of Sirmilik National Park.

Inlet. Today we went to Sirmilik National park where we saw many archeological dig sites and sod houses once belonging to the Thule and Inuit peoples. This afternoon we will do another shore landing, followed by workshops on shore. I am having so much fun on this expedition, it is almost hard to describe. I look forward to whats to come over the next couple days. Looking forward to see you all soon. Lots of love.

Marley Blok – White Lake, ON, Canada

On August 13 we learned that flexibility is key. We were going to on a hike in Tay Bay in Sirmilik National Park but plans soon changed when the anchor of the ship was dragging because of the wind. Instead we sailed on looking for calmer seas and did Isuma workshops. Isuma is an Inuktitut word meaning a time to reflect. I made myself a pair of earrings out of Caribou antlers that one of the staff, Nooks, had found on the land. We then sailed into Canada Point, a historic site that looked like it belonged in two places. It had large almost sandy looking hills and behind those were snow covered mountains that looked like they belonged in the Alps. We were unable to go ashore there so we sailed towards Pond Inlet.

The next day we went into Pond Inlet and got a tour of the town. Lots of locals were asking us questions of where we were from and it was a very welcoming experience. During the reveal of the new national marine conservation area, there was lots of throat singing and drum dancing. I enjoyed being surrounded by a different culture. In the afternoon we tried going to Sirmilik again but because of fog we couldn’t go. Instead we got a tour of a Canadian Navel Ship. Before dinner elders from Pond Inlet, Parks Canada staff, C3 participants and staff from the Navy all came on board for dinner. It was such a welcoming and community spirit.

Today we traveled with Inuit Elders from Pond Inlet and Parks Canada staff over to Qaiqsut in Sirmilik National Park! We made it on shore and got a tour of all of the inuit artifacts of where they used to live. One elder in my group, Elijah, had lived there as a little boy and was able to tell us where everything was located and how the inuit used to live back then. It was a beautiful place surrounded by Mountains and running streams. I never wanted to leave. I am looking forward to the next places we will visit in the next few days.

Da Chen – Toronto, ON, Canada

I don’t know… the last two days made me realized how little I really know. This experience, all these emotions, I really don’t know how to feel and take it all in. I struggle to process all these different feelings and emotions. The conversations we had, the connections to the land and the hospitality of the people made me question what I thought I knew. I always thought of myself as someone who sympathized and understood the plight of Indigenous people, but the last two days made me realize how pitiful I was to feel that way. There are so much I don’t understand or hope to ever understand; the struggle and plight they experienced is not something I can ever fathom. Before arriving in the north, I always looked forward to seeing the wildlife or the beautiful natural scenery, but the connection to the Inuit helped and allowed me to see beyond the land to its guardians. I really don’t know how to process these emotions I am feeling. Part of me wants to escape and hide away these feelings and pretend they never happened, but another part of me is afraid of losing these feelings when I am back south. It’s a struggle I hope to find an answer to before we depart.  The North…the Arctic, being here really made me see how little I knew or understood. Despite my personal struggle, I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to be here and allowing me to see and experience this wonderful and beautiful northern world.

Students look out over the vast landscape of the Inlet.

Celine Do – Etobicoke, ON, Canada

I have lived on this ship for a week and I have only gotten mildly seasick once! This is also my first official blog, since the last one didn’t save properly.

Personal notes:

Hi friends and family! Mom, Dad, Vincent, Grandma, friends!!  I am not dead and have not forgotten about you all! Vincent, please if you killed my streaks ….. we are currently docked; we just went to see a national park that was so beautiful! Pictures will be AMAZING!

General Blog:   

The past few days have gone by so quickly. I didn’t think I would get close with such a huge group of people, but we are a floating family on board! The food… oh the food. I will miss the food so much once I am at home! (Sorry Mom). I woke up at 5:50 am this morning for the energizers, which are half-hour workouts held in the morning before breakfast. We weren’t able to go out to see anything for the past 2 days, as the weather wasn’t good to us. We still had a memorable time though, because “FLEXIBILITY IS KEY!!” This morning, we woke up to a bright and shining sun, which instantly brought our moods up. I don’t have enough words to describe just how incredible the scenery, communities, and things I have experienced are on this crazy expedition. First of all, floating icebergs, everywhere. I got to lick an iceberg! Yesterday, we visited a community centre in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, which was where we heard an announcement from the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change about a new ocean conservation area that would protect marine wildlife. The Canada C3 participants also joined us on board.

They let us wander around the small community for about 20 minutes, and we all made a beeline for the store, which had a 50% off sale rack filled with souvenir clothing. I grabbed the last hoodie, which I got for only $20!! It was extremely rainy, so we had to go back on the ship, but not all was lost. Workshops were held by the locals, and I learned how to throat sing, and heard hunting stories by two elders. I also got to meet my mentor Michael yesterday! He is the president of an Investment firm in Calgary. They have a fabulous mentorship program here, where a staff member is paired with a student. I am a passionate advocate about mentorship, and I was astonished when they said there was a program on board. I also am the resident piano player, which is so funny because I quit playing almost ten years ago! At breakfast, we sat at tables based on which month our birthday was in, and I found someone with the same birthday as me! I said he could be my twin brother, even though he was born a year before me.

This is all I have for now. I have to head up to the Hub to listen to a presentation. I can’t wait to share more about my experiences, and post my photos/blogs. It is truly a life-changing and eye- opening experience to be up here in the Arctic.

Thank you to my cousin Anthony for randomly telling me about SOI as a joke. Sometimes your jokes are good but this time it was life changing!! Also, a huge thank you to my mentor Alison who was a big part of my application process and my moral support before the trip. And to the Leacross Foundation, thank you Roslyn for the funding, and it was great meeting you in Ottawa.

Riva and Ahushka – new friends!

Eva Graham – PhD Student 

When I received my 2017 Parks Canada pass in the mail, I studied the large map of all parks. I scoffed at the idea of visiting parks in the Arctic, as surely it must be nearly impossible. Now I get to visit these parks. Students on Ice has also been privileged to help celebrate the opening of a new national park and a new national marine conservation area. (I next plan to scoff at the idea of seeing 5 different kinds of whales and see if that works out just as well.)

Today, we visited Sirmilik National Park. Not only that, but we had guided tours from Parks Canada staff,  Students on Ice staff, and residents and elders from Pond Inlet. The site we visited included a large burial ground, the well-preserved remains of sod houses, and remnants of whalers’ equipment. (It also included crossing a small river, so I’m glad I took the advice of wearing rain boots.)

Rule of northern parks: DON’T COVER OR BURY YOUR POOP. Because of the climate, it decomposes more quickly in the open.

Jack Hilditch – St. Catharines, ON, Canada

Today was one of my favourite days of the expedition thus far. To begin the morning, we went to shore at Sirmilik National Park where we had the opportunity to observe and respect the historical relics of the past Inuit that lived on the land. My group in particular was lucky enough to have Elijah, an elder from Pond Inlet, lead our group and inform us of the significance of these various structures and personal connections he has with them. Elijah’s wife’s grandparents actually lived in one of the historic sod houses that we got to experience first hand today. The significant historical value of the land in combination with the beautiful weather made for an amazing and relaxing morning. I felt extremely grateful and privileged to have the opportunity to visit such a beautiful national park. Following lunch, we had a much needed two hour break where we had the opportunity to relax, blog, meditate or nap in order to rejuvenate for the exciting afternoon and evening to come. Later in the afternoon, I attended Nelson’s workshop, where he discussed the challenges and tragedies he experienced in his life and how he has used them as a tool for empowering youth who maybe seeking hope and guidance in difficult times. Nelson is a very accomplished throat boxer (a combination of throat singing and beat boxing) who has played for crowds upwards of 20,000 people. I found Nelson’s talk very inspiring as he reminded us that you have the power to take control and have a positive impact on those around you. He encouraged us to utilize and focus on our passions in life. To conclude the fun filled day, we gathered to say goodbye to some of the amazing people that have come onboard including many elders and locals from Pond Inlet. We had a big party where everyone square danced to the beautiful accordion played by one of the elders from Pond Inlet. The atmosphere this evening was exhilarating. It was filled with claps, laughter, and joy. I look forward to the days to come!

Participants gather around an old tent ring created by the Thule people in what is now Sirmilik National Park.

Muriel Juncker – Münster, NRW, Germany

I cannot find the time to go blogging during the day, since there is so much going on on the ship, but I find time after breakfast (when everyone’s still sleepy and nothing’s going on). So here’s my blog about yesterday.

What a day! It involved a new marine conservation zone, theCanadaC3 expedition, a navy boat, elders, and a hideous yellow sweater. This is some stuff, that you only experience with SOI.

We started with the CanadaC3 expedition. The CanadaC3 expedition is an expedition that wants to sail all three coasts of Canada, including the Arctic. So, guess who else is in the Arctic? Naturally, we met up with them and they stayed the whole day with us and participated in our activities. One of them was the announcement of the new national marine conversation area.

So, we got to Pond Inlet, went to shore, and into the community center. The program preambling the announcement about the marine conversation zone (which, by the way, will be twice the size of Nova Scotia!) was just beautiful! Inuit culture is so rich and beautiful and the way they show it is proud yet not flashy. We heard throat singing, stories, poems, and much more.

To be honest though, some of us were also excited to be in a town to spend some money, so directly after we all crowded into the only store. This is where the yellow sweater comes in: huge, yellow tie-dye and a narwal. Whoever knows me, knows also that I cannot resist something like that, especially when it’s only 25CAD.

Back on the ship, we discovered that we couldn’t continue our day as it was planned because it was so incredibly foggy! So, since flexibility is key, the staff whipped out another program: Traditional Inuit workshops, including not only throat singing and drum dancing, but also seal skinning (yes, it was ALL hands on). The other part of the new itinerary was a visit to the navy ship anchoring not far from us! Our expedition leaders are awesome, I admire them so much for handling everything so well.

German summary for my friends and family/deutsche Zusammenfassung fuer meine Familie und Freunde: Mama, ich habe einen unglaublich haesslichen Pulli mit einem Narwal drauf gekauft. Tut mir leid.

Fathen Jusoh – Teacher

Salam and Hello from the Arctic ocean,

Yes, the sun has not yet set here. But good thing was – we could enjoy and take pictures of the views 24 hours without camera flash. Sometimes we do need camera flash, though, when it’s so foggy!

Today was so bright compared to yesterday. Even it was sunnier and brighter, it’s colder. Yesterday was foggy and raining, but i could bear with the coldness.

I just got back from Qaiqsut, Sirmilk National Park. The captain dropped the anchor with the snow mountain-capped view, waterfall and some sea ice as our background! It’s really great to have our breakfast with the view and later after the breakfast, we got to land ashore to see the view closely in person! alhamdulillah!

Qaiqsut, Sirmilk National Park was a former settlement for the Inuit back in 1950-1960s and it’s really fortunate to have Pond Inlet Inuit elders with us to share theis settlement history and how it was like in the past. The Inuit started to move to Pond Inlet from Qaiqsut last 1960s, so they would get more sources and helps from the government. Perhaps, it’s better to have the Inuit to settle in one place, rather than having them living scattered in many places, hence it’d be easier for the government to provide or supply whichever things they need.

We had Taina, her husband, Jaiza and her daughter, Diana to share the history of the settlement. There were some graves covered with bunch of stones and some sod houses which were so obvious from the top view. the sod houses were similiar in shape as the igloo, except they were made of mud, dirts and stones – covered with seals skins. each Inuit family back then would be very creative on how they’d like to cover their mud houses with, but the point was to keep them warm! They’d build or mend the sod houses to stay over the summer. Most of the sod houses were built close to the shore or river. I guess, it’s common for native people to build houses near to the water,so they would get food and water supply. One interesting thing about the mud house was the tunnel which led to the entrance of the house. The entrance was so small and it’s only at my waist-high. They had to bend to get into the house, but they could stand inside the house. They were built in such way to let the warm air to evapurate, so it would keep the house warm! And there’s a small hole on top of the roof to let the air circulate and out. See! very clever! They apply science even they might not yet learn science.

The little excursion at Qaiqsut, Sirmilik National Park was meaningful even I had my socks soaked with river water as i crossed it! But it’s worth it! I should have covered my boots with rain pants or I   should have worn knee high boots!

I will stop here and be back!

Edna learns about a plant from botanist Roger Bull.

Matthew Linehan – Ottawa, ON, Canada

August 14th was a big day. Wake up on the PA was at 6:30 despite not going to bed until around 11:00. Overnight we had pulled in and anchored just outside of Pond Inlet. I left my cabin, to go to the deck and see the CanadaC3 expedition ship, which also stopped here on its three coast journey from Toronto to Vancouver over the course of 150 days. They came aboard for the day. Together we all went into the community and gathered in the community centre for a historic announcement. Many important people were gathered for this moment including dignitaries, parliamentarians, artists, performers, much of the local community, and all of Students on Ice. The announcement was that Lancaster Sound, the area we had just come through was being turned into an protected marine conservation area. There were tons of cameras gathered for this, as it is of serious importance. This new protected area is twice the size of Nova Scotia, and ten times larger than Canada’s current largest protected marine area.

After this announcement we had a chance to wander around Pond Inlet. It blows me away that where I am right now is part of my own country. There are so many differences. The language, the people, the infrastructure, the climate, the geography and so much more. Pond Inlet does not have any paved roads as far as I know, and has a population of around 1600. I saw a pack of dogs ripping apart a dead seal that had been beached. A woman came up to me on the street as I was walking, she was an alumni of the 2013 Students on Ice Arctic expedition. She has also spend a year living in Ottawa as part of the Nunavut Sivuniksavut program, but currently is living in Pond Inlet.

Afterwards we returned to the ship, and I was inspired to take part in the Inuktitut lesson workshop. While the language seemed so alien to me, once I understood the concept of the syllabics the actual structure started to come easily. It is a really logical language and most things can be said in one word by just adding syllables to mean different things. In the afternoon the HMCS Montreal military frigate pulled in near our ship, and somehow it was arranged for us to tour their ship. They are in the Arctic on a training exercise, doubled as a way to exercise sovereignty of the remote region. We got to see the big guns, learn about all the equipment, take photos, see the bridge, try on scuba gear, hold handguns and rifles, and learn all about the operations of a millitary vessel. After this at dinner we had to say goodbye to the CanadaC3 friends, however we now have a new group of people from pond inlet on board with us for the next day. This group includes elders and Parks Canada staff. After such an eventful day I look forward to what the 15th has in store.

Students celebrating with our lovely guests from Pond Inlet at the end of a square dance!

Manny Cook – Saltspring Island, BC, Canada

Hey everyone!

It’s Manny. I have been super busy with evertthing that has been going on and have been too tired at the end of the days to blog (Sorry Grace). The first few days were crazy meeting everyone and touring through Ottawa. We went to the midtown museum and got to look at some of Canada’s cool relics from past times and the nature museum to see the Arctic exhibit including a huge blue whale skeleton. After dinner we got to see some of the new staff members sing songs, throat sing and throat box (I’ll explain shortly).

On the second day, we took a tour of the Parliament buildings and we got to see the House of Commons as well as where the Senate sits. My favourite part of the tour though was the Parliamentary library because it was so pretty and had a lot of cool books. After that, we did this thing called treetop trekking which is similar to wildplay for all my B.C.ers but involved lots of ziplines and obstacles hanging high in the trees. We also  learned that day that we would meet up with the people on the C3 expedition!

The third day was an early one because we caught the first plane to Iqaluit which left at 6:15 and we had to be up at 5:30 which was 2:30 Pacific time. The plane ride was nice and I was able to sleep for a good portion of it and woke up just before landing in Iqaluit. It was a little rough for the  landing but everyone laughed afterword so I assumed I nothing went wrong … I’m a little new to the whole plane thing. After taking off again and landing about 3 hours late in Resolute Bay, we took a tour of one of the research stations that works to equip scientists before they go out into the field and is a place where samples can be processed after. After that we headed to the Community Centre for the opening of a new national park (the 45th). I can’t remember the name but in Inuktitut the name means “where the sun never shines.”  Sadly half the group missed this because they had to wait until we landed to see if it was safe to land in Resolute Bay.

Day four was the first full day on the ship and I woke up at seven thirty! The food here is really good and the day previously I had one of the waiters put a napkin on my lap for me. I went to a really cool workshop about Arctic birds where I learned quite a bit about thick billed murres. After the workshop I went on a Zodiac ride in Lancaster Sound around Leopold Island where the teetering spires of the shale cliff chirped and cawed with the sound of thousands of birds! I was on a boat with a couple other students who had got sponsors who wanted photographs (mine was the U.S. Embassy Ottawa!). After that, I did a beatboxing workshop and made some cool music by recording and looping sounds that the group made. Later, we boated to Beechey Island where a few people from the Franklin’s famous expedition were buried.

On day five, we went to Devon Island which is used by NASA for research because It’s so similar to Mars. We then landed in Croaker Bay and I got to go kayaking in traditional Inuit style kayaks. I almost got a photo of a polar bear but the zoom on my lens wasn’t enough to capture it.

The next day was pretty low key because the winds were too strong (35 knots) to make a landing. We did a few workshops instead.

Day seven was pretty cool and we landed in Pond Inlet and we got to see the announcement of a new marine conservation zone twice the size of Nova Scotia. This was also the day that we met up with Canada’s C3 Expedition and I briefly met Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente although I didn’t get to talk to her because her personal photographer needed the seat. We also got a tour of the HMCS Montreal.

Today is day eight. We did a short hike through Sirmilik Natinal Park where we saw some  homes from the Inuit a long time ago and I got some cool pictures of the waterfalls using a really slow shutter speed and my sunglasses to block out some of the light. Todays not over though and I am sure there is lots more to be done!

Bye and I’ll try to blog more!

Expedition leader Geoff Green doing the final sweep on our site after everyone loaded into the zodiacs.

Megan Nesseth – Communications Specialist, WWF Canada

I was so excited to begin my first full day with SOI today, especially after such a hectic day yesterday with the big announcement and visit from C3 and locals from Pond Inlet. I started my day listening to great stories from Moosa about times he spent on the land, and all the amazing things we might see during our hike in Sirmilik National Park. I could listen to Moosa read the dictionary. He is such a story-teller, and makes even the simplest yarn a wild adventure. Sirmilik was an amazing experience. Our guide, Brian, from Parks Canada was so enthusiastic, taking us from site to site, telling us all about excavation projects, and the history of some of the graves and sod houses. His 15+ years of experience with Parks Canada shows with every story, and you can tell he is so passionate about what he does. I also really enjoyed my afternoon spent with Ian Tamblyn in the songwriting workshop. I’ve tried my hand at poetry, but songwriting is a whole different ballgame and Ian is a masterful teacher. I can’t wait to do my homework and get more feedback from him tomorrow! All in all a busy but very rewarding day. My only complaint is that the dance floor wasn’t big enough for all of us once the accordion came out! I hope I get another chance to kick up my heels soon.

Nangmalik Qanatsiaq – Arviat, NU, Canada

Hello again! Yesterday I met my grandfather’s cousin. It was a bittersweet moment, because my grandfather passed away recently, and I never got to visit him. Anyways, I felt better meeting his cousin. Also, we went on a tour with Parks Canada today and I forgot the name of the place. Anyways, I will miss the food onboard the Ocean Endeavour. For the past 2 days we have attempted to go on shore but the conditions did not permit, but today we prevailed.

Shuyi Wang – Stouffville, ON, Canada

Absolutely dread waking up in the morning by the PA system, Geoff’s voice definitely the one thing I do not want to hear in the morning by far. Since I was so tired after all the long days, I went back to sleep despite being woken up by the announcements. Almost missed breakfast because of that but got the opportunity to meet with Whitney and Stan, two amazing people that had really unique opinions on the current education system from the stand point of a history professor from Waterloo university and a retired elementary school principal.

After breakfast we headed immediately onto Bylot island and into the Sirmilik National Park, where a lot of archeological artifacts were discovered. Third time is the charm, after the previous attempts in the past few days, we were finally able to go onshore to see for ourselves. In my group there were a few Inuit elders that told us the story about the land and many locations where they unused to live provided by the evidence of the tent rings and where some of the grave sites were located. There was a large glacial waterfall that provided the local Inuit people with fresh drinking water at the time they still lived there. I was surprised to see the amount of flora at the national park since the climate in the arctic is so cold and harsh to survive. When we were about to head back to the ship, Daniele offered to take us offshore onto a tiny science field lab to test the salinity, visibility of water and even take some samples of zooplanktons and phytoplanktons. It was awesome to do field work with actual researchers to see the procedures taken and the different amount of experiments they would do. While we were doing that, our Zodiac (“zode” as the pro drivers would call it) driver got a special mission to go near the shore as a “tourist” (code for polar bear) was spotted on a mountain not far away from the beach that our group was at. We were dropped off at the shore for Ian to pick us up and unfortunately we didn’t get to see the polar bear at all.

Ian drove us back to the ship and after a quick change of clothes into something more comfortable than waterproof jacket and pants, everyone headed upstairs for Brandon’s presentation on Arctic amplification. Lunch was soon after with awesome desserts as always. We were awarded two hours of down time post lunch. I finally had the chance to finish my caribou earrings and necklace, and feel super accomplished because of that. When I come home, I will have something to prove my time in the Arctic.

Afternoon was finally taking a break with private ship time that was long overdue as the majority of the group were super exhausted from both the lack of sleep and the consistently jam packed schedule. We were offered many super interesting workshops such as sewing and song writing etc.; I chose the mindfulness and meditation workshop since everyday has been so overwhelming and full of excitement I really needed a clear mind and a quiet and safe space that allows me to relax and be immersed in the moment. The workshop was great, and the energy within the space was nothing that I’ve ever experienced before. I felt so refreshed and  energetic after the exercises. Right before dinner, we bid our farewells to the elders from Pond Inlet and the Minister all of whom have been amazing and whom I’ve learnt a lot from. Wish me luck and this is me signing off.

Topsy takes a moment to pause on the land in Sirmilik National Park.

Selina Zhou – Jenkintown, PA, USA

We finally have a sunny day during our expedition in the Arctic! This morning we went to Qaiqsut, which is a place in a national park in Canada. We are very lucky to be here because one of the staff members of Parks Canada told us that it is the first time for this national park to host such a big group. We saw a few graves up there, even though we are not so sure whether they are of whalers or Inuit. There were also bones (skulls, ribs…) of seals and birds on the shore. It is hard to imagine that Inuit had lived on this island over a thousand years ago. We also studied a few kinds of plants that thrive on this island. Because of the pleasant weather, we got the chance to take a lot of beautiful pictures. Though I’ve watched a number of documentaries that capture the incredible sceneries in all parts of the world, it is a totally different experience when I am seeing them through my own eyes.

I am glad that I’ve got the opportunities to talk to some professors and Inuit elders these days. I deepened my understanding about climate change, which is not only an issue in the Arctic, but a severe problem around the globe, especially places like Micronesia, the Pacific islands. I have also learned how Inuit catch narwhals while riding their traditional kayaks. Without the platform that is offered in SOI, I would never meet so many great people during such a short period of time.

One highlight of mine from yesterday was seal skinning. We had some elders from Pond Inlet who visited our ship and led some interesting workshops. I have to admit that seal skinning is not as easy as it seems, for the reason that the person who does that job has to make sure that he/she cuts off every bit of of fat that remains on the seal skin while trying hard to not poke any hole in the skin. The elder who taught us seal skinning started her job when she was around 16. She mentioned that back in the 90s, people only had to skin 20 seals per year, but now she has to skin 4 seals per day. I think that seal skinning is definitely one of the significant cultures Inuit cannot lose.

So far we have not seen a lot of wild animals, and I am looking forward to seeing more of them in Greenland!

Parks Canada staff Brian while leading a group of participants around the historic site of Qaiqsut.

Rachael Tovar – Craston, RI, USA

6:25am- we are having another go at visiting Sirmilik National Park. I hope that the third time’s a charm! I woke up early this morning to go see a narwhal but, alas, there were none visible. Yesterday, Canada C3 came onto our ship as well as people from the community of Pond Inlet. It was interesting to hear all of their stories. What makes this trip so informing is that you hear different opinions and thought processes from you own.

When we arrived in Pond Inlet, there were so many dogs out and about. I counted 15 dogs on my short walk to the community center. These beautiful dogs, with thick fur and serious faces, were not as vocal about us coming as I had anticipated. The only down side to yesterday was that I wasn’t allowed to pet the dogs, but I know that is was for my own safety and I took pictures of them (at a safe distance – never fear, my parental unit!). It down poured yesterday and it was cold, but I loved it so much. I also talked to one of the staff educators, and her life story on how she came here was so interesting (shout out to Amy!). We talked about the Arctic and the Antarctic, and all the animals in between. It is nice to see people so dedicated to their jobs and I can say that all the staff members from SOI are all the same: smart, driven, and talented.

2:08pm- Just came back from Sirmilik National Park, where the wind smelled like the cold. You know in winter where wind is blowing at your faces and you breathe in and then your nose becomes flooded with freezing air? It didn’t smell like nothing, it smelled like the cold.

We saw the most amazing historical objects. One of them was a huge metal pot, which went up to my chest and the metal was roughly the size of my forearm. Next to it was a big metal box, maybe five feet wide, four feet tall and wide, rust covered it. The pot was for when whalers came to the north because they had absolutely demolished the population of whales in other areas. They used the pot to boil down the blubber of the whale and turn it into oil. It is said that you could smell the ship before you saw it, because the smell that went out was vomit inducing. The box was to store the liquidized blubber to later be transported to Europe. The next thing that we came across was this grave, when the people were buried. There was no access to shovels, so they were laid on the ground and then encompassed by a rectangular grave. There was also a circle made of rocks called a tent circle, made to hold down the tents. We then crossed a river that was crystal clear and shining from the sunlight to see the moss huts that presided near the sea. These huts were homes to at least 2 families (10-15 people). They were holes in the ground covered by a roof that the people made out of caribou skins and bones. Next we saw a vertibrae of a bowhead whale. It was likely a calf given its relatively small size (about a foot in width and maybe 8 inches tall). This whale bone of a calf was THAT BIG! As we moved on and climbed up the hill we saw a fantastic view of the ocean, the river, and the mountains hugging the horizon.

The arctic is a wonderful place, I wish I could spend more time here — but I am incredibly grateful that I get to enjoy this brief moment with it and I hope to see it again in the future.

Expedition Leader, Geoff Green and Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine Mckenna.

Jake Sprenger – Etobicoke, ON, Canada

There’s too much to write about, so I’ve decided to talk about my highlights so far (the list is in no particular order).

First, kayaking in Croker Bay was unbelievable.  The kayak was made in the traditional style – wood and seal skin.  They were extremely lightweight and glided through the water with ease.  They were also super easy to maneuver.  I paddled up to chunks of ice that had fallen off the glacier and tasted them (freshest water ever!).

Also, while in Croker Bay, those of us who were kayaking went swimming in the Arctic Ocean.   We still had our dry suits on so we didn’t have to worry about getting wet!  The water was so cold that I could feel it through the 3 layers on under the dry suit. I felt like a popsicle. However, a swim in the Arctic Ocean wouldn’t be complete without dunking our heads.  On the count of 3, a few of us did just that.  In hindsight, I’m glad that I did it, but at the time I got an instant brain-freeze that shot through my head.  Naturally, we all dunked our heads again after this feeling went away.

The next highlight was the music performances in the hub at night.  One that really stood out was a mix of a few different cultures and styles.  It was a reggae song performed by Mel and D’ari (who was also playing the guitar), Ian who was playing the piano, Nelson who was beatboxing (there isn’t a drum set on board, so they got him to make a beat), and Alexia who was throat singing. It was the perfect way to end the day.

One of my favourite workshops was building a remote operated vehichle (ROV).  All we had was motors, flotation foam and PVC tube.  We were given no instructions on how to build them, but the goal is to be able to race all of them in the pool.  Me and Seth settled on a cubic design with flotation on the top, port and starboard motors, and a central motor for going up and down.  I loved being able to build whatever we wanted and having no limitations.

There are so many more highlights, but those will follow in a later blog.

Marina Melanidis – Richmond, BC, Canada

Day 8 – Qaiqsut, Sirmilik National Park

After a couple days of trying to land at Sirmilik National Park, the winds let up and we finally made it ashore today. We had the immense privilege of visiting a place in the park called Qaiqsut. It’s a Class One Archeological Site (the highest class) as it’s a place where people have lived for thousands of years. There were rings of stone, called tent rings, and structures called qammaq (or sod houses) where people would live. There were also grave sites.

I was fortunante enough to be in a group guided by Tyna and Elijah, two Inuit elders from Pond Inlet. Tyna’s great-grandmother used to live in Qaiqsut and Elijah had memories of the place from when he was a boy. The last site they led us to was a grave site, maybe a meter or so high, made of stones with two bones resting on the side facing us.

I don’t know why I started crying. I wasn’t expecting it. Every day of expedition has been a nonstop intake of information. I have been accepting experience after experience, most of which has been intense and heavy and absolutley incredible. And I think, at that site, I began to actually process and understand some of those experiences for the first time. I also think that place had an energy to it. The memory of the people that lived and died there have given it a soul. And I think I felt it.

When Tina and Elijah noticed that I was crying they gave me a hug. And I just felt so insanely fortunate to be hugging these two amazing, strong, generous, and kind people who were open enough to guide us around a part of their homeland and share its stories with us.

This trip is unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It is overwhelming and hard sometimes, but it is so wonderful at the same time.

To Tyna and Elijah, from the bottom of my heart, Qujannamiik.

Love from the top of the world,


The MS Ocean Endeavour waiting patiently for the return of the team.

Sara Helene Dubé – Ottawa, ON, Canada

For the first few days of the expedition, from meeting each other in Ottawa to arriving in Pond Inlet six days later, many of us felt overwhelmed with adjusting to the rhythm of life together. I was delving into the experience as much as possible, using all of my senses to connect to the places we were visiting and the people we met, but it was so exhausting that it was hard to be fully present. Yesterday evening, there was a shift in mood that was felt throughout the team, and it’s beautiful to see and feel the energy curve of the expedition unfold. After working hard to adapt to long days, new people, new places, and new concepts, figuring out how much sleep, food, and water our bodies need in this new environment, and how and when to take a step back to take it all in, everything finally fell into place. I felt present, energized, and comfortable. Amazingly, I found out that many others felt the same at our evening briefing. Every night, we’re encouraged to stand up and share something from our day with everyone. Up until yesterday, a few people tentatively spoke, but now that we’ve settled in and opened up to each other, moving connections are happening all the time. For example, someone shared their first poem ever today, and it was so evocative that she got a tearful standing ovation.

I’ve been really pushing myself to challenge my world view, and I spent hours yesterday passionately questioning the benefits of being here on a cruise ship in contrast with the impacts that it has on the environment and the communities that we visit with some other students and staff. It felt good to think critically about it, and even better to find that SOI has such positive relationships with the communities and such awareness of the sensitivities that surround our learning from each other, that being part of it really contributes to reconciliation and global partnership on addressing climate change as well as to creating meaningful friendships. 

There are so many issues to be worked on, and it’s phenomenal that for every issue, there’s a person on this ship that knows about it and wants to help solve it. Here, staff and students spontaneously work together in a way that’s difficult to achieve in classrooms, when the subject matter seems far removed. I believe more than ever in the enormous value of experiential learning, and believe that it should be integrated as much as possible in schools everywhere. In addition, staff here know that opportunities to express one’s self creatively and time to reflect alone are key to solidifying new thoughts. Similarly, they know how to create the space for students to feel comfortable seeking help in understanding how they feel. I know that I’m interested in psychology and that I’m comfortable talking about it, so I easily enjoyed a workshop with one of the counsellors today, but I was impressed to see a large turnout, with all sorts of people represented between genders and ages. The staff are always available to talk about anything in and out of workshop time as well, and I still can’t believe that I’m living with accomplished people that I would normally have to get an appointment with to even speak to.

We did make it to Sirmilik National Park today! The site that we visited was so rich in human and natural history that it brought many to tears. We were humbled and honored that the Elders and Parks Canada staff from the region shared with us that part of their land and culture, and we were very careful to disrupt the site as little as possible. The long awaited moment of being in Sirmilik with my new friends from Parks Canada arrived. Some of them did interviews for Students on Ice and helped guide on the land and I’m so proud of them for that. One of the highlights of being there together was when we passed the Place of Glaciers on the ship, so we all went on deck to take a picture together – the Northern Outreach students wearing red Parks Canada t-shirts and the local staff wearing their uniforms. We even got a picture with Minister Mckenna!

Tomorrow, we begin the crossing of Davis Straight to Greenland.

Kiara Caesar – Staten Island, NY, USA

Dear family and friends,

I miss you always and I can’t wait to come home and give you all hugs. Today marks the halfway point of the expedition. You’re all most likely upset that I have not been blogging, but I have been really busy. I don’t think I have been alone for more than 20 mins!  I have become close with six great friends. Celia, Delphine, Fily, Lea, and Lindsay. Celia won the name game contest. She’s adorable and has such a kind heart just like the rest of them. My stomach hurts from the laughter of being with them. By the way, mom and dad, we have to go to France and Monaco now because now I have friends there. Okay so I am going to get some tea and take a nap because we finally have some time. I love you all so much!

kiara amoi.

Remember to check back daily for updates here and in our new blogs!

A whale vertebrate that the participants stumbled upon.

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