We woke up to thick fog. The ship was especially rocky as we made our way down the Davis Straight heading back to Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland). Although the waves were not big, they were enough to make more than a few students and staff seasick. The early morning energizers before breakfast went ahead as scheduled despite the rough waters.
First was breakfast and our daily briefing from our Expedition Leader, Geoff Green. After that, we had a couple of slideshows. Author and former Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation Bev Sellars presented a talk titled “The Contributions of Aboriginal people”. SOI staff members Rachel Boere and Becky Okatsiak provided information about Students on Ice Alumni opportunities, where attendees viewed a film featuring alumni sharing what they had been up to post-expedition.There was also a mock Arctic Council workshop, “glacier goo” lab, and other sessions structured around underwater sound, Clyde River and Seismic Testing, the Canadian rangers, LBGTQ2s issues, and the co-management of environmental sites through structures like the Pikialasorsuag Commission. Just before lunch, the students took the time to write a letter to their sponsors for the trip. Participants used the letters to share their gratitude and say what an outstanding experience it has been.
Lunch was skipped by many due to seasickness. In the afternoon, our pods were challenged to come up with a team costume and cheer. Despite the short timeframe, all the pods did a fabulous job. Then it was time for ‘The Amazing Race: Davis Straight Edition”. Staff set up 13 stations around the ship, each one with a challenge. For every challenge completed by a pod, they received a clue telling them where to go next. With groups racing around the decks, pod chants began to echo down the halls. The first pod to finish all challenges was allowed to go to the Bridge and announce their Pod over the ship’s P.A. system.
The day’s programming wrapped up with an activity that prompted students to create post-expedition action plans. Participants were asked to think about changes they would like to make using the Sustainable Development Goals. 3 questions emerged- “Where are we now?”, “Where do we want to go?”, and “How do we get there? There were many informative discussions and students came out of the workshop with a sense of the change they want to see happen in their communities.
The fog stayed with us all day and so our day at sea was limited in terms of scenery. Tomorrow we are back in Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) and we will see what exciting adventures the day brings us.
Student & Staff Blogs:
Inclusion Manager, CanAssist at the University of Victoria
It’s hard to believe that we have only 1 full “ship day” left. As if in a time warp, this expedition, and our 11+ days at sea feels both like it started just yesterday, and at the same time as if we’ve been here for years. As with any adventure, there have been highs, lows, moments of clarity, moments of confusion, and of course moments of great learning and growth. Overwhelmingly, we will all leave here changed.
I am fortunate enough to be included on this life-altering journey through an organization that I volunteer with back home in Victoria BC, aptly named “Power To Be.” At Power To Be, nature based programming is made accessible to individuals facing barriers through a great team of skilled staff, accessible equipment, and inclusive programming that enables everyone feel a sense of belonging and participate in a meaningful way. Power to Be is based in Victoria and Vancouver, and with their partnership with Students on Ice, two Power to Be participants and a volunter (i.e. me) were able to join the 2018 SOI Arctic Expedition. My role here has been to support the Power to Be participants and participate as a staff member on the ship. What an incredible opportunity, and as Power To Be is an exceptional organization, I am honored to be an ambassador for them on this expedition. Now having had my first dose of SOI, I can see the synergies between these two innovative organizations, and the partnership makes total sense.
Nature really is our best teacher, and this is a core value for both PTB and SOI. Here on this expedition, from the onboard workshops, to the land and water based citizen science experiments, to the diversity and beauty of the arctic tundra and glaciers, we have all come to learn that the SOI classroom is dynamic, motivational and awe-inspring. Not only am I surrounded by world-class scientists, activitsts, experts, politicians, CEOs and educators, but the students themselves are incredible, bringing a wealth of perspectives and passions from around the globe. Undoubtedly, I have spent more time learning from the students than supporting them. The environment that SOI creates is one where everyone feels safe to contribute. We have seen this night after night where more and more previously shy students take to the microphone at the evening briefings, sharing their “highlight” or “hero” of the day; where students and staff alike open up and share their experiences and perspectives in oftentimes challenging conversations (i.e. a conservation versus development panel with members from northern communities, a federal government employee, and a mining CEO); and in the daily interactions, where students who were previously hesitant to buy-in and participate are now embracing this “SOI family,” as our expedition leader, Geoff Green, describes us. We learn about The North from people in The North. We hear from the world’s expert on polar bears, and then grab our binoculars to watch a polar bear stroll across the ice flow with our very own eyes. We hear the sounds of the air bubbles crack as they escape their icy capsule from their glacial home that was formed thousands of years ago. Then, we pair these sensory delights with lessons rooted in Indigenous knowledge and western science. We learn the issues, see the impacts, and gain first hand experience in why a difference must be made, and then learn how we can make that change. When we disembark this ship, just the day after tomorrow, we will all leave with a deeper understanding of our natural world, the people in it, our place in this picture, and our responsibilities to preserve it.
As a proud ambassador for Power To Be, and now Students on Ice, I can attest that adventures and education rooted in nature can change lives, and indeed, these lives will change our world.
This is a quick morning update to say: hello! We are once again sailing across the Davis Strait. We are heading back towards Greenland because of ice problems in Resolute Bay (all of the bay is covered in thick solid ice, meaning neither the ship nor the zodiacs would stand a chance of getting to shore). It’s been back and forth about what would be the best option for us, but last minute yesterday Geoff told us there was a plane that could pick us up in Kangerlussuaq, the place where the journey started. So Greenland, here we come again! It’s pretty cool to say that I have crossed the Davis Strait twice and been to Greenland twice within a week.
I also want to write a little bit about yesterday because it was an incredibly special day for all of us. Because of many things we ended up going to Plan C yesterday, but as it turned out it became one of the best days ever. We sailed down the coast of Baffin Island and all the way to Sam Ford Fjord, and I can honestly say it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been on planet earth. The place was like taken from a fantasy world; Lord of the Rings scenery come to life. We sailed down the fjord and all around us were these sharp and pointy grey mountains, partially covered in mist, glaciers twisting out from every corner. And my descriptions do it NO justice. Neither do pictures. It was such a magical place. I was so in awe that I spent my first morning hour just standing outside, staring around and wondering if I was dreaming. And then we made a zodiac landing to shore, a beautiful rocky beach where we spent our afternoon. I finally got to go kayaking (in traditional Inuit kayaks!) and stand up paddling – and with that view!! And then, here comes the crazy part, right before going back to the ship we did our SOI traditional POLAR DIP. Which means we stripped down to bathing suits and ran screaming into the freezing water only to run screaming up on shore again. The water was 3 degrees celcius! And I ran in twice! I have never been so cold before in my life, but it felt so good afterwards because it made me feel so alive. If I had not done it I would be sitting here now regretting it. The polar dip was an experience to remember!! That evening was also the most tired I had been the entire trip, and I am starting to feel my body tear a little bit from the intensity of these days. But only two days left (??!!) so I am going to suck it up and stay energized for the last days. I’m not going to waste a second of this expedition feeling tired. I can sleep when I get home 🙂
Makkovik, NL, Canada
Hey Mom , Avery , Emmy , Marv, Nan and the rest of my beautiful family members. I’m really sorry i havent blogged as much as i intended to during the last 2 weeks. Everyday is just so flat out, soon as we get up, we have breakfast then workshops all day and breaks for meals of course but then its straight back to briefings or theres always something to go to, I know that I’ll regret not blogging as much when this expedition is over.
Personally, I find that I absorb everything better by just being in the moment, and not feeling like i have homework aka blogging to do haha, Days are definatly feeling shorter and the two weeks are almost over, Just 2 days and everyone will be heading back to Ottawa and then their hometowns. This will be the last time we see eachother for a while if were lucky but we may never see eachother again after this trip. I met so many great, inspiring, rolemodels, and people and gained friendships I want to have forever. I’m so impressed with myself for coming out of my shell and taking full advantage of this wonderful expedition. I kept convincing myself that this expedition only happens once, and this is my time to show who i really am in my best capabilities, and absorb everything as best as i can and take it home with me in my best understanding. I think I’m doing a good job in achieving my expedition goal that I set for myself. This experience changed me in many ways, I have a better understanding about the topics dicussed so far than i had when I left home. This expedition allowed me to learn endlessly. Without Students On Ice I would have never been properly educated like i am now since I’ve endured on this amazing journey. Yes, the pictures will look beautiful and breathtaking but you honestly need to see the gorgeous breathtaking, diverse Arctic first hand to understand where my words are coming from. I am so amazed with this expedition and the impacts it has taken on me. Im not even left the Arctic yet and my mind is full of ideas how i can have a place on making the world a better place and promoting SOI’s program as thats one thing expected as a SOI Alumni. That’s the least I can do for them as they gave me this life changing trip of a lifetime. Geoff and the SOI team will forever hold a huge place in my life and heart. SOI is full of supporting staff, and its LITERALLY THE BEST thing someone could ever participate in. I know for a fact, its not easy leaving home and being disconnected from social media and thats what might be a huge boundary for a few people but you honestly don’t need social media, it’s the best way to take a break from social media because you are so connected in person and it’s the best way to take full advantage of this journey and absorb it completely as it is over in the blink of an eye. It feels like this expedition just started yesterday but it started over more than a week ago. Anyways, once I get started I can’t stop writing. I can’t win, I miss home and my family but i dont wanna leave all the wonderful people i met.
Stittsville, Ontario, Canada
C’est quasiment la fin de l’expédition et nous débutons nos discussions au sujet de la prochaine étape qui surviendra. Ce matin, nous avons découvert comment bien maintenir des liens à l’intérieur la communauté “Alumni” de Students On Ice. J’ai tellement hâte de vous partager mes nouvelles connaissances et raconter mes histoires! Tout de meme, Ocean Endeavor est devenu la maison de nous tous, ce sera un évenement très émotionel, lorsque nous nous séparons d’elle.
En tout cas, nous avons encore deux jours ici et il faut en prendre avantage! Pour debuter, trois presentations au sujet des origines indigènes de certaines choses communes (mais, pommes de terre, jeux, sirop d’érable, traditions, etc.), suivi par l’explication du programme “Alumni”. Par la suite, une introduction à l’adaptation aux changements climatiques dans le Nunavut. Ensuite, un atelier de choix (j’ai voulu comprendre la situation des essais sismiques de Clyde River). Pour terminer l’après-midi, un jeu du style “Amazing Race” à travers le navire!
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
They say the Arctic is a barren place
But how can it be barren
when my feet never touch the
for all the life
nestling the rocks
like a mother’s amautik.
A thousand tiny worlds
on a mountain
by the sea
In a glance between
In the shell of a
whose story ended
One square foot
a dozen kinds of plant
Oral history weaves
the story of a life
carved into these hills since
Loving the land helps us love each other
I think of the lawns back home
Is that the
of which we are so
Some people never see the
They say the Arctic is a barren place
Written by Katarina Kuhnert
Inspired by the people, lands, and waters of the landing in Itelliq Fiord
Burlington, ON, Canada
Today we are back on the Davis Strait. There was too much ice in Resolute Bay, so we are going back to Greenland! How many people can say they’ve been to Greeland twice? I am a little disapointed that I won’t be able to see more of Nunavut, but yesterday was a pretty good way to say goodbye. We went to Sam Ford fjord, which is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever seen. It’s incredibly hard to describe the beauty there. We had an amazing BBQ on the back deck as we traveled down the fjord to our shore landing. It has to have been one of the most spectacular lunches I’ve ever had. Once we got to shore, we had pod time where we reflected on what we could take away from this trip. For me, it’s the connections I’ve formed with people that I’d likly have never even interacted with, and everything I’ve learned from them. After our pod time, we had free time to either hike up to a lake, or hang around on the beach, and fish and cook. I chose to hike. And by hike, I mean leisurelyy wander over, stopping every few meters to take pictures or sit and look around. It was well worth it. Our final event was a Polar Dip! It was so incredibly cold but such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day.
Birmingham, AL, United States
Today I swam in the Arctic Ocean. After seeing dozens of icebergs, going on beautiful hikes, and listening to lectures about this region of the world, I finally felt like I had connected to a place that I’d viewed from above for the last two weeks. And in many ways, I feel like those 10 seconds of euphoric excitement mixed with fear and icy pain are a reflection of what these past two weeks have been for me.
Before coming on this expedition, the Arctic had the same mystical meaning that it did for many people from where I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Instantly images of icebergs, glaciers, and dog sleds pop up but the connection between the natural and the human history had always been blurry, if at all present when I learned about the region growing up. These past two weeks have put such new perspectives on these two histories, but have also shown me the complexity of their narratives as they continue to evolve in the future. And much like my swim in the Arctic this afternoon, it took courage and determination to begin that conversation.
We all arrived with excitement to learn through new experiences and people, rushing to elders and scholars that poured knowledge into our eager minds in waves of workshops and lectures. We began to ask questions, talk to other students, and have conversations about the world’s most pressing issues with experts from all over the world! But within that there was also pain. Pain of stories not told, cultures damaged, and families broken. On those days there were tears of pain rather than tears of laughter, but through those tears new conversations were made and our expedition took on a whole new outlook as well. For me, nature became so much more than something studied within the natural sciences — it became a crucial part of our world’s past and future narrative.
So as I sit here in my three layers of socks and two jackets , I can’t help but think of all that I’ve been able to experience and learn in these past two weeks. There was joy, pain, and much more in between during this tiny slice of my life that I’ve spent aboard the MS Ocean Endeavor, but I hope that what I learn will turn to action in the many months and years to come. Today I swam in the Arctic for 10 seconds, but I still feel its chill within me. Let’s hope this journey stays with me in the same way.