“Good Morning Students on Ice!”
Geoff Green’s voice rang over the PA system as we rounded the corner of Disko Island on our way to Uummannaq. After a late night on our way from Qeqertarsuaq, we were given a bit of time to sleep in before a delightful breakfast as we watched the mountains pass by.
The morning was filled with Isuma workshops to help us reflect on the wonderful community visit and the time among the Qeqertarsuaq sea ice, as well as to prepare for our time in the Canadian Arctic. Isuma workshops included beading with Vivi, sewing caribou juggling balls with Annie, mindfulness & meditation with Cathy, printmaking with Jolly, throat singing with Eva and Syra (which was so popular!), and song writing with the Twin Flames, amongst other activities.
By lunch we could see the heart shaped mountain of Uummannaq ahead. Because the bay is filled with huge blue icebergs, we had to anchor around the back of the community and Zodiac around the point to the harbour. A windy, saltwater-y Zodiac ride carried us to the fishing boats and colourful houses of Uummannaq.
Our friends from the Uummannaq Children’s Home greeted us warmly in town and we divided into two groups to experience Uummannaq to its fullest.
One group visited the Blubber House, the Museum and the Children’s Home while the other group headed out on a hike through town and around the island to Santa’s House. With the sun shining down on us and the friendly faces of Uummannaq around us, we could not have asked for a better afternoon ashore.
As we sailed from Uummannaq to begin our crossing of the Davis Strait, Greenlandic staff and students hosted a final panel sharing thoughts and taking questions about the last 5 days in Greenland.
Fun Fact: The rocks in Uummannaq are part of the same continental shelf as the rocks in Nunavik (northern Quebec, Canada).
Hello again! This is my second blog post and it was supposed to have been written yesterday, but so much stuff happened and there was no time for blogging! As I write it is 7:30 in the morning of July 29th, and I will do an attempt at recapping yesterday the 28th because it was such a wonderful, magical day (then again, all days are like that here).
On the 28th we were scheduled to visit the community of Illulissat and hike out to the UNESCO world heritage site of inuit people. When we woke in the morning and looked out our cabin window, we were hit by a breathtaking sight: the icebergs. I quickly got up on deck to get a better look, and I think in that moment it truly hit me; we are in the Arctic… There were icebergs everywhere, to every horizon and as far as the eye could see. There were icebergs in every size, some even as big as houses, castles – yes even the size of a small village! It was a mesmerizing sight, and once again it made me realize how lucky and privileged I am to be here on this journey and to be able to witness these wonders.
But however beautiful the floating icebergs were, we quickly realized they might cause some problems for our plans. Our expedition leader (and SOI founder) Geoff told us over the morning announcement that it might prove difficult to manouver through the ice in order to get to the town of Illulissat. While waiting for further instructions from the crew we spent time up on deck, admiring the passing icebergs on the turqouise water. But when it was time for our morning briefing we were told that there was no way we could manage to get everyone over to Illulissat. The closest point the ship had found still meant that there was a 6km wide belt of thick iceberg waters, and sadly it was just not doable. This meant a change of plans. As all SOI members have learned: flexibility is key, meaning sometimes there has to be a plan B, a plan C, sometimes even a plan Z. So even though I was very disappointed we did not get to go to Illulissat, the day proved to be magical after all. The magic started during the morning briefing when someone suddenly shouted “Whale!!” and everyone leapt to their feet. I ran outside on deck, and sure enough… In the distance we could see a black spot popping up and down in the water, and suddenly a pectoral fin appeared and started smashing the water surface. It was a Humpback whale! This was the first time I’ve ever seen a whale before and it was such a big moment to me (and I got it on camrea!). I really look forward to learning more about the different species of whales and their behaviour as our expedition (and whale watching) continues.
And that was only the first of many magical moments of that day! The morning continued by splitting into two groups that would switch later on. I was in the group that would stay inside first, and we got to listen to a powerful presentation on climate change by one of the amazing onboard scientists Mo, and then we got to engage in questions on the topic. I thought that was great because one of our four areas of focus on this expedition is climate change (the others being ocean literacy, TRUTH and reconciliation, and sustainable development goals). After the presentation we dressed up in ALL the layers to go outside for a Zodiac cruise! We couldn’t go all the way into town, but we did get to go for a ride amongst the outer icebergs. So far it proved to be one of the most inspiring and magical moments of my life. There was just ice everywhere, all around us, above us and beneath us. There is no way that words can give this experience justice. I think you would have to experience it for yourself in order to truly understand and feel the magnitude of it. The water surface was filled with everything from tiny pebbles of ice to bigger chunks that made the zodiac bump when we went over them. And then there were the icebergs, the big ones, the ones that rised like houses above us and looked like huge ships in the distance. There were icebergs that popped up and down in the water, some looking ready to flip at any moment (so we had to be careful, because a flipped icebergs means a huge wave!). But mostly, we just floated quietly around in the ice, taking in its blue wonders. It almost felt like we were at a different planet, and it was an intense reminder of the grace and power of mother nature.
After lunch we proceeded with our Plan C of the day in which we sailed towards another Greenlandic community to visit, one that was not closed up by icebergs. While we sailed we did some workshops (I did watercolor), and then later in the afternoon we arrived in Qeqertarsuaq. This was a small community situated by the water and beneath tall, rocky mountains. And the houses were so colorful! We spent our evening with the locals, playing a soccer match with the local team, and then Twin Flames (the artist couple on our ship – check them out!) held a concert for all of us! It turned out to be a wonderful evening. We danced and sang along to Twin Flames, with icebergs covering our view from the beach. It was literally a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget.
All in all – what a magical day. I feel so lucky to be here!! I’m living my life to the fullest, learning SO much, enjoying every second. And hey, I don’t feel too sea sick anymore! Also, a shoutout to Mom: the Arctic polar bear sweater you made me has become famous on the ship, and everyone keeps telling me how talented and wonderful my mother must be. I feel quite proud wearing it. 🙂 I promise to blog again as soon as possible! I’m excited for today as we hope to see more whales and in addition we will visit another Greenlandic Community called Ummanaq (–spelled??). Hope you’re all doing great! I certainly am! 🙂
Author and former Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation
Today would have been my Grandmothers 122nd birthday. She died in 1997 at the age of 101. It is an absolutely stunning day. The sun is shining and we are cruising past icebergs. The magic of Greenland will stay with me forever. I have taken pictures to show family and friends but the emotions cannot be shown, it has to be experienced. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to be part of STUDENTS ON ICE. I will not get into the details of our day yesterday, I am sure others will blog about it. I heard one student tell Geoff that yesterday was the best day of her life!!! That sums up what an amazing day we all had. Happy birthday to Tivii on the ship and Happy birthday Gram. I still miss you.
Kativik Ilisarniliriniq Teacher Trainee
Ippasaq atsatautimut atsatagiamit nunavuummiutitut alianalaurtuq qanurlu aulagunnamangaatta uuttuutigilugu nanurtitut, tulugartitut, nippaturtitut timivut aulaluni atsatanginnaaluta tamanna alianalaurtuq. Nunalingata ilanganut pulaarialaurmijugut qeqersasuarmiunut , tammaquugama atinganit. Nunalingata illungit piujurruat atjigiitjarati tauttungit sanammangillu atjigiiraalutuinnaugatik, tungnganartuapiit inungit inaqunartuusutillu iluunnatik arnait, angutiit, kakkalaarlu. Arqutingit marrainait manirautsuti. Piqalujarnut nunalingata saanga tatatsiatuq, angijurlaruat purtujurruagutsuti, qarqangit purtujurruat, pijurruaq greenland. Qanuingngitunga tamaaniiqatikkalu.
Ottawa, ON, Canada
10h23 En sortant de Ummannaq, Groenland
Salut tout le monde! Je vous écris juste avant de me coucher. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes allés à Ummannaq, ce qui signifie “En forme de coeur” dans le language du Groenland, parce qu’il y a une montagne spectaculaire en forme de coeur!. Je comprend, cette visite était si incroyable! Nous avons fait une randonnée jusqu’à la “maison du Père-Noël”. C’est une maison qui a été utilisée pour une émission de télévision tournée là, et c’était très intéressant à voir!
Par contre, ce qui m’a le plus touché, c’est l’harmonie dans cet endroit. Il y a une montagne en forme de coeur, et c’est pour une raison. Mère Nature aime cet endroit, et tout le monde s’aime dans cet endroit. L’eau calme abreuve les espèce. Là haut, les nuages acheminent l’eau vers les plantes, le soleil éclaire le paysage pour la photosynthèse. Tout est en présence égale, aucune espèce n’est dominante, contrairement aux humains qui domiment dans plusieurs villes. Les plantes poussent, les mouches boivent le nectar, les oiseaux mangent les mouches (je crois). Éventuellement, nous, les humains, mangeons quelque chose qui a indirectement mangé une plante qui a poussé sur la terre. Ainsi, nous sommes connectés à la terre en tant qu’humains.
Bon, c’est tout le temps que j’ai. C’était si incroyable!
Tyumen, Tyumen Region, Russia
My name is Marina. I live in the heart of Western Siberia, in the Siberian capital of oil and gas of Russia-Tyumen.
I want to share my first fishing experience.We were fishing on a boat in Evighedsfjord, Greenand.I was so exited to catch fish, and suddenly, i felt like something pulled my fishing rod and i did not know what to do! My Inuit friends and the captain of our boat helped me lift the rod and reel in it. It was cod. We caught 26 fishes and my first one was the biggest one. It was an amazing day because we were laughing,dancing,jumping and of course fishing. i have never experienced something like that!
Arnprior, ON, Canada
Sorry I haven’t had the chance to blog the past few days- every moment of the expedition is jam-packed with activities & team-building, and I don’t want to miss a single second of it! For that exact reason, this update is going to be pretty brief; I need to race outside to see a monster iceberg in a few minutes.
I don’t remember what I posted in my last blog, so I’ll just cover some quick basics: on the 27th, we took a morning outing to an uninhabited shoreline in Greenland. It was incredible to hear how silent the landscape was and to explore the nature without bounds! I partook in a geology workshop to figure out how the bay and landscape was created, and it was super interesting. In the afternoon we did some art and culture workshops, where I started some cool printmaking!
On the 28th, we wanted to land in Illulisat, but unfortunately the ice was too thick for us to get through. Instead in the morning we took a Zodiac tour to see some icebergs (and seals, and humpback whales!). It was beautiful and so much fun- the landscape is striking and soothing at the same time. I then took part in a drum dancing workshop, which was so much fun- Inuit culture is so new to a lot of us but it so interesting to learn. In the afternoon we visited a different community, the small town of Qeqertarsuaq, a colourful and rich place where the people were eager to have us. We had a soccer game between local and SOI students (we lost 6-3, but we put in a good effort), which was amazing to watch because we managed to communicate despite not speaking the same languages. Later, the Twin Flames (musicians on board) put on a concert in the town, where we all attended and had a bit of a mosh pit (their words, not mine). We got some of the local kids to dance with us, and it was a ton of fun! We returned to the ship, had a late dinner, and got to sleep in the next day haha.
So far today I have taken part in a throat singing workshop (I’m pretty good at it, can’t lie). We are visiting another community later today.
I look forward to updating you all again!
Ottawa, ON, Canada
I have had grand plans for travel for a very long time, but I honestly never thought that I would be writing from Disco Bay, Greenland. Today’s visit was supposed to bring us to the town of Ilulisat (Greenlandic for “icebergs”, and home to a UNESCO World Heritage site), but we were unable to reach it due to the literal sea of icebergs eminating from it’s legendary glacier and fjord. If anything, it emphasized the area’s moniker -“the iceberg factory of the world”, indeed. Thanks to the Ocean Endeavour’s fantastic crew and the planning magic of the SOI staff, even informing us of changing plans takes an educational turn. We have been shown ice charts in briefings and told about some of the logistics that make an expedition of this scale run smoothly. For instance, two of our Greenlandic participants, Mira and Vivi were on the bridge phone for ages today coordinating an unexpected shore-landing to the town of Qeqertarsuaq (“big island” and roughly pronounced qe-qe-taess-suaq). Wow, what a place. SOI had visited before, and we were fortunate that they were willing to have us back. Serrindipitously, a celebration was taking place for their longest day of the year, and so the Twin Flames booked their first gig in Kalaallit Nunaat! The mountains were something else entirely, and the sound of the wind and crying qimmit and the creaking of icebergs and fishing boats in the harbour took it to a whole other level of indescribability. That seems to be happening a lot this trip. In fact, I choked when Mira announced on board that the local soccer team would be willing to play a game with us! When in Greenland, right? Let me tell you, I do not think that even playing in a World Cup final would surpass the experience of playing on this pitch. Located between the face of a mountain and an iceberg-packed section of the Arctic ocean, it is unlike anything I could have dreamed. With wind-whipped faces and lips cracked from grinning, we got absolutely wrecked and had a fabulous time. It’s been several years since I have played a game of soccer, and while I think this may have been my worst performance ever, it is probably the one game I will remember for the rest of my life. At one point, the Greenlanders were up by so many goals the defensemen started sitting down until we got within spitting distance of the net!
Even if this day hadn’t turned out to be one for the books, it’s hard to be disappointed for more than a nanosecond here, as our time spent in Kalaallit Nunaat has been nothing short of breathtaking. Our first evening spent sailing down Kangerlussuaq’s (“big fjord”) Sonderstrom fjord, was mostly about taking in the scenery when we were anchored and settling in. Shortly before heading to bed I decided to check out the view on deck one last time, and ended up staying until long after the clock turned over for the next day. Amidst the mist-covered peaks that line the fjord, an icecap was perched high above our ship. As a result of the glacial drainage and silt, the water nearby had turned a colour that was brown and grey all at once. There was actually a distinct line where the bright blue and brown waters met, a scene framed perfectly within the fjord. Just yesterday, I used this mental image to start print making with Jolly in our isuma (“meaning”/”to make meaning”) sessions. In the words of Sarah, “never has anyone been more aptly named”. Jolly is a phenomenal artist, expert dance instructor (as evidenced by the impromptu session amid this morning’s icebergs), and perfectly capable of rocking a mouth-harp in front of a massive crowd. Meeting so many open and amazing people has been one of the most astonishing things about this expedition. I am so grateful to be surrounded by knowledge and creativity from all corners of the globe.
I am keeping this blog short, because there’s always something happening aboard or outside the ship. Everything from looking at the latest rock sample to discussing the protection of Indigenous lands and waters, and much more. Rather than blogging, I have been focusing on trying to keep up my journal, something I have never successfully done. I am determined to see it through this time, and what better light source to write by then the midnight sun? While it has been light for 24 hours, today did mark the first time the clouds and rain cleared. Not that the weather has stopped us! If anything, the area is all the more atmospheric and I was even more excited to get outside. Paddling a quajaq in the world’s largest fjord is magnificent no matter the weather, I can assure you.
Until next time!
Montreal, QC, Canada
You know you’re well on your way into an expedition when you no longer know what day it even is! They tell me it’s Sunday, which in my mind has less to do with any seven day week, and more to do with the fact that the sun has been shining brightly since its first appearance yesterday evening. It keeps the water sparkling as we journey up and around the northern coast of Disko Island, towards Uummannaq, and makes all the colours of the earth, sea, and sky so much brighter.
That being said, this blog post is not going to be my usual waxing poetic about landscape. Instead, let’s talk about throat singing.
We just wrapped up a second round of ISUMA workshops (designed to encourage personal reflexion and to foster a sense of meaning), and while I had thought I would join Vivi’s earring-beading session, I was a little too slow in making it to the craft zone, and there were already too many eager-beaders. So instead, I made my way downstairs to try my hand (or rather, esophagus) at throat singing with Syra and Eva, two marvellous culture carriers from Nunavik.
I can’t pretend I’m an expert after one session (although a couple people certainly picked up the sounds and techniques enviably quickly and effortlessly), but with the help of all the teachers around me, which included many youth and elders who were ready to jump in with pointers along the way, I was able to mimic at least a few of the sounds.
The sounds themselves are of a remarkable variety – from deep in your chest to the back of your throat to the tip of your lips, and each one deliberate, almost from a primal place of feeling, imitating the noises that make up your surroundings. These women could sing anything from the whining of a mosquito, to the cry of a goose, to the trickling of flowing water, to the shushing sound of a sled on snow. Traditionally, it was the women who would practice throat singing, to pass the time when the men were out hunting, but today, just as many women hunt, so too do many men throat sing.
Throat singing is generally done in pairs – two singers stand face to face, arms clasped at the elbows. Once the connection is established, one singer will start their sound, and begin to bounce and sway to the rhythm and speed that they have chosen. The other singer joins in a half-beat after the first, following the leader’s sounds but on a different beat. All throughout, the leader sets the rules – when to change sounds, when to speed up or slow down, when to change pitch. This game of back and forth, of melodies and sounds weaving all around, goes until someone breaks – which really means that someone has collapsed into laughter, which quickly becomes contagious.
Our workshop circle became the safest of spaces. Everyone listened to Syra and Eva first, then joined in all together, almost like a meditation or chanting circle. As confidence grew, pairs of people, of all ages and backgrounds, stood together in the middle of the circle to sing, with each other, but also to us all.
It’s impossible to translate an experience like this exactly into words, but I will say that even if I don’t make my mark in the world as a throat singer, I will always carry that singing in my throat.
For anyone who wishes, search for a clip of the Love Song, and don’t hesitate to sing along – mm-pah, mm-tss, mm-pah, mm-tss, mm-pah, mm-tss, mm-pah, mm-tss….. And remember, it’s supposed to end in laughter.
Nakkurmik, talk soon!
I am dedicating this short blog post to my brother. Hi Gianni, I hope you are enjoying the peace and quiet in the house now that I am away, (enjoy it while it lasts, because I will be talking for hours as soon as I come back XD). Yesterday something awesome happened: I met someone that reminded me of you in Qeqertarsuaq, Greenland! I do not know if they also had Autism, but they had a very pure and peaceful aura, and they went around hugging all the SOI kids. Their kind heart made me think of you, and made me wish that you were here with me. I know another person on the ship that was diagnosed with Autism, and when I get back, I am going to ask my doctor if I have it as well, because I think I may have Asbergers Syndrom. I love you so much big brother, and even though I am enjoying this trip, I cannot wait to see you again. In addition, I have one favour to ask you: tell Shailah and Mum that I miss them, and that I hope you are all taking care of eachother <3.