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2018 Arctic Expedition: Day 8

Today we celebrated our time in Kalaallit Nunaat / Greenland and looked ahead as we began our long journey across the Davis Strait and into the Canadian Arctic.

The morning began with a briefing and presentation by WWF’s Arctic Marine Conservation Specialist Erin Keenan about Pikialasorsuaq, also known as the North Water Polynya, an important marine ecosystem located between Greenland and Canada in northern Baffin Bay. In 2016, the Inuit Circumpolar Council in Greenland and Canada formed the Pikialasorsuaq Commission to explore shared concerns and aspirations for this region.  Today, the commission engages in cross-national dialogue to assess strategies aimed at safeguarding this region, including harvesting interests, for future generations.

Markusi launches his bottle into the Davis Strait as part of the Drift Bottle Project, a citizen science project led by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

The day continued with workshops on belonging and Inuit storytelling with several of our Indigenous staff.

A highlight of the morning was our annual Arctic Expedition bottle drop! This is a fun citizen science activity that feeds into Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans Drift Bottle Project – an ongoing study that tracks bottles to better understand changing ocean surface currents.

Glass bottles stuffed with GPS coordinates, contact information, and a personalized note, are sealed with wax and pitched off the back deck, where they drift with the ocean currents, sometimes turning up on distant shores, such as Ireland, the UK, Spain or Iceland.

The afternoon onboard SOI’s floating classroom (the MV Ocean Endeavour) provided a diversity of workshops across our educational pillars. One topic of particular importance were discussions led by educators Zorga Qaunaq and Bev Sellers to help students share and understand more about Truth and Reconciliation in Canada. This is an area we will continue to explore as we continue our journey through the Canadian Arctic.

Each evening onboard SOI’s expeditions ends with a recap from our Expedition Leader Geoff Green, sharing of the day’s highlights by students and staff, and performances. This evening was full of music, throat singing and drum dancing. A great way to end the day and look ahead to the next chapter of our Arctic 2018 journey – the Canadian Arctic!  First stop…Pond Inlet.

Northern Fulmar, Davis Strait. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation


Student & Staff Blogs

Alexia Fabiani
Sospel, PACA, France

hello world!

I hardly have words to describe the last few days on the ship… but I will try my very best.

I feel the change coming inside me or actually coming out of me. It is trying to stand up and be autonomous just like a little puppy that is still blind, wobbling on its feet and who needs to be fed by his mother. Well, here my mother are the people, the communities, the artistic workshops, that are making me grow as a human. I was never aware of any sign of creativity in me. I just thought I was a scientific mind who needs sports and does not need arts or other people to become a better person. I was terribly wrong. i am very happy I was wrong. This place has become like my home and the people here, my family.

The last few days have been tough for us here. Just two days ago, we realized that we could not make our way to Ilulissat because of the ice preventing the zodiacs to reach the shore. So we eventually cruised with the zodiacs around the icebergs and we saw amazing ones with mind-blowing (well, eye-blowing actually) colors. The white and the light blue combination is heavenly beautiful. Wildlife also showed up; seals and whales were sometimes popping out of the water. But as all good expeditioners, we always have rescue plans when plan A does not work. And this is how we ended up in Qeqeqtarsuaq, a community which we visited in 2012.

Again, the experience was COMPLETELY different. First, we played soccer against the local team and even though they kicked out butt with a final score of 6-3, the feeling was amazing. The soccer field was laying parallel to the bay shore where massive and beautifully carved icebergs were floating. BEST SOCCER FIELD EVER. We also connected so well and the team spirit in the group grew in SO many ways. I believe from that day, we really got closer. Another good thing is that two of the goals were scored by girls, Tara and I. Pretty badass, hey.

Right after this amazing game, our lovely music band, the Twin Flames, played for us and the community. Their music was feeling the air with the best party vibe I ever experienced and we all started dancing and singing.

Oh and I forgot to mention that on the exact same day, I was doing a full body strength training with Adam van Koeverden, kayak olympic medalist, and other buddies. I SUFFERED. But the highlight is I CAN RAISE MY ARM AND POINT AT THE SKY 😉 so I will definitely be able to swim my half-Ironman guyssss!!! i am slowly getting my mobility back, I can do my freestyle stroke, I am strenghtening my shoulder again, step by step *veryhappy*

I would totally rank that day among the five BEST DAYS OF MY LIFE!

I wish you could feel what I feel. Or I wish you can find a way to feel completeness, fulfillment and happiness in your life.

FOREVER GRATEFUL for the people who helped me along this project.

Thank you to the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation for helping me in my project.

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

Ally Zhao
Vaughan, Ontario, Canada

I am going to blog about yesterday’s visit to Uummannaq, Greenland as today is just beginning! Yesterday was our last day in Greenland, and when leaving the beautiful land for the hopefully not last time, I felt very touched. I decided to spend my afternoon hiking to the Santa Claus house in Uummannaq with a large group of students. Apparently, in the summers, Santa spends his time there enjoying the beautiful view. The hike to get to the house was difficult. There were a lot of slippery rocks, steep corners to manouver around, and the ground was uneven. However, the view was indescribable, and the smell of the oceon was too. When I got to the Santa House, I toured inside and found it a little unsettling as it was a little house with all the furniture rotting a little and with nobody living inside. I then walked alongside a small stream leading up a small cliff. I hiked halfway up the small cliff before being told that I could not climb any higher, so I took a seat on a moss covered rock. I decided to fill my water bottle with the water from the small waterfall, and found the water to be very fresh and sweet. I believe that the water was runoff from the nearby ice cap. This was also my first time ever seeing an ice cap. As I reflected while sitting on the rock, I started to think how mother nature is able to provide us with everything that we have made mechanically. The soft moss was like a fluffy couch to me, the view was like a TV, the river water was like drinking mineral water, and the hike was my natural treadmill! On the way back, I was talking to some people who knew how the landscape formed. Back some billions of years ago, the rocks formed similarly to the Canadian Shield. It was some very old rock. After we said goodbye to Greenland yesterday, the ship began to rock a little as we entered the Davis Strait!

Ashley gets ready to launch her bottle into the Davis Strait, an annual SOI Arctic Expedition activity as part of the Drift Bottle Project. This is a citizen science project used to track changing ocean currents. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation


Aurora Eide
Sandane, Norway

Hello from the Arctic! And more specifically, the Davis Strait! We have just started our ocean crossing, leaving beautiful Greenland behind and looking towards Nunavut in northern Canada. And what wonderful days we have had in Greenland! I’m in love with this country, and I am so so grateful for all the experiences we have shared, both amongst our SOI team but also with the local communities. Yesterday was a special day. For our last stop in Greenland we visited the community of Uummannaq, which means heart shaped island (?). The island has gotten its name from the giant red rock mountain that rises up behind the village, because it looks like a heart. That mountain is on the list of one of the most beautiful and enchanting mountains I have ever seen. And we were lucky enough to be able to go for a hike! We could not go to the top of the mountain (way too steep and long) but we went up and around the island, walking on supercool and special rock formations. The view from there was fantastic! White icebergs were scattered all over the deep blue sea, and tall mountains dominated the horizon. The destination of our hike was Santa’s house.It was quite funny, because this tiny rock house is the location where they filmed “Nissebanden”, the Danish Christmas calendar that I’ve watched parts of before.

When we returned back to the little town we got to visit a children’s home, as well as a tiny museum. I spoke Danish/Norwegian with the owner of the museum (because most Greenlandic people speak Danish), and he was so nice! It was wonderful to feel that I could help out by translating English for him, as the others in our group didn’t speak Danish. We were back at the Ocean Endeavour for a 7 o’clock dinner, followed by our evening briefing.

Once again, I am so grateful for our days in Greenland. This is such a once in a life time experience and I don’t want it to go by so fast! I’m enjoying every second, always learning something new. For the next day and a half, maybe two days, we will be at sea. This time will be filled with so many wonderful workshops from our AMAZING staff who know everything there is to know – about everything! Workshops I have done so far include traditional sewing (with sealskin!), making artworks related to science, a bird disection, and a natural history hike. But the hard part is there are so many to choose from each time, I won’t have a chance to try them all. However, workshops I hope to do in the future include kayaking and stand up paddling, meditation, songwriting, journal keeping, oceanography (taking ocean samples and analyzing them in the lab), geology (we have an amazing geologist on board), and so much more! I just want to learn everything I can while I have the chance.

I hope everyone at home is doing good! Even though you can’t answer, know that I’m thinking about you and I am receiving all your hugs. Promise to update as often as I can. Love you all xx

Gaba poses before throwing his bottle while fellow student Ethan captures this citizen science activity on camera. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation


Kelsey Catherine Schmitz
Assistant Director of Teacher Training and Development, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq

As I write this, accordian music echos down the ship stairs, feet stomping, voices cheering encouragement as Nancy Etok, Eva Sandra Kasudluak, Rita Kasudluak-Ningiuk, Syra Qinuajuak, Tuami Pirti, Andrea Brazeau, and Cynthia Gaudrault-Snowball, with help several Nunavik Students (Markusi, Mary, Tiivi and Bobby), lead a square dance in the ship’s hub. Students On Ice has offered all of us an opportunity to learn and grow, but also show our culture and knowledge to the world on ship. It has been amazing to watch our team figure out just how they’d like to do that, with big grins on their faces.

We have been on board the Ocean Endeavour for 6 days now. We have visited places in Greenland that have been a feast for the eyes, soul and heart. Waking up the morning after we got on the ship, after a restless first night, I was anxious and tired. But Greenland did not disappoint. Our first day, taking a zodiak up to a glacier to watch icebergs be calved…I have no words to describe the beauty, sound and awe inspiring colours I soaked in. Right then, in that quiet moment roaring with the sound of crashing ice, I knew I would see and experience more things than my brain could process. I have seen icebergs the size of castles, tasted the fresh spring water from a mountain shaped like a heart outside of Ummannaq, and watched my colleagues and students from Nunavik communities connect with “the people from the other side”. We have ridden zodiaks through mazes of icebergs, waved to humpbacks as they splash by us, and played “seal or piece of ice” too many times to count. Seeing young people from all over the world, as well as the Arctic, marvel at the sights and sounds that we get to see everyday has been gratifying, humbling, and at times emotional. We have also had the opportunity to hear and learn from experts in many scientific subjects, from an academic point of view, and from an Indigenous point of view.

A favourite moment for me so far has been watching Tuami discover a love for science and the ocean. He has helped collect samples from the ocean and ponds, and assisted in the science lab. His shouts of delight and shock when examining those specimens for the first time under a microscope filled me with smiles and gladness.

Eva Sandra and Syra amazed us all with a display of throat singing on a stage in Greenland, icebergs floating in the bay in the background. Rita played soccer with the kids, and Andrea has assisted with several workshops now. Eva Niviaxie spent time carefully explaining to young students the properties of plants we encountered on a plant talk nestled on a beach on our first landing. Cynthia has been an ever present comfort and place of safety for our young people on this journey, and those from other Arctic regions hoping to connect with someone who gets what they are experiencing on this journey and in life. Victoria Simigaq has shared the wisdoms and experiences she has about Greenland, and been reunited with a place she loves deeply. I have had ample opportunity to be proud of our teachers and staff at Kativik Ilisarniliriniq. They, along with our 9 young people, have been strong ambassadors for Nunavik, overcoming some uncertainty, shyness, homesickness (and seasickness) to teachs others about who they are.

I have also had the great pleasure of connecting with marine biologists and oceanographic experts who have fed my love of whales, sharing knowledge and stories that are interesting, and that keep me driven to share more about conservation and protection for these majestic creatures. By far my favourite time and workshops, however, have been spent at the side of JR (James Raffin) who has led amazing journaling workshops that have inspired me, challenged me, and set me to do a lot of self reflecting. He also asked an important question on our second night about how I got the courage to be who I am everyday, that had me thinking about how thankful I am for my parents who have taught me so much about caring deeply for those around me, and above all else, being kind to others.

I have also thought often about the strong women in my life (tante Susie and Helene, Grandmaman) who have taught me so much. My aunt Helene’s journeys around the world fed my interest to travel, explore and meet new people. I hope my nieces and nephews will love my stories about these adventures as much as I have always loved hers, and find the thirst to learn and take it all in that I have found. My aunt’s trip to Guatemala when I was 8 was one of the first catalysts for my hunger to see the world. I got to visit there finally last year with my sister in law Sarah, and two of the amazing staff working on our ship are from there. I have felt a full circle with these moments of snatched conversation about that beautiful country and how it put me on the path of deep interest in other cultures and parts of the world.

Tomorrow, we land in Pond Inlet to begin the second half of our journey. Fingers crossed I get to see a unicorn of the sea! (Narwhal).

love to all at home


Louis-Philippe St-Arnaud

Ottawa, ON, Canada


Détroit de Davis

Salut tout le monde!

Aujourd’hui, nous passons du Groenland au Canada en traversant le Détroit de Davis. Nous profitons donc d’une journée entière à bord du vaisseau.

Ce matin, j’ai assisté à un atelier sur “Belong”, donc le fait d’appartenir à un groupe. C’était un atelier simple, en petit groupe, mais c’était très puissant. Nous avons discuté des choses qui nous donnent un sentiment d’appartenance, donc une contribution, de l’amour, des amis et de l’attention, du support au besoin, etc. Moi, j’ai ressenti que la contribution me donnait un sentiment d’appartenance plus puissant, donc d’aider quelqu’un dans le besoin. Ça me rappelait une section du livre Me to We. Des enfants, qui étaient forcés de fabriquer des tapis en nouant des noeuds 12 heures par jour, recevaient un traitement violent si leur travail n’était pas terminé. Si l’un était malade, les autres finissaient son travail pour qu’il ne reçoive pas de volée. Ils étaient une équipe, dans les conditions les plus difficiles au monde.

On a aussi discuté du fait qu’il ne faut pas catégoriser les gens, parce que c’est un obstacle à l’appartenance. Si quelqu’un est sans abris, il ne faut pas le catégoriser comme “désavantagé”. Il faut simplement lui donner de l’aide. Ça m’a fait penser à l’histoire livrée par un olympien à bord. Oui, il s’appelle Adam, et il a gagné une médaille d’or et une médaille de bronze dans la discipline du kayak. Dans sa jeunesse, il se retrouvait souvent dans le pétrin après l’école. Mais maintenant, il est olympien. Donc on ne sait jamais comment les gens peuvent changer, donc il ne faut pas les juger.

J’ai aussi ressenti un appel à l’action, lors d’une présentation, par rapport à un sujet inattendu. Il s’agit de “TRUTH and Reconciliation.”  Nous avons reçu une présentation à ce sujet, comme nous allons entrer au Nunavut demain. C’est absolument horrible, ce que le gouvernement a fait aux Inuits à cause de la colonisation. Peut-être qu’ils ne cherchaient pas à faire du mal, ils pensaient probablement juste à leurs propres intérêts, mais il n’y a pas encore eu d’excuses valables, ce qui doit changer. Je veux vraiment faire un atelier à ce sujet-là, pour trouver une manière de faire une différence.

Je vous explique un peu. Tout a commencé avec des missionaires, qui ont convertis certains Inuits d’une croyance aux “Agnakok” (des magiciens qui parlent aux esprits) au christianisme. Le gouvernement s’en est mêlé après, relocalisant des communautés pour extraire des ressources, imposant des programmes sociaux avec des rations, séparant des enfants de leur famille pour les envoyer dans des écoles résidentielles et tuant des chiens de traineau pour que les Inuits ne s’enfuisent pas des réserves. C’est de l’information dure, certains ont même pleuré pendant la présentation, mais c’est nécessaire. Il faut répandre la vérité. Je vais poser davantage de questions sur le sujet, pour faire une différence.

Merci d’avoir pris le temps de lire mon blogue! Bonne soirée!



Michael, Jeff and JR provided the music while students and staff square danced. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

Northern Fulmar, Davis Strait. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

A most magnificent sunset over the Davis Strait. Expeditioners enjoyed this golden sunset for several hours as the ship crossed over to the Canadian Arctic. (c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

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