Arctic Expedition 2013

Follow the journey : July 23 - August 7

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Daily Journey Updates

Expedition Update

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pangnirtung, Nunavut 

Daily Update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green
The team had another exciting day of learning and fun today. We spent the entire day in "Pang", a small, mostly Inuit community in Cumberland Sound on Baffin Island. The town setting is idyllic, nestled in a glaciated fjord surrounded by towering peaks, sheer cliffs and dramatic Arctic landscape.
After breakfast we hopped onto the zodiacs and headed to town for a series of workshops spanning topics from botany to printmaking to geomorphology. A number of SOI alumni came out to welcome us and we were greeted with bagpipes upon our arrival. After lunch on the boat, it was back to Pang for a tour of the town (museum, fish plant, Parks Canada offices) and celebrations with members of the local community including the mayor. Festivities included Arctic games (the high kick was extremely popular with our team!), square dancing, singing and a whole lot of laughter. It was a tremendous opportunity for the students to get to know some of the people living here and make some new friends. Of course, 2 members of our team come from Pangnirtung so for them it was a real homecoming!
After a quick trip to the arts and crafts shop to pick up some local souvenirs, we headed back to the ship for dinner - all too early for many of us as we were just getting to know the warm and friendly people of the this community.
We pulled up anchor and sailed to the end of the fjord for the night. Tomorrow we're off for a hike in magnificent Auyuittuq National Park where we will be crossing the Arctic Circle for the third time so far on our expedition! The weather is calm, the winds are light and we're looking forward to a day full of adventure as we head out to explore this stunning landscape!


Of Ice and Man: Icebergs in Illulissat, Greenland


A Day in Uummannaq


On the way into Pangnirtung!

 Bagpiper Donald Mearns played the Expedition to shore in Pangnirtung!

David and Gerrit are happy to be in Pangnirtung for a photography workshop!

Annie-Caroline is enjoying the town.


Alice during a workshop.

Albert on the Sea Adventurer.

Students visit the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts, and learn about print-making from Jolly Atagooyuk. 

 Students learned from skilled artists.

 Students enjoy a BBQ lunch on deck!

On the way into Pangnirtung!

Priscilla, Natalia, Nathaniel, Hilary and Hovak as the ship sails in.

Nicole takes in the fjord.

Raphaelle takes a quiet moment in Pangnirtung.

Students take a workshop at the historic Blubber House.

Josh hits the target in the One Foot High Kick, a traditional Inuit game.

The whole team got a turn!

 Chris practices his drawing outside of Pangnirtung, NU.

 Maike takes notes during a workshop.

Roger teaches a botany workshop.

Learning about Arctic plants.

Karolanne is enjoying the day.


Kelcey takes notes during a botany workshop.



Nanaimo, British Columbia

At the beginning of this trip, Geoff made a point of the importance of "good karma" However, the ability for good karmic vibes is a little harder when you're in a rolling sea vessel, unable to use its stabilizers due to the threat of ice. Nevertheless it was said there was finally some possibilty to see the King of the Arctic: the polar bear.

So I thought, what the heck, I'll just do a little doddle of a happy bear here in my journal, write here's to good karma above it, and see what happens.  About 15 minutes later, this was the announcement over the ship intercomn:

"Students on Ice! We're seeing a polar bear, off to the Starboard side!"

And despite the fact that it was raining and windy, despite the fact that I had got my hand stuck in a door, despite the fact that the boat was making it impossible to walk in a straight line, there it was: a polar bear, a yellow-custard blob of fur, sleeping on the pack ice.

And then: More bears. 10 in total. There they were, loping effortlessly across the pack ice, turning turquoise with the summer melt. We saw sleeping bears, eating bears, even bears rolling around, paws in the air, childlike in their content. Against the pack ice, the ocean, Baffin Island; the bears were they key to the complete picture that was the Arctic. And in that moment, we became part of it.

PS: Mom: thank you for making sure I packed my gravol :)



We docked at Pangnirtung at one in the morning, just a few hours after the most spectacular (and single) sunset we have seen on this journey. Becky, an amazing member of our staff and instructor at the Nunuvut Sivuniksavut college in Ottawa, pointed out landmarks as we docked. The runway that divides this community of 1300 into "uptown" and "downtown," the old blubber house, the new port. This is her hometown and I couldn't imagine how surreal it must feel to enter it this way - onboard a giant ship accompanied by people from all over the world. "Mom, I'm bringing some friends home for dinner," she joked.

Pangnirtung was not part of our original itinerary. Ice conditions around Resolute made it necessary to change course, moving south down to Cumberland Sound and then eventually around into Frobisher Bay, where we'll make our final landing in Iqaluit. Yesterday morning we curved around Cape Mercy. It had been a rough night on the waters and a good dose of mercy was definitely in order. It arrived in the form of polar bears. First one siting, far off in the ice. Then another, and another. I struggled with my naked eyes to see the spot of yellow amidst the white and blue. But then it happened. The figure emerged for me and I could raise my binoculars and follow its bold, leaping path across the sea ice. I have seen thousands, literally thousands, of pictures of polar bears. Some of the most incredible photos in existence. They did not prepare me in the least for seeing this animal with my own eyes.

After an initial burst of excitement, a hush came over the decks and everyone simply watched. It was amazing to experience this moment surrounded by the people here. Some, like me, were seeing these bears for the first time. Others had encountered them before, but in very different contexts. Kelcey, from Hall Beach (Nunavut), talked about how scary it is when bears come into town looking for food. People scare them off with their snow-mobiles and jump on the CB to warn others. Caitlin, from Nanaimo (BC), remembered seeing bears at a zoo. "But this is where they belong. This is their habitat, where they are at home," she said with wonder.

Later we examined the opposite end of the foodchain - scooping up zooplankton from the icy waters. I spied a jelly fish hiding under a bergy bit. Daniele, our resident oceanographer, set up a tank in our make-shift lab. The translucent sea angel undulating its tiny wings was, in its own way, as majestic and strange as the bear rolling and stretching on the ice.

Today we'll go into town and meet the people who call this place home. Funny to think that this is, in a way, my home too. Canada. How lucky I am, how lucky we all are.

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