Arctic Expedition 2013

Follow the journey : July 23 - August 7

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Daily Journey Updates

Expedition Update

July 25, 2013

Kingnait Fjord

Daily Update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green
We awoke to beautiful blue skies and mild temperatures in spectacular Kingnait Fiord, Nunavut -- the ideal setting to kick off today's activities. After a quick breakfast, we boarded zodiacs and zoomed our way to shore where we hiked a short distance to a beautiful little waterfall. The relaxed schedule left plenty of time for the students to hop from rock to rock, socialize, and soak in the Arctic's tranquility.  From there we congregated for group photographs -- a challenge with swarms of hungry mosquitoes vying for our attention and excitement building for our next experience: a polar swim in a glacier-fed river!
Most of the students seized the opportunity to literally immerse themselves in the environment!  The shock of the frigid water generated lots of shrieks but did not wipe the smile from a single face. Boisterous laughter and repeated "swims" proved that this was actually an ENJOYABLE experience for everyone. Thankfully, the warm Arctic air brought post-swim comfort and ensured that we dried off quickly. 
The tides had moved out by the time we were ready to depart, so we had to hike a few kilometres over hills and broken ground to a suitable location to disembark on the zodiacs. Our energy expended and our appetites whetted by the excursion, we wolfed down lunches on the Sea Explorer before heading out to the decks to watch as the ship picked its way through the broken ice pack pushed in to the fiord. The students are currently engrossed in workshops onboard the ship while the captain expertly navigates us through the ice dotting the blue luminescence of the sparkling sea, carrying us towards Cumberland Sound. 

Please check out the previous days' entries for more stories, photos and journal entries. 

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The Canadian Arctic

Of Ice and Man: The Illulissat Icefjord



 Alice and Lucie-Colombe from Monaco show some national pride.

Geologist Peter Croal and Saskia have a discussion during a workshop.

Kelcey and SOI staff member Mary-Ellen

Pack ice shimmers in the harbour.

Meg Beckel, President of the Canadian Museum of Nature, aboard the Sea Adventurer.

Alice enjoys the Arctic sunshine.

Watching the ship move through pack ice.

 Watching for whales.

Hiking back from the waterfall at Kingnait. 

Oceanographer Daniele Bianchi repurposes his fish net to help student Nicolas ward off mosquitos. 

Another beautiful hike.

Oceanographer Daniele Bianchi collects phytoplankton.


Vinay, Olaph, Justin, Sam and Tyler take the Arctic plunge backwards



Bailey and Norman react to the cold water while taking the polar plunge!

SOI Arctic 2013 joins the Arctic Swim Team!


Norman reacts to the cold water!

Joseph takes the plunge!

Counsellor Genevieve Killulark leads a group discussion about mental health on the rear deck. 

Botany Specialist Roger Bull works with students preparing the plants they collected in Pangnirtung, NU


Chair of the Arctic Council Patrick Borbey outlines his organization for SOI students and staff on board the Sea Adventurer in the Davis Strait.  

Chris paints at sunset as the Sea Adventurer steams down the Davis Strait.


Ottawa, Canada

I am so glad I chose the half-day hike yesterday, because I was able to participate in the afternoon discussion about how to write for political influence. The concerns of some students are often questions at this time in their life. We were all reminded of the importance of asking questions to ensure we are informed and aware of all perspectives before taking a position. Sometimes we will find our concern is simply the result of questions needing answers. Sometimes the answers to our questions will raise new concerns that lead to more questions. The beauty of asking questions is it begins a conversation. A wonderful reminder of the importance of using our ability to ask questions. Today we enjoyed another great walk in the sun (actually two great walks since the low tide moved our zodiac pick-up point). I decided it was best to observe the Arctic swimmers rather than participate. This afternoon, sea ice as far as the eye can see. The ship had no difficulty carving through it toward our next stop. Tonight we get to hear about the Arctic council and its importance to our collective future. Another amazing day.


Risch, Switzerland

Awoken by my head smashing against the wall of my cabin room, my day had started. But before I dwell on today's journey, I want to talk about the last few days. We had the great opportunity to visit a village by the name of Uummannaq on the day of celebration of its 250 years of existence. Upon walking into the village we were warmly welcomed by the people of the village who gladly accepted us into their celebration. Once everyone had reached land by zodiac we were led to the centre of town to participate in the ceremony that was being held. We also got to see a local movie called Inuk, which will be released soon, which depicted the lives of the Inuit people living in Greenland. The movie was hard felt and gave us an inside view of the people we were having the privilege of being around. This was followed by a hike that took us close to the mountain that loomed over the village and is also the namesake of the village.

If I can come back to the present I can reflect on what I have learned and experienced whilst on this amazing trip. Being close to the last stretch of our journey I have started to realize how great, inspirational and inspiring this trip has been for me. Taking the hike into one of the national parks yesterday, called Auyuittuq, I was able to marvel at the beauty of the land as well as reflect during the hike on the events that have passed. This boat, the people I've met, the lessons I've learned, putting them all together and stirring them round and round I can say that I have matured. Not just in the sense of maturity or any of that, but in the way that the people I have met have left a mark on me, the lessons I have learned are settling in and the road I wish to take has become brighter. Meeting some of the children in Pangnirtung and playing an amazing game of baseball with them, which we lost horrible to the witty 6/7 year olds, I saw one of the more beautiful things in the village. As well as seeing all the great creatures, Polar bears and many species of whales, who call the Arctic their home I gained a great appreciation for these aspects that few people actually see. With all of this I can say that I have had a great time on this adventure.


Rumford, RI, USA

Officially joined the Arctic Swim Team!!! It was the coldest water EVER! It wasn't too bad once your whole body went numb. Somehow I ran back into the water 3 times! It was crazy but so much fun! I'm really happy that I did it! Getting back to the zodiacs was a hike! The tide went out so we had to walk another extra few kilometres, and I was only wearing my sweatshirt and my towel as a skirt over my cold wet bathing suit! I realized hiking in rain boots is not good! But overall today was such a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything!


N. Smithfield, RI, USA

I feel like I've accomplished a feat today as well. Maybe it's not as great as completing the super long hike yesterday, but it was still something I'm proud of! So today we got up and ate breakfast as usual, but today we were told to put on our bathing suits underneath our clothes so we could join the Arctic Swim team. We started the day with a long zodiac ride to the landing and then a short hike to a waterfall. My legs hurt pretty bad from yesterday, so even this short hike seemed long. When we got there, some people were getting in the water a little bit to test it out. I am a person that does not particularly enjoy cold weather or water, so I thought it was un-swimmable for sure. I kept saying that I would not swim because I was already cold just standing on land! When it came time to do the swim, I kept going back and forth on if I wanted to do it. I realized that I will probably only be here once in my entire life, so I decided to do it willingly. We ending up running in and out several times and I don't think I have ever been colder in my life, nor will I probably ever be colder. I went fully under and everything, so after the fact I was so glad that I decided to do it. I knew that later on I would have regretted it if I did not join the Arctic Swim team (however, I quit the team shortly after!). So after that, the hike back was longer and much colder because I had a wet bathing suit on underneath my clothes. When we got back to the ship, I realized how amazing it now is to say that I swam while on a trip to the Arctic. Now, I am having mixed feelings about the expedition ending. I am excited to go home, but at the same time, I know for sure I will remember these experiences forever. I can't wait to see all of you in just a few days!


Memphis, Tennessee, USA

It has been great here on the SOI Arctic Expedition. Today marked the official last landing for us. We went to Kingnait Island for a short hike to a waterfall, then afterwards we all went for a swim in the arctic waters. Yeah, that's right ARCTIC, meaning literally the water was one degree celsius. I was resistant at first, but Mikaela, Bailey, and Elianny wouldn't let me sit there and do nothing. I can always count on them to encourage me to try new things. After continuous motivation I finally decided to dive in. It was bitterly cold; this is definitely something I would not have done if I was still in Memphis. The main reason that I was so easily persuaded to do it was the fact that I knew the opportunity would not present itself again. Afterwards I was glad that I did it; I am now officially one of very few people who can truthfully say they swam in the Arctic.


Providence, RI

Its sad to say that this expedition is almost over, I have done and learned so many new things! Yesterday I went on a long hike with my group, Team Roger, and we did a great job! We were the second group to get to the Arctic Circle and I am so proud that I made it to the Arctic circle, it was about a 4 hour hike there and another 4 hour hike back. Today I got a chance to take pictures with everyone and I can finally say I have swam in Arctic water. There was no hot spring and I was able to jump in from head to toe in cold Arctic water. I am glad to be able to experience how it is to be in the Arctic. I cant wait to share this experience with everyone back home!


Nanaimo, British Columbia

Today, I can say with a fair amount of foolish pride that I am now a member of the polar swim team, five times over. That's right--my head was under the freezing, most likely glacier fed Arctic water five times today. I would say I have not yet received any brain damage, but I'd say it's going to be one of those 'time will tell scenarios.'

Honestly, I was only going to put my head under once. But then I thought, standing on the shore,
"I'm already freezing, and I haven't done the front stroke yet. Why not do it?"

It's scary, to be honest. You feel as if you're head is pounding, yet you can't feel your head. It's a strange feeling.

Tomorrow is our last full day in the Arctic. So many mixed feelings--It's amazing both the discoveries and the people I've met on this trip and how intense the impact of both has been. I kinda wish I could just bring everyone home with me, along with some of the icebergs. But I have a feeling it won't fly over so well with customs. 

"Really, they're not hostages. They all love me:)"

PS: Hi family. Love you guys. Miss you.


Portugal Cove, NL, Canada

July 23: I walked on land for the first time in two days. We were visiting the town of Pangnirtung. In the morning, I was part of a botany workshop. We collected samples of tundra plants from the hills outside of town.

We returned to the ship at lunchtime for a barbeque. The deck turned into a moshpit when Gangam style was played, and remained that way until the end of lunch.

The afternoon in Pang was spent exploring the town, and ended at the community centre with a demonstration of Inuit games and square dancing.

July 24: we were anchored at the end of the Pangnirtung Fjord. I hiked from there all the way to the Arctic Circle and back, a journey of about 25km. It took all day. The terrain in the Fjord varies wildly, from sandy beaches to bog to tundra to rocky hills. On each side, snow-capped mountains rose into the sky, and waterfalls cascaded down their sides. It was a memorable journey.

Today, we are anchored in Kingait Fjord. We are going for a short hike, before diving into the cold water of the Fjord. This will be one of my last entries, but I will write again at least once more before the end. Goodbye.




This morning couldn't be more glorious. The Arctic
is breathtaking. Fragile untouched beauty, that is
amazing. Waking up in a new place every day...
Life can take you anywhere
in the blink of an eye. The cliffs can't be matched, they're
a majestic scale, so large and incomparable. This
boat, the Sea Adventurer carries an unspoken magic, it
is unfathomable. My sea legs suit me well, this is a
fantastic adventure, I'd never need to return to civilization,
it's where my soul belongs. I wish they could understand
what's happened... I like this world... Its straight forward-
I've fallen for the sea,
always at ease, even when the plates are smashed to smitherenes by the swells, I've
wanted peace for so long, is there peace in chaos?


St. John's NL

I can't believe that this expedition is almost over and how amazing it has been! There have been so many amazing experiences in the last few days that I only have time to go over the highlights. One of the biggest highlights was seeing POLAR BEARS four days ago. I was really proud of myself because I spotted one of the polar bears first with my binoculars and it ended up being the one that we got really close to and everyone looked at. I also loved the student Arctic Hour because it gave us a chance to express our opinions and talk about things that really interested us on an equal platform. I also loved the square dancing in Pang and thought it was hilarious to see everyone dancing like that. I actually found Pang really interesting especially the stores there. The prices were so weird it was 10.75 for a box of granola bars 2.00 for a chocolate bar and 15.00 for a dozen pop! Yesterday was a very interesting day for me because I was the first Arctic swimmer... and it wasn't intentional. I went on the long hike and on that we had to cross a creek and I decided to step into the water between rocks but of course my foot slipped and I fell into the water. It was so bad that my entire left side and most of my right was wet up to my shoulders. Plus I swore in front of Stephane Dion who helped me up which was kind of bad but it was cold! I had to change out of my wet clothes when we stopped for lunch because not moving was making me cold but of course there were no trees around so I had to go behind a rock while Shirley stood guard. I'm pretty sure I'm the only person on the expedition who can say that they completely changed in the arctic. The hike was still amazing though especially since I don't think I've ever hiked that many kilometres in one day. Today was also amazing because it was our official Arctic Swim day! I went in five times and dunked my head five times although the fourth one was pretty unintentional because I slipped in the shallow section trying to convince Norman to go in quickly... I didn't do the best job. I also helped drag Bryan into the water so I can proudly say that I helped get both the guys from Memphis into the 1 degree water.

I can't believe that those are just the highlights of these last four days! So many other things have happened that everything feels like a dream sometimes. Like I'm going to pinch myself and be back in the seat in my auditorium over a year ago listening to a girl talk about the amazing trip to the Arctic she had. I can't wait to see all the other amazing things that I'll be doing over these last few days and, although I don't want to leave, get home to tell everyone about them.


Ottawa, Ontario

July 23, 2013

Today was such an amazing day! I went on the long hike, 26km. It was quite the experience. It was such an amazing landscape to hike in. We saw more than 5 different retreating glaciers. It was such a humbling experience. The path we took was where the glaciers had been not that long ago. It was amazing to get the chance to see actual glacier retreat paths. Our half way point was an amazing waterfall that we stopped at to have our lunch before we turned around to go back. On the way to this point we had every terrain possible in the arctic. We went through marsh, desert, mountain passes, high rocks and wet rivers. There was only one "difficult" river crossing in the whole hike. Because there hasn't been much rain we didn't find more any more difficult crossings. The one river we did cross was quite nice and easy to me. The mountain pass after that was also quite a lot of fun. On our way back we were told we didn't have to stay so much with the group as long as we had a partner and a staff member. So on our back I was partners with Whitney, one of the staff members and a good friend. Whitney decided to make the whole trip "shorter". This is now what s known as "Whitney's Way". This consists of not finding the part of the river or the thinnest part but the first encounter with the river and going straight to your destination. This involved going across the widest and deepest part of the river for us. I made the mistake of taking my shoes off to cross. The only problem was my feet were very, very cold when we got to the other side. Also when we got to the mountain pass which winds through the mountain, which is really a very large hill, Whitney decided we should just go straight over instead of following the path. I will admit we did get a good view at the top but to get to the top was quite the climb. Overall it was all a lot of fun and even though it began to rain Whitey and I remained in good moods until we were back on the zodiacs heading to the ship. I can't wait to do it again.

July 25, 2013

Today we got the chance to join the Arctic swim team. After we finished our hike we took the group photo and then had the chance to go for the swim. The water was absolutely freezing. It couldn't have been much more than 0 degrees. It was such a great experience though. I now am not afraid of any water because it can't get much worse. When I get back to my camp for the "polar swim" I'm going to know that that is not a polar swim.



Hello from Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island). All the students are out on the land today and they went for their Arctic swim. Yesterday we spent the day at Auuyuituq Park. I went on the short walk, Natalie went on the medium walk, and D went all the way to the Arctic Circle (27 km, I think). I haven't seen him today so I don't know how tired he is. They were gone in the zodiacs by the time I went downstairs from my cabin.

It is another beautiful day. A little cool wind blowing lightly, so no mosquitoes. We are slowly travelling back to Iqaluit. Should be there late on the 27th and back home on the 28th. I hope the ice is gone from Frobisher Bay.

It will be nice to get home.


Lawn, Newfoundland

It's crazy that we only have a few days left; it makes me sad to leave. Yesterday I went on the long hike to the Arctic Circle, after 30 kilometres I feel like I never need to do any form of physical activity ever again. But I did enjoy getting almost hip deep in river water! Today I joined the Arctic swim team; and it was the best thing ever! I ran into the water about five different times; the first time I entered the water I ran in with my Newfoundland flag. Joining the Arctic swim team is one of my favourite highlights on this trip!
xx Bailey


St. Philip's, Newfoundland

What a great day for an Arctic swim! This morning we went on shore here in Kingnait Fjord and what a beautiful sight met us. The majestic mountains combined with the winding river made for a great view. Not only that, but the sun was shining and it was pleasantly warm here in the Arctic. All those factors combined created the perfect setting for the long awaited Arctic swim. Everyone stood in bathing suits wrapped in towels on the rivers edge waiting to go into the water. Eventually, the first few brave souls plunged in, but before long we were all swimming and splashing around. It was surprisingly not too cold, but very refreshing. At least now I can say I swam in glacier runoff here in the Arctic!


Toronto, ON

The portholes on the ship are framed by gold rims. A frame for a perfect picture. The water is cobalt blue that dissipates into a teal. My favourite colour. My taste for blues have become greener. Scattered across that blue are little dots of white. Ice we call it. Looks yellow. With the setting sun sprayed over the reflective surface, "white is never just white", Vemeer was once quoted. I see oranges, reds, blues, greens. I always have trouble differing between water and sky in these places. The glaciers in ice-capped mountains seem to merge with misty sky. Waterfalls that spew out carries rocks and creates mountains. I wondered how such large rocks stayed in place on teetering slopes. And we are moving. Walking, swimming, hiking, climbing, sitting on a ship that's moving. I love how I am always surprised. Flowers I have never seen. Water I have never tasted. Ground I have never treaded. Bewildered. Curious. I want to stay that way. And never stop moving.

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