Arctic Expedition 2013

Follow the journey : July 23 - August 7

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Daily Journey Updates

Expedition Update

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lady Franklin Island

Daily Update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green
Frobisher Bay, Nunavut , 8:30 pm

We awoke to swollen seas in Davis Strait, rocking us out of bed to start another day.
An enlightening Arctic Hour led by Mary Simon, Duane Smith, Patrick Borbey, and Becky Mearns then awakened our minds about the future of the Arctic.If this group of students is any indication, we can rest assured that the future is in good hands!

As we near the end of our journey, there was ample time today for reflection as individuals and in groups. The spirit of camaraderie is everywhere, and it is hard to imagine that we will soon head back to our homes to pursue our passions and share our experiences.

Today, we added walruses (and another polar bear) to the roster of Arctic animals that we have viewed, as well as stunning views of Monumental and Lady Franklin Islands.
These vistas, etched into our memories, will -- like the friendships forged on the trip -- not fade anytime soon.

Packing, paperwork, and workshop sessions have occupied the students for much of the afternoon, and having just enjoyed another fabulous dinner we anxiously await the final celebration that will carry us long into the Arctic night...


An Update from Expedition Leader, Geoff Green

July 27, 8:00 AM

We are just about to drop anchor in Iqaluit!

It is another beautiful morning! Flat calm seas.  A little fog.

Yesterday was a wonderful final day of our expedition. We had all kinds of wrap-up presentations and activities helping to prepare the students for the “What’s Next” following this powerful experience we have all shared in theArctic.  I am so impressed with this group students.  They have became a family, a team and taken advantage of every opportunity presented along our journey. They rose to the many challenges.  They listened, learned, explored, pushed their limits in many ways, connected with each other and the natural world around them, and had fun!  They give me cause for hope for the future.

Last night was an evening of celebration and pure joy. We thanked all the many people and partners that make SOI possible. We celebrated. We sang, danced, reflected and cried.  This last two weeks have really exceeded what we could have hoped for. Greenland and the Canadian Arctic were our playground, classroom, laboratory and home.  Whales, Polar bears, Walrus, Icebergs, People, Mountains, Ocean, Glaciers, Tundra, Birds, Waterfall, Plankton, History, Culture, Politics…and the awe and wonder of Mother Nature have flowed in and out of our expedition experiences.  

As I told the students last night, today is not the ending our individual journeys. It is another beginning.  They have been passed a torch of many sorts.  These youth are going to continue this experience in so many ways in the weeks, months and years to come.  Look out!  Support them.  Listen to them.

Thank you for following and sharing our SOI Arctic 2013 journey!!  

Please check out the previous days' entries for more stories, photos and journal entries. Photos are now online for July 24!

You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook too!




Joy learns to drive the Zodiac.

Diane carefully drives the Zodiac in Frobisher Bay.

Expedition Leader Geoff Green shows the ice charts during evening briefings.

Walruses rest on an ice pan.

A pair of walruses on ice watch Students on Ice.

The Chocolate Extravaganza!

Enjoying the chocolate!

The captain shows Timothy some brain-expanding finger dexterity exercises.

Samuel, SOI education program advisor Diz, and Maddy.


Students collected, pressed, dried and arranged these Arctic flowers into beautiful works of art.


Ottawa, Ontario

Walrus sighting today. A shout out to my late Uncle Alan who studied walrus and provided endless entertainment to his nieces and nephew imitating walrus and regaling us with his stories about his days in the Arctic as a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service. Being in the Arctic makes me appreciate even more what it was like for my parents, both scientists, when they worked in Fort Churchill for the Canadian Northern Defence research lab. It is an awesome, awe inspiring and intimidating place. The power of the waves, the chill of the cold, the warmth of the sun and the independence of the wildlife... remind me how lucky I am to be on this trip, learning about this place, appreciating how different it is from my home and how important it is that I understand and respect it.

Oh... a special shout out to Whit from Mary. We arrive back in Ottawa on Saturday July 27th!


Oakville, Ontario

As expedition unfortunately seems to be coming to an end, everyone wishes it could just continue forever. The sea and the Arctic have not shown us everything they have to offer and it is hard to imagine that a lifetime of education will still never reveal all of its secrets. From Greenland to Nunavut the cold winds and the warm people have struck a chord within me, not only to continue to pursue sweeping global environmental change but to more actively pursue positive changes for the people and communities of the North.

As reality begins to set in (wait, this whole experience hasn't been a dream?), I begin to reflect about the sights and experiences I have been so fortunate to take part in. I would first like to say for myself, I had longed for this expedition and envisioned myself for so long coming on expedition to the point where now that I am finally here, it literally feels unreal. One of the most forthcoming reflections has to be about the developed communities up here, and the sad realization that not everyone's values are the same. For me, the Arctic is a cherished, sacred place, dominated by nature. However, for others it is home, and some treat their home differently than I would. This was heart wrenchingly evident in the cigarette butts lining the streets of Ilullissat or Pangnirtung and the disposed waste upon Mount Uummannaq and Itilliq Fjord.

There has been much optimism from this experience as well. Even simply gathering and networking with such an incredible group of people -- young and old -- has been a learning experience in itself. One highlight came yesterday in a workshop with Justin Dearing, whose optimism was infectious. It carried over into conversation with a friend about wanting to change the norm and change apathy in our culture and youth. "Be courageous enough to care" were some words of wisdom Justin shared with us. While writing this blog I ran outside on deck to see the walrus that the ship seems to have found for us.

There has also been a strong focus on the future of the North -- Inuit having the right to modernize and develop in their own ways. Mary Simon has made it incredibly clear the importance of education for Inuit to help establish their North and provide the long-term programming and infrastructure needed. Today in a panel a discussion I asked if the future of the North would be gender equal. The development planned is labour-oriented (not suggesting woman cannot perform labour tasks, but perhaps knowing equal employment in these sectors would be a hard reality) in fields like fishing and mining, but interestingly enough it seems Inuk boys are the ones in jeopardy as high-standing governmental and administrative positions are occupied by the educated young woman coming out of the North, and males make up the majority of the alarmingly high dropout rate. Another point I thought was interesting has been the rumor of Arctic waters as an accessible shipping route. As SOI has learned, "flexibility is the key," seeing as we are now sailing en route to Frobisher Bay and not through Lancaster Sound as originally planned. The unpredictable ice conditions here, in my opinion, seem to act as a natural defence mechanism. Even with less sea ice forming, it is how thick and in what key areas it develops that decides shipping routes and even student expedition plans.

Friends here already speak about reunion, seeing each other again, and for some even finding excuses to come back to the North. It will be a strange shift out of expedition mode when I return to the hot and crowded GTA. I have been so comfortable and at home in my wool sweaters, toques and corduroy pants that I can't imagine exchanging them for shorts, t-shirts and bathing suits. On that note, I am happy to report that yesterday in Kingnait Fjord the SOI arctic swim team initiated about 80 new members, myself included. This trip has been a roller-coaster series of physically and emotional experiences, and whether it's witnessing climate change sites, seeing breathtaking landscapes or riding the nauseous waves and swells of the ships, all have been embraced. But the sights I have seen, the conversations I have had and the experiences I have taken a part in are the incredible package this expedition has to offer. I will cherish them and take them with me into the future chapters of my life.



N. Smithfield, RI, USA

Today we had a rather long and strenuous day! I was on the group that went on the long hike to the Arctic Circle. The hike started off very fun because we were excited to get to the Arctic Circle. It was a very long hike, and we ate lunch somewhere past the Arctic Circle. The way back was much different. It seemed to go on forever and it started to get very cold. When I made it back to the zodiac I was jumping for joy! I'm now very proud to say that I completed a 27.32 kilometer hike, and even though it seemed to last for days, it was definitely very worth it to choose the long hike! The scenery was amazing and unlike anything I have ever seen before or will probably ever see again in my life (well, I hope to see it again!) Even though I am trying to savour all of my experiences on this trip, I am really excited to go home in a few days to tell everyone even more about everything and to show all of you my pictures!


Nanaimo, British Columbia

Hi everyone,

Today I will be directing a student-led discussion on what action we are planning to do upon our return from our expedition.

I've only been on this boat for, what, two weeks, and I've managed to take in a month's worth of experiences in time. The question is: how will it help me to inspire change?

It's a seemingly simple concept, yet it is so difficult. How do feelings as immense as seeing a wild polar bear or visiting the cultural heart of a community only 100 strong be translated in a way that can impact other people? How can I make a Powerpoint, a speech, a personal experience when all I have as proof are words? I feel just talking about it isn't enough. Words are easy to throw around; sometimes the power behind them becomes saturated. The experiences I've been through both to get on this journey as well as the journey itself deserve more than that.

As big as this task of saving the world may be, I believe I am ready for it. One of the things that this trip has taught me:
many of us have already done a lot of things. Many of us have more things yet to do.

I must remember what I feel right now: hope. It is a slippery emotion for an activist, especially if all your heart is into it, yet I believe we all are up for the challenge.

Either way, we've got another day on the rocky Davis Strait to figure it out!

PS: I wish oceans didn't have so many waves.


Portugal Cove, NL, Canada

Since my last entry, we have sailed past Monumental Island. In that time, I have seen a solitary Bowhead, and walruses lying on ice floes. This short piece will be my final entry.

Protect the poles, protect the Planet.


Thetford Mines, QC

July 22, 2013

Hey! Hier, j'aurais bien voulu vous écrire mais j'ai eu le mal de mer. À vrai dire, au moins 80% du groupe a également été victime de cet affreux mal de mer, incluant les professeurs et experts. :) Heureusement, aujourd'hui, tout va mieux (pour moi en tout cas). En ce qui concerne les autres, certains d'hier étaient encore très, très malades et d'autres (le 20% restant) le sont devenus, dont Geoff qui ne semblait pas tout à fait en forme, étendu sur le piano). Hier, nous avons écrit une lettre et l'avons mis en bouteille qu'on a scellée avec l'espoir qu'un jour, quelqu'un trouve cette bouteille sur la plage et puisse nous recontacter et concacter les scientifiques pour actualiser certains détails sur les courants marins, etc. Aujourd'hui, c'était totalement INCROYABLE!!!!! On a vu une dizaine de polar bears, des phoques, des oiseaux et sans oublier les baleines. En après-midi, on est partis en Zodiac pour s'approcher des polar bears et des phoques. Encore là, c'était définitivement magnifique! Bref, toujours vivante, toujours prête à vivre des aventures et toujours pas hâte de rentrer à la maison! Ne vous inquiétez pas (pour ceux qui s'inquiètent), le retour à la maison est prévu dans le programme... O__o

July 24, 2013
Rebonjour! J'espère que tout va bien de votre côté! Du mien, c'est totalement fou ce que je vis depuis le début du voyage. Hier par exemple, on est allés dans un village dont je ne peux me rappeler du nom et même si c'était le cas, je ne saurais l'écrire. Quoiqu'il en soit, c'était vraiment génial! On a visité un peu, joué à des jeux inuits, dansé... Et en plus, pour le dîner, le capitaine avait organise un bbq sur le patio en haut, c'était non seulement délicieux, mais aussi incroyablement amusant! Il y avait de la musique, les serveurs, les élèves et même les professeurs dansaient! Il y a eu en premier lieu un gangnam style, un harlem shake et plein d'autres. On a tous eu le fou rire! Et aujourd'hui, j'ai participé à une excursion de 30 km dans les montagnes. C'était long, il faisait froid, mais je recommencerais demain encore! Je vous l'assure, je suis faite pour ce genre de vie! Et si j'ai la chance de retourner dans un endroit pareil, j'y accoure le plus tôt possible la bave aux lèvres. Bref, je vous redonne des nouvelles le plus tôt possible!

July 26, 2013
Bonjour tous! Hier, c'était vraiment bien comme journée! On a fait une randonnée et ensuite, on s'est baignés! L'eau était gelée mais c'était génial, totalement fou! Lorsqu'on est retournés aux zodiacs, on a dû marche 6 km de plus car la marée était trop basse. Peu importe, hier était une journée incroyable. Et aujourd hui... Comme c'est une grand mot. Aujourd'hui, hier, demain... Ces trois mots peuvent paraître bien banals mais en réalité, je ne pourrais exprimer le vrai sens de ceux-ci en seulement quelques mots. Quoiqu'il en soit, aujourd'hui est notre dernière journée entière en arctique. J'ai donc été un peu triste toute la journée. Mais ce soir, on fête, ça va sans doute compenser. Demain on arrive à Iqualuit et on prendra l'avion. Je suis vraiment navrée de quitter le bateau. Et la simple idée de devoir dire adieu a tous ces gens que j'ai rencontrés il y a à peine 2 semaines me désole. C'est stupéfiant comme je me suis attachée à eux, à l'équipage, au bateau et tout le reste. Bon, je suppose que ca va être tout pour aujourd'hui. Je vous souhaite de vous amuser sans trop penser à moi, je vais bien et c'est ce qui importe (enfin, je pense). Un gros salut à tous! En passant, Rosalie, j'ai lu ta lettre. Je voulais attendre à la toute fin du voyage pour la lire car je ne voulais pas trop avoir le mal du pays. C'était très beau et touchant. J'ai pleuré en tout cas. En ce qui concerne chers parents, ne vous ennuyez pas trop, de toute façon je reviens bientôt. C'est dommage, mais c'est le cas. :) Je pense à vous, à toi aussi Math!



To me nature is the quiet middle child. Never demands a thing, remains quiet and patient, in ways like this morning. It's 6 AM but on deck the sun is up high like it is mid day elsewhere. She doesn't glare down at me, instead I have to glare up at her in a squint! She is too strong for my eyes. This morning the only boarders around the sea are low hovering clouds: a bulky veil of grey plumes of the sky. She hovers above them, a clear shot to the ocean upon which she sparkles royally.

I want to gobble this feeling up but cannot. Memory fades, all to keep the memory of this wavy 6 AM wake up is a sentiment. The hope to relive another morning like this with a wavy boat and its creeky walls where I sit with my seasick room mate. This sentiment is something to strive towards: a goal. A new thing to conquer. One day the sea will be my conquest in that I'll have the privilege to sail upon her in a boat, my destinations boundless. Flying over waves, comparable maybe only to the rolling sands of the Sahara desert.

The Sea Adventurer copes well a top it. A faithful steed, so to speak, that wont let us drown.


The World

Taken to the Arctic, Greenland then Canada
by place, care then boat. It has taken me off guard how
the trip has rebirthed my mind: my attitude. Being at
sea has changed me. Little girls rehearse "The Sound of Music" so long, farewell, etc.
One goodbye after another. In all languages, a mirror to the people on this boat. One
day we'll all be adults, like the 'staff' but they're all spectacular,
I'll be proud. Adventurous, intellectual, possessing a humility that never ceases. You can't
buy that. In a world where everything is procured with cash
a true soul is hard to come by. Here it's how you survive. Money has lost its value on this
boat. Uummannaq has taught me much about the heart. Let things do the talking for you,
to boast you must not be the boastee. Louis taught me that. Set
sail not off to ether but towards the core of something. I'm
off to Neverland.
Where possibility is boundless and children can fly.
heart has flown, taken off with my


Oakville, ON

July 21, 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

Today we left Greenland for Nunavut. Our plans have been changed due to the fact that the ice in Resolute Bay was much too thick for us to sail through. We are now crossing the Davis Strait to Frobisher Bay where we will spend the next few days of our trip exploring up and down the coast of Baffin Island. We've got plans to visit the Auyuittuq National Park and hopefully we'll see some polar bears along the way.

The other day we had some more whale sightings -- they were finback whales, the second largest whales in the world. Today we saw some more whales -- this time they were bottlenose whales, which dive up to a depth of 1000 m.

Yesterday we had a wonderful day in Uummannaq, where we celebrated with the locals the 250th anniversary of their town. We sang them a song which our musician Ian wrote the night before. The town really appreciated the music. We took a hike and later watched a movie in the town's former blubber house. They provided sealskin parkas for us since it was very cold in the building -- it made us feel like real Inuit! The movie was beautiful and was filmed in the very town that we were in. We had the priviledge of asking questions of the director and it really was a lovely experience.

Throughout this trip our boat has become a tight-knit community of people who share a common goal -- to learn as much about the Arctic as possible. Tonight during reflection time we were discussing in a group about how much Greenland has given to us and whether we have given anything back to the people and to the country. In the end, we came to the conclusion that we gave it our curiosity and eagerness to learn. We came to this beautiful land with open hearts and open minds, we soaked in what we could while we were there and we showed the people our respect. That is what we gave to Greenland.

Thank you for reading and have a good night's sleep,

xoxo Rosie



St-Georges, QC

Hier, le 24 juillet, nous avons fait une longue marche de 27,5 km dans le magnifique parc national de Auyuittuq. Nous avons passé la journée à contourner les magnifiques cours d'eau que contient cette réserve. De plus, nous avons vu plusieurs énormes glaciers situés au sommet de montagnes qui nous entouraient. Dans les derniers jours, nous avons vu plusieurs ours polaires qui étaient proches du bateau à notre arrivée en sol canadien, ils etaient si beaux! Cette expérience est vraiment une opportunité extraordinaire que je n'oublierai jamais et je remercie infiniment le Carrefour St-Georges pour m'avoir permis d'y aller. Le voyage tire bientôt à sa fin, mais je ne suis pas prête à quitter les amis que je me suis fait ici ni de dire adieu au Nord !!!



WWF-Canada, Toronto

Today is our last full day on the ship, and while some are a touch sea-sick from the swells, all -- I think -- are a touch heart-sick facing the idea of good-bye. As I write, we're entering the mouth of Frobisher Bay. We'll spend the day and night making our way slowly toward Iqaluit, where this trip ends. Or does it? During the past couple weeks we have truly lived in every moment. When you spend your days in the midst of mind-blowing landscape, in passionate conversation, in scanning icy seas for the spouts of whales - how else can it be? But today we're all thinking about what comes next.

This afternoon's panel discussion focused on the future of the Arctic. It was perhaps our most challenging -- intellectually and emotionally -- so far. We heard voices from government, from the mining sector, from the community level. There are layers upon layers of considerations, of concerns -- that diverge and overlap in complicated ways. But everything seemed to tug back to a central conundrum. Not about whether development would come to the North (it already has and it certainly will continue in one form or another). But rather at what pace. What are the underlying conditions that would make major projects, for example the Mary River Mine, successful -- not simply from an economic standpoint, but from a human one? What needs to be done first? What can be done in concert? It is something of a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Is building community capacity and infastructure a pre-requisite to getting development right, or do we need the economic injection of big projects first, to get that capacity in place?

And what about the environmental considerations? "Conservation first" is a long-standing motto of my organization. But is it possible that it takes the pressure and the opportunity of major development projects to catalyze and speed up the important research, planning, and management conversations that so often languish in bureaucracy? How can community leaders, scientists and corporations partner to invent new models of development, with multiple bottom lines for people and for the land and species they depend on? That's the question I'm left with. But I think, I really do think, it is possible.

And that's where I'll end this thought, because as I sit here, there are walrus lolling on the ice outside these windows. Time to pull back into the present. The future can wait, but not for long.

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