Arctic Expedition 2013

Follow the journey : July 23 - August 7

Students on Ice | Natural Heritage Building | 1740 Chemin Pink | Gatineau QC J9J 3N7 | 1-866-336-6423

Daily Journey Updates

Expedition Update

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sondrestrom Fjord and Itilleq, Greenland

Today the Expedition Team woke up for the first time on the Sea Adventurer! The team had another busy, exciting day planned, with lots of activities, including our first cruises in the Zodiacs! Zodiacs are sturdy inflatable boats that allow our Expedition Team to get closer to icebergs and small islands. It is thrilling to experience these wonders up close!

The team hiked into the village of Itilleq, a community of 120 right at the beginning of the Arctic Circle, where they sadly lost a soccer game to the local residents. Throughout the expedition, participants will also have the opportunity to take one of 10 great workshops on topics ranging from Inuit crafts, geology, collecting botanical samples and songwriting!

In the evening, following dinner and time for participants to chat, reflect and write about their exciting day, students will had an Arctic Hour on the History of the North. Students will be learning from Arctic historian Whitney Lackenbauer, Inuit historian Becky Mearns, geologist and artist Bianca Perren and SOI expedition staff Geoff Green and James Raffan.

Please check out the previous days' entries for more stories, photos and journal entries.  Scroll down for journal entries from today!

You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook too!


Our second video is now online!




Exiting a Zodiac to hike to the community of Itilleq. 

 Students during a workshop. 


Caitlin collecting samples.

Up close with Arctic plant species.

Michael, Sarah and Nick during a Zodiac landing.

Noa and Maddy taste-test some moss during a workshop. 

The team has made it to the town of Itilleq!

Preparing for soccer with the community.

Expedition Leader Geoff and Rosalie in Itilleq.

Lucie-Colombe, Alice and Raphaelle at the village of Itilleq.

Reindeer skulls.

Students will be bringing home great photos as well.

On the soccer pitch. Students on Ice lost 3-5.

SOI expedition members and the Itelliq residents celebrate after a hard fought good will soccer game.

Post-game high spirits.

Mika shares a laugh during a group discussion in the forward lounge of the Sea Adventurer.

A group discussion during reflective time in the forward lounge of the Sea Adventurer.



Cecile spends some time reflecting on the busy day.

A student reflects during quiet time.

A Greenlandic puppy.




Hola des de Groenlandia!
Ahir vaig arribar a aquest pais artic, tot continua molt be. Abans d'aterrar vaig contemplar el meus primers icebergs des de l'avio, quina emocio!!! Vam passar la tarde baixant per un fiord, es com estar a un refugi de muntanya i contemplar els cims que et rodegen i els laciears que baixen, la diferencia es que estem a un vaixell! Despres xerrades educatives i a dormir a les 11 amb un sol que encara brillava! Aquest mati hem sortit a terra, amb les zodiacs i s'han fet 9 caminades-xerrades cientifiques, jo he estat a la botanica, coneixent les adaptacions de les plantes artiques. Per cert, a Groenladia no hi ha arbres!!
Petons a tots.

Hi from Greenland!
Got to the Arctic yesterday and all is going really well. Before landing I saw my first icebergs from the plane, really exciting!!! We spent the afternoon descending the fiord, is like being in an alpine hut looking at  mountains and descending glaciers but instead you are on a ship!!!  We went to bed at 11 with, of course at this latitude, a still shining sun!
Liebe Gruesse,



The first Zodiac excursion was this morning, and my hands are just starting to warm up as I type. My big toe was lost a while ago, and my ears are a little red. Next time we venture out, this afternoon actually, I'll bring more layers.

The cold didn't really set in for a while; breezing up to the shore on the zodiac at 9:00 in the morning felt refreshing. When we reached the shore, I set off alone for my hour of exploration. Clamouring up the lichen-covered rocks quickly warmed my body, and I removed a few layers. As I sat on a big rock with a glorious view of the sea, I let my mind clear for a moment.

The scheduled event of the morning was actually nine, but each person chose just one workshop. I and about eight other students ventured out with a couple of interested adults to observe the low-lying plant life of the area. The expert, Roger, provided botanical commentary along with the common and latin names of the sedges, grasses, berries, lichen, and mini trees that we saw. Soon, our little group was feasting on Old Crow berries and the leaves of the Mountain Sorrel plant. The workshop was dubbed, "Snacks with Roger."

By then my hands had started to go and I was pretty ready to head to the ship. A few pictures and flora observations later,
and Students on Ice was returning to the ship for lunch. Who says rain gear and fine dining don't go together?!



To my dear family and friends, 

We arrived in Greenland yesterday after a four hour flight on our very own plane! Everyone on the expedition was so excited to get out of Ottawa and onto the ship, although we had fun staying at the Carleton Residence and getting to know each other. After getting up at 4:30 am, taking a plane to Kangerlussuaq and a zodiac to the Sea Adventurer (the ship), everyone was exhausted. The weather yesterday was absolutely perfect; blue skies, sun and 15 degrees with a small breeze. As soon as we got on the ship, our group was closer and everyone got along even better. We have unlimited cookies and tea in the lounge, which is perfect for after a chilly zodiac ride and landing on the shores of Greenland. As we came down the fjord yesterday evening, it was so light out that we did not realize it was past 11 o'clock (curfew!). The fjord was carved out by the crystalline blue sea, and the mountains reached high on either side, framing the longest lasting sunset I have ever seen. We went outside and took beautiful photographs and looked for whales, birds and other animals. Finally, we retired to our cabins, and the ship rocked us all to sleep despite the fact that it was still bright outside. 

Hope all is well back home! 




Welcome to the Arctic! The students on ice are actually on water, on a wonderful boat called "The Sea Adventurer", floating along the west coast of Greenland. The students today had their first excursion using Zodiacs to wander ashore and engage with the teachers, interacting with nature, and seeing the Greenland coast up close and personal. Questions from the participants were fast and furious, and it is spectacular to see their curiosity piqued by the smallest specimen. We're on our way to a small fishing village to visit with the local residents.



Je suis maintenant arrivee au Groenland! Ici c'est drastiquement different du Quebec. Le bateau nous attendait dans un fjord magnifique entoure de montagne. Hier c'etait vraiment exicitant d'arriver dans le Sea Adventurer. Il ne m'a pas decu, c'est un vrai palace avec une tres belle salle a manger, un salon et plusieurs ponts. Nous nous sommes beaucoup amuses a prendre des photos des montagnes et de nous  sur le pont. Le mouvement constant du bateau est un peu etourdissant et ne m'aide pas vraiment a bien dormir, mais bon je devrait m'habituer! 



I love it here!! When i first heard as a child about Greenland I imagined it to be a frozen wasteland with nothing but snow and ice caps. However now that I have actually come here with Students on Ice I learned that I was completely wrong. The land had rolling hills and quite a majestic feel to the atmosphere. The closest way to explain it is that it is quite like the video game, for those who know it, Skyrim. The laughs that have rolled off my tongue have hurt my face with all the enjoyment that has been spreading through the ship. I've met people that have been great fun and I have learned about a land which I had not been fully aware of in the past. As the tides flow so will my story.



First Impressions

We are about to set sail, despite our lack of sail, and move down the Sondeberg fjord and out to bigger waters. We could not have arrived in Kallalit Nunaat on a calmer more beautiful day - sun bright wth high streaky clouds,  warm, warm, warm and I have only seen one mosquito.  The willows are way taller than those on Baffin, grasses grow in thick green lush patches and sedges with soft white tops are familiar and lovely. The sea is calm so our first zodiac ride was low stress for all, and with luck we shouldn't be facing an epidemic of sea sickness today. 



What a great way to start the expedition in Greenland! One of the best experiences today had to be when we ventured on our own all over the large rocks on the mountains. The Greenlandic grass here is extremely spongy and I kept sinking in too far and almost fell over! As we were wandering around, we decided to try and climb one of the tallest mountains we could see. However, we clearly did not think about how to get down! There were about 10 people with me and we all soaked in the amazing view from the top. However, when it came time to go down, we clearly had not thought of a good path to travel! It took much longer than expected to get down because we needed to help each other out. The teamwork was amazing and we all safely made it down. This stood out to me throughout this day because of how much I've realized that teamwork really goes a long way. If we didn't help each other, we could have been gone for much longer! After that adventure, we were slightly late for the start of the workshops, but still were able to learn a lot about the plant and animal life in the nearby ponds.



Awe. We've just returned from a trip to the mainland to visit Itilleq - one of the smallest communities in Greenland and it was truly... honestly it's hard to pick a word. Awe is the best I can come up with because its like being struck by something in such a way that you are no longer thinking and you're simply absorbing. As I walked through the village I felt like time was matching the slow pace of my walk until it had halted altogether. I noticed a small church and I walked inside to take a look. All the walls were painted white, the pews were white, everything was made of wood. It had about 10 pews on each side and a very modest alter. I was struck by the large painting hanging above the alter - two men standing behind a third, all with canes and arms out-stretched toward a large source of light. I couldn't help but feel a sense of grounding unity - I just left like regardless of the particular beliefs of these people, this place represented a space where folks gathered regularly to feel united and feel connected. Something about that feeling overwhelmed me and all I wanted was to show these people all the respect and kindness possible. Sensing something that unites them, throughout generations, throughout the challenges they've faced as a small, isolated community, I knelt at the seal skin pads in front of the alter to simply enjoy the sensation of admiration for all that must unite these people.

Community. I saw a small swingset, and loving swings I gave it a whirl. It was only seconds before a few Greenlandic children were standing and watching this grown man fully dressed in about 5 layers of clothing AND wearing a camera and backpack using their swingset. I leaned back in the swing, tipped my head back, swung as high as I could and each time I was 'up' I could see them upside down smiling at me. Each time I saw them I shouted hello in Greenlandic which sounds like 'arrow' with a soft rolling on the r's. It took about 3 or 4 swings, but before long they were laughing out loud and other children came over to see just what was going on. I then sat with the children at a picnic table wanting to communicate with them. All I knew was 'hello' and 'thank you' so it was incredible to want to show them kindness and friendliness and not have a single word to use. I tapped my chest and said, "Justin", and then pointed at them. A couple tries and they shared their names. even got them to write their names in their own language in my Dear Benjamin (my son) journal. It was an absolute pleasure to meet Hans, Sous-Peter, and Utoolo! This was followed by a soccer game between the Students on Ice students/staff and the soccer stars of Greenland. It was really something to see the simple act of kicking a ball around cross the boundaries of language, culture, and geography... losing 3-5 was hard to swallow so next year we'll have to come ready to win!

Very Best to All,

Justin Dearing, NL :)



It's been a long time coming, but we're finally in.

I'm on the ship (a general pet peeve around here has been calling the ship a boat so I'll not make that mistake here) and settled in. The ship is quite luxurious as it includes a library, a sauna, and a formal dining hall to name a few.  The food here is also spectacular; for dinner I had the pleasure of eating salmon fillet with orzo. We have Kangerlussuaq and are now sailing down Sonderstrom Fjord. The mountains are beautiful and very brown, unlike the tree-covered ones back home. I feel almost as if I`m on an endless BC ferry (albeit a more comfortable one). I also feel kind of like in Disney's Pocahontas when they`re sailing to the new world, like an I have yet to go to the bow of the ship and do the classic Titanic "I'm king of the world." I don't know how I'll manage sleep tonight given the endless light but I have a feeling the lack of sleep for seventeen hours will help.



We finally went on the land with the amazing zodiacs today! WORKSHOPS!!!I took a workshop about climate change, geology, and botany. AWESOME! Though it was a little bit cold today. Before lunch, we gathered in front of the piano. It's really nice to communicate with music! Lunch was better than dinner last night! Now I am going to the lounge to be ready for the activities in the afternoon. 



Yesterday finally touching down in Greenland was the moment I think many of us were finally waiting for. After hot and sticky Ottawa, the cool and fresh Greenlandic air was a welcome feeling. From the plane everyone, myself included, crawled across seats trying to get a look out the window at the icebergs and coastline below. After arriving in the harbour in Kangerlussuaq and eagerly waiting to board Zodiacs to our floating home, the Sea Adventurer, a similar feeling of relief and excitement occurred after the build up to our incredible expedition. At dinner sailing down the Sondre Stronfjord the rugged mountains and sunny blue skies are simply incredible. After lecture, the experience of going to bed at 11 with the same blue skies and sunshine was a foreign feeling, but something I look forward to experiencing again here in the land of the midnight sun.

Today boarding Zodiacs and heading into Itilleq fjord was the experience many of us were looking forward to, and certainly not disappointed by. Talking with other students we can't wait for future expeditions, like this afternoon journeying to the small village of Itilleq with a population of about 100 people. My heart sank when I came across of chunk of styrofoam among the rugged lichen covered rocks, moss, shrubs and flowers. To find a piece of the waste of civilization in such a beautiful and isolated place hit home to me, that even the most remote places are not immune to our negative interactions. In previous art work I have explored ideas of obliterating the viewer by filling the field of vision with large scale work. Here seeing the rugged mountains stretching out to the horizon bordered by fog and sea really puts you in your place and reminds you that are a portion of a whole. Getting down on your knees it was interesting to fill the periphery with the seemingly subterranean alien world of the aquatic kelps and algae, or the mosses and flowering shrubs between rocks. The idea of being "obliterated" or surrounded by this landscape is something I look forward to experimenting with, hopefully being able to instil the same humbling feelings into the viewer that Greenland has already seemed to instil in me.



It has been a great experience being here! I have a great room and room mate, and the ship is pretty amazing. It's not what I to be like. They serve delicious food in here like yesterday I ate beef with mashed potatoes and for breakfast today I had bacon, eggs, yogurt and other things.The view from the ship is amazing! I love to step out on the deck and have some fresh air. There is a place where I can take my time to do Journals and blog. Expedition is awesome so far and I wait to experience more things!I hope everyone is doing well in Providence, RI. I miss you guys!



The first thing I would like to point out is, a HUGE thank you to Kakivak Co-operation for giving me a scholarship and making this happen. After leaving Ottawa we arrived in Greenland, and it was an amazing feeling. This trip so far has been very fun, met people, made new friends. Everybody here is happy all the time, which is the best part of it. I am so happy to be here!



This expedition is going amazing. I have met a lot of people that live around the world. In the beginning of the expedition, I didn't know anyone and the next day I knew like 10 people, and it is continuing. When we landed in Kangerlussuaq, I didn't have my camera. I hated it, because it ran out of battery the previous day. I wanted to record a student from Nunavut who sang on the bus we were on that headed to our ship.



I was sketched on the plane ride to Greenland yesterday. Otherwise, the flight was mundane. We took Zodiacs from Kangerlussuaq to the Sea Adventurer. Onboard, we got acquainted with the ship as it set sail down the Sondrestrom Fjord.The view from the decks is that of the beautiful Fjord that surrounds us.

Today, we geared up and left the ship for the first time via Zodiac. We landed on an unnamed, hilly tundra. We explored independently or in small groups for a while, just taking in the sights. The terrain was rocky, and the rocks were marbled black and grey by lichen. The ground was springy and boggy, and covered in moss and flowers. There were two small unnamed ponds which ended up being called Grease Pond and Butterfly Pond. After our individual explorations, the expeditions split into several smaller groups. I went with a group taking samples from the ponds. We took temperature readings and water samples. Then, we began collecting live specimens, which was awesome. Using a small net, I collected fairy shrimp and beetle larvae. Daphnia were also collected. We learned a lot about each individual species.

My first exploration of Greenland was an unforgettable experience. The land was beautiful in every sense, literally. Taste, touch, sight, smell, sound -- Greenland emerged me in a buffet of stimulation.

This afternoon, we made our first visit to a Greenlandic community. Itilleq is a fishing village of under 100 people. The town is very scenic. Itilleq's soccer team holds the championship title of Southwestern Greenland. They dominated the match against our expeditioners.

That's all for today. I've taken many pictures to show you what I am seeing. I will try to write again soon. Goodbye.



Today, I joined Daniele's group. It was very fascinating to learn about the different animals that live in the ponds of the Greenland tundra. Seeing the land for the very first time was breath taking. Stepping on the squishy green kelp felt like walking on pillows. You could jump on it likea trampoline. Besides all the pesky mosquitoes and painful itching, the lakes contained fantastic fairy shrimp and Ditiscus (coleoptera). The highlight of the workshop was when we found out that the Ditiscus breathe by containing an air bubble on their rumps by doing a reverse fart (in simpler terms.

I am constantly blown away throughout the course of this expedition. The sights, the smells, and the millions of different textures from the grass brushing against your hand to the soft pillow-like kelp on your feet. Taking in all this information leaves me wanting more everyday!



Today we had our first off ship adventure in Greenland. We took the airboats to a little bay and had time to just walk around and discover things for ourselves. During my walk I felt a strong connection to the land and it really hit home how much alike Nunavut and Greenland are. I had a picture of a whole new environment.



Mossy grass like a thick afro. Thick old man fro. The day is like an old man: slow and grey- calm-. The land: wise, traces of the past thousand years the cliffs open up, a book of glaciers gone and past. Thick pants swish-swashing sound like a little creek flowing past. But there is no creek, this land's baron, keeping its gems within. A stiff breeze hisses by, discourages foreign visits, unfriendly faces. The beacon to the outside world our ship is invisible, all but its loudspeaker remain hidden in the fjord. The voice of the captain or a member of the cabin crew boom through the rifts between the mountains, it says, welcome to Oz. 



Today was so exciting! We loaded on to the zodiacs and unloaded onto Greenland! Once we landed we were given instructions that we had an hour to explore and then we will get into workshops. During the hour we that we were given to explore I hiked all around. I also sat on the ground and got to really get in touch with the feel of the plants and ground. I tried to get in the mind of a fox or a bird to get the complete feel but that only went so far. Lol. At the highest peak of my climb and exploration the view was AMAZING! I just sat down on the peak of these hills/mountains and just let it soak all in. By it I mean the atmosphere the sounds, the weather, and just the clean air. Living in Houston you don't get much of that. Everything was so peaceful. It was magnificent. When it was time for the workshops I joined a geology workshop where I learned so much that I can't wait to share with my family as well as the Houston Museum of Natural Science and the Houston Zoo where I spend majority of my time in the summer. I wish that many of my loved ones could have been there. I now have a full tummy, exercised legs, and an excited mind. Our next stop is a community here in Greenland. I can't wait!!



Over the last few days I have been experiencing landscapes and cultures that are completely new to me. The terrain in Greenland is so much more vast compared to the terrain around my home town in. Walking around today with Tor, we found a small patch of snow that was perfect for boot skiing. We both enjoyed sliding down and taking the occasional fall, but to me the chance to walk around and take in the scenery of this awesome place was the best part of the day.



I can't believe all the things that have happened in just the last two days! Our last day in Ottawa (Day 3) was all outside in the heat. After we separated into groups we went to Gatineau Park. THe park was beautiful and had so many deciduous trees and birds that we don't have back home. We also got to see William Lyon Mackenzie king's two summer homes which were so cool like little cottages from World War Two. After we all ate together in the park which was lots of fun especially when a bunch of other Newfoundlanders and I tried to teach the others all of our sayings. Then we drove off to the rope course which I was super nervous about because the last one I did didn't go so well. It was surprisingly fun though. It went really well except for this one zipline where i was a few feet short and as I pulled myself to the platform my finger slipped and I ended up going the wrong way. Then I had to keep pulling myself as they came to rescue me. It was super embarrassing but they said that it happens a lot. I was on the last bus to leave and we thought we were going to miss super so we started auctioning off the left overs from our boxed lunches which was pretty funny. When we got back we packed for our trip to Greenland which was super exciting. Our meeting that night was all about journaling and what we'd be doing in Greenland which was super exciting and we also got to here some songs by Ian which was cool.

Yesterday was the day we left for Greenland and it was a super long day because we had to get up before 5! We completely blocked the airport with all our lines but we had an airplane to ourselves which was nice. The plane ride was actually fun even though all we could see from our window was the wing I could imagine all the things that we were flying over underneath. Greenland looks just like Newfoundland with the same sized mountains and the grassy areas with no trees, well except for the Ice cap obviously but I haven't gotten to see that yet. After we got off the plane we got bussed down to the harbour to wait for the Zodiacs to take us to the boat and even the harbour looked like the ones back home. The ship is absolutely beautiful and way more luxurious than I ever expected. The food is amazing and its like we are in a fancy restaurant all the time. The rest of the day we just got to relax pretty much and talk to everyone else which was fun and relaxing considering the early rise. After dinner we had another meeting where one of the natives talked about Greenland which was cool because it gave some perspective to the scenery we were seeing.

 Today isn't over yet but has already been incredible and I can't wait to see what else is in store!!



First Time Going out of Canada

We woke up way early to go to the airport. I felt tired and excited. We got to the airport and there was a really long line to get to the plane. We had to go through security. When I landed in Ottawa, my shoes set off the alarm. This time I knew to take them off. Landing in Greenland was the most exciting part. "I'm actually out of the country" I thought. But it doesn't feel different. Maybe it will when we go to visit a different community. Most of all, I want to see an animal while I'm on this trip. I want to see if the animals in other places are different from the ones where I live, in Pond Inlet.



Amazing Day on the Land

I woke up this morning banging my head on the wall. I'm sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed. But after that, the day got better. We went on the land of the Kangerlussuaq Fjord. The lands were similar to our lands. We hiked on the rocks, up and down, up and down. I went to Bianca's group where we learned about the glacier, the rocks and the plants. Me and my cousin Shawn talked about the plants. Do you recognize this one? Does it look different? We looked at the willow trees. Here they are black but at home they are brown. Later, we went back on the zodiac. It was scary at first, and wet. It was an amazing day on the land. I feel like I'm still sleeping.



Today was a fun day, I woke up early in the morning at 7:30, and waited for half an hour to go have breakfast. After breakfast we got to the land and got into groups with all the students. After we got into our groups, we were doing different things and they were fun. When we were done, we had to go back to the boat and had lunch. 

Going on this trip is very fun,:)



Dear friends and family,

We've all been enjoying these past few day immensely. The past 48 hours have been very eventful. Taking the plane to Greenland, embarking onto the boat, meeting the lovely staff on our new vessel, the Sea Adventurer.

Yesterday as we pulled up the anchor for the first time this expedition, everyone gathered outside on deck to watch. There was a wonderful feeling of togetherness and unity as we all stood out there as one big group. So many of us have gathered together here due to the same drive. To learn and experience a land that few have seen and experienced. We are all very priveledged to be here.

Today we had our first workshop session. I chose to participate in the freshwater ecology session. We took samples from the small arctic ponds and collected critters in to a bucket so that we could study them. We had loads of fun looking at fairy shrimp, beetle larvae and daphnia.

One very important thing that I discovered today is that the boots that I foolishly believed to be water proof really weren't. I found this out when I stepped out of the zodiak in to the water and felt water flood my boots. Luckily we did lots of physical activity during our shore landing and my feet did not get too cold. One thing for sure is that I will no longer be wearing them!!

All for now,



While on our excursion a few of us climbed up one of the near-by large hill. At the top the view was breathtaking. The cold thin air was very crisp. The view of the other hills and fjords were amazing. It was an absolutely gorgeous spot to visit. I have seen very few places that are so stunning. Each rock, plant and hill reflects the true beauty that modern urbanization is destroying. It is so great to see a part of the planet so untouched by humans. The true natural state of the land and water is more beautiful than anything that humans can build.



July 16, 2013

Last day in Ottawa and we're off to Greenland tomorrow! I woke up early to join the SOI "running team" with Rose, Rosie, Tiffany, Saskia, and Marius. We went for a very scenic 5km run along the Rideau Canal where we saw sights that most average tourists wouldn't see. Then came a Hercules breakfast to start our long day... first thing was ziplining! It was my first time but it was easy to get a hang of and so much fun that I want to go back right now. Later we went to the Mackenzie King Estate, we learned what personality he had and how unique he was, we were shown his ruins that he was building as well. A story that made us all laugh was that a man buried his wedding ring into the ruins because he divorced his wife, literally making it a "ruined" marriage". For the first time I tried the most delicious chocolate in the world, swiss chocolate! My room mates and I are looking forward to the 5am wake up call and we can't wait!

July 17, 2013

Landed in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland today and right after us a massive US aircraft landed on the same landing strip! On the flight we saw, which looked like, very small icebergs that were floating in the Atlantic Ocean. When we landed the scenery was absolutely astounding, the biggest mountains and cliffs that i've seen in my life! You could tell our airport was in a remote area because of the environment and the minimal services nearby. We then got on Zodiacs for the first time which was exhilarating. For the rest of the evening I took some me-time to soak in my surrounding and embrace the beauty of Greenland. Now hopefully I can get some sleep with the waves crashing against my windows-Good Night!


July 17, 2013 -- Dream Journey

I am sitting on a plane to Greenland between an ornithologist and an ice hydrologist. Stephen Dion is sitting two rows ahead of me. Just a few seats behind I hear Rosalie laughing.

This is her first trip out of the country. We walked through the Ottawa airport together, avoiding the escalators (she's still not sure about them), as Rosalie held tight to her first-ever passport.

"It's interesting," she said to me, "what some of the others are hoping to see. Whales, bears, ice bergs." She's thinking back to a few nights ago, in the over-airconditioned lecture room on the Carleton campus, when each student stood, introduced themselves along with their vision of this journey. They conjured images of polar bear and narwhal, incredible landscapes of ice. "It's my dream to see a whale," one student said. And I smiled quietly, because that is my dream too. But Rosalie projects an entirely different colour, a different light onto the imagined days ahead.

She wants to see Resolute, a community she lived in long ago before moving to Arctic Bay. She wants to see familiar faces, how things have changed. And she wants to see life in the other communities we are visiting.How much will it be like home? How different? It is, for me, humbling to see this journey through her eyes. A critical reminder that this place, all of these places that lie ahead of us, are a home. A space filled with memories and stories and a history I am only just beginning to really learn.

As we fly over the Greenland icefields, and the ice expert at my side explains the nature of the bright turquoise lakes of meltwater that appear like jewels in the landscape, I can hardly imagine this is real. "I keep wondering if I'm really awake," Rosalie said to me this morning. I know exactly what she means.


July 18, 2013 - Space, Place and Memory in Kangerlussaq Fjord

Today we made our first landing on the oyster shell and sea stone shore of Kangerlussaq Fjord. The ground felt like a sponge beneath my rubber boots as I picked my way up along the rocky outcrops. I had the distinct feeling of walking on the bottom of the ocean, among the coral. I trailed Gary, asking him, every few steps for the name of this plant, that flower.

Our job today was to help students explore this vast, strange landscape through our range of expertise. Looking at layers in banks of snow, taking samples of the water, composing photographs, tasting the plants. My group used words. We started with Barry Lopez. His "Arctic Dreams" has been my primer on this journey and I find his reflections and his language a perfect springboard for our own.

"We bring our own worlds to bear in foreign landscapes in order to clarify them for ourselves," he writes. "To inquire into the intricacies of a distant landscape is to provoke thoughts about one's own interior landscape, and the landscapes of memory." We talked about the difference between space and place. How experience, memory - that invisible geography - shapes our understanding and perception of where we are.

The students talked about the feeling of the air here; how it was like and not like the air at home. They talked about the imagined landscapes of video games and TV shows and how they become so familiar despite their fiction, like places in our dreams. And then they wrote beautiful, thoughtful reflections, which I hope you will read here in this blog.

For what it's worth, I'll share my own:

The pond is separated from the sea by a narrow stretch of land, humped like the backs of groundhogs or mossy grave mounds. "Is that a boy or a rock?" asked James, pointing up the stone face above us. Last night I saw a collection of seal heads frozen in a cove below the mountain. The willow trees here are vines. The lousewart a cousin to the orchids I carried in my wedding. The mountain avens are the buttercups I held beneath my chin to see their soft reflection against the paleness there. We are scattered out over the landscape like a Bruegel, like rainbow sprinkles against the green, gray, black hills. Like goats. When I stood against the rail of the ship last night as we arrived at this place, I put my camera down and stared, dumb. I have never seen anything like this, I said to John. I have never seen anything this beautiful except, I said quickly, remembering, my own children born.



We landed in Greenland yesterday! We got off the plane and into the airport, where I got the first stamp on my passport! When we arrived at the dock, we loaded out of the bus, we got our first good look at Greenland and it looks, feels and even smells like Newfoundland. This ship is nothing like I expected. It's amazing; its huge and looks like a cruise ship. The view from the deck is beautiful, it's one of my favourite things about this boat. You can see so much! It feels so much more relaxed here now, rather than the first two days. The atmosphere is great.

No matter how many pictures I take, it will never do this place justice. When I stepped on land today, I was amazed. The landscape is beautiful and we even saw snow! During my workshop we were looking at the wildlife in the pond nearby. There were beetles and fairy shrimp. There is a lot of moss and rocks here, and the cold isn't bothering me, it feels like the weather home. We are going into town soon and I'm really excited to see how it looks; I want to learn about how they live. Everyday I spend here is nothing short of exciting and today was no different.



The last day and a half have been absolutely spectacular. Even though we have only been on the boat for less than a day, it feels so much longer since the light never goes out- yesterday we were awake for 18 hours! The Sondrestrom Fjord, which we sailed out of yesterday, was formed in a way that I have never seen before. The steep cliffs towering on either sides of the turquoise water really made me realize how lucky I am to be on the trip. Today, we woke up in a different fjord, which was wider and had rounded mounds on the side. It was a different kind of landscape, but it was still amazing. I have tried to take photos of all these beautiful features, but it is almost impossible to capture the odd but surreal light. The only real way to experience the Arctic, I have found, is to be there.



This morning we experienced our first zodiac landing!  I joined the writing group and found it very inspirational to sit on top of the grassy hill surrounded by a vast and jagged, yet beautiful landscape.  There were only 5 of us in the group and we discussed the connection between a place, and the memories created there.  Given the chance to write our own pieces, I expanded that thought into the following journal entry:

"...These places which mean so much to others are gradually being degraded through climate change.  It is not until we experience the high northern arctic or the vast open ocean that we can gain such a deep respect for such a seemingly isolated place.  The memories we create for ourselves are followed by a longing for preservation.  Those places which come to mean so much awaken and motivate the individual, placing on us a responsibility that can only be understood in connection with those memories..."



This trip has been fun! My highlight of this trip is going to Greenland- Kanngerlussuaq and going to the ship, they were welcoming. I liked going for a walk to the land with the other students and got to learn how to make a song lyrics with Ian, and there were other different groups. My first supper in the ship was GOOD. Haha. As soon as I get homesick a bit, I realize this expedition is to make many friends, make a change within yourself, and somehow to take a break from my hometown. We will see how it goes if i get back home, hopefully kids at home are going to be more interested in the land or outside of their place, as I am thinking to talk about this trip to the people at home!



We boarded the M/S Sea Adventurer yesterday after landing in Greenland. After a smooth ride down the Soendre Stroemfjord we came to the site of our landing this morning. I woke up to the crash and extreme vibration of the dropping of the anchor that lives on the other side of the wall of my cabin. I guess that is something I am going to have to get used to every morning at the crack of dawn. We disembarked around 9:00 am and went to shore and got a chance to walk around and explore on our own. The highlight of my morning though, was definitely sitting alone on a rock writing a song during our music workshop. We had the choice of nine wonderful workshops so I choice to go with Ian, the musician on board, and learn how to look at the sights and sounds around you and turn them into a song. After an hour of work time, Ian, the other five students in the workshop, and I sat in a circle and sang our songs. I was having a blast singing, listening, and laughing with everyone until I realized that Alex, one of our videographers, was standing behind us documenting our less then wonderful voices. It has been a great first day and we are just about to land at a small town just off the port side of our ship. Till next time!



I always knew I had an interest in photography, but the arctic sure knows how to bring the artist out in me. Standing on the edge of a Greenlandic Fjord, it's incredible the impressive magnitude of the place, and the incredible detail that makes the landscape. Leonardo DiVinci himself couldn't even imagine every flower, river, rock that makes this place incredibly amazing! Photos donĂ­t even do it justice, they're like a blind lens into the reality, that can only be truly seen by your own eyes. Now, if only I had some way to photograph a panda bear on an ice floe, but I think I'm in the wrong part of the world for that one.



The world looked so small from the air. A "big" iceberg was merely the size of my thumb. These past few days have been nothing short of exciting as we finally crossed into the Arctic circle at 66 degrees. All those materialistic objects I had treasured and valued so much--cars, houses, malls" disappeared so very easily and became replaced with majestic mountains and water so blue. It made the grey hue of Lake Ontario a shameful memory. I had wondered if anyone, in any time had ever stepped or walked on such mountains.- It was such a revelation! Besides the glorious landscape, the people on this trip that I have come to know are equally as inspiring. Coming from all backgrounds and all places, there are so many unique aspects to each and every person that I feel like a sponge, soaking up all there is to learn. Today's workshop was another highlight as I climbed atop cliffs and jumped into moss. Such a landscape is practically opposite of the concrete world built in Toronto. I send all the love in the world and look forwards to climbing even more mountains:)


Arctic History

From 2013 to 2016, Students on Ice is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition (CAE), which was the first Canadian government funded expedition. At the time, it was the largest multi-disciplinary scientific expedition ever mounted.

The CAE, which was divided in to two parties, left from the Victoria, BC and travelled across what is now the Western Canadian Arctic. The expedition discovered 4 major Islands, and also disproved the existence of "Croker Land" or "Keenan Land," the names given to what was at the time suspected to be an undiscovered Northern continent. The expedition also collected thousands of photographs, samples, and artifacts.


© 2020 Students On Ice. All Rights Reserved.