Arctic Expedition 2013

Follow the journey : July 23 - August 7

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Daily Journey Updates

Expedition Update

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cumberland Sound to Pangnirtung, Nunavut

Because of icy conditions, the Expedition has updated our itinerary. You can check out the complete updated itinerary here.


Daily Update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green
Lancaster Sound

Polar bears! We had our first sighting today of, not one, not two, but TEN polar bears this morning. Perhaps it was our just reward for enduring a long night (and morning) of rough seas and restless sleep. We'd had unusually smooth sailing up until our Davis Strait crossing last night but as we drew closer to Canadian waters yesterday afternoon, the winds started to pick up and soon enough, the Sea Adventurer was rocking and rolling, giving us all a taste of more typical conditions at sea in this part of the world. By morning we were approaching the ice floes off the east coast of Baffin Island near Cape Mercy, which is a perfect location for spotting polar bears. Although we were hundreds of metres from shore, this is exactly where the bears like to be - drifting around on slabs of sea ice and hunting for seals. Most of the bears we spotted this morning were far from our ship but, thanks to the expert navigation of our captain, we were able to get quite close to one or two. Seeing a polar bear in the wild for the first time is an exhilarating experience that the students won't soon forget.

Arctic Hour this morning featured the historian Whitney Lackenbauer, who led us through a captivating history of European exploration of the Arctic, replete with stories of adventure, heroism, mutiny, disaster, starvation and disease. After lunch we held our first student-led Arctic Hour in which several students presented on the various exciting initiatives and campaigns they're involved with in their home communities.

By the time ship had made its way into Lancaster Sound in the late afternoon, the seas had calmed considerably so we decided to embark on zodiac excursions to the edge of the ice floe. We saw one more polar bear far off in the distance and the outing was nothing short of magical. There was no wind to speak of and the late afternoon light in the Arctic sky made for a majestic backdrop. At one point, we simply cut the motors and floated in silence amongst the slurry of ice as it surged in the gentle swell with the mountains of Baffin Island far off in the distance. We returned to the ship for dinner followed by a moving presentation by the Inuit leader Mary Simon and our nightly musical performance by Ian Tamblyn.

Tonight we will push on further into Lancaster Sound to arrive at the community of Pangnirtung by morning. We have another full day of activities planned including tours of the town, Inuit games, meetings with the local community, workshops, a throat singing performance and more!


Arctic Fact of the Day

Did you know that polar bears can swim hundreds of kilometres without rest and that 70% of the world's polar bears are found in Canada?



Our first polar bear sightings!

Polar bears can swim hundreds of kilometres without rest.


Spencer searches for polar bears.

Natalie has her eyes peeled for more bears.

During our student-lead Arctic Hour, Sarah explains journalism and media to the participants.

Maike facilitates a workshop on women and youth.

 Aimee discusses global perspective.

 Ceclie discussing Northern economic development.

Rosalie is enjoying the Zodiac ride!

Zodiac cruises during the morning.

Mary Simon shares a laugh during her speech to SOI expedition members. 

Joy shoots a video during a zodiac cruise as SOI staff Shirley looks on. 

The Expedition saw 10 polar bears in a 2 hour period.

Maya facilitates a youth-led breakout session on board the Sea Adventurer. 

Staff members Alex and Mark hard at work to establish a satellite link, in order to share photos and videos!

Hillary and expedition lead Geoff share a laugh during a Zodiac cruise.


A fulmar takes flight as Zodiacs approach.

Watching the midnight sun aboard the Sea Adventurer.

Diane and Maina take in the wind and the sunset in Cumberland Sound.  

Enjoying the evening on deck together.


Annie-Caroline watches the day’s last light near Pangnirtung, NU.





Hola de nou, un altre dia super interessant a bord.
Fa dos dies que estem creuant entre Groenlandia i Canada, ara ja som devant la costa de Canada pero no podem tornar a entrar al pais fins dema al mati quan la frontera be a nosaltres ;).
Aquests dos dies han sigut molt interessants, molta ciencia en diverses xerrades i molta observacio d'animals. Ahir altre cop balenes, aquest mati 10 ossos polars!!!!! ara de fet estic esperant per anar a fer un creuer en zodiac entre el mar mig gelat per a veure'n mes! veure'ls aquest mati ha sigut molt interessant, ells alla tant panxos fent la seva vida! estirant-se i revolcant-se al gel, saltant a l'aigua, descansant, mirant-nos...
La resta del dia l'hem passat escoltant els estudiants del vaixell que han preparat presentacions del que han fet abans de venir, els seus interessos i dels projectes que tenen previst fer al tornar. Jo he ajudat a organitzar les presentacions i xerrades i la veritat es que els 11 estudiants que han presentat m'han deixat super parada, han fet de tot, tenen molta empenta i volen canviar moltes coses al nostre mon que tant ho necessita.
Aixo continua sent una experiencia inolvidable i encara ens queden 5 dies al vaixell.
Espero que estigueu disfrutant d'aquests resums.

Mil petons,
Once more a great day!
This morning I saw my first Polar Bears!!!! I cannot express how happy I feel for having had the chance to observe these incredible creatures in their natural state, not knowing how much longer this will last...
We also have spent the day listening to 11 SOI students, presenting their achievements and projects for the future and leading discussions with the rest of the students. You have really impressed me with your motivation and determination to make our world a better place for us all. Thank you so much for sharing and for doing what you do. I wish you all the best in your future projects; I'll be following you and do not hesitate to ask for help if I can be of any kind of support.

Thanks once more.


N. Smithfield, Rhode Island, USA
July 21, 2013

These past few days have been fantastic! What a great way to say a goodbye (hopefully not forever) to Greenland yesterday. The 250th celebration was really fun, followed by a longer than expected hike to "Santa's House." I agreed to this hike because everyone was rather vague about their experiences. We made it to this little tiny shack and figured that Santa's house would be slightly better. So we kept hiking for what seemed like forever up into the more jagged rocks, still following the red dots. We later realized that the little shack was actually Santa's house (a pretty large disappointment) and that we had gone too far. Regardless of the fact that it was very tiring, it was really cool to have been able to see where the Greenland town got its source of water: a lake/reservoir on the top of the hike we went on. This was only one of the many exciting experiences I had yesterday for the last day in Greenland.

Today we had our day at sea. It was a great day because we were allowed to sleep in a little later than usual, and then we relaxed all day (well, not “relax” exactly). We wrote messages to put in bottles to throw overboard as part of the bottle drop project. I really am hoping that someone finds my bottle and contacts me! After that, we had some presentations and then workshops. I went to the "snow goggle"-making workshop, which was very fun!

Overall, these past two days have been very nice and relatively relaxing. Each day I realize how lucky I am to have been selected for the Rhode Island scholarship, and I can't wait to get home to educate everyone about my experiences!


Shanghai, China

July 20, 2013

In the morning we were so lucky to sea the whales! Our amazing captain led us "chasing" the whales. Although they were in the distance, we still could see their large black bodies. Then we arrived in Uummannaq, a beautiful town with crystal clear water. The moment I stepped ashore, I was shocked by the beauty of it, which cannot be described and kept by words or pictures. We celebrated the 250th Anniversary with the locals, and we sang a song called Pilluarit Uummannaq together for the ceremony, which was written by Ian, our great musician, and JR. It was really an awesome day! Goodbye Greenland!


Oakville, Ontario

Today is a warm reception to Canada... not actually. The absence of the Gulf Stream sure is felt today standing on the bouncing deck with sea swells rocking the ship. While writing this in the library a humorous scene of books sliding off tables, laptops sliding around and tumbling friends just took place. I wish I had it on video! Polar Bear watching off the coast of Baffin, here in the Cumberland Sound had produced eight encounters already today. The presence of other wildlife has certainly not dissapointed with sei whales, humpback whales, northern bottlenose whales, fin whales and many sea birds.

I am really excited to soon visit the Canadian Arctic after departing Greenland and experiencing some rough seas across the Davis Strait. Ice conditions here have forced a change of plans, as ice around Resolute is too thick for the ship to reach it safely. Instead we venture to Pangnirtung and I am happy to spend some time in Iqaluit as well with the new itinerary. Greenland surprised me and really showed me the prejudice and misconceptions I had about the Arctic. The cities of Itilliq, Ilulissat and Uummannaq, along with the Sondre Stromfjord, Itilliq Fjord, Disko Bay, and Uummannaq Fjord have shown the balance of modernity and the rugged seemingly remote natural environment that before made up all I knew. Cultural highlights included participating in and experiencing Uummannaq's 250th celebration as well as sampling some local cuisine like seal and halibut cakes. Greenland is a quaint, very European feeling culture with modernized cities situated on the mountains, tundra and sea that before made up my only impressions of the Arctic; I now know better. Greenland seems to have found the balance between tradition and modernity.

The UNESCO Heritage Site of Ilulissat Ice Fjord was absolutely breathtaking! Given its close relationship to climate change, its stunning beauty comes from the haunting reality that these icebergs filling the fjord are birthed from a melting glacier. I have gathered other instances where this dicotomy is apparent, something I look forward to sharing through future art. I greatly look forward to touching terra firma and experiencing what the Canadian north has to offer.


Happy Valley Goose Bay, Newfoundland

So this is my first blog. This is going to be quite long as I'm recapping the past five days. On Wednesday, we arrived in the beautiful Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. It was so strange stepping on Greenlandic soil and telling myself that I finally made it. After months of preparing, and many emails and phone calls with Shirley, I finally got here. By Wednesday, we were four days into the trip, and believe it or not, it felt like family. I can honestly say that I have never felt so comfortable with a group of complete strangers than I did with these 100+ people from everywhere crazy and amazing.

Our first day in Greenland was so overwhelming. The first time I spotted our ship, The Sea Adventurer, it was in the brown harbour of Kangerlussuaq, along with another ship of the same size, and we had NO CLUE which was ours. Pretty soon the zodiacs started bringing loads of people over. My journey felt like it began when we got on ship. The staff are brilliant, and so helpful. The lounge is where we have our meetings, briefings and lectures. It feels like a comfy family room, where there's always cookies and tea, and where people nap on the sofas and there's always someone on the piano.

The second day in Greenland we were challenged to a game of soccer by the people in small town that I can't quite spell. Greenland vs. SOI, and obviously they won 3-5. In this town I realized how close this is to home -- it reminded me of some of the small towns in Labrador, where sports are life; literally, the middle of town is a sand soccer field. This night I also had one of the most interesting dinners ever. Sat around my table were John, Ian Tamblyn, and Tom Paddon, and interestingly we were all very linked to Labrador. Ian had told us about his trips to Labrador, for the LCAF (Labrador Creative Arts Festival, John finished his masters in the Innu reserve outside my town, and Tom, like myself is a Labradorian. That day, we also visited a small inlet where we had workshops. In my group, we re-named the botany workshop to "Snacks with Rodger" as all we mostly did was eat flowers and plants, which we all obviously enjoyed.

On Friday, we had an amazing zodiac cruise around the icebergs. I have never seen so much ice, and living in Labrador, that's a huge deal. These icebergs were massive, and to be told they were only going to be around for maybe another 30 years is terrifying. I felt very special to witness so much of it before it's gone. We also had a hike around Ilulissat, and up the boardwalk to the ice fjord, where the icebergs come from. Even after all this, my favourite moment was as I was walking back alone with Emma, an old fisherman was playing harmonica, we waved to him, and sat and listened to him on his boat, it reminded me so much of the Maritimes.

Saturday, was my favourite day so far. We spent the day in Uummannaq, where they were celebrating their 250th Anniversary. The town was so cultured in the arts -- there were museums, photo galleries, and totem poles made by the locals. There was also so much music, from the children's choirs, town choirs and bands. We also were privileged to see the release of the film Inuk, which was filmed in the town of Uummannaq, and the stars of the film were residents of the community. The film was brilliant, but the best part was watching it. We were dressed in seal skin jackets, and watched it while sitting on a polar bear rug inside of a blubber house -- where they used to store whale blubber once upon a time. That was so strangely fun. We also sang the community a song that a few of our team had composed.

Yesterday, Sunday, was "sea-day" which I will now re-name "sea-sick-day." It was also Faith day, which is when we all spend the day with one arm -- like Faith. But to be honest I didn't participate in anything that day. All I remember was eating and sleeping. I attempted to attend the briefings, but that didn't last long.

Maybe since I called yesterday "sea-sick-day," I should call today "half-a-sea-sick-day." The first half of today was spent much like yesterday, but once we entered Cumberland Sound I felt much better. While I spent the morning in bed, most of the crew were on deck and spotted 10 polar bears in total, which irritated me a little, but maybe luck was on my side. As we went for a zodiac ride before dinner, another bear was spotted! So maybe it was quite far away, but at least I saw one!



Portugal Cove, NL, Canada

Polar Bears! Polar Bears Polar Bears Polar Bears! We were off the coast of Cape Mercy, and the weather was rough. The bears were spotted in a field of sea ice, at various distances away. There were about ten of them. Some were sleeping, some were swimming, some were loping along the flows. One was eating something, and then began rolling around on the ice flow like a big, burly dog. Seeing the iconic arctic animal was really exciting! The entire ship went crazy, mobbing the decks for a closer look. Even from far away, I could see the strength in the bears' bodies, and in their eyes.
After lunch, zodiacs were launched to explore the ice fields in Cumberland Sound. My zodiac caught a quick glimpse of a solitary seal, before it dove. The landscape, however, was fascinating enough. Ice floes with artsy shapes drifted on perfectly smooth, silver water. Above, the sky was filled with smooth clouds with swooping shapes. The whole scene was a natural work of art.

On the way back, we had to tow a zodiac whose engine had been damaged. Everyone in my zodiac snapped several embarrassing shots of the stranded explorers.

Late tonight, we will reach Pangnirlussuaq, and continue our explorations. Goodbye for now. I will write again.


Cold Lake, AB

July 19, 2013

This morning is the morning that I have been dreaming about for months. I woke up to the sight of icebergs floating right outside of my cabin window. And I'm not talking about small ones either! I have seen humpback whales before, but to watch them move through the water between icebergs was indescribable.

When we jumped into the zodiacs to get a closer look at the icebergs, I was amazed at the beauty of the ice floating in the water, and the variation in colours that could be seen. Again words are failing me as I try to describe something that just makes my jaw drop in wonder.

I just want to let Disco know that all of this has taken place in Disko Bay, and that has made me pause and think that while I am out on an adventure of a life time, I am thinking about home.


Houston, Texas

July 20, 2013

Today we had a lovely "Good Morning" from some whales feeding all around the ship in the Uummannaq fjord. The fjord was a great feeding ground for so many of these Arctic animals. We saw tons of birds and Fin whales that just made the morning super satisfying. Next we visited the community of Uummannaq! Uummannaq was breathtaking -- from the people to the landscapes I fell in love! What was even more cool was that the day that we visited Uummannaq was their 250-year anniversary. They put on a show of dancing, various sporting events, and ceremonies. I took some great pictures and saw a lot of the traditional performances and ways of the people of Uummannaq. During one of the ceremonies I climbed up to one of the overlooking rocks and watched the ceremony from there. The view was spectacular as well. Later I went on a walk with Peter, Barry, and Trevor. We talked about fisheries, the ozone, animal captivity, sled dogs, and the geology of the area that we were in. The rock where we were was metamorphic which I thought was interesting because I thought that it was sedimentary. Peter cut off a branch from a bush that we saw and he figured out that the bush is about 30 years old!! We also saw an iceberg roll from a the view that we were at. After all that we went to watch a movie that was filmed in Greenland and casted by those who actually live in Uummannaq! The movie was really deep and made you connect more with the people and culture of Greenland. After that I boarded the ship and showered. The next order of business was dinner where I ate Arctic Cod. I sat with people whom conducted the conversation around nuclear power, Russia, Quebec, the Arctic Council as well as many other things.

Over all it was a great day and I am looking forward for many more to come.


St. John's, Newfoundland

July 21, 2013

The last three days have been so amazing that I'm going to have to only go over the highlights. The 19th was amazing, a sufficient summary would be ICEBERGS, ICEBERGS, ICEBERGS. The morning was spent riding the zodiacs all around the icebergs. They were absolutely amazing and they even taste pretty good. The afternoon we got to see even more, because we hiked through a park in the third largest city of Greenland. The view from the park was amazing especially from the top of the highest peak which I had just enough time to climb.

Yesterday we saw a lot of fin whales on our way into Uummannaq where we spent the day which was absolutely amazing. Uummannaq was also amazing, even more so because we got to be there for their 250th anniversary. Again I went on a hike up to "Santa's house" the hike was nice but the house was a little disapointing. It looked more like a old green cabin with old Christmas decorations. I still think Santa is Canadian. We also got to see the local film "Inuk" which was really good and had the added bonus of getting to wear gorgeous seal skin coats while we watched.

Then we had to say goodbye to Greenland which was kind of sad but exciting too because it meant that our day at sea was coming which I was really excited about because it is Faith/FeFe Day! Basically we are spending the day walking in FeFe's shoes and only using one hand. I'm really proud of myself because i'm still going while a lot of other people have caved already. Other than that we've just got to relax and listen to lectures all day which has been a really nice break.

So that's it for Greenland and I can't wait too see what northern Canada has in store for us!



Welland, On

It's been an eventful few days and non-stop excitement of new experiences. Just a few minutes ago we saw our seventh polar bear of this very morning! After Arctic Hour, we were told to just casually put our clothes on and spend some time out on the deck. While I was putting my clothes on an announcement came- "We might have spotted a polar bear at 11:00 Port side". Hearing this, everyone rushed outside, with chaos as if everyone was getting a gold nugget for free (weird relation but true). I actually just left halfway through writing this to see another polar bear eating a seal! Making that 8 so far. Witnessing the kings of the Arctic in their natural habitat is just amazing. Throughout the day I hope to see more as we're on our way to Panniqtuuq.


St. Brendan's, NL

July 20, 2013

Greetings to friends and fans (HA!) reading this from near and far. Today I, along with the rest of the SOI team, visited the small Greenlandic town of Uummannaq. I don't know if words can actually describe how beautiful this place is, but rest assured I will be back - not sure when or even how, but I'll let those little details work themselves out in the future. With no trees or other vegetation in its landscape, Uummannaq is a barren, yet beautiful, community nestled under a heart-shaped mountain (for which the town is also named). Today, luckily, the town celebrated its 250th anniversary and we were privileged to be present during the ceremonies! Even though I couldn't understand a word of what was being said, I could sense the pride they have for their community. It was quite moving. lt's been another great day on the 2013 Arctic Expedition and I'm sure there are even more good things to come, but I don't know if today can be topped - because, well, the heart-shaped mountain has officially stolen MY heart!


Lawn, Newfoundland

July 21, 2013

Yesterday we visited the town of Uummannaq for their 250th anniversary! After watching a film made by and starring the local people, we embarked on a hike to see the home of Santa Claus! Our only instructions were to follow the red circles painted on the rocks and we should find the house. So, we set off and started hiking on a hike that would only take an hour to get there and an hour back. After hiking for a while we stumbled across a very small, green house; thinking it couldn't possibly be what we were looking for, we continued following the red circles. Soon, almost another hour passed and my group still hadn't found the house, and that's when we realized that what we had passed was Santa's house and the red circles go in a loop. Once we turned around and reached the house, we found out that there was just a wooden Santa with some Christmas decorations. Even if it wasn't what I was expecting, we had a great hike and it created a funny memory! Also we've changed plans and wont be going to Resolute Bay and will be taking a different route.


New York City, USA

Today was amazing. I got about two hours of sleep last night because the ship was rocking like crazy! Around four in the morning all of our stuff fell down from the shelves and crashed on the floor. But the morning completely made up for it because we sailed straight into sea ice and spotted ten or so polar bears! We stood on the deck for an hour watching the beautiful creatures roll on the ice, stand on their hind legs, and jump into the water. It was absolutely incredible. I thought the day couldn't get any better, but I was of course wrong. We got out in the zodiacs for an hour and cruised in the ice that the ship couldn't go into and we saw one more polar bear and five seals. These are the moments only SOI expeditions can deliver.


St. Philip's, Newfoundland

July 21, 2013

So I just came in from photographing polar bears, and I'm sitting in the library of the ship watching as the boat rocks back and forth in the ice due to the massive swells on the water. Not two seconds ago, we tipped so far that everything came crashing off the desks: books, computers, and games all together in one giant sweep. People lunged to save computers and other equipment. Fortunately nothing was damaged and after a slight moment of shock, the room broke out in laughter. So far I've escaped seasickness, and to be honest, it's actually been really fun on board! We've been at sea now for almost two days making our way around ice, and the ocean seems to become more choppy as we approach Canada. The adventure has been a great experience, however I think most people are hoping for calm water soon...

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