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Follow The Journey

The Students on Ice Arctic Youth Expedition 2012 website allows visitors to follow the expedition’s daily progress (July 29 – August 12, 2012) and benefit from various educational elements of the expedition.


Daily Updates

Expedition Update – July 29, 2012
Carleton University

Good evening and welcome to the first update of the Students on Ice Arctic Expedition 2012!

Everyone has now arrived safe and sound! It’s been a busy day as SOI teams in Ottawa, Iqaluit and Yellowknife welcomed students and staff from around the world! Several students arrived in Ottawa as early as last Wednesday to get their passports but the majority of students arrived today. Most are now in Ottawa staying at the Carleton University campus residence, while others from Canada’s North have traveled directly to Iqaluit and are staying at the Arctic College residence. The Iqaluit group will await the rest of the expedition team who will be flying a First Air charter from Ottawa tomorrow morning.

Some students arrived early enough to see some of Ottawa’s sights today including the Museum of Nature, the National Gallery of Canada and Parliament Hill. Following dinner this evening, Students on Ice Founder and President Geoff Green led a team meet and greet session, which included the first expedition briefing and a review of tomorrow’s schedule. We’ll be up bright and early at 7:00 AM tomorrow to pack up, get some breakfast and load up the buses for an 8:30 AM departure to the Ottawa International Airport. Our First Air Charter is scheduled to depart at 10:00 AM.

Many members of the team have traveled a long way to get here and, despite a little jet lag, we’re all very excited that, after months of anticipation, Arctic Expedition 2012 is finally underway and we are ready to go!

Keep checking back here for daily updates, which will include students’ journal entries, photos, videos and more!

Onwards! Let the expedition begin!

Expedition Update – Monday, July 30, 2012
SOI Headquarters – Gatineau, Quebec

 

And they’re off! All went well this morning in Ottawa and the expedition team has now arrived in Iqaluit! They will soon be heading over to the Arctic College where they will join the 30 Inuit students who arrived in Iqaluit yesterday. After checking in to the residence, a meet and greet session is scheduled for later this afternoon, followed by our first education briefing.

Please note that the SOI Participant Coordinator Clare Glassco will no longer have regular access to her emails. If you want to reach Students on Ice or you need to communicate with a member of the expedition team (for emergencies only), please contact our head office at the coordinates below.

Expedition Leader Update – July 30, 2012
Iqaluit – 5:30 pm EST 

 

“We made it to Iqaluit! It was a great flight and we have an excited group. We departed warm and sunny skies in Ottawa and arrived to a rainy, windy Iqaluit. But the weather did not dampen our spirits! We headed straight over from the airport to the Nunavut Arctic College Residence to check in to our rooms, which are cozy and comfortable. After that we had a big group introduction and then a demonstration of traditional Inuit Games by Johnny Issaluk. Amazing!

“All the students and staff are getting to know each other and the good karma is growing!  Everyone is now outside for some icebreaker activities, some fresh air and exercise before dinner. After dinner we will have an introductory briefing to help prepare for the expedition ahead! The rain has stopped and the weather is now cloudy and calm. It’s great to be here with this energized group of inspiring students and leaders!! More photos and journals to come soon!”

Geoff

Expedition Leader Update – Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Iqaluit – 10:30 am EST

 

All is well in Iqaluit! Geoff is reporting that the team had a great (and busy!) first day yesterday. They were mostly engaged in preparation activities including briefings, “icebreaker” games, introductions and other fun stuff. The group settled in to their digs at Arctic College where they received a welcome from the mayor of Iqaluit, Madeleine Redfern (who will be joining the expedition team when they set sail tomorrow!). The team is getting to know each other and everyone is in good spirits.

Today, following breakfast, there will be a “speed dating” session in which students will get better acquainted with the field staff and their various areas of expertise. This will be followed by an ‘Introduction to the Arctic’ presentation by Inuit leader, Mary Simon, and polar expert, David Fletcher. After lunch, the team will head to town to visit the Nunavut Legislature and the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum, and see a dog team demonstration by Matty McNair. Then it’s back to Arctic College for an evening educational program.

We’ve received a report from our vessel, the Academic Ioffe, that despite the unusual amount of ice currently in Frobisher Bay, they expect to arrive in Iqaluit later today. Keep checking back here for updates on the ship’s ETA in Iqaluit.

All in all, the 2012 Arctic Expedition is off to a fantastic start! The team is excited and karma is building! Stay tuned for more details to come…

Expedition Leader Update – Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Iqaluit – 6:00 pm EST

 

It was another great day in Iqaluit! The skies were clear and our ship has now arrived!

Following breakfast, we held a staff-student “speed dating” session in which students became more familiar with the various areas of expertise of our remarkable field staff. Inuit leader Mary Simon and Arctic historian David Fletcher then gave the students a great introduction to the Arctic. As sea ice has blown into the Iqaluit harbour, we next went to a place called Apex where students were able to walk out among giant pieces of ice in the harbour at low tide. It was quite a sight to see! Incredibly beautiful. We’ll be sure to have some photos posted soon.

Next the students took part in a “classroom on the beach” where Eric Mattson discussed the formation and role of Arctic ice, Eric Galbraith explained tides and ocean currents, and David Gray and Whit Fraser talked about the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), which is North America’s oldest commercial enterprise and one of the oldest in the world. HBC started as a fur trading company and has played an integral role in the history of Canada, particularly in the North. Our education session today took place where many of the old HBC buildings still stand in Iqaluit. Following this, the team then headed off for visits to the Nunavut Legislature, the visitor centre and the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum; and they saw a dog team demonstration by Matty McNair. After dinner, we wrapped up the evening with presentations by two of the most famous carvers in Arctic.

Due to ice conditions in the harbour, our ship has not been able to come all the way in to port so we hope to get the zodiacs in the water tomorrow to get supplies and passengers on board for our scheduled departure tomorrow evening. As always when traveling in remote Arctic locations, flexibility is key!

Tomorrow we have a hike planned in the morning followed by the official 2012 Arctic Expedition Launch event at Sylvia Grinnell Park in Iqaluit! Excitement for the launch is building in the community as the event is being advertised on the local radio station and many locals are talking about it. We’re expecting a great turn-out. Following the launch, we’ll gather our luggage, supplies and equipment, head to the ship and, with some more good karma, be on our way!

Geoff

Team Update – Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Iqaluit – 7:00 am EST

This morning, the team woke up to magnificent sunny blue skies and the discovery that there is still quite a lot of ice in Iqaluit’s harbour making access to the ship (anchored off shore) very difficult. They will be checking out of the Arctic College residence and heading out on a hike this morning. This will be followed by the official Students on Ice 2012 Arctic Expedition Launch event at noon! They are keeping a close eye on the wind and the tides in the hope that the ice will clear enough to allow zodiac access to the ship. Keep checking back here for updates as the day progresses. It is sure to be an interesting day!

Expedition Leader Update – Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Iqaluit – 9:00 pm EST

We’ve had another eventful day in Iqaluit! The weather has been simply gorgeous and we took advantage of this with a brisk hike this morning in the surrounding area close to town. The community has been buzzing in recent days about our official 2012 Arctic Expedition Launch event and it did not disappoint! We served up an amazing community barbecue over lunch at Sylvia Grinnell Park. The turn out was great, the food delicious and we heard some inspiring farewell speeches. A big thanks to First Air and the Government of Nunavut for their support of our Launch!

We planned to be setting sail this evening but alas it was not to be. Ice in the harbour has prevented our departure for the time being. So the team is back at Arctic College for the night. We’ve had an evening educational program and we will try again to get to the ship tomorrow morning. Updates on our departure status will be posted here as soon as possible. Keep checking back for the latest information and remember that ice and weather conditions in the Arctic are unpredictable. Flexibility is key!

Geoff

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 2, 2012
Iqaluit – 10:00 am EST

“Hello from Iqaluit! All is well. We had a great evening program last night – lots of fun and laughter. We watched videos produced by our videographer, Sira Chayer; there were Inuit throat singing demonstrations, and storytelling by Whit Fraser and Bill Lishman. I briefed the expedition team about the ongoing situation with the ship and the ice and afterwards, students had time to write in their journals, relax and get a good night’s sleep at the Arctic College residence.

“This morning the team is all packed up again and on standby waiting to board the ship when given the signal. I have been to the harbour this morning to assess the ice situation and debrief with the ship captain and the coast guard about the prospect of getting out today. Everyone is aware of the situation and we are working together to expedite our departure but Mother Nature is in control at the moment! The winds are not yet favourable but we are hoping for a change in direction later today. In the meantime, we will take advantage of this extra time in Iqaluit to continue with our education programming. Stay tuned for more details throughout the day as the situation develops.

“For the morning program at Arctic College, Eric Galbraith of McGill University will be giving a presentation about the world’s oceans and ocean currents. Following that presentation, the students and staff will break into their first Pod Team meetings of the expedition then head off to enjoy lunch. Depending on weather conditions, the team will then head off on a hike down along the coast with workshops and presentations on the land.

“Everyone is in good spirits and enjoying the extended time to explore Iqaluit, which is a fascinating place situated amongst beautiful landscape. Hiking in the area is excellent with trails leading past archaeological sites out onto the tundra. Although the team is anxious to get on board and set sail, everyone is understanding of the situation and making the best of it. The team spirit and energy are high! Now let’s all hope for some good ice and weather karma!”

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 2, 2012
Iqaluit – 7:00 pm EST

Due to truly exceptional ice conditions, we were not able to reach the ship again today. We are still in Iqaluit and will be spending another night at the Arctic College. Members of the community are saying they have never seen anything like this – particularly this far into summer. Huge blocks of ice, some up to 5 meters high, are blocking our passage to the ship. All vessels are stranded and no one is getting in or out by sea.

The students are anxious to get going of course, yet they are dealing with this unpredictable situation with remarkable understanding and maturity. They are an exceptional group! The Iqaluit community has really rallied around us offering tremendous support. We have fishing vessels standing by, if needed, to help us get to the ship and we are looking at all possible options to get the next phase of our expedition underway.

We’ve been taking full advantage of our extra time in Iqaluit. This morning, Eric Galbraith gave a presentation on the world’s oceans and ocean currents, followed by our first Pod Team meetings, afternoon workshops/games and tours around town. One of the game leaders was the mayor of Iqaluit, Madeleine Redfern! There are not many mayors in the world who would be so quick to be involved in this way! A break for lunch and then into a whole series of activites ranging from soap carving to sampling the local streams.

Throughout the day, we have been investigating every possible option to get us to our ship. These options ranged from barges to helicopters to planes to fishing boats to wind dances on the ridge! We need the wind to change 180 degrees to move the ice out. We had a fantastic evening of performances with a ‘Scobie story’ and a traditional Greenlandic dance performed by Lakkuluk. We finished off the evening by singing happy birthday to Alex and Vladimir in Russian, English, French and Inuktitut!! We are coming together as a team and showing great perseverance!!

Traveling in the Arctic can be unpredictable at times but even by northern standards, we are facing an extremely unusual situation. Spirits remain high however, and our team is handling the situation remarkably well. The weather today was brilliant and now we are just hoping for a brisk northwest wind to help move some of the pack ice out of the harbour. Fingers crossed! We will keep you posted on developments first thing in the morning.

Expedition Leader Update – Friday, August 3, 2012
10:00 am EST

This morning we awoke to find that the ice had not moved out of the Iqaluit harbour as we had hoped. We are assessing the situation and are exploring all possible options for getting students and gear to the ship today. We will have further updates throughout the day. Thanks for your patience and understanding during this exceptional situation.

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 3, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly

 

Everyone up early but sadly the ice condition was unchanged so another day in Iqaluit was planned. The morning was taken up with a hike along the coast to Apex Beach. We walked past Matty’s son’s workshop where he is building a Greenlandic kayak. From there, the route took us through town to the beach and then a hike along the coastline. Once in from to the Old Hudson Bay Post, the group spread around the beach looking at the huge pieces of sea ice. From the beach, the anchored freighter, the Icebreaker De Groselliers and our ship, the Ioffe, could be clearly seen. While students enjoyed their day of fresh air, there was a lot of activity going on behind the scenes to try to get us to our ship and our good karma played a major role in this.

After lunch, back at the college, our afternoon consisted of a variety of workshops. With our extra unanticipated time in Iqaluit, our group got creative and the remainder of our afternoon was spent rehearsing and performing a flash mob in Iqaluit’s town center! In hopes of helping the ice clear from Frobisher Bay, our flash dance was a carefully student-choreographed dance to a medley of songs with lyrics about ice! The locals watched in amazement at the 120 staff and students moving about the square. Back at the college rumours of boarding the ship were finally confirmed by Geoff. We were to board the ship that evening.  We celebrated with a pizza dinner and said a huge thank you to all the staff at Arctic College who so kindly accommodated 120 people with only a moment’s notice.

A busy evening ensued at 6:30pm when all boarded the busses for the last time and make their way to the breakwater.  Upon arrival, we could see the Canadian Coast Guard vessel anchored right in front of us. The cargo loading craft was our link between the land and our ship. Everyone quickly donned full body floatation suits and loaded up the coast guard barges. We were extremely warmly welcomed aboard, greeted with hot coffee and freshly baked cookies. Donna and Ashley performed a traditional Inuit throat song for the crew to thank them for coming to our rescue! We then loaded zodiacs and by 1:00am, we were safely aboard our new floating home! Once on the ship, we sailed away from our precarious position in the channel. A totally unique and crazy day; it hardly seemed real.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 3, 2012
Iqaluit – 3:00 pm EST

We have some encouraging new developments to report. As you know, we have been trying all options to get to our ship but the amount of ice in the Iqaluit harbour is simply incredible. Conditions like this have not been seen in Iqaluit as long as anyone here can remember. We have been waiting for the wind to shift but still no luck.

After much discussion with the Canadian Coast Guard, Captain Sylvain Bertrand has just received approval to attempt a landing in the Iqaluit harbour with his vessel the CCGS Des Groseilliers. If successful, our expedition team would then be transported out to rendez-vous with our ship the Akademic Ioffe where a ship-to-ship transfer would then take place. This operation is expected to last approximately 3 hours and will be attempted at high tide this evening around 8:00 pm local time.

Although this is an entirely safe operation, there is always the chance that Mother Nature will not cooperate. If winds are too strong or weather conditions are not ideal, the transfer will not take place. We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best. Rest assured that we are in good hands with a Canadian Coast Guard vessel that can power through ice a meter thick at a speed of 3 knots. She is an essential tool in the Canadian icebreaking program.

Needless to say this latest development has been well-received by the expedition team. They have been packing up every morning and checking out of the Arctic College residence only to check back in later on. The students have been tremendously patient. They are upbeat and making the best of it. Our days are full of activities from hiking to workshops to artist demonstrations. The energy and team spirit is exceptional and the local community has really rallied around us. We’ve received incredible support from Mayor Redfern, Premier Aariak, and on and on. Bob Hanson has been hugely helpful with transportation around town and the Arctic College has provided exceptional service as we have extended our stay there.

I want to reiterate just how unusual this situation is. No boats are able to get in or out of the harbour. If the planned Coast Guard operation works out, it will be an awesome, virtually unprecedented occasion for this community. Given that the Canadian Coast Guard is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this would be quite a notable event. It must be emphasized, however, that we are not out of the woods yet. There is no guarantee that this operation will be a success. Stay tuned and we will keep you posted with updates as soon as possible.

For the time being, the students are doing more workshops in town and at the College this afternoon. Then we’ll all be heading to the College for a snack. A flash mob (!) is planned for downtown Iqaluit later this afternoon. Then it’s back for a pizza dinner and off to the harbour to board (we hope!) the CCGS Des Groseilliers! Wish us luck!

Geoff

Team Update – Thursday, August 3, 2012
SOI headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec – 11:00 pm EST

Good news! We’ve received word that the expedition team (and their gear!) were all successfully loaded onto the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Des Groseilliers. This is the first step. We are now awaiting word on the transfer to the expedition ship. The team may now be out of cell and internet range so we may not have another update until morning but this is a promising start. We’ll post the latest updates as soon as we receive them!

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 4, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly

After a well-deserved sleep-in, students and staff awoke to an excellent breakfast at 9:00am. The Ioffe had already been underway for two hours and was being escorted through the lands of ice by the Icebreaker DeGroselliers.

After a morning briefing by Geoff, it was time to go outside and absorb the glorious vista. The sun shone from the sky, the light highlighting the ice beautifully. The sun was occasionally strong enough to create refraction and the bending airwaves made the ice appear to be floating in the sky. Some harp seals swam by and lounged on the ice. This sight was framed by the mountains of Baffin Island and the Sylvia Grinell Glacier. Back on board, one of the mandatory activities was the lifeboat drill to get us familiar with the emergency procedures on the ship. In the afternoon, Judith presented her knowledge of birds while Eric helped students prepare bottles to drop in the ocean as a part of a study of ocean currents.  At 6:30pm our escort ice breaker left us with a toot of farewell and took off to find the next vessel to escort into Frobisher Bay. What an incredible favour she did for us! Now alone, the Ioffe continued to head out of the Bay meeting occasional bands of ice. After dinner , many went outside to bathin the late evening sunshine and the spectacular sunset before a final recap and briefing in the lecture room.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 4, 2012
Iqaluit – 8:00 pm EST

It’s a little hard to explain what happened yesterday – a bit of a miracle I would say. We woke up to discover the ice conditions in the Iqaluit harbour hadn’t changed and the wind was still not helping to blow the ice out. The situation was looking desperate and we had just about run out of options. I contacted the Coast Guard again and explained the situation. Captain Sylvain Bertrand of the CCGS Des Groseilliers agreed to help us and came to our rescue. This was no small feat for the Coast Guard. Despite the fact that the Des Groseiliers is an icebreaker vessel, rescuing our stranded team meant bringing the ship in close to harbour on high tide with a limited time window in which to operate. Fortunately, the tide was unusually high as it was a full moon. Finally some good karma going our way! Nonetheless, it was an amazing display of expert navigation by Capt Bertrand and his crew.

Our expedition team was well-prepared for the arrival of the Des Groseilliers since we knew we only had a 3 hour window in which we had to load the expedition team and all our gear/luggage from a barge to the Coast Guard ship, and from there onto zodiacs for another transfer to our vessel the Academic Ioffe. We loaded the students onto the barges and they had to remain seated as we plowed through the ice to get to the coast guard ship. The barge and Coast Guard crew treated the students like royalty with coffee/tea and cookies awaiting their arrival on board! All our luggage and gear came out by barge as well. The Coast Guard crew were excited to help out and be part of the experience with SOI! Needless to say our expedition was in peril without them and we simply cannot thank them enough.

Our expedition team was all on board the Coast Guard ship by 10:30 pm and from there we had to get out of the harbour before the tide dropped. There was a narrow passage to go through but we made it out just in time. We spent the next hour moving through the ice to the Akademic Ioffe. While on the Coast Guard ship, two students – Ashley and Donna – gave a much appreciated throat singing performance to thank the captain and crew for their invaluable assistance. The captain was fantastic throughout and he told the students it was a great pleasure for him to help out SOI.

We finally made it to our vessel the Ioffe at 11:30 pm – dark but under a full moon. We then used zodiacs to transfer everything and everyone over. What an operation! We were all finally on board by 12:30 am this morning and our captain and crew gave us a warm and enthusiastic welcome (with more snacks at the ready!). The entire team was ecstatic that our mission had succeeded in such dramatic fashion. We were all flying high on adrenaline by this point, which powered us through a full team briefing at 1:30 am. By 2:00 am everyone was sound asleep in their cabins.

The whole experience has been almost surreal and the adventure has surely taught us something about traveling in the North: the importance of being patient and resilient while respecting the powerful and unpredictable forces of ice. Mother Nature is in control out here and we are constantly reminded that these kinds of Arctic expeditions are no easy undertaking. We also learned the importance of staying positive and keeping our energies strong. Good karma really works!

Once again, I can’t speak highly enough about Capt Bertrand and his crew for assisting us so expertly in this extraordinary operation. It was so unusual, in fact, that the story of our rescue has made news headlines right across the country! Even Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, issued a statement Saturday congratulating the Coast Guard for the successful operation.

We also want to thank again the community of Iqaluit who rallied around our team and made our extended stay in their community so rewarding. So many people and organizations helped us out with art workshops, performances, tours and more. This includes the premier of Nunavut, Eva Aariak, the mayor of Iqaluit, Madeleine Redfern, Sheila Watt-Cloutier and Carl Williamson. Right up until the final barge left the harbour last night, the community was behind us helping to ensure that we made it safely on our way. Their warmth and hospitality has left the students with an indelible memory of this place that will stay with them for many years to come.
Now on with our expedition at last! We woke up this morning and were escorted out of Frobisher Bay by the Des Groseilliers. We had a morning briefing and safety procedure on the Akademic Ioffe and started to get familiar with our floating home. We unpacked, organized and everyone went out to the observation deck to watch the ship navigate through the ice. We passed Grinnel glacier while observing wildlife on the ice: seals, seabirds and more, with everyone on the lookout for polar bears.


Today we have to be escorted the whole way by the Des Groseilliers and once we get out of Frobisher Bay this evening, we will be on our own sailing along the coast toward the north. Tomorrow we’ll be heading to the area of Monumental Island and we’re hoping to see polar bears, walruses, more wildlife and ice!

After such excitement, everyone is glowing, happy, enjoying the blue skies and thrilled to be on our way.

Geoff

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 5, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly

 

We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning and a calm sea streaked by white lands of pack ice. We could clearly see Monumental and Lady Franklin Islands.

Breakfast had only just finished when a cry went up; a family of polar bears were swimming close by. Mama bear in the lead and two siblings close behind.

We let them get underway and continued our exploration of the ice. It was decided to make a zodiac cruise at Lady Franklin Island. On our way, we passed the same family of bears again, but this time they were relaxing on the ice.  The captain eased the ship as close as possible and everyone got a great view. The bears, used to us by now, were unimpressed by our presence and promptly curled up and went o sleep. The ship got as close as it dared to the Island, much of these waters are uncharted. The zodiacs were laundhed and off we went and what an adventure it proved to be. Bears on the land and in the water, seven altogether. We also saw colonies of Black Guillemots and Gulls and some incredibly impressive topography with two particularly massive cliffs. There was so much of interest: great geology and a surprising number of plants and mosses in the most unlikely places. It was then back to the ship for a late lunch. Rest?! No chance! Halfway through our lunch, a mother walrus and her pup were spotted on the ice. The students took part in a variety of workshops in the afternoon: Arctic Dinosaurs with Kieran, Inuit Land Claims with Madeleine and Laakkuluk, Oceans with Eric, Maria and Paul, ‘So you want to be a reporter’ with Whit, wildlife research techniques with Richard and sketching and journaling with Kara. We were once again interrupted at dinner by a sighting of the most incredibly shaped iceberg. Three solid pillars of ice rose from the water and backed on to a dramatic rose coloured sky as the sun sank and moon rose over the horizon.

This was a truly magnificent day.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 5, 2012
Iqaluit – 4:00 pm EST

It’s been an amazing day so far. We started this morning cruising through the ice. At about 8:00 AM we approached Monumental Island and stayed there for about 30 minutes. We saw 3 polar bears – a mother and two cubs – in the water swimming. As we watched them, they climbed up on an ice floe and fell asleep in front of the ship. We continued through the ice and then embarked on a zodiac cruise to Lady Franklin Island, the first time an SOI expedition has ever stopped there. Here we saw 7 more polar bears and lots of birds surrounded by towering cliffs. The weather has been beautiful all day so we did a 2-hour zodiac cruise. Some of the bears were on the island and others were in the water so all the students had a chance to see them. After lunch we saw walruses on the ice – and I mean many walruses! All in all, it’s been very successful day with heaps of icebergs passing by and plentiful sea ice all around us. We are now sailing north up the coast. More workshops are scheduled for this afternoon and we’re on the lookout for whales. Tomorrow we hope to go on a hike at Sunshine Fjord. Stay tuned! More photos and videos are coming soon!

PS. The story of our Canadian Coast Guard rescue operation on Friday night seems to have generated quite a stir, making headlines across the country!

Geoff

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 6, 2012
Sunneshine Fjord

We had a spectacular landing today at Sunneshine Fjord just below the Arctic Circle. Following this, we made a short stop to see the birds at the Minerettes. It was just before sunset and the light was wonderful. Thousands of Thick-billed Murres, Kittiwakes, and Northern Fulmars filled the sky and the sea around us. It was an honour to spend a few moments at this new National Wildlife Area. Our day concluded with more stunning icebergs carved and sculpted in ways only Mother Nature could achieve.

Last night we concluded an incredible day with a visit to a stunning three-spire iceberg. The sun was setting and the light was amazing. Then the full moon started rising on the other side of the berg. It was surreal. The students are doing very well and having the experience of a lifetime.

Geoff

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 7, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly

 

During the early morning, the Ioffe entered the spectacular cliff-fingered Coronation Fjord. A clear morning with a few passing showers gave a lovely light to the cliffs. Just after 7:00am, the captain nosed the ship gently towards a lovely tidewater glacier at the head of the Fjord. As if this was not amazing enough, the appearance of a very large polar bear on the adjacent beach fully completed the picture. The ship turned and made her way back out of the fjord towards to the site of our next activity. The Ioffe anchored in Carso Channel and everyone landed at a beautiful spot between a fish camp and a lovely waterfall. Once all ashore, there was a hike alongside a lake, its banks covered in an assortment of flowers and berries.

By now, the showers had given way to blue skies with a few fluffy white clouds over the mountains. Once all back from the hike, all got together on the glacier lake beach for an Arctic Swim! An invigorating way to start the morning to say the least!  A slightly bumpy zodiac ride got everyone back on board for a hearty lunch. After lunch, quiet hour and presentations ensued.

Following this, Maatalii and Madeleine held a briefing in the lecture hall as they gave us insight into the community of Qikitarjuaq, a small Inuit community of just under 500 people. It was not a moment too soon because an hour later we had anchored in the hamlet of this small community. Landing on the pier, we were received with an extremely warm welcome from the locals.

Rows of waving children quickly grasped on to students’ hands asking what all of our names were. The community had been anxiously awaiting our arrival and had been tracking our expedition through our website. They welcomed us with a traditional seal skinning demonstration, local crafts by artists and a feast of local country food- Arctic Char, clams, narwhal, bannock and hot tea. Students played with the local children and a square dance even broke out! This was a truly special and magical evening that both the students and the locals will remember for a long time.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 7, 2012
Baffin Island – 4:00 pm EST

All well here and we’ve had a great day so far. We started before breakfast with a visit to the glacier at the head of Coronation Fjord. It is, quite simply, an amazing place that has to be seen to be appreciated. Towering 1,500 meter cliffs rose up on either side of the ship. This was all complemented by an Eric Mattson lesson on glaciers on the bow deck at 7:30 AM!

While we were in the Fjord we spotted a huge polar bear strolling along the shore and we decided to go in for a closer look. What an impressive, magnificent animal. After breakfast we went for a hike past a beautiful lake. The sun and blue skies made it a perfect place for our Arctic Swim and all the students jumped into the lake at a nice sandy beach we found! The screaming and laughter of 75 teenagers was sure to scare off any polar bears that might have been lurking in the neighbourhood! We are now en route to Qikitarsuaq for a visit this evening. The community is expecting us and we are very excited to spend some time there. They have some special activities planned for our group. And that will be our last stop in Canada!

Tonight we bid farewell to Baffin Island and start crossing the Davis Strait to Greenland!

Geoff

Expedition Update – August 8, 2012
SOI headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec – 1:00 pm EST

The ship has now left Baffin Island and is crossing the Davis Strait towards Greenland! They saw four Bowhead whales this morning to start their day, including a mother and a calf!! This was quite a treat for the students as whale sightings are a rare occurrence. The team expects to arrive first thing tomorrow morning in Illulissat, Greenland. The seas are presently calm and their day at sea will be filled with lectures and workshops, time to rest, read, write journals, hang out.

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 8, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly – 10:00 pm EST

Today was a sea day. A calm overcast morning as we nosed into the bay close by the abandoned village of Kivitoo. The captain sailed the ship in search of Bowhead whales. It took a while but soon the cry went up – whales! There was an adult Bowhead with her calf. Later we saw two more. Bowheads are really rare in this area of the Arctic. Around 9:30am, the ship turned her nose into the Davis Straight and headed for Greenland. The rest of the morning was taken up with presentations: Mary Simon spoke of Arctic Sovereignty, Whit Fraser spoke of the creation of Nunavut, and David Fletcher gave the story of the North West Passage. After lunch, students had the choice of a variety of workshops: Clay modeling with Bill, Glacier movement with Mike and Eric, Maps and Navigation with JF, Blogging with Carolyn, Greenlandic Mask dancing with Laakkuluk and Arctic Dinosaurs with Kieran. The seas remained relatively glassy calm although some students had their first experience with seasickness. We finished up the evening with a recap and briefing from Geoff and an inspiring original musical performance by Evalyn Parry.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 9, 2012
Greenland – 12:30 pm EST

We have arrived in Greenland! It was another beautiful morning as the ship passed hundreds of icebergs in the bay and pulled into the calm harbour of Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island off the west coast of Greenland. This is our first day of four in this stunning country and the students are currently off exploring this picturesque little town – some are at the local museum, others are strolling the streets while others have headed to the post office to send postcards! They will all return shortly to the ship for lunch, and then it’s off for a hike up one of the local mountains to a scenic waterfall.

During our crossing of the Davis Strait yesterday, we were busy with lectures, workshops and various presentations. We have four full days scheduled here in Greenland before making our way home.

Geoff

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 9, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly – 10:30 pm EST

After a smooth and rapid transit of the Davis Strait, those on deck before breakfast witnessed the Ioffe negotiating the narrow tricky entrance into the harbor of our first Greenlandic town, Qeqertarsuaq. The town lies on Disko Island and was once an important whaling center. The attractive little town with its multi-coloured houses lay under towering 1000 meter bluffs and with the iceberg-dotted ocean, made for a postcard picture setting. As students arrived and passed under the whalesbone arch, they headed to the local museum. The museum featured a kayak and dog sled display as well as some original paintings from the world famous Greenlandic artist Danielson.

For the rest of the morning, we explored this delightful little town. It was then back on board for a special outdoor lunch! What a fabulous job the crew did of preparing a lunch outdoors. The meal had barely finished and we were back on shore to do some hikes. Students had the choice of three hikes, all varying in difficulty. For the most difficult hike (the blue route), students climbed 1000 meters to the top of the bluffs above town. The red route passed the heliport, crossed the river and followed the river up the valley of the winds culminating in some beautiful waterfalls. Those who chose the yellow route left the red group at the river and wound its way along the coastline, passing some unique geological features. The weather was good up until the last 45 minutes when rain clouds began to envelope our surroundings. Some rain cooled off the blue route hikers but they quickly dried off back aboard the ship. One more delicious dinner and we were off to bed after a recap and briefing.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 10, 2012
Illulissat – 11:00 am EST

We arrived in Illulissat, Greenland this morning amidst hundreds of massive icebergs (see photo below). Illulissat is located near  Jakobshavn Glacier, which is a huge outlet glacier that produces roughly 10% of all of Greenland’s icebergs. It also drains 6.5% of the entire Greenlandic icesheet. Some 35 billion tonnes of icebergs calve off and pass out of the fjord every year! Icebergs breaking off the glacier are sometimes so large (up to a kilometer in height!) that they are too tall to float down the fjord and lie stuck on the bottom of its shallower areas, sometimes for years, until they are broken up by the force of the glacier and icebergs further up the fjord.

Our team was greeted this morning by the Mayor of Illulissat in the Town Chambers. The students are visiting the town this morning then after lunch we’ll be going to see the ice fjord. We had a great day yesterday and everyone is having a fabulous time!

Geoff

Expedition Update – Thursday, August 10, 2012
Update from Participant Coordinator, Kathleen Connelly – 11:30 pm EST

The ship awoke to the bump and growl of ice along the hull as we neared the town of Illulisaat. Around 9am it was off in the zodiacs, zigzagging through the ice and entering the inner harbor of the town. The harbor was packed with boats, there was a real buzz about the place, boats scurrying backwards and forwards, the fish factory humming in the background.  The main activity was to hike through town to take look at the Ice fjord. It is a breathtaking site and you can easily see why this is a world heritage site. Other points of interest on the way were the vegetation and archeological site of Sermermiut, home to many Inuit cultures. On the return, there was a chance to visit the many souvenir shops in the town and then back to the dock for the trip to the ship to enjoy a late lunch. During the afternoon, the ship sailed slowly through the car park of majestic icebergs. There was a chance for two great presentations, one by JF and the other by Bill. These had barely finished when our evening plans changed. The ship had found some excellent ice, the weather conditions were perfect so off everyone went in the zodiacs for a cruise along some colossal icebergs and through fields of ice. It is virtually impossible to find words to describe this experience.

The walls of polished ice, the crackling, twinkling brash ice was beautiful.

What a way to say goodbye to Disko Bay. A vibrant diverse recap and briefing drew another day to a close.

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 11, 2012
Sondrestrom Fjord – 11:30 pm EST

We’ve had a fantastic last few days! Tonight we concluded the final evening of celebrations, thanks you’s and performances as we made our way up the stunning Sondrestrom Fjord, one of longest fjords in the world. Lots of energy, excitement and fun. Today we had a morning at sea with presentations and workshops then we landed after lunch in a beautiful little bay and enjoyed our last few hours picking berries, sitting and staring at the mountains and sea, taking group photos and reflecting on our incredible journey and experiences amidst the spectacular surrounding mountains and ocean. The black rocks and unique arctic vegetation combined with the dramatic mountains to create a beautiful atmosphere on their final landing of the expedition. Tomorrow morning we bid farewell to our vessel Akademik Ioffe, disembark in Kangerlussuaq and start our journey home.

Geoff

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 12, 2012
Kangerlussuaq – 9:30 am EST

This morning we will bid farewell to our vessel the Akademik Ioffe and disembark in Kangerlussuaq where we will start our journey home. It’s hard to believe our expedition is almost over. It has flown by so fast and has been such a tremendous success in every way. We have a group of very inspired and somewhat changed youth returning home. Only time will tell just how these past two weeks will influence their futures. They are a remarkable group and they give us hope.

Geoff

Expedition Leader Update – Thursday, August 12, 2012
Kangerlussuaq – 12:00 pm EST

Hello from Kangerlussuaq! We arrived safe and sound this morning. It was a short sleep for everyone last night following our evening of celebrations, performances, and thank you’s. We bid farewell to the fine ship Akademik Ioffe and her great crew and hopped into the Zodiacs for one final ride to shore. Buses were waiting for us to give us a ride to the airport, where we have a huge tent set up for our group to work on some final things before boarding our charter flight back to Iqaluit and Ottawa. Projects the students worked on this morning included letters to themselves (which we will mail to them in one year), and thank you letters to their sponsors and to the Canadian Coast Guard. The tent was silent for an hour and a half as they intently wrote and gave thanks in words on paper. What an incredible expedition we have experienced. There is a great feeling in the air. A feeling of peace, happiness, friendship, accomplishment, sadness and excitement for the days, weeks, months and years ahead…

Geoff

Expedition Update – August 12, 2012
SOI headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec – 11:45 pm EST

They’re back! The First Air charter flight arrived into Ottawa a little later than scheduled but all is well. The students are now all checked in to the Grenville House at Carleton University where they are settling in for a well-deserved rest after a long day of traveling. The students who disembarked in Iqaluit are also doing fine and will be spending the night at the Arctic College residence before flying home tomorrow.

Expedition Update – August 13, 2012
SOI headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec

 

We had a fabulous Welcome Back event at the Canadian Museum of Nature this morning! Thanks again to our partners and to all who attended or helped out. The speeches were inspiring and emotional, providing a fitting end to a journey that none of us will soon forget.

Many powerful stories were shared about the expedition and about hopes and dreams in the students’ post-expedition lives. From strangers two weeks ago to friends today, it was evident to all that this team has shared a truly unique experience and forged a bond that will connect them throughout their lives. It has been a fantastic expedition and we at Students on Ice are excited to watch these remarkable students carry this experience into the next phase of their lives!

Keep coming back to this web site in the coming days as we will be posting more photos, video, media coverage and post -journey updates! To our expeditioners, stay in touch with SOI! You are now part of an exceptional group of SOI alumni, which spans 50 countries around the world. We want to hear all about your future endeavours and adventures!

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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.