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SOI Arctic 2015 day 13: Caswell Tower and Beechey Island

We changed course today, not in the expedition sense- we are still destined to arrive at Resolute Bay on Saturday morning- but rather a change in life’s course and direction for many of our students.

We began this morning in Radstock Bay on the south coast of Devon Island, anchored under a towering cliff called Caswell Tower surrounded by sweeping mountain sides and ridges, mostly devoid of vegetation and yet the natural rock colours contrasted with the deep blue waters of Lancaster Sound and varying cloud and sunny skies made for some exceptional scenery.

Inside the ships main lounge, we heard powerful, emotional and inspirational presentations from a number of students.

Our theme today was heads and hearts. For almost two weeks it’s been a constant flow of intense information but today we began marrying that knowledge with the emotions, inspiration and passion that is in the hearts of every SOI student and educator.

We reviewed some of the accomplishments of a number of the 2,500 alumni from 52 countries who have participated in SOI over the past fifteen years. They have made a remarkable contribution, in either their own communities, countries or even the world. (Check our Alumni section on studentsonice.com)

Among the initiatives, SOI students have participated in the last ten worldwide COP conferences on Climate Change.
The challenge this morning to students, let’s make sure we are not sleepwalking into the future. Never before has there been so much to discover.

In a remarkable hour of presentations many of our students outlined their own initiatives, and plans for a better society. Some examples from Robert Comeau who is leading a Youth Arctic Coalition, and Sally Wen 18, will engage in environmental activism to protect the Poles.

We watched Brian Ituluk a northern student , made a breakthrough in beat box music by finally performing in public.
Gaby Foss 18, is using landscape photography to in hospital and seniors homes to brighten people’s lives and 16 years old Parr Etidloie, recently participated in paining a 60 foot mural in Toronto. Robert Hrabchak is studying mechanical engineering but while in high school he built his own electric car, proving the teacher who said he couldn’t do it, totally wrong.

Vivian Lee of Vancouver moved out her comfort zone today with a deeply personal insight in mental health and her struggles to overcome the stigma associated with mental illness and the need to encourage more discussion, on an illness that affects one at last one in five Canadians.

Ruth Kaviok, Also spoke about the mental health issue that continues to devastate northern people and their communities and that is suicide. Having lost so many loved ones she said in an emotional presentation that she is committed to working on suicide.

Whatever commitments or projects SOI students take in the future, it’s possible they can get initial seed money through the Tarek Sharif and Sophie Nicholson SOI grant program. Tarek and Sophie began the program last year, and have renewed their commitment to provide up to five thousand dollar start-up money for any student or group of students who want to pursue their passion for the issues and values they’ve learned on SOI, or brought to SOI.
We saw evidence of that action and passion in the final round of workshops many of those led by Students, including Inspiring a new generation, starting a business, life and career planning and participating in the Museum of Nature new permanent Arctic Exhibition.

Our last trip on shore set the contrast between the promise for the future, that was so clearly set out in this morning’s discussion with the tragedies of the past, so graphically evident on Beechey Island.

We came ashore the barren windswept, tiny island that is almost attached to Devon Island. What strikes one is how barren it is, and in the gravel beds that appear infinite are the graves of three of Franklin men who died when they were frozen in the ice here in 1845-46. Another grave marks the death of a sailor who died during one of the dozens of attempts to find Franklin over the next twenty years.

On the same island, are cairns erected by many who joined the search for rankling over the next twenty years, and other explorers who mapped and hoped to open the Northwest Passage.

Back on ship it was a buzz of activity as students began writing thank you letters to sponsors and families and a mad dash to pack and be ready to disembark tomorrow.

Tonight the final celebration, part talent show, part farewell and a total outpouring of good wishes, affection, and the realization that having sailed together for the past two weeks on SOI in Greenland and Arctic Canada we will always to walk together for the rest of our lives.

In the expedition spirit,

Geoff Green
SOI Founder & Expedition Leader

Students explore remains of Franklin Expedition on Beechey Island. Photo (c) Lee Narraway.

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Alice Xu

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

I can’t believe today is the last full day of the expedition on the Ocean Endeavour. It’s been such an amazing trip so far and I’m definitely not looking forward to going home and missing everyone. I wish we had one more week to enjoy more of the Arctic, but now that I’m about to go back, I will definitely enjoy every last moment.

I haven’t blogged for a while, but that was because of how tired all of us on the ship were. Every day kept us insanely busy, and it was hard to write a blog when you’re half asleep! But now that I’m back to my full energy level, I can’t wait to tell you everything that has happened in the last few days.

You might have seen from the posts of my peers that we have seen muskox (yesterday I got to see two!), polar bears, thousands of birds, arctic hares, and other cute Arctic creatures. What I enjoyed the most, however, about the entire trip is all the connections I know I will be able to reach out to when I get back to Vancouver. I’m having so many mixed feelings about today–whether I would like to return home because I miss it there, or whether I would like to spend a lot more time on the ship. I wish we could make this trip an annual thing for the SOI alumni, because this trip has opened my eyes to so many more opportunities.

Yesterday was definitely the greatest highlight of the trip. In the morning, we went on the first zodiac cruise of the day–a backup plan to the landing that was supposed to occur. There were two polar bears that wanted to join on our hike, and they practically went on the trail we were supposed to take! So instead we hopped in our zodiacs and took a wonderful cruise of the RCMP station that was abandoned in 1951. It was the best zodiac cruise ever, even though I ended up freezing! I could not feel my feet at all after the cruise was over. However, all was made up for when I got to see the two polar bears on the shore (and got some really nice shots of them I can’t wait to share!).

After lunch, we went on another zodiac cruise to this massive glacier  that was so beautiful–and after the zodiac cruise, we landed to go hiking ON THE GLACIER! It was the first time I had ever walked on a glacier, and that was definitely the coolest (and most slippery) place I had ever walked. I took a couple dozen photos and kidnapped a couple cool rocks as souvenirs. If this doesn’t sound cool enough, we did an Arctic plunge, where we ran into the freezing Arctic waters! Throughout the entire day, the staff were rushing us on and off shore because there were so many polar bears surrounding us!

We also attended two amazing presentations where we got to hear about how much Devon Island was like Mars (so I also got to go to another planet yesterday!) and about the cool adventures that James Raffen went on travelling around the Arctic Circle! Yesterday was full of laughter, amazing scenery, and energetic students and staff! It was seriously a wonderful day. I can’t wait to start today for another amazing final adventure!

Signing out,


Madeline Yaaka
Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec, Canada

So many things we have been doing. We have seen over 20 polar bears these past 3 days. I found out 2 days ago that I was invited for breakfast at the U.S Embassy in Ottawa with 30 other students. I am really excited!!! I’ve been doing so many activities, did some paddle boarding in the ocean, sewed a sealskin okpik (owl) with Annie, I have been learning how to play piano, have been on a few exciting zodiac tours, visited the largest uninhabited island (Devon Island) in the world it was so beautiful. The most interesting presentation that we had (that i found interesting) was a presentation that James Raffan gave to us about his journey around the Arctic circle during 3 years, the most interesting thing he said was that climate change is not the most important thing in the arctic it still is important but when we think about climate change we just think about a polar bear drinking coca cola, thinking that the Arctic is just an uninhabited place but not really thinking about the other big issues affecting the people that live up north for example: high suicide rates, high costs of food and many other issues, thats what I really liked about it. Had so much fun yesterday, got to swim in the Arctic Ocean for the first time in the ocean (no drysuit) it was very cold though. I’m starting to get a little sad because it is our last day on the ship 🙁 But I am very glad I got to spend this time with so many inspiring people. Now I can say that I am a part of the 2015 Students on Ice Alumni!!!

– Madeline

Students explore remains of Northumberland House. Franklin Expedition. #SOIArctic2015 Photo (c) Lee Narraway.

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Shawn Tourangeau

Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada

Today is the last full day on the ocean, so naturally it is jam packed. This morning was an emotional one, and an eye opening one. Students told the entire team what they’re doing and ongoing projects they have. It makes me feel like I am able to do whatever I want to, hearing their stories of what sort of great things of these people are achieving.

We just finished doing our last landing of the expedition. It really felt as though time was going by way too fast, even though we’ve been on this boat for eleven days now. Even though it was a short period of time, it feels as though it’s been so long. The people here have been absolutely incredible. The staff are each are so experienced and are full of so much knowledge. I wish I had the opportunity to have more time on the boat, or just being able to talk some of them.

I have learned so much on the expedition, and now I feel as though I’m a part of something so much bigger. I am going to miss walking out on deck each morning and being completely blown away by the spectacular view. Everytime I look out the window, it is a different view. Our last landing was at one of the last known whereabouts of the Franklin expedition. We saw some of the graves which were left there, nearly 150 years ago.

Tonight, we are going to have the ‘end of expedition celebration’ and the final briefing. I am running out of things to write about, and I Geoff is telling everyone to go and pack. I’m also kind of hungry, so I’m going to go find some food.


Nathan Pinto
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Today was the second last day on the ship! In the morning we got to go on a Zodiac cruise, where we saw a lot of Devon Island and even got to see a bunch of polar bears. Apparently in the area here there is an island that’s called Melville Island, I thought Dad would want to know. After the cruise we had a presentation on the living conditions on Mars and also how Devon Island is a similar landscape to the planet. Pascal Lee, who works for NASA, explained what life would be like on Mars, as well as what you would need to live there. Later in the afternoon we got to land on Devon Island and do a hike on its tidal glacier! Tomorrow is the last full day on the ship before we head back to Ottawa. I hope you guys are doing well at home, especially Cali; I miss her a lot. I’ll see you guys soon!

– Nathan

Students explore remains of Northumberland House, site of Franklin Expedition on Beechey Island. Photo (c) Lee Narraway.

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Matthew Newell

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Good morning Ottawa! We did the polar plunge yesterday! It was incredibly cold. Imagine swimming inside of Donald Trump’s heart, that’s how cold it was. Today is our last full day in the Arctic! We plan on making one last landing on Beechey Island and then spending the rest of the day on the ship. I’m a little sad that I have to leave this magnificient place so soon, but I’m also so excited to bring these memories back home to my friends and family. I’m excited to see my friends and family again too, I miss you guys a lot! I keep imagining that scene from Home Alone where the family gets home to Kevin, and they’re all shocked that he’s done alright on his own; that will be me. There were less Christmas ornaments on the floor during my expedition though.

I think that this will probably be my last blog entry/update, I’ll see you all very soon! I love you guys!


Students walk the desolate shores of Beechey Island. Photo (c) Lee Narraway.

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on


Kevin Huo

Foster City, California, USA

The past few days have been great, it’s been one adventure. With the start of the day there was a great presentation by Justin Milton entitled Inuit Revolution. With the ship swaying back, and forth the endless motion was rough as we finally had encountered the feeling of endless swaying. The Inuit Revolution had various parts in which he talked about Inuit lifestyle, culture, resources in detail. The amount of knowledge that we were able to obtain was vast.

Following that day in the afternoon  we went to shore to participate in workshops. It was a great experience, one of the reasons why we could not do an all day workshop was because the weather because the weather was pretty rough. The workshop that I participated in was zooplankton study with Daniele, along with the sedimentary sampling with Bianca. The workshops were real fun as we were able to learn about both the history of land, and catching of various life forms.  While exploring around I walked straight into the pond and got stuck in the mud 3 times!!! I could not pull out my boots because they were stuck there. Then following that I joined in on a sedimentary study; even one piece of the mud could reach back to 500 years ago. The complete understanding of all these things truly let me understand the Arctic.

That night I had the great opportunity to be a listen of a talk by James Raffan, who wrote the book Circling the Midnight Sun was quite interesting. James story truly talked about all parts of the Arctic, and Circumploar topics. James really touched into the basis of how to people in the Arctic live.

August 8, I would have to say has been the best day ever. We started off the day with a Polar Bear climbing among the rocks of Tay Bay. Following another wonderful breakfast we decided instead of traveling on to shore to do a zodiac cruise, due to the bears. Finally we ended the day with the joining of the Students on Ice Arctic Swim Team 2015!!! Of course it was freezing cold, by the time I put my feet in my feet were so numb that could not feel it, along with the endless amounts of rocks that kept on hurting my feet.


Caswell Tower, Devon Island. SOIArctic2015 Photo (c) Lee Narraway

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Meghan Flood

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Today is the last full day on the ship. I woke up with a massive headache and had accidentally slept halfway through breakfast. I wasn’t going to miss that buffet for anything, not even a migraine, so I was out of bed and upstairs in the dining room so fast you’d never believe it. Those pancakes were worth it.

Today we are at Beechey Island, which isn’t really an island since it’s attached to Devon Island. It’s where Franklin and his crew wintered over during their disaster of an expedition back in the mid 1800s. There are graves and remnants of his camp covering the shores. It’s a National Historic Site so you had to be careful not to touch anything. It was so windy today, you had to fight the wind walking from one end of the beach to the other. The wind burned my face and made my eyes water but I still had a pretty cool time.

Packing up today I started to get really sad about leaving. All these new friends I’ve made, we all live so far apart. Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Sisimuit, Greenland; Whitehorse, Yukon, Oslo, Norway, Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, Monaco, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver.  I may not see some of these people again, but we’ll try our bests to keep in touch.

Dinner was excellent, the dessert extravaganza was even better. I swear I’ve gained about 7 pounds on this trip, just in the last 10 or so days we’ve been on the ship alone. Mostly from ice cream. They had unlimited ice cream. Until it ran out. As a group, we collectively ate 69 gallons of ice cream. That’s honestly pretty impressive.

Right as the festivities were about to start, we hit high seas and the ship began to rock again. Hopefully everyone popped a gravol or seasickness medication after learning their lesson the other day.

I didnt realize it today, but this ship has become my home and my fellow my passengers my family. It’ll be hard leaving and saying goodbye to some of the family at the airport in Resolute Bay tomorrow.



Megan Dicker

Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

August 08: Our last full expedition day! My day started in the most peaceful way. Myself and a few others spent the early morning out on deck, taking everything in and energizing ourselves for the busy day ahead. We had morning light shine down on us with an extremely chilly breeze.

After lunch we went ashore to Beechey Island. It was a cold and wet ride. Waves splashed on us on the way to shore and back to the ship. While on shore we saw the foundation of a “house” where Royal Navy sailors stored supplies for the Franklin expedition during their search for the party. They did not get to the supplies. It was pretty cool to see little tin cans that the Franklin expedition men had filled with pebbles. Why? I have no idea. We also saw three graves of young men who died when the Franklin expedition wintered on the island in 1845-46. It felt like we went back in time, but this time we are full of knowledge that the people of the time did not have.

I cannot believe that we have been packing our suitcases. It feels like we have been here for months, yet it also feels like its only been five minutes. Tonight we will wrap up our expedition with celebrations and hugs. Here we go.


Students walk the desolate shore at Beechey Island. Photo (c) Martin Lipman.

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Student Tooma Laisa paints the #SOIArctic2015 expedition's hand made traditional qajaq. Photo (c) Martin Lipman.

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

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