Expedition leader update!
Can You Believe it, we are in Greenland! We are here and finally Students on Ice 2015 expedition is underway and we are moving through the breathtaking Sondrestrom Fiord, one of the longest fiords in this world. This is our fifteenth anniversary voyage and the biggest yet with nearly 200 students, educators, experts, elders, artists, musicians and leaders from around the world.
Our two days in Ottawa of preparation, familiarization and organization were exciting, jammed packed and hot. It doesn’t matter where one came from, Malaysia or the furthest of the Arctic Communities like Pond Inlet- Ottawa had scorching record setting temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius.
Tours of the Canadian Museum of Nature, visits by Inuit students to the offices of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Parliament Hill, filled Tuesday—In the afternoon, most participated in the thrilling zip line adventure down the Ski Slope at Camp Fortune in nearby Gatineau, Quebec may have cooled some, if only for a moment.
Monday and Tuesday evenings, students and educators got a taste of the intensity of the program, the depth of knowledge and commitment to the Arctic and learning from Inuit Leader Mary Simon and long time SOI educator, supporter and author James Raffan. Their common thread is simply there are many-many ways of learning and understanding beyond the traditional classroom
It’s that much wider worldview of education that Students on Ice has advocated for over the past 15 years — in the Greatest Classrooms on Earth — the Arctic or Antarctic.
We had a spectacular view of the first backdrop to this year’s Arctic seminar. The coast of Greenland, and rugged mountain tops cradling glaciers one after another, reaching down from the majestic Icecap to the deep turquoise waters of Sondrestrom Fiord and Davis Strait.
There are many firsts to this expedition, it’s the first time we have sailed with this large of a vessel, The Ocean Endeavour. As a larger ship, it offers an increased number of educational spaces and gives us additional opportunities for programming. The result is we now have the largest component of educators in order to take advantage of every space for connecting, conversation and engagement.
The substantially larger number of students and educators has also meant two airplanes, rather than one and a race to Greenland.
The plane carrying most of the staff, won… the smaller load meant they could fly direct from Ottawa to Greenland.
The larger contingent with student and minimal staff had to stop for refuelling. The plus side is that they were able to enjoy an unscheduled stop in Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit as well as an aerial view of east Baffin Island on the approach to crossing the Davis Strait.
Our evening was hectic, loading and unloading luggage, scientific equipment and media and photo equipment to document the trip and daily adventures takes time, coordination and mussel.
We do not sail anywhere without clear and concise briefings and drills for safety emergencies and safety procedure for getting in and out of the Zodiacs, the heavy duty rubber inflated crafts that move us from ship to shore and in and around ice flows, alongside the steep cliffs dwellings of tens of thousands of birds and waterfowl. These reliable little craft can speed up a fiord or across a bay to give all of us a closer view of every wildlife sighting.
And we have had the first signing as students got a quick bus tour to view the Greenland ice cap, a herd of Musk on in the distance, and Arctic hare.
Tomorrow we will be visiting smaller fiords, and whale sightings are expected.
Without a doubt, the highlight of today’s educational experience was to hear the first lesson from the absolute dean of Arctic and Antarctic science. Dr. Fred Roots.
In 1948 Fred journeyed to Antarctica and made a six-month 20,000-kilometer dog team research trip across the frozen continent. Now in his 90’s Dr. Roots is keen to share his tremendous knowledge with students. It’s clear he thrilled them, with a crystal clear explanation that connects to the very birth of the planet.
He explained we are sailing down a fiord, where the rocks on one side, are one and a half billion years old, off the other side of the ship, different rock formations, even older — three and a half to four billion years old. He was breathtaking and masterful with his enthusiasm and detail.
So welcome aboard! We are off to an incredible start and daily we hope to bring you highlights and recaps from both our remarkable students and esteemed educators.
Greenland here we come! #SOIArctic2015 photo by Ashley Brasfield A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Here we go! #Greenland #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Boarding our charter! #Greenland #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Raphael is ready to go! #Greenland #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
July 29: King Kong gets ready to board the plane to Kangerlussuaq! photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Kevin Huo Foster City, California, USA July 29th a great day overall. After arriving at the end of the day, I felt quite lost and confused. Truthfully, I was feeling quite homesick, but today I am feeling revitalized and feel I am finally present in Ottawa! Today was spectacular. From flying in the sky on the zip-line to visiting the heart of Canada in Ottawa’s Parliament Hill. The buildings are, if not just as great, but well-designed architectually like the ones in Washington D.C. Being a person who is fearful of heights, but a bird-enthusiast. Ironically, the obstacle course at Camp Fortune was quite wonderful! From flying through the air like a hawk finding it’s prey to swinging from branch to branch 500 feet or so above in the sky. The forest that we were located in was wonderful, though it was quite hot and the comfort of a small water box quenched everyone’s thirst. Honestly, if you’re ever fearful of anything, don’t be afraid and just give it a try. I would say “Just do it!”. Parliament Hill has many parts and Ottawa itself is a wonderful place to spend an hour or so! From viewing the Parliament building to seeing the area including the Market, the waterway, and the canals. Canada, I can only say one thing, Phenomenal! Tomorrow we leave to go to Greenland to see the ice and to see the people. To meet new friends. To meet our fears. To face our challenges. See you cold weather, ice, and everything else in a little bit! -Kevin
July 29: First glimpse of Kangerlussuaq from the plane! photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
July 29: Enjoying nature, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
July 29: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
July 29: The Sondrestrom Fjord, photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
July 29: Alishah enjoying the first day on the ship! photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Two days after arriving in Ottawa, coming to HQ, meeting everyone and doing a number of activities, we’re finally embarking on our trip! There’s an excited but also a nervous atmosphere in the air as we prepare to board our 7:00 A.M flight to Greenland tomorrow. There, we will tour the area before embarking our vessel, the MV Ocean Endeavor. Even though it’s currently night, HQ is as alive as ever, as we prepare and wait for the 5:00 A.M wake up call that’ll mark the second, but greatest part of our journey.
Today we woke up (in our Carlton University dorm room), ate breakfast and went to a university building, where we gathered together to meet all the diverse staff that’ll be journeying with us and teaching us. It was also a great chance to meet some new people: like friends we might not have met in the previous nights’ connection circle. After that, the different groups boarded different buses that all headed to amazing places. My group went to a aerial park in Quebec, where we went ziplining and tree climbing. Following that, we went to Parliament Hill, the heart of Canada, where we did a scavenger hunt.
To conclude our day we returned to the university where we ate dinner and returned to the lecture hall where we had our final Ottawa briefing that introduced our ship and informed us about our future plans. Overall, it’s been a great time here in Canada’s capital! I have to go now, big days ahead of us, but thanks for reading my blog post. I can’t wait to tell you more!
July 29: Hoisting the qajaqs onto the ship, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
July 29: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Sophia Winkler Carrboro, North Carolina, USA After much traveling, the team is finally on our floating home and classroom for the next two weeks! We began our expedition in Ottawa, where members of the team came together at Carleton University. Each leg of this journey will be making and subsequently breaking the record for the furthest North I’ve ever been, even just spending a couple of days in Canada’s capital city was new enough to me. We spent time at the Canadian Museum of Nature, a magnificent old building with a rich history, as well as visiting the Canadian Parliament and going ziplining. All of these activities gave us some background information we’ll find useful on the trip (okay, ziplining was just crazy fun) but most importantly, they brought the team together. Yesterday began with a very early wakeup. We left Ottawa on charter planes just for our program at about 7am, the group teeming with excitement to finally head to Greenland. We made a quick stop in Iqaluit, which I learned is the capital of Nunavut, a Canadian territory in the North. The town is situated at the Southern tip of Baffin Island, an island we’ll later be going above when we cross the NorthwestPassage. As an American who has never been further North than Boston, I was kind of lost when it came to Canadian and Greenlandic geography. Some friends I made from Malaysia and I spent the flight studying the towns we were going through and attempting to pronounce them. Going over Northern Quebec, we hit a series of exciting milestones: our first iceberg turned into floating puzzles of ice sheets, and suddenly we hit the lacy coast of Greenland. Water and land pushed against each other as far as I could see, and between wide sloping mountains were slices of ice. The landscape transformed so quickly as we went slightly inland and near the Greenland ice cap. Glacial runoff turned streams below an odd opaque turquoise color, and we knew we were close. Finally, our planes landed in Kangerlussuaq (which actually can, believe it or not, roll off the tongue if you say it enough times) and we were transferred this time to buses after passing through Greenlandic customs, which consisted of a table on the runaway with a police officer stamping passports. The airport we landed in used to be a US Air Force base for refueling jets, but was sold to sold to Greenland for a whopping $1USD. Our buses drove us up through the hills towards the Greenland ice cap, the first of a long list of superlatives on this trip: Greenland is the largest island in the world. Sondrestrom Fjord, which is where we met our ship and began our trip, is one of the longest fjords in the world. The Greenland Ice Cap is the second largest ice cap in the world, after Antarctica’s. 8% of the world’s ice is on the Greenland Ice Cap. The Arctic is such an extreme environment that it’s used to prepare astronauts to go to Mars! Even the staff on this expedition are record-breakers. We’re on board among the #1 band out of Greenland, some of the world’s best dogsledders, the incredible man who completed the world’s longest unsupported dogsled journey, and we are making our way through fjords surrounded by some of the oldest rocks in the world. We drove near the ice cap and walked around on a hill covered in the first Arctic plants and animals we would see. Surrounded by sparkling lakes, we swarmed over spongy, moss-covered hills dotted with wildflowers. After some stretching, our buses took us to our new home: The Ocean Endeavor. The massive ship floated quietly out on the water. As there was no dock, we took small blowup boats called Zodiacs out to the ship to board. We were met by the friendly crew and slowly the calm ship started teeming with energy as we settled into our new home. With that, we settled in, heard some presentations and performances, had a delicious dinner (I have yet to understand how ship food, showers, and beds can be so satisfying), and got to bed late. As we are above the Arctic circle and only a little over a month past the summer solstice, the sun stays up for most of the day. At midnight, the sun fell behind the mountains, but its light was still present in the “evening” sky. Overall, I believe it dipped below the horizon for only a couple of hours on our first night, during which it was only dim, never dark. I’m amazed by the fact that simple things that I consider universal, like the sun rising and setting every night, are not. It makes me wonder how else my perspective will change during this expedition. Thank you to everyone who has supported our team so far in the first day of our expedition! -Sophia
It was so much fun to fly to Greenland today! I got to sit in the main cabin. It was luxurious!
Here I am looking out the window with Pascal (Fig 1)
It was amazing to watch the ancient rocks and blue waters of Greenland go by right under my nose! (Fig.2)