We’ve had our first Polar Bear sighting! A swimming bear among the ice flows in the quiet waters at the entrance to Milne Inlet Off northern Baffin Island. It was basically just as we planned and hoped for last night when we sailed this way.
While most of us could only see the bear in the water SOI videographer Sira Chayer and a zodiac driver Trevor Taylor, were able to approach from another angle and Sira was able to get remarkable pictures of the bear, coming out of the water and crossing an ice pan before disappearing again.
Just hours before, a student and one of Canada’s most distinguished Arctic scientists each provided the context for the sighting and the importance of the polar bear to the north and its people.
Fred Roots, our 93 year old Dean of Educators, who never ceases to amaze both students and everyone else with his depth of knowledge and experience, reminded all of us that in spite of all the research and experience people have had with polar bears over the years, we still know very little about them.
Unfortunately, he said “mostly the polar bear is viewed through binoculars or through the sights of a rifle”.
Fred went on to say that we don’t yet have a firm understanding of their social structure, their sounds or whether they possess the ability to communicate with other bears, or most of their other habits.
In Fred’s experience working in arctic locations, bears appear to observe humans as much as humans have been able to observe the bears. It’s the nomadic nature of the Polar Bear that make it difficult to study and understand. “We know they are highly intelligent maternal animals and a cub will spend at least two years with its mother.”
SOI student, nineteen year old Lindsay Evaloaluk offered her observations on polar bears. She said to full group at a briefing session “I bet you asking what a nineteen year-old little girl would know about Polar Bears.”
In fact she knows quite a bit, and demonstrated that the way to tell the difference between males and female bears is to watch how they position their front paws when walking. A female bear she said will turn its toes more inward than a male animal when it walks. Lindsay said she often viewed bears at the dump in Qikiqtarjuaq where the animals scrounge for food. Two years ago, while hunting with her father Lindsay shot a large 10 foot bear.
Lindsey also likes to hunt Narwhales and we had hoped to see some narwhales during today zodiac observation run. In addition to the polar bear, we did see several seals and interesting array of sea birds including long tailed and Pomarine Jaegers, Red Phalarope, and Arctic Turns.
After lunch we began retracing our steps back towards Pond Inlet and Sirmilik National Park.
This afternoon we toured the community of Pond Inlet with 1,500 people that are adjacent to the National Park.
On the sandy beach in front of the community, we divided into three groups, each taking a turn touring the community, enjoying cultural performance at the community hall with throat singing, Inuit drum Dances and traditional Inuit games, including the high kick, or participating in beach cleanup campaign.
The cleanup is sponsored by the Toronto Dominion Bank and the Vancouver Aquarium and is a National program. In Pond Inlet, Parks Canada agreed to coordinate the effort with SOI participation. It involved picking up and recording the amount and types of garbage collected everything from the number of plastic bottles, chip bags, paper and litter. In all, several large plastic bags of garbage was picked up.
Tonight, about 30 residents of the community and parks Canada people joined us for dinner on the ship.
Having the community on board and our visit to the community was just like a homecoming. We have had so many students from Pond Inlet on SOI over the years, and today brought back so many good memories.
One of the parks senior officers, Carey Elverum told our nightly briefing session that he had spent more than twenty years working in Banff National Park which is the busiest park in Canada and never in his experience did he see visitors express such satisfaction and interest as the SOI students did today.
Tomorrow, elders from Pond Inlet will do traditional workshops on Bylot Island at ancient Inuit sites, an historic Thule culture site as well as a centuries old whaling station. It promises to be another first for SOI.
In the expedition spirit,
Raslan Abdul Rahman
Salut! Mama and Daddy, I am absolutely fine. I just did not blog yesterday because we were on the ship for the whole day. Filling my post with a detailed description of each every presentation I listened to for the whole day doesn’t seem condusive to actually keeping my blog interesting. Oh, and I threw a bottle into the sea with a message to come have dinner. Anyway, we are back in Canada for the next chapter of the expedition. Due to this, there were customs officers on board. It was pretty admirable looking at them go through every single passport and declaration card of the passengers on board. Three cheers for customs officers! Afterward, there was a short presentation on Parks Canada from Don Marrin. He explained the various responsibilites of the organization. The National Parks of Canada exist to help preserve the wildlife of Canada while keeping it recreational and fun. Being able to explore the environment is a chance that should be appreciated. Wildlife, as we know it, is forever changing. To know that someone is trying their best to ensure the future of the ecosystem is fantastic. Amazingly, it is quite similar to National Parks back home in Malaysia; serve the environment and make it fun. Then, we had another Arctic Hour: the conservation of the environment. Mike Wong, a Parks Canada worker, gave an excellent lecture on the steps that must be taken to ensure the future of the fragile Arctic ecosystem. Basically, we have to protect, connect and restore the environment. Ensuring that the parks are a good refuge for the wildlife and protect them is the first initiative. Then, communities and stakeholders must engage with the environment to connect fragmented habitats. Finally, ecological integrity must be re-established by taking out any invasive species in an attempt to restore the native species. Overall, any impacts that accelerate carbon release must be reduced and encourage processes that sequester them. Eventually, we arrived at Sirmilik National Park. Upon arriving, we were given several choices to go for at the park: a medium-strenuous hike, a strenuous hike and a selection of workshops. Personally, I went for the easier hike. We headed out over a rocky beach to see a glacier. Funnily enough, the “medium-strenuous hike” did not feel just “medium-strenuous”. Wearing rubber boots, my feet were sore as the rocks stabbed into my feet with every step. Although my feet were in pain, I had a huge smile on my face as we arrived at the glacier. Eric taught us about the geology of the area. Interestingly enough, the rocks that sent jolts of pain up my leg were all slightly varied. These rocks are all different depending on how they were distributed. If it merely tumbled down the surface of the glacier, the rock is not affected in the slightest. However, rocks that end up inside a glacier and are transported through the glacial movement are slightly smoothened out. Most of all, rocks that were on the bottom of the glacier are rounded and white because of the grinding against the bedrock. Even things as simple as rocks can have colourful histories. Finally, we ended Day 5 and returned to the ship. As tiring as the hike was, it was a great experience. For Day 6, we will be proceeding onward to Pond Inlet. I just cannot wait.
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada
Hello! Today has been an AMAZING day! Like crazy amazing. We had some zodiac cruising this morning and we got to see a polar bear!!!!!! It was awesome because it was a first polar bear for so many people and it was awesome just seeing their reactions.
This afternoon we had workshops ,and I took botany. I think I would love to be a botanist when I grow up. I love learning about plants. After the workshops we had our briefing about going to Pond Inlet and I was very excited because I was going to reunite with my best friend!!!!!!
When we had our landing to Pond Inlet I was very anxious to reunite with her, right after I checked in I ran into her and we just ran to each other and hugged <3 We both had happy tears because we finally reunited after 6 months and it was just an amazing feeling being with her again. She has been my best friend since grade 6, even though she moved into Pond Inlet we still have been connected and we have always been close. It was the highlight of my day. After we reunited we went to the Sirmilik National Park office and had our group photos and we made a triangle. (It was funny because I was on top and I was kinda heavy so I couldn't stop laughing) we had our shoreline cleanup after, and then we went to the visitor centre which was pretty cool. I just had an amazing time with my best friend, the visit was more then learning new things it was also connecting with the community members. Our group went to the community centre and there was a cultural shop, it was amazing because the performers did really great! I could tell they have a passion for their culture which was good to see. I got to hold and ammaq my best friends baby in her amauti which is a baby hood and he fell asleep. I loved it! I got to reunite with my good friends too which was unexpected. Over all I just had an amazing day in Pond Inlet and I am glad we went there because my best friend Lynn encouraged me to finish this and just have fun to the fullest because home will always be there and this is a once in a life time opportunity. I am very grateful for the staff for making this trip amazing and for making me feel like I am home. I love you all and thanks very much. Goodnight everyone. - Myca
A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
I saw a polar bear today. I saw a polar bear today. I SAW A POLAR BEAR TODAY! This is insane. Polar bears before noon. It’s pretty amazing up here. Not many Vancouverites could say they saw a polar bear before noon today.
We arrived in Pond Inlet yesterday, where we’re going to spend the next couple of days. The town of Pond Inlet is situated across the water from Sirmilik National Park, where we explored yesterday and will be exploring today as well. We cruised in yesterday morning, and as we did, the fog burnt off and gave way to the jagged mountains rising out of the sea. Bylot Island, the island where Sirmilik is, consists of huge barren mountains which give way to glaciers snaking their way to the shore. We hiked up a mountain next to the glacier yesterday evening. It was about a 45 degree angle, 30 degrees in some spots, and you had to be careful of not dislodging a rock the size of a basketball and have it go slipping down the mountain, hitting another hiker or causing a rock fall. We landed on shore in at the foot of a terminal moraine of a glacier. The diagrams in class just do NOT do it justice. The scale of the glacier is just unbelievable. I’d always pictured moraines to be just waist-height little lumps of dirt that you could easily pop over. Uh, no, I was wrong. The moraines were immense 4- to 5-storey piles of boulders, it was just unbelievable. From the top of the mountain the glacier looked spectacular, like it was solid but liquid at the same time, the way it flowed over the earth.
Hiking has to be my absolute favourite thing to do here. The landscape is just amazing and it’s unbelievably beautiful when you immerse yourself in it. I would have been totally fine to just hike my way up the coast of Greenland. I’ll get around to that sometime in the future.
My notebook has replaced my cell phone. I feel naked if I walk around the ship or go ashore without my journal. There’s an ‘unplugged’ rule on the ship, but all that’s done is plug me right into my journal.
Time is funny in the Arctic. It moves slowly but then all at once. One minute I’m in Sisimiut, Greenland, then I blink and I’m in Pond Inlet. The days blend into each other, filled with icebergs and adventure and laughter and conversations. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and be on the plane back to Vancouver, even though that’s six days away.
We’re currently cruising down Milne Inlet (yes that’s it actual name, John, but I doubt it’s named after you) towards Pond Inlet where we’ll spend some time in the community this evening. Apparently there will be lots of food. Narwhal, seal, caribou are all possibilities.
The atmosphere on the ship is just so great. Everyone is talking, laughing, drawing, writing, playing the piano, singing, playing guitar, reading, playing Inuit games. Some even taking naps in a back corner booth of the main Hub area. Everyone gets along onboard, which is pretty lucky since we’re all stuck here together for two weeks.
Only five days left on the boat and six days left of the whole trip. Time will fly by.
New Jersey, USA
Dear Friends and Family Reading this and Following my Adventure: Our days on the Arctic have been more than a dream. I have done so many things that I would have never imagined. The first day I did a very strenuous rope course and zip-line. The instructors asked our group if any of us were experienced and wanted a challenge. Having zip-lined once in Costa Rica, I raised my hand and joined the “experienced”, and “advanced” people. We arrived at the course and my mouth dropped. The course looked insanely hard and difficult. I watched as 8 experienced, or so they said, people struggled with the first part of the course. The rest of the course wound through the forest of trees and was not visible from were I was standing. I knew they were hiding the rest of the course because it only got worse from here. It was finally my turn. I was already sweating because it was about 86 degrees Farenheit and I only prepared my clothing for cold weather, so I wore long pants and a t-shirt. My hands were sweating and I wobbled my way up the rope and wood ladder to the beginning of the course. I held on to every rope and ladder for dear life. The entire course took me about an hour and half. I finished the course with one terrible blister on my right middle finger, sweat marks all over my shirt, and beads of sweat running down my face. Although I was not looking too fine, I felt amazing. I felt so accomplished and proud of myself for completing this course and now am ready to conquer any rope course and can confidently call myself an advanced, experienced zip-liner and rope course-er. I have met amazing people on this trip. I hope some of the friendships I have made last a lifetime. We spent two full days in Ottawa, Canda before we departed to Greenland. I have been residing in a ship called the Ocean Endeavour ever since. Every day is full of new adventures and meeting people. I still cannot remember the over 200 names on this ship but I am getting there. Greenland has been more than welcoming. I have seen whales, seals, massive icebergs, hiked miles to see an ice fjord and have eaten seal and dried fish skin. This trip has been so much fun and I never want to leave. I am so thankful every day for the opportunity to be on this adventure. I have to give a huge shout out to Phil who gave me this trip. THANK YOU PHIL!!! Miss you fam and cannot wait to see you! I probably will not write another blog so do not expect to hear from me until I arrive in Boston.
August 4: Tongue of the Altineaq Glacier, photo (c) Martin Lipman #AerialPhotography #Nunavut #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
So we are back in Canadian waters now! We have been really busy for the past couple of days doing awesome stuff! We had so many informative workshops by so many knowledgeable people. They had so much to share and all their stories were so inspiring. We had a full day on the ship two days ago which was nice. Then yesterday we went to Sirmilik National Park, my first visit to a northern park. It was so beautiful. I did the moderate hike to the glacier and got to see the glacier which was pretty neat. The hike itself was awesome! Interestingly, the weather is getting cooler as we enter Canada. I am having so many amazing experiences that it is hard to put them in words. We are already past a week into the expedition and I don’t want to go back. The sea has been so calm for the past week but today we actually felt the ship moving due to our encounter with some sea ice. This was a great opportunity to do a zodiac cruise. So we got on the zodiacs and went on a cruise to explore the sea ice and look for some polar bears. There was no luck at first and I was getting kind of disappointed but then suddenly our zodiac driver got a radio message that another zodiac has spotted a polar bear. So we hurried to the site and saw a polar bear swimming in the ocean. It was the best thing I have seen so far! It was so exciting but I dont think the polar bear was as excited to see us. And that is what I have been upto so far. Everyday just keeps getting better and better with so many new and exciting activities. But I have to go to lunch now!
Fun Fact of the Day: Only 10% of the Earth’s ocean has been explored and we are going to mars. I think we should focus on Earth a little bit more.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
This morning I woke up to an unusual rumbling, scraping noise, which is the sound made when the ship goes over sea ice. It was not the most pleasant noise but once we were up and moving we didn’t notice it much. After breakfast we got ready for our zodiac cruise, it was cold and windy so I put on lots of layers. We set out on the lookout for yellowish furry things, or polar bears as they are more commonly known. It took a lot of looking but eventually we saw one. It was just a small white head floating above the water but as we got closer we could see it better. I was fortunate enough to be on the boat that first spotted it so we were able to watch it for a while before other boats showed up. The best part was that we got to watch it climb up onto some sea ice and run away from us. IT WAS SO COOL!
That afternoon we went to the town of Pond Inlet where we were given a great tour of the town. We stopped at the library for a presentation on water testing and read about some cultural traditions. We also went to an amazing cultural performance put on by some people in the town. We got to watch throat singing, Inuit games, drum dancing and much more. It was a pretty great day.
St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
I woke up at 4 a.m. today and thought the world was ending. It’s okay, though – turned out the ship was not jolting due to some external force of fate but as a result of navigating through sea ice. Even though it was too early for the majority of humans to be awake yet, the sun was already awake and extending its light over the water outside. After spending an hour watching the sea of floating ice passing by the window, I went back to my cabin and slept, awaiting the voice of Geoff over the speaker.
Our series of encounters with sea ice thus began this morning as we sailed through Milne Inlet. For this group of eager students, sea ice means one thing (or multiple things, but essentially one thing): polar bears. By mid-morning, we had piled onto Zodiacs and set off for a wildlife search. I thought of the story I used to read as a young child – “we’re going on a bear hunt, gonna catch a big one!”
Nevada City, California, USA
I haven’t written in a while because we’ve been so busy.
Yesterday we made it to Pond Inlet in Nunavut, Canada. Across the bay from Pond Inlet is Sirmilik National Park. We went their late in the afternoon and spilt up into three groups; one went up a huge mountain, one went to the ”toe” of a glacier, and the last stayed on the beach doing the workshops. I stayed on the beach because I really didnt want to hike because my shoes are bad and give me blisters. I oil painted with my friend, but our hands got so cold and like froze so we had to stop. Some people went in the kayaks and fell out and were super cold. Im really glad i didnt go on the super hard hike because I heard it was really tiring- and the last thing I need to be is tired.
And at the glacier hike, they didn’t even get to touch the glacier.
Today we went out in the morning in the Zodiacs (the small boats that we travel from land to shore in). It was a little bit cold even though I was wearing 5 layers. We went up to a couple big glaciers, one was covered in dirt but it actually looked really cool and pretty. And just as we were going back to the ship, WE SAW A POLAR BEAR!!!!!! It went really close to one boat but in my boat we got to see it from a distance. I got a picture of its head just sticking out of the water, but its kinda blurry.
After we had lunch we did some workshops and I had time to finish one out of my two paintings. Then we went back on the zodiacs and went to the town. We helped clean up trash on the beach, and then we took a tour around town, and finally we ended with an amazing cultural performance in the school. Tonight, 20 natives of Pond Inlet joined our ship for the next 24 hours. Most were town elders and alumni of SOI.
Tomorrow I think were having a day on the ship and having a lot of workshops with the elders!
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Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
“Maybe far away, or maybe real near by. I’ll be having fun with new family… maybe.” – Annie SOI version.
I never thought so many amazing people could all come together to share a lot about themselves and do all sorts of things together like family and I cannot believe we’ve gone through a week already. I’ve never been away from home this long before but because of the people who are here with me, everything will be okay. I am very glad and thankful to be here.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Hello! Last night around 4am, I woke up to a rumbling sound and the ship rocking in an unusual manner. I stayed half awake until 7am, when I woke up. What I was hearing was the ship going through sea ice. Sea ice is softer than icebergs (which are fresh water), and so it’s okay to travel through, as long as it’s not too old. I realized that I haven’t been describing my meals, so for breakfast this morning, I had oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, grapefruit and melon, and a croissant. After breakfast, I played some cards with others. It was relaxing.
Then, we all got ready for our Zodiac cruise. We bundled up, since it always feels colder on the Zodiac, and went down to the mud room in our pods (groups). We travelled among the ice floats. It was very nice feeling the cold breeze. We were on the lookout for polar bears. This was a prime spot for them to be hanging out. We spotted some seals, which was a good sign since polar bears prey on them. After looking through the binoculars, trying to spy the yellowish colour amongst all the white, we saw one. Its head peeked above the water. It was quite large for a head. We didn’t get too close, but we were able to snap some photos. Too bad it didn’t go onto the ice so we could see its whole body.
We are now back on the ship with a little down time before lunch. After lunch, we did some workshops. I did a meditation workshop, which took place on the top deck. After that, we visited Pond Inlet! We picked up garbage from the coast along with many community members and Parks Canada people. It was a very grey afternoon. Afterwards, we went on a walk through town, and to the library, where there was a little exhibit on Pond Inlet history. We also went to the supermarket. The prices were shocking. One box of cereal was $15. We saw a very entertaining showing of traditional Inuit games. There were some masters who were very impressive with their kicks. Babies were strapped to mothers’ backs in a reverse-kangeroo type carrier. There was a little pouch on the backs of the mothers’ coats.
I will see you very soon, Mom, Dad, Ben, and Farley.
Fun fact: Polar bears have an eyelid going across the eye, which acts as sunglasses! This way, polar bears can see well when it is dark in the winter, and bright in the summer.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
To those that have been following “my blog”….my apologies. For the last couple of days, the schedule has been super tight. Although we had a ‘sea day’ as we travelled from Greenland to the northern Canadian Arctic, there were quite a bit of miscellanous things to do. I have, however, been keeping track of food for thoughts and interesting facts on my cellular device. The no service label still remains on the top left hand corner of my phone despite the fact that we’ve been in the Canadian water for the last two days. An update, to those that are probably worried about my swollen foot, the antihistamine didn’t have much of an effect, but time does cure the itchy-ness and the swelling. I don’t have to apply on oilment as often! After trying on a few different types of oilment, I must admit, tiger balms are the best. Greenland. It was a beautiful place to be. We had 4 landings in total in Greenland. The first was by a hilly moss covered unexploited area. And the other three were in established small towns: Sisimiut, Ilussait and Uummannaq. Nanok, a staff from Greenland, made beautiful flower crowns from daisies that bloomed in many hill sides near a church in Uummannaq. I’ve been so immersed in the activities, the hikes and just trying to soak everything in with all my senses, I didn’t have time to go into an souvenir shops in Greenland. It was a sunday when we were in Uummannaq. Most shops are closed since its caribou hunting season. When we first got to the dock from a zodiac landing, the locals greeted us in traditional Greenlandic clothing along side an American man dressed in a black sweater on top of a collared shirt. It was later, when we found out that he is from Los Angeles and is a movie producer for films. He came to greenland four years ago and fell in love with the town, the people and the kids. After a nice hour or two of museum visiting and performance at the church, we had the option of either going on a hike to Santa Claus’ home or to stay at the school in which we were inteded to visit. Since the last two landings invovled hiking, I decided to immerse more in the Greenlandic culture by staying at the school. I’m glad I made this decision, because I had the chance to taste seal blubber for the first time. It was hard to chew on, so I didn’t actually swallow any. The principal of the school was so welcoming. And the performances for absolutely amazing. The performers were dressed in Greenlandic clothing and all of them are from an orphanage just up the hill from the school. I would love to come back to Uummannaq one day. Gotta go to lunch now. Will continue to ramble hopefully soon. Miss everyone from home.
Goliah Makletzoff Cazon
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
Our Greenland adventure has come to an epic ending in the beautiful town of Uummannaq. Our ship is now sailing through Canada! This part of the journey has been amazing, to be able to experience the climate and the culture first hand is such an empowering feeling. Sisimut was our first stop once aboard the ship. The city itself is a site to see, all of the colourful houses built up along the side of the ancient rock. We walked through the town to a historic site to see the old tuma houses and gravesites. Along the way we had the chance to eat the wild plants from that area. We sailed all night to Ilullisat. While in Ilullisat we hiked to an UNESCO site, which is where a huge fiord of ice is located. It was an unreal feeling to be sweating from the heat and eating berries on the rocks yet looking over a huge feild of ice. This expedition has been an endless learning experience and adventure. As we approached the harbour of Uummannaq in zodiacs, we could see children dressed in colorful clothing and fur, waving the red and white Greenlandic flag. We were greeted with kindness and warmth, told that we were not tourists here, we are guests. As we walked through town you could feel that energy, the excitement and kindness. Locals set up table to sell handmade arts and crafts and as we walked through the town I felt comfortable, at home. Usually when I travel I get the sense of being a burden or not feeling welcome, out of place. But when I walked through Uummannaq I got the sense of home, the warm feeling you get when you walk through the doors of your house after a long trip. Later that day, some of the youth from the orphanage put on a performance for us, of singing in their traditional language, dancing while wearing their traditional clothing. The performance was beautiful, they wore huge smiles throughout, they were so happy to be telling us some of their story. In return some of our students went on stage and performed traditional songs from their homelands. I had my first paddle boarding experience on the ocean with glaciers! Totally rad. Standing on a paddle board next to a glacier on Artic waters and looking at the colourful houses in the harbour was an indescribable sensation. The ship is awesome! Bonus, I have an sweet cabin mate from Rwanda. It’s amazing to wake up every morning, walk out onto the deck and see icebergs and rounded rock mounds covered in moss. To be able to know about why one rock is different in shape then the other and how a glacier moves over the rock, forming fiords. Being able to share with each other our passions and have in-depth conversations about issues that are affecting our world, share ideas and opinions and gain a better understanding of the world we live in is absolutely what I am experiencing and loving about this expedition. We are now in Canada, and had our first day on Bylot island – Sirmilik National Park. We hiked to the top of what we called “Triangle Mountain” which was a steep mountain covered in loose rock. The view from the top was absolutely worth the work it took to get up. We “made it to the top.” Today we are in Milne Inlet to explore the ice flow to search for polar bears and narwals. This has been my only blog so far, I have been so busy indulging in conversations with so many people I haven’t had the chance to sit down and just write. P.S. this took me three days to put together.
August 4: Pattern Ground and Arctic Ponds in Sirmilik National Park on Bylot Island, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 #Nunavut #AerialPhotography A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Good morning my southern friends! I didn’t see any polar bears yestereday, which is a relief and a dissapointment at the same time, but I certainly did some exciting things! I went hiking up a mountain with a group of students and staff (and polar bear lookout guards) in Sirmalik National Park. That was a pretty crazy experience! Today we are welcoming nine Inuit Elders onto our ship! How amazing is that? It is such an honour and I’m so excited to meet this people and listen to their stories.
I don’t know how many people read this blog, I think it’s probably just my family, but I would like to say hello from the north to my friends: Hello to you, Mackenzey, Lara, Kate, Charlotte, Alex, Tomas, and everyone else! I love you all!
I’ll update later! Bye for now!
A couple hours ago, Geoff announced that we would be dropping anchor and taking zodiac tours around the ice, looking for cool places and trying to spot some animals. I got into a zodiac and we sped off, stopping every once in a while to check out the scenery and to point out birds and seals; it was all very nice stuff. Our guide’s walkie-talkie wasn’t working, but it wasn’t a big deal because we could see the other groups and they could see us. After about an hour or cruising along, we were about to head back when we noticed the other zodiacs speeding away from the ship. On a whim, we followed one zodiac, curious as to what was going on. It turned out that one of the zodiacs had found, and been following, a polar bear! We looked around and, sure enough, there it was! It was swimming along, so you could only see the head bobbing up and down, but it was deffinitely a polar bear. Through binoculars, you could very clearly see the facial features and even the bear opening it’s mouth! I didn’t get great pictures, because our zodiacs had to keep at a safe distance, but I did get one picture in which you can zoom in and make out the eyes, the snout, and the ears! So there you go Meg, your brother has now seen a polar bear! They blend in to the ice almost perfectly, the only difference is that they are slightly more yellow than white, so if you pay close enough attention, you should be able to spot them.
Wow! What a way to start the day! Bye again, have a great Tuesday!
Noah Picard Simon
Pessamit, Quebec, Canada
This trip is amazing!!!!! I can’t believe I was actually in Greenland! The last 6 days were just awesome!
I’ll start with July 29, the day we got on the plane to Kangerlussuaq, and coincidently, the day of my birthday…. I had plenty of people saying happy birthday to me at three very different locations: At Ottawa, at Iqaluit, and at Kangerlussuaq (Greenland).
I was also suprised when more than 200 persons sang happy birthday to me, one time on the plane during a refuelling stop at Iqaluit, another time at the restaurant (on the boat) during dinner, and a last time at the “Hub” (our meeting place on the boat).
Our boat, the Ocean Endeavour, is one the most comfortable ships I have ever got into, you sleep so well, and you eat really well in the restaurant, with waiter service during dinner time, and a self service “Buffet” at breakfast and lunch time… With all of this, it’s hard to say we are explorers, and not tourists…
There’s a lot more I can say about this trip, but there’s not much time to write blogs, the day is so full of interesting activities you can do… I’ll try to write something else later…
Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada
I just saw a polar bear. Yes, that’s right. A polar bear alive and well in the flesh and I have never felt more excited about seeing wildlife in my life. I got a video and many pictures of the polar bear when he/she was on land and in the water. We rounded the corner, and our zodiac driver noticed the bear first. He only told us when we began to get really close to the bear. He claims the only reason we saw the bear was due to his skilled and professional polar bear calling which consisted of him saying “Heeeeeeeeere polar bear polar bear polar bear.” He told us that it takes many years to perfect the call, and it must have worked because that’s when we saw the polar bear. That is definitely one of my highlights so far on this trip.
Yesterday, we officially were welcomed back into Canada. We dropped anchor at Pond Inlet to get through customs, and pick up some Parks Canada staff. I have to admit, I kind of missed seeing the signature grey pants and green shirts almost everyday. We got a polar bear breifing and headed towards Sirmilik park, another one of Canada’s national parks. Not very many people at all get the priveledge of being able to enter this park and I felt extremely lucky.
At Sirmilik National Park, we were given three options. Climb up a mountian, do a long hike but less strenous, or stay at the beach and do workshops. I chose to climb the mountain. I can now officially say that I’ve climbed up a mountain. At the top, the view was spectacular and breath-taking. Part of the ice sheet was visible, more mountains, the sea, and the sun was just beginning to lower into the horizon. I got pictures of Whoopi at the top of the hill, and many other places. He’s enjoying himself.
After lunch today, we are going to be heading back to Pond Inlet and docking. From there, the community has some sort of a thing planned for our arrival. Anyways, it is lunch time, and I am starving.
Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec, Canada
I had another day of adventure yesterday and today, and this day isn’t even over yet. We will be going into the town of Pond Inlet this afternoon. We went to Sirmilik National Park yesterday, and it was so beautiful. The mountains there were just breathtaking. We did many activities in the park. Some people went climbing up the mountain, others painted, a few went to the glacier nearby. I actually did three workshops – the narwhal eating, a bit of sewing and kayaking. The kayaking was the highlight of my day. It was my first time doing it, I was proud of myself because I didn’t flip over. This morning, I went to a workshop at 7 a.m. about Inuit culture. My friend Ashley from Iqaluit did it and I was really proud of her. She wore an amautik, she painted her face to show them what traditional tatoos look like and she also wore beads on her forehead. After that we went exploring by zodiac and saw a polar bear and that was pretty cool! We followed it around and took some pictures of it, but kept our distance. I’ve been having so much fun and have been learning so many new things here!! I’m so glad I applied for this.
August 4: Supra Glacial Stream in Sirmilik National Park on Bylot Island, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 #Nunavut #AerialPhotography A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
It has been a-great- 6 days on the ship. I should’ve written a blog sooner. Now, I have so many things bottled up in my mind, like a volcano ready to erupt. Every moment were spectacular and well-carved in my mind. The past days had been so life challenging. I’ve been trying so many new things. I’ve always been the girl who stays in her comfort zone, so terrified to try new things. But now, the expedition has changed me entirely. I’m becoming more open to new things. I can’t actually believe I joined the hike towards the santa claus’ house. It took me an hour and a half to actually arrived at the santa’s house. As the phrase goes “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” this applies greatly to my “santa” hike. The house was just actually a small green house. There’s no lights or electricity. But the route that we took to go there was picturesque. You could never find this view elsewhere. I found myself sitting on a rock at the edge of a cliff just looking down to the sea of icebergs. Maybe, for anyone else, it’s probably nothing. But for me, that moment is perfect. Coming from Malaysia, it’s very rare or probably you never see ice/snow once in your life. Here, it’s all about the ice. It is A BIG DEAL for Malaysians to actually witness all these icebergs in front of our eyes.
During this expedition, I have seen around 3 whales including the humpback and fin whale. Then, another highlight during the expedition is definitely when we made our first landing in Ittileq Fjord. At that moment, my body was still adjusting to the coldness, everybody else were wearing only 2 or 3 layers of clothes, but I needed 5 layers of clothes. Of course for some moments, I had these thoughts in the back of my mind “Can I actually survive this coldness?” “Am I going to freeze to death?” Gladly, these thoughts are completely false. There are just so many things that I want to write. and last but not least, I actually celebrated my birthday on ship.
YEAY. It was a full sea-day. There is nothing better than spending your birthday on the ship in the Arctic. I wasn’t a huge fan of celebrating my birthdays. Then, there was this really cool surprise that the SOI staff did. They prepared a cake and made everyone sang Happy Birthday in Malay language. I swear, I would never forget this for the rest of my life. I felt so touched. I’m super grateful that these people are so concerned about our students well-being and I’m just loving the way they spread the positive vibe while gaining so many education at the same time.
Another thing which made me so proud of myself is I’ve become more friendly. I’ve always have difficulties to communicate with strangers and making new friends. I guess I’m just scared of others impression about me. Now, I’ve made so many friends from all over the world.
Our first hike in Ilulissat was amazing. The ice fjord was spectacular. My 2nd hike was the one to the santa’s house and my 3rd one was quite great too. Yesterday, we went for our glacier hike at Sirmilik National Park. It took us around an hour and 15 mins to arrive. But, we couldn’t get closer to the glacier as it is quite dangerous. It was once-in-a-life time oppoturnity for me to see a glacier up close.
I’ve been in different kinds of workshops since I got here, the kayak one, the digital story telling and so on. The digital story telling workshop has helped me a lot in finding a way of telling a story in a creative way. I’m super grateful that I’m learning so many new things that I couldn’t get anywhere else. Yes, you could read all the facts in a text book or google them up. But it will never be the same as the live experience.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
When we clambered out of the zodiacs at Itilleq, onto a landscape littered with granite boulders and spongy tussocks of Arctic lichens, mosses and flowers, it didn’t occur to me that I was surrounded by food. But after joining a botany workshop led by Paul Sokoloff, from the Canadian Museum of Nature I soon discovered that we were walking through an Arctic larder.
First up was the Arctic Blueberry, the Greenlandic name is Kimminaq.
It didn’t look much like a blueberry and it was pink not blue. However it was sweet and delicious.
Next we sampled some Mountain Sorrel, which despite its small size packed a punch and tasted exactly like salad sorrel, but I discovered was not related. Paul explained that the English common terms could be really confusing and patiently took us through the basics of plant identification.
After learning the basics we spread out, foraging across the edible meadow. We laid our collections on the rocks and learnt about many of the uses of the plants and lichens from our Inuit and Greenlandic shipmates. We had collected chickweed, used to make tea, as well as edible mushrooms and puffballs.
We discovered that what had seemed like a barren landscape had a huge diversity of plants, from the reindeer lichen that was the favourite fodder of the reindeer, to a range of beautiful wildflowers such as alpine fireweed. Paul showed us how to press the plants that we hadn’t eaten, a technique used by botanists to preserve museum-‐quality herbarium specimens.
On the way back to the boat we stopped at a pond where Paul scooped up some cyanobacteria, this gooey slime is composed of colonies of millions of filaments of photosynthetic bacteria. The microscopic organisms are thought to play an important role in generating the oxygen in the Earth’ atmosphere. Paul assured us it was also edible -‐ but as he didn’t try it we decided to give it a pass. On our way back to the boat we came across a large kelp that had washed up and couldn’t resist breaking off some of the stem to taste the refreshing Arctic goodness.
Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
I am in the process of transferring my entries from my journal to blogging. So much has been occuring, from polar bear sightings to performances on deck, and I am having trouble keeping up-to-date with my entries.
Yesterday morning we went on a zodiac cruise. We explored ice pans and nearby icebergs from the zodiacs. The most interesting sighting was seeing a polar bear (nanuk) swimming in the sea. His head was the only visible part of his body, but it gave us an idea of his size. Monstrous! After our minute cruise we attended various workshops on the ship. I participated in the meditation/calming session on deck. It was extremely calming. It was a wonderful time to pause and reflect. Later in the session we were asked to take time to ourselves to take in our surroundings. Glassy water, reflections of the sky in the sea and the mountains I cannot describe.
Yesterday afternoon we went onshore to Pond Inlet. It was our first stop on Canadian grounds and it felt like home. It was a very nice experience, seeing little kids playing on the beach and getting to know them a little. We helped some community members clean their beach, collecting trash and recording our findings. Then we went on a stroll through town. Our first stop was the visitor centre, where there was Inuit art displayed and a craft shop. We saw the different types of species in the area, including seals and caribou. Once we left the visitor centre, we walked to the community hall for several performances. Inuit games and traditional songs were shown enthusiastically and cheerfully. I’ve seen an elderly woman light a Kullik, and it was so cool to finally see one in action.
There’s about 20-30 community members from Pond Inlet onboard with us, most of whom are our respected elders. They have been sharing stories with us in Inuktitut, with a translater who happens to be Parks Canada staff from Pond Inlet. Their stories are so interesting. It is nice to have them with us for a little while.
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Wow, this has been such an amazing journey so far and there is still five full days to go! The past two days have been spent between Sirmilik National Park and the community of Pond Inlet, Nunavut. Pond Inlet is situated right across from Bylot Island and when we first arrived in the area we knew we were in for a real adventure.
On our first day in the area we headed into Sirmilik National Park. When we arrived on the rocky shores of Bylot Island, I was lucky enough to get to explore the shoreline with Kieren, a paleaotologist, and Paul, a Botonist. Our party roved the beach, finding clues of the wildlife which lives in the area, including the roots of the arctic willow; prints from the gulls; whale and seal bones on the shore; golden arctic poppies, lemming burrows, and we even saw a family of Greater Snow Geese with their young goslings on top of Triangle Mountain!
We found signs of huuman activity on the island as well. We found an old Inuit toy boat. On the beach we were also treated by the amazing Parks Canada staff to a tasty treat of muktuk (narwhal skin with a thin layer of fat) and arctic char. It was a great experience and I would defnitely eat both again. The day on Bylot Island ended too quickly and I hope to come back soon!
Today, however, we had a different plan. Our group went into Milne Inlet and drove around on the zodiac boats to the floe edge, a.k.a. the edge of the sea ice. We saw a lot of stunningly gorgeous peices of ice, which were radiantly white on top with a bright turqoise colour just below the surface of the water. There were also massive icebergs in the area as well, one of which was quite covered in dirt. The dirt striped the iceberg with thick veins of stone which was remarkable. The main reason for going out to the sea ice on the zodiacs was to see either narwhals or a polar bear. Sadly, we weren’t lucky enough to cross paths with a narwhal but we did spot a swimming polar bear and got fairly close to it, well within a safe distance. We all begged to get closer but we respected the wild bear’s space. It worked out well though because we were starting to get quite hungry, so after seeing the bear it was off to lunch.
After a great lunch, we headed into the hamlet of Pond Inlet and some of us were lucky enough to visit the Sirmilik National Park office. Inside there were a lot of cool things to see, such as a 2 million year old fossilized tree from when the region was much warmer, a walrus skull, narwhal tusks and more!
Once we finished touring the Sirmilike National Park office, we went to the beautiful, soft, sandy beaches and helped with a shore clean up project. It was a lot of fun and was made all the better by the many volunteers who came out to help clean the beach. Following the clean up, we went to a beautiful visitors centre, which included some great museum displays about Eclipse Sound. Following that, we went to a local store to grab some souveneirs and snacks before walking over to the hamlet’s community centre for a cultural presentation, which included traditional Inuit dress, a kudlik lighting, traditional Inuit games, singing, juggling, drumming, and more. It was great to learn more about the local culture, hear from elders, and the Inuktitut version of O, Canada! The show blew us all away.
After, we headed back to the boat, but on the way we spoke to many kids in the town as they rode around on their bikes, excited to meet so many new people. Many of my fellow Students on Ice have friends and/or family in Pond Inlet, and some even live there! It was a little heart-wrentching to watch some of them say goodbye, but it was a nice way to finish the day in Pond Inlet. The one thing I will never forget about the community is the amazing people. Their warmth and hospitality made Pond Inlet and Sirmilik National Park feel like a home to us all.
Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
I don’t think there was Northern Storytelling this morning, since last night and on the schedule only Yoga and Culture Sharing were announced. Maybe it did happen and I missed it. I relaxed but realized that soon I’ll have to start washing my laundry. Yikes.
After breakfast we had a briefing just like the other days, telling us that before dinner we’d cruise on the Zodiacs in search of a polar bear. Everything happened a half hour earlier so that’s a factor to why everyone was a little unenthusiastic.
So the cruise was eventful, to say the least. I might be exaggerating there but we got what we came for. After watching a seal play in the water a Zodiac radioed in to our driver saying that a bear was at the “dirty berg.” We went on a mad dash, binoculars searching and cameras trained on the location. Earlier groups saw it walk, but mine only got to catch the head bobbing in and out of the water as it went away from the strange, black creatures that were very excited to see it.
Lunchtime commenced after some people had boarded, and afterwards we were told that until we get back to Pond Inlet that there would be some workshops for us to do. I decided to go to the lab, which I hadn’t been in since the second day on the Ocean Endeavour. More specifically I mounted and identified arctic plants with Paul; the botanist of the SOI crew. It was certainly an experience that had shown me just what kind of plants survive and even thrive here in the north of Canada.
Pond Inlet had an arrival of around two hundred students and staff, split into three groups doing three different activities in three different orders. For the first twenty-five minutes I took part in a shore cleanup. We then headed around town on a tour, stopping at the local museum and Co-Op. People were taking pictures of the prices up here, but anyone from back home can agree with me that ten dollars for milk is to be expected, if only in Northern. Lastly, before we made our way back to the ship we stopped to watch a cultural show. Drum dancing, throat singing and Inuit Games made for a great departure from Pond Inlet today.
Dinner was served, but that wasn’t the only thing aboard the Ocean Endeavour. For the rest of today and most of tommorrow we will have around thirty-one residents of Pond Inlet here with us, which I’m sure will allow for greater learning oppurtunities.
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
We have packed so much in these last few days! Yesterday, we spent the morning clearing Canadian customs and learning about where we would be visiting. In the afternoon, we would make a stop in Sirmilik National Park, a beautiful park on Bylot Island.
To learn about Canadian national parks before seeing one, we had another Arctic hour. The discussion I attended focused on the history of national parks. I learned that some national parks were created to protect a historical site that had been found, like Franklin’s expedition ship, the HMS Erebus, and some parks were created so the migration patterns of certain animals would not be distrupted by development.
In preparation for our trip to Sirmilik National Park, the group then watched a polar bear safety video and listened to a briefing about park safety by a Parks Canada staff member. We were then given the choice of what to do once we arrived in the park: we could either go on a hike or stay and do workshops on the shore. Although I wanted to hike, I could not pass up an opportunity to hunt for fossils in one of the workshops and signed up. When we arrived in Sirmilik, I noticed how different this beach was than any other I had seen. The shore was very rocky with not much washed up on shore. Sirmilik gets very few visitors, which was evident in the relatively untouched area. I was glad I chose the fossil workshop because it gave me the chance to explore. We didn’t find any fossils, but I did find an old toy boat, a hockey stick, and garnets in some rocks. The group reboarded the Ocean Endeavour late that night, so we had a quick dinner and briefing before heading to our rooms for bed.
When I woke up this morning, our ship was in the middle of some sea ice. After the morning briefing and breakfast, we explored the ice with a zodiac cruise. My group saw some ring seals and not much else. But, when it seemed like there was nothing left to see, someone spotted a polar bear! My zodiac sped to the site and I saw the great bear swimming though the water. Seeing the polar bear was a great way to end the cruise. Once back on the ship, we started back towards Pond Inlet, which is across from Sirmilik.
At Pond Inlit, we saw a cultural performance and cleaned up the shore. The night ended with a briefing, and I wonder what tomorrow will bring!
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
We stopped at a Canadian National Park near Pond Inlet called Sirmilik yesterday. There were three options for people to choose from once we reached the shore: the workshops along the beach, the ‘medium’ hike to the glacier, or the ‘strenuous’ hike up a steep tall mountain. I chose the ladder. The area we explored has rarely been visited by tourists. So we are the first known people to kayak, hike, and paddle board at this site.
While hiking up the mountain, I saw a super fluffy Arctic Bumblebee which was something I secretly really wanted to see. The season has been extremely dry so finding one was pretty difficult. Unfortunately, no one else shared my excitement. The landscape was mainly dry grass, and unstable rows and piles of rocks. Accidentally slipping or losing your balance would mean fallining all the way back down to the bottom. There were no branches or shrubs to grab onto since we are still above the Arctic Circle. We made it about half way due to time but the view was still amazing. To your left, the anchored ship. To the right, the glacier. Front, intimidating view of the sharply angled mountain.
What’s interesting about the traditional Inuit names for all of the sites on the territory is that they are based on factual information. For example, “Sirmilik” means “place of glaciers”. Sometimes they can get extremely specific. “Ukkusiksalik” means “the place where there is stone that can be used to carve pots and oil lamps”. “Iqaluit” means “place of fish”. These traditional names are extremely important since they represent historic knowledge that can used to compare changes from climate change for scientific research. Also, not a lot of people know that the Inuit knew where the famous Franklin’s ship was. The search for his ship has lasted for over 180 years and it was only recently discovered less than a year ago. Someone asked an elder what the translation for the island the ship was found is and he replied “the place where ship sank”. The person responded with “well why didn’t you say anything” and the elder replied “nobody asked me”.
This morning we got the opportunity to explore the waterway with our zodiacs for a polar bear search. We were really successful and I’m sure there is amazing footage posted on the website of it climbing up onto an ice patch and sprinting away from us before jumping back into the water. We were all bundled up in our poofy coats, winter hats, and cameras were ready.
The glazing sun shines bright today. The breeze is so cold that it’s chilling through my bones. I had this delicious breakfast today; my favourite was the hashbrowns.
As I walk along in the library, I got to see this beautiful ice sheet outside of the ship. It was amazing to see the pure white color of the ice and the crystallized ice that made my eyes open wide. I took some cookies, got myself a book from the library and sat on this comfy chair in the hub. It was really cool to read about polar bears, walrus and seals. I was a bit suprised about what Lindsey said about male and female polar bear difference. I had never thought about that in my life before.
I finished reading, took a last sip of my hot chocolate, then I went to the briefing from Geoff, where I found out there will be Zodiac cruise! Wohoo!! Now’s the time I get to see polar bears. If I lucky I might get to see walrus and seals. The weather was cold outside, so I have to wear thick clothes. It was really awesome to see this beautiful ice sheet all over the surface of the sea and also the dirty glaciers. Minutes later, “POLAR BEAR!” one of my friends shouted. I was really excited to see the yellowish polar bear swimming in the ocean. Sarah brought us closer to the bear but we should not be too close to it since the bear might run away and also for our protection. It was really wonderful.
Workshops again and I really want to thank Pat and Rosemarie for the splendid workshop they did. Since I’ve been in theirworkshop three times, I’m going to be with Daniele in the lab. It was spectacular! Those gross but beautiful tiny miniature creatures really amazed me. I learned about diatoms (Phytoplankton) and Copepods.
I was super excited to visit Pond Inlet. The beach was so beautiful. The sand full of minerals and the crystal, blue sea. Working dogs having their meals and birds flying freely in the blue sky. There were three activities here: cleaning the beach, walking around town and also a cultural show. I went to the market and I really wanted to buy souvenirs. But it was way too pricy. Anyway, I was inspired by the beautiful Inuit cultural show. Between the colourful dress and tough games they played, it was really awesome.
Overall, this day was about inspiration from other cultures, especially the Inuit and I get to tighten my friendship with them.