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SOI Arctic 2016: Day 11

Evighedsfiord, Greenland

This has been one of the great days in SOI’s history. Mother Nature rolled out a big red carpet. We are in Greenland and today we experienced something that very few people will ever see or feel.

In the early morning we sailed into Evighedsfiord, located a little more than 64 degrees North, in thick fog.

It was an early wake-up call at 7:00am so that we could we ready for action right after breakfast! No sooner was breakfast finished that the fog began to lift and unveil one of the most spectacular sights imaginable on Planet Earth. In every direction, we were surrounded by majestic mountains, cliffs, and glaciers. It was like a wonderful dream.

We all jumped into Zodiacs to get a closer look at the nearby bird cliffs and the tidewater glacier that was hidden around the corner. The next 2 hours were nothing short of magical. We cruised across calm turquoise waters to take in the sights and sounds of thousands of nesting Arctic seabirds, and then spent over an hour drifting off the glacier wall with breathtaking colour combinations of whites, blues and greens changing with the sunshine and reflecting on the turquoise glacier waters.

The sounds constantly shifted as well, one moment, nothing could be heard, the next the birds, by the ten of thousands calling from the steep nesting cliffs, or flying in small flocks back and forth from the nests to the ocean.

Then, the voice of the glacier, cracking, snapping, even explosive sounds followed by the sudden calving away of massive amounts of ice crashing into the fiord and sending a surge wave toward us. Such a beautiful, awesome and wondrous sight to see. And yet, also a visual reminder and evidence of the climate change all around us.

We slipped along silently past tens of thousands of nesting birds, including Black Legged Kittiwakes, and lesser numbers of Thick Billed Murres and Black Guillemots nesting on the tiny narrow ledges and crevasses of the sheer rock walls stretching out of the water to the deep blue sky above.

Once back on board, our amazing galley staff served up a wonderful barbecue lunch on the open aft deck. It could not have been a better way to conclude our first morning in Greenland. As if on cue, a humpback whale appeared just after the tables were cleared and entertained us for three quarters of an hour, rising, blowing, diving and fluking. Just before dinner this evening, even more humpbacks were spotted!

After lunch had finished the Captain re-positioned the ship into a small bay called Tasiusaq, that had a good landing area for the Zodiacs and lush hills with plenty of wild berries, with the Greenland names, Paarnat for Blackberry and Kingutarrhat for blueberry.

This shore trip was SOI at its best as we must have had 20 different activities going at the same time – Stand-up Paddleboarding, Qajaqs, drone video filming, underwater remote vehicles, arts classes, story telling, music, hiking, fishing, pond-sampling, Dr. Andrew Bresnahan giving a workshop on wilderness medical preparations and prevention, and a hike of several kilometers to the top on the next mountain ridge.

We also determined there may not be a better time or location for our annual SOI polar dip! Check the website for photos.

One of the many “heroes of the day” was singer songwriter Tim Baker who carried Andrea into the water so she too could join the polar dip. Andrea inspires each and every one of us on a daily basis, with her pure, beautiful and courageous spirit.

All of this was framed by the highest mountain peaks in Western Greenland, and the quiet waters of this magnificent fiord and sheltered harbour.

Tonight, at the evening event, another show stopping student performance this time from Blake Russell a 16 year old traditional accordion player from Lewisporte, Newfoundland. The resident band backed him up with a rhythm section on a medley of traditional Newfoundland jigs and reels that led to an impromptu square dance, with students from the north and south.

Jason Edmunds, was raised in Nain and Makovik Labrador and fills many roles for SOI including Zodiac driving, bear guard, and educator. He topped the day off with a funny children’s lullaby, Choppy the Head Chopper off’er. It was a tired and happy group that crawled into bed this evening.

Overnight we sail north across the Arctic Circle towards Disko Bay that promises to offer even more magic, incredible experiences, scenery and opportunities.

We are so privileged, we know it, and we are grateful.

In the expedition spirit,
Geoff

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Aiden Cyr – Ottawa, On, Canada

This morning was truly spectacular. We arrived in Greenland around 6am and, my oh my, is it ever beautiful. When the fog cleared it was truly one of the most amazing pieces of scenery I have ever witnessed. Upon boarding the Zodiac we first stopped by a towering cliff so grandiose in nature that it makes the Ocean Endeavour look like a tiny Speck along the gorgeous blue-green fjorD water of the Greenlandic bay. The northernmost country truly is magical and that’s about all I can say so far. Best cruise ever. Our driver sped us around the icebergs; I saw my first glacier and videotaped the thunder of the enorMous wave-making crash of ice pieces falling into the icy green abyss of the fiord. Such an amazing experience today despite the early morning rise. I miss home but I’m really making the most of the time here as we spend the next four days in Greenland and then head back home. So it lOOks like I’m back in Ottawa on the fourth but they won’t let me go home as breakfast with the U.S. ambasador will be the following morning. You guys gotta be there – so many cool people and amazing video footage. I think they got my gooD side, so I’m not embarassed. Ciao for now. I think we’re doing another Landing after lUnch whiCh is right now! See you so soon Kool people!

Far Away Near IN Spirit.

Aiden

Alexis Rousseau – Baie-Comeau, QC, Canada

Ces derniers jours, nous les avons passés en majorité sur la mer, puisque nous avons traversé le détroit de Davis pour se rendre au Groenland! Ces jours sur l’eau ont été remplis d’ateliers, d’histoires et… de lancers de bouteille! En effet, ces lancers font partie d’un programme de recherche sur les courants marins. Dans une bouteille, nous avons inséré un papier où était inscrit comment faire pour communiquer aux scientifiques afin de les aider dans leurs recherches. D’habitude, le taux de bouteilles retrouvées est d’environ 5%.

Enfin arrivés au Groenland, nous avons eu toute qu’une journée! Dans la matinée, nous nous sommes promenés en zodiac un des plus grands fjords au monde. Des paysages que l’on a pu admirer, il y avait une falaise remplie d’oiseaux ainsi qu’une usine à iceberg : un énorme glacier. Nous avons eu la chance de voir s’écrouler certaines parties du glacier, le bruit ainsi que l’immensité des morceaux étaient tous simplement incroyables.

Dans l’après-midi, nous avons fait une randonnée spectaculaire. L’eau était turquoise, les monts hauts comme on ne pourrait l’imaginer et tous étaient calmes, comme en recueillement.  Je suis tellement chanceux, je crois réellement que c’est le plus bel endroit sur la planète Terre. C’était seulement la nature et nous. Grandiose était le mot pour définir ce moment.

Nous avons fini cela par une baignade dans l’eau glaciale de l’Arctique. C’est vraiment une expérience à vivre une fois dans sa vie. Je n’ai pas de mots pour décrire ce moment si merveilleux.

 

Alissa Matoo – Arviat, NU, Canada

Hello! 

Qanuingitunga. I have been very busy on this amazing ship! We made it to Greenland last night, and I picked a bunch of paungaqs. I went polar dipping. We had an awesome lesson on the zodiac about glaciers. I’m having the best time. I miss everyone back home. I’ve been seeing so many mountains, even climbing them believe it or not! 4 more days on this ship. Better make the best of it, ok. Goodnight. 

Amy Johnson – PhD Student

Today was our first day in Greenland! It is so beautiful here. We started off this morning with a zodiac cruise of Evighedsfiord in West Greenland where there are bird cliffs (black legged kittiwakes) and a tidewater glacier. The cliffs were crowded with hundreds of birds and their chicks as they nested in the crevices and flew out to sea and back. We cruised around in our zodiac watching the birds and checking out the icebergs that had calved off the glacier into the fjord. We then went up near the massive glacier to watch pieces calve off into the water – one huge piece fell off and created a giant wave! We headed back onto the ship for a bbq on deck near the glacier, followed by our second trip today to one of the bays off the fjord. We landed on the beach and hiked up one of the hills to get an amazing view of the fjord – beautiful mountains, turquoise water, and huge valleys all around. We then had workshops and I went to one about wilderness medicine which was interesting. We are now heading north and we will be in Disko Bay tomorrow!

Cameron Byers – Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

The mood was electric, the atmosphere was ecstatic.

Nine zodiacs full of teenagers excitedly glacier watching. Or more correctly glacier betting. Trying to guess the next ice fall was the world’s most exciting lottery. Not until you heard the crack of the ice starting to break were you sure of where the next spectacle of nature was to occur along the half kilometre long ice wall. And then watching the ice hit the water with a 2-3 second delay for the rifle shot of the splash reverberating down the valley.

Over the hour we spent there, there were proboly 5-6 major ice falls, each producing a new berg to grace the fiord, along with a massive wall of water 15 meters high, which diminished to just a small 1 meter swell by the time it reached the pod of Zodiacs, the bows hastily turned toward the energy released by the 5000 year old ice.

What a morning.

Claire Sutherland – Castlegar, BC, Canada

Hello everyone! Today has been such an amazing day! We made it to Greenland, and it’s already been pretty great!

Right after breakfast we headed out on a zodiac cruise. On our cruise we first saw a bird colony, this colony lived on this very high cliff over looking the ocean. I don’t know if it was because we were there or if the birds are always that loud. After looking at the birds for a while we headed over to a massive glacier. On the way over we saw, touched, and tasted many pieces of ice. When we got over to the glacier, I was amazed on how beautiful it was. While we were sitting and admiring the view, we heard something. There was a loud CRACK and then suddenly a bunch of ice fell down from the glacier and into the water. This created a big wave and luckily for me I caught it all on video! We sat there for a while and watched more ice fall from the glacier.

When we got back from our zodiac cruise, we had a BBQ lunch outside on the back deck. It was most likely the best lunch I’ve ever had. The food was amazing, and the views were even more amazing! Just after I had finished my lunch it was announced that there was a whale next to the boat. We all rushed to get our cameras and get out on deck. We stood and watched the humpback whale for around 20 minutes, but unfortunately for me, whenever the whale breached my camera was not on!

We then got on the zodiacs again and this time we were going onto land! As you could tell I’m kinda missing being on land. This land however had a lot of flies, like A LOT of flies. Despite this fact it was probaly one of my favourite landings so far. Once we landed we hiked up to the top, it was nice once we got there because the wind meant the flies went away for a while. We also did some workshops up there, and I decided to go to Ian’s. Ian’s workshop was pretty much him singing us some of his songs on top of a cliff, in Greenland. This moment is one I will remember for the rest of my life, it was just so surreal. We were on top of this cliff, in Greenland, just hanging out and listening to music. After that we went back down the cliff and did the Polar Swim. I am proud to say that I have now swam in all the oceans that border Canada!

Well that’s all for now! I hope you all are still enjoying following our journey and I’ll see you all back home soon!

– Claire 😀

Darrell Wells – Instructor Marine Institute of Memorial University

We have arrived at Greenland and the first words are WOW WOW WOW!!!

We woke up this morning in one of the many fiords and were immediately welcomed with towering mountains on both sides.  The mountains seemed to rise from the ocean and continue on to amazing heights. The pictures I took do not do it justice.

So our plan for the day, so far, is to do a zodiac cruise further up the fiord to visit a glacier.  Well, it was my first view of any glacier in real life and it was awesome.  The front of the glacier was at the oceans edge and we could hear the constant cracking and movement of the ice.  Then it happened: the glacier decided to relieve itself of some of its bounty and some large pieces of ice fell off into the ocean.  The water swelled from the impact and the sea birds quickly gathered to scoop up the creatures that were forced to the surface of the ocean.  It was simply amazing.  We also encountered some smaller icebergs and managed to break off some pieces to eat and enjoy the thousand year old ice.  It was very cold and delicious.

We returned to the ship for a BBQ in the clear crisp air under beauitful sunny skies surrounded by the amazing landscape.  It was probably the most beauitful restaurant table one could experience.

Our plan for the remainder of the day was to explore another part of the fiord and hopefully go ashore to do some hiking and other activities.  I will be taking the ROV unit in the zodiac to get some dives in when we go ashore.

***

Just got back from the shore expedition.  Caught a dozen cod fish and completed a couple of dives with the ROV unit.  The groups went ashore and did some hiking up the hills, but the flies were maggotty.  Thank god for my bug jacket.  The kids did the Arctic swim/polar dip and what a time they had.  The cold water did not seem to bother them, but I was not about to jump in.

Looks like we are heading farther north tomorrow to seem some MORE impressive glaciers.  Looking forward to that!!!!

Darrell

Students kayak in a fjord. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce #NatureforAll

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

Emma Lim – London, On, Canada

Right after my last blog I had to run to get ready for the Students on Ice…Dance Party! The theme? Nineties, complete with 1990s music… It was pretty fun! I wore my k-way rainpants because they were from the late eighties so I figured they were appropriate. 🙂 After  the dance party we went to dinner and sat at tables according to our birthday months. March was easily the coolest table there!

That night at the briefing we heard some awesome stories, one featuring Fred Roots, the arctic legend, and his trip to the furthest point north on land in the world in Greenland. The abbreviated version is that he collected a rock from the northernmost land in the world and gifted it to the King of Denmark. Then he took the northernmost flower to the chief botanist at the Museum of Nature who told him, in Latin, that he had plucked the “Common Dandelion”!

Another story featured Olle, arctic explorer extraodinaire, surfing a tsunami from a calving glacier in a Zodiac. The third story was the Robert Service poem about the cremation of Sam McGee, a scary story, followed by musical performances including one by Tim Baker. When I get home I’m going to have to look up Hey Rosetta because the music I’ve heard so far is absolutely phenomenal!

The people on this boat are completely awesome. The stories and adventures I’ve heard so far are crazy. Everyone has accomplished so much and done the coolest things — it’s very inspiring.

This morning, after an early breakfast (even earlier because of the time difference), we headed out to the zodiacs to explore the area. We are at the end of a giant fjord right now, and the mountains are stunning. They are incredibly tall and there are waterfalls everywhere. We took the zodiacs over to an area of the mountains that was completely white  — with bird poop. There were thosands of birds swarming the cliff, and the noise was deafening. We then made our way to a glacier, a sheer wall of ice that seemed like it was flooding over the mountains but was completely stationary. Chunks the size of houses would come crashing down from the glacier with noises that sounded like explosions. Each fall was accompanied by a huge wave that send ripples out for kilometers. On the way back we stopped by a small iceberg that I lifted into the zodiac and later delivered to the ship’s crew for icecubes.

I’m having the time of my life! Lots of love from me xxx


Erin Kasungu – Manager at Community Foundations of Canada

With the release of the Inuit Sucide Prevention Strategy launch this week, we have had the opportunity to reflect together on the ship about what this means for the communities and people of the North.  Yesterday, I sat in on a session about the social determinents of health in the North that brought out the complexity and frustration around the difficult issues that have started to define the people in this area of the country.  It really hit on a ‘light bulb’ moment I had the other night as I watched a young Inuk interact with two Inuit women who are elders from northern communities.  I watched the beauty of how they spoke with each other and the comfort of this inter-generational conversation.  That is when I was reminded about how much there is to learn from northern communities that rarely makes it into southern education curriculum or media.

In the session, we talked about the narrative told by statistics in the news about the poverty, suicide, school drop out rates, etc.   This narrative becomes what many people in the South know of the North that then gets reflected back to the North by the ‘help’ and ‘support’ that is offered by people who think they know better.   We definitely can’t ignore these staggering statistics but two big questions emerged to frame the dialogue.  One, how can it be in a country like Canada that any of these indicator levels are so poor and for so long in the North?  And two, do these social indicators reflect how indeginous people would measure their quality of life?  For example, there are no social indicators for how people feel about language, their country, their personal and family connections, or their time on the land.

The disconnect between these competing narratives can lead to a confusing sense of self and one student even commented how “I had to travel south in order to learn who I was in order to regain my sense identity and learn who I am truly am.”  Why did she have to leave her community to learn how amazing and special she was?  Why can’t we tell the story and learn from what makes our northern communities strong and vibrant?

What we heard yesterday was that it will take strong leadership to take hold of what matters to them and change the narrative.  Many people suggested that this starts with the education system, one that is Inuit-centred and creates strong leaders who are connected to what builds and supports their knowledge.  It is also on those of us who live in the South to educate ourselves and to seek knowledge and personal connections from those in the North.  To me this is reconciliation.  And when we all do our part, I’m confident we will all discover our own connection to our northern culture and communities that will help create a new narrative of hope, resilence and equality.

Haleh Zabihi – St. John’s, NL, Canada

Today we visited what is now one of my favourite places in the world. Evighedsfiord is beautiful beyond words and totally worth the 7:00am wakeup call. Our zodiac cruise took us to the very end of the fiord right by the ice edge. Today was sunny and calm and the temperature was 10 degrees celsius (!!!), and the glacial ice was cracking every few minutes and releasing small bits of ice in loud crashes. I caught two of the crashes on camera but I missed the biggest one! We also stopped by a bird cliff to which hundreds of thousands of birds were clinging. We ended our visit to the end of the fiord with a BBQ lunch on the deck facing the beautiful torquoise water — it was truly a sight to behold!

We have just reached a small bay in the middle of the fiord and we’re getting ready to do some land excursions. Today is also the day of the infamous polar dip! The great weather is hard to resist but I’m still not sure whether I’ll do it or not. I’ll update later!

***

Update: I did the polar plunge! Well… almost. I could only stand the water being up to my knees but I still “plunged” something. I blame my low tolerance on the insane amount of mosquitos that swarmed us as soon as we got off the boat.

We’re now on our way to Disko Bay, which is supposed to be a very beautiful spot. I’m so excited for the next three days in Greenland!

Until next time,

Haleh


Jamie Snook – Executive Director

Inaugural Torngat Secretariat SoI Scholarship Recipient

Today was a full day at sea and I am grateful for the calm seas that the 2016 Students on Ice (SoI) has been blessed with. The sea time was still packed with educational events all day, providing us with a great opportunity to connect with each other and learn new things. It was also a great time to catch up with Jessica Winters, the inaugural recipient of the Torngat Secretariat SOI Scholarship.

Jessica Winters is a 20 year old Inuk from Makkovik, Nunatsiavut, Labrador. She is currently entering into her 4th year at Memorial University in the Biology, Ecology and Conservation program. She wants to become a wildlife biologist, as studying the life of animals brings her true happiness. Before we left Ottawa, I could already tell Jessica held deep emotions about her homeland.

To celebrate our new partnership with Students on Ice, I decided to do a short interview with Jessica to understand why she was interested in Students on Ice, how she got involved, and what she plans to do with this experience in the future.

1. Why are you interested in environmental issues?

I grew up with a large amount of respect for wildlife. It is just in my family. We were never the kind of people to be disrespectful to the land or animals. I always see people doing that, and it does not need to be done that way. The world can go on without humans, but we can’t go on without the earth, so we need to take care of it.

2. Why were you interested in SOI?

Because we are going to the Arctic! And I like travelling a lot. The Arctic is very different and has specialized species which are super interesting. It reminds me of home too, it is kind of the same. I love whales and polar bears and birds.

3. What is your favourite thing you have learned about or visited so far?

Ramah. Ramah for sure. It was so free and everyone was moving around. I liked Hebron too, but it was really emotional. But after I left, it was like a bunch of bricks were lifted from my shoulders. The talk on suicide made me more upset than the talk on relocation. I have not experienced relocation myself, but I have seen so many of my friends die from suicide. But now this plan [Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami’s National Suicide Strategy] has been released and it makes me feel better. But seeing all of the Torngat Mountains has been amazing.

4. What do you see as some of the main wildlife, plants and fishery issues in Nunatsiavut?

Probably ice. It doesn’t last as long. It’s not as stable as it once was. You have to learn the changes as quick as they are coming, which is quick. I feel like the climate is the biggest thing (this will affect species). I know the growth of bake apples are changing, some years they either get too much sun and they are gross, or they don’t get enough sun and don’t grow at all.

5. What is the role of youth in these issues?

As educators. It’s important to get a good education to support your traditional knowledge. If you get the facts and the statistics to back up your knowledge, you can use both to educate people about their actions towards sustainability. It’s important for youth to lead in this way because unfortunately many people do not believe in oral history which much of Inuit knowledge is based on.

6. What are your future plans?

I don’t know yet. I want to get my degree and do a Masters and likely a PhD. But first I want to get my wildlife biology one year certificate at McGill. And then I will see what happens.

7. What did it mean to you to be selected as the Torngat Secretariat sponsored student?

I was so happy! I can’t put it into words. I feel like now I owe something to you in the future. I feel like it’s now my turn to step up and make a difference in Labrador and for Nunatsiavut. I am now learning more about the Secretariat, and will share the information.

One of the things that jumped out at me through discussion with Jessica was her clarity debunking some myths about youth in general. She felt strongly about caring for the land and showing respect for the animals in Nunatsiavut. Equally as poignant was her vision that youth need to be educators. There is a role for young people getting educated and being educators in their communities and, it is clear to see, that youth like Jessica will make important and positive contributions to research, science, communities, and the region. From the perspective of the Torngat Secretariat, we support youth perspectives and youth voices, and understand the importance of getting Indigenous youth engaged and inspired to enter into careers related to supporting healthy ecosystems and healthy communities.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Torngat Secretariat, please visit our website at www.torngatsecretariat.ca. Our organization is also on Facebook and Twitter, and we’re always happy to field more questions and inquiries.

#paigitsiaguk #takecareofit

Jamie Snook, MA, P. Mgr

Executive Director

Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat

Joshua Thompson – Almonte, ON, Canada

There’s a food shortage on the ship, mom. We’re all out of vegetables – I can’t eat any. It’s not my fault!

Just kidding.

Today is our first day in Greenland, and we just saw a humpback whale! Sad to say I didn’t get any photographs, but it was an amazing experience. Just before that we went out on the water and got as close as we safely could to a massive glacier. We quickly learned how important maintaining that safe distance was when a chunk of ice larger than my house tore itself from the glacier and split into thousands of pieces as it crashed into the water. We were far enough away that we couldn’t hear the massive cracking sounds until a full second after the ice crashed into the water, and we still experienced waves at least six feet tall. The sheer power of the ice is incredible to see, as are the beautiful mountains. We also passed by a bird cliff hundreds of meters high, covered in a variety of arctic gull species. The sight and sound of the huge flocks circling and soaring in front of the cliff was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ll leave the vast amount of bird poop out of my description, but you’ll all see it in the pictures when I get home. Anyways, we will be landing soon at a bay in the fjord we’re traveling down. Very excited for my first step on Greenlandic soil! Or rather, rock. There’s a lot of rock, and I don’t think I’ve seen a single tree since I left Ottawa. It almost seems like another planet. I’ve been learning so much that it seems sometimes I can’t write it down fast enough, in such a broad range of topics: ecology, glaciology, climatology, geology, politics, how to wash and dry thick winter clothes when you have no space at all in your cabin and a sink which can’t hold water, and many more. I’ll be very happy to answer questions when I get back, which seems like it will be far too soon. We’re disembarking soon so I better go and get ready. I’m still writing everything in my journal, and still taking lots of pictures. More in the coming days! I heard something about going swimming today…

And by the way, I never said I didn’t get a video of the whale.

Kirsten Dicker – Nain, NL, Canada

Having an amazing time! Made it to Greenland this morning. So beautiful! Started our day off  with a zodiac cruise. Went to see some birds and some glaciers. Thousands and thousands of birds! Glaciers are wicked! Later on we had BBQ for dinner out on the deck. Everything is just so beautiful. After dinner we went out on the land, doing some workshops, hikes, and some of us went kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. So much fun. I did stand up paddle boarding, but Thom and I couldn’t keep up with the group so a zodiac had to come pick us up and take us to the group. What a laugh we had. When everyone got back to the beach, we did the polar dip! Everyone just ran in. The flies were awful. I’m having a awesome time and don’t want to leave everyone, but I can’t wait to go back home to family and friends. We created a good day today <3   Loving Life!

#Createagoodday #SOI #Artic2016 #floatingclassroom

Luciano Martin Ayala Valani – Sherbrooke, QC, Canada

Ce matin, en regardant par la fenêtre, le brouillard m’empêchait de voir au loin. Puis, quelques minutes plus tard, j’ai vu une ombre ressemblant à une montagne c’est alors, que j’ai entendu le message à l’intercom disant que nous étions dans l’Evigheds fjord. Nous sommes ensuite sortis pour notre première croisière en zodiac au Groenland. La première chose que j’ai remarqué en embarquant sur le zodiac était la teinte blue-verte si particulière de l’eau. Cependant, je ne savais pas exactement pourquoi l’eau avait cette couleur, j’allais l’apprendre plus tard. Notre premier arrêt fut pour observer une colonie d’oiseaux. Ils volaient dans tous les sens et faisaient aussi beaucoup de bruit. Proche de la falaise où était les nids d’oiseaux, se trouvait un iceberg. Nous  avons pu le toucher. Au loin, sans que je ne sache, dans la brume, se cachait quelque chose d’encore plus extraordinaire. C’était un glacier! J’ai par la suite, appris, que l’eau fondant du glacier donne la teinte si particulière à l’eau. Nous étions en train de regarder le glacier depuis un certain temps, lorsque un bout du glacier tombe à l’eau. C’était étrange car il y avait un laps de temps assez important entre le moment où le morceau de la glace touchait à l’eau et le moment où nous entendions le son. Mais soudainement, nous entendons un “crac” plus fort que les précédents et nous nous retournons pour voir le morceau tomber. Le morceau de glace était tellement gros, que lorsqu’il a touché l’eau, des vagues se sont formées. À ce moment, je me voyais déjà revenir au navire tout mouillé à cause de ces vagues. Le conducteur du zodiac n’a pas hésité, il a viré à toutes vitesse et il s’est éloigné. Finalement, la vague a été moins pire que prévue et nous avons continué à regarder le glacier durant un certain temps, puis nous sommes revenus au Ocean Endeavour. En après-midi, nous avons arreté dans une baie et nous sommes descendus. Avec d’autres personnes j’ai fait une randonnée qui nous a menés en haut d’une falaise où la vue était à couper le souffle! Après être revenus sur la plage de roches, nous nous avons fait le “polar dip”. Cela consistait en entrer dans l’eau glacée, très glacée. Au début, je me gelais et j’avais mal partout en marchant sur les roches mais par la suite, le froid a eu raison de moi et je n’ai plus senti mon corps. Ce n’était pas si mal parce que je n’avais plus froid. Je suis resté environ de 10 à 15 minutes. J’ai vraiment adoré mon expérience. En me rhabillant, je me suis rendu comtpe que j’avais oublié d’apporter des sous-vêtements de rechange. Abhay, mon coloc, m’a alors aidé en tenant ma serviette (et en regardant en direction opposé) pour que je puisse mettre mon pantalon sans être vu par tous. Puis nous sommes retournés au bateau. Demain, nous allons être réveillés une demi-heure plus tard donc je vais pouvoir dormir davantage.

Meera Chopra – Richmond Hill, ON, Canada

Glacier water is surprisingly warmer than you think. 

We started off the day with an amazing zodiac cruise in Greenland. We saw small icebergs (and accidently tipped one over) and a mountain that seemed to attract birds! While we drifted around the mountain, birds were cawing loudly and flew around our heads. After, we moved towards an active glacier, which cracked and sent giant waves which rocked our zodiac. A trickling waterfall was near, and we sailed towards it and filled our waterbottles with clean, clear, and fresh water.

After going back to the boat and sailing for a bit longer, we went to a small picturesque bay in western Greenland. There were crowberry and blueberry bushes literally all over the mountains. I sat on some rocks that overlooked the water and had a great view of the mountains, and I did some watercolour paintings of the landscape. The greens easily flowed into the blues of the mountains, and they made a really nice painting.

Then, I got once in a lifetime opportunity to go polar dipping in the cold Arctic water! I stayed in for about twenty minutes even if the water seemed to be -50 degrees. Eventually, I got used to the cold and it started to feel warm. 

There was something special about swimming in freezing water with mountains all around you, stepping on algae and small rocks. I, along with many of my other expeditioner friends, had a blast splashing each other in the water.

Today was easily one of the best days on this expedition, with pretty landings in a country I’ve never been to. Smooth sailing for the future.

Melissa Snedden – High School Teacher

Wow, what a spectacular day we had! In my opinion, it was by far the best day we’ve had yet. We woke up and we were in Greenland and had no idea what to expect because yet again, it was foggy. The fog lifted fast over breakfast and we were able to get out in the zodiacs. We layered up but soon came to realize that it was much warmer than it has been. We floated around a bird cliff with over 30,000 birds, drank some 15,000+ year old water from a small iceberg and sat in front of part of the Greenland icecap. The ice that we had off of the iceberg was so delicious, pure and refreshing.

The most exciting part of our zodiac ride was when sitting in front of the ice cap and it started to calve! The sound of the cracks and then the echoing sounds of the ice falling into the ocean was incredible.

After the zodiac ride we went back to the ship for a BBQ lunch outside on deck. It was by far the BEST BBQ I have ever been to because of the food and location. Who can say that they’ve had lunch in front of the Greenland icecap? After our amazing lunch and socializing, I saw my first whale; a humpback. He was feeding very close to the ship, which was a pretty spectacular site.

Lastly, in the afternoon we landed in a Bay where we got off the zodiacs, and went on a small hike. The bugs were everywhere but fortunately weren’t biting. We soon broke off into different workshops and I joined the group for a longer hike, overlooking the icecap and the ocean. It felt great getting some exercise as we were on the ship for two days. When we started to climb back to the beach we saw a humpback in the distance, which was quite special. Upon our arrival to the beach it was time for the long awaited “Polar Bear Dip”! We all got ready to head down to the beach and completely dunk our entire bodies, including our head in the Arctic Ocean. A couple staff and I decided to take part a second time so we could capture the moment through some pictures.

Overall, today was beyond magical and words can’t desribe how incredible the sites were.

Tomorrow we will be crossing the Arctic Circle and heading into Disco Bay!

Grace, Journey, Blessing.

xo Melissa

Robert Adragna – Toronto, ON, Canada

There are strange things that lie within the majestic fjords of Greenland. Sweeping mountains with tallest peaks ascended by rolling tidewater glaciers. Turquoise seas in glassy uniformity under the powerful midnight sun. Delicate icebergs with etheral tongues licking out at the fresh air. 

All of this was good and well. Today was a day of breathtaking scenery, of being swarmed by the power of nature, of hiking to what feels like the top of the world. 

Yet today’s most transcendant sight lay not on the ground, or on the water, but in the air. A bird cliff, a haven of ornithology,  with thousands upon thousands of squawking creatures. A cacaphonous roar, no doubt. But what was truly fascinating was not the birds, but the shadows they cast. For every hundred creatures in the air, there were a thousand shadows playing across the cliff face. Diving through to the ocean, soaring above the clouds, perching from place to place in the bustle of everyday life. These silouhettes were mirror images of their originals and lived the same dramas that constitute daily existence.

As I stared in fascination at this delicate dance, a flash of black caught my eye. A shadow, it appeared. But this could be no shadow. It was flying in three dimensions, a three dimensional projection of the shadows playing across the wall. Consultation told me that this was a raven, a bird quite unlike all the rest. A lone black wolf in the sea of thick-billed murres.

In Norse mythology, the God Odin has two ravens which fly around the Earth, informing him of the various things that happen within his midst. These two ravens are thought and memory. Both are essential to developing a complete picture of the complicated world surrounding us. 

At first I thought that this raven must be the one of thought, sweeping around the cliffs for a perfect view of happenstances in Odin’s domain. But, blending in and out of the shadows, the raven was absorbed not in the present, but in its record. In the shadows of birds, rock projections of their life faded and gone. The shadows, however fleeting, were a sort of instantaneous record of the past embalmed into the stony rock face. And like the lives of murres themselves, the malluable past was changing near-instataneously. Beyond a shadow of doubt. 

The raven of memory graced the bird cliff today. Peering into the past, it saw the blend between the history and the present, all merged into one continously evolving tapestry. When French philosopher Marcel Prust wrote about the singularity of all time, this is what he meant. There are no clearly defined segments to time, or boundaries. The birds and shadows move in harmony, and only by observing both can we truly understand our place in this vast world.

Veton Gjonbalaj – Bronx, NY, USA

This morning I witnessed first hand the power of nature and one of the true sculpters of the world: an active glacier. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before: calm serene waters that reflected great majestic mountains, which housed thousands of birds. Then, the thunderous crash of the glacier disturbed the peace.

Yesterday was our first full day at sea, and had the potential to be one of the more quiet and uneventful days of the expedition, but turned out to be one of the most energizing due to our little 90’s rave. Everybody just let loose and simply let the music flow through them. I was suprised to find out that I didn’t know the number one song of all time, Bohemian Rhapsody and felt out of place for about a second, then got right into the positive mix of comraderie.

Every night has been filled with awesome performances and presentations that fill my heart with joy and stimulates my brain. The best part of the night, though, is after all the briefings and pod chants are done, the night life of the guys comes alive on board, and we prank our amazing hallway checker, Mike. Without Mike, we wouldn’t be able to laugh and become closer as a result.

P.S. Mom, I am doing awesome and feeling great. I’m in great hands and please don’t worry. I will try to write everyday if I can find the time. <3

Whitney Lackenbauer – Historian & Arctic Advocate

Hello from Kalalliit Nunaat on Sunday, 31 July!  We arrived in Greenlandic waters yesterday, with the fog concealing the world’s largest island from view. This morning over breakfast, the sun slowly burned through the grey shroud, revealing a beautiful coastline of mountains with snow-topped peaks flanking vibrant turquoise waters in Evighedsfiord. Just before 9:00, we boarded our zodiacs for a cruise to bird cliffs and a tidewater glacier. Despite having been to this remarkable location before, I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the scale and power of this place.

My good friend Eric Mattson, a physical geography professor from Nipissing University specializing in snow and ice hydrography who has studied glaciers around the world, drove our zodiac – a sure sign that we would have both an amazing educational experience and a fun time. His arms waving, his eyes sparkling with exuberance, his enthusiasm contagious, Eric dazzled us with animated explanations of glacial systems, the reverberating gunshot sounds of the calving glacier punctuating his words. I could not help thinking how much I wished my wife, Jenn, and my sons, Harrison, Rendall, and Pierce, could be present so that this remarkable educator could inspire them as much as he does me.  I feel energized, immersed in the beauty and majesty of the world’s greatest classroom with a group of expeditioners who have created a dynamic space for dialogue, discovery, and discernment.

Students on Ice is proudly supported by bv02.

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