SOI Arctic 2016: Day 13

Ilulissat, Greenland

We often use the term ‘the greatest classroom on earth’.  Days like today prove that is not an overstatement or cliché. This is the Greatest Classroom on Earth (without walls), where nature inspires, educates, motivates and touches our hearts and our heads.

We spent the morning at the terminus of the Jakobshaven Ice Fiord. In 2004, this was declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations Environment Commission.

The day itself was beautiful, warm weather and sunny skies. The glacier is about three kilometers from this busy and vibrant fishing and tourist town of about six thousand people on the West Coast of Greenland.  Our entry by Zodiac into the narrow and colourful harbour filled with fishing vessels big and small was exhilarating.   After landing on a small dock surrounded by some of the day’s fresh catch, we made the three-kilometer hike through town and out to the fiord.  It takes a while to fully comprehend what you are seeing as you first arrive to the edge of the fiord.  We gathered on the rocky shore to witness massive icebergs as far as the eye could see. It was peaceful, extremely humbling and awe-inspiring.

After some solo time spread out along the shoreline, we gathered together for one of our many outdoor classroom moments. Climate Scientist Maureen Raymo with the US National Academy of Sciences, and Canadian Glaciologist Eric Mattson who has specialized in glaciers and climate change for the past 25 years, provided the facts and figures to show the Greenland Icecap’s increasing melt rate, and more specifically the Jakobshaven glacier`s alarming advance.

Maureen said the beauty we were witnessing “is nature’s way of honouring us, but also we need to honour nature and come to terms with and take action on climate change.”

Eric emphasized how the melting of the Greenland ice cap will raise the sea levels and how this will impact major coastal cities and small island states around the World. We may still be a long way from that happening, but this major glacier is advancing at the average rate of 65 meters every day.

We called for a few moments of silence to simply feel the serenity and power of the moment.  Consider almost two hundred people sitting on rocks with this massive range of ice mountains stretching out before us and the only sounds, a bird somewhere in the distance, the cracking and rubbing of glacial ice, and melting water tricking down the sides of icebergs like fountains, spilling into the pool of clear turquoise sea water.  It was magic and powerful.

This afternoon, more magic, as we had 16 Zodiacs in the water going on a cruise in and around these huge icebergs of every size and shape.  As if on cue, three whales appeared and entertained and educated our entire group, by logging, blowing, and occasionally fluking as a huge fluke (tail) would emerge, pause long enough for a score of cameras to focus and shoot, and then slip silently beneath the surface leaving just a huge black fin shining in the late afternoon light.

After peacefully sharing space with the whales, we rafted all the zodiacs tightly together for an impromptu concert in one of the greatest concert venues imaginable. Tim Baker sang `Stand by Me` with Dr. Andrew Bresnahan, playing the cello and many other student and staff voices joining in the chorus.

Ian Tamblyn, who has been a mainstay of the SOI music program for years, brought us right into the moment with a song he wrote called the Humpback Whale. Ian`s lyrics perfectly described this incredible sight, from the sounds and smell of the whales, the matching blue skies and waters and seemingly never ending icebergs.

Back on board, our art workshops graduated to a wonderful Art Show. Dozens of paintings, prints and imaginative handcrafts created on the journey were on display for all to see.  They really helped to document our 2016 expedition. One exhibit bridged art and science. The dozen or more displays of pressed and mounted Arctic plants collected during the trip were quite impressive.

Additionally, tonight the SOI 2016 photo contest was held. There were eight categories; birds, mammals, plants, scenic, people, ice, arts, and the best staff photo.  Every entry was fantastic so check out the website to view the pictures and the winners as well as today`s exceptional photos from the glacier.

The night ended with a crazy country music, twist and a performance by Disko Slim- AKA -JR Raffan and the six member `Iceberg Cowgirls` singing backup.  It was a salute to Robert Adragna of Toronto, who celebrated his 18 birthday:`You Stomped on my Heart`.

Tonight we sail southwards for our final landing site in Itelliq Fiord, and then onto Sondrestrom Fiord and Kangerlussuaq. Tomorrow we have a jammed packed final day on the ship!!

In the expedition spirit,

Geoff

Alexis Rousseau – Baie-Comeau, QC, Canada

Ces deux derniers jours ont été très riches en émotion. Effectivement, découvrir un territoire comme le Groenland a tout de passionant. Que ce soit les randonnées avec un paysage époustouflant ou bien la visite de villages colorés, c’est tout pour nous intéresser.

Pour commencer, hier, nous avons visité Qeqertarsuaq, dans Disko Bay. J’ai fait cette randonnée à couper le souffle à proximité du village. En effet, il y avait de hauts monts, des chûtes d’eau et une vue imprenable sur les icebergs pour ne nommer que ceux-ci. Nous avons aussi eu droit à un spectacle de baleines en revenant de cette randonnée. Le son qu’elles faisaient ainsi que leurs acrobaties étaient impressionnantes.

Aujourd’hui, nous avons été à Ilulissat, un autre village Groenlandais. Nous avons eu la chance d’aller voir un fjord à icebergs, qui était d’une immensité incroyable. Je n’en revenait tout simplement pas, tant d’icebergs dans un seul lieu! Nous avons même pris une minute de silence afin d’apprécier encore plus le moment. Par la suite, nous avons passé du temps dans le village. C’est assez industriel, il y a aussi un port très occupé, notamment pour la pêche. Nous avons terminé notre journée par une croisière de zodiac, des baleines se prélassaient devant nous alors que Tim Baker nous chantait une chanson accompagné au violoncelle dans le zodiac d’à côté. Que demander de plus?


Allison Dyson – Makkovik, NL, Canada

Wow! What a day here in Greenland! We went to one of the largest iceberg factories in the world today! We saw gorgeous husky puppies (forever wishing I had my Alaskan Malamute here with me), breathtaking icebergs, and a lot of friendly local people. Exchanging money and visiting gift shops was a bit confusing, but very fun. The other students here are very helpful, which I greatly appreciate. I would have loved to have my baby sister here with me, and my other two teenage siblings. I didn’t experience this place by myself, but it’s always lonely when my family isn’t with me. The time has been passing too quickly. I have made so many wonderful friends here that I don’t want to leave, but I do miss my grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, siblings, and friends.

Amy Johnson – PhD Student

Hello again! Today is one of the last days we will be blogging here because we return home soon. We have one full day left on the ship before heading back to Ottawa. This has been such an incredible trip. Today we went to the UNESCO World Heritage Site for the Ilulissat Ice Fjord which was gorgeous – a huge bay filled with gigantic icebergs that had calved off a glacier 15km away, flowing from the Greenland ice cap. We listened to some talks about the formation of the glacier and the effects of climate change on this important region and the rest of the world. In the afternoon, we went on zodiac trips at the mouth of the bay, cruising between the massive icebergs. Three humpback whales were logging/resting beside one of the icebergs and we watched them for a while which was so amazing. Tomorrow we will be doing one of our last land excursions and I am so glad that I could be a part of this inspiring journey with so many great students and staff.

Students thank SOI staff with skits, this one for Conor Leggott. Photo (c) @lipmanstillpics #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce

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

Darrell Wells – Instructor Marine Institute of Memorial University

We visited the tiny community of Qeqertarsuaq on August 1 and what a reception!  First we had a couple of the smaller boats travel out in the harbour to meet the ship. When we arrived at the dock a band had been set up and they were playing music for our arrival.  We visited a museum and spent most of the afternoon exploring this tiny Greenland community.  It was a very low-key sleepy town with very friendly people.  We saw numerous residents who were very friendly and quite happy to answer our numerous questions.  One group of students even got invited into a birthday party that was happening in one of the houses.

We explored the twisting road, seeing many examples of traditional life where hunting and fishing are a critical and important factor.  I saw many drying cod, a couple muskox pelts and several sled dog teams.  We were warned that these are working dogs and not what we would consider pets so no trying to get close and pet them. It was funny when the local kids would ride their bikes around and shout out what we figured were dog sled team commands and the dogs would go crazy trying to pull out their chains from the ground.  We had a wonderful time just walking the roads and talking to the people. Tomorrow we visit Illulisat, where we will hike out to see the fiord where the “Iceberg factory” is located.

When we arrived back at the ship we had a couple special events.  First POD E (my pod) performed a first at the nightly briefing and showed a video of their experience on Quqertarsuaq and we won the pod competition for tonight.

I should mention that earlier in the day we tested all the ROV units in the pool and it was a great success.  All of the units performed very well and it was funny to watch the various levels of driving among the students.  Then tonight to celebrate their performance we picked the top three designs and their piloting and the Captain of the ship gave them special certificates to make them official bridge crew which meant that they could visit the bridge anytime they want for the remainder of the voyage.  Incredible day.

The final gold nugget was the video presentation that the video crew put together and what a video.  I cannot explain it so just make sure you visit the SOI website and look at all the incredible videos that they have created thus far.  They are real professionals.

Emma Lim – London, On, Canada

Not much happened yesterday after I blogged, but today was really awesome. I missed breakfast because I was up late trying to finish my plant book and slept in, so I grabbed two boxes of cereal to eat on the way to Ilulissat. Yesterday, FYI, we sailed down the Evigheds Fjord and to the town of Qeqertarsuaq in Disko Bay. Today we arrived at a much larger Greenlandic  town which was equally colourful but a lot more smelly. The dock smelled like ammonia and fish- always a nice combination! We walked through the town (which was on a mountain so it was all uphill) and to one of the wonders of the world – the ice fjord. After hiking through the town we arrived at more and more rural areas. We walked through a field that was full of dogs, most of them chained, but with puppies running free. We wern’t supposed to pet the chained dogs because they were work dogs, but I petted some puppies! We arrived at a UNESCO world heritage site, a large mossy, grassy field with a boardwalk that we had to stay on becuase the field had been an area where Thule people had lived and to avoid damage to the surrounding area. After walking on the boardwalk for a while we reached the top of the rocky mountain and it was like a completely different world. All around us were huge icebergs and snow and bright blue and green water. It was absolutely stunning. I tasted an ice chunk but because the water it was in was still and a bit salty, it was pretty gross this time. After, we hiked back through town and I tried some Greenlandic food, but unfortunately not seal or caribou which I really wanted to. I stopped in a bunch of stores and soon learned that kroners don’t go very far. A hundred kroner is twenty Canadian dollars. I was able to buy a really, really nice pair of handmade mittens for my wonderful mother, though. I really wanted to get yak wool, which is the softest wool ever, but EVERYTHING is crazy expensive. I headed back to the ship and then raced to the blog room where I am now. I can’t wait for lunch because I am starving! I am headed to my cabin to change now and work on my plant book before I eat. So much love to my super awesome and super super cool family!

Florin Najera-Uresti – Pharr, TX, USA

Day 11 on board the Ocean Endeavor and we only have one more full day left! Quite a lot has happened in the last two days, it has been busy and exciting, so I apologize for not writing more. Yesterday we landed in our very first Greenlandic community, a small whaling village called Qeqertarsuaq. When we arrived at the small harbor, some members of the community welcomed us with live music as we walked through an arch made out of the jaw bones of a blue whale.  It was so warm and welcoming! They also kept their museum open so we could have a chance to visit. After the museum, we took a hike around town and outside, where we followed a trail that us to an amazing glacial waterfall.

Today was absolutely incredible too! We arrived at Ilulissat, a larger town in Greenland. There, we were able to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Ilulissat Ice Fjord. Although my camera died soon after we disembarked, I was carrying my phone and was still able to get some pictures. We walked around and explored Ilulissat as well and then we came back to the ship. Then, in the afternoon, we took another zodiac cruise where we got to see immense icebergs up close. I also had an interview with the local paper, The Monitor, but unfortunately we made it back to the ship a bit later than expected and I missed it. I think it will be postponed for tomorrow. Once back on the ship, we had an art show showcasing a lot of the work that has been done on board and we also had a photo contest! My memory card got corrupted a couple of days ago, but I was able to enter some of the photos I’ve taken on a new memory card, and I actually won with a picture I took in Hebron!

Tomorrow is our last full day on board and that is still so hard to believe. I’m excited to finally be contact with my family and to be able to share all my experiences in more depth, but it is rather bittersweet.

Haleh Zabihi – St. John’s, NL, Canada

Hello from Ilulissat, Greenland! Unlike the community we visited yesterday, this small town was buzzing with activity. First, the Zodiac brought us to a beautiful harbour that was packed with dozens of boats of all shapes and sizes and after undocking, we took a hike through the town to the edge of the fjord. This town really reminded me of a small coastal community one would come across in Newfoundland, save the colorful houses and Danish road signs!

During the walk, we passed by gift shops and coffee shops which gave the town a cozy and hospitable atmosphere. After we crossed the town (which only took a 10 minute walk), we came across three trails. The one that led to the fjord was a boardwalk across plains of grass framed by hills on one side and icebergs on the other. The weather was also stunning and every little while someone would stop to shed a layer of clothing before continuing. At the end of the boardwalk was a set of stairs and then the top endof a hill which required a bit of rock climbing (especially since the route I first took was not the right one and I climbed all the way up only to realize there was a cliff just beneath me and some very cold looking water at the bottom waiting to catch my fall). After finding the rest of the group, however, I had a chance to take in the view: rolling hills encompassed a wide piece of the fjord that stretched as far as the eye could see, and the whole area was covered with giant icebergs aside from the small slivers of bright torquoise water peeking out from underneath. We got to enjoy this beautiful scene while simultaneously learning about its history as we listened to a glaciologist explain how and when they were formed.

After staying for a few extra minutes to take some pictures, we headed back to the town to do some shopping! I went into the first store I saw which had a long line of people by its door and bought a few things before venturing out to check out the rest of the town. Unfortunately, waiting in the line took a big chunk of my time and me and a few others didn’t have time to buy some Greenlandic ice cream- which looked so good :'( -or these cool socks I had my eye on that said “Greenland” all over them.

This evening, we will be taking another Zodiac cruise to check out some icebergs in the Jakobshavn Ice Fjord! I’m very excited for this because Zodiac cruises are one of my favourite activities and this fjord is known for having some of the largest icebergs in the world. It’s also a fairly warm day so hopefully we’ll see some whales and calving icebergs!

Until next time,

Haleh

Hannah Wiltzen – Fort Smith, NWT, Canada

The longer I participate in Students on Ice, the more I’m sure no one will believe me when I tell them what it was like. Take this afternoon for instance. We loaded into zodiacs around 4:30pm with the intent of cruising along the ice fjord in Ilulissat, Greenland. After about 15 seconds in the zodiac, we came across 3 humpback whales who were floating just under the surface of the water. We were close enough to hear them breathe and smell how fishy their breath was. They knew we were there, but in their peaceful state, they didn’t swim away for quite a while. When they decided to move along, they gave us an incredible show of flukes and were on their way.

Apparently whales enjoy the sound of string instruments, and today one of our doctors (Dr. Andrew) had decided to bring his cello out on the zodiac. We collectively decided he should try to lure the whales back. As he started to play, 3 or 4 guitars popped up in other zodiacs and before we knew it, Tim Baker was singing in his zodiac with several other musicians also playing along. Take a moment to really picture what this experience was like. 200 people in zodiacs, rafted up with an impromptu concert happening in the middle. The background is a wall of ice on one side and open water on the other. Between songs, you can hear the glaciers cracking and water melting from the icebergs floating around us. All the while these humpback whales reappear, breathing fishy air in our direction and showing us their flukes.

If you had difficulty imagining such a sight, don’t worry – this expedition has been completely made up of “you had to be there” moments!

Lisa Ginocchi – Menton, France

Le 2 août, déjà ? Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ? Le temps passe vraiment à une vitesse affolante. Je ne me suis rendue compte de presque rien. C’était dur au début et puis j’ai rapidement pris mes marques, je me suis débarassée de mon mal de mer et de mes peurs. J’ai bizarrement découvert plus de choses sur moi-même que je ne l’aurais cru. C’est étonnant. Tout comme toutes les choses que j’ai pu faire ici. La baignade fut génialissime. J’aurais honnêtement pu rester dans l’eau pendant bien plus longtemps, mais j’avoue que les piqures de moustiques m’ont découragé. Qu’importe, je me suis baignée dans une eau à une température nettement moins agréable que celle de chez nous, mais franchement, que c’était bon. J’ai vu des baleines. Une en fait, mais j’ai pris tellement de photos qu’il semblait y en avoir plusieurs. Qu’importe, j’ai pu en voir. Les paysages font également partie de ce que je vais retenir. J’ai vu de telles choses, que je me demande parfois, si je n’ai pas rêvé. On fait aussi tellement de choses intéréssantes, amusantes … La dance party, ou encore le talent show qui aura lieu demain soir. J’écris une chanson. Vraiment. Première fois de ma vie. Décidemment, c’est l’expérience des premières fois. Je dois conclure ça rapidement, pour me faire aider par des vrais musiciens. J’ai hâte d’en venir à bout et de pouvoir chanter quelque chose qui m’appartient.

C’est surement mon dernier blogue, et je sais qu’aucun n’a jamais été très instructif. Seulement, je n’ai jamais vraiment su comment faire pour retranscrire tous mes sentiments, tous mes ressentis. Ça doit surement être impossible. Mais l’important, c’est que je l’ai vécu. Et je m’en souviendrai toute ma vie.

Melissa Snedden – High School Teacher

Our adventure today was quite exciting! We arrived in Ilulissat which is quite a large community but smaller than Nuuk. It had lots of shops to poke around in, however some things were quite expensive. Upon our arrival we ventured to the Ice Fjord which was approximately a 30 minute walk from the dock. We ended up on very large rocks over looking the “Iceberg Factory” of Greenland. It didn’t look real and it was hard to believe the actual size of the bergs.

After about an hour overlooking the icebergs, we walked back into town to do a little bit of shopping. Some shops were more touristy than others. Some shops were jam packed with people but I was able to make a few purchases.

This afternoon after a late lunch we all got into zodiacs to venture around the icebergs, to put the size into persepective. Before heading close to the icebergs, three humpback whales were spotted and we got to watch them for a while. I soon came to realize that the spout out the whale smells absolutely disgusting; like sewage. Besides the fact that they stunk, it was a really awesome experience!

I’m not too sure where we’re headed tomorrow but I’m sure it will great! I’m feeling a bit better than yesterday, which made the entire off ship experience that much better.

I really can’t believe that there are only 2 more full days left; it really has flown by.

Grace, Journey, Blessing.

xo Melissa

Exploring a grounded iceberg. Photo (c) @lipmanstillpics #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce #NatureforAll

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

Melody MacLean – Manager, Public Engagement at Community Foundations of Canada

The SOI expedition is almost over, and it would be wrong to end it without a blog post to wrap things up.

I believe my last and only blog post was after we visited Ramah Bay in Nunatsiavut, when we were on our way to Hebron. The day we spent in Hebron will have to be saved for another blog post, as I wouldn’t be able to do it justice in such a short time.

We are currently in Greenland, which I have to say has significantly surpassed my expectations. First of all, it has been warm and sunny every day that we have been here. We have spent the last few days exploring the amazing fjords of Greenland, hiking through small towns, and getting up close and personal with some whales.

Today, we had the priviledge of seeing the Greenlandic ice fjord in Ilulissat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most amazing thiings I have ever seen. I will have to let the talented SOI photographers and videographers speak for me on this one as describing it in words wont do it justice.

Even through the trip is almost over, we still have plenty to look forward to including some wrap-up activities with the amazing students and staff, and (hopefully) a visit to the Greenland ice cap, the largest ice cap in the world outside of Antartica. Can’t wait!

Expedition leader and Students On Ice founder Geoff Green. Photo (c) @lipmanstillpics #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce

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

Mohd Robi Muhammad Arif – Marang, Malaysia

It was another great day. I woke up this morning excited because we were told that we were going to the UNESCO world heritage place which is Ilulissat Ice Fjord. I felt that this world is so huge and that I was such a little piece of this universe. Thank you for sending me here. It was amazing. I have never seen anything that big or beautiful before this. Those icebergs were so mesmerizing. I will never forget all these memories when I get back.

After visiting the Ice Fjord (which was once again super amazing), we went to the Ilulissat town. The houses were colourfully-painted and it was so beautiful. The town was quite busy compared to Qeqertarsuaq where we went yesterday. I was really glad to be there.  Overall, it was a really nice town.

At night, as usual we had our recap and briefing before curfew time. But tonight was such a great night. Each pod was asked to suprise one of the head SOI staff members. And for pod C, we got Caitlin. She was awesome – so worthy of what we had done for her. I think that is all for today. Tomorrow will be the last day we are on the Ocean Endeavour and I just can’t wait to share my experiences once I get back. Goodbye!

 

Patrick Perrigo – Staten Island, NY, USA

Well, is has been a fun and long journey, but this will be my last blog post.  After tonight, the staff have to start packing things up, and that means some of the computers will be packed as well.  There will be a very limited amount of computers tomorrow available to blog, but I will probably not have the time to blog.  I now have time to write, so I don’t have to rush through this.

Today was a great experience, and a wonderful morning and afternoon.  This morning we went ashore to a big city full of ships, industry, people, traffic, and stores everywhere.  The city is called Illulisat in West Greenland, and is located right next to a ice fjord.  The ice fjord is full of enormous icebergs that fall off the Greenland glacier, the hugest glacier in the world that provides over 90% of the freshwater in Arctic and Northern Canadian households.  Another fun fact, it is believed that this glacier produced the iceberg that sunk the Titanic.  I have a ton of different facts I could state about the glacier that I have learned, but then I would take up all of everyone’s time.

We got in the zodiacs after breakfast and we docked at the shore, with no big greeting party this time.  We hiked through the town to the boardwalk that leads to the top of a ridge that overlooks the ice fjord.  This boardwalk is now the second area that is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first being Hebron.  It is a heritage site because a certain type of Indigeous group settled and lived there since 1000 AD.  When we got to the top of the ridge, I was speechless at what I saw.  I can’t even describe how beautiful the icebergs were in the fjord.  I dangerously went down to sea level to hold a chunk of ice and touch the freezing water.  I took a lot of pictures, including me holding my local newspaper.  We had a meeting on the ridge, and then a long moment of silence to absorb the beauty of the fjord.  Some people left right away to head back to the city to go shopping, but I stayed for fifteen minutes more.

When I was leaving, I knock over my thermos, and it rolled off the ridge and I  heard it bounce all the way down into the side of the fjord.  I thought it was gone, but then I realized that there was no splash sound.  So I carefully climbed down some rocks, even though Geoff told us not to go any lower than the ridge, and found my thermos on the edge of a rock.  It is a little dented now,  but now it is an authentic thermos and a souvenir.  I walked back to town and walked through a supermarket and some stores looking at what to buy.  I will tell you though, this city has some really nice stores with modern items.  I brought some  postcards, a hat, a fridge magnet, and other small sounvenirs at one store for a total of USD $105.  At another store, I brought a shirt with my credit card because they didn’t accept US dollars.  I was going to buy ice cream too, but it was time to go back to the ship.

On the ship, we had lunch and filled out some post-expedition surveys for SOI.  Afterwards, we got on zodiacs and went on a iceberg cruise.  Before we went to the zodiacs, we saw three humpback whales taking a nap.  We got close to them and saw them blow out water from their blowhole, their dorsal fin, and their tail fin.  We stuck around for a whole hour, and we started to play some whale songs and music since we were close to each other.  Once we finished playing music, we went towards the icebergs and took a lot of pictures.  My driver got us really close to touch an iceberg, and collect some water leaking from it to drink it.  It was really cold, but refreshing.  I also picked up some sea ice from the water and held it for a while, until I threw it back into the ocean.  Eventually, we had to go back to the ship to get ready for dinner.  We have some time before dinner, so I decided to write my last blog.  Dinner is now in five minutes, so let me wrap this up.

Thank everyone who read my blogs and followed me through this expedition. Tomorrow will be our last full day on the ship, and we will have to pack our bags that night.  On August 4, we will leave the ship, and be on a plane back to Ottawa sometime around or after lunch.  On August 5, we all say goodbye to each other, and head back home.  I am looking forward to sharing everything that I saw and learned.  It will be weird however, going back to society and catching back up on the news from the past two weeks.  I am afraid to find out what has happened.  I also feel like I will be different back home, because of this experience.  I may start to dream about the wonderful places we have been in the Arctic.  Anyway, I will see everyone soon with so much to share.  This is Patrick Perrigo signing off.


Robert Adragna – Toronto, ON, Canada

Wow. That is the only way to describe what has turned into not only the greatest birthday of my life, but also one of the greatest days of my existence. Wow. Where do I even begin?

It started, as always, with Geoff’s melodic croon rousing me out of sleep through an old PA system. “Good morning, Students on Ice”. How true that statement became.

Illusiat, I had been told, was the highlight of this trip. As I zodiaced into the quaint, pictureseque Greenlandic town’s harbour, it appeared to be a modest locale where locals quietly went about their business. And it was like this, until you started on the boardwalk. The cliffs and moss-covered outcrops flanking the trail were goregous, if not spectacular. But then you start to see it, peeking over the horizon. Ice, and giant ice at that. As you walk along the boardwalk, across the “UNESCO World Hertage Site” plaque, it gets bigger and bigger. This isn’t merely a casual iceberg, no. This is an entire pod of majestic monoliths, armies of white tanks marching down the militant fjord. The horizion became larger and larger until it stops at a gently sloping cliff. And this cliff ended in the most spectacular view on planet Earth.

Hundreds of sculptures, lined in unision to form a flowing river of ice. It descended like a carpet upon the landscape – berg upon berg reaching to the sky magically forming a mountain range swept by wind. I now understand why SOI takes all its promotional pictures here, it is truly a sight from a whole ‘nother world where humans are mere ants weaving within the land of giants. Sitting there, soaking in the magnificence of nature was a moment I will never, ever forget. I took plenty of pictures to help with the memory. Also want to thank the entire expedition for singing me the best happy birthday I could ever imagine – 200 voices singing with the deafening silence of the icefjord.

Then the afternoon. A zodiac ride through these towers of ice. No big deal right? Well, no big deal except for the humpback whales. An entire pod of three had decided to play among us mere mortals in rubber fleets, and before long we were in a full-out whale chase. Silently drifiting with widened eyes in the zodiacs, these majestic beasts took us on as their own. Within literally 100 feet, these whales did everything – blow, surface, fluke, one even half breached. It is so difficult to comprehend the sheer enormity of these creatures until you observe them up close – and when you do, it isn’t difficult for the blanket of awe to settle in as you realize that these monolithic beasts can move with such grace and agility. The only thing that could improve the whale watching was the whale watching with music, generously provided by Tim Baker and Ian Tamblyn. Rafting in zodiacs, listening to the heartfelt melodies of two fantastic muscians it is difficult not to ask yourself how amazing life has become – if I had told myself 5 years ago that my 18th birthday would be spend at a concert in the middle of open ocean in Greenland with humpack whales in the background, well that wouldn’t have even been within the realm of possibility.

Then the ice cruise – and bathing in the runoff waterfall of a melting iceberg. Wow. While I was so so cold, at the same time I was unbelievably warm – warmly comforted with laughter at the incredulity of my life right now. Living at the edge of reality, today was a day of living life to its fullest and deepest depths. As the great Canadian band Rush once sung, “Experience to extremes. Experience to extremes.”

Students on Ice is proudly supported by bv02.

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