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2019 Arctic Expedition: Day 12

The morning began with an outdoor briefing on the bow overlooking Dundas Harbour. Next came pod group meetings where one group even did a relaxing face mask! Before landing, Alison Leclaire (Senior Arctic Official with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs) delivered an informative presentation on the Arctic Council and international Arctic cooperation.

In the afternoon we landed at Croker Bay/ Devon Island. There were numerous exhilarating activities to choose from including qajaqs and stand up paddle boarding, songwriting, sharing circles, ocean literacy and sampling in zodiacs and more.

After the workshops it was time for the Students on Ice polar plunge! This is an annual tradition to take a dip in the Arctic water. Some even made it a goal to touch an iceberg and swim away!

Back on the ship, we had a dinner buffet with a chocolate feast for dessert!

The evening briefing included talks from Thomas on the geology of Devon Island and photographer Martin Lipman on archaeological findings from his time on Devon Island in 2007. He also spoke on the descendants of the seal (which could walk on land) and a giant beaver. Then elder Moosa Akavak spoke on his connections to Dundas Harbour.

Fun fact: Moosa, his brothers, and his father were all constables in the RCMP.

Devon Manik spoke about Devon Island, which he was named after, and explained where people go down to hunt muskox and caribou. Becky Okatsiak presented on life after expedition and what being part of the alumni program means and all the possibilities after expedition.

In the evening we were treated to some performances from Ian Tablyn and George Woodhouse and from student participant Shawna Nomore, who wrote a song on expedition about the Northern lights.

We are sailing towards Resolute Bay with a stop tomorrow at Maxwell Bay where we will see sea ice, a first for this expedition!

More updates to come, including details about the upcoming SOI Talent Show!

Participant Blogs

Anna Kelly, student
Oxford, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

One of the key focuses of the last couple of days has been the creation of Tallurutiup Imanga, a new 110,000km square marine protected area extending across the entire of Lancaster Sound and adjacent bays. It was officially announced on Thursday in Arctic Bay (NE Baffin Island) and SOI were able to visit the local community as they celebrated everything that the area means to them. 

This agreement is special because it is one of the first that recognises Inuit as stewards of the land, and trusts them with the task of enforcing the protected area, monitoring its success and managing it sustainably. It was very moving to hear elders reflect on this recognition as a key step towards reconciliation after the injustice of their treatment following colonisation in WW2. The Arctic  Bay community was one of the most welcoming we have visited so far. Even as we were coming off the zodiacs there were about 20 local children crowding around for high-fives and everyone was in really good spirits. It was a brilliant day and although many of us weren’t able to fit into the community hall for the official speeches (one by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!) it was so much fun to have a couple of hours to explore the mountains at the back of the community and see some truly magical views over the entire bay.

A highlight of yesterday was going on a zodiac cruise around the bird cliffs of Cape Graham Moore on Bylot Island. The cliff was home to 60,000 pairs of thick-billed murres, ‘flying penguins’ that can dive as far as 200 metres to catch cod and last underwater for over 5 minutes! To avoid disturbing the birds we were only allowed to get as close as 100 metres but the noise was still phenomenal. Strangely it was also a very peaceful cruise because we were able to cut off the engines and listen to the birds which (although very noisy) were an amazing reminder that these cliffs remain almost untouched by human activity – a truly natural environment.

Yesterday evening I also enjoyed a really interesting workshop on Arctic geopolitics. It was amazing to have representatives from Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden (among other non-Arctic states) taking part and sharing their own nation’s perspectives on the significance of the Arctic. It also really broadened my own understanding of not just regional but global interest in the Arctic, as well as explaining in more detail the legislation that supports or undermines various territorial claims on sections of the North.

After an amazing hour exploring Dundas Harbour on the coast of Devon Island (the largest uninhabited island on the planet!) with binoculars from the ship, we are just about to land at Croker Bay for more outdoor workshops and the annual SOI ‘polar dip’ this afternoon! 

Lots of love to everyone at home.


Claire Fu, student
Hong Kong

Yesterday, we stopped at Bylot Island, which is a bird sanctuary housing mainly the murres and the kittywakes. We went on a Zodiac cruise around the cliff, and flocks of them – all screeching and singing in their unique and varied voices – flew to and from their nesting sites towards the ocean. 

It was a beautiful day. We were blessed with great weather, and against the brilliant blue sky and clear ocean, we watched as a hundred twenty thousand birds flocked around us. They were streaks of white and black, darting down and landing in the ocean, occasionally diving down deep within the depths of the sea. Gary told us that they could stay in the water for up to five minutes, often diving over 200 meters! They were a spectacular sight to see, and I got many excellent action shots of the little kittywakes, about to take off from the water.

This afternoon, I did a climate stories workshop which involved sharing what we see in our numerous countries to each other. Tales from Seychells, Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Haida Gwaii were shared around the circle, and it made me realize that no matter how different and how far away from each other we are, everyone is affected. For islands with a lower elevation, even a miniscule rise in the sea level could mean losing half the area of the island. Wells which used to provide fresh water are now contaminated and salty, ocean water leaking in due to the sea level. Coastal erosion, plastic pollution, endangered species, unpredictable weather, and economical issues are coming up everywhere. After the conversation, I was so angered that on a whim, I wrote five sentences demanding politicians to take action, which somehow made it onto the video we were gong to film for the UN!

Filming the video for the UN was fun and all, but the best part about the afternoon was the polar dip. On the beach, all willing participants stripped all their layers down to a bathing suit, and in my summer one-piece, I dove into the freezing cold Arctic Ocean. It was so cold that I lost all train of thought, but I kept swimming towards the iceberg floating nearby, touched it, then rapidly turned back. 

My numb feet got pierced by so many rocks as I walked up back to my stuff. My previously hungry stomach all of a sudden became ten times more ravenous, and the cold air felt so warm compared to the water. It was a fun experience, and I like to think that I’ll do it again, but I doubt that I will have the guts to do so. 

Emma Lyon, student
Alberton, PE, Canada

Day 12 and this is the first time I’ve found time to blog. Let’s just say it’s been a full expedition and today is no exception. For the first time, our morning briefing was outside on the bow of the ship where Geoff gave us the rundown of the day and we had a few people give us mini-presentations on Devon Island (the place we were visiting today). We then had an hour of free time to go out on the deck and look for wildlife and just to recharge which was amazing. I sat out on the deck with Riley and Kady where we just laid out in the sun enjoying some fresh air while journaling and making some bracelets out of string from previous workshops. After our free time we then had a pod circle where we did a few activities and had time to share some things about ourselves and to chat about how the expedition has been going so far from each person’s point of view. I then had lunch with Riley and Olivier where we had food buffet-style (like most lunches) and then we ordered vegan brownies. The thing is brownies are a big deal with us, so we always fight over who will get the biggest brownie. For some reason, Kady usually wins. (I think she cheats a little but it’s ok.) The brownies have become such a big deal that the waiters know to drop the plate and run because hands and forks are flying…! After lunch, we got to Croker Bay where we landed on Devon Island to do our landing of the day. The boat was in such a deep part of the water due to the erosion of the glaciers that we couldn’t drop anchor so it just floated along as we jumped onto zodiacs to go ashore. Here I did the ocean literacy workshop where we went on zodiacs and drove around collecting samples and talking about how the ocean affects everyone, even if you live in a landlocked area. I got to drop and collect the net that was picking up zooplankton and other organisms in the water, which was so cool to experience. After doing the samples we went to a glacier where we got to get really close to it and even touch it. It was huge and amazing!! The best thing was the time “on land.” It was the day that I have been waiting for since day 1: POLAR PLUNGE DAY!!! Anyone who met me one of the first days knows that have been waiting for this day and it was amazing. Riley, Olivier, Kady and I all sprinted into the water and just flopped around before realizing we couldn’t feel our limbs anymore. So we decided it might be time to get out. Then we realized that there was a little iceberg that was really close to the shore, so Riley, Kady and I decided it would be a good idea to go back out and swim to the iceberg. We did it but once we got out I could no longer feel my body. It was so worth it though! How many people can say they’ve swam in the Arctic to an iceberg and licked it! After the plunge, it was back to the ship where we all had supper together and ordered more brownies and sorbet. Sorbet is also a pretty big deal because if you don’t eat it fast enough someone is coming for yours. Let’s just say it was a pretty awesome day. Sorry family for not blogging but it’s so hard to find the time, so this is my first and probably last blogs…. At least it’s a long one for you!

Joah Thompson, student
Haines Junction, YT, Canada

My day has been so incredible and also crazy. Today we got the chance to go swimming in the Arctic ocean. I went into the water twice to swim and once I walked out to touch an iceberg. The whole time my feet were hurting because the beach was all rocky and my feet were freezing so the rocks felt like glass. However, the water was surprisingly warmer than I thought it would be. I think that is because the sun was out all day, it was a beautiful day. Actually, the entire trip has been amazing calm seas, nice and sunny. Actually swimming today was actually my second time in the ocean this trip, the first was when I got to go standup paddleboarding in Greenland.  We were all wearing dry suits so we decided to hop on in, it was nice and refreshing. This is my first blog but I will try to get some more out before the end of the trip. Bye for now.


Linda McDonald, staff
Watson Lake, YK

Another glorious morning! I am typically up around 5:30 but this morning I slept in until 6:00 am.  If anyone is wondering why students or staff do not blog every day, it’s because we are busy from when we get up to when we go to bed.  We do have a wee bit of time in the morning before breakfast and before we go to bed, although it’s a struggle as I love  hanging out on the upper decks to watch the sunset (it never sets or I have not seen that yet?) I was hanging around up there last night after  midnight and the sun was still shining.  Who wants to sleep when there is so much beauty all around?

This morning I sat on the upper deck aft of the boat with my coffee.  Alaku from Kuujjuaq joined me. She was telling me about her family and childhood and about the dog slaughter which happened all over the north. She said her dad somehow managed to get some more dogs somewhere and got another dog team. We spoke of the harshness of life, and the beauty of it all in spite of pain and suffering.  Looking at the mountains on the starboard side, (Devon Island) and the wide-open sea, is a source of never-ending awe.

Two days ago we were in Arctic Bay, for the official ceremony for Tallurutiup Imaanga.  The largest marine sanctuary in all the Arctic. Many of us were not able to go into the community hall to listen to the speeches, however, I was honoured to be there outside on this very momentous time in Nunavut history.  When we got back to the ship, we were told about the ceremony and speeches and I was very touched as were all of us to hear of the years of hard work (20 years) it took to negotiate this protected area.

Yesterday, we started with Asuma workshops which are sewing, writing, photography etc. I decided to go the songwriting. This expedition makes one want to try new things and explore areas one might not in our usual daily lives. Ian Tambly and George Woodhouse were facilitating the workshop.  They played a melody and we wrote verses, inspired by the music. I was moved to tears by what came out of me and onto my notebook.  The students in this workshop were all incredibly creative.  George says this is going to be the most EPIC  song of all!! We are putting together all of our verses and somehow coming up with a song, which will be performed our last night on the ship.  I won’t be singing but will cheer and clap from the audience.   I helped Alex from Tuktoyuktuk, write a song.  I asked her what she wanted to write about and she talked and I wrote.  She and Ian are putting it to music.  I can’t wait to hear what they have created.

Yesterday, we were in Cape Graham Moore and we went out with the zodiacs to see the morres.  Thousands of birds nesting on huge cliffs.  We were told that the birds are sensitive to loud noises, so we had to tone down our usual banter laughter and singing.  Half the pods went out first and the other pods stayed back at the ship.  An hour or so later, we switched.  There are a few icebergs here, not like Greenland, where they are huge.  Still incredible to see floating blocks of ice. The sun was shining, it was warm (still requiring layers and our toques).  We have had such nice weather.  A bit of rain somewhere, but nothing to speak of?\

We found out yesterday that we are heading to Resolute Bay. We were not sure we could go as the Ice data was showing quite a lot around Resolute.  The conditions have improved so that is our destination.  Today we will explore Devon Island, cruise by and stop somewhere? Crocker Bay?

I can’t adequately describe the camaraderie, laughter stories, and knowledge we are sharing with one another. Students,  staff and all.  Last night one of the students sang two opera songs.  The first in Italian and the second in french.  We were told it was an SOI first! Also, George Woodhouse and Andrew Bresnahan played “Physics and Love”, the piece they performed in the zodiac many days ago in Allilusiat, Greenland.  Some people did not hear their performance as they did it in the 2nd wave of zodiacs cruising amongst the icebergs.  I was fortunate enough to be one of the people who enjoyed that remarkable performance amongst the bergs. Hearing the song again last night was special. So many memories and moments.  Love to all of you reading this!  We are all doing GREAT!!

Nicholas Flowers, student
Hopedale, NL, Canada

Wow, my experience with Students on Ice has been incredible so far! We arrived in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on July 25, where we got introduced to our floating home, the Ocean Endeavour. The next morning we woke up in Itilleq Fjord and I experienced my first zodiac excursion, then we landed in the nearby cove and I attended an edible Arctic plants workshop. After that, we made our way towards Ilulissat, where I had another zodiac cruise among the beautiful icebergs and I got to experience an outdoor music concert. Later on the same day, we visited the town of Ilulissat and I went on a hike in the local UNESCO World Heritage Site. As our exploration of Greenland progressed, we visited the beautiful community of Uummannaq and were invited to a welcome ceremony at the church. The day after (July 29th) was our big sail across the Davis Strait. After feeling the effects of seasickness that morning, I attended several workshops that involved making traditional crafts and then I wrote a message about my SOI experience in a bottle and dropped it overboard for the purpose to study ocean currents. The next day we arrived back in Canada, where we visited the community of Pond inlet. There were ceremonies held there and many of my SOI friends also got to see their family members which was very nice. That evening we had a zodiac excursion to Sirmilik National Park and experienced the natural beauty of the landscape including the massive glaciers that surrounded the area. It seemed as though each day kept getting better and better since the next morning we went to Coutts Inlet with community members and elders from Pond Inlet. There I got to experience an archaeological tour of fascinating sod houses that had an important connection to the Inuit elders. After Coutts Inlet we had a surprise visit to Arctic Bay where I was honoured to experience the announcement of Tallurutiup Imanga from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, PJ Akeeagok, and Natan Obed. That brings me to today, which I am currently sailing near Devon Island. I really enjoyed today since I got to see the historic RCMP post in Dundas Harbour and learn about the significance of the area. This evening I also experienced my first Polar Bear Dip in Croker Bay. I am making the most of each day on the ship and have had the privilege to meet many new amazing friends in both staff and students, thank you Students on Ice for this incredible expedition!

(c) Kim Aubut Demers/SOI Foundation

Olivier Ménard, student
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Petite mise à jour pour tous les francophones qui suivent mes entrées de blogue: j’ai vu mon premier phoque aujourd’hui même! C’était pendant le déjeuner alors que je venais d’entrer dans la salle à manger après avoir pris une douche dont j’avais grandement besoin (ma troisième seulement depuis le début de l’expédition, je vous laisse faire les calculs…). Bref, tout le monde se ruait vers les vitrines de la proue (l’avant du navire, je crois…) et lorsque je les ai rejoins, une petite troupe de ces petites créatures bondissantes traversait Tallurutiup Imanga, qui s’étalait à l’horizon. Apparemment, il y avait également un morse de présent parmi la délégation mais j’ai dû le manquer de peu parce que lorsque je suis arrivé, il était déjà retourné vaquer à ses occupations habituelles. Pour ce qui est de nos grands amis poilus, nous n’avons pas de nouvelles d’eux. Un de nos contacts nous a averti que les ours polaires ne devraient pas tarder à se joindre à notre groupe mais je commence à m’inquiéter pour eux, je ne voudrais pas qu’ils loupent le bateau, surtout que l’aventure touche à sa fin. 

Depuis tantôt que j’y pense, mais en écrivant à propos de ma douche, je peux déjà sentir les critiques des gens à la maison qui lisent ceci. Je mais ne vous inquiétez pas, on fait tous la même chose et en bout de ligne, tant que tout le monde garde ses souliers aux pieds, il n’y a pratiquement rien à craindre.

Avant d’aller me coucher, j’aimerais simplement mentionner que si vous avez un jour l’intention d’aller vous baigner dans l’arctique, où l’eau stagne autour de 2 degrés celsius, laissez vos souliers près de la rive. Car marcher sur des galets tranchants avec des pieds engourdis n’est pas une partie de plaisir. Oh, également je viens d’apprendre que je vais faire partie du spectacle de talents de l’expédition, hourra… j’imagine…

Bonne nuit à tous et à la prochaine!

(c) Kim Aubut Demers/SOI Foundation

Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, staff
Communications professional and Sámi advocate

Ammes nu, vajálduhtten máinnašit, ahte Kanada stáhtaministtar Justin Trudeau, gean deaivvaimet don beaivve, lea leamašan mielde Students on Ice -ekspedišuvnnas jagis 2005!

Odne mii finaimet gáttis Croker Bay -nammasaš báikkis. Fiinna luokta, alla várit ja gaskas jäätikkö (in dieđe mii dakkár jiekŋa lea sámegillii, glacier), mii golggai gitta merrii. 

Mun serven dieđábargobádjái. Vujiimet gummefatnasiiguin meara ala, válddiimet iskkosiid mearračázis (čáhci lei 6,5 gráđa liekkas) ja ságastalaimet meara mearkkašumis ekologiijai ja eamiálbmogiidda. Loahpas finaimet vuojašeamen dan jäätikkö (jieŋa) luhte. Jieŋa guoras dovdui dego livčče rahpan jiekŋaskáhpe ja čužžon dan balddas.

Odne vujiimet támppain Talluruti-nammasaš báikki meattá, eaŋgasgillii Dundas-hámman. Doppe lei jagiid 1924-1933 ja 1945-1951 Kanada bolesa stašuvdna. Stašuvdnaviesut oidnojedje ain támpii. 

Stašuvdnii sáddejedje dolin kanadaláttániid, qallunaaq inuihtagillii, geain ii lean máŋgelágan skuvlejupmi birget davvin. Áidna koansta mo qallunaaq-láttánat cevze garra dálvvis ja garra birrasis lei, ahte sii bukte inuihtaid orrut seamma guvlui. Inuihtat gorro qallunaaq-olbmuide biktasiid ja bipme sin. 

Ovtta dološ stašuvdnaviesus lea ain Singer-goarrunmášen, mainna okta inuihtabearaš goarui biktasiid qallunaaq-láttániidda. Eat dán háve beassan galledit dološ viesuin, muhto gulaimet muitalusaid báikki birra inuihtain, geaid fuolkkit orro dien gáttis ja bálvaledje qallulaaq-olbmuid

Shannon Makiuk, student
Kuujjuaaq, QC, Canada

Hi Annana, I am on my trip and I am going home in 3 days, I am having lots of fun, made lots of new friends, I wanted to write this blog so you will not ask me why I did not blog while I was on my trip. I did the Artic dip today, the water was really cold but it was really fun. I just wanted to let you know how I am. Ummp love you <3

(c) Kim Aubut Demers/SOI Foundation

Stephanie Quon, student
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Today was a super fun day and I can’t believe there are only four days left! We started off the day outside, looking at beautiful views of Devon Island. To be honest, the mountains by themselves look like they belong in the desert, so I was surprised when I first looked out the window in the morning. We then had some time to talk with our pods, and it was great to see how close we’ve become as a group and how easily we now work together. Later in the day, I participated in the ocean literacy workshop on Devon Island, and we got to go right up next to the glacier to run our fingers on it, drink water from it, and lick it! When we got back to the shore, people were already swimming and screaming in the water, so I quickly changed and jumped in with them! It was really cold but not painfully cold, so it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Now I can say I’ve gone swimming in the Arctic!

Something that touched me today was when a member of our pod reminded us that although we all come from different places around the world and carry different perspectives, interests, and experiences, we are all still from planet earth. Personally, it reminded me that we are all much more similar than different, and through connecting with each other we can better understand the issues we are facing and the solutions for them!

(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

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