What a day! It is so hard to believe this is our last full day of SOI’s 2017 Arctic Expedition before flying home tomorrow. With the days seeming to pass by faster than ever, we could not have asked for a more perfect day to bring us in the home stretch!
We started our morning with crystal clear skies, the sun shining down on us as if to welcome us in with open arms. We set off on a Zodiac cruise to drift through the sea of ice, with the towering snow-capped mountains by our sides and the most magnificent tidewater glacier – Sermitsiaq Glacier – in our sights ahead. The Sermitsiaq glacier drains the Maniitsoq ice cap, which used to be part of the Greenland ice cap, into two fjords, one being the beautiful Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord, also known as Evighedsfjorden or Fjord of Eternity. Our Zodiac cruise brought us slowly down the fjord through a maze of ‘bergy bits’ – chunks of ice of all sizes that had fallen off the glacier – that filled the waters. Above us were hundreds of kittiwakes nesting on the steep cliff faces. The sights and sounds of being in the presence of this many migratory birds again has book-ended the expedition, having experienced a similar scene at Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary on day 2 at sea. While we drifted below the cliffs in Kangerlussuatsiaq each Zodiacs engine was shut off so we could listen to the sounds of the birds above us and the ice below us. The snap, crackle, and pop of the ancient glacier moving, melting and calving into the bright aquamarine coloured waters left us pondering, once again, the changing landscape, its pristine history and uncertain future.
After some silent floating we made our way to the terminus of glacier to take in its sheer enormity and the surrounding rock-faced mountains climbing some 2,000 metres into the sky. At one point, after a few seconds of unsettling silence, followed by what felt like thunder, we turned to see a tremendous splash as the glacier calved right in front of us, creating new icebergs to float out of the fjord and into the open ocean.
We returned to the ship for a quick lunch and turned around for a second landing. Here we met with our pod groups for a check in and reflection and then had a chance to spend some solo time on the land. The weather was a little grey and drizzly, but this only added to the ambience of the surrounding mountains and tundra. We hiked off on our own, and found a quiet spot to reflect on the past two weeks. We thought about the people we met, the places we had seen and the feelings we felt. We thought about what we want to do with all our new knowledge, with our newly sparked passions and with our new understanding of all the opportunities that await us.
The silence was broken by a call down to the beach – it was time for the big event! The Polar Dip!! Everyone gathered at the shore and for those brave enough, we quickly peeled down to our bathing suits and swam in the Arctic Ocean, officially joining the Arctic Swim Team! Lots of laughter and screams and splashing. A lot of shivering too! It was a lot of fun as everyone helped each other in and out of the frigid water, taking photos, sipping hot chocolate and enjoying our last full day in the Arctic.
The evening concluded back on the ship with dinner, art and a talent show. A wonderful ending to our last night onboard the MS Ocean Endeavour. Our floating classroom has become a home away from home for each of us and has helped to provide a safe environment through which we could not only explore the incredible Arctic all around us, but a platform for learning from one another, connecting, and forming life-long friendships.
Tomorrow we will arrive in Kangerlussuaq, where we will visit the Greenland Ice Cap before boarding our flights back to Ottawa, Canada. It has been a special time here in Greenland and we’re so grateful to our Greenlandic friends for sharing their home with us.
In the expedition spirit,
Students on Ice
Read what our participants have to say about their last days on the expedition:
It’s the last full day on the ship! The collective energy was low yesterday, but today there is a sense of excitement as everyone makes the most of our last moments together in the Arctic. We just came back from a thrilling zodiac ride through bits of floating ice that got bigger and bigger until they became ice-bergs and eventually revealed the massive glacier that they came from, here in the fjord of eternity of Kallalit Nunaat! Eternity is what it feels like here. Imposing mountains rise on either side of the ship, the blue/green water glistens, and people share beaming smiles as the reality that the connections and the friendships that we’ve made on the ship don’t have to stop here sinks in. On the water, we could hear the melting summer ice crackle as it released pockets of air, and we even saw the glacier calve! It sounded like thunder.
Participating in a circle dance to symbolise those friendships and our newfound connection to the places we visited and to ourselves all together this morning was really special. I look forward to continuing to celebrate this experience as the trip wraps up, and to share it in more detail when I get home. Beyond taking in the land and the stories, I’ve learned a lot about reconciliation and sustainable development. I will integrate that learning wherever I go, and always seek to learn more and do better. More than ever, I believe that humans are made to look out for each other and the land. Everything on the planet has a role, and that’s ours!
As the journey slowly draws to a conclusion, I really reflect upon the last two weeks. Nature is really for all of us. The land we touch, the air we smell, the icebergs on the ocean, the birds that are singing, all of this belong to the world and all of us. Nature is our mother and our disconnection to her is clouding our judgement. Travelling through the Arctic, I came to admire the beauty and resilience of both the environment and its people. This place is filled with beauty many of us has lost in our daily lives. While the magic of the north enchanted me, I am also saddened by our disconnection to the nature. How can we be so blinded by our trivial greed and neglect to protect this wonderful place? I really hope that soon we can all rediscover our love and connection to our Mother Earth because we are all a part of it and without our mother, we are nothing. Let’s reconnect to our root and live the lives we truly need.