Students on Ice is on its floating classroom, the MS Ocean Endeavour and sailing through the Northwest Passage towards tomorrow’s destination – Prince Leopold Island.
The day began early (5:30am) students filled with anticipation for the journey ahead, loaded the buses and headed to the airport. Flights departed on schedule and after a brief stop in Iqaluit for refuelling, continued on to Resolute and landed just in time before heavy cloud cover set in!
After landing in Resolute, a group of students toured the Polar Continental Shelf facility The Polar Continental Shelf Project was established in 1958 by one of SOI’s founding fathers, the late Fred Roots, and provides logistics throughout the Canadian Arctic for field research conducted by both government and independent organizations.
Meanwhile, other students ventured to the Community Hall for an historic event – the official opening of a new national park – Qausuittuq National Park. Qausuittuq, the 45th national park in Canada, is composed of a cluster of islands in the High Arctic. It has been a significant historical site for Inuit for 45,000 years traditional hunting and fishing area that has sustained Inuit of Resolute in the recent past. The name Qausuittuq (pronounced: Qow-soo-ee-tooq) means “place where the sun doesn’t rise” in Inuktitut.
The event was led by Master of Ceremony Joanna Awa and included a ceremonial lighting of the qulliq by Resolute resident Mary Kalluk followed by a wonderful performance by Inuit singer Celina Kalluk. The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change delivered an inspiring speech to an audience of community members and SOI staff and students about the opening of Qausuittuq National Park and the importance of this park for the people of Resolute.
P.J. Akeeagok, President of the Qikiqtani Inuit Association then spoke about the collaboration between the QIA and Parks Canada and reflected on Resolute’s history as a community created by the forced removal of Inuit from their home communities to Resolute and the importance of where we are today, with the successful collaboration on a national park that will benefit the people of Resolute.
“Qausuittuq National Park has been an important traditional site for various Inuit communities throughout the ages. The wildlife in this area, including the Peary caribou, have sustained Inuit for thousands of years,” said Akeeagok. “This official opening and Qausuittuq’s Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement lay the groundwork for Inuit in the region and the community of Resolute Bay to continue to benefit from this park for generations to come.”
“This park is rich with wildlife. It is awe-inspiring, and one that has sustained Inuit for thousands of years and is essential for the maintenance of Inuit lifestyles. Qausuittuq has been an important fishing and hunting spot for Inuit. Communities such as the Hamlet of Resolute Bay fought for the boundaries of this National Park to ensure permanent protection for Peary Caribou and their habitat.” – Becky Mearns, Inuit Impact Benefit Agreement (IIBA) Manager for Qikiqtani Inuit Association (QIA)
Qausuittuq National Park protects cultural and natural heritage including key wildlife habitat with travel routes, calving grounds, and wintering grounds for the endangered Peary caribou, as well as habitat for muskoxen, arctic wolf, arctic fox, collared lemming and arctic hare.
Following the ceremony, the expedition team walked through the community of Resolute to the beach where we travelled by Zodiac to our new home – the MS Ocean Endeavour!
The remainder of the day was filled with an important ship safety briefing, dinner and a final evening briefing by Expedition Leader Geoff Green. Students and staff shared highlights of the day.
After lots of travelling and an eventful day, participants are tired but spirits are high after a wonderful first day in the Arctic. There is plenty of excitement and anticipation over what is to come!
Plans for tomorrow include a morning Zodiac tour around Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary located in Lancaster Sound, approximately 13 km off the northeast tip of Cape Clarence, Somerset Island, in Nunavut. The island is an ideal nesting habitat for thousands of seabirds, with its high cliffs and crevices that provide nesting sites. Then it’s back on the ship for lunch, workshops and hopefully a landing on Beechey Island in the afternoon!
I’m actually writing this blog the day after (11 August), because yesterday was a super busy day! We woke up really early in the morning, around 5:00 a.m. to catch our flight. We were bidding Ottawa adieu. I liked my time in Ottawa with its clean and fresh appearance, and pockets of beautiful scenery. The flight from Ottawa to Resolute Bay should take around 6 hours, with a planned short stopover in Iqaluit. Funnily enough, the stopover ended up taking around 2 hours!
At least, I was told by many of my friends with watches that it took two hours because I was having a lot of fun with my expedition mates and did not realise the passing of time. When the flight finally took off, we landed in Resolute Bay, Nunavut. The air here is much lighter, but the wind is harsher. The horizon stretches for kilometres around in each direction, seemingly going on forever. I haven’t truly experienced Nunavut yet, but I think I am going to like it very much.
After a short visit to the Polar Continental Shelf Program (more on that in a later post), I saw the ship for the first time following a bus ride. I was on a cruise ship with my family when I was around seven or eight, and I legitimately thought that this was another luxury cruise ship. Going inside, I was not mistaken. The ship is very clean, beautiful, and staffed by amazingly kind people. I can’t wait to make this my floating home for a dozen days.
My favourite part of today was having a insightful dinner conversation with 3 fellow expeditioners: Sara, Caroline, and Marina. In spite of the wonderful (and fancy!) food that should have taken up all of our attention, we managed to talk with beautiful scenery sailing past us. I’m really grateful to my family for giving me this opportunity, because it already feels worth it on Day 3.
Waking up at 5:15 AM isn’t the best experience, but for boarding the ship it was worth it. Being lucky enough to be assigned to the second flight, I was able to take my time and enjoy breakfast in with my not so clear mind. We boarded the second flight around 7:00 and smoothly arrived at Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut around 11:15, to stop and refuel the plane. Unfortunately there was some delay during the refeuling but we were able to get going again around 13:30 and arrive at Resoloute Bay at 15:45 to board the ship.
When we got off the plane, there was a warm round of applause welcoming us to this foreign land (for most of us). As we headed out to the beach to board the zodiacs, I was glad to wear my winter jacket as the temperature is approaching 0 degrees. Since there aren’t any docks in the Arctic, zodiacs are the only way to leave and board the ship with ease. After boarding the ship, I immediately realized that it wasn’t what I expected. It exceeded my expectations by all means with the awesome food, staff and other facilities. The view outside is amazing with some occasional sighting of birds and floating sea ice.
After dinner we headed to an evening briefing and explained some safety protocols and the itinerary of tomorrow. Since the time zone we are currently in, we are an hour behind the Toronto time zone, 22:00 right now will be 23:00 in Toronto. When the briefing was over, We were escorted back to our cabins for some much needed sleep. Wish me luck and this is me signing off.
More updates are being posted here and in new blogs daily. Be sure to check back and be part of the journey!