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2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 4

A Foggy Prospect

Fog is an Arctic reality. As we awoke for our first full day “on the ice,” we were greeted with limited visibility and chilly temperatures. But Students On Ice is blessed with good fortune and karmic energy at every turn, so as if by magic, the fog lifted and the sun chased away the morning mist that shrouded the landscape. This was also our first full Zodiac adventure, cruising around the bird cliffs on Prince Leopold Island. Alternating teams of students took to the boats for a close-up look at the nesting sites for thick billed murres, as well as a wide variety of other seabirds: glaucous gulls, kittiwakes and even an occasional raven. The cliffs soar vertically 300 meters, setting the stage for thousands of these fascinating creatures as they go about their daily business of feeding their chicks and flying out to do more “shopping.” Newly fledged birds are quite hungry! And as it turns out, so are we, and the ship delivered a magnificent lunch buffet to keep us all energized and healthy.

Mid-Day Mind Expansion

The afternoon brought a fantastic variety of workshops to the Ocean Endeavour, as our experts set up their labs, art studios and presentations across the many public spaces on the ship. Students could choose from a menu of interests such as: printmaking, traditional caribou antler crafts, songwriting, Inuktitut lessons, Arctic history, Arctic biology and journaling. The only difficulty is having to choose just one activity for the day, but many more opportunities are in store down the road!

A huge highlight of the afternoon was seeing our first polar bear! The bear was spotted off the port side of the ship swimming among the sea ice. What a sight to see on our first day on the ice!

Everything’s Beechey

Since it never really gets dark this time of year, our delicious Captain’s Welcome Dinner was followed by a Zodiac landing on Beechey Island. Visits to the grave sites of four of the Franklin expedition members and the Northumberland House were highlights of our visit to this remote locale, giving our adventurers a taste of what life was like for the men who perished there. The Franklin expedition was a British voyage led by Captain Sir John Franklin meant to traverse the last section of the Northwest Passage. The expedition departed England aboard two ships – the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror. When the two ships became icebound in the Victoria Strait, the expedition, and all 129 men onboard, was lost.

However, the real impact of this visit was about more than looking to our past. Surrounded by a diversity of indigenous and non indigenous students and staff, Beechey Island and the stories of what happened here provides a platform to more forward with a greater understanding of indigenous knowledge and culture and the opportunity for our youth to help bridge our cultures, our stories and our future.

A good day in the High Arctic. Tomorrow, another adventure awaits.

A rainbow over SOI’s floating home – the MS Ocean Endeavour!

Learn what’s on the minds of our participants through their blogs below!

Marley Blok 

The past few days have been a wonderful experience. Starting in Ottawa I met many friendly faces and got to go ziplining at Camp Fortune. After a tour of Parliament Hill we settled into Ottawa University for an early morning flight the next day. Resolute Bay was my first real taste of the Arctic. The barren landscape was nothing like I expected. The biggest difference I noticed was the fact that there is no trees in Resolute. The weather is cold with the wind and there has been no sun. We have been trapped in fog for the last while.

Today was amazing. In the morning we took a Zodiac cruise out and around Prince Leopold Island where we saw many different species of Arctic birds all nest on the edges of the cliffs. I then got to partake in a science workshop where we looked at the different types of plankton living in the arctic oceans. I saw my first polar bear today. It was swimming calmly away from the ship. Later on I took a songwriting workshop with Ian Tamblyn and he taught us how to get inspiration to write a song. An afternoon trip to Beechey Island was amazing. Learning about the Franklin Expedition and then going to see where they spent two winters was amazing. I cannot wait to see what is in store next for the expedition.

Veronica Flowers

We are having a blast!! We arrived in Resolute yesterday around lunch time and it was freezing out! I couldn’t get over how cold it was. We explored the community and then got in zodiacs and onto the ship. We had supper and settled in for the night. This morning we explored Lancaster Sound, it was absolutely stunning. I got so many pics already. I met so many new friends and everyone is so friendly. Then we had a few workshops and saw a polar bear swimming! We just finished supper (the meals are so fancy, its great) and we are soon heading out in zodiacs to Beechey Island! Exciting!!

Audio Break! Ever wonder what is sounds like to visit a migratory bird sanctuary where approximately 100 000 pairs of Thick-billed Murres nest?

Amy Johnson 

Yesterday we arrived in Resolute Bay, Nunavut in the Canadian High Arctic! We explored the town and then attended an event in the community hall where they announced the official opening of a new Canadian National Park! We heard from community members, Parks Canada, and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada. We then boarded our ship, the Ocean Endeavour, for the first time.

Today, we are sailing in Lancaster Sound. We did a Zodiac trip this morning near Prince Leopold Island. Here, there is a bird sanctuary with towering cliffs and we cruised around and saw a variety of seabirds. We saw our first polar bear today! I’ve also seen two ringed seals and a bearded seal. This afternoon, we did our first shore landing at Beechey Island. We walked along the shore and visited the gravesites and memorials for the sailors as we learned about the history of the Franklin expedition, the numerous expeditions that followed attempting to find out what happened to Franklin and his crew, and the discoveries of the HMS Erebus and Terror in 2014 and 2016. Tomorrow, we continue sailing down Lancaster Sound towards Crocker Bay on Devon Island.

Muriel Juncker 

I didn’t find the time before to blog, but now I finally managed to squeeze in some time. So, to my friends and family: I’m not dead, only busy! Also, now I’m formally known as “that German girl”…

As to my relevant experiences: I am constantly in awe! It’s not always about the amazing landscape or unique encounters, but it’s also about the kindness of the students and the mindfulness of the staff. It is so amazing what they managed to organize and how they handle us.

We had a Zodiac cruise today at the coast of Prince Leopold Island, where a very large bird colony can be found. If you ever tried to count the stars, you may understand how foolish I felt when attempting to count the birds. They were so many, swarming above us. Sometimes, we would be cruising near a group of birds bopping on the water, and as we got closer to them, they would start off and it would seem like they were flying WITH us.

But for me, the water was way more mesmerizing. It was incredibly clear that it seemed to be only 15m deep, but in reality, it was up to 100m deep! Even more amazing, however, was the colour. I have never seen any colour as beautiful as this one! It shifted from clear blue to a deep, green-ish turquoise. No picture could capture that, especially not the glittery reflections or strong waves.

However, the real highlight was a different moment. I think that moment was what really captured SOI’s spirit: at one point, we all tied our Zodiacs together, so that we were one unified, floating unit. By doing that, we could all listen to the information about the island and birds and also ask questions, which other scientists or experts could answer. That moment struck me deep, just picture it: around Zodiacs all huddled together, people holding onto the neighbouring Zodiac, the motors were silent, above our heads were thousands of birds, dozens of people bundled up and intently listening. That combination of spontaneity and companionship, but also learning outside the classroom and thinking outside the box is just amazing!

While I was really looking forward to the workshops, I didn’t step out of my comfort zone yet regarding the choice of the workshops. However, as someone who hates being wet and cold from the bottom of their heart, I guess I am already pretty far out of my comfort zone.

Talking about being cold and wet, I just stepped out of the Zodiac. We went on shore at Beechey Island, the island where Sir James Franklin and his crew stranded back in the day. It had a very eery vibe, fog creeping up over the hill, all those historic pieces (of junk) scattered across the beach and bear watchers being stationed around us. We all agreed that Beechey Island had a strange aura! However, it was pretty interesting and since I now found out that I have to wear 2 jackets and a vest instead of wearing “only” one jacket and a vest, the cold was pretty nice actually!

But I have to confess that my favourite part about the second trip was how the Zodiac ride back to the ship was really bumpy, so we got sprayed with the salty sea water and jumped in our seats. Well, “seats” is exaggerated.

The cliffs of Prince Leopold Island. Can you spot the Zodiacs?

Fathen Jusoh

Hello and salam from the Arctic,

Today I joined a workshop on High Arctic Relocation by Whitney. It’s good to learn the different views of how and why the Inuit were moved from Kuujuaq – southern Quebec to Resolute Bay and Grace Fjord in the year 1950s. The Inuit in Kuujuaq were starving and the government thought that they had to play their roles to help the Inuits. Hence, they decided to move them to northern part – Resolute Bay and Grace Fjord due to their belief and assumption on the adaptability of the Inuit to the harsh climate and to help the Inuits to live in their cultural and natural way of life. They were promised that they could return to their ‘home’ if they were unhappy at their new places after a year or two. The Inuit who are well known to be very polite and obedient, with no argument, they took the ship and were moved to their new homes. Unfortunately, they had no idea that the families would be separated. Some would had to go to Resolute Bay and some had to go to Grace Fjord. They were given tents to set their new homes and were expected to be adapted to the new climate and environment. But, did they survive? When they were in Kuujuaq, they had a lot of trees which they could set fire, they were seasonal people and they had their food according to the seasons, they followed the herd of caribou for their food. But, in their new homes, everything was totally different. They experienced darkness and coldness of winter. They had no trees to set fire and they were to eat seal which they never had.

There was a story of two little Inuit girls who had to sneak out at night to search food for their family from the non-Inuit dump. There were non-Inuit living at Resolute Bay who set the weather and aviation station, but, they were not allowed to talk to the Inuits as the authority wanted the Inuits to live culturally and naturally.

Personally, I think this is really sad and I viewed this history as an experiment by the authority over the Inuit. If they were really to help the Inuit,why would they assume the survival of the Inuit and their adaptability to the new environment? If they really wished the Inuit to live culturally, they should provide better place for them to live, not in the total darkness of the winter. How were they going to hunt in the dark? How were they going to survive the cold winter only through the assumption of their adaptability to the harsh climate.

We should let everyone to freely practise their belief and culture. That’s their right after all. However, to simply put assumption on what people could and should do to survive is not humane.

Bronwyn Keatley 

Today was a great day for the biologists in the crowd! The seabirds at Prince Leopold Island, seals and polar bear were all exciting but many of us also had a chance to explore the amazing world of plankton under the microscopes in our floating science lab.  Some of the highlights included sea angels, sea butterflies, copepods, dinoflagellates and diatoms.  And to top it all off – a song about being a copepod by Ian!

Yesterday our flight arrived in Resolute Bay after spending a couple of hours on the tarmac in Iqaluit waiting for the fog to lift in Resolute.  Luckily there was enough time left to for a small group of students to visit the Polar Continental Shelf Program (PCSP). PCSP plays a vital role in providing field and logistical support for many Arctic researchers, including for some of my colleagues at Fisheries and Oceans Canada.  Many thanks to Tim and Glen at PCSP for the informative tour of the PCSP facilities, including the lovely new lab space.

Student Manny Cook leans out eagerly over the Zodiac.

Kimberly Pilgrim

Today was my first first Zodiac cruise on the chilly Arctic Sea to visit a huge migratory bird protected area, Prince Leopold Island. There was a rainbow surrounding us as we arrived to the towering, steep and looming cliffs of the island.

I’m learning so much about from the experts on this expedition such as how climate change is negatively affecting the seal and walrus populations, how different the dialects of Inuktitut are in regions of the North, and how to write songs reflecting my experience in the Arctic.

The staff and crew of the Ocean Endeavour are so helpful and friendly. The accommodations provided by Students on Ice is really amazing!

Cassandra Pryer 

In the morning we went on a Zodiac cruise around one side of Prince Leopold Island where the rock seemed to go straight into the sky. The top of the cliff disappeared into the fog and thousands of birds flew above us to and from the island and would skim the water near our zodiac. We got close to a piece of ice and every bird flew away except one which continued to peacefully sit there posing for all the cameras. JD, our zodiac driver, encouraged us to grab a small piece of ice that was floating in the water and eat it. It was, as expected, slightly salty but not enough to do anything worth worrying about. We returned to the ship after lunch and started workshops. I went to the one led by Annie and learned basic phrases in Inuktitut. I even learned how to spell my name! I then went to a workshop led by Ian and attempted to write lyrics for a song. He gave us valuable advice on keeping things simple and how the most impactful songs can have a simple tune and meaningful lyrics. After dinner we went to Beechey Island where the Franklin Expedition stopped and where the three bodies of the crew are buried. Sasha initiated a moment of silence which was truly breathtaking. It was complete silence, all you could hear was the wind and nothing else. I have never experienced such silence and it something to cherish. The fog and the wind added to the desolate feel of the island but at the same time, it is rare for us to experience such serenity as that experienced at both islands today. Today is one that will surely go down as one the most memorable to me but I expect that every day will continue to be awe-inspiring.

Jake Sprenger

Wow! That’s my constant motto up here in the Arctic. It’s better than I could ever have imagined!

Whether it’s a Zodiac cruise, seeing gigantic pieces of sea ice, or visiting a migratory bird sanctuary there’s always something incredible right there in front of me.

I can tell that this will be a life changing experience.

Rachael Tovar

Yesterday,when we were about to land, all you could see was this vast, remote, and beautiful landscape, with snow scattered among it. It was in breathtaking, as was the Arctic wind that hit your face when you got off the plane.  Mountains of dirt and rock and water collecting between them, it made me feel so small and so lucky that I, not even reaching five feet tall, could see this amazing and powerful land that is the Arctic. We got onto the Zodiacs to get onto the ship and cold salt water sprayed our faces and all you could do was just take it in, the land, the cold, and the ocean all working in harmony with one another.

Today, we are going to Prince Leapold Island, where birds rule the land in their mighty colonies. I woke up at 6am to take photographs and it was one of my best decisions, although it was cold for my hands and my tea cooled in ten minutes, I got to see sea ice and birds.

1:39pm – We boarded our Zodiacs and rode on the side of the island, seeing thousands of birds who inhabited the island. Prince Leapold Island is a protected area where five species of birds nest. The main species is the thick billed Murre. It is black on top of its body and white underneath. It can dive for fish in that water, sometimes reaching the depths of 200 meters. They pick a nesting spot on the island during May and June, incubating its egg for 28 days. It was amazing to experience it,seeing the birds turf and being able to witness the imense island that rises 100 feet in the air, that houses 1,000s of birds.

11:41am – We saw a presentation on polar amplification. Was incredibly interesting and startling to hear the statistics, it made me feel even more passionate to make a change. Snow melts in the Arctic are starting earlier and earlier exposing baby seals to predators. Ringed seals need 30-35cm of snow depth to raise their young, but it is predicted that by the end of this century 75% of sufficient spots will be gone. This leads to less young which then decreases the population. Ice reflects sun beams, water absorbs it, about 80% is absorbed. When we warm the planet and the heat is trapped in our atmosphere, the ocean absorbs it. This melts the ice which in turn gives us less reflecting objects to combat the UV light. In the 1970s in the Arctic there was 3 million square miles of ice, snow there is half of that. The impacts of that in the world are devastating, in the Arctic as well. The People of the Arctic depend on ice as a way of transportation, an extension to the land. Though now that the ice is melting, they are hindered. In a couple decades we will have 1/8 of the summer sea ice that was there in 1978. Walruses and seals are adapted to depend on sea ice, so are coast lines. Without the protecting sea ice, erosion has doubled in the past 50 years. Perma frost is melting at an alarming rate. With the frost gone, bacteria can now break down  organic material and this causes increase rates of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere (greenhouse gases). Thus, worsening the downwards spiral that is Global climate change. Sea levels are rising at an alarming rate, effecting everyone.

The important thing to take away from these scary facts is that we must do something about it, not to shift blame onto anyone. We all impact the earth and unfortunately now it is not for the better. “What stays in the Arctic, does not stay in the Arctic”.

Shuyi Wang 

Standing on the deck of the ship, the realization of being on a ship just started to sink in. The breeze blowing on my face waking me up while holding a cup of warm coffee in my hands is the best feeling ever. Breakfast started at 7:30 and I was amazed to find an omelete station along with seasonal fruits such as strawberries and grapefruits.

Following the briefing of today’s itinerary was a morning presentation by Michael, an Inuit elder also a story teller that wrote one of my favourite stories, “A promise is a promise”. He explained the various types of features we should look out for while on the shore such as tent rings indicating that there once were Inuit people living there. The land despite being foreign and looking barren, is still very much alive and full of amazing wildlife.

After the first Zodiac group came back, we got on and headed out for Prince Leopard Island, the steep rectangular island filled with birds. When we got out, the birds filled the sky, the island was dispersed out onto the water. Everywhere the eyes went, there were birds. Garry explained a lot about the different species and each of their characteristics providing us with some context of what we were seeing such as thick built murres are the species with the wings flapping rapidly while another type liked to follow the ship for zooplankton supplies.

After lunch we were heading to Beechey Island, I stayed out on the back deck and was fortunate enough to see a polar bear swimming and some birds close up. Despite complaining about having a super heavy lens, I really do appreciate them as they can zoom very close up and capture the moment to refer back later. The afternoon was filled with two workshops. Among a large variety of workshops to attend, I settled on birds and journalism. The two were very informative and interesting but I also wanted to try many of the others offered at the same time such as the arts and the science programs.

Following dinner we went out on Zodiacs again to go to Beechey Island where four of Franklins’ crew were burried and eventually led to the discovery of the two expedition boats. The entire island was an archealogical site and staff prohibited us from removing or touching any of the interesting looking objects as it could potentially become an artifact examined later. We walked along the shoreline to the other side of the island, saw the graves of the crew members and headed back to the ship exhausted and ready to head to bed. Wish me luck tommorrow and this is me signing off.

Student Afsohneh looks up at the cliffs of Prince Leopold Island.

Kiara Caesar

Bonjour! It’s actually so odd to be typing on a computer and knowing it is a way of socializing with my family and friends. I have no idea what time it is right now because I am not  sure if the time on the computer is correct and there is sunlight here 24/7 (I’M NOT KIDDING!).  So you are probably wondering what I have learned during these past days. Let’s start with my pod group name. My pod group is named SILA, which means weather or outside. I knew this about a week before I went on this expedition, so I was excited when I found out about the meaning of “Sila”.

You’re probably thinking that’s so boring what could I be so interested in with the word and  so I will explain. When I heard it meant outside and weather. I knew it was true, that all it took for me to feel” better” and” happier ” was the change in weather and scenery. I was convinced being away from home and familiar faces would “cure” the sadness that I had inside me. That the change would heal me, but sooner or later this would become my home and the people here wouldn’t be such strangers anymore. You will find out that nothing or no one change you but yourself, but not until you accept who you are and what you have become. So as I go along this journey with my new familiar faces and this new place I call home. I will remember that self discovery is reallllyyyyy self. All about you and how you can be more like you, who ever you were meant to be. Still super excited to see everything here, I’m amazed every second. I will post pictures as many pictures as possibly as soon as possible I have been all over this ship. So like Andrew one of the sweetest doctors on board has told me ” You are never too old to stand by a window and gaze outside with tea/coffee in you hand”  and I will now live by that. Dinner last night was tasty even if it was a small adventure. Who knew something called anti-pasta does not in fact contain pasta, while something called Ziti does. Everything worked out in the end, and the expedition seems to be treating us all very well.


Shelly Leighton

Ship’s position @ 11am local time:

74-03.6215N (as in 74 degrees ABOVE THE EQUATOR!) 89-32.6882W

This is where the ship was when we took our zodiac cruise along Prince Leopold Island. Here we saw thousands of migratory birds nesting on the shear cliffs. Prince Leopold Island is a small blob on the map of Canada that I have been looking at all my life and I never imagined I would ever get to.  After the zodiac cruise we set sail again.

While sailing to our next destination I took in a couple workshops. I listened to Catherine McKenna (yes, the ENVIRONMENT MINISTER) talk about the Dare to Dream program she was a part of. This easily led into a discussion on climate change. It was great to listen to the students discuss their thoughts and fears about where the planet is going and to have her respond, not as a politician, but as someone who is passionate about what they do and someone who wants to create change in this world.

The other workshop I did was on Journaling, with James Raffan. He told us about his experiences with journaling as a child, and showed his first journal (from 1966!) He gave us some great pointers and we did an exercise in free writing. I was sitting with the former US Ambassador to Canada (Bruce Heyman) and his lovely wife Vicky. We each read our free writing exercise and had a great discussion.

This evening, after supper we did a shore landing on Beechey Island. I saw the graves of explorers from Franklin’s quest to the north west passage. We walked the beach to the site of the shelter that was erected for them years later. Sorry if my history is sparse on this one (Barry don’t judge!). I’ve got lots of pictures though!

Ship’s position while at Beechey Island:

74-39.7874N, 91-43.7147W

Goodnight! I love and miss you Matt, Calista, Avery (even Bandy and Zeus!!) XXOO

Delphine Doucet

Bonjour tout le monde, je suis enfin en Arctique! Nous sommes arrivés hier en avion et dès que je suis débarquée, j’ai réalisé à quel point il fait froid ici. Je savais un peu à quoi m’attendre, mais quand même avoir froid au point de mettre une tuque, ça n’arrive pas souvent. J’ai aussi été frappée par le fait qu’ici durant l’été, le soleil ne se couche jamais. À Resolute Bay nous avons eu la chance d’être présents pour l’annonce d’un nouveau parc de Parcs Canada et c’était vraiment super, on pouvait sentir à quel point les gens étaient heureux de cette nouvelle. Je ne me souviens plus du nom de ce parc, mais il signifie là où le soleil ne se couche pas. Nous avons ensuite utilisé les zodiacs pour découvrir notre maison pour les prochains jours! Nous nous sommes couchés plutôt tôt, car nous étions debout depuis 5:15 le matin.

Aujourd’hui, nous avons fait une sortie en zodiac pendant 1 heure et c’était indescriptible à quel point c’était magique avec l’eau, la glace et les milliers d’oiseaux! C’est vraiment à ce moment précis seulement que j’ai réalisé que j’étais vraiment en Arctique et j’étais heureuse. J’ai aussi eu la chance de rencontrer des gens super qui viennent de la France et des États-Unis. Je suis surprise mais jusqu’à présent ne pas avoir de wifi ce n’est pas si difficile, au contraire, cela nous permet à tous de se parler, de jouer aux cartes et d’observer la vue. Depuis que nous sommes sur le bateau, nous n’avons pas encore été sur la terre, mais nous devrions y aller plus tard dans la journée. C’est magnifique ici et l’aventure est loin d’être terminée

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna, Bella, Fathen and Yusuf share in a laugh on their Zodiac tour.

More blogs, photos and videos are coming in every day of expedition. Remember to check back here and in our new updates!

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