As usual, the day began with Geoff Green on the intercom with his wakeup call “Gooooood Morning Students on Ice!” as SOI participants have woken up to on every expedition for the past 18 years! Some students even have a recording as part of their fond memories onboard their SOI expedition.
During our breakfast briefing, staff and students were happy to hear that we would be going to shore. We were able to land at Qiajivik / Coutts Inlet, Nunavut, a culturally-rich archaeological site, where we saw the remnants of sod houses. With 12 different workshops being offered during our time at the inlet, our experience was multi-faceted. Some participants went to look at the plants, others went to look at rocks, some went kayaking or fishing and others took a tour of the land to see what historical evidence they could find. The archaeological teams were also keen to map out the location which they will send to the research spaces that they are affiliated with back home. Lastly, there was the opportunity to tie in broader themes like Sustainable Development Goals while also checking in with the more innate reactions that come with experiencing Qiajivik. Many felt positive energy on the land. One student sensed the spirits of her ancestors who had once walked where she stood. The magic of the inlet warmed our hearts in the cold morning air.
Once back on the ship, students were given Quiet Ship Time after lunch. Many took advantage of the moment to sleep or relax. For an mid-afternoon snack, the MV Ocean Endeavour’s amazing crew prepared a “pop up bbq’”- delicious tortilla chips and veg/meat chilli out by the pool deck.
The afternoon was dedicated to “Going Deeper” workshops. These sessions included topics such as Truth & Reconciliation, Climate Change, Inuit Culture, Youth Climate Action, Conservation and Aquatic Science.
Supper was mixer-style, where students sat at tables determined by a number they picked at random. Each tabled was labelled with a topic of conversation, prompting students to participate in discussions that they may not have had previously. It was also a great way for participants to get to know the people that they hadn’t had the chance to connect with yet. The prompts provided an entry point into a deeper understanding of one-another.
The highlight of the day was the “highlights of the day” session that evening. Each night, students talk about their highlight on expedition or the people that they consider heroes. Student highlights included:
- The mixer for dinner where one table had great conversations on travel.
- Taking pictures of the beautiful plants that were on the land.
- Swimming in the Arctic waters (with a wet suit on).
- Yesterday’s experience in Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet) where a couple of students met relatives, some for the first time ever.
- Listening to Inuit stories.
Day 11 ended with students putting on a showcase of song and dance. What a talented and outgoing group of participants! The evening’s entertainment was also an opportunity for announcements and expedition itinerary updates from Geoff. As of that night, ice in Resolute Bay was pretty solid so the management team is considering other destinations.
Student & Staff Blogs:
Stittsville, ON, Canada
La nature et l’histoire du Nord Canadien est magnifique! Il y a quelques heures, nous sommes revenus d’une sortie sur une île dans Coutts Inlet. L’année dernière, cet endroit a été apporté à l’attention de la communauté archéologique de l’Arctique par Students On Ice. Ce lieu a été occupé par les ancêtres des Inuit pendant plusieurs milliers d’années. C’est incroyable de voir les anneaux de tentes (maison d’été) et les habitats d’hiver (originalement créés avec des pierres, os, plantes, etc. en forme d’igloo) qui font preuve de la persévérance, ainsi que l’endurance de cette culture. En examinant le paysage, on peux constater qu’il n’est pas surprenant d’y trouver un ancien établissement. La végétation est abondante, l’océan est un puits de nourriture accessible, les collines et les montagnes offrent un abri idéal et l’eau cristalline d’une chute d’eau tout près est fraiche et délicieuse! Durant notre temps sur terre, un petit groupe d’entre nous a accompagné Jennifer Doubt (une botaniste du Musée Canadien de la Nature) en explorant le monde mystérieux et fantastique de la flore.
De retour sur Ocean Endeavor, j’ai identifié plusieurs espèces de plantes que j’avais trouvé, incluant la fleur provinciale du Nunavut (Saxifraga oppositfolia). De plus, j’ai découvert que les plantes que j’avais placés dans le pressoir, il y a quelques jours, sont sèches! Avec SOI, j’ai l’opportunité d’apprendre les techniques et les connaissances des experts, au sujet de leurs domaines d’intérêts, je suis impatiente d’utiliser ces méthodes!
Premièrement, je veux vraiment remercier le programme Teacher on Ice pour ce privilège de vivre cette expérience ainsi que le Conseil de recherche de science et d’ingénérie (NSERC)!
Déjà à Ottawa, le programme SOI a démontré une grande expertise dans la logistique et le support éducatif. Je suis impressionnée depuis le début par cette machine gigantesque et efficace qui est Student on Ice.
Me voici donc au Groenland depuis 3 jours, l’excitement m’a volé des heures de sommeil mais libère une grande quantité d’adrénaline qui ouvre tous mes sens et me permet d’ingérer une quantité incroyable d’information. JR nous a rappelé qu’il n’y a pas juste l’information scientifique et historique qui compte mais l’importance d’en faire une expérience personnelle.
Nous avons vécu des moments de peur, de joie, de rire avec Vivi qui a interprété sa danse du masque, une danse traditionnelle Inuit du Groenland retrouvée et qui reprend maintenant vie.
J’ai eu le privilège d’améliorer ma peinture à l’aquarelle sous les conseils d’Helen, une jeune femme Inuit qui m’a inspiré. Il y a tellement de scientifiques et spécialistes passionnés à bord de notre bateau que le seul stress de ma vie présentement est de choisir le meilleur atelier parmi une liste de 8-10 à chaque fois; en moyenne 2 fois par jour. Quand je vous dis que SOI est une machine bien aiguillée, c’est au-dessus de ce qui est imaginable!
Ottawa, ON, Canada
AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING. This is all we seem to be able to say lately. We are more than half way done the trip now, and time seems to be constantly speeding up. With so much new knowledge and so many new experiences, our recent two and a half days at sea has been good time to process everything. Learning about climate change, talking about the challenges of being a woman in STEM fields, and spotting polar bears all in one day can be a bit overwhelming! The ship also feels like home now – yesterday in Pond Inlet, we stepped onto land for the first time in over 48 hours and it felt great, but stepping back onto the ship after a busy afternoon was a welcome feeling as well. Although I am missing my family, I can relate to what one of my shipmates said early into the expedition: “we are going to go home and get homesick.”
Quebec City, QC, Canada
“Good mornig Students On Ice, hope you had a good night, breakfast is in 15 minutes, see you there. Oh hey, there’s a polar bear on the ice, port side of the ship! “
“Alors aujourd’hui on va écrire une lettre, la mettre dans une bouteille, la sceller et la jeter dans l’océan. On notera notre localisation afin d’analyser les courants océaniques. En espérant, qu’un jour, elle sera retrouvée sur une plage.”
“Ça fait plus de 68 heures qu’on est sur le bateau.”
“Nous sommes arrivés au Parc National Sirmilik, mais la glace de nous laisse pas atteindre la rive.”
“Nous allons mettre les pieds, cet après-midi, dans une communauté nommé Pond Inlet. Chant, jeux, danse seront au rendez-vous.”
“J’ai l’impression que je suis constamment dans une carte postale”
“Les fleurs récoltées à Itilleq Fiord sont séchées et pressées! – Wahou, je vais les mettre sur un carton et les faire encadrer une fois revenu à Québec.”
“Il est quelle heure ? – 2 heures AM – C’est déjà le lever du soleil!”
“Marie-Philippe – You’re going kayaking today around the sea ice in Coutts inlet!
Voici, entre autre, ce qui justifie mon silence des derniers jours.
Il se passe des choses extrodinaires et sans arrêt ici. Je dois dire que le plus gros problème que je rencontre chaque jour est le choix d’ateliers que je vais faire. Tellement diversifiés et interessants, je me découvre continuellement de nouvelles passions. Aujourd’hui, dans le zodiac, j’ai pris deux minutes pour constater où j’étais. J’entendais le vent battre dans mes oreilles, le froid s’emparait de mon corps. Mais j’étais là à contempler des icebergs, à être entourer de sommets blancs et me faisait réchauffer le coeur par les rires et les “clics” d’appareil photos à bord. J’ai regardé le bateau et j’ai un “Home sweet home” qui m’a poppé en tête.
Je sens déjà apporcher les “dernières fois que” alors je vous laisse, car je dois aller profiter de tout ce qui se passe ici.
Je vous envoie une vague de froid.
À dans quelques jours!
Ottawa, ON, Canada
Coutts Inlet, Nunavut
Bonjour à tous! Cette journée fût… splendide! Une de mes préférées jusqu’à maintenant. Ce matin, nous avons eu une petite présentation sur les objectifs de développement durable de l’ONU. Il s’agit de 17 objectifs fixés pour 2030, l’agenda le plus ambitieux du monde. Et en ce moment, le Canada n’est pas sur la bonne piste. Justin Trudeau a signé le document citant que le Canada s’engageait à réaliser les objectifs et, c’est tout. Il faut encore inclure les autochtones (raison pour laquelle je veux m’engager dans l’idée de Truth and reconciliation). Il est temps que j’entre en jeu pour faire une différence là dedans, parce qu’il nous reste seulement 12 ans. Et, comme avec cette expédition (il reste quatres jours! Noooonnn!), le temps passe beaucoup trop vite.
Ce matin, nous avons atteri à Coutts Inlet, un milieu naturel où il y a… un site archéologique! Il semble que les gens qui vivaient ici vivaient dans de petites maisons, avec des roches comme fondation. Ils utilisaient le squelette des baleines comme structure de leur maison et de la peau de caribou comme abris. Ça démontre que les anciens dépendent de la terre et que nous en dépendons aussi.
Nous avons fait des ateliers sur terre, là bas. J’ai fait une petite randonnée pour en apprendre sur l’histoire naturelle de la région. On a vu des traces d’ours polaires, d’oies et de renards. Il y avait aussi des plumes d’oies. Ça démontre qu’il y a vraiment de la vie en Arctique, un écosystèmne entier qu’il faut présever. Dans nos corps, tout est une question d’homéostasie, et les écosystèmes de la planète dépendent les uns des autres. Perdre cette biodiversité à cause du changement climatique signifie également perdre l’humain qui dépend des ressources de la nature. Il faut aussi noter que l’Arctique sert de climatiseur géant pour la planète Terre. Si toute la glace fond, on perd les icebergs (Nooooonnn!) et il fait extrêmement chaud sur toute la planète. Les courants marins sont aussi affectés. Vraiment, les pôles de la planète sont comme les pôles d’une batterie. Sans eux, rien ne marche.
Mon moment préféré a été de m’asseoir sur un iceberg à côté de la plage et de faire des anges de neige dessus. Oui, me voilà, en août, en train de faire des anges de neige sur un iceberg en Arctique. J’ai aussi joué de la clarinette (projet top secret: j’écris une chanson!!!) devant les montagnes absolument extraordinaires. Là, je me suis dit:” Me voilà, en train de jouer dans la neige, en plein été, au début du mois d’août. Si j’étais à la maison, je serais en train de jouer dans l’herbe. Et, tout jeune, je croyais ne jamais aller au pôle nord ou au pôle sud. Wow. Merci de me permettre de vivre cette expérience absolument incroyable, le CECCE!”
Bon, c’est tout pour aujourd’hui. J’ai hâte à demain (mais pas vraiment, parce que c’est un jour de moins qui reste à l’expédition…)
Arnprior, ON, Canada
The last few days have been jam-packed with activities and so much fun. None of us can believe that we only have 4 days left on the ship! We are sad to leave but we also want to sleep in real beds and not feel like we are constantly rocking back and forth, so I think everybody has some mixed feelings.
When we arrived to Pond Inlet, we unfortunately couldn’t go ashore as planned because there was so much ice and because we wanted to visit the Sirmilik National Park. We did pick up some workers from Parks Canada and some elders from the community, however. They taught us about the national park and about bear safety, and the elders showed us some traditional culture in afternoon workshops. I got to watch a seal skinning- it’s harder than it looks! After a few other workshops and discussions, we ended the day with some square dancing and student performances. We didn’t end up going to the national park either because of ice and fog, but we were having fun anyways.
Yesterday, we turned the ship around to try to go to Pond Inlet again. I saw another polar bear over breakfast, and then we did another discussion panel- this ‘Arctic Hour’ was surrounding ‘Women in Science’ and the problems that they face. it was super interesting to hear both the experiences and advice of my peers and the amazing women on the panel. In the afternoon, we finally went to Pond! The community was so welcoming, and all the children in the town were so excited to see and meet all of us. I explored the local stores and got some souvenirs before we headed to the town hall so that the locals could welcome us and so that we could thank them in return. They showed us traditional throat singing and drum dancing, as well as some of the events that were a part of the Arctic Winter Games. Then the Twin Flames played a concert for the community- they had been trying to play a show in Pond Inlet for a long time, and it was so moving to see the entire town gather to see them. Even very young kids knew the words to their songs! Overall it was an amazing night- we all danced and coaxed some of the children into dancing with us, which was a really great feeling.
This morning we landed in Coutts Inlet, a currently uninhabited archeological site. The beach was beautiful (the sand in the arctic is black in some places!), and I got to stand on some icebergs! We got a tour of some of the leftover artifacts and houses from some of the Inuit that used to live on the inlet, and then we did some workshops. I participated in a workshop that taught us about the Sustainable Development Goals. It was super interesting to hear about it, because some countries are so dedicated to these goals, but Canada is lagging behind- I had never even heard of them before this trip. Learning what they were and seeing what we, as youth, could come up with as small-scale steps to solutions was inspiring- I hope that we can all take action after we leave the ship.
I need to head out, because it’s nap time LOL. Until next time!
Montreal, QC, Canada
Crossing a maritime border is one thing, but stepping foot on land is another. Our passports may have been stamped on the 31st of July, but we only landed in Nunavut officially the following month. You know, August 1st.
Mittimatilik, or Pond Inlet (which apparently isn’t technically an inlet), is set into the northern tip of Baffin Island, looking out over Eclipse Sound (which apparently isn’t technically a sound) towards Bylot Island, and one of the four sections of Sirmilik National Park. In terms of backyard views, the community here has a pretty spectacular one, with snow-capped mountains and beachy shorelines stretching as far as the eye can see.
The reason our shore landing was a teeny bit delayed has a lot to do with the “I” part of SOI. Every evening, when we gather for a group briefing, we take a look at the ice chart of the day, and sometimes from a couple days back. For some of us, studying ice charts was never particularly something that topped the list of things to do. However, even I’ll admit that when you have a vested interest in the icy waters through which you’d like to navigate, those ice charts become pretty darn fascinating. The colours on the chart will quite often be the deciding factor in a slight change of course or a complete change of plans.
One thing that the ice chart can’t necessarily show is the density of the ice floes along the shore – the mishmash of frozen shapes can be pushed and shifted by winds and currents at any time, and can quite often, as we learned, form a barrier between ship and shore. The ice certainly didn’t appear to care very much that Sirmilik Glacier was right across from us, waiting to be explored, and neither did it care about the interpretation the Parks Canada staff had planned to offer us at the Qaiqsut cultural site, a former camp for whalers.
When finally the sea ice seperated enough to allow the zodiacs in (although, rumour has it that one or two might have gotten temporarily stranded), the community welcomed us with open arms, and offered guides to accompany people around town or along a hike to Salmon Creek. For many students, there was no need for a guided tour – there were friends and family already waiting there for them. Which really made it a homecoming, in more than one way.
SOI and Pond Inlet-ers alike all crowded into the community hall, where the evening kicked off with O Canada – not in either of Canada’s official languages, but in one of Nunavut’s: Inuktitut! We were then treated to a whole host of demonstrations, including different Inuit games (if you’re curious, go look up the finger pull, the muskox, the high kick, and the knuckle hop), throat singing, and drum dancing, and finally, a performance by our on-board musicians, Jaaji and Chelsea. The Twin Flames were clearly putting on a highly anticipated show – how many concerts have an audience that can sing along to every word of a bilingual English-Inuktitut repertoire?
As we filed out of the community hall and back down onto the beach and the zodiacs, there was only one thing missing, only one thing noticeably absent from the contented picture we all painted – the water in front of us was completely ice-free. In a few short hours, the maze that had been the entrance to Pond Inlet was no where to be found.
Which was good for many reasons, but namely, there was much less seperating us all from the supper awaiting on board.
Nakurmiik, and talk soon.
– Sarah MacNeil
Coral Harbour, NU, Canada
Today I learned how to play string games. The workshop was great. I learned how to do a few of them like the bowl and the broom. I also learned how to do fishing net from Becky at dinner time, and I taught her how to do the elastic. I was surprised she didn’t know how to do it but she knew how to do the fish net.
I also want to say Happy Anniversary to my parents, if this goes out to the Facebook page. I miss you, just a few more days to come. I am having so much fun here, making new friends, learning more about Inuit culture, listening to stories, myths, and legends.
When I get home I’m going to teach my siblings and my boyfriend the string games, and a few songs I learned and show pictures of beautiful Greenland and Nunavut. Also more pictures of the museum we went to, and the land of Nunavut.
I am grateful for the Students on Ice staff for making this expedition possible. I am happy to learn about the Greenlandic culture and more about Inuit Culture.
Two days ago the dining room was filled with shrieks of joy because someone managed to get fresh ‘whale skin’ (what I interpreted to be the top layer of blubber) at one of our shore landings. Yesterday at dinner I sat with three teenaged girls who were having animated conversation about the best brand and model of fishing hooks. Instances like these, which would be seldom heard in most parts of the world, are commonplace these days on the Ocean Endeavour.
I have been given the great priviledge of joining this year’s expedition through a new program called Teachers on Ice which is made possible by funding from NSERC (National Science and Engineering Research Council). This program has been made available to Canadian high school science teachers. As such, I expected to be immersed in scientific exploration (both through the natural world and through the expertise of the talented scientific experts we have on board). I have, however, gained, as you would expect, so much more.
On board this expedition are 223 people from approximately 20 countries around the world. Many, however, are from the Arctic itself. While many of us are learning for, really, the first time about seal hunts, ulus, “country food’ (food that comes from the land), drum dancing, throat singing, etc., these topics are part of who many of these people are.
Many of the opportunities we’ve had to learn about the rich culture that exists in the northern regions of our world stem from on board activities – both scheduled and impromtu. I have partaken in bead work and drum dance workshops, participated in a northern version of a square dance, and listened to heart breaking stories told by those who survived residential schools and terberculousis, antecdotes about how northern communities are observing climate change and stories about fights to regain independance and identity.
We also had two soul-stirring opportunities to visit communities on the eastern coast of Greenland. The first of these opportunities came after we were thwarted from entering into the harbour of our intended destination because of sea ice. Once we had a zodiac tour of the area, which provided up close encounters of likely the biggest iceburgs we’d see this trip (in the Disko Bay area), we set our course for Qeqertarsuaq (which means “big island”), another community in the Disko Bay area. Luckily Mira, a member of the Greenlandic government who is on this expedition with us and has friends and comrads in the community, called ahead to give heads up/get clearance for this last minute arrival. By one of many strokes of luck, there was a communitiy celebration happening that very afternoon! Our group was challenged to a game of soccer by the locals and we were invited to a concert being put on on their outdoor stage. The stage was set (pun definitly intented – did anyone mention yet that this is a trip full of puns? “The arctic is cool!” “that was just the tip of the iceberg” and “go with the flow/floe” are just some we hear on the daily). We were off to Qeqertarsuaq!
One of the unofficial themes of this SOI experience is “be flexible”. Qeqertarsuaq was not an intended stop. I heard rumour it wasn’t even Plan B. But man oh man, Plan C was a winner! Qeqertarsuaq was a sight to behold! With brightly coloured houses perched on rocky outcrops, pleasure boats and fishing vessels alike coming into and out of the harbour and a whale-rib arch framing the dock, the town was post-card perfect. Little did we know, the magic of this place was yet to reveal itself. After checking out the fares of a couple local vendors and discovering that running water was not availible for at least some of the “toilets” on the island, we made our way to the far end of town where the soccer game and music was to take place. Along the way, we passed a cemetary that was unlike any I had seen before; dense, vivacious, colourful flowers (the vast majority of which were artificial but live plants peppered the plots as well) enveloped every single plot. They were so crisp, in fact, that I wondered if the festival centered around remembering ansestors (it turns out it was about the angle of the sun as it passes behind the mountain). The obvious love and care shown by this display touched me deeply and helped me learn more about the values of the local people.
We walked along stunning iceberg dotted, sandy shoreline to get to the soccer field. Where there was a simple gravel ‘field’ just a couple of years ago, there is now a vibrant green, full sized astroturf pitch complete with freshly painted white lines and bleachers. As the game began, the sun decided to come out (for the first time since arriving in Greenland) to slowly cast light over the setting…..and WOWWWW. The bright green turf riddled with eager athletes from all over the globe, was boardered on one side by the the dark sands, gleaming white ice and popping blues of the coast. On the other, was a gentle looming mountain whose green hillsides and rocky top revealed themselves slowly to as as the clouds faded away. Once the sun was out fully we all felt the magic of this glorious and unique setting.
After the soccer game, which didn’t exactly go SOI’s way (let’s pretend that we were just being gracious hosts by letting the local team – who ended up playing without a goalie after a while – run away with the game), we headed to the outdoor stage where The Twin Flames got set to perform against a backdrop of icebergs and shoreline. The magic of the day/the town continued as the music got going. Locals and SOI students/staff mixed and mingled and sang along. Once the first upbeat notes started up, the majority of the crowd hit the sandy dance floor. Some of us made an effort to get the local childern, many of whom were giggling on the sidelines, up to dance. Song after song the singing and dancing and mingling continued until it was time to head back to the boats.
Between the setting, the people, the music and the perfect timing of the sun revealing itself, we couldn’t have scripted a better day. Days later, this impromptu visit remains at the top of everyone’s highlight list.
Uummannaq was the second and final stop we had in Greenland. Meaning “heart-shaped”, the community is perched on small island sporting a heart-shaped rocky mountain in the middle. While the magic of our previous visit set a high bar, the beauty of this community was overwheming. More rainbow coloured houses, each of which was trimmed perfectly in sharp white or black, sat precariously on the rocky cliffs. Icebergs riddled the harbour, giving the zodiac drivers a chance to show off their skills. The moutain in the middle, which was gleaming on this day but was not even visible through the rain last year, stood guardian over it all. They say first impressions last and boy, did these guys have it down!
On shore, our senses came alive. The harbour smelled like the sea and fresh catches. The sun helped show off what the town had to offer. Sled dogs, all of whom were tied up for the summer, barked and were interupted occasionally by the commanding boom of chunks of icebergs breaking and hitting the sea.
We were met by locals who showed us the old blubber house which has since been turned into a museum. We listened to and watched performances (drum dancing) and stories by locals. We had the chance to enter a very old sod house and see the oldest church in Greenland. The highlight for me, however (besides the overwhelming beauty of the place), was visiting the local Children’s Home – a safe haven for kids from around Greenland who need a stable, loving place to grow up.
In the north, family structures often vary from those in the south. It was explained to me that “children are like gold.” If a couple cannot have children, often they are given a neice or nephew or other relative to raise. Grandparents often adopt and raise their grandchildren. Children may be raised as siblings with their cousins. Sometimes, however, for a variety of reasons, children need to have another place to grow up. The Children’s Home we visited is one of many in Greenland but is very unique. The owner has a totally different philosophy. She takes the children all over the world – often through music. They perform in a choir. I must remember to look them up when I get home. They have even sung for the Pope and Dahli Lama!
The home was welcoming and bright. Pictures and momentos from all over the globe adorned the house and the kid’s rooms (which are two-person rooms and not dorm style) were full of colour. While all of the kids were away (some with their families for summer visits and some off singing), two young men were hanging around. I learned that they lived in the home until they were 18 (from around the age of 5) but the owner created a true home environment for them such that “home is always a place you can come back to”. Amazing.
The hospitality and beauty we expereinced in Greenland will stay with me for many many years to come. It was remarkable to see the similarities shared between Greenlandic and Northern Canadian culture (from what we’ve learned so far anyway!). I am very excited for the upcoming opportunities to learn from the communities on the other side of the Davis Strait and to continue to learn from all those sharing this expereince with me.
How lucky am I?
See you soon Canada!
Burlington, ON, Canada
Nunavut is beautiful. Yesterday, we actually got into Pond Inlet. There was lots of ice along the shore, but we only got slightly stuck in the zodiac. The people in Pond were incredibly kind. They were also incredibly excited to meet the Twin Flames. After seeing the town, we all met in the town hall, and the people there gave an awesome cultural performance. But the real excitement came when the Twin Flames performed. Apparently, Pond Inlet had been trying to get the Twin Flames there for a number of years, so their excitment was infectious and created a great environment.
Today we did a shore landing in Coutts Inlet, an uninhabited inlet on Baffin Island. The view was extraordinary. We got to explore some archaeological sites, as there had been Inuit living on our landing site up until the 1960s. The people of Pond Inlet (where we were yesterday) had always known about the site, but it wasn’t until last year that the site was recorded by the archaeology records of Nunavut, thanks to SOI. Since there was recent (in archaeological terms) inhabitance, the bases of the sod houses were clear and easy to see. This was incredibly cool, as it was our first archaeological site of the trip (because we got iced out of the others). We also had workshops on the shore. I went on a zodiac to see how a real ROV works. It was really cool to see all the algae under the ice, and I even saw a fish! It was really fun, but kind of cold. Today is the coldest it has been on the entire trip, so none of us on the zodiac, except Tao, were fully expecting this, so we ended up all huddling for warmth. After the excursion, we went back to the ship for a late lunch. There is always so much food on the ship, and it’s always so good that it will be weird to cook for myself when I get home. The wait staff are also incredibly nice and funny. After lunch, I hung out with Gaba and Ethan, who continue to make my life interesting.
Here we are Thursday, August 2nd already. Wow! Time is a strange thing. For me our trip is moving slow and fast at the same time. Hard to describe and maybe the odd feeling of time is from the very packed days filled with adventure and learning.
Sea ice and fog have been a challenge for us with the original SOI schedule and we’ve had to go to Plan B or C or sometimes even D in the words of Geoff Green our intrepid leader of SOI. All good though. We’ve been learning and discussing much with our Arctic Hour (discussion panels) regarding Arctic issues/ knowledge, our Izuma Workshops (connecting the head the heart) to process what we’ve learned through art, meditative practices, journalling and discussions.
Speaking of adventure we had some, perhaps challenges getting to shore yesterday to visit Pond Inlet. Good to get back on land after two and half days at sea! Lots of sea ice along the shore and it was moving with the tide and currents. Our zodiac got stuck among the ice but not for long! And then Skye, our driver found a route to shore and we were able to get through pretty fast. By the time the cultural demonstration and Twin Flames (Check out this great music duo online) was over the ice had moved off and we were able to get back on the ship with ease. Jaaji and Chelsea of Twin Flames are also fantastic to have a chat with on deck especially while the ice and mountains are sailing by. 🙂 Also a huge shout out to Eva and Victoria. We miss you all ready. Strength to you.
Got out for a beach landing at Coutts Inlet (The Place of Tears), northern portion of Baffin Island this morning. Oh yea, I was on Baffin Island yesterday for the first time! Very chilly but so good to breathe in the fresh ocean air mixed with the Arctic summer plants. Sea ice beached near the shore, seal heads popped up through the surface and massive polar bear tracks on the beach, students fishing and kayaking. A big shout out to our SOI Bear Guard for their vigilance and keeping us safe! I also saw my first polar bear from the ship yesterday. Saw it slip into the water and climb back out again. Wow! Wow! Wow!
The Teachers on Ice (that’s the funding program through NSERC in which I was able to come on this trip) were able to get a few pics by the SOI Communication Team. Thanks Robert! Look for the five Teachers on Ice on the blog. You might actually get to see us on ice!
Quiet reflective time on the ship right now. Time to blog, check out what the students and scientists are doing in the lab and perhaps finish my dog harness for pulling me in the winter on skiis. Not sure if my dog will even want to pull me but I’ll still finish the harness we learned about in the dog sled workshop and presentation.
All the best everyone! A big shout out to my friends and family back home.
It was like stepping out of a postcard. Or maybe a more accurate statement would be that it was like stepping out of one of those travel magazines featuring places that no one would actually dream of visiting in their lifetime.
I sat perched on a rock near the peak of one of the huge mountains towering over the tiny Greenlandic town of Qeqertarsuaq. From my vantage point, I could see everything this place had to offer. In the near distance, an expanse of massive white icebergs jutted out of the water, a stark contrast against the deep blue of the ocean. Every iceberg seemed to possess an inverted turquoise halo, the rest of its structure underwater casting a nearly-fluroescent glow onto the surface of the sea. A black-sanded beach speckled with stray blocks of ice bordered the ocean, and right in front of it lay a freshly placed soccer field. I could hear the shouts from all the way where I was sitting – it was Students on Ice versus the home team, and we weren’t winning.
To the right of the field was the sleepy settlement of Qeqertarsuaq. Quaint houses painted in every color were scattered in disorganized clusters. Sailing boats of all sizes drifted lazily by the pier. Behind me, other mountains stood tall, their peaks shrouded in ethereal mist. There wasn’t a bad view no matter where you turned.
SOI wasn’t even supposed to land in Qeqertarsuaq. Our initial plan for the day was to visit the Ilulisat UNESCO World Heritage Site, first thing in the morning. An entire day had been prepared, with educational activities and stations ready to go once we arrived ashore. Everyone was looking forward to it, but we couldn’t proceed as planned because of thick sea ice surrounding Ilulisat.
We spent a good part of the day searching for a way to get around the ice, with hopes that we could find an alternative route that would allow us inland. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to find one, and instead we settled instead on plan C – Qeqertarsuaq.
But we needn’t have worried; everything unfolded exactly how it was supposed to. The rest of the day passed in snapshots – I remember the crunch of gravel beneath my feet as I walked through the town, engrossed in conversation with a fellow shipmate – Valerie – about conservation and indigenous communities. I remember tasting a waist-high block of ice, thinking it was funny how ordinary it tasted, considering I was in such an extraordinary location. I remember hearing the delighted screams of people by the soccer field all the way up from my perch, and the peaceful moments of serene silence between each cheer. I remember the springiness of each step up the mountain, each foot sinking into the moss and vegetation clinging to the ground. I remember taking photos for Ty and Gillian, sitting on rocks with Alice and Kata, trudging down with Tashi and Julie. I remember the clouds drifting away, revealing the mountain tops and the brilliant sun, casting the entire landscape in its warm golden glow. I remember dwelling in the quiet, feeling so blessed and so in awe and so grateful to be alive.
So perhaps we didn’t make it to a World Heritage Site. But in return, we received a truly unique once-in-a-lifetime experience – and I don’t think that is too bad of a deal at all.
Trust life to take us exactly where we are meant to go.