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2018 Arctic Expedition: Day 4

Today was the first FULL expedition day on the ship!

This morning we awoke in the most beautiful fiord! Sailing straight towards a glacier, with low clouds obscuring the tops of the mountains, green and blues and whites! Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord, also known in Danish as Evighedsfjorden is a massive fiord, 75km long and 700m deep.

After a quick briefing to start the day, half of our group ventured out for Zodiac rides, while the other half  listened to a presentation about Greenland from Special advisor on Arctic Affairs to the Government of Greenland Mira Kleist and performing artist and TV host Vivi Sørensen. We then listened to a presentation by climate scientist Maureen Raymo of Columbia University who set the tone for how we will be learning about climate change in the coming days.

We felt the cold rain on our faces. We listened to the thick billed murres and the black legged kittiwakes above us and the the snaps and crackles of the sea ice below us. We watched as the massive, ancient glacier in an empty fjord on the Greenlandic coast calved in front of our eyes.

The Sermitsiaq Glacier (the largest glacier in this area) was super active and we watched it calve a handful of times, waves crashing up on the shore caused by the splash of the ice falling from higher than we can imagine.

As our Zodiacs glided through the fjord under a canopy of kittiwakes and thick billed murres, we discovered a dead kittiwake in the water and brought it back to the ship. Onboard, many students watched while migratory bird biologist Garry Donaldson dissected the kittiwake.

Other workshops onboard included a presentation by Nellie Kusugak, the Commissioner of Nunavut, about how to be on the land and respect the land “I represent Nunavut as if it were my flesh and blood”.

Our number one saying at Students on Ice is “Flexibility is the Key” and we put that into action today! Although there were plans for an afternoon hike, the rainy weather made for some new plans. Too wet for a landing, we instead took the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops!

Afternoon workshops included:

  • An improv dance with Dancer, Choreographer and Television host Sarain Carson Fox.
  • Canadian Museum of Nature geologist Glenn Poirier engaged students in learning how to identify minerals.
  • Becky Okatsiak taught Intro to the Inuktitut alphabet
  • Marine Institute engineer Craig Bulger led students in building underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles)
  • Marine mammal scientist Enooyaq Sudlovenick led students in a discussion about ringed seals
  • Oceanographer Daniele Bianchi and Science Advisor Alain Dupuis engaged students in ocean sampling from their Zodiac
  • Inuk hunter Jimmy Evalik and Jasco CEO Scott Carr led a fishing excursion where students caught several Arctic cod and a couple of Arctic char! yum!
  • Several students tried out paddling traditional, hand made qajaqs (kayaks) and stand up paddle boards alongside olympic medalist Adam van Koeverden and paddling instructor Genevieve Cote

The day closed with a recap of the day in the “hub” (main meeting space) where students shared their highlights, listened to an update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green on the next day’s activities, and enjoyed a traditional Greenlandic drum dance and mask dance performed by Vivi Sørensen.

Fun Facts of the day:

  • Kalaallit Nunaat means Greenland/land of the Greenlandic People
  • Kalaalit means “Greenlander”
  • In Kalaallit Nunaat, there is no differentiation between people who are of mixed race, all are Kalaaliit
  • In 1985, Greenland left the European Union and regained control of their fisheries
  • Greenland passed a self-governing referendum in 2008; internationally they are recognized now as Greenlanders
  • In 2009 Greenlandic became the official language of Greenland
  • Creation of a National Indigenous Theatre helped to reshape and revive many cultural activities including the Greenlandic drum dance and mask dance
  • Greenland has three main dialects
  • Even today, the Kalaalit are not recognized as owners of the land

“The Arctic is not just one place, it is many. We have a lot in common culturally, but our development is different. We live so far apart and we have different kinds of autonomy.” ⁃ Mira Kleist, Special Advisor on Arctic Affairs to the Government of Greenland.

Student Quote of the Day

“I can’t believe New York City and this place are on the same planet!”
– Alice Rojas, NYC, United States

The expedition team explores Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord (also known in Danish as Evighedsfjorden or Fjord of Eternity) by Zodiac. Photo (c) Robert Kautuk/SOI Foundation

Student/Staff Blogs

Alexander Nnamchi
Montreal, QC, Canada

After spending our first two days in Ottawa for orientation and arriving in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, today was our first full day aboard the MS Ocean Endeavor, our new home for the next two weeks. With my assigned group called Qimmiq (“dog” in the Inuktitutlanguage) we headed off on board a zodiac boat for a glacier tour in the Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord. Before the glacier was a bird cliff that nested hundreds of black-legged Kittiwakes and Thick-billed Murres. While the bird viewing is picturesque and peaceful from the distance, the reality of nature’s harshness is more visible as you come close to the cliff. On the water surface near the cliff wall is the remnants of the dead chicks who failed to take off during their first flight attempts. It is sad, but life for these other arctic birds continues. Passing the bird cliff were ice cakes, small versions of icebergs, that had come off the glacier that lay ahead. It was the largest glacier I’d seen with my own eyes. Nevertheless, the thunderous sound it made because of the ice breaking off it overshadowed its beauty. Ice was frequently breaking off from the glacier and falling into the water. At one point, a giant ice cake broke off and created large waves that shook our zodiac boat as it hit the waters surface. This calving is a sign that this glacier is receding at a rapid rate. In a moment where I should have appreciated the beauty that the Arctic has to offer, I only became reminded of the fact that our ice is melting, and we must act quick to mitigate the potential damage. But how?

After returning from our glacier tour, there was a lecture that explained the factors behind the planet’s warming. I will not go in depth about this because I’ve already known this having studied much of the lecture material last year. Therefore I will move onto our activities during the late afternoon.

We had numerous options for what we could do, such as studying ocean samples, fishing, kayaking, Inuit dancing, and learning some ofthe Inuitlanguage. Choosing fishing, I went with half of my group on a zodiac to a shoreline where we fished off a rock using a fishing rod. The other half fished on a zodiac boat using the jigging technique. I should have joined the latter since I caught nothing while those who jigged caught 4 each. The fish that were caught included cod, herring and arctic char.

Finally, our first day was wrapped up with an evening briefing that included talks from different staff members. The most notable ones were Vivi Sorensen and Adam vanKoeverten. Vivi Sorensen is a native Greenlandic dancer, actress, and director from Nook, the Arctic region’s capital. She performed what were known as drum songs. The first one was about living with a brother’s death, while the second one was about a widow not able to carry through with killing her two children after her husband’s death. She had been told to kill them because without a father, the children wouldn’t survive without the financial support. Altough I do not have a background in dance, I was still able to appreciate what she had to offer us.

Adam Van Koeverten is a former Olympian gold medalist for kayaking. His talk was very inspiring because he mentioned that for a very long time, he was a troubled child and was unable to truly find where he belonged. He also mentioned that his most rewarding moment Olympic was when he raced for 9th place in Rio De Janeiro. He raced flawlessly because he solely focused on himself andended up doing the second best time. I felt like I could relate to this talk because after graduating University and still being unemployed, I am yet to find what I truly believe in. I am yet to find that one thing that will make me satisfied. I hope after this expedition I can find my purpose in life. Based on my current experience, I haven’t found an answer. I’m still yet to establish a true connection with anyone, but I believe I’ll be there soon. I’m excited for what’s yet to come.

Andrea Goulais
Garden Village, ON, Canada

Wow! That’s the only word I can think about to describe this experience. I never knew how life changing this trip would actually be, until now. On only my third day on this expedition, I’ve already learnt so much and can’t wait to learn even more! I can really see myself gaining lots of amazing resources and information during the expedition. My favourite moment so far is stepping foot on land after a day and a half of sailing. It really made me soak in the land and environment even more. Although on the boat I get to see lots of amazing mountains, waters, vegetation and more, it’s not the same as sensing it and being able to feel it. I am very grateful for being a part of this amazing adventure!

Andrea Gura
Quito, Pinchincha, Ecuador

Before my arrival to Ottawa, Canada for the 2018 Students On Ice Arctic Expedition, I was listening to a lot of Italian rap. Yes, I certainly was, and I do not think I have ever been able to  admit that before… I do not typically listen to rap. Ultimo, an extraordinarily talented and -more fascinatingly- remarkably young Roman singer and songwriter was once an aspiring musician who, after winning the most renound and anticipated annual music festival in Italy for his category this year, rose to fame for his goosebumpcausing powerful voice and, more than anything, his inspirational lyrics. If you have never heard of him, I highly recommend.

Now, officially on board the M/V Ocean Endeavor during the 2018 Students On Ice Arctic Expedition, all my ears can hear is the Arctic, and I can, with even more certainty, say that I have never been able to say that before… I do not normally make it up to Greendland. We all went on our first zodiac cruises today, and we drove up so incredibly close to the ice cliffs that go straight into the ocean. We actually got lucky enough to see the frontmost parts of the  massive body of ice crumble under their own weight and come crashing down to the water.

The crushing, cracking, and colliding of the millenial ice against itself, the birds’ calls and cries bouncing off the towering stone mountains, and the delayed echo of the splash and spray of teal blue ocean water travelled to me as the Arcitc’s voice. The smooth curve of the rocks, the snow on the tops of cliffs, sprinkled over like powdered sugar, the unexpected breaks of the waves and the swift beats of wings around me made me read this environment with the same excitement I read song lyrics with. I am not missing my Italian rap.

I have been waiting to be on this trip for two consecutive years now. I applied and sadly did not make it onto the expedition group twice. However, this past year, after my name was added to to the expedition waitlist, I got the luck I was waiting for. This has been the most renound and anticipated annual event in my life that I have been trying to win, and to do just that, all I needed to do was attend. It has only been a day on the ship, we have only had one lecture and one organized adventure so far, and I can already tell it will be the best experience of my life.

Brianna Redbreast
Chapleau, ON, Canada

We are finally in Greenland and gettting settled into our floating home. The cold air is such a relief from the humid summer we’ve had in Ontario. I am someone who loves the fall time so this weather is absolutly amazing and i couldn’t be more in love. Within 3 days i’ve already learned so much about the inuit culture, global warming, and the many people from around the world. On the 24th we were introduced to  the different workshops that we get the chance to attend while on this trip. I am looking forward to learning about rocks and the information we can receive from them. I’ve had many firsts on this trip and I have many more to come. I’ve seen and even ate a part of an iceberg that has caved off of a glacier, I slept on a ship, went on a zodiac ride and seen some pretty amazing birds and their nesting spot. All things ive only seen through a screen and in magazines its all so surreal. Hearing and seeing the ice fall from the glacier has to be something that I was looking forward to  the  most and i am amazed at how it sounds exacaly like thunder. I already have so much i want to share with my friends and family and i cant wait to actually get out on the land and start learing about all the lives there.

Candace Nayman
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Hello blog! Is this thing on?? I have been gone for a couple of days now so I am not sure if I still remember how to use these things… kidding of course! What a whirlwind it has been over the past four days. It’s now Thursday, so I’m going to briefly explain Monday and Tuesday in Ottawa, and then try to talk about the other two days as much as I can. I’m also sorry if I don’t seem to describe things very well… it’s hard to put all of the experiences that I am having in words, and also finding the appropriate descriptions for what I have been doing. But I promise to do my best!

Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, July 24 were our “meet and greet” days in Ottawa. Upon my first arrival on Monday at Carleton University, the second-best university in Ottawa, I was able to get off to an amazing start by receiving some amazing FREE THINGS! I got a toque, a water bottle and some other great goodies, most notably, a vest from Canada Goose! It’s white though so stay tuned as to how white it remains by the end of this voyage. After a lunch in the caf, we played some ice-breaker games, and I was lucky to participate in the Inuit Blanket Toss, which I learned is a hunting tactic with the purpose of throwing hunters high into the air to see animals much farther away, as the Arctic is mostly flat. Traditionally, it is made out of seal skin, but as ours was made of nylon, we didn’t get nearly as high (but most definitely high enough). We spent the remainder of the sweltering afternoon inside (THANKFULLY) at the Museum of Nature. While this was my fifth or sixth visit at the museum, it was still an incredible experience as our tour guide was able to tell us stories that I had never heard before, and I got to see the Brain and the Arctic exhibits for the first time. The brain exhibit was incredible as I already knew so much of the information  but I loved seeing it explained in such a simple way. The Arctic exhibit got me soooooooo excited for what was to come over the next few weeks. We also had the utmost privilege of seeing a Greenlandic drum performance by Vivi Sorenson and hearing some Indigenous music by the award-winning Twin Flames. The performances were so touching.

On Tuesday, we found ourselves at some team meetings to be introduced to all of the wonderful staff who will be sharing a plethora of knowledge with us over the next two weeks. Everybody seems like they have such incredible talents and I can’t wait to learn things outside of medicine for the next couple of weeks. On board, we have a caribou expert, someone who loves rocks almost more than life itself, an expert ornithologist, an ice guy, talented artists, boat-drivers extraordinaires, advocates for truth and reconciliation, and more! I’m hoping to be able to partake in a wide variety of workshops to get a taste as to what’s out there. In the afternoon, we were able to do two incredible things: see the C3 documentary about the coast-to coast-to coast (hence “C3”) expedition that took place with the SOI Foundation last summer in honour of Canada 150. It started in lake Ontario and over 15 legs of 10 days each, travelled continuously around Canada’s three oceans to end up in Victoria, BC. What an incredible film and journey! I left feeling humbled to live in such a beautiful country, but also inspired by all of the people willing to share their stories to teach us about Canada’s past, both good and bad. After the movie, we embraced the torrential downpours and went to Camp Fortune, a high-ropes and tip-lining park in Gatineau, where we had some time to get to know each other above the ground. With a jam-packed day, we then went back to Carleton to finally pack for the greatest adventure of our lives.

Wednesday July 25, we got to leave Canada for the Arctic! I was on the second flight (the planes are too small for us all), so we left for the airport around 9am. It was so neat to get to go to the private section of the airport and skip all the security nonsense :). By 10am, we were on the runway in our Boeing 737 and were taking off on our way to Greenland via Iqaluit! Normally, the planes can make it to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland without stopping, but with the weight of all our bags, we couldn’t go the whole way without refueling. We didn’t get off the plane in Iqaluit, but the houses were all sorts of different colours and the skyline was absolutely stunning. I have never been so happy to see so much ice in July. With the two-hour time change, we touched down in Greenland at about 17:00 and boarded the coach bus that would take us to the zodiac boats that would then take us to our ship – the M/V Ocean Endeavour! On the coach bus, I heard Inuit throat singing for the first time live, and it was incredible amazing… I don’t know how those women are able to make such unique, yet coordinated, sounds that tell stories all at once! My room on the ship is absolutely amazing. I am sharing it with Alexia, a 23-year-old girl from France who studies physics at University in Japan. The room is way more than I imagined, and has a couch, TWO bathrooms, TWO windows, and is cleaned daily by staff! It’s outstanding. We set sail just after dinner at 21:00 down the Sondestrom Fjord, which provided views like those I had never seen before. Since I am part of the oldest group of students here, I was given the priviledge of going to the Tuk (the bar) with the staff after all of the younger students go to bed. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the staff on a deeper level here and ask them more questions that I may not get the opportunity to during the day.

Thursday, July 26 was our first full day at sea, and is also today! What a day it has been. After some rough waters woke me briefly from my sleep at 3am, it became relatively calm on board and I am happy to report that my brutal sea-sickness has yet to be found (I hope I didn’t just jinx it). After deciding to wake up at 6am to go to the on-board gym with a couple of new friends, we were treated to a breakfast buffet at 8am. After this, I sat in a presentation given by Vivi and Mira, who grew up in Greenland. They shared their stories as to how they got to this point today with us, and gave us some insight to the political, social, and financial background of Greenland and its interplay with Denmark and the rest of the world. It was quite amazing to hear how these two women are advocates for their country, their people, and keeping their culture alive. It reminded me much of my own experiences and the journies on which myself and my family have embarked to do the same thing. After this presentation, it was time to head on the zodiac boats to get up close and personal with theKangerlussuatsiaq Fjord! Skye was our boat driver today, who happens to be a nurse from British Columbia whose hobby is driving boats on expeditions :). We passed a bird sanctuary on the way, and saw three different Arctic birds: the Black-legged Kittiwake, the Thick-billed Murre, and the Black Guillemot! I was suprised to see so many of them on the side of the mountain, but they were all so stunning. The glacier was absolutely massive, and made thundrous booms as it began to calve even more. What was neat is that one of the larger icebergs was completely white on one side, yet a vivid blue on the other side. It reminded me a lot of my trip to Iceland two years ago, only the ice was at a much bigger scale. After we were wet enough from the rain, we got back on the ship for a buffet lunch… I think I may have to go to the gym two times a day with all of this food! After being treated to a mid-afternoon nap, I was able to go kayaking in a traditional Inuit kayak made of wood and animal skin, and this was by far the highlight of my trip! Even though it was absolutely pouring rain, I honestly didn’t mind at all. We were first given dry suits, so that even if we were to fall in, we would stay completely dry. We even went swimming in the suits for a couple of minutes and didn’t get wet or too cold, despite the water being a balmy 4 degrees. It was super poofy, but fashion of the North is in right now! These kayaks were also super agile, as they were so light. I have paddled many kayas before, but I have never found myself going as quickly as I did today. It might have been the wind, or it might have been the traditional Greenland paddles we were using, but I am confident that the kayak had a ton to do with it as well. At one point, while I was just sitting in the kayak and getting drenched from the rain, I couldn’t help but think…. I am currently sitting in a Fjord in Greenland, where both the air and water are sub-5 degrees, in a traditional Inuit kayak, with a traditional Greenlandic paddle, kayaking with a four-time Canadian kayak Olympian and medallist, simply watching birds and feeling nothing but the elements hitting my face! (Oh yeah, we have a four-time Canadian kayak Olympian and medallist on the ship!). WHEN AM I EVER GOING TO DO THIS AGAIN? And how did I get so lucky and so priviledged to be here? Around 5:30pm I took the dry suit off back on the ship, and much to my pleasure, I was completely dry. So, I found myself wandering to the computer lab before dinner where I am here writing this blog. I have come to realize that this trip is going to be full of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and such unique things, that will hopefully make me a much wiser, yet more humble human being. I am sharing this incredible land with people who have been here much longer than my people have, participating in sports that are twice as old as Christianity itself, and learning things from people whose greatest pleasure in life is sharing knowledge. As an impressionable young person, I can see that this trip will shape much of my actions and words in the future, and I hope to be able to share knowledge at home in the same way that I have been able to gain knowledge here.

Stay tuned for more posts from me (hopefully!).

Love,

Candace

PS: Yes mom, I’m making TONS of friends. Everyone on board has been so amazing and has such incredible stories. More on them to come :).

Arctic 2018 students enjoy their first Zodiac excursion of the expedition within the beautiful Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord. Photo (c) Robert Kautuk/SOI Foundation

Danika Mitchell
Makkovik, NL, Canada

Today is our first offical full day at sea. This morning we had a wicked breakfast and had a very interesting presentation from Vivi and Mira, people from Greenland, while the other groups had their tour in the zodiacs. When an hour was up it was our turn we had our tour. It was really cold and rainy but the view defineatly  made up for the weather. The high mountains reminded me of home. I loved having that connection to the land as i have with my own hometown of Makkovik. The view though, it was just breathtaking and welcoming. Breathtaking is an understatement. I am forever greatful to be here, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the day has to bring.

Ethan MacLeod
Mistissini, QC, Canada

Today was exciting and including the past few days as well. Today I met a persone Adina, so as we met I told her about my Cree language and spelled her name out in Cree as well. She took a photo of the small syllabic chart I have in my journal. But when I was on the flight to Nunavut, I was sitting next to Kian Kafaie and Tashi Lhamo. I told them more and gave them details about my culture and the Algonquin family as well. I also taught them a few words and I’m still doing that today if I can remember any of course. I’m really not the best at it but I’m willing to try to teach something to those who’re interested. So the flight was good, did a lot of writing and talking. But the 24th of July was really exciting because that day I was zip lining and it was my first time ever doing that. It required a lot of body work, which I was fine with, and I think I like it better in the rain. 25th of July was the flight to Greenland. Today was when I had seen my first glacier and it was thrilling to see something like that! I was also excited to see the mountains as well because I have never been so close to one in my entire life, so I really enjoyed that. As we got settled in the boat yesterday, I had gotten a new roommate, his name is Gaba and he is from Greenland! Really enjoy talking to the guy, he seems pretty chill. Anyways, that’s how everything was for the past few days and I really enjoyed it a lot so I feel good.

Eva Niviaxie
Kativik Ilisarniliriniq Teacher Trainee

Ai,Alianartuuilaugiami umiartutunit. Ippasa greenlandmut tikilaurqugut iqaluttigut timmijuursuta ottawamitpitsuta. Greenland nunanga piujurruaq, qarqangit purtujuit ammalu aujuittunga piujuutsuni ammalu ilanganit tigusikainnasunga anirranut tikigunnasalaurpat takutitsigumagama. Atjiliuqattagaluarmisunga takutsautialulaartaka qaritaujagunnalituarutta imminiqiluta. Silaluttu ullumi qajariattukainnatugut puvigartigut sanianut ausuittuup tikitsuta , greenland imanga tungujurtauqattatu kakiattuumut ilanga marraugaluarsuni. Naujaqarmijuit appangillu atjiunginnisautsuti. Greenland nunalinganut kangirsusuaqmut milaurqugut , qamutikallativut tungnganalaurtu nillirajuurutsunillu apirsutautsuni, inutuinnaumijut ammalu denmarkmiujautsuti inuqutingit. Ilisaat nakituinna pisimajuit ammalu inuit ilisaat qanuigati , ilautsianguaqattatuit. Parqaatumit ottawamit pijuviniutsuta greenlandmut nillimanirsamuttikilaurqugut. Ilakkaa qanuingngilanga, qaritaujarqajangnginatta isumainnaqiluta tavvuuna allaqattaluta kisiani qaujitsauqattalangavugut.

Fraser Byers
Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

We made it! We’re in Greenland!

Today has been incredible.  We woke up inside Evighetsfjordenn and began our day with a visit to a cliff-side bird colony followed by a face-to-face encounter with a massive calving glacier. With Eric as our zodiac captain we flew across the ice berglet covered inlet and met with Garry  “the bird guy.” He descibed the Thick Billed Murre’s as “Parsnips with wings” and told us many interesting facts about the cliff dwelling creatures. Next was the Glacier which was seriously cool (pun not intended)

Gaba Lynge
Sisimiut, Qeqqata, Greenland

Gaba Films here!!! I’m currently filming a vlog on my DSLR Nikon D5100.

There is some questions on the wall that I can answer.

1. My favorite moment so far: Watching the glaciers cracking and tearing apart. Even though it is very sad.

2. I spoke with Tara about the peninsula, although we don’t really know how to spell it…(she’s my wikipedia)

3. Some of the Inuktitut words reminds me of other Greenlandic words.

4. I’m grateful for getting new friends like: Madison Pudlat, Tara Doherty, Mary Argun, Gary, Kristi, Ace, Nivi, Bobby, Saaki.

5. I miss my Room!

Well today was amazing!

When we were on zodiacs, it was so fun to be there.

We talked about birds in the zodiacs. And I took a lot of photos and I really hope I took enough footage..

Goodbye.

Gaba off..

Gillian Johnson
Guelph, ON, Canada

Today, the first full day of the expedition made me really think deaply about yesterday, the day we landed in Greenland.

When we landed in Greenland the cheering together gave a sence of community. The solid ground gave the feeling of adventure, teachings, and enviroment come to life. Taking in account the four senses, the smell was clean and free, to the touch the cold hard ground was grounding, and the sight of the mountains gave me a feeling that I cannot describe.

Now back to today, waking up early has great views and adventures. The view down the fjord with mountanous areas and glaciers galore. The sound in the morning is so calm and refreshing with the water and birds in unison. The first seal was spoted early in the morning swiming next to the boat. The first zodiac expedition to see the spetacular glacer ice. The weather was the most arctic weather that you could get, the cold rain, wind and temp. Although this weather was cold it gave way to a beautiful sight. The ice was this pure green and bluish color and to think we were the first and last people to see the new ice that had been revealed. Thanks to Chris Earley for his workshops on seabirds I know what kind of birds were nesting on the tall clifts. We saw murres and killiwaags sitting on the clifs, on the ice and flying around in the wide blue skys.

I can’t wait to see more of this beautiful place, and cannot belive that I am here in Greenland!!

Arctic 2018 expeditioners explore icebergs within Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord during their first Zodiac excursion of the expedition. Photo (c) Robert Kautuk/SOI Foundation

Hannah Boomer
St. Catherines, ON, Canada

Today was such a wonderful day, it was beyond words. I cannot believe how lucky I am to be here in Greenland. My highlight of the morning was taking a zodiac tour of a magnificant floating glacier in Kangerlussuatsiaq Fiord. I was lucky enough to be on a zodiac with the in‑house bird expert, Garry, as we sailed past bird cliffs, learning about the black-legged kittiwake and thick-billed murres. We sailed past vast crystal-blue icebergs and many pieces of sea ice. I was very excited to grab a piece of sea ice, and tried to grab a large piece … resulting in an almost swim. The most amazing part of the morning was sailing past the Sermitsiaq Glacier. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been, more beautiful than I could have ever dreamed. We even had the chance to hear the glacier calve and see little tiny jelly fish swimming between the sea ice. In this beautiful place it is sad to think about how fast this glacier is retreating due to climate change, primarily caused by anthropogenic influences. Even in our hour at the glacier, we heard it calve many times, a reminder that this beautiful place will never look the same were we to return in the future.

My highlight of the afternoon was having many meaningful and interesting conversations with the other students, staff, and crew aboard the ship. Everyone leads such interesting lives, and there is so much to learn from everyone. My highlight of the evening was watching Vivi, from Nuuk, Greenland, perform a traditional Greenlandic mask dance. She taught us all about the history of her country and the cultural revival of Greenlandic mask dancing. It was incredible to see her take on a whole new persona behind her mask, as she danced around the crowd. I can’t wait to see what is in store for tomorrow, and I am sure it will be above any expectations I may have.

Hannah Weider
Ottawa, ON, Canada

I am so happy to be cold again. We arrived yesterday in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The air here is fresh and clean, and the water is a beautiful opaque turquoise colour. As soon as we arrived, we headed up to the deck of the ship where we could see the smooth gray rock of the Itelliq fjord (the longest in Greenland) that towered above us. I was surprised to find out that the ship was one hundred times nicer than I previously thought. I realized this as I walked into the lobby, where I was suddenly transported into a five star hotel. After having an amazing meal and doing a mandatory safety drill, we gathered in the “Hub” where we had a briefing and went over some of the highlights of the day. We went to sleep after looking out at the sun that never sets over the brilliantly blue water.

This morning we set out in zodiacs to get a closer look at a huge glacier that was tucked between two snowy peaks of the fjord. I never new ice could be so beautiful. There was blue, crystal-like ice, clear ice that shone like aluminum in the sun, and dark, patterned ice that floated past our boat. As we looked at the glacier, the only sounds were the crackling of the air bubbles popping in the ice, the rain hitting the water’s surface, and the calls of the hundred of birds flying all around us. Despite being freezing and completely soaked through, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face if I tried.

We also learned a lot about Greenland from the two staff, Vivi and Mira. They taught us a little about what it is like to grow up in Greenland, about the country’s history, and about its culture. I have been on the ship for less than 24 hours but have already learned and experienced more than I normally would in a week back home. I am looking forwards to the next two weeks on this amazing adventure!

Jessica Peter
Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Okay, so.. Yesterday(July 25, 2018) We boarded our planes from ottawa and flew to Iqaluit, my home town, which was a tease and caused me to become a little homesick. We sat in the plane for about 45 mintues while they refueled and finally started our journey to greenland. We flew into Kangerlussuaq, Greenland and got onto the buses and went to board the Ocean Endeavour to start the first day to our journey and it was just soo beautiful! One of my biggest highlights of yesterday was when we were all finally aboard the ship, touring it and just kind of getting to know the ship and getting to know eachother a little more as we were all helping eachother find our rooms in this huge ship. A lot of us were “lost” as we all kept saying. We had dinner – which was incredibly delicious! While we all waited for our baggage to be loaded onto the ship we all hung out in the Hub, and did some jam sessions and got to relax as we were all beat from the early wake up and the short but long plane ride. Last night I went out after it got a little darker to go and take some photos of the beautiful mountains and the amazing landscapes which caused me to not want to go back in and head to bed, but I eventually did and I slept just like a baby. This morning I woke up as Geoff was speaking through the PA, but i was a litle cold so pulled the blanket over myself and just ended up falling asleep, again but eventually got up and enjoyed the yummy breakfast. After breakfast we all grouped up with our pod members and watched a presentation in the hub and then we did our first of many expeditions. We got onto the zodiacs and went to check out the ice glaciers and saw a wall full of nesting birds and also sat there in silence with the engines shut off and just got to listen to nature itself. Hearing the chucks of ice snap, crackle and pop then fall into the ocean with a gunshot like sound was just so peaceful!

I enjoyed my morning and am excited to see what is in store for us for the next two weeks on board. I am giving the biggest THANK YOU, QUJJANAMIIK to the SOI staff and the ships crew. We all couldn’t have made it this far without all the support!

Julianne Jager
Stittsville, ON, Canada

La toute première chose que j’aimerais dire c’est : Au revoir à l’humidité suffocante d’Ottawa! Depuis ce matin, il y a une pluie fine, par contre, c’est tout à fait différent de celle chez moi. L’air est fraiche, l’eau est d’un bleu poudreux (causé par les résidus de la fonte du glacier), le ciel est caché par une brume blanche qui recouvre le sommet des montagnes et il y a une sensation de mystère qui me pousse, tout au plus, à vouloir découvrir les secrets de cet endroit.

Je suis au Groenland, je suis passé au dessus du Nunanut, j’ai vu des montagnes riches en végétation et entendu le craquement d’un glacier;  il me reste tant à explorer, mais j’ai déjà ressenti plus que je n’aurais jamais pu imaginer. Ce que je vous ai décrit n’est qu’une petite fraction de l’expérience. La camaraderie, le multiculturalisme, la faune, les activités, les connaissances et les opportunités… Après seulement quatres jours ensemble, nous sommes tous devenus une grande famille, rempli de diversité et de fierté.

Students learn from migratory birds biologist Garry Donaldson as he dissects a kittiwake discovered in the waters of Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord during their morning Zodiac excursion.

Madison Pudlat
Coral Harbour, NU, Canada

Day 7 away from home. I have no idea how to vlog\blog so I’ll just use the topics on the wall.

1. My favorite moment so far is when we went ziplining, and I got over my fear of heights after the first station.

2. I miss eating country food, they feed us well here though.

3. Kalaallisut reminds me of inuktitut

Not much time to do the rest, so this  is just a shout out to my aunt, Chris and my grandma Pasha, everyone LOVES my parka and my snow pants. 

Marlayna Griffin
Arnprior, ON, Canada

Hey there everyone!

I have had a jam-packed last two days with Students on Ice, and I am so excited to continue the third! We stayed in Ottawa at Carleton University on the 23rd and 24th, taking part in team-building activities (being sorted into our activity groups, called ‘pods’) and doing things such as visiting the Museum of Nature, the museum of History to watch the Canada C3 documentary (which some of our current crew were a part of), and going on a high ropes/zipline course in Gatineau QC. On the morning of the 24th, we woke up early to board staggered flights towards Greenland! We had private charter flights with First Air- we flew to Iqaluit, stopped briefly to refuel, and then flew to Kangerlussuaq. In the first two days I have already met so many great people- the education team introduced themselves, and I got to talk with more of them on the flight! It was helpful to sit next to a sea ice expert on the plane when we crossed the ocean to see our first icebergs.

In Kangerlussuaq the SOI team had already sorted out customs for us, so we didn’t need to do a thing! We hopped on busses to get to the shoreline, where our Zodiac boats and pilots were waiting to take us to our ship, the Ocean Endeavor. The first time on the boats offered us great views of Greenland’s landscape. Once aboard the ship, we discovered that is way nicer than we imagined! Everything is suited to Students on Ice needs- lounges are converted to laboratories, blogging rooms (like the one I’m in!) were added, and extra gear is stored aboard the ship. It was overwhelming at first, but it is easy to learn the layout! We spent a ton of time exploring the decks and rooms and admiring the views before we all came together for a buffet-style dinner, a safety drill, and an evening briefing.

Today we slept in until 7:30! Or at least … that’s what Geoff told us. It isn’t really sleeping in for us, because that’s 5:30AM in ‘Ottawa time’! LOL. We ate breakfast together, had a briefing, and started the day’s activities. For about an hour, half of the students (me!) attended a presentation in the Hub (central lounge of the ship), told by two Greenlanders, Vivi and Mira. They told us about their lives, and the culture, history, and politics of Greenland. It was super interesting and cool to get the perspective of Greenland’s habitants! it is something that we are never really exposed to otherwise. I found out some neat facts- for example, in Greenland’s schools, it is a requirement to learn three languages; Greenlandic, Danish, and English. Greenlandic is the primary language in Greenland!

After this, the groups switched and we went out on a Zodiac cruise towards a glacier that borders the Sondrestrom fjord (where we had sailed, Southward during the night). It was bordered by mountains and bird cliffs, and it was an amazing view and experience! We tasted our first sea ice and were able to see some pieces of ice fall from the glacier into the water. We saw animals like jellyfish and various types of birds. This afternoon we hope to go onto shore to do a variety of workshops, despite the fact that it’s been raining all day! I hope it stops raining so that we can break out the kayaks.

I wish everybody could experience what I already have in my first two days in Greenland! This is a beautiful country and it is so surreal to see all of the wildlife and calm, empty spaces. The communities here are so spread out that we barely even saw any from the plane. I hope that I can try to post photos soon.

Until next time,

Marlayna

Students return from a fishing excursion in Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord with Inuk hunter and wildlife monitor Jimmy Evalik. (c) Robert Kautuk/SOI Foundation

Sarah MacNeil
Montreal, QC, Canada

Hello from Evighedsfjord! Or the Fjord of Eternity, for all us non-Danish speakers. Whimsical, no?

Today was the first full day on the ship, and while overall we’ve been in relatively calm, sheltered waters, we began (and are ending) our day in the choppy edges of the Davis Strait, as we make our way further north up the coast of Greenland. Most people didn’t seem to find the rocking motions terribly comforting at 3 a.m., but maybe it will help lull us to sleep tonight.

The weather may not be the most classically beautiful, but the mix of fog and cloud weaves in and out of the peaks on either side of the fjord, and hints at a certain magic in this ancient landscape. We were lucky enough to have this setting for our first real zodiac *cruise*, passing colonies of birds (well-camouflaged in the vast cliftside, speckled with waterfalls and caves) and entering into what felt like a field of ice debris, all to come closer to the main attraction – a glacier so large that all notion of scale seemed unbelievable. Compared to the russets, mossy greens, and the earthy browns and greys that surrounded us, the brilliant blues and whites of the newly-exposed ice couldn’t help but catch the eye.

The Arctic has always been visual to me – I think this is true for most of us in southern Canada – but today I learned just how alive it really is. It’s the patter of rain on the water around us, it’s the smell of the birds encircling us and their home, it’s the feel of the seaweed we fish out of the water at the request of Victoria (who informs us that this seaweed is useful for healing burns), it’s the taste of the ice chunks we pick up as it floats past, slurping on them like popsicles. The gunshot-like cracks and echoes of the multiple glacier calvings we witnessed, along with the seemingly delayed swells rippling outwards, seemed to tie everything in around us. Every element blends into the others, and for one marvelous hour, we got to blend in as well.

Nakkurmik/Qiyanik for reading, we’ll talk again soon!

Sean Brandt
Outdoor education teacher

It is hard to establish with any amount of specificity all that has been accomplished by the SOI 2018 team in such a small window of time.  Please know that each individual blog post will pull highlights from near limitless options, and I would encourage readers to enjoy this webpage thoroughly, and frequently.

Today (Thursday July 26th) many of us experienced our much anticipated first date with arctic ice and the ocean.  As we approached a glacier in Kangerlussuatsiaq Fjord by zodiac, it felt as though we were being watched by the massive icebergs who knew we were visitors in their domain.  Silence echoed throughout the valleys created by Greenland’s steep rock walls, interrupted only by the dull hum of the zodiac motor, or the creaks and crackles of the shifting ice.  One playful iceberg released a sizeable piece of itself into the ocean, which cased the entire structure to roll, revealing its crystal-clear underbelly to us.  When we made it to the foot of the glacier our little zodiac was dwarfed by an ice wall standing one hundred feet into the air.  The view was fantastic.

Although the skies opened, and the rain numbed already chilled bodies, each adventurer smiled brightly as we returned to the safety and warmth of our floating home.  The landscapes of Greenland have been breathtaking, and over the next few days of our expedition we welcome the opportunity to meet, and learn, from its people.

Love to All,

-Sean

Sidney Shaw
Markham, ON, Canada

Hi Everyone!
This is Sidney writing from the Ocean Endeavor! After two days of oriantation and fun in Ottawa, we flew to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. We arrived in the beautiful community of roughly 500 people and then bused to the shore where we took Zodiacs to the ship. It was rougly 10*C when we landed so we all had to bundle up. That night we had dinner and explored the enormous ship. The day after, we went on Zodiacs to view bird nesting areas and glaciers, where we witnessed huge amounts of ice melting and falling into the fjord. Many glaciers appeared blue and we learned that this was due to glacier flour. Unfortunatly, because of global warming, the ice sheet was much furter in the fjord than it was ten years ago. Once we came back from our very wet ride, we watched a presentation on global warming and climate change which gave us many ideas on how we can make the least impact on this world we inhabit. For example, beef if one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases so by not eating beef, you can reduce your carbon footprint by a huge amount! Later, we’re planning on having a zodiac landing so we can learn on shore.

A few important notes:
1. Unfortunatly, due to lack of internet access, I am un able to up load photos. However, I will be sure to share photos after the expedition.
2. To my parents: surprisingly, I haven’t gotton seasick (yet)!
3. Thank you to all the support from my family and sponsors which include Taipei Economics and Culture Office, Mr. Liang-Juh Lai, Ms. Ming-Chan Si, Newmarket Dental, and my grandmother.

 

Suffi Amillia
Terengganu, Kemaman, Malaysia

I’m very glad that they did a blog station here because I really want those in Malaysia to know about my condition and what I did here. Today is very fun and I can’t help but to keep talking about this gorgeous and fancy cruise ship. I’m fine, and I’m totally in love with the temperature.

Today, we had a little briefing in the morning and they decided to split us up into two groups. My pod name is Nanuq, which means polar bear, and I am in group 2. Teacher Zariha and Aiman were in group 1 so they could ride the zodiacs first. Group 2 would have to learn about the history of Greenland, and how did the name Greenland was created. So we met Vivi and Mira, two best friends who shared their little childhood stories together. They spoke about their  dream jobs and how they got independent throughout their youths. It was nice to hear their stories, it was both touching and inspiring for us to hear.

After that, we went on the zodiacs after the first group came back. We made our tour and I forgot to bring along my waterproof pants because I didn’t think it would be raining today. However, I enjoyed the cold temperature and nothing dominates the cold feeling more than looking at the beautiful scenery. Our zodiac captian told us that birds lives on the cliffs because they somehow had this leap of faith where newborn birds will jump and swim in the water with the assist of their mothers until they’re big enough to fly by themselves. The sad truth about this fact was, some newborn birds died before they could even fly because when they jumped into the water, the impact was so hard, it hurt them.

Me, and my zodiac team were very angry because we didn’t get to see the glaciers fall. I heard that when they fall, it would be very pretty, and it would sound just like thunder rumbling. In fact, this expedition is only once in a life time opportunity and I do hope to see some glaciers fall. I asked the captain about the black spots on the ice and he told me that they were rocks and dirt that had been frozen in the ice. It was fun out there but I won’t forget to put a mental note about dressing properly and not taking the cold temperature for granted.

That’s all from me, stay tuned for tomorrow folks!

Love,

Suffi

 

Tapisa Tattuinee
Arviat, NU, Canada

Good day everyone! I am so happy to be in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland! It was amazing landing in Greenland & going on zodiaks to go see a glacier. What an amazing experience so far! I cannot even describe how beautiful it is in Greenland, I am speechless!

I want to give time to thank Parks Canada for giving me the chance to go on Students on Ice! Thank you for sponsoring me for for this amazing opportunity!  I am excited to be exploring new land and meeting a lot of new people!

SOI has already changed me to become a better person. I am enjoying my time away from my phone and connecting with the land and the amazing team of people on the ship.

Tara Doherty
Burlington, ON, Canada

Today is our first full day in Greenland. The mountains and cliffs that border the fjord are spattered with lichen and moss, creating a unique spectacular view, especially when you can see it through the clouds. This morning we began our first adventure. My group first listened to a presentation about Greenland, given by our 2 Greenlandic staff members. It was incredibly interesting to hear about the country’s political and social situation, as I had never learnt about it before. After the presentation, we went on our first zodiac excursion to see bird cliffs and a glacier! We set out in the rain, which only added to my sense of adventure. I am incredibly thankful to Henry’s for giving me a waterproof camera, as I was one of the few people who was able to constantly take pictures. Our zodiac guide was Garry, who is a bird expert. I learned many things about the local birds, whose names I cannot spell. He pointed out the different colonies, and showed us the difference between the “prey” specices, who were nesting very close together, and the “predator” colony, who were much more spread out. We then went up close to the glacier, picking up some ice along the way. The glacier was much cooler up close. We even heard the ice crack! As we traveled through the small floating chuncks of ice, we saw some jellyfish! We then headed back to the ship, cold, soaking, but happy. Throughout the morning and lunch, I also talked with many people, creating some new friends, such as Madison, Nivi, Nancy, and Gaba. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming. Since I am shy and introverted, making new friends can be hard, so I am very thankful for my new friends, as they push me to try new adventures. 🙂

Vanessa Tucci
Elmvale, ON, Canada

I want dedicate this first blog to my mum. I love you, and even though I am having an amazing time and meeting so many awesome people, I miss you. There are so many things that happened that I want to tell you about. To begin with, we arrived in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and it exceded my expectations. I did not expect the air and water to be so crisp/clear, and I did not anticipate the breathtaking expansiveness of the hills, mountains and glaciers. We went out in small groups on the speedboats (zodiacs), and despite the fact that I got drenched, (I was wearing my waterproof clothes, don’t worry), it was so much fun to ride over the waves. Today, we went out on them again, and I learned so much from our zodiac driver, who was telling us about the Evigedsfjord Glacier. It is retreating at a rate of 1.5 m per year due to climate change, and it was both extrordinary and heartbreaking to see icebergs breaking off and collapsing into the Ocean.

Speaking of heartbreaking, I know that your blood pressure will rise when I tell you that I had an axiety attack (don’t worry, I’m fine now). I started playing the piano for the first time in a long time, and some memories came up. I had a good cry with one of counsellors on the ship, and I am going to start seeing her to help cope with some of my emotions. Everyone was very kind to me concerning my mental health, and open-minded/respectful of the fact that I use they/them pronouns. I am meeting so many progressive people and I have a million questions for all the experts on board (I raise my hand so much that they will be tired of me bugging them by the end of this trip X’D). I won’t stop though, so don’t worry about that!

I am going to dedicate my next blog to my brother (I didn’t forget about you, and I love you too Gianni :D), but this blog was just for you mum. I can’t thank you enough for letting me go on this trip, and I am really trying to make it into the pictures so you see me (I don’t know if it is working, but I have my own pictures anyway, so you can rest easy). This was the best “Birthday Gift” ever, and I truly feel like I am becoming a responsible, wise, and informed adult because of this trip.

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to reassure you that this doesn’t mean that I am not thinking of you, or that I will ever forget you, no matter how old I get, or how far away I go. You will always be in my heart, and when I am putting myself out there/taking these risks, I can do it because I remeber how brave you are. Thank you for being in my life. <3 XOXOXO

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