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2019 Arctic Expedition: Day 5

Update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green in Disko Bay, Greenland

Today began with a Zodiac tour around magnificent icebergs in Disko Bay off the coast of Ilulissat, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland), and learning about the history of Kalaalit Nunaat with Greenlandic staff members Vivi Sorensen, Maligiaq Padilla, Tukumminnguaq Olsen and Bilo Stigsen. And to top if off, students saw three humpback whales in Disko Bay!

In the afternoon the team landed in the beautiful community of Ilulissat, which in Greenlandic means “Icebergs”. An appropriate name as the Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the iceberg factory of the world. This is also an area experiencing drastic glacier loss due to climate change.

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

The expedition team hiked from Ilulissat out to the mouth of the IceFjord where they took in breathtaking views of the glacier and out into a sea of icebergs while learning more about the area, culture and the changing environment from Greenlandic staff and scientists. Two more humpback whales were spotted in the Ilulissat Icefjord.

The evening ended back on the ship with two performances from award-winning singer-songwriter Ian Tamblyn. An incredible day of learning, new perspectives and connections! Tomorrow we head North to Uummannaq.

Highlights from the evening recap:

  • Julia Braeunig – Her first time seeing whales and it was “absolutely beautiful!”
  • Shelton Nipisar – Becky Okatsiak and Lynda Brown throat singing at the top of a rock in the Ilulissat Icefjord
  • Elodie Poirier- Listening to the sound of the ice melting and cracking 
  • Nuiana Hardenberg – Reconnecting with an old friend
  • Spencer Bubis- The whole day! but it really capped it off nicely when he ran from the edge of the park to the docks, followed by a Zodiac ride to cool off
  • Devon Manik joined Spencer along with some kids from the community.
  • Neylan Stevens – Watching the iceberg collapse right in front of him, waves coming towards us. She has ever seen an iceberg before

Highlights of the Day with George Woodhouse

This is the second of a series of expedition recaps hosted by musician George Woodhouse with select students and staff onboard the expedition. Listen as George engage participants in reflecting on the highlights of their day in the Greenlandic and Canadian High Arctic.

Participant Blogs

Chiara Concini, student
Edmonton, Canada

Hello to everyone back home! These past two days have been full of “firsts”. Yesterday, I had the chance to participate in an element of traditional Greenlandic culture, mask dancing. This felt like the first big step I have taken out of my comfort zone. Hopefully there will be pictures of our masks online, but I suggest that anyone reading this do some research about Greenlandic mask dances. Today I saw my first iceberg. Icebergs, actually. By 0715 this morning, I was out on the deck looking at the distant masses of floating ice out in the distance. As we approached the Ilulissat ice fjord, more and more icebergs came into view. I stood out on the deck at the front of the ship for a while, just taking it all in as the ship passed by. Even though I was freezing, I don’t think I would have ever moved from that spot if I had not been called down to the Hub for today’s briefing. My next “first” of the day occurred about an hour after, a zodiac cruise. We sped closer and closer to these massive blocks of ice. Though they are floating in the water, the icebergs seem immovable. I am 5’1” and there are a lot of things that can make me feel small. Yet, nothing has come even close to making me feel as overwhelmed as the icebergs did today. I am truly humbled. The Ilulissat fjord is known as the iceberg factory of the western Arctic. While this makes sense considering the size and number of icebergs produced in the area, the word “factory” connotes a mass production of identical objects. While there are many to choose from, it would be impossible to find even two icebergs in the fjord that are exactly the same. The pieces of ice are unique in size, colour, build, and composition. In the zodiac, as someone held me by the feet, I leaned over the edge and grabbed a piece of floating ice. We broke it apart and ate it. Today’s zodiac cruise was transformative. Stay tuned for more from me!  

India Tory, student
Toronto, ON, Canada

Yesterday was our first full day on the Ocean  Endeavour. I slept so well the night before, even though I basically slept the whole trip to Greenland! The ship is not what I was expecting… at all. It is amazing – the staff have been so welcoming and there are so many beautiful spaces for us to use. Breakfast was so much better than I had expected as well – I had an English muffin, just like at home. In the morning, we made our first landing, and while we were there I did the pond sampling activity. A few of us put on waders and got into the pond water with this special tube to gather dirt and things from deep under the water. When trying to get out of the pond, I got stuck in the mud and four guys had to drag me out… I hope they posted the photos of us online! In the afternoon we started travelling again so we did activities on the ship. I started to make a headband with a seal skin polar bear on it, but I am terrible at sewing so it didn’t go very well… Also, later in the afternoon, we got to look at the pond samples we took under the microscope. I had no idea what I was looking at… We also looked at mini fish we had caught which was cool!!

This morning, they ran a short crossfit session before breakfast which helped me wake up before going on a zodiac cruise through the icebergs!!! Before coming on this trip I hadn’t realized how amazing icebergs are – now I understand. We also saw two whales (humpback I think). Super cool. In the afternoon we went to this huge ice field thing in Ilulissat which was insane – it seemed to go on forever…

Jesse Byrne, student
Stephenville, NL, Canada

So today we went to the town of Ilulissat and visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site… it’s only the second full day in Greenland and I’m already running out of words to describe  the places around me, every day language just doesn’t do these areas justice. Looking out over the mouth of the Fiord chinched full of iceburgs and pan ice you can’t help but feel so small in the whole picture. I am so unbelievably fortunate to be a part of this experience and beyond thankful for this opportunity. What a spot!

(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Leonie Steigenberger, student
Lake Country, BC, Canada

Wow what an amazing past 5 days! I’m writing this post while we are sailing along Greenland’s coast on the Ocean Endeavour, how cool is that! Louisa and I arrived in Ottawa early Tuesday morning after a red-eye flight from British Columbia. The two days that we spent in Ottawa were filled with meeting everyone, sightseeing in our country’s beautiful capital, and an amazing time at Camp Fortune Quebec (I enjoyed the big, green, leafy forest, as it was very different from the forests back in the Okanagan). The buildings in Quebec, and their brick houses really reminded me of Regensburg.

Thursday we got up super early and boarded our charter flights to Kangerlussuaq.We actually  had to stop and refuel in Iqaluit, because we had so much equipment and luggage with us. Once we finally made it there, we boarded a yellow school bus (wasn’t expecting those up here in the Arctic:), and drove to the harbour. The cold fresh air was amazing, and super refreshing. My first ever zodiac boat ride out to the ship is truly something I will never forget. Our rooms are nice; my roomate is from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut!

Yesterday was the first full day we spent out on the water. In the morning, we took a zodiac ride to Itilleq. Once on the land, we had some INCREDIBLE workshops to choose from. I did the Arctic botany workshop, and it was breathtaking. First Roger introduced some of the plants to us. Then we went off and collected plants and flowers. I learned which ones were safe to eat; the Qunguliit leaves tasted sour, and they were so good! We pressed them when we got back to the ship. In the afternoon we had our first Insuma workshops; I did the painting one.

In the evening, we got to listen to a presentation about traditional Inuit kayaks, followed by some Greenlandic mask dancing. 

I would like to thank to thank my parents for the amazing support they gave my sister and me during the time before the expedition, and the hard work to make this trip possible. I’ll treasure these memories for my entire life, and we wouldn’t be here without you mom and dad. Thank you!!!!!

Familie zuhause, 

Ich hoffe es geht euch allen gut. Ich vermisse euch alle sehr, und freue mich schon euch alles zu berichten wenn ich wieder zuhause bin. Louisa und ich haben fast keine Zeit hier im Blog Central Station zuschreiben, aber ich halte jeden Tag genau in meinem Tagebuch fest und dann lesen wir es danach zusammen. Das Essen auf dem Schiff ist der Hammer,und die Erfahrungen sind einmalig. SOI tut auch auf Facebook, Twitter, und Instagram Videos und Updates schreiben also dort kann man auch mitlesen.  Ich werde versuchen noch so oft wie ich kann hier zu schreiben, aber die Tage sind echt lang und busy. Ich liebe euch alle so sehr, und bin von Herzendankbar fuer all eure Unterstutzung!

(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Louisa Steigenberger, student
Lake Country, BC, Canada

Greetings from far-away waters,

Ich habe endlich Zeit gefunden um einen Blogpost zu schreibe, wir haben immer so viel zu tun! Unsere kleine SOI Familie ist sicher auf der MS Ocean Endeavour angekommen, und hatten schon ein paar angenehme Naechte an Bord. Meine Zimmerkameradin ist Halb Inuit/Metis und lebt in einem sehr kleinen Ort. Am ersten Abend sind wir bis fast ein Uhr in der Nacht aufgeblieben, weil sie soviel zu erzaehlen hatte. Sie hat mir ganz viele Fotos von ihrem Dorf gezeigt und erzaehlt wie ihre Familie noch ganz traditionel jagen geht. Wenn sie einen Wal gefangen haben, legen sie das Fleisch fuer ein paar Tage an das Ufer ins Meer, damit das Salzwasser es waescht und den Geschmack veraendert. Ich freue mich schon sehr darauf nochmehr von ihr zu lernen!

Yesterday we went to shore for the first time on one of our Zodiac excursions. The most amazing moment for me was when my rainboots touched the ground for the first time, and I realized there were no paths to go hiking on. I just walked wherever was easiest and the least wet. From Kelowna I am used to only hiking on trails, but never going straight into the land without guidance. It was quite fascinating for me to discover this unknown feeling. Spencer and I hiked to the very top of the mountain to take pictures for our photography workshop. The view was breathtaking and felt a little bit like home, we were surrounded by water and mountains, almost like the Okanagan. Our way down was quite funny,we slipped a few times but overall we made it to the bottom in one piece. In the afternoon we had Asuna workshops, I chose art of course. We sat right by a window and it was definitely the best view I’ve ever had while painting. No shore in sight, just the vast ocean.

Heute Morgen bin ich um halb sechs aufgewacht, um oben auf dem Deck zu sitzen und zu schreiben. Als ich an der Tee Bar war, um mir ein Beerentee und Kekse zu holen, habe ich schnell aus dem Fenster geschaut. Auf einmal sah ich um uns rum ueberall Eisberge!! Es waren die ersten die ich bisher sah und ich bekomme jetzt noch Gaensehaut wenn ich drueber nachdenke. Was meint ihr wie schnell ich oben an Bord stand mit meiner neuen Kamera in der Hand! Das Wetter war perfekt fuer unsere Zodiak Cruise, wir wurden in kleine Motorboote gepackt und sind zwischen den riesigen Eisbergen dahin getuckert. Mir ist aufgefallen wie klar die Luft hier oben ist, unheimlich frisch, ich habe all den Stadtstaub aus der Lunge rausgefegt. Wir haben ein Stueck Eis gefunden was voller Steine war. Es war unten an einem Glacier gewesen, und nach vielen Jahren als er sich gedreht hat, ist es abgebrochen und jetzt hier geschwommen. Der Fahrer ist naeher hingefahren und ich durfte mir einen kleinen Stein davon aussuchen.  Jetzt habe ich ein Stueck Greenland Natur in der Tasche meiner Schneehose dabei. 

Tonight we are visiting our first community, it is called Ilulissat and I cannot wait to see how they live up here. I hope to try some of their local traditional foods and connect with some people who call Ilulissat their home. There are so many incredible individuals aboard and waiting on land for us, who all have such amazing life stories to tell and have had so many experiences they can share with us. I am still so in awe that I am here, every morning it baffles me again to wake up in a room aboard a ship, and I am so thankful for all the people who supported my fundraising to be here. 

Special shoutout to our supporter and mentor, Sean, and his co-owner Paul of Spirit Bear Coffee. An indigenous-owned coffee company, it is a (for us) local coffee, roasted right in Richmond, BC and organic and Fairtrade. These guys are one of the main reasons I get to sit here right now, and my sister and I are truy grateful! Sending many thanks from Ilulissat!

Jetzt gibt es Mittagessen und dann geht es los. Ich vermisse euch daheim, Mama und Papa, und natuerlich Paulchen. Ich versuche bald nochmal zu schreiben, mal sehen ob ich Zeit finden kann. Ansonsten mach ich viele Fotos fuer euch. Ich denke ich werde mich trauen einen Liederschreib kurs mitzumachen. Am Anfang war ich mir nicht sicher ob is das kann, aber ich denke ich probiere es einfach mal aus. Wir sind noch ein paar Tage hier in der Greenland Gegend, und dann geht es am 29. ueber den Davis Strait nach Kanada. So, jetzt gehe ich was essen, Seefahrt macht hungrig. Keine Seekrankheit bisher, all smooth sailing. 

Ich liebe euch und viele Bussis nach Lake Country. 

Much love, 


Mia Mckenzie-Steinwand, student
Hay River, NT, Canada

It’s the third day of my big expedition, and if I do say so myself I am feeling very out of my element. I know that there are so many people that have worked hard for this sort of opportunity. I can’t shake it out of my system that I am in GREENLAND! I constantly think about how I, from so many students, was chosen to embark on this expedition of 2019. I just wanted to say that I am so thankful and will always hold this experience close to my heart for the future to come. This thrilling event will be a once in a lifetime experience and it won’t be spent foolishly. Thank you for the opportunity!

Olivier Ménard, student
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Petit conseil: si vous avez un jour la possibilité de voguer dans l’arctique en compagnie d’une centaine de jeunes d’un peu partout à travers le monde, accompagné par plusieurs dizaines d’experts dans différents domaines, tous plus incroyables les uns que les autres, sautez sur l’occasion. Même si cette aventure ne dure que depuis 5 jours, une aura de familiarité imprègne déjà l’atmosphère magique du Ocean Endeavour. En effet, je ne crois pas me tromper en affirmant que nous avons tous l’impression de se fréquenter depuis des lunes. En un court laps de temps, j’ai appris à connaître plusieurs membres de l’équipage et ces petites conversations durant les heures de repas m’ont permis d’en découvrir énormément à propos de leurs professions respectives, ce que j’ai trouvé absolument passionnant. À chaque nouvelle intéraction je suis sorti renversé par le montant d’information et d’expérience de vie qu’il m’est possible d’aquérir si brièvement. De plus, même si les paysages et la faune qui paradent devant nos yeux en permanence sont un cadeau en SOI, le groupe de gens qui compose cette expédition est sans aucun doute l’un des aspects les plus enrichissants de ce voyage. Finalement, je pourrais probablement continuer ainsi jusqu’à l’heure du dodo sans me tarir d’éloges pour ce voyage extraordinaire, cependant nous avons une excursion dans une communauté dans quelques instants et je dois aller me préparer…

Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, staff
Media & Communications Professional
Inari, Finland

My first iceberg! Overnight we had sailed to Disko Bay and when I looked out the window on Saturday morning, all I saw was tens of floating icebergs. After breakfast we went cruising between the icebergs on zodiacs. I guess you can’t call yourself an arctic expert before you have seen an iceberg. Well, now I have!

Today I held my first workshop together with Alison LeClaire (Senior Arctic Official, Government of Canada), Jennifer Sokol (Senior Policy Analyst) and Whitney Lackenbauer (Canada Research Chair in the Study of Canadian North and a Professor in the School for the Study of Canada, Trent University). We had a huge map of the Arctic region which filled the entire floor. With the help of the map with discussed for example the cooperation between the Arctic countries and the indigenous peoples of the region. It was a stimulating experience as an educator to have a workshop together with colleagues. I also enjoyed utilizing the expertise of the students in the group ranging from indigenous perspectives to interest in geopolitics. A great first session! 

Next we are planning to have a workshop to discuss the similarities and the differences between Sámi reindeer-herding and Inuit caribou-hunting. That’ll be super interesting!

Oidnen lávvardaga vuosttas háve jiekŋavári! Leimmet ija mielde borjjastan Disko Bay -nammasaš luktii, mas vuojadedje dievva jiekŋavárit. Go gehččen iđđes lássaráigge olggos, nu oidnen logiid stuorát ja uhccit jiekŋaváriid! Iđitbiepmu maŋŋá finaimet vuojašeamen daid gaskas gummefatnasiiguin. Olmmoš ii várra sáhte čuoččuhit ahte lea árktalaš áššedovdi ovdalgo lea oaidnán jiekŋavári. Na, dál de lean!

Sotnabeaivve dollen iežan vuosttas bargobáji ovttas Alison LeClairein (boarrásot árktalaš áššiid virgeolmmoš Kanada ráđđehusas), Jennifer Sokoliin (boarrásot policy-analytihkar) ja Whitney Lackenbaueriin (professor Trent-universitehtas Kanadas). Mis lei stuorra árktalaš guovllu kártá, mii devddii olles láhtti. Kártá lei vuođđun ságastallamii ee. sirkumpolárariikkaid ja -eamiálbmogiid ovttasbarggus. Bajásgeassin munnje lei hui movttiidahtti doallat bargobáji ovttas kollegaiguin. Lei maiddái erenoamaš mávssolaš buktit mielde studeanttaid dieđuid ja vásáhusaid. Joavkkus ledje dán háve ovdamearkan eamiálbmotstudeanttat ja nuorat, geat ledje erenoamaš beroštuvvan geopolitihkas. Buorre vuosttas ságastallan!

Čuovvovaččat mii áigut doallat bargobáji, mas mii veardádallat sámi boazodoalu ja inuihtaid karibubivddu. Šaddá supermiellagiddevaš!

Sophie Weider, student
Ottawa, ON, Canada

It’s only the second day on board but it feels like we have been here for weeks. Even though every minute passes by so fast our days are so filled with new and exciting activities that it feels much longer than one day. Already I have seen some of the most beautiful things, learned so much, and met so many interesting and friendly people from all around the world. Yesterday we went on land for the first time, and I loved learning about which arctic plants you can eat, exploring the land, and even spotting an arctic hare. The air is so much fresher and the silence is so peaceful. I have already made what I am sure will be lasting friends and we have had so many interesting conversations and so many laughs together. It feels like I have known them for much longer than a couple of days. I also loved talking with my roommate about what her life is like in Nunavut and how different it is from mine. All these conversations have really opened up my eyes to the world around me. Today has started off with an amazing tour of icebergs by zodiac, and I am excited for all the rest to come when we visit the nearby community this afternoon, Ilulissat. Love to everyone back at home, I miss you and I love you so much!!!

Renee Amado, student
Wilmington, DE, USA

Even though I have enjoyed every moment of my time here, my favorite experience from this expedition was from this morning. We took zodiacs out into the waters off the coast of West Greenland and explored the icebergs near the Ocean Endeavour. It was exhilarating to be near such massive, powerful, and beautiful things. It was cold out there, but I didn’t mind, as it was nearly impossible to think or focus on anything except the magnificence of the icebergs and the water. After a few pictures and a ton of squinting (it’s really bright out there!) we pulled our zodiac up to some others and listened to George play his guitar. Listening to him play with the gorgeous scenery was just surreal. I will never forget the salty spray from the boat while we whizzed around the huge pieces of sparkling ice. I have high hopes for the rest of the trip, and am grateful for the incredible journey I’ve had so far.

(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Ved Varshney, student
Fort McMurray, AB, Canada

The past few days have been filled with exciting adventures and invigorating exercises. Just yesterday we took part in multiple workshops and activities. Yesterday was the first day we got the opportunity to go on the Greenlandic soil and explore the vast landscapes and features. And just for my brother, it felt a lot like Iceland and Norway. Anyways, on land we took part in a water sampling activity in which we wore waders which protected us from the water up to my chest. On first glance, the lake seemed simple to walk into but we quickly found out that we can easily sink into the bed of the lake. After some walking (which took a while we finally made it to a part where we could collect a sample and analyze it.

So that was yesterday. But today we embarked on another journey which took us to Ilulissat which is renowned as the worlds iceberg factory. This was one of the absolute best and most magnificent things that I have ever seen, as of now. We went out on zodiacs and the noises that we could hear was like nothing that I would’ve ever expected. It almost sounded cracking or like a small gunshot. I can’t forget about the whales that I also saw, there were about five humpback whales around an iceberg which was a fascinating sight to see. We also saw five sea lions or seals. I couldn’t tell the difference from that distance.

Anyways, Mom Dad and Ekansh, I am having a really good time here in the Arctic and I really wish all of you could be here! I hope that I can blog again soon!

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