Expedition Leaders Report
Gatineau River swims, soccer in the garden, airport shuttles, and the last moments of relaxation filled the morning. By 11:30am we were 19 of 22 team members and the group synergy was beginning to build.
We headed to the Canadian Museum of Nature’s Science Headquarters in Hull, Quebec to officially launch our expedition. Dozens of Students on Ice partners and supporters attended the event to meet the students and celebrate our journey ahead. It was a wonderful send off and special presentations by the President and CEO of the Museum, Joanne DiCosimo, and Canada’s Ambassador for the Environment, Karen Kraft Sloan, made it even more meaningful and special. It is thanks to this kind of genuine support that the Students on Ice program is possible. We are very appreciative all of our partners which you can see listed in the Partners section of this website.
Following the launch and lunch we were given a private tour of the Museum of Nature and enjoyed several presentations from the museum scientists highlighting their respective research projects in the North. From botany to lake sediment coring to obtain climate records to standing amidst a floor covered in dozens of whale bones, the beauty, scale and history of the Arctic was already coming alive. A sense of awe and collective reverence emerged in our group as a full grown male polar bear—a centre piece for an upcoming museum diorama— was revealed. We will be learning more (not up close!) about these great mammals of the planet on our expedition as we discuss their recent addition as “vulnerable status” on the world’s endangered species list.
Feeling charged after our museum send off, we stopped to enjoy homemade ice cream and the bustling hub of Old Chelsea Village before making our way back to SOI headquarters. A late afternoon jump in the river allowed several students to prepare for an Arctic Ocean swim to come! Ottawa’s J.F. Carrey, who recently returned from summiting Mt. Everest (becoming Canada’s youngest person (24 yrs) to do so) joined in on the fun.
After bellies were filled with Eric’s ‘world famous’ burgers, we gathered in the ‘Great Room’ for an evening of team briefings, introductions, and final packing checks to ensure a successful early morning departure. A past SOI education team member and recent Action Canada award recipient David Brock also joined us to give a presentation about his recent travels and work in the Arctic. At 10:30pm the 20th member of our expedition team, Andrew Shu arrived from Shanghai to add yet another excited soul to the team. We will pick up our final two team members tomorrow in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet.
As we crawled into our tents for the evening and a short night’s sleep, dreams of the Arctic danced in our heads…
My first day with Students on Ice is coming to a close however I am even more anxious than I was this morning as I climbed on the train from Union Station in Toronto, heading for Ottawa: I see so many opportunities for positive change. As the hours moved forward throughout the day, I was surrounded with incredible people, all of which seem to have so much passion into what they believe in. Is passion necessary for a virtuous or self-fulfilling life? I believe that for me, passion is what will make me strive harder and harder to accomplish my goals, thus necessary. The adults around me seem to have so much courage in the youth of our generation: it’s astonishing and thrilling. I feel respected as a youth and this sense of respect from people who I admire and have so much respect for myself, sets an immensely strong support system and concrete base for passionate teenagers to take off from, to learn from and to be motivated by.
Hearing several of these adults- who will be coming on the trip or who came to welcome us today at the museum- speak about how much support and vision they have for what they do and for students- made me feel quite emotional. To see such passionate adults who are working in light of saving generations to come and live meaningful lives is so refreshing and inspiring. What is the ‘good life?’ Perhaps subjective however, there may just be certain ideals for all to succeed in ‘the good life’ and seeing these adults suggested that passion is essential. It is the youth of our generation who will feel the impacts of climate change and the mistakes of our forefathers – and it is so imperative that every youth of 2006 understands the impacts of all our actions and the potential dangers of indifference to this crisis we call Climate Change.
Perhaps there is a certain mentality to have instilled in an individual to ‘think green.’ Personally, every bottle I throw away or even put in the recycling bin (hoping it will actually be recycled but then I worry about the energy used in the process and it becomes a vicious cycle), or S.U.V. I see driving or drive in and every extra minute of water I waste, my heart sinks that much further. In our society, negative actions toward the environment are omnipresent and if these ways are to continue, how can we expect to continue our existence? There certainly are sacrifices we must be willing to take together if we want to change our future for the better. I admire every adult who is putting forth efforts of their own and who have confidence in our youth to create a ‘green change.’ I can only imagine what possibilities and potential I will gain from my trip north beginning tomorrow. Until then, I would like to thank all supporters with open arms because this certainly will be an experience like no other as I go to ‘a place where no cars go.’
I landed yesterday at about 11 pm from Shanghai. After careful calculations to adjust my body clock to match Vancouver’s time, I found out there’s a time difference between Ottawa and Vancouver, so my body clock’s off again. After arrival, I went off the plane and down the escalator and then... straight passed Amy, even though she had a big SOI sign with her. I’ve just never been to an airport where people came into the baggage collecting area to pick us up! Sorry, Amy! She introduced me to fellow participants and we headed off to the SOI headquarters. During the process, first my luggage managed to roll off my cart with a loud thud while I was in the spinning door (you know, those doors that turn as you go through), halting the turning of the door and leaving me the center of unwanted attention. Then my bag got stuck under a car that was backing out of the parking lot! After finally getting it unstuck, everyone in the car glared at me as they made their way out of the lot. But don’t get things wrong, those were funny experiences and didn’t at all negate my excitement at having finally, officially, after lots and lots of anticipation and fantasizing, begun the SOI Arctic adventure! One word to describe my first impression of all the people I’ve met here and my first night here at SOI headquarters (out in a cabin!): supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Alright, I don’t know what that word actually means, but it sounds like “super cool and fun and exciting” to me!
It’s my 2nd day in Canada! I arrived last night at the airport around 22:15 after over 16 hours worth of traveling from Shanghai. At first I thought a 3-part flight (Shanghai-Tokyo-Detroit-Ottawa) would be both troublesome and tiring but it all worked out smoothly for me (thank you mom for your helpful advice!). What I remember most vividly was when one of the immigration officers in Detroit asked me whether I believed in global warming after I told him that I was going to the Arctic. The question caught me entirely off guard as I never expected anyone to ask me such a question in my life. In the end I replied with a calm “yes I do” and left him to continue his job. The fives hours until my next flight passed by quickly during which I explored the Detroit airport and found a few typos on signs spread throughout the airport. Then I got onto my last flight of the day and arrived in Ottawa after a full hours worth of undisturbed sleeping. In Ottawa I was greeted by Amy, a SOI staff member, and Tereen (sorry if I misspelled your name), a chaperone, and we waited for the arrival of the third person, my buddy from Shanghai, Jen Kao.
Ottawa at night was beautiful. The architecture was so different from that seen elsewhere and the lights provided the entire city with a relaxed and elegant air. I can’t wait to see it during the day (if we will be).
After leaving Ottawa and entering Quebec we headed towards SOI headquarters. On the way Amy provided us with a brief explanation of Ottawa and Quebec, telling us how Ottawa was a bilingual area, while Quebec was mostly French. Soon we entered a narrow one-way trail and before I knew it we had arrived at the HQ.
Jetlag mixed with excitement is a powerful combination. It was this that kept me up and chatting until around 3:30 a.m. in the morning. Although I thought that I would be tired the next day before I slept it turned out that I was wrong. Now, after around 5 hours of sleeping in a cabin (Yes I got to sleep in a cabin. The experience was so cool!) I’m awake and energetic. Eating breakfast out on the porch overlooking the seemingly endless plot of green was an incredibly good start to the day and I hope to experience this again sometime soon. Right now I am sitting in front of a laptop in one of the many beautifully designed rooms at the HQ and am trying to think of what to add to my journal entry. I can’t wait to go on the tour around Ottawa and am excited about tomorrow’s flight to the Arctic. After hearing Geoff’s brief speech about our trip I see that joining the Arctic swim team would be one of the many exciting events I’ll be experiencing on the trip though it may not be one of the longest experiences I’ll be having (as Geoff said that we’d be getting out faster than getting in). I’m really glad that I was able to go on this trip and I thank my mom and SOI for granting me with this rare opportunity.
Hey mom, I’m safe and sound, so no need to worry for me. I’ll be fine and promise to keep myself out of harm’s way. I will definitely return in one piece! See you in a week and a half!
We basically spent the entire day at the Canadian Museum of Nature, except not the castle-ish museum downtown but rather a more lab-like building in Gatineau. We had a great lunch and listened to presentations made by various scientists about the Arctic. We also had to introduce ourselves to all the people there - lucky me, I got to go first! Michelle and I also got interviewed by a reporter from Le Droit which was exciting. After that we went on a tour around the building, stopping at four separate stations: paleontology, geology, DNA, and botany. Dr. Paul Hamilton also gave us a workshop on his climate change research using sediment cores from Arctic lakes.
We got some homemade ice cream in Chelsea (which was delicious!) on our way back to headquarters. When we got there some of us chose to swim, I didn’t, but we all spent some time down at the Gatineau river bank.
I’m really excited for tomorrow!
PS: Mum & Dad, DON’T WORRY! I’m having a lot of fun already.
Today I arrived at Geoff and Diz’s house, though to me it is not considered a house at all, more of a cottage resort. This is because just a short walk away through the “backyard” (forest) is the Gatineau River, where a dock and fresh, clear, water is in copious amounts. Also on the grounds are beautiful flowers and trees and a spectacular view of forest-covered hills just across the river. (It’s funny how we are going from thick, luscious forests to the barren tundra and frozen ice of the Arctic in less than 24 hours!) But back to this afternoon’s events, we basically met the majority of the expeditioners first and then made our way to the Canadian Museum of Nature’s science headquarters in Gatineau (Quebec). This place is not open to the public seeing as the majority of the building is labs for scientists and rooms dedicated to plants, rocks and minerals, and fossils. All together there are millions of specimens, some large some small. I think the most interesting part was the animal fossil room which had a life-size replica of a polar bear along with genuine polar bear skeletons, bones of whale heads, tusks of narwhals and so much more. It was really fascinating, especially since they are really so much larger than I could’ve imagined. I’m going to end off now (sorry Mom and Dad) because I’m quite tired and need rest for the five a.m. wake up call tomorrow morning for our flight to Iqaluit!
Hi! My name’s Phillip. I’m 18 years old and from Indiana in the United States. I have already traveled once with Students On Ice (SOI) to Antarctica, and that is how I learned about the Arctic trip I am currently on. I have the distinction of being the first student on the trip so far to write an entry. Of course, since there are only three students here at the moment, that may not be saying much. Currently we are here at SOI headquarters, and as I start this it is about 9:35 at night, local time.
As for my day, my morning started with final preparations and then driving to the airport. I live about three hours away from Chicago, so I spent most of my morning in the car, which was fine with me considering I was with my family. At O’Hare, my family and I grabbed a quick bite to eat, then went to the gate, and then went to a different gate after the flight was changed.
After saying goodbye to my family, I boarded the plane and had about an hour and a half flight to Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Upon completing customs and getting my luggage I was greeted by Amy, a member of the SOI staff. We got a quick bite to eat and then waited to pick up Gillian, another student who was arriving at the airport from Thunder Bay, Canada.
I got a nice tour driving to Chelsea where Geoff’s house is. We passed the river and the canal that pass through Ottawa. Amy said that when the canal freezes in the winter, many people ice skate from the outskirts of town to get to work and shopping. As we passed over the river I was able to view the Parliament building, which is a very ornate and beautiful building.
SOI headquarters is in a beautiful region. We turned off of the main road and traveled down a gravel, single lane surrounded by trees to get the house.
When Amy, Gillian, and I got inside, we were greeted by Geoff and Diz. It was really good to see them again. I do believe this is the first trip I have been on with people who I have also traveled with on a previous trip. I also met Drew, who traveled to Antarctica on the 2004 expedition I was on. This is actually his fourth SOI trip. Then there are Eric and Ingrid, who are two of the instructors also traveling on the trip. That’s it for today. The next batch of a few students arrives at 10:45 tonight, although I think that’s the time they get into the airport. Everyone else arrives tomorrow.
I got some homemade pizza, and then Diz gave myself and the other two students a tour, including our campsite for tonight. We went down to the river, which is absolutely beautiful, and I’m glad we get to go swimming tomorrow.
As it got onto be evening, we checked to make sure the satellite phone was working, and then retired into the house. As I type this, Eric, Drew, Gillian, and myself are keeping tabs on the NHL championships, and there is a Canadian team in the final, so everyone is excited. Diz and Geoff keep popping in to see who is winning.
Tonight I’ll be in a tent with Drew. Tomorrow is our only day to sleep in and relax before we hit the ice.
To my mom and dad, I just want you to know that I arrived safely and am having a good time. Other than an overabundance of mosquitoes here, the first day went well. I miss you, and I love you. Tell Tramp and Scamp I miss and love them. I’ll talk to you soon. Goodnight.