Expedition Leader Report
Good evening from the Floe Edge! It has been another great day at 73 degrees north. Snow has been falling most of the day today with a steady easterly breeze. Although this evening the winds have decided to pick up quite a bit more, so we’ve been getting a nice taste of real Arctic weather. In fact the tent (our equipment tent) in which I am writing this journal, feels like it is about to take off and launch Jen and Phillip airborne with some Snow Geese! The good news is that this easterly wind should blow all the loose brash ice away from the floe edge, which will be good for us tomorrow.
Our day started once again with Rosie’s wake-up call. Instead of the pot-banging wake-up strategy she employed yesterday, today she tried a more gentle wake-up call more reflective of her friendly demeanor and warm personality. Because of the weather conditions we decided to hike over to a Thule site on Bylot Island instead of venturing off to the Cape Graham Moore bird cliffs. During our hike we saw lots of artefacts dating back through many different time periods ranging from the Thules, to the Whaling days, to today. David had brought an old photograph from 1904 taken of an Inuit camp in this area, and we were able to find the exact same location where it had been taken. After a good hike we crossed a fast flowing stream to get over to the side where the Thule site was. Wow! Stepping into the old Thule site is like stepping back in time 1500 years. The ancient earthen, stone and whalebone homes are still remarkably intact. We sat around to listen to David and Ingrid share stories and history about the Thule, such as their ability to hunt the Bowhead whales. What an incredible people they must have been. There were six or seven Bowhead whale skulls at the site, a few of which where still incorporated into the walls of their houses.
We got back to our ice camp around 2:00 pm for a delicious lunch!! Thank you Lee and Martin, and then it was time to assess our plan for the afternoon. Since the winds and snow were still blowing we decided to stay in camp and David gave a presentation on Mammals of the Arctic. All this fresh air and exercise can really take it out of you, so we decided to have a short afternoon nap! Ahhh, was that great! The entire camp was sleeping within about 5 minutes.
A quick game of Ultimate Ice Frisbee and we were all wide-awake and ready for the rest of the day. Our Inuk student Jeffrey went off to hunt a seal with our guides, while the rest of us worked on various research projects and camp tasks. Before long dinner rolled around. Spaghetti!! And then after dinner Jeffrey and the guides returned with Ringed seal. It was quite an experience and a privilege for our students to witness this part of Inuit culture. Our elder guide, Panuilie, masterfully cut up the seal in front of us. Talk about anatomy class! Every part of the seal gets used and nothing is wasted. Some of the meat is for eating, some is for Panuilie’s dogs, the skin will be used to make some mitts or a jacket, and so on. Many of students tasted the seal meat as Panuilie cut it up and offered it to them. One of other guides, Abraham, said that when they are out hunting in the winter in very cold temperatures, after the kill a seal and eat some of the meat, they immediately feel warm throughout their entire body.
After dinner we had a wonderful chance to learn even more about Inuit traditional knowledge, as all 26 of us crammed into one of the tents, and had asked Panuilie (with James as interpreter) questions about his life and culture. For over an hour the students asked Panuilie about hunting, about Polar bears, and about Climate change. He said he is seeing the impacts of global warming here in this part of the Arctic. The ice is forming later in the year and melting earlier. He also said the glacier across from Pond Inlet used to touch the ocean and now it has receded several kilometres back from the shore. Quite profoundly, he said he is worried about what this will mean for the Arctic and his people’s way of life.
It was an appropriate way for our group of students from around the globe to end our day on the Arctic ice…
Yesterday was a superb “wildlife day” with all the belugas (100 of them!), ivory gulls, and seals; today was great for lessons on arctic human history. We stopped by an ancient archeological site in the morning where the Thules had been. The best part was that we could see artifacts from many time periods: left from the Thules from 1500 years ago, by the Scottish whalers from the 1800s, and by the more recent Inuit. From the Thules, we saw stuff like what was left of their homes: huge rocks with remnants of bowhead whale skulls, caribou bones, etc. From the Scottish whalers: everything from huge barrel rings to pieces of glass and metal tins. Our Inuit elder guide, Panuilie, said that when the Inuit came to settle in the area, the scared Thules moved inland. And when the whalers came, they used Inuit to help hunt whales (almost to extinction…). So it’s a really neat web of interactions between all these groups of people that have been here that I couldn’t have fully understood without being there and “seeing” their past.
After exploring that site, I had the most snow-fun sliding and rolling down a snow covered hill before heading back to camp for the best grilled cheese sandwiches in the world. But there were more highlights to come. After an intense game of ultimate Frisbee and pasta for dinner (and the horrid honey bucket duties between that), our Inuit guides brought back a seal Jeffrey had hooked and prepared it in the snow. Panuilie deftly stripped off the skin, made a bag out of it and gave us the best seal internal anatomy “lesson” we could ever hope for. Everything was cut so precisely that all the organs were completely intact for us to observe. The 2nd highlight: interview/discussion with Panuilie about everything from how to hunt seals to his view on global climate change. It was pretty great to get the view of global warming from someone who’s experienced it the most. Right after the discussion, I headed out with Panuilie and James (a jokester Inuit) to get fresh glacier water on snowmobiles! The snow mobiles went a lot faster than I’d thought they would. The wind and snow whipped harshly at my face but it was the most fun I’ve had on a ride. They even showed me a seal hole where baby cubs pop out from once in a while. I love all our new Inuit friends. They’re the most cheerful group you’ll meet! And being able to chat and laugh and share personal stories with them before bedtime is one unique experience coming up here has given us.
Ps. To all those stuck in Shanghai or back in their home country, think cold thoughts of the Arctic and await awesome photos from me! Enjoy the clean air and stable climate before it’s too late. And the fresh water source and the healthy ecosystems and, as Phil puts it: “the world as we know it”. Enjoy it, appreciate it, and work to preserve it.
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Today we woke up at 7:30 in the hopes of going to the bird cliffs. Unfortunately the weather was too harsh and we ended up taking a hike to the point on the west side of camp. The hike took us up a hill and across a small stream. Half of our group didn’t have rubber boots so Geoff had to carry Liz on his back across the stream. On the other side of the stream there was a Thule camp site. The camp site had a bowhead whale skull imbedded in the side of the wall. We discussed several things including how amazing it was to stand in the steps of people thousands of years before. Once we returned to camp, we got to take a rest and warm up in our tents. After dinner Jeffrey went to hunt a seal and when he returned Panuilie (our Inuit guide) skinned and cut apart the seal. Once we all got reorganized we had a discussion with Panuilie about Global Worming. After that off to bed!!
PS: hey mom and dad! How is Rome? I miss u guys! See you soon! Xoxoxoxo
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Today we woke up early to get ready to go to the Graham Moore bird cliffs, only to have our hopes quashed by the bad weather. Instead of heading out on the komatiks, we walked inland and visited a Thule site.
The site was hard to get to; we hiked inland up one side of the river to find a good place to cross, but we ended up having to wade through the water anyway. The site was well worth though! There were a few ‘houses’, round rooms indented in the side of the hill supported with rocks and various whale bones. It really felt amazing knowing that we were sitting in a spot where people many years ago were also sitting.
Before dinner the Inuit guides came back with a seal that they had caught. Jeffrey had killed it himself! He told us that he killed his first seal when he was four. Wow.
After dinner we had an interview with Panuilie, the Inuit elder, and James was translating. We asked him questions ranging from how he feels about global warming to what hunting a polar bear is like. It was really interesting and inspiring hearing from him about global warming because he’s been directly affected by it.
The highlight of the day was definitely emptying the honey-buckets. I’m hoping I’ll never have to do that again for a while.
PS: Love you lots, Mum & Dad!
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J’ai pris compte aujourd’hui que c’est mardi et qu’il fait déjà une semaine que je suis ici. Les autres ont eux aussi remarqué que ça fait une semaine que je n’ai écrit un journal. Alors…(hehe). J’écris couramment dans la tente pour l’équipement technologique, un peut plus loin du camp. Il est attaché a un générateur qui se cache derrière un grand pièce de glace, dis mètres du camp. Bien qu’il n’y a pas beaucoup ici, la tente donne une protection du vent et il y a une pièce de plywood pour mes pieds alors qu’ils ne doivent pas être par terre. Pour moi, c’est ça le pire. Parce que nous campions véritablement sur la glace, nos pieds sont toujours sur la glace et, par conséquence, sont toujours froid.
Se que je trouve la plus intéressant est le terrain. La terre est presque comment j’imaginerais la terre d’Écosse serait. Des petits…comme…des boules de terre dans des groupes, tout couvert de la mousse. Et des couleurs vives! Ce n’est pas comme dans Thunder Bay où toutes les mousses sont vertes foncé ou blanc. Il y a et des rouges et des vert brillants et des ver foncés et des jaunes et des violets. De plus il y a des fleurs. Ma fleur favorite d’ici est la saxifrage violette. C’était la première fleur n’ont seulement que j’ai vu, mais c’était la première fleur qu’on a vue dans le musée de la nature. C’est ma favorite parce que q’on puisse le mangé. James, un de notre guides, nous avions enseigner que les peuples de Pond Inlet les manges comme les bluettes et fait du té les avec.
De tous qu’on a déjà fait et, je crois, de tous qu’on ferais. Mon parti favori est encore levant chaque jour. Je suis dans ma tente quand Rosie me lève. J’entend les bruit qui m’entour, les bruit de camp, et je reste un peut, chaude, dans mon sac. Puis je m’habille pour le jour venant et je sors de ma tente et je vois où je suis. Et je suis en choc. Je dis dans ma tête “Mon dieu! Je suis dans l’Arctique”. Chaque jour c’est comme trouver un p’tit chocolat dans ma mains. C’est parfait.
Note for home: I have not been speared by a narwhal and I am taking pictures. Good luck on your exams Isaac and gang. I met Kraft-Wilson’s older sister, Ms. Kraft-Sloan (yes I was tempted to call her KS but I resisted). Other than an outrageous bright huge blue handbag and extravagant hand gestures they look nothing alike.