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Arctic “Floe Edge” Expedition 2006

JUNE 22nd, 2006


Posted By Chris Ralph - Students On Ice, Special Projects (9:45 am)
Today, they are heading back out to the floe edge and bringing kayaks with them – hoping for good conditions. It’s a warm day, no fog. Eric gave an early morning lecture on Snow, Ice and Glaciers. Everyone was very excited to see a Gyr Falcon sitting on a rock face above the camp this a.m. Chalk another one up on the bird list!

Tomorrow will be an extremely busy day as the team packs up their little camp, and heads back to Pond Inlet for a big dinner and celebration. Stay tuned for more updates as we receive them.

Expedition Leader Report

Kayaking on a painted Arctic Ocean!The Gyrfalcon that we spotted this morning staring down at us from the cliff high above our camp might have been a sign of an incredible day to come. And what a day it was!!

Before leaving camp Eric gave his talk on snow, then it was into our trusty Komatiks and off we went.  The Komatik rides are quite amazing, filled with songs, sharing and endless laughter….  You travel through this incredible white landscape, with seals lying on the ice being the only thing that gives you any sense of scale.  The vastness here is overwhelming, and for the first time all week the clouds lifted and revealed the mountain ranges of Baffin and Bylot Islands in the distance. 

It was a day filled with breathtaking moments.  We arrived at the Floe Edge to find an absolutely flat calm sea reflecting the blue sky and surrounding ice.  For the next 9 hours we just soaked it in… Narwhal whales calmly cruised past us every so often, curious seal poked their heads up to inspect the strange humans that had invaded their world, seabirds flew overhead, and the every changing Arctic sea-ice lay before us.  There were surreal moments to this day.  I think for many of the students it was a day for epiphanies.  Especially during our kayak trips!  After about 3.5 hours we finally assembled our three Feathercraft kayaks, and spent the next four hours taking all of the students on a paddle into the open water beyond the floe edge. For many it was their first time to go kayaking, and there is really no better place to start, than here in the land where the kayak (an Inuit word) was invented.

I’ve done a lot of paddling in my life and spent time on many oceans, rivers and lakes around the world, but this afternoon was something special.  When we stopped and drifted you could hear total and utter silence.  If that is even possible?  It was so quiet that you could literally have heard a pin drop in the Arctic.  The silence actually made your ears hum.  It was a silence that could only be heard here, and if you let you imagination go, you might have even heard the heartbeat of Planet Earth.  And while we drifted on that silent and still Arctic Ocean, staring at the distant mountains blanketed in glaciers, the students were observing and making comments like… “We really don’t need so much stuff”;  “It’s like we don’t belong here”; “All those things that seemed important back home don’t seem so important now”; “We need to take better care of this beautiful planet”;  “How can I make a difference…I’m so small and insignificant amidst all this”; “We could never find water this clean in Shanghai”, “I don’t want to leave”…and so it went.  Then we would just listen some more to the sounds of Mother Nature.  It was a day on the water that I will never forget.

The temperatures also soared today…and the sunscreen was in action all day.  It was a t-shirt day in the Arctic.  Besides kayaking we also had a glacier talk by Eric. No need for Powerpoint…Eric just pointed off in different directions.  What a classroom!  David did some Plankton tows along the floe edge (with his modified Plankton tow net…a long story!); some students sketched; others lay at the floe edge watching for whales and seals; the cameras buzzed; some took naps; and before we knew it, it was 9:00pm!!  It could have been 3:00pm in the afternoon with the sun still shining so bright.  So the time came to say farewell to our beloved floe edge.  It took over an hour until we could finally tear ourselves away.  Final photos, a group hug, lots of laughs… and then what was perhaps the most powerful, was seeing many of the students strolling off on their own for a few final moments at the floe edge.  Who knows what was going through their minds.  But I feel comfortable saying that some new perspectives, ideas and emotions have been inspired by our time here in this magical place.

We arrived back to camp around 10:30pm for dinner…with spirits still flying high.  Once the dishes were done and camp duties complete, we crawled into our tents under the midnight sun, feeling that sense of satisfaction of a day lived to the fullest.

Geoff Green

Student Journals

Today was our last day out on the floe edge, and in fact our last full day with our camp.  Our ice campTomorrow morning we will tear down our tents and start the long trip back to Pond Inlet, back to Iqaluit, back to SOI headquarters near Ottawa, and eventually back to home.

The day started with a 7:30 wakeup, just like all the other days this week.  We had a breakfast of blueberry pancakes with blueberry compote, then Eric gave a lecture on snow, and then we loaded up the komatiks to head out to the edge.

Today was beautiful.  It was clear, and we could see blue sky for the first time in a few days.  There was also no wind, which made it a great day to go kayaking.  We got to the floe edge but had to travel along the edge for a while to find open water, and also to get away from some Inuit hunting parties that were out.

We finally reached a patch of open water surrounded on four sides by ice.  This was where we spent the entire day.  We talked, ate lunch, ate snacks, looked at wildlife, or just stared out at the ice, contemplating.  The wildlife was certainly out, and we saw several curious seals and birds and narwhals.  Three of the narwhals even flashed their tail flukes at us when they dived.

Diz, Geoff, Drew, and Martin worked on getting the kayaks ready, so in the afternoon we were able to go out for a cruise.  They were two person kayaks, with Geoff, Diz, or Ingrid in the back and a student up front.  During my turn I was in Geoff’s kayak.  We got to the far end of our “lake” of water and just drifted.  It was absolute, total silence, and I mean silent.  There was not a single sound.  Not a ruffle of clothing, or splash of the waves.  It was so silent my ears started to ring.

I was sad to be done with the kayaking, but even sadder to leave the floe edge.  Tomorrow, as I said, we start our komatik ride back to Pond Inlet.  I’m going to miss the floe edge.  It has been an incredible experience.

To Mom and Dad, I’ll see you soon.  Tell Tramp and Scamp I said ‘hi.’  I miss you and I love you!  Goodnight.

Phillip Swarts

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Maggie and Diz kayaking on the Arctic OceanTuesday, we Students On Ice woke up at approximately 7:30 am, had breakfast and were hoping to go to the bird cliff (akpat). Well, the weather was pretty windy and it was snowing so we headed out on a hike where we went out to see an archeological site where Thules once used to live approximately 1000 years ago.

Although I was once on this site I was really astounded to hear what group used to live in this site and the way the houses were built.  An hour after we were at the site me, Panuilie, James, Abraham, and Mitusalie went seal hunting where I caught a seal using a hook then we went to the camp where our eldest guide Panuilie skinned the seal and gave the students a piece to taste.  I got interviewed by the IBC cameraman Jimmy Papatsie when he asked a couple questions as to how I caught the seal and how I killed it.

Next day we finally went to the bird cliff where we got to see a lot of kittiwakes, murres, glaucous gulls, and a fox.  After we were at the cliffs eventually we went to the floe edge where we got to see narwhals, bearded seals, ringed seals, and harp seals……I’m really pleased to be one of the students to be in the group, one of the best times in my life to be having a chance to me people all around the world, I’ll be missing this…


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Today was our last full day on the ice and we spent the majority of it at the floe edge. Drew (on his 4th SOI Expedition!)Unlike the last two days, we didn’t see a whale right away. The first day there we saw belugas and the second day we saw narwhals. However, it was nice to be able to get settled in before any major sightings. Each day at the edge was at a different location and today wasn’t an exception. We moved farther out than before. It was easy to tell where we were compared to other days because of the clear skies. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and warm weather. It was quite appropriate for our last full day at the floe edge. You could see the snowy mountain range with glaciers in between each mountain on Baffin and Bylot Island. And then on the other side was the non-frozen Arctic Ocean. After about 15 minutes at the edge we spotted the first narwhal of the day. Some came very close up and we got an awesome view of the whales. Along with the narwhals, we also saw some seals and lots of birds. After a lecture on glaciers and the cryosphere, we assembled 3 kayaks. After a few hours, everybody was ready to go. We had to take turns going on the kayaks. There was a large patch of water surrounded by loose ice that was the area of our kayaking. When it was finally my turn to go, I put on my red mustang suit and boarded the kayak. By the time we got to the back, you couldn’t hear a thing other than your paddle against the water. It was an amazing feeling of freedom. It was also cool to be kayaking amongst the seals and whales. I got some great shots of the group on the ice with the looming mountains in the background.

After everybody was finished kayaking, we all got together for some pictures. Since we forgot the Students On Ice banner, we just made the letters SOI with our bodies. Then everybody said their last goodbyes to the floe edge and we left. Today was very fun and pleasant and was a good last day. Too bad we didn’t see a bowhead whale.  

Jonathan Leff

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alt="Drew (on his 4th SOI Expedition!)"Hey everyone! TODAY WAS SO GREAT!!! We woke up at seven thirty. We had breakfast and got ready to go to the Floe Edge. Once we got there the sky finally cleared up and it got really warm. Diz and Geoff started to assemble the kayaks. It took them (and Drew) four hours to assemble. Once they were assembled Geoff, Diz and Ingrid took out one student at a time. I sat by the edge and sketched with Kris and then once the rest of the group had gone out for half hour rides I went out with Ingrid. The view from those kayaks was nothing like anything I had ever seen before. The ice was so close and it was glowing.

Lunch today was tuna fish or egg salad sandwiches and veggie soup. We stayed at the Floe Edge until around nine o’clock. We got together to leave in the komatiks. On the way back we sang old rock song and camp anthems. When we got back we had dinner (chili!) and headed off to bed. Today was our last day and the Floe edge literally took our breaths away. Today made every little bump along the way 100% worth it.


PS: Hey Oly, Alex, Lavy, Lolo, Asci, Pietro, Kayla and all my LFNY friends! Miss you guys already! Oh and Mom and Dad love you guy! Talk to you soon! xoxoxox

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Today is June 22 and it is our last day (*TEAR*), but what an awesome day! We got up atSaying farewell to the Floe Edge.. 7:30 as usual, had a lecture on “snow…what you should know”, and headed out for a full day on the flow edge.

When we got to the flow edge there weren’t whales in the first five minutes like the other two times we went, but we did see some narwhales, birds, and lots of seals, all of which came extremely close to us. We played a few games and went kayaking for a while and listened to Eric tell us about the glaciers in the area and how within 50 years they will all be gone, but we spent most of the time just enjoying the flow edge. We spent a good part of the day looking out at the scenery, and Ophelia and I took some time to sketch it (although my sketch isn’t quite finished, I have to finish shading the background).

On the move in the KomatiksEventually it was time to leave, and we all had trouble pulling ourselves away from the beautiful flow edge that we may never see again (especially since in 50 years it is expected to be gone). We spent a lot of time stalling our departure with group photos and pictures of the scenery, but sooner or later we had to leave the ice and the ocean behind. It was a fantastic day but I am sad that it’s all coming to an end.

Kristen Kanes



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