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Arctic “Floe Edge” Expedition 2006

JUNE 23rd, 2006


Expedition Leader Report
Arctic FloraIt was a huge day at the Floe Edge yesterday… 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.  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 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 Bowhead Whale Skullsea-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.

Bylot Island - Sermilik ParkI’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 Jen looking through the scopeobserving 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.

Our return trip to Pond InletThe 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 Phillip and Jonathan in front of our Old Hotel in Pond Inletour 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 think some new perspectives, ideas and emotions have been inspired by our time here in this magical place.

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