2017 Arctic Expedition: Day 9

After several days of shifting our plans due to rain or wind, it seems that Mother Nature was looking out for us today on Day 9 of the SOI 2017 Arctic Expedition! We awoke to clear skies and calm seas for our landing in Coutts Inlet, Nunavut, which would be our final stop in the Canadian Arctic before making the crossing to Greenland.

Following the morning briefing, the expedition team piled into zodiacs, eager to enjoy time on land before beginning the lengthier ship voyage across the Davis Strait to reach Greenland. As we explored the majestic rocks and expanse of Coutts Inlet, we were alerted to three Thule qammaq (sod houses), historic tent rings, and meat caches by Inuk archaeologist Deborah Kigjugalik Webster. These remnants once belonged to the campsites of the Thule and the Inuit. Although the area is no longer an inhabited campsite, it is still a popular hunting location among Inuit peoples.

The expedition team spread across the inlet for a range of educational workshops. These ranged from the on-land activities, like a creative writing workshop, mindfulness meditation, and Arctic plant analysis, to workshops on the water, like plankton collection. Several expeditioners embarked up the hillside to a waterfall, taking in the breathtaking views and collecting blueberries along the way. The rest of the group stayed behind to fish at the shore, play music, stretch and engage in powerful conversations. We were fortunate to be treated to pieces of fresh Arctic char caught by our brave fishing crew, gutted and served off the rocks of the beach.

Surrounded by the ice-capped mountains of Nunavut, standing in the midst of all its history, we were moved by this incredible northern land and the vast wisdom it holds. 

Back on board the Ocean Endeavour, we participated in the annual SOI Bottle Drop – a project that has been an integral part of SOI expeditions since our SOI 2001 Arctic Expedition! This project is a fun way to involve students in an active research project spearheaded by Eddy Carmack, a world-renowned oceanographer based at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia. 

For the Bottle Drop, each student and staff completed a letter that was then placed inside a glass bottle (while S.O.S. by The Police played, no less). These bottles are then tracked in order to study ocean surface currents through citizen science. In fact, several of the bottles that SOI participants have dropped on their expeditions have later been found in locations all over the world and traced back to SOI alumni!

In the afternoon, a change of pace occurred as the first student-led workshops began to take place. Within this important forum that allows our students’ voices and stories to come forward, both staff and fellow students were inspired, empowered, and further connected with their fellow team members.

The day concluded with our regular evening briefings, where the team shared highlights around the room. After some final moments out on deck, soaking in the midnight daylight of Nunavut, we bid farewell to the Canadian Arctic and sailed on into the Davis Strait. Next stop: Uummannaq, Greenland!

Exploring the mighty landscape in Coutts Inlet, northwest Baffin Island.

Hear what students had to say on their last day in the Canadian Arctic!

Fathen Jusoh – Teacher

Salam and hello from the Arctic ocean!

The sun set a bit yesterday, at least we could see the orange line at the horizon but the night was still bright and it was 11 p.m.

Today, we landed at Quvvik, North Arm for hiking and shore workshop. There were numbers of good workshop to choose from and I couldn’t really choose, I wished to go for mostly all! Anyhow, I decided to join workshop which I think I could ONLY do that on land. So, I went for plant hunting workshop with Roger. Roger is a senior research assistant, botany and coordinator, laboratory of  molecular biodiversity at the Canadian Museum of Nature. He has high interest on plants and I saw him collecting plants, arranging them in newspaper before compressing and drying them in the sauna. so, today I worked close to the ground and literally close to the ground! Arctic plants mostly grow close to the ground unlike tropical plants and trees. Tropical trees are tall and if you look up in the sky of tropical area, you will see cauliflower shape made of the trees. But you couldn’t see that in the Arctic. plants in the Arctic do not receive much sun, so they grow very close to the ground. Most of them are moss and soft branches plants. Anyway, some have very strong roots that are very intact to the ground. I had to dig very hard to get the whole of them for my personal collection. I cant wait to have them dry in the sauna!

I also had the chance to EAT mountain sorrel. I was reading about the mountain sorrel on the notes shown by Roger and mountain sorrel just right in front of me. I picked it up to show to Roger if i got the right one and he said i could eat it right away! I was hesitant at first but I had it anyway when Roger claimed it’s safe to eat and guess what? It tasted really good! Sour and fresh! Mountain sorrel is used by the Inuits to cure scurvy dog back then I guess it will make a good salad too!

Interestingly, I also found some blueberries!!! I was looking for poppy to add to my  collection, but it happened to be that the land had something even better to offer us! I collected a hand full of  little blueberries and tasted some. But i had to be very careful, there was animal dung everywhere, I don’t know whose was that, bear? Arctic fox? Hare? I couldn’t really tell, but I surely didn’t want that on my plate! LOL! I think it will be a real fertilizer for the plants!

After plants hunting, we went hiking further up to the mountain and there was a very beautiful waterfall awaited! But the journey to get there was tricky! The spongy moss ground didn’t help my tracking and hiking much, but gave extra burden other than the backpack I had on my back. I did it anyway! 🙂 I stopped at the top of the mountain to enjoy the view and had a me time. It’s really great to have a picturesque view right in front of my eyes, when the ice-capped mountain met the sea and the sound of waterfall and stream flowing – everything was just perfect! I took out my journal and sketched a picture of the view. I didn’t draw a good one though, but I had a memory and imagination of the moment which was meaningful to me. I do need a break for myself, thank god I’m here, I know it’s not a vacation, it’s an educational expedition with lots of exploration, at least i’ve got to sit down and reflect and think just about nothing but that moment He had granted to me! alhamdulillah.

At 2 p.m, we headed back to the ship and I was one of those in the last Zodiac. You see how I wish to be there longer? So much! And I couldn’t believe we were there outside for 4 hours good and it’s the day that I don’t bother to check on the clock but just to know we’d have lunch once we’re back!

P.S. – until today, which I couldn’t recall how long I’ve been here cruising through the Arctic ocean, I guess I have put on weight!!! NOT COOL at all! I don’t plan to have love handle around my waist! I guess I need to get smaller plate for every meal. I really should! Who serves dessert for every meal? They do!

Mama, I miss your cooking! and I miss you too, papa, I miss you, too! And I miss adek adek too, my cats! Yeah sisters you’re missed too 🙂

And to my friends who help with my class and relief, thanks so  much!! ^_^

And now, we are ready to sail through Davis Strait, heading to Greenland. Pray for us! Take care love!

Muriel Juncker – Münster, NRW, Germany

There is nothing more beautiful than the Arctic tundra when the sun shines! I will miss the Canadian Arctic so much, but at the same time I kinda hope that Greenland is going to treat us better and give us weather in which we actually can go to shore and follow Plan A instead of Plan B or even C.

So, tomorrow we are crossing over to Greenland and therefore we’ll have a sea day. Initially, I was really looking forward to this day, but now I really wish we could go on shore tomorrow. It is addicting to be surrounded by so much beauty all the time.

Also, it becomes clearer and clearer what a unique experience SOI is.

“Do you wanna see some poo?”

and “careful, there are bones scattered everywhere!”

and “one man’s trash is another man’s national historical treasure”

are all sentences that have been said here. And the weirdest thing about them is that to me they don’t sound weird. It’s just another thing or advice or lesson. It is insane how many interesting things you come in touch with and how they stick with you.

Being here is like being in a parallel world, no Trump, no Kim Kardashian, no Erdogan. Only waves and laughs and learning. Today, we were actually confused when we were able to hear a plane flying over our heads, because it was such an unnormal thing to hear.

But on the other hand, it feels like a parallel world, because we do stuff in nature that nobody would normally think of. Today, there was a jam session at the beach: A guitar, a singer and a cello. It sounds incredibly weird, but having a cello at the beach was so soothing, I loved it!

Rachael discovers Arctic plants in a workshop on shore.

Rachael Tovar – Cranston, RI, USA

We went to Coutts Inlet, Quivvik and landed there. This is a briefing on what I saw in a different kind of narrative than I usually do (switching things up!). Picture it, a sandy beach slowly fading into rocks as you hear the waves clash and the water fall bubble together. The ocean is behind you, there is tundra everywhere you look to the right and you see tiny plants shooting out of the larger rocks stretching out to the sun. You look to the left and see the water fall spill into the ocean. You look straight ahead and see a great big hill, green spilling out next to the water fall, 200 feet up you trek to go see the top of this magnificent beast, the beach as you turn around rests quietly for your return. Finally, you rest your legs over the side of the water fall and just are overcome by the beauty and mystery of the world. As it is time to go down, you feel the moss go down with your weight, it feels like a pillow. As you get to shore you see people fishing, and people building statues with flat rocks scattered along the beach.

Now back to the program. As I woke up at 4:30 and went on deck, I realized that I had company on deck. Two staff members were with me, that pointed out different birds to me. It was quiet and vast looking because we were just about to go into the Davis strait. It was like going into a maze, two choices, we decided to take the North arm to be in Coutts Inlet, Quvvik. I did not see any whales but I did enjoy just being quiet for a while, it was a wonderful morning and I plan to do the exact same thing on the 17th.

I then decided to give the plants workshop a try, which was one of my best decisions on this trip, it gave me a better appreciation for plants and the way they live in the world.

Celine Do – Etobicoke, ON, Canada

Today marks the last day on the ship before our trek out to Greenland! We went to a place called Quvvik where on-shore workshops were held. I went to the geology workshop, where we got to collect rocks and learn about their history. It only hit me in the middle of it when I was lying on the beach that we were in such a gorgeous and meaningful place.

After the workshop, I decided to risk my warmth and take off my rubber boots while we were hiking up to a waterfall. A staff member was doing it, so I was obligated to feel the Arctic wildlife on another level!  I called it “the bare foot challenge”, and convinced a couple others: Abby, Anushka, Jake, and Stina. It was fun jumping on the soft moss and walking through grass with nothing but the skin of my feet. You could say I didn’t get cold feet! We took a slow zodiac ride back to the ship, where it would not stop rocking. It’s now after lunch, where we have ship quiet time, something that rarely happens. I went outside on deck to take pictures and talk to a few people. The definite highlight of my day was hiking in my bare feet. Yesterday’s highlight was trying two small pieces of narwhal, which was prepared in a workshop I did not participate in. I was busy sewing a snowy owl key chain made of seal skin.  I’m super excited for Greenland, even though it’s rumoured the boat will get even more shaky on the way there. I have gravol and seasickness patches ready just for that!

Jamie participates in the bottle drop!

Gerol Fang – Toronto, ON, Canada

Hello again! It is now August 16th, Day 6 of the expedition! Can you believe it?

Yesterday morning we visited the historic community of Qaiqsut, which was an emotional experience as the land was charged with the energy. The artifacts ranged from being over 10,000 years old to the 19th century. The experience was made even more memorable by the elders from Pond Inlet, who explained to us the history behind many of those artifacts.

That afternoon, in a workshop, I tried maqtaq and Arctic char for the first time! Maqtaq is narwhal, and it is the second layer below the outer skin. We ate it both raw and frozen, dipped in soya sauce. It tastes nothing like other types of seafood, but delicious nonetheless. Arctic char turned out to be very similar to sashimi, just eaten frozen in chunks instead of raw slices.

One day later – This afternoon, we stepped off Canadian soil for a final time, because that means that we will soon be crossing the Davis Strait and sailing to Greenland! This morning we visited Quvvik, meaning “place of tears” in Inuktitut. We were able to have our first land-based workshops, and choices included plankton tows, geology, and plant hunting. I had the chance to attend the photography workshop, which really helped me find the difference between “images”, and stories. We also went for a hike around Quvvik, and we saw historic sites, a waterfall, and wild blueberries!!

We will now leave Canada for Greenland, and I’m looking forward to entering this unique, beautiful place. The Canadian Arctic has already taught me so much in both science and culture in six short days, and I am excited to see what Greenland has to offer.

Farewell for now!

Gerol

Veronica Flowers – Hopedale, NL, Canada

Yesterday and the day before, we spent our time in Pond Inlet and got to explore the community. We also went to Sirmilik National Park and got to see some graves and some old sod houses. It was so interesting. Today we went to a fjord on the east side of Baffin island. It was absolutely beautiful. We did some workshops on the land and then went on a hike. Got some cool pictures by a waterfall! We were going to go kayaking but the winds were too high, but we’ll go another time. I’m having such an amazing time here, I’m so happy that I got to meet these wonderful people! Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and I’ve already made friendships that will last a lifetime. We are now leaving Baffin island and approaching the Davis Strait! We will be arriving in Greenland on Friday!!

Our shipboard Greenlanders, Nuka, Biinia, and Edna, did a performance of the Greenlandic Masked Dance.

Soomin Han – Winnipeg, MB, Canada

As we say goodbye to Canada and head on over to Greenland, it has occured to me that I have yet to write a blog post.

My excuse is that I had been so consumed and fascinated by everything here that the 15 minutes it takes to write a blog is time wasted not looking at the fascinating sea ice, possible animals, mountains, and interacting with the 204 incredible people we have on our ship.

With the expedition coming to a halfway point, I reflected on the expedition last night in my bed after one too many cups of tea. I’ve realized the following;

1. It takes a while to realize that you are actually on a ship on an expedition to the Arctic. Like about 3 days. It’s quite surreal.

2. The Arctic sea water is surprisingly more salty than I expected.

3. It is a lot more brown than what I had imagined.

4. There is no nighttime!!! (This one blew my mind since I was expecting spectacular aurora borealis)

5. I’m such a small being in such a large world.

6. We as humans create so much noise that we forget to stop, listen, and appreciate.

7. The Arctic makes you do some unusual things that would never happen usually such as waking up earlier to do morning yoga and enjoy some quiet time drinking tea on deck.

8. Speaking of tea, I have drank about 6 cups of tea daily on average.

9. There is just so much of this world that I have not seen and experienced.

10. The beauty that exists in this world in its most natural form is indescribable.

11. No picture can possibly capture the beauty and the emotions while gazing at the breathtaking view.

12. I’ve either cried or teared up at least once per every site that we land and explore.

13. Polar bears are actually quite hard to see. I have only seen a very small white dot, apparently a polar bear as it was swimming away.

14. We are extremely privileged to be experiencing an opportunity of a lifetime so comfortably when many people are either; a. not given the opportunity to go on an expedition to the Arctic, b. died while trying to reach the places that we’ve visited such as Beechey Island like the Franklin expedition crew, or c. struggling to adapt their lifestyles with the changes that are happening due to climate change.

15. Climate change is happening and it’s happening fast. It’s affecting the environment, the wildlife, and especially the people.

I couldn’t possibly write all of the things that I have experienced and learned but hopefully this gives you a glimpse of my experience so far as we hit the midway point.

The truth is, what I’ve experienced cannot be captured in photography, writing, or videos. I’m trying my best to put it into words in my journal. We’ll see how it goes.

I have only gotten dizzy from sea sickness 3 times and let’s hope it stays at that number.

Well, I am checking out now and heading out onto the deck trying to spot some cool animal.

As much as I would love to say “see you soon”, to be truthful, I really hope it isn’t soon, since that would mean that the expedition is over.

So I’ll say adios! Until next time!

Soomin Han

Shelly Leighton – Ocean Mapping Instructor – Marine Institute (MUN)

Hi everyone!

We woke up this morning in Coutts Fjord. It was breathtaking. Like Western Brook Pond, but with higher mountains and less waterfalls!

After sailing through the fjord for a little while we swung back around and did a shore landing in Quvvik. Here we did shore side workshops and a really great hike up to a waterfall. I ate some arctic blueberries along the way.

We are currently sailing the Davis Strait to Greenland. Tomorrow is a full day at sea. There are so many sick students I feel a bit bad for them. I also wont be typing much more because if I keep looking at this screen I’ll start to feel sick myself.

Love you all!

XXOO

An iceberg glides past the coast of eastern Nunavut.

Fathen Jusoh – Teacher

Salam and hello again,

Today after the ashore workshop, we had some students led workshops! I joined Climate change workshop led by Riva! Riva, you’re just amazing, a young teenager girl like you, leading a workshop and having clear objectives where the discussion would go was just impressive! Riva had three pillars to discuss on the climate change.

pillar 1: CLIMATE CHANGE IN HOMECOUNTRY

pillar 2: WHAT POWER WE HAVE TO COMBAT THE CLIMATE CHANGE

pillar 3: WHAT WILL WE DO ONCE WE GET BACK AFTER THIS PROGRAMME TO HELP COMBAT THE CLIMATE CHANGE?

From the discussion, I learnt that climate change is not an individual country problem. everyone in this world, regardless which country we come from, we experience climate change. It’s a global issue! But what makes it different is how worse it is, what we do to help overcome climate change and is everyone actually aware about the climate change?

It’s really a great opportunity to sit together to share almost the same views of climate change happens all over the world and learn some actions which we can practise to play our little role to reduce or overcome the problem. As an educator, Greg suggested me to google on the website “cool the earth” which provides some games for students to play their roles to overcome the climate change and have some fun and reward at the same time. I can’t really wait to get internet connection and learn what the website is about. — I know I do rely on internet – did I tell that I didn’t charge my phone for like a week and it’s still good? I only use it for alarm but I’m happy that I don’t have to attend to any message or email and just focus on learning.

I also managed to talk to Brendan Killy, an expert in climate change over a dinner. Brendan is an executive director of the study of environmental Arctic Change and research professor at the international Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks. It’s an enlightening discussion and there is a lot to process and digest before I could take away everything home. I hope I could get everything clearer before the expedition ends and I wish to interview more people especially the youngs and the experts on how they view about this issue! Please!! Give us more quiet time to ponder (Isuma as it says in Inuktitut) and process, ^_^

And we will continue this discussion by putting everything on the wall and probably have a mass presentation to share with the rest of the SOI members later after this.

And both Bella and Yusuf start to have seasick. Yusuf had it for the first time and he ran out off his seasickness pill, I spare mine for both of them. Izzat, thanks for the prescriptions. But I really hope I have enough, though. I need to be strong and stay healthy for my kids – even I do feel a bit spinning – big sister can’t be sick!! And Bella had it even worse today as we are now out at open sea. The sea gets so rough and it’s going to be even worse than this! There is no more clear view of ice-capped mountain, glacier, sea ice or iceberg. It’s all spinning and swaying while walking on the ship. But M-day is always the best – Miserable, but memorable.

Do pray for our wellness, safety and courage, there is still a lot more to learn and do here.

And I would like to thank JR for being so generous and kind to me.  I showed him my journal and he lent me his pencil colours so I could add on some colours in my journal writing. He has high interest in journal writing and I like the way he writes his journal. Almost every single little thing that happened in his life was recorded in the journal. Little flower he received from a lady as a thank you gift was nicely placed in the journal too! Very inspiring. And JR is actually a geographer, storyteller and writer. He conducts journal writing workshop and I enrolled in one of the workshops. It’s so fun!

We also had bottle drop activity today. I’m grateful that our turn, Bella, Yusuf and mine are not tonight especially when all of the kids are down with seasickness, you don’t want them to just throw or drop the bottle without enjoying the moment. I hope they can rest well tonight and wake up fresh tomorrow morning. We’re now adding one more hour ahead as we leave for Greenland and there will be no ashore landing for these two days!! huuuu not cool.

Okay, talk to you later.

Love,

Fathen

Museum of Nature scientist Kieran Shepherd leads a palaeontology workshop on land.

Amelia Trachsel – Civil Engineer

We had a great day on the 15th. We made a zodiac landing at an ancient settlement on Bylot Island, which had remnants of sod homes, tent rings, and Inuit grave sites. I was very happy to be out exploring the land on such a beautiful sunny day. There were a lot of mushroom species that we saw which unfortunately nobody was able to identify – apparently there isn’t a good field guide for the mushrooms of the Arctic regions. I kept having to warn people about stepping on the mushrooms! In the afternoon, I got to try muktuk, which was essentially raw narwhal skin with a bit of blubber. It tasted OK, but was a little too chewy.

We weren’t able to land on Sirmilik glacier due to high winds, but I got some great photos and had the opportunity for quiet reading on a nice sunny, quiet couch upstairs. On the 16th, we made it to Quvvik, which was a great landing spot. I found my favourite part of nature — BERRIES! There were 2 kinds – Arctic Blueberries and Crowberries. I was attempting to hike with the group to the top of the waterfall, but the berries were very distracting and so I didn’t quite make it. We started off for Davis Strait after lunch. A lot of people became seasick.

Remember, you can check back here for daily updates. Stay tuned for more notes from Greenland!

After some time spent connecting with the land, Starr has a sweet snack to show for it – kept safely inside her name tag, no less!

Students on Ice is proudly supported by bv02.

This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.