How do we describe today- from Bears to Barbeques it was one magical moment after another.
We had to expect that sooner or later and today we find ourselves adjusting to the vagaries of the weather. We awoke this morning just off the Qaiqsut archeological site, one of the most interesting cultural and historic sites in Sirmilik National park, on Bylot Island and about 72 degrees north Latitude.
It was too rough to risk a landing in the zodiacs, and so we considered reversing today’s schedule by sailing to Button Point, another historic site with the view of coming back to Qaiqsut in the afternoon.
Conditions weren’t any better at Button Inlet, but that doesn’t mean our day was lost. If anything we were able to work in a jammed packed educational day, and enjoy some terrific polar bear sightings.
What made this day extra special was to see the incredible diversity of ways of knowing in our group in so many disciplines of traditional and scientific learning. We were joined by a dozen elders from Pond Inlet, all willing to share their traditional knowledge and skills with every student and educator from both the north and south. SOI director, and respected author Wade Davis has described Indigenous elders as the “old growth forest of the mind” and he is so on the mark.
Parks Canada official Pat Carroll also provided a thorough briefing on the cultural relevance of Sirmilik Park, and the extent of human use and occupancy that is documented to go back at least one thousand years. Pat said there are three distinct locations. Closest to shore at Qaiqsut is a nineteenth century whaling site where whales were slaughtered and their oil rendered and for shipment to European markets.
Above the whaling site is the remains of Inuit villages, including grave sites that go back a thousand years.
Higher up is an ancient Thule culture archeological site that also dates back at least a thousand years, and two recent findings , of spear or harpoon heads, indicate people could have been here for as long as two thousand years ago. Pat said for Parks Canada the challenge is finding a balance in protect the sites and at the same time allowing people to visit.
With about 180 visitors, Students on Ice will greatly boost the number of annual visitors to Sirmilik. Normally the park would receive no more than a few dozen visitors in a year.
There’s more than history at stake in this area around Bylot Island, Milne Inlet and Eclipse Sound. This area that was so critical for whaling, trading and exploration in the nineteenth and twentieth century’s and is now becoming the gateway for resource development and exploration in the twenty- first century, including the ships carrying ore from the developing Mary River mine on North Baffin Island.
Oceans North, an environmental research organization and an SOI sponsor, set two cameras at opposite sides of Milne Inlet to record ice movement during the breakup period, on the flow edge or, put another way, the place where the land fast ice meets the ocean currents.
Because Baffinland Mines will soon be moving large iron ore laden cargo ships through these waters, this is the last year that the ice in Eclipse sound will form and breakup in a natural state and Oceans North wants to use the time lapsed photo to measure the impact the carriers will have on ice flow and also use it as base line measure in overall climate change monitoring. While most of us slept overnight, Expedition member Trevor Taylor, recovered one of the two cameras from a hilltop overlook the flow edge and his organization will now begin studying the photos to
get a clear picture of the ice patterns during the breakup.
Our Captain sailed very close to the steep cliffs of Cape Graham Moore, to provide backdrop for lecture on the nesting grounds for Thick Billed Murres.
The Cape is a research area that Biologist, Garry Donaldson has been monitoring and studying for many years. The cliffs go straight up a few hundred meters up from the ocean and are the nesting grounds for as many as sixty five thousand Murres, the fascinating little sea birds that lay and hatch a single egg in the year.
To feed the chicks, one member of the pair sits on the nest, while the other may fly a hundred kilometers out in the ocean to dive and catch a single tiny fish and carry it back to the nest. In many ways, the little black and white bird`s habits and survival characteristics reminds us of the penguins of Antarctica.
From the bridge of the ship students were treated to a dual lecture. Elders Elisapee Ootoova and Joanasie Mukpa also explained the Inuit connection to the birds which are vital food source. Though translators they explained the little chicks and eggs are an important source of food.
They also told of the dangers, where sometimes life hung on a thin as people climbed the cliffs in search of eggs and chicks. They recalled that lives were lost gathering eggs and Joanasie sang a legend song that about people being stranded on ledges or falling.
The Murres are also food for polar bears, and we saw several bears this morning walking the shore line, and climbing the cliffs also in search of eggs and chicks. Imagine the added danger for the Inuit, if they also encountered a bear while they were perched on these step narrow ledges, some only a few inches wide.
Although the winds kept us off shore this morning, that didn’t reduce opportunities for nature and cultural lessons in the afternoon.
Still unable to land at either Qaiqsut or Button Inlet our Captain did find suitable anchorage on the leeward side of Bylot and we were joined by about a twenty people including a dozen elders from Pond Inlet who told stories and gave workshops on Inuit skills ranging from hunting, sewing sealskin clothing, throat singing, and storytelling and Inuit games.
The skill of lighting the traditional seal oil lamp the qulliq was a bit of a challenge in a brisk wind. This is an activity that always takes place in a tent or Iglu.
The elders showed they are also flexible, choosing to go through the process of how the stone lamp is lit and the flame maintained and then they went modern, cooking up some hardy traditional bannock, made on a Coleman camp stove with flour and lard.
Tonight we had a special celebration on board our ship and thanked the elders and Pond Inlet residents for adding so much knowledge, and goodwill to our tour.
Some students and staff offered comments on the highlight of the day. For many it was a magical moment of silence when the whole group, at least two hundred people, including our friends from Pond Inlet, sat it total silence for a few moments, the only sounds that could be heard was the musical sound of a mountain glacial stream and the gentle wind coming off the tundra and out of the Mountains.
Tonight SOI Student Victoria Han of St. John’s Newfoundland left the same people in awe with a song she composed and sang about the SOI experience. Look for it first on our website. There may also be a time in the not too distant future when you will hear it being played to much larger audiences.
Tomorrow we continue our expedition westward towards Resolute, the overnight winds and ice conditions will dictate the exact route.
In the expedition spirit,
Founder & Expedition Leader
Raslan Abdul Rahman
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hello, people of the world! The Malaysians are feeling absolutely splendid. Actually, we are feeling a bit more than “splendid” because today was an amazing day. The day was unlike any other; it was special. Really, I am probably overstating things a bit, but I feel spectacular. I saw a polar bear! When you see a polar bear in the flesh, you never know how to react. You will probably end up like me: staying silent and admiring the majestic beast in its natural habitat. I got to see it after breakfast. The expedition leader, Geoff, felt we should start our day with a Zodiac cruise. In itself, the cruise was very refreshing for someone who was feeling incredibly groggy (me). As soon as we set sights on a polar bear, I came alive. My eyes flew open as I looked frantically for the bear. Funnily enough, my binoculars were back in my cabin because of how unlikely it seemed I would find a polar bear. Finally, I saw it. Lo and behold, the king of the Arctic was before my very eyes. It was swimming at the time. Although all I could see was its head popped up above the water, it was an incredible experience. Fun fact: polar bears do not “doggy paddle” to swim. Their powerful front paws propel them forward while their back legs are used like rudders to direct them. Finally, the adrenaline died down and it was back to business. After the Zodiac cruise, the next session was for workshops held on the ships. Of all the choices, I went for “Sea Ice” which was presented by Leah. First of all, she taught us how to read ice charts properly. Previously, I just assumed the red blotches on the map were bad while the green blotches were good. She managed to provide some context on what the colours meant and also described codes that were indicative of the condition of the ice. Other than that, we can also tell a few things about the ice using the naked eye. The age of the ice is directly proportional to the height of the ice. With age, the ice loses its brine. As a result of this, the ice is fresher and harder. Some multi-year ice can harden to the point where ship steel is no match to the ice. Sadly enough, the melting ice is affecting the Inuit communities. The sea ice is much more hazardous with more reported cases of people falling through the ice. Moreover, increased shipping traffic is obstructing the traditional sea ice routes of the Inuit. Sadly, climate change is rearing its ugly head. Then, we all visited Pond Inlet. Upon arriving, we were split up into groups who all had different things to do. My group went on a bit of a tour of the place. Eventually, we reached the community hall where we were treated to a cultural show. First of all, they lighted a fire source called the “Qullik” while a man drum-danced. After that, they showed us a few throat singing matches. The objective in a match is where one person makes a throat sings and the other must imitate the sound. The first one to laugh is considered the loser, so seeing some people scrunching up their face while they try to keep it straight is hilarious. However, the main event was when they showed us a few traditional games. They had several ways of solving minor disputes. Among them, they would take turns punching each other in the shoulder until the other gave in. Most amazing of all, one of the ways was to pull each other in the mouth to force one of them to surrender. As painful as it looked, it did look enjoyable. Finally, we headed back to the ship and tucked in for sleep. We also brought on a few guests from Pond Inlet for the next few days. Day 6 was great; Day 7 will be even better.
August 5: Polar bear swimming near Pond Inlet, photo (c) Martin Lipman #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 #PolarBear A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Arctic Youth & Partnership Manager, SOI
Gatineau, QC Canada
There are only four more days left to the 2015 SOI Arctic Expedition. It feels like weeks and months have gone by with each activity filled, afternoon and evening. In the blink of an eye we will all be disembarking the Ocean Endeavour, and catching flights back to our respective homes.
This is my first Arctic expedition with Students on Ice. I am blessed and happy to have gone on the Antarctic expedition as a post secondary student in 2013-2014. I am the new Arctic Youth and Partnerships program manager with SOI, and there are many wonderful experiences, conversations, laughs and joys on behalf of SOI students and staff that I would love to report on, but I’ll save that for after the expedition, after I can process all of the adventures we have all learned from these past few weeks.
Instead, I would like to share some thoughts I’ve been thinking about this morning as we are sailing along the north of Baffin Island with 20+ new SOI family members, who are all community members of Pond Inlet which we had the privilege of visiting yesterday.
Like all previous mornings, I awoke to Geoff Green announcing “Good morning Students on Ice! It is a beautiful morning out there, and lets all get up and get ready for a wonderful expedition day!” And what an extraordinary day it has been. It is the first day of the expedition that we have encountered any bad weather, and it is not so bad- the problem being the wind is a bit strong and we were unable to find somewhere safe to do a zodiac landing in Sirmilik Naitonal Park with our guests and leaders of the landing, our Pond Inlet community members which is a composition of elders, adults, and babies. They will all be leading our visit to the park with traditional teachings of singing, hunting techniques, sewing, story telling of traditional uses of the land we are visiting, just to name a few. It is a true blessing to be here with over 100 youth from all over the world, in Inuit home lands, teaching them about who we are and what this land means to us.
For those of you reading who may also not be too familiar with the connection Inuit have to this land, I’d like to put it into context.
If you have been paying attention to the news recently, you will know that the federal government gave Baffinland an exception to the Nunavut Land claim process and over rode Inuit choice to not let mining go ahead in Mary River. In near by communities like Pond Inlent, the community members said that they wish to not see mining happen at this time for legitimate reasons. But they were exempt from following the process of Inuit land claims.
Scientific research has been collecting information for decades in this area that also supports the decision to not go ahead with mining in this area also. Research around sea ice extent, migratory bird patterns and colonies, narwhale and polar bear monitoring, to name a few. All of these studies prove that this land and sea are essential aspects of the ecosystem, and if you were to disturb that, you would be disrupting an ecosystem that is not only fragile, but critical to the human cultural aspect of the ecosystem as well.
We have experts on the expedition that are telling us about the studies they have done and are doing in the area, and we have leaders from the community who told us all about the legislative process that is in place, that they fought for to protect their rights and decisions, and how that is not being respected. We have had many, many discussions with the students about these perspectives, and the realities, challenges and celebrations (in settling the land claims, and also re claiming our culture in that time as well). It is one of the special things about Students on Ice. That we provide a safe environment for students, staff, and guests to ask questions. To be honest. To ask the hard questions and challenge what governments all over the world are deciding, especially with regards to our environment.
But what is even more special, and what I am really reflecting on this morning, is how beautiful it is to have community elders and members from Pond Inlet here with us even if only for a short period of time. With all of the questions and discussions about mining development and the politics around that, since we invited the community members on board, that feeling of frustration has lifted. At least, for me. It is a Students on Ice first and I certainly hope not a last- that we get to hear Joanasie Mucpa speak over the intercom about when his mother first saw a ship come through Lancaster sound, and the song she and her brother sang as it approached their spring camp. To later hear him tell stories of growing up on the very island where we watched two polar bears climb to the top of the cliff, all in Inuktitut and later translated by a Parks Canada staff who is also from Pond Inlet.
To see the students practice Inuit games (including Brandon from Hawaii!), and speak Inuktitut to each other, even if they do not feel as well versed as their elders. Upon returning back to Canada, many of our students who are here from the northern parts of Canada are opening up about Inuit culture and are sharing with everyone and getting staff and students from all over the world to try muktuk, how to pronounce ullakut (good morning!) every time we pass in the corridor and speak into the microphone during debrief meetings.
Not only are these students sharing a part of who they are, they are opening people’s minds to our perspective in decision making. For many of our students who are joining from the south, who have not thought about Arctic cultures, politics, and challenges so far. But they will go home from this expedition with a wealth of knowledge from our educators who teach them so much about scientific research through actually conducting data collection every day, but how they can also include Inuit perspectives on our environment and how it means so much more to us than the development of a mine and an area of early exploration for discovery.
Inuit are strong resilient people, and I am so proud of all students for becoming their own scientist, their own entrepreneur, their own artist, their own decision maker that now understand the true beauty and voice of the north.
P.S Hi mom & dad, sis, Brandon and all my family & friends back home! Can’t wait to talk to you all real soon. You will be pleased to know that I have been a successful bear monitor for two days so far during the expedition! Lots of love, miss you all so much, xoxo.
August 5: On Bylot Island, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 #CanadianArctic #Nunavut #ParksCanada #SirmilikNP A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Today was an extraordinary day. From bears to barbeque, I can say with a lot of faith that we have enjoyed every second. Our day started with out-of-this-world views. Snow and ice draping over the mountains with a teal blue sea below, foggy areas, and fierce wind. A few nanuit (polar bears) were spotted today. They are amazing animals, living and surviving in this ‘harsh’ climate. The first bear was spotted near a cliff where many, many birds were nesting. It was an interesting sight. This afternoon was full of “magical moments”, as Geoff stated. Workshops, fishing on the beach, skinning of a seal, inuit games, throatsinging, drumdancing…just to name a few. After returning to the ship, feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, we had a barbeque dinner on deck! It was simply amazing. The sun shone on us and kept our happy moods on high. To my friends and family back home, I think of you with everything that I do. Can’t wait to see you.
August 5: After collecting specimens in the field, a student tapes her plant samples to a backing for safe keeping, photo (c) Martin Lipman #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #botany #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Nevada City, California, USA
We traveled with the people from Pond Inlet today. I think we were supposed to stop earlier this morning, and hike around etc., at the same National Park as yesterday. But it was so windy and cold that we couldn’t stop. Instead we went around the corner of Bylot Island and saw these cliffs that are part of a bird reserve or something. While we were looking at birds, on the cliffs near them we saw TWO POLAR BEARS!!!!!! It was so awesome because we saw their entire bodies – and we were pretty close too! After lunch we landed just outside of the National Park but still on the island. We had the option to do some different workshops with some of the elders. I did botany (which was just with some staff) but with the elders I heard stories of their childhood and in one I learned about this traditional fireplace/latern/stove. They use seal oils and wild arctic cotton as the wick. It was super windy and I almost got blown over, but it was actually not that cold. And tonight instead of just eating in the dinning room we had a bbq on the deck of a cruise ship IN THE ARCTIC!!!! Like, who can say they’ve done that 🙂
Where do I start. I am speechless. I know there is a word in Inuktituk for “beyond amazing”. The experience is even beyond that. The students are building a kayak on our ship. I get to teach them art. They have done amazing paintings, and with the other art leaders, they have done print making, traditional sewing, fish scale art, stenciling, water colours. It’s like a University course in two weeks – or a year of University in two weeks. It is so amazing to see the students and staff partnering, all cultures coming together. When the kayak is finished, we are going to paint it and then it will go into the Canoe Museum. Yesterday in the art workshop we started coming up with a design. All of the art leaders are working together with the students so it is a complete team project where we can bring all of our talents to the table. We taught the students about the traditional kayak, Inuit shared their culture for us to incorporate, and we talked about what we learned on this expedition and what we would like to share with future generations. One of the things that personally impacted me was standing on Jakobshavn Fjord – which is the iceberg nursery for the world – and learning that in 15 to 20 years, icebergs will most likely… (unfinished)
August 5: Professional kayaker Erik Boomer helps a student master rolling, photo (c) Martin Lipman #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada
Two days ago, I think that Students On Ice broke the record for the greatest number of people to be in Sirmilik national park at one time. Both of the hikes offered for us at Sirmilik were paths never before trekked. We were – and are – true explorers. The Parks Canada officers with us did not have much more prior knowledge on the trails we were following than even we did, for the trails did not exist – if no one has taken the path before you, it is not a path or a trail at all. It is a discovery and a learning experience. On our hike to the toe of the glacier, we learned: 1) to probably take a slightly different route next time, in order to reduce the sliding rock experiences, and 2) bring hiking boots to wear instead of rainboots. After walking on rocks in rainboots for two hours, I can at least say that I had the best and only foot massage of my life. Being in Sirmilik awakened a part of me that had been sleeping for a long time. It was a place unlike anything I had ever seen in movies or books or photographs: rocks everywhere, hundreds of years beneath my feet, interspersed with hard-working purple-petaled flowers or shrubs; and incredible mountains of brown rock like huge triangles that touch the sky. When we came to our final stop before the glacier, a staff member led us in a meditation, focusing on each sense one by one. Hearing a rush of water from the glacier and a deeper layer of rumbling below, rocks sliding as feet moved. Smelling the cold, the rock, the sweetness of plants somewhere beneath. Breathing in, then out. Filling the diaphragm, then exhaling. As we try to process everything that we are seeing and experiencing, sometimes all we can do is remember to breathe.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
“Flexibility is key” We definitely saw this today as the site for our first landing was too rough and we had to go farther down past the Cape Graham Moore bird cliffs. That was pretty awesome because it allowed us to see hundreds of birds flying around and perching on the cliffs (Thomas, you would have loved that.) After lunch we arrrived at our new landing site where we were a little more protected from the wind but it was still pretty gusty. Here on the side of a hill we took our group picture. Hopefully it turned out well. Our workshops today were held mostly by the elders from Pond Inlet and some of the Parks Canada people. The first workshop I attended was about Inuit sewing and skinning a seal skin with an Ulu. I actually got to skin a little bit of it and I didnt put any holes in it! The second workshop I went to was throat singing where I somewhat successfully managed to make some of the correct sounds. At least I no longer sound like a weird dying animal. Lastly I went to a storytelling workshop where we got to listen to an elder tell stories of his childhood. I had a really good time.
August 5: An underwater ROV ready for testing, photo (c) Martin Lipman #Nunavut #ROV #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Today was a very different day from the others in terms of weather. Our weather has been very sunny, and not too rainy. Today, though, was our first really cloudy, rainy, windy day. We were going to do a Zodiac landing this morning, but it was too windy, so instead, we spent lots of time on deck. We saw a migratory bird sanctuary. At first, it appeared maybe 50 meters away, with large insects flying around. However, upon closer inspection with binoculars, it was a huge cliff, filled with thousands and thousands of birds. On each ledge of the cliff, birds were lined up standing there. There was an announcement that a polar bear was spotted. When I heard this, I thought I would be able to see it quite quickly. But the cliff was so much larger and further away than it looked, the polar bear was just a white spot. It put everything in perspective very nicely, though. For lunch, I had a really good chickpea potato curry. After lunch, we did take the Zodiacs to shore. There was a beautiful rocky beach, and a creek running down to the water. We had some time to soak it all in (as Geoff says). The wind was so strong, I stood facing it and I was able to lean at a large angle. It was awesome. I stood there for a while. We then had workshops. I went to a throat singing workshop led by a community member from Pond Inlet. I do not think that it is my greatest of talents. I just could not get the hang of it. I then went to a workshop on Arctic plants. We talked about how plants cope with the harsh environment, and the danger of invasive species to this area. We stood and felt the strong wind, and then lay on the ground and felt the considerably less strong wind. This was evidence of the advantage of plants growing along the soil, rather than up, as we saw. We are now getting ready to have a barbecue dinner on deck. The sun has come out. I will see you very soon Mom, Dad, Ben, and Farley. Fun fact: One reason why invasive species can be so harmful is that when they enter a new area, their predators might not be present, so they thrive. This diminishes the ability of other plants around it to survive because the invasive plants might block sunlight or take resources. Rose: Standing on the tundra and letting the wind push me. Thorn: Getting a little antsy without much exercise. Toot toot: Everyone who collected plants to press and give to the Museum of Nature as research materials.
Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
This morning I got to learn a little bit about Inuit culture in Nunavut, as Ashley had held a early morning talk about her cultural heritage. She talked the differences between the different Arctic regions, like the clothing changes based upon where the Inuit live. It was interesting to see how some things that seemed so trivial had a practical purpose.
After breakfast and briefing the ship set course for our landing in the afternoon. Turns out that the location the team had planned was, shall we say, a little rough. But flexibility is key so luckily a backup plan had us head farther down past some bird cliffs. It was here where someone spotted one of the kings of the Arctic. Yes, there was a polar bear on starboard side and I was able to see it and take some photos. As we progressed several others were spotted, at least two others I unfortunately did not see. But I did manage to see another one in a different location, closer to our destination.
So the Endeavour had docked and the Zodiacs were a’headin for the shore. Having to wait for everyone before having a final briefing is to be expected, and once everyone else came we got a talk on what stations there were. The group photo was taken after this as well, the largest in SOI history if it’s founder is to be trusted.
First off: Botany. A speech that I’ll say may have taken a while, but since I know who is going to be editing these I’ll call it very thorough and educational [editors note: Thanks Chase!]. I still managed to collect a specimen though, a vascular plant of some kind that was a light shade of magneta.
A trip near the beach for the Elder’s storytelling seemed very promising. A look into how they lived and what has changed since they were younger. They lived a very traditional lifestyle, so much that a translator was required to tell us what the two older men were saying.
The Hunters and Trappers Organization had a small station set up on the beach to talk about the group, the regulations and such. I learned that only six female polar bears were allowed to be hunted this year, at least in this region. They also talked about how the hunt has evolved, and how it may continue to grow in the future.
Finally to end off the landing I took my hand in some fishing off the shore. Nothing was biting at all but it was fun nonetheless. Near the end of the period of forty-five minutes given for each station an unfortunate event unfolded. I casted out and was reeling in, Alex and I were having a conversation and we both looked down to see the line in the most atrocious tangle I have ever seen. It was utterly ridiculous that in about thirty seconds that so much line had been ruined. It had to be removed , but without a knife it seemed like we were out of luck since biting it wasn’t doing anything, so that Tim Hortons gift card finally had a use. Thanks Mom!
I’m writing this earlier than usual, on the day all of it happened, and the barbecue dinner we’re all having hasn’t happened yet. Nothing exciting really happens beyond that point and I believe that everything you need to know has been written down.
August 5: photo (c) Lee Narraway #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 #PolarBear A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
August 5: Encouraging local girls to join the shore cleanup! photo (c) Martin Lipman #PondInlet #ParksCanada #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
NASA Flight Controller & Expedition Staff
Another incredible day! We have been blessed with very good weather this trip; this morning’s high winds were the first weather we’ve had that has affected our itinerary. While I was initially disappointed that this precluded our landing at a Dorset/Thule archaeological site, the sighting of multiple polar bears along the shore while cruising past a significant rookery was equally thrilling. And how does one top a morning of polar bear watching? Well, apparently, with an afternoon on shore with the ~30 Pond Inlet community elders who have spent the past two days with us on the ship. Drumming, throat singing and listening to stories from the elders were the workshops I chose to attend. To be in such a special place and given the opportunity to connect in such a personal way with the land and the local community is humbling. I also enjoyed some quiet time to gaze at the glaciers and icebergs on the horizon; a contrast to the loud (but happy) ruckus of 100+ teenagers performing songs, cheers and chants as each of their “pods” reports in each morning and evening. Love to you all (miss you lots, Steve!),
August 5: Vivian Lee, sponsored by the Leacross Foundation! photo (c) Martin Lipman #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Ottawa, ON Canada
Hello friends! Today I saw more polar bears! I was also able to see the entire bear this time, not just the head. One was climbing up a shore at the base of a cliff and stopped to watch our ship pass by! The pictures are still blurry, because we again had to give the bears space, but you can still tell what the subject is. Through binoculars, the bears were stunning. They are terrifyingly massive animals, yet they are also kind of cute in their curiosity. I apologize for the short length of this blog entry/update, but we are having an evening briefing any second now, so I have to go! To my mom, my dad, and Meg: I miss you all so much! I am still having the time of my life though, so don’t worry! I hope you are all doing well, how’s camp, Meg? I love you guys!
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Today I was able to see more of the North’s natural beauty. In the spirit of “flexability being key”, we had a few changes of plan, but these changes led to a great day. The morning began with breakfast and a briefing, where we heard the new plan for the morning. Originally, we were going to make a few stops on Bylot Island but the water was too choppy for the Zodiacs because of the wind. Instead, we saw the amazing Cape Graham Moore bird cliffs. I loved seeing the place where thousands of birds lived and, as we saw, not only birds visit these cliffs. Polar bears also do! The second polar bear of the trip was spotted on the bird cliffs, snatching eggs. I was able to get pictures of both the birds and the bear, and I was very happy as a result. I spent a lot of time on deck, taking in the beautiful scenery. After lunch, the wind had died down and we were able to make a stop on Bylot Island. This part of the island was not park of Sirmilik National Park, but was Inuit-owned land. Once on the shore, we had a choice of workshops and were able to pick three. The first one I went to was about how Parks Canada manages cultural resources in their national parks. While participating in this workshop, we saw some historic tent rings, circles of stone used to support a tent, and old tin cans. The next workshop was called “connecting with the land”. In this one, we had a discussion about how people have been connected with lands and how that connection is affected by new technology. The last workshop was about botany. We were able to look for different types of Arctic flora and learn about types of Arctic plants while collecting some for the herbarium of the museum we visited earlier in the trip. I loved this workshop and when the workshop ended, I continued looking for plants. When we arrived back on the ship, it was time for a BBQ dinner on the deck. I was really hungry so I was glad for the food. There was a briefing after dinner when we said goodbye to the members of the Pond Inlet community who had stayed with us for the day. After a long day, I was glad to get some rest and prepare for the next great day ahead of me!
August 5: Educator Daniele Bianchi and student Alicia Wang look over a specimen of cotton grass, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SirmilikNP #ParksCanada #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Gatineau, QC Canada
I felt a range of emotions while visiting Pond Inlet. The people of the Inuit community were proud of their culture and were more than willing to share stories and traditions with us. Their hospitality was really appreciated. However, a lot of the buildings were worn down from the harsh climate and they didn’t have proper sewage or a proper water system. Despite this, they were surrounded with beautiful mountains and glaciers. It was obvious that the people still had a close connection with their culture. They performed some throat singing and drum dancing. Blogging daily is not easy. Thanks. Goodnight.
August 5: Drum dancing, photo (c) Lee Narraway #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
August 5: Inuit games educator from Pond Inlet demonstrates the high kick, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SirmilikNP #ParksCanada #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 #InuitGames A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Mississauga, ON Canada
Sorry for not blogging as frequently as I should be, it is just that I’ve been having so much fun that I forget to! Since my last blog we have visited another town. Yesterday we visited the community of Pond Inlet. A lot of the students on the ship are from Pond Inlet, which has the population of about one thousand five hundred. When we arrived on the shore, we were instantly greeted by community members and Parks Canada staff members. We were given a tour of the town in which we saw the schools, the City Hall, and various stores. The people of the town were very kind and polite, despite them not speaking much English. At the City Hall, people from the community did a cultural performances, in which they did throat singing, drumming with dancing, and Inuit games! I’m sad to say that the trip is coming close to its end, but I hope that I’ll be able to do a lot more fun things before it does. P.S Dez don’t use my phone, its been having a lot of problems lately.
August 5: The CMN is studying Hairy Lousewort because it seems to be hybridizing in the Arctic, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SirmilikNP #ParksCanada #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 #CMN A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
“Good morning Students On Ice,” that’s what Geoff and Shirley said all morning. This morning, we started with a presentation about Qaiqsut & CRM, Protecting and Presenting Cultural Resources. I was a bit sleepy, so I don’t get enough information from it. I also got to see a polar bear far away from the ship. It was a big polar bear and I got photos of it.
As the sun was rising in the cloudy day, we arrived at the Birds Cliff. I got to see different kind of birds flying everywhere. Unfortunately, I don’t have the right camera to get photos of the birds flying. Fortunately, there was a polar bear too. The elders said that the polar bear was finding and eating birds’ chicks. It was really dangerous for the polar bear that was climbing the cliff.
Afterwards, Pascale showed her video of her adventure. I was really impressed that she was able to overcome so many difficulties. Minutes later, we went to Bylot Island!! The tears of the clouds dropping to earth a bit and the winds kept pushing us to shore. That afternoon, we were given different kinds of workshops. We could do 4 workshops! The first one was the botanic research and I got some samples of different kinds of flowers and it was really beautiful. Thank you for the information Paul! I also learned about fishing, just holding the rope and spinning the pulley. I got to know how they make clothes using seal skin. It was really warm inside. I could get used to that. Lastly, I got to here a bit of the elders stories. It was hard to hear since the wind was so loud.
The best part for today was the BBQ! It was so delicious. The ribs and chickens were so good, so tender and juicy that made my mouth watered and also the rice and everything was ‘perfecto’. There was pork that they served and of course I didn’t eat it since I’m a Muslim. After dinner, it was amazing to see the beautiful performances of the Inuit cultures, the beautiful song that was written by Victoria (in my pod group ‘HOTEL’) and also the beautiful voice that was given by God to Sarah.
From this day, I got to see the wonders of God creation, the beauty of it and also the gifts that God gave us for us to appreciate it.
Carman, Manitoba, Canada
Our expedition seems to be going by so fast. It is unbelievable to look back on everything that we have done so far. We have packed so much in to the last days. We have seen so much sea life, like harp seals, fin whales, and minky whales. We have also seen eleven different polar bears. I had never imagined I would have gotten the chance to even be in the North never mind have this kind of experience with all these amazing people. We brought some elders and community members from Pond Inlet onto the ship to do workshops and for us to experience more of the Inuit culture. We took the zodiacs to a beach on Bylot Island where we did the workshops with the elders. With those workshops I got to see a lady taking the seal blubber off of the seal skin, I learned to throat sing which was extremely fun, and I also listened to elder stories. There were also many other workshops that we could have gone to also. Other days I’ve gotten the chance to learn a lot about oceanography and marine biology. We got to measure salinity and do plankton tows off the zodiacs where we measure the amount of plankton in the water. We have done other workshps such as marine mammal identification, how to tell the difference between sea ice and icebergs,and even identifying plants. Many of the people on board are in love with what they do and I believe that is very important in someone’s life. It has made me feel like I am in the right place at the right time, meeting people passionate about what they do and willing to share with others their passions. This trip has shown me that it is okay to do exactly what I want to do in my future. It has given me ideas of what I love now and what I am sure to love for a long time. When I think about leaving the Arctic it makes me upset, but I know that I will come back some day.
August 5: #PondInlet performer, photo (c) Martin Lipman #Nunavut #CanadianArctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The last few days have gone by so quickly, sorry for not blogging. I will share a highlight from each day to make up for it. *Edit* Sorry about how long it is. The end is pretty much a stream of consciousness.
Monday we got to choose what to do in Sirmilik National Park, and I, in a spur of the moment, I decided to do the “strenuous” hike. They weren’t kidding. It was the most challenging hike I’ve been on, but also the best. Normally, I don’t enjoy pushing myself to go up a mountain, because despite the beauty, it gives me a lot of time to think about how tired I am getting.
Tuesday we went to Pond Inlet. My group began by doing doing a shoreline clean-up, where I met a girl named Linda. We stayed together the whole afternoon, going from activity to activity around her community, and were sad to leave. I thought we were going back to Pond the next day, so I was happy about that, but we ended up not getting off the boat. I’m excited to go back home and message her on Facebook (the internet is a really wonderful thing).
Wednesday we made a landing in a valley on Bylot Island. Before leaving to do our workshops, we had a moment of silence all together and it was magical. We could feel each other’s energy, and the energy from the land (that sounds super cheesy but it’s true). We then went to do workshops, and I chose to learn to throat sing, which is difficult but a lot of fun, and I listened to the elder’s from Pond talk about when they were children. Another highlight from Wednesday was the wildlife we saw from the boat. We saw a cliff that just looked like a cliff. BUT IT WAS REALLY COVERED IN THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF BIRDS! It was a nesting spot for thick billed murrs, which you could only see through binoculars/a camera lens. We also saw POLAR BEARS! WE SAW POLAR BEARS! SO MANY POLAR BEARS! THEY WERE SO CUTE (probably because we saw them at such a distance, if they were close they would not be cute).
Thursday morning (this morning), we got to go on land, where I participated in a workshop about the history of the pond we visited. I helped take a core from the bottom of the lake, and we could see the layers of sand and mud. It was very interesting, and soon we’re going to the lab to look at the layers in the microscope. There was also quick mud around, and despite not getting stuck as deep as some of the others (who were chest deep), my boots were planted and hard to get out. Before getting back on the zodiacs, we played a game where we threw small stones and piles of other rocks to try to knock them down, and I taught some people how to juggle. It was a lot of fun.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do when I get home, and I’m not entirely sure. The beauty here is unreal, and should exist forever. How can one person help though? Almost unrelated, I would love to learn to paint, so I can try to recreate what is outside my window right now. I think I will also try to form some kind of connection between people in the North and in the South, because I was unaware of so much before I came. At school we learn about the culture and some of the issues communities are facing, but it seems so remote. What I’m noticing here is that they live in the same country as me, yet lead such different lives. We learned that Canada is as big North to South as it is West to East.