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SOI Arctic 2015 day 12: Dundas Harbour and Croaker Bay, Devon Island

Today, we saw two Polar Bears too many. We arrived at our planned destination and activity site at Dundas Harbour this morning only to discover we had to cancel our landing for workshops and a tour because two polar bears had already staked their claim. However, flexibility is the key and our change of plans resulted in another incredible day!

We boarded our Zodiacs and viewed the site from the water. Dundas Harbour is a traditional ancient Inuit site, going back many hundreds of years, and more recently an RCMP detachment and a Hudson Bay Post. Both the HBC and the RCMP Post only operated for about ten years between 1920 and 1930. The RCMP returned for a brief period, no doubt as a sovereignty gesture between 1954 and 1951.

About five old buildings remain standing, but they are now in poor condition and the paint is faded or peeled away entirely, and doors and some windows have long been torn away by weather or bears.

A few hundred meters up the slope from the beach, is a white picket fence setting out the boundaries of a small cemetery where two RCMP officers and several infant Inuit Children are buried.

It’s a site frozen in time, and takes us back to a north where isolation was in fact the daily routine, where a whole year went by without any human contact except for those at the outpost.

We have visited, ancient sites, glaciers and northern town, and today, in a roundabout way we went to Mars. Dr Pascal Lee is a planetary scientist at the MARS Institute and NASA Ames research institute in Mountain California. He opened a fascinating presentation on space exploration and Mars specifically and said “when man does finally set foot on Mars, his first comments will likely be, this looks just like Devon Island”.

That’s because for the past 18 years, Pascal and NASA have been operating a Mars research station on this Island. The rocks and geological formations on Devon Island, including a huge crater formed by a meteorite millions of years ago, are very similar as what is expected to be found on Mars.

This afternoon, we did get in a successful landing in Croaker Bay on Devon Island and sunny skies and light winds made for a spectacular visit to a tidewater glacier at the head of Croaker Bay.

The face of the glacier is over two kilometers wide and at least 40 meters high. We divided into two groups and took turns walking along the moraine gravel beds on one side of the Glacier for an access point unto the ice itself. Look for pictures!

The alternate group explored the face of the Glacier, watching small pieces of it fall away, the technical term is calf. Others balanced on paddle boats or Kayaks in and around the small ice pans.

At the extreme end of the glacier, we watched a polar bear, first swimming, and then he disappeared up the glacier face, only to emerge a short time later, again swimming around in front of several zodiacs, seemingly completely unconcerned by our presence.

For a few, there was the added and spectacular sight of a rather large Iceberg, suddenly rolling completely over. In less than a minute a couple of dozen students and a few zodiac drivers watched the white top begining to sway and then disappear underwater as colours changed and blue ice emerged. It did not crack or make noise beyond the sound of rushing water and then like magic, a new peak emerged. For a few more seconds the whole iceberg bobbed in the water, appearing at first to rise even higher and then it settled back, as though it had been there forever.

So special was Croker Bay that we added one more memory- the annual SOI polar bear swim. It was a little chilly, the air temperature about 12C and the water a lot colder at about zero. But most students and many educators braved the cold, dashed in, felt their heart thump and pound, felt the cold grip their mussels and then quickly dashed out into the warm towels and dry clothes that awaited them. One more unforgettable SOI memory!

Tonight, James Raffan, took us all around the world, with an account of his five year project and book “Circling the Midnight Sun” a record of the people he met in towns and cities across all Circumpolar countries that are on the Arctic Circle. “Wherever I went I was welcomed without reservations “he said.

He added, in many places there is great hope because of the resilience and determination of people. In so many others, he said there remains the despair of dealing with crippling social issues, the most tragic suicide among young people. JR’s book, and his commitment and determination were an inspiration for all on SOI.

Tonight we are sailing westward, tomorrow Beechey Island and a review of the ill fated Sir John Franklin Expedition and the realization we are coming to the end of our own remarkable journey.

In the expedition spirit,
Geoff Green
SOI Founder & Expedition Leader

 

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August 7: Expeditions stay warm during annual Students on Ice polar dip in Croaker Bay. Photo (c) Martin Lipman.

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Krystyna Urbancic

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

The end of the expedition is on the horizon, I figured it was about time I wrote a blog for all you dedicated readers. How do I even begin to describe the experiences I’ve been through while embarking on the Ocean Endeavour. To be completely honest with you (as one should be when writing a blog) I’ve been putting off writing this because I lack the words to describe the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been and the life that I’ve seen. However, I will push forwards to try and relate to you all a short summation of roses and thorns of the trip. Bear with me, it is going to be a bumpy ride. I couldn’t have met a better group of friends, equally as weird and fantastic as I see myself. Everyday for dinner, we sit at the round table (with Ernesto as the most loyal waiter) and join together in merriment that is beyond compare. AND OH LORD THE FOOD. I don’t think my parents will enjoy the food expectations I will have once coming home from this expedition. (I mean seriously, dessert with lunch and dinner?!?!? EVERY DAY.) The land around me is utterly pristine. Ice has become a regular sighting on this vessel, but I still stare in awe at the glistening surfaces, and the fantastical shades of blue that highlight the underbellies of icebergs. The plants have additionally contributed to the mind blowing beauty that is the Arctic. I can now officially name way to many species (thanks to the best botanist teacher EVER–AKA Paul!) of Arctic flora, and have collected, compressed and compiled quite the field guide of examples. He honestly has changed my life, I feel botany is at the forefront of my ambitions now. However, Paul is not the only amazing teacher I’ve had on this ship, I’ve learned so much from every single person/professor that has taken the time to tell me (sometimes in large presentations) about their stories and how they came to be who they are. I think I’ve had more of the most meaningful conversations on this ship then I have had in my entire life. I am seriously not exaggerating. I’ve seen polar bears, I’ve seen seals, whales, birds (by the thousands) and on the other side of things I’ve also seen the the skins/feathers of all these animals. I’ve been enlightened. The Greenlandic and Inuit culture is a powerful thing to experience first hand. I was welcomed by communities that had no idea who I was, and I was invited into their homes, their churches and their libraries. I’ve eaten traditional foods, heard traditional drum songs and seen how they contribute to such a unique, inclusive environment. Then came the real heartbreak. When we visited Pond Inlet, my heart was torn to pieces, seeing how terrible the living conditions are. A flame was ignited in my heart as we (the community ofPond and SOI) sang the Canadian anthem together. Knowing I’d been scammed my whole life, believed the picture of lies that had been painted in my mind my entire life by the school system. This intricate, manipulative painting that represented the Northern region of Canada as having a life just as privileged as the south of Canada. The contrast between how the Danish Government subsidizes Greenlandic communities and how the Canadian Government treats the communities of CANADIAN CITIZENS that live on the same soil as them, was absolutely shocking. The Inuit culture is strong. Withstanding what they have been struggling with for generations, while preserving a positive mentality is truly miraculous, and I will NEVER forget the feelings that I have experienced by being immersed in their lives (even if only for the day). Just because they live in the North where we cannot see them, doesn’t mean we can shove these issues under the rug and disregard them like we have for decades upon decades. I can’t express to you all the bliss that comes from looking out the window and seeing enormous icebergs, or zipping between sea ice to get a closer view of the swimming polar bear. This whole experience has been so surreal, a dream that I never want to end. I can’t list the number of people I’m going to add on Facebook as soon as I get service. There’s just too many. But I can say that it is dinner time, and that I have a table to get to, so it is about time that I peaced out for the evening.

I love you all, (aka Dad, Tasha, Nick, Joe and all the rest, you know who you are) if you all are still checking to see if I would write something, I hope this has curbed your curiosity.

-XOXO Krystyna Urbancic (the one and only)

August 7: Tidewater glacier at the north end of Croaker Bay, Devon Island. Photo (c) Martin Lipman. A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Shawn Tourangeau
Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada

The next time I’m at a cocktail party and someone asks “Who went swimming in the Arctic Ocean?” I can proudly say that I have. But I wouldn’t call it swimming; more like running in, nearly freezing to death after submerging my entire body in the water, and running out as fast as I can. It was still one of the highlights of the expedition. I did it twice. Sadly, our time was cut short as there was a polar bear spotted near by. Today was our second-last full day on the expedition, and I do not want it to end. Tomorrow will be our last full day, then after that, everyone begins to head home. I’m trying not to think too much about it and just trying to enjoy every second that I have remaining with all of these amazing people.

Today, I officially became a ‘Student on Ice’ as we finally made our way onto a massive ice glacier and I couldn’t have felt better. On the glacier, we learned about the importance and the impacts that the glaciers have in the world today. We also learned that the average ice sheet like the one we were on, is melting at an average 9 cm a day, which is quite alarming.

It saddens me that someday all of the beautiful sights and things we have been seeing may not be available for future generations to see. The Arctic is an unbelievable place, to say the very least. I can barely find the words to explain the phenomenons that we have been seeing the past ten or so days. It is a treasure that needs to be kept healthy, not only for the pleasure of being able to witness it, but because it is a way of life and an entirely different experience all together.

I always find myself trying to find new ways to explain the pure beauty of what is happening here everyday. The people are incredibly friendly and this was (and still is) probably one of the best things to ever happen in my short life so far. I just hope that everyone will get the chance to experience it as well.

-Shawn

August 7: A polar bear on the foot of a tidewater glacier at Croaker Bay, Devon Island. #SOIArctic2015 (c) Martin Lipman.

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Matthew Newell

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Good morning everyone! Today is our second last full day in the Arctic! It will be a memorable day though; we are going to do the polar plunge! However, we just spotted a polar bear next to our landingsite, so we might have to wait a little before we can send out our Zodiacs. Last night, our ship was rocking pretty hard (we have been so lucky, it’s been very stable during our expedition) and some people got a little sea sick. I didn’t feel sick, but I took a Gravol just in case. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we have now had the full experience of life at sea, and it isn’t always an episode of Zach andCody. I have surpassed 1000 photos on the Nikon DX, and I also have over 200 on my digital camera. I doubt I will be able to fill up my 32GB memory card, Dad, I’m sorry! Okay, we are about to take a Zodiac cruise (there are quite a few bears, so we aren’t doing a landing yet)! I have to get ready! I love you guys! Bye! -Matt (PART TWO) Hello, again! So we got to check out the site that we were originally supposed to land on. I got some very nice pictures of one very photogenic polar bear! They are much nicer than my previous photos too! We were in zodiacs and it was on shore, so we got pretty close, still at a safe distance, but much closer than we could from aboard the ship. I am very excited to show these pictures to Megan, when I get back to Ottawa!

We are about to see a presentation by a man who works for NASA in the Mars program, so I have to go! Bye! I love you all!

-Matt

Indigo Goehring
Nevada City, California, USA

I was so busy yesterday I had no time to write. Sorry. So… yesterday. Its been so busy I don’t even really remember what we did! In the morning we went into this little bay called Tay Bay. We did workshops again. I did the workshop called Life in an Arctic Pond. We found these tiny little fish, and I think they were the only life in the pond because it was just glacial water. After lunch, we did workshops and after that we saw ANOTHER POLAR BEAR! (Supposedly people saw 7).

Around dinner time, we started to get into some rougher water. If you tried to walk in a straight line on the ship, you couldn’t. You would be weaving in and out. Lots of people started to get seasick. By dinner some people couldn’t eat. We all had ordered our food but even I could only eat half of it – and I never get seasick. I got a stomach-ache and a headache, but I’m so glad I didn’t throw up!

This morning we went out in the Zodiacs to this old R.C.M.P post it was really cool because all the buildings were falling apart. We were going to stop and explore the post, but suddenly we saw another polar bear! It was rolling around on the ground and it was so cute. After lunch, we had anchored right near a glacier that was right on the water. We split up into two groups in my group we went zodiac cruising first and saw another polar bear in the water only about 1 kilometre away (can you tell I’m turning Canadian). We had to end the cruise shortly after that because they were worried the bear would get to close to us. We then did the second part of the trip; climbing to the glacier. It was only like a 10 minute walk, but it was so cool to get to actually walk on one. There is a stream of pure ice cold glacial water running through it. We filled our water bottles with some of it, and it tastes so much better and cleaner than the water I normally drink.

Today was the day we got to do the Arctic polar swim! I really wanted to do it because its such a great experience, and it would be so cool to tell people you’ve swam in the Arctic Ocean. Everyone changed out of their clothes and just in my bathing suit I was freezing! I ran into the water with some of my friends but I didn’t dunk my head because I got so cold! Everyone was freaking out and screaming. When I got out I was really warm. When I got to the boat I took a hot shower.
Tomorrow is our last full exploration day! It feels like we’ve only been here like 3 days!!

Oh FYI the polar bear count is: 12 or something

-Indigo

 

August 7: Calving glacier at Croaker Bay, Devon Island. #SOIArctic2015 (c) Lee Narraway. A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Myca Nakashook
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada

I haven’t blogged since yesterday and I am sorry. Yesterday I finally felt sea sick and it was unbearable. I had a really good morning though, we did a landing and we were on the land pretty much the whole morning and it felt really great, my soul needed to be out on the land again. While we were on the land we had workshops and of course I took botany with Paul and most of us got stuck in the mud!!! It was very funny at first I couldnt stop laughing!!! We were all ready to go through the lake with our rubber boots and all of a sudden Paul sunk in the mud and we realized it was quick mud but we were too late. One of the students got stuck and she lost her other boot! We tried for about 30 minutes to try and get it out but we gave up because our hands were freezing. It was a really great morning ! Even though it wasn’t very fun for some people it was still pretty awesome! This morning we went on a zodiac cruze and it was amazing! The weather was perfect and it was a good fresh air after being so seasick. We saw2 polar bears near the area and we went pretty close to the first one and it looked very curious. The other polar bear was sleeping on the other side of the area and it looked pretty comfy. Today has been a wonderful day.

I am excited to go out on the land back home and go camping with my family. Just 4 more days until I am HOME!!!!! I love all of you and thanks for reading my blogs. Have a good day.

-Myca

August 7: Polar bear swimming in Croaker Bay, Devon Island. #SOIArctic2015 (c) Lee Narraway. #PolarBear

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Michael Mehreteab

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Today was our second last “full day” on the ship, and like everyday, it was special. After rough waters the night before it was nice to wake up to calmer conditions. We woke up in Dundas Harbour but due to polar bears at our preplanned landing sight, we modelled “flexibility is the key” by changing our plans and having a zodiac cruise instead! We cruised all along the harbour and we got to see polar bears and an old RCMP post. Following the cruise, we returned back to the ship, but there were still so many activities left. We had a presentation about an overview of Mars and Devon Island (Mars on Earth) by Dr. Pascal Lee. We also had another zodiac cruise, where I heard rumours about students being able to “pilot” the zodiac and I may have been rumoured to be one of those kids, but that’s just a rumour. We also got to land on the island and stand on a glacier! It was so beautiful, it reminded me of why I was so lucky to be here. I also may have made history, as Alex, Chase and I were the first people to make Kool-Aid using glacier water. We also participated in the Arctic plunge! And dang was that water cold,but it was so worth it because I’m now a part of the Arctic Swim Team! After that…fun time,we returned to the warm ship where I took a hot shower (super refreshing) and ate a wonderful dinner. Our evening plans were a briefing and an inspiring presentation by JR (the birthday boy). After that, hearing Geoff’s amazing life story and our future lives as SOI alumni, we had curfew, for the long day that we have tomorrow.

-Michael

August 7: View from MS Ocean Endeavour at Croaker Bay, Devon Island. #SOIArctic2015 (c) Lee Narraway. A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Laura Lucier
NASA Flight Controller

Today was all about spotting polar bears. We saw them on shore, on a tidal glacier and in the water. Many of the students channeled their own inner polar bear, taking a “polar bear plunge” in the icy waters of Crocker Bay, off Devon Island. My highlight of the day was watching a giant iceberg roll in the bay. From a distance it was silent, slow and beautiful, though it was not hard to appreciate the power involved in the somersaulting of a multi-story building!

The students onboard the expedition continue to amaze me. We’ve posted a question wall where they can write thoughts and discussion topics and there’s no side-stepping tough issues with this crowd. Its impressive to see so many young adults express their opinions and ask intelligent questions. Enjoy your day.

Love to you all (especially you, SAW),

-Laura

August 7: team hiking up glacier at Devon Island. #SOIArctic2015 (c) Lee Narraway.

A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Michal Leckie

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Before I begin writing about today, I just want to tell you about last night. First, Justin, a student from Pond Inlet, gave a fantastic presentation about his culture. He was so passionate, and an incredible public speaker. After that, Sarah Harmer sang some songs. She told us that she was going to play a waltz, and we could dance, or just stand up and sway. Most people were still feeling pretty sick, so we weren’t too eager to stand and move more. We did all stand though, and we realized we didn’t actually have to move; we swayed on our own with the movement of the boat. After the momentary discomfort of the motion, I laughed, realizing the awesome ridiculousness of the situation. Some people did get on the stage and dance the waltz. This morning, we were going to land, but there were three polar bears spotted, so they decided it would be safer to just take the zodiacs out. It was wavy when we got out to the edge of Lancaster Sound. We rounded the bend, and back into another little harbour. There were abandoned RCMP (Royal Canadian Mountain Police) stations. They were little wooden buildings on the beach. We also saw a polar bear very up-close. It swam, and then rolled around in the grass. There was an incredible presentation on Mars and the possibility of travelling to it. It was very interesting. We also discussed past travels to the moon. After lunch, we went for a zodiac cruise, where we saw a polar bear swimming. It wasn’t too close to our zodiac, though. We then went for a very short hike to the glacier, where we were able to stand on it. A small stream rolled alongside us. People filled their water bottles with glacier water. After that, we prepared for the very exciting polar bear dip. We found a spot close to the ship with icebergs floating in the water. I ran up the hill a few times to get warm. Quickly, we all took off our outer layers and ran in! My body felt pretty good, but I really felt the cold in my feet, especially while walking up the rocky beach to the towels. During our polar bear dip, a polar bear was spotted nearby. We all rushed into the zodiacs. I had a warm shower when I got back to my cabin. And I have now brought out the sweatpants. Soon, we will be having dinner.

See you very soon Mommy, Daddy, Ben, and Farley. Fun fact: You can go to the moon and back to Earth within a week.

-Michal

Victoria Han

St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Wow, this trip is going by so fast. I can’t believe there’s only a few days left; I’m going to miss everyone so much. I cannot even begin to describe the joy I have felt while visiting communities in Greenland and Nunavut where I had the opportunity to meet the local people and learn more about Inuit culture. At the same time, I have realized that there are many career paths in regards to climate change and oceans that I am very interested in and it is removing the goggles around my eyes that narrowed my vision towards one specific profession. I have also met so many great people that I cannot bear to leave. Although it hasonly been a little under two weeks since I’ve known them, I feel like I have been friends with them for my whole life. Not only will I miss my friends, but I will miss the beauty of the Arctic, including the fresh Arctic air and the mesmerizing flora and fauna around me. So far, the only moment that has been a low for me was when I was very emotional last night since I was reacting very weirdly to the seasickness medication, however, at the same time, the messiness of our whole “squad” really helped us bond even more.

A couple of nights ago, I played and sang an original song in front of people for the first time. I have been writing songs since I was 8 years old and this trip is the first time I have ever performed one and felt good about one. It was definitely a great night for me. My camera roll on my phone is filled with memories that I will never forget and proof of the trip that will have shaped me for a lifetime. I never want to leave, but I do miss my family.

So yeah, hey Mom and Dad. I’ll be home soon, and if I’m an emotional wreck in the airport, I apologize in advance.

-Victoria

 

Meghan Flood

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The Arctic Ocean is cold. Very cold. Extremely cold. But we still went swimming. Well, it was more of a run and dunk but it still counts. I was fully submerged, next to a little bergy bit. It wasn’t as cold as I was expecting it to be but maybe that was just the adrenaline. That wasn’t even the highlight of my day. The highlight of my day was WALKING ON A GLACIER. I just about died from excitement. It was the coolest experience I’ve had in my entire life. I drank from a stream on the glacier. It was pretty epic.

This morning we woke up and we were at Devon Island. We were going to land and hike over to an RCMP post from the 1920s that’s now abandoned, but there were polar bears on shore so we had to just have a zodiac cruise instead. The TPBC is now at 14. We cruised around and zoomed by the abandoned RCMP post and spotted another bear as it lumbered around the shore. The bears literally lumber. When I see a bear walk, a trombone in my head is playing like ‘ba dum ba dum ba dum ba dum’ and so on. The bear we saw by the RCMP post lumbered around on shore, slipped into the water for a little swim, and then popped back on the beach and rolled around to dry off. It was really cute. Polarbears are really cute. Until they attack you. Then you can just ‘fight for your life.’ There are students and staff on this boat that have had polar bear encounters or have even been attacked. It’s surreal.

Two days until the expedition is over. I’ll really miss all the friends I’ve made and the inside jokes and conversations we have, but I’m excited to go home. Go home and sleep. Gosh I am so tired. As I mentioned before, the coffee must be decaf because it’s doing nothing to help me stay awake. People are dropping like flies during briefings and presentations. I can’t wait to just pass out in bed and not feel guilty about sleeping during something that interests me. Sometimes I just can’t help it, I dont realize I’m asleep until I jerk awake.

Tomorrow is the last full day on the ship. I’m hoping I’ll get to stand up paddle board on the Northwest Passage.
-Meghan

 

Lyric Oblin-Moses

Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Today I joined the Arctic swim team. The thought “this sounds like a good idea” didn’t cross my mind at all, so I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to jump into the icy water with only my swim suit on. My feet felt like they were walking on fire and glass at the same time, but I was still able to plunge into the water entirely (head included) and immediately ran back out onto the shore. A couple of people swam towards the icebergs that were near the shoreline.

Earlier today we anchored beside a glacier and got the opportunity to stand on the ice for the first time. While one half of the group hiked along the glacier, the other half was cruising on zodiacs. Then we switched. While I was on the zodiacs, we saw a polar bear jump into the water and quickly swim towards the group on the shore. I was lucky to sit in the one zodiac that followed the polar bear to report how quickly it was swimming and how far it was from where the group was. Despite our efforts to scare it off, it barely glanced in our direction. For some reason I was making a loon call (?). I couldn’t whistle loud enough I guess, which is what the rest of the group was doing. The point is we wanted it to come our way instead. Eventually we found a clear path so that we were in front of the polar bear. Trevor, our zodiac driver, cranked up the sounds of the engine which was able to turn the bear around. Very reluctantly, it swam away. It kept trying to turn around but we followed it for a bit to make sure it didn’t make its way to shore. We’ve spotted maybe 7 polar bears these past few days.

-Lyric

Chris Bauer

Expedition Doctor

First (prob’ly only) blog- where to start?  This has been such an inspiring trip for me. I feel so fortunate to have joined such a dynamic group of people – staff and especially students – to share and experience the world of Arktikos. Since my son Iain travelled with SOI to Antarctica in 2007, I have longed to go to a polar region. Of course, I wanted to experience the wow-factor of the wildlife and glaciers and icebergs, but I knew I’d experience something more. Turns out, much more.

I’ve experienced the thrill of being out of one’s comfort zone – publicly learning a smattering of beat-boxing, throat-singing and yoga. I’ve learned a deeper appreciation of the complexities and beauty of Inuit culture and language. I’ve listened to younger people’s unique perspectives that have taken me beyond the blinders of my own experiences and biases. And I’ve seen an uncovering of issues that continue to impact the North and the very people of the North, with many expressions on the “burning questions” board causing me to reflect on my own inadequately-informed opinions.

Many experiences will stay with me forever, I expect: the exhilaration of multiple polar bear sightings and a truly sub-zero swim today; multiple days of didactic “-ologies” learning (you know I’m lovin’ that, my kids); making house calls on a rolling ship (a day on Lancaster Sound, sponsored by Gravol) and conversations with some truly inspiring Northern young people.

Being separated from technology has been a great thing for most of us, myself included.  I do bemoan the fact that I’ve had no cell service to contact my family. Miss you, love you and see you soon, Sheonagh, Iain, Jenny, Bhreagh, Georgia and Angus!  Thank you for your parts in sending me on such a rewarding trip.

My thanks too to the SOI team for such a rewarding opportunity – the unmistakable hard work behind the scenes continues to greatly enhance the opportunities for all of us.  To the students I’ve met – I hope you’re inspired by a love of life-long learning, and I sincerely hope you take away a deep appreciation of the North. And I pray for the emotional and physical health of each of you, as you channel our shared inspirations into your personal and communitiy lives.

– Chris Bauer, aka “Dr. Chris”

Petra Brown

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

WOW. Today was one busy but fantastic day. My roomate Frederika and I forgot to turn back our clocks so we woke up an hour early, but thats okay because it allowed us to clean up our room and organise all of our stuff.

Unfortunately we could not land at our morning landing site because there were two polar bears wandering around right where we were planning on going. Instead we went on a zodiac cruise out in the bay we were in and around the past some beautiful icebergs all the way to the abandonned RCMP post. And guess what? There was a polar bear there (two actually, but one was sleeping).  He was wandering casually around the very building we had planned to hike to. My zodiac was filled with alot of cameras (and video cameras) so there were many pictures taken of us looking at everything around us. We also had Daniele with us so we did some plankton trawlling and caught a whole bunch of neat little critters.

We had an amazing presentation about Mars and all of the preparation for the mission to get there. It also talked about the training program on Devon Island because  its environment is very similar to Mars.

In the afternoon we made a landing at Croker Bay and hiked from there up to a glacier. This time we actually got to stand on it and officially be Students On Ice. We also got to drink from a stream running off of it and it was so good. Afterwards we went on a zodiac cruise around the glacier to get a better look but it turned into a mission to turn a polar bear away from our landing site because he was swimming towards it. During this time we also got to watch an iceburg flip, which was pretty cool. When we succeded in turning away the bear we headed over to the beach where we would do our polar dip. The scene was pretty crazy with people and clothes everywhere, and the water was pretty cold (I could not feel my feet afterwards) but it was so much fun. I am so happy that I got to do it, for awhile I was worried it wasnt going to happen because the bear was to close but it worked out in the end.

So happy to have had such an awesome and crazy day!

-Petra

Chase Holwell

Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

So the first thing after breakfast was going to be a landing that led to an abandoned RCMP outpost. But there was an unexpected guest inland.  A polar bear was too close for comfort so instead we went on a Zodiac cruise. I got to see the outpost and the two polar bears near it, but besides that the ride was uneventful.

After lunch Pascal Lee gave a presentation about Mars and how it relates to his field research on Devon Island. He talked about the future of Mars exploration: How long it would take to get there, what year we will get there (approximately), how astronauts will live on Mars, the climate of Mars now and in the beginning, and the possibility of extraterrestrial life found in basically groundwater.

Next up on the agenda: off on another Zodiac cruise around the icebergs in Croker Bay, followed by a short hike to the glacier there. JR saw the polar bear before the others on our boat, but Raslan and I were some of the only ones who couldn’t see anything. The glacier was our first time as “Students on Ice”, along with being the first time anyone has had Kool-AidTM on a glacier, probably (it’s a long story).

Right afterwards those of us who wanted to were put onto Zodiacs bound for the beach. We were doing the polar plunge, in waters with a temperature of -3o celsius. Needless to say it was freezing, quite literally since the freezing point of water is 0o celsius. It kept a liquid state because of convection and the currents but that didn’t help the fact it was oh so very cold.

Same old same old, dinner and recap. Along with JR (whose birthday was today) giving a presentation on his journey also documented in “Circling the Midnight Sun”, in stores near you (this is not in any way an advertisement, I guarantee you), it was definitely something no one had touched on, the sensitive topics of living in the arctic. Ending on a positive note, a few days ago I was told that I was invited to the US Embassy in Ottawa for breakfast when we get back to the city where this wonderous journey truly began.

-Chase

Aislinn Mumford

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Yesterday was full of excitement! We made our landing early in the morning after breakfast and a briefing. The part of Bylot Island we were on yesterday was included in Sirmilik National Park, but was very different from the section of Sirmilik we saw a few days ago. Because we were further north than before, this area was much more barren with fewer plants.

When we landed on shore, we had a choice of workshops. I chose a workshop that explored the nearby pond and looked for whatever life could be found there. At first, it seemed that nothing was living in this pond. But, upon closer inspection I could see a few different kinds of critters, the largest of which looked like a miniture horshoe crab less than three inches long. We tried to catch a few of each species we found to look at back on the ship. Even though my boot got stuck in the pond and filled with frigid water, this workshop was great! In fact, having wet socks added to the fun and made the day more memorable! As the workshop wrapped up, we were even given the chance to see how a sediment core can be taken from the middle of a pond.

After the workshop, we were given a chance to become more familiar with the land by walking around and exploring. I took pictures of the landscape and found some huge polar bear tracks. We spent an hour exploring the land before hopping on the zodiacs to get back to the ship. Once back onboard, we had enough time before lunch to go to some workshops. I first went to a workshop about how research that is being conducted on Devon Island (in the Canadian Arctic) can be used for future Mars exploration. This workshop ended early so I was also able to attend a workshop about Lancaster Sound, a threatened area that we were currently sailing in. This workshop explained the threats against Lancaster Sound and the goal of creating a protected area there. After lunch, we saw a presentation about the Arctic Council. The Arctic Council is the only international group with an exclusive mandate for the Arctic. Around the same time as the presentation, the waves stated picking up, and we felt our first bit of rocky water. I don’t tend to get motion sickness, so I was fine, but the ship was bobbing up and down quite a bit.

The next morning, the sea was much calmer. We were going to make a landing on Devon Island but there were too many polar bears on shore! Instead, we took zodiac cruises to see an abandoned RCMP post. While looking at the historial site, a polar bear began to stroll along the buildings. Later on in the day, we were able to make a landing and see something truely spectacular; a glacier! Once we hiked up to the glacier, we really became students on ice! Being able to listen to the trickle of a glaciel stream was truely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. After spending some time on the amazing glacier, I took a zodiac cruise to see more of the ice (and spot another polar bear).

The day wasn’t over yet! I still had once more thing to do: take a polar plunge! Jumping into the frigid water was much more fun than I expected and certainly was one of the many highlights of the trip!

-Aislinn

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