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SOI Arctic 2015 day 4: Itilleq and Sisimiut, Greenland

The expedition is off to a great start! After leaving Kangerlussuaq last night, we sailed down the beautiful Sondrestrom Fjord and enjoyed some down time after a busy day of travel to recap on the ship before heading to bed at midnight (although it was still nice and light out!)

Today the expedition team awoke after their first night on the MS Ocean Endeavour to the beautiful surroundings of the Itilleq Fjord. Here, we enjoyed our first Zodiac landing at the peaceful community of Itilleq, population 250.

Students engaged in watercolour painting, interpretive hikes with our bird and mammal scientists, ice analysis, botany with Canadian Museum of Nature scientist Paul Sokoloff and even song writing! We even experienced our first sightings of humpbacks and seals!

After a late lunch, the team arrived in Sisimiut and enjoyed a hike down to a Dorset settlement. Tonight we set sail for Illulisat!

More to come on today’s adventures! In the meantime, don’t forget to explore our photos, videos and blogs throughout the journey (more coming soon!) and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for regular updates!

July 30: A student holds a piece of sea kelp in Itelliq Fjord, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Emi Kingan

Hong Kong, China

The first two days on the expedition started off in Ottawa. We were treated to museum tours, a visit to Parliament Hill and a zip-lining course. It was an exciting time which was increased even more by the scorching heat; however, I could feel something was missing… it was the arctic soil beneath our feet. Finally, stepping onto Greenlandic soil was mind blowing. The journey that day started off with an early wake-up and a long plane ride, but, the breathtaking views and fresh air at the end of it all was worth every minute spent getting there. The Greenlandic ice cap in the distance reminded me of the last time I had seen snow, which was around seven years ago, and the ice cap also represented the amazing journey I had begun with Students on Ice. Arriving to and embarking on the Ocean Endeavor, I couldn’t wait to unpack, explore and get on deck. It was cold and I was thankful for packing the additional few layers, but the view awed me. Going down Sondrestrom fjord, rocks and mountains followed us throughout the journey on both sides. Fred later told us the rocks ranged from 1.5 to 3.5 billion years old. The patterns found on some of the rocks were symmetrical and some of the rock formations look more charred than others. I hope to discover the reasons behind these observations by asking geology experts on board. My interest in the rocks made me late for dinner, so I wasn’t able to eat with the friends I had made during the previous few days. I was still unfamiliar with a few people on the ship, so I decided to sit with people I hadn’t yet met. The group came from various places in Northern Canada, and by talking with them I discovered a lot about their culture, during which some information surprised me. Before this trip I had little knowledge on life in the North. I discovered that many teenagers would drop out of school before graduation, so some years the graduating class would have only less than 20 students, or in some places even no graduates. This shocked me because I’m so used to going to an international school in Hong Kong with around 120 students in a graduating class, and where it is not normal to drop out. However, I really began to respect and admire the students I was talking to, as they continued their education although a large number had stopped. I also asked about life in the winter with the darkness. I’ve read about depression and suicide in Scandanavian countries during the winter season, so I assumed it would be depressing for those in Northern Canada as well. However, the response I got was the opposite to this assumption.

-Emi 

July 30: Dominique enjoys the spongy moss, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Alice Xu

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

Wow. This journey has been absolutely incredible so far, and I cannot wait to be able to share it with everyone. Every plant, every breath of the Arctic air, and every person on this expedition came with a purpose and with a story that is so unique to that person. Since getting on the plane to Greenland, I have not been able to contain my excitement. I’ve been silently screaming and making high pitched squeaks on the plane (mostly from playing the ukulele and trying to sing along with the engine humming in the background), and been going around to try to get to know everyone better. There are people here from Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, China, Monaco, and so many more countries that I would’ve never thought could be gathered in such a small place. Even the people from Canada are widespread, with my cabinmate being from Nunavut!

Today was the first official day of being able to explore Greenland, and the scenery here is beyond what I could have ever imagined. All the photos of Greenland, all the stories that I have heard — none of that compares to what I was able to witness. The fog that covered the landscape today only made the scenery more mystical and magical.

Being from B.C., it can be hard to see past each hill and each mountain because of the tall trees that cover them. But in Greenland — an area with no trees, no people, and no buildings — we can see as far as the fog lets us. I still cannot believe that I have been to Greenland, the largest island in the world and the most beautiful place I have ever been to. I wish we were able to spend more time in each location,but the interactive workshop I attended (Geology and Landscape) was able to adequately fulfill my desire to explore and learn more about the land.

The ship looks like any typical cruise ship — but Students On Ice has the entire boat to ourselves, and everyone passes each other with smiles and hellos, making the boat delightfully friendly. I’ve never been able to interact with an Inuk before, and here I am, on a boat filled with dozens of the best people I could ever meet in the world, meeting so many different cultures. All the adults here are so experienced in their individual fields and have so much to share about their experiences, and the food (THE FOOD) is seriously the best. I could not be happier about this trip that I went on. Even as it just started, it has changed my life and I cannot wait to soak in more of the Arctic.

Thank you to everyone who has made this trip possible for me — my parents, the Leacross Foundation, and of course, Students on Ice! I already feel like I am part of a family and wish I could stay on this boat forever.

See you all soon,

-Alice

July 30: students on a ridge above Itteliq Fjord, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Matthew Newell Ottawa, Ontario, Canada   

Greetings from Greenland! I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to write my first entry, the staff was just finishing getting our laptops set up on the ship, but I plan to update daily. Alright, where do I begin? How about we start with what I’ve been up to. We spent the first couple of days getting to know each other in Ottawa, learning about everybody and bonding (through ziplining of course). I met lots of great people from all around the world in those few days. I met a girl all the way from China, another girl from Japan, some guys from Monaco and many more people from all over the place! On Wednesday morning, we got up at 5:15 a.m. and headed to the airport, where we caught our (private) jet in our own Students on Ice terminal. We then had a four and a half hour flight to Iqaluit, where we refueled, and then an hour and a half flight to Greenland. Before I continue, let me just say that the view from our jet was INCREDIBLE. Once we landed in Greenland, we took a tour up to a massive ice-cap and a gorgeous lake, surrounded by hills and valleys. After our tour, we rode zodiacs up to our (gigantic) ship and got settled in. That night we cruised through a fjord that I have forgotten the name of at the moment and I watched the sun begin to fall behind some picturesque snowy mountains (at about 11:30 p.m.). This morning we made a stop to explore Greenland, using our zodiacs to reach land. The terrain was rough and the surrounding sceneries were unlike anything I had ever seen. The beauty of Greenland can’t be explained with words, so I apologize for being unable to paint a clear picture for you. I am super excited for the days to come and I can’t wait to explore more of Greenland and then Baffin Island! Ps. To Dad: So far I have taken just over 250 photos, so don’t worry about me not taking enough! To Auntie Valerie: #shoutout To my family and friends: I miss you all very much, but don’t worry, I’m having fun! Love you Mom, Dad and Meg!

-Matthew

Vivian Lee

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada   

Despite being on the Students On Ice Expdition for a little more than three days, this is my first official blog post. I’m currently sitting on the Ocean Endeavour in a room we call “Hub”. Looking out the rectangular windows with soft round edges, I see a canvas-like image. The water looks murky white and the landscape covered in a thick layer of fog the same shade. There’s a ship nearby; the National Geographic vessel; which was docked at Greenland when we first boarded the Ocean Endeavour. Students on Ice seems a little more like Students at Sea, as Geoff the founder has pointed out himself. Drifting, sailing, moving at a speed that causes our body to shake when we lay flat on our one-person beds.

I’m playing a little bit of a catch-up with this blogging business, so excuse my non-chronological stream of words. Colleen, I hope you are reading this!

July 30: photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Taia Steward

Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

Yesterday we woke up at 5:15 so we could get on the flight to Greenland! Our flight went from Ottawa to Iqaluit to refill the plane with fuel. Then we went from Iqaluit to Greenland!

Greenland was not asc old as I was expecting it to be. When we got off the plane we got on small busses that took us for a little tour. All scenery was beautiful! One of my favorite things I saw on the tour was the golf course, it was interesting because I am used to seeing big green golf courses but this one was almost all brown.

After our tour we finally got on the ship. The ship is way fancier than I was expecting. All the rooms are great and the food is amazing! The best part of the ship is the deck. From the deck you can see all the wonderful scenery around us and when it is not too cold it is a nice place to sit and talk with everyone. So far the SOI journey has been great! I cant wait for all the rest of the fun activities planned!

-Taia

Andrew Fitzsimmons
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

For my first blog I will give a quick recap of the past two days of our journey. Yesterday, July 29th, the we awoke early and headed to the airport to begin our joruney to Greenland. We boarded the plane and began our flight. Much to our surprise we made a stop in Iqaluit, Nunavut, the territory’s capital city. Sadly, we did not leave the plane in Iqaluit as it was merely a  refeuling stop, but it was still exciting to see the famed bright yellow airport.

When the plane lifted off again, we were off on a short jaunt to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland our arrival point.  After landing we quickly were rushed through Greenlandic customs and onto ice trucks on our way to the Greenlandic Ice Cap, the world’s second largest, and the largest in the Northern hemisphere.  Along the way we passed the world’s most northernly golf course at which the PGA tour could stop. The truck also gave us ample opportunity to see sites such as the mangled remains of a plane crash from the 1960s, and some of the only trees in Greenland. They were planted for an experiment in the 1970s and only a few remain standing today.

Soon we left the ice trucks at Long Lake and gazed upon the glacier in the distance. Huddled not to far away were researchers from Fairbanks, Alaska, but we were freely allowed to explore the area around Long Lake for a short time. I chose to begin exploring and snapping photos. In time I discovered, thanks to the help of some Inuit and Greenlanders, some blueberries which were quite delicious. Sadly this was merely a short taste of what Greenland has to offer as we were gathered up onto the ice trucks and sent off to meet our vessel the Ocean Endeavour.

Soon we boarded the ship, it is quite an impressive ship. It is full of luxury amenities such as a spa, sauna, gift shop, and more. However, we will not be partaking in any of those indulgances as we sailed down the Sondre Stromfjord.  One indulgence we did partake in though was the amazing dinner service on offer which included roasted duck breast, lemon crusted tilapia, and cheesecake. Following dinner we had a presentation of Greenlandic traditional music by Nanok, and a musical performance by Sarah Harmer. After these wonderful songs  we were off to bed to rest for the day ahead. This day set an amazing tone for the rest of the trip.

In the morning we arose early to set off on zodiacs to the Itilleq Fjord where we had our first extensive time on Greenland’s tundra. I had the luxury of taking an amazing photography workshop taught me to work with many features of my camera such as aperture, exposure, and composition. The low mountains which surrounded us offered a multitude of great snapshot opportunities such as macro photos of flowers, lichen, mosses, and seaweeds. Then we took wide angle shots of the massive vistas infront of us and also worked on portraits which were made all the better by the mist which rolled over the mountains and beach below us.

I was lucky enough to try eating mountain sorrel, a slightly tart, slighlty sour plant directly picked from the tundra by famed Inuit artist Jolly. Following this, Tyson from Pond Inlet, Nunavut built a small but strong Inukshuk to cap off our visit to the Itilleq Fjord. A place I hope to return to sooner rather than later.

After watching the Inukshuk building, we headed to the boat to have our lunch buffet. I quickly ate a lunch and quickly ran to write this blog which was interrupted by the opportunity to see some seals swimming off in the distance. I have yet to see many animals but I have now seen the seals, some birds, and an arctic hare in the distance. Others on the trip have been lucky enough to see whales and even musk ox. Hopefully soon we will  be seeing animals such as narwhals, polar bears, bowhead whales, muskoxen, and more!

– Andrew

July 30: Daniele searches for specimens with Fletcher, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Myca Nakashook
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada

Hi everyone back home, I am having such an awesome time here!! We’re in Greenland!! I’m sorry I haven’t had time to blog, I’ve been pretty busy, I have been writing in my journal which is good because I want to remember every second of this trip. I am glad I can be a part of this trip, where I can learn new things, meet new people and learn how different our cultures are! At the same time I miss everyone very much!!! Hi Aya, Babe, Aasivuhh, mom and the whole family! Just eleven days and we’ll be together again! Stay safe and have a good week away from me 😉 Don’t worry about me because the people here are taking really good care of us. I love you guys!

It’s so awesome but challenging being away from home and being in this BIG ship. Today we had workshops and I learned a lot about plants. There were these plants that were so pretty, and we’ll be pressing plants and putting them in scrap books which is sooo cool! People here are so passionate! I’ve met so many people from all around the world; from Hong Kong, China, Japan, USA, Greenland and all around Canada! So far, my first time being away from home is crazy! Greenland is so beautiful and the mountains are so amazing, they look just like mountains back home and everything else just reminds me of home.

-Myca

Petra Brown
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Since I have not yet been able to blog I will begin with a recap of the last few days to get to where we are now. Our first afternoon we went to the Museum of Nature and even though I have been there many times, I am still learning new things. Starting off in Ottawa at Carleton felt a little strange, coming from Ottawa it felt as if it wasn’t actually happening just yet. It didn’t really feel real untill we took off from the Ottawa airport on our way to Greenland with a stop in Iqualuit to re-fuel. On the plane, I had a great time playing cool new card games with the people I was sitting with as well as being able to teach them some of my own. Coming in to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland we were greeted by beautiful views of mountains and bright blue lakes. The weather was beautilful. Even though we did not have time to make it all the way to the ice cap we were still able to enjoy a quick and bumpy bus ride along a small dirt road (yes that’s smaller than the cottage road) in tundra busses to a very beautiful lookout point where we were given some time to look around and explore. We had some breathtaking views of the tip of the Greenland icecap and the mountains in a valley overlooking a lake. After the first zodiak ride and only one accidental life jacket inflation, we finally reached the boat. The boat is very big and I am looking forward to exploring it and finding the best places for looking out across the water.

Walking on tundra ground for the first time was so cool. It was so springy and squishy and very comfortable to lie down on, though I would recomend wearing full rain gear cause it was also very wet. I learnt a lot about all of the different arctic plants in Greenland and collected a whole bunch for pressing.

Now I find myself enjoying a very creative mix of throat singing and beat boxing. Heading out on deck now to look at some seals.

Hey Mom, Dad and whoever else reading.

All for now. See you soon.

– Petra

July 30: Geoff outlines workshop choices at Itteliq Fjord, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on


Aislinn Mumford

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Today is Day 4 of my Students on Ice expedition! Already this has been an amazing experience for me, and we have only just begun.

The trip began when I arrived in the Ottawa airport and was met by a few members of the SOI staff. After exchanging my money and meeting a couple other students, we drove to Carleton University where we would be staying for the first two nights of the trip. The dorms were much more spacious than I was expecting, and my three roommates and I each had our own bedrooms.

Soon after my arrival at the university, the whole SOI group set off for the Canadian Museum of Nature. We toured the ornate museum and began to get to know each other. A fantastic dinner at the museum followed the tour and was a great start for the expedition.

The next day was spent getting to know the beautiful city of Ottawa. After breakfast at Carleton, we split into our pod groups to see more of Canada’s capital. Parliament was the first stop, and a scavenger hunt helped us see as much as possible before our next stop, which was an adventure park complete with ziplines and a high ropes course. The course was both fun, challenging, and a great way to spend an afternoon.

An early start began our day of travel yesterday, and we boarded our charter flight to Greenland at around eight in the morning. The flight was about four hours long with a stop in Iqaluit to refuel. When we finally arrived at Greenland, we boarded tour busses to take us to see the icecap from a beautiful lookout point. On the way, I saw the most northern golf course in the world, wreckage from a plane that crashed in 1968, and some of Greenland’s gorgeous landscape. The view from the lookout point was breath-taking, and the flora gave off a pleasant, sweet aroma. The bus then took us back to a dock on Sondrestrom Fjord to board the Ocean Endeavour, the ship where we would spend the next twelve days. When I arrived at the ship via zodiac, I was happily surprised by the elegance of the ship. My cabin is also very nice, and I was more than glad to spend the night there.

Today, we made a stop on the side of the fjord and were able to explore. I spotted fairy shrimp in a very small Arctic pond and took many pictures of the unique landscape. I was also able to attend a geology workshop where I learned about how glaciers influenced the formation of the landscape that surrounded me. Just now, I had a great lunch and am happily taking advantage of the first oppourtunity I have had to blog. I hope to blog again soon, and cannot wait to learn more about Greenland and the entire Arctic Circle.

-Aislinn

July 30: Emi and Daniele during a workshop, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Chase Holwell
Naine, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

Day One: As I was leaving St. John’s on a plane (WestJet, for those who are curious) I finally realized that my journey was actually beginning. It had been almost surreal, landing in Ottawa to be greeted by the staff in such a large airport. So after being introduced to Todd, Peter and the others, we headed to Carleton University to drop off our luggage. Then it was off to the Canadian Museum of Nature for a tour of the exhibits on Fossils, Marine Animals, and Mammals, along with the Animals Inside Out exhibit afterwards. Geoff briefed us all in the theatre where we learned our plan for the following few days. Supper was on the third floor in a conference hall followed up by our return to Carleton. I was brought to my dorm room, which I shared with three others – Nathan, Mick, and Pheonix.

Day Two: The day was extremely hot. It was thirty-eight degrees outside and very humid. That combined really well with my first activity, a trip to Camp Fortune, where I experienced a course consisting of obstacles suspended in the air, rope ladders and, of course, a finale of four ziplines. I almost completed the full course, being second-to-last, but myself and Brett were on a time limit so we skipped to the four ziplines instead of having to go up a ladder or something similar. After that we went to Parliment Building for a difficult scavenger hunt. I’d like to add that each day ends with a briefing of the next, so I don’t have to write that down.

Day Three: Since I’m on a time crunch, I’ll condense this day into a smaller paragraph. I got up at 4:30 and left Carleton at 5:15, bound for the airport on a bus. A long wait took place in which we all got really tired but finally got aboard later on. The flight was to Iqaluit for a fuel stop and then off to Kangerlassuaq, where we had a guided tour. We would’ve gone to the ice cap, but the refuelling processtook too long (as Geoff says, “Flexibilty is Key!”). We boarded the Ocean Endeavour via Zodiac, and began the long journey down Sondre Strom Fjord.

Day Four: Today, the day I am writing this whole entry, was our first Zodiac Landing. We got off on the shore and got the chance to roam around and take pictures, and even ate plants and berries. The students were split off into different workshops that involved different topics. I went on the Plankton Planet workshop hosted by Grant along with Madison, Justin, and Paulie. We collected a sample of water, went back to the ship and filtered the plankton out of it, then prepared it to be sent off to France. So that ends the day so far, and hopefully I’ll get to blog the rest of them. Cheers!

-Chase

July 30: Alishah searches for specimens during workshop, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Michal Leckie

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I haven’t blogged yet, so I am going to briefly recap the previous days’ highlights. In Ottawa, we went to Camp Fortune where we did the Aerial Park. I’ve done it before, but the circuit we did was especially challenging. There was one obstacle where there were planks of wood hanging vertically from a cable. We were attached to another cable, thankfully, and attached to the planks of wood, there were rock climbing holds. Now even though I logically knew that I could fall and I would be caught by the rope, I couldn’t let myslelf fall. I finally made it across. I live in Ottawa, so it felt weird to be staying so close to home but not at home.

Early Wednesday morning, we left for the airport to board our charter flight. We made a fuel stop in Iqualuit. Once in Kangerlussuaq, we took a bus ride to see the surroundings. It was a very bumpy ride on gravel roads, but it felt great to finally be in Greenland. We stopped to explore where we could see the ice cap, which was gorgeous. Then we drove to the port where we boarded the zodiacs to our ship. The zodiac ride was quite calm. The water was very murky due to the glacier run off full of minerals.

Once on the ship, we took in the scene. It was incredible looking out into the fjord. After hot days in Ottawa, the cool breeze was wonderful. I was not expecting the ship to be so fancy! We had menus for dinner and napkins folded into pyramid-like things.In the evening, we had a special presentation by Sarah Harmer. She sang a beautiful song. It took some time getting used to the constant vibration of the ship while sleeping. However, the beds were very cozy, and weirdly warmer than the dorm rooms at Carleton.

There was early morning yoga this morning, which was great. I was feeling very tight beforehand. Breakfast was buffet-style. While eating in the dining room, we could look out the many windows and see birds skating on the water, perhaps looking for fish. We had our first zodiac landing this morning! It has been very foggy today. At one point when we were on land, we could hardly see our boat! We took some time to explore. The ground was mostly moss and rock (granite, we learned). The moss was so squishy, it felt like a trampoline (Ben, you would have liked it). We then split into groups for different sessions. I chose botany. We learned all about the different lichens and plants, both vascular and non-vascular. We also stood and took in the scenary and took photographs.

Afterwards, we had a delicious lunch. We now have some free time, where I am blogging. We just saw some seals! Since I didn’t blog the last couple days, I have a fun fact from each day.

Day 1: Leather Back Turtles have spikes down their throats so they can eat fish without them swimming back. However, this also means that if they eat plastic bags, they can’t throw them up (learned at the Canadian Museum of Nature).

Day 2: Caribiners are clipped so one faces one way, and the other faces the other way so that if you accidentally squeeze your caribiners, they won’t both come off.

Day 3: The Ocean Endeavour (ship we are on) is much larger than other SOI ships in the past. We also have many more students on the ship this year than in the past.

Today: Some plants (called acidophiles) prefer to in soil with a pH below 7 (neutral). The stop today had acidic soil due to the underlying rock.

Special note: Hi family and Amelia! See you very soon.

-Michal

July 30: Erinn treks across the tundra near Itteliq, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

July 30: photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Grace King
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Somehow by some means of fate or chance or divine intervention, I have managed to find myself on an expedition to the Arctic with 112 other students and 80 staff. Only three days ago, I was in Ottawa, lying on a dorm bed. This morning, I was in Greenland, lying in a bed of moss, facing the sky and simply being still – the air has a scent you can’t quite put your finger on, like something between sweet-smelling soap and earth.
I am constantly asking myself questions. Today, lying still in that little corner of the Itilleq fjord, I thought: where am I, really? This is not an easy question to answer; it is not as simple as “Greenland.” The answer is older and more complex than you or I will ever know.

I could stretch and stretch to the corners of the Earth and I still wouldn’t be able to grasp the land directly beneath me. Is this expedition a bond built between the Earth and I so that we become one, or is its purpose to separate us as different bodies?

I do not need to know the answers to these questions. I can simply acknowledge that they are there.

In my creative writing workshop this morning with Sarah Harmer and James Raffen, they made us question our presence on this mass of rock on which we sat, our mass pushing into the rock which pushes back with billions of years in history. We form our own special symbiosis. These rolling land forms and treeless expanses are blowing my mind because I am carrying so much and Greenland is carrying so little – not meaning plant life, of which Greenland is bountiful, but meaning unnecessary weight, excess. I am a traveller carrying more than just my backpack. However, I think I need my abstract load, because in that weight I carry a special person’s smile and the gentle pressure of my bed at home and the light that hits my backyard in St. John’s. I am happy to hold such things within me – as Sarah and James said, being in a place like Greenland is not always an experience about understanding the land but it is about understanding something within ourselves that is triggered by the land.

Greenland is a playground of huge, rolling moss-covering hills with no trees. There is something about it that is so beautifully plain, an eerie quality that would seemingly turn your thoughts to your own self, but I’m finding my thoughts are filled with people: the hundreds of incredible people I’ve met already on this expedition, but also the people I left behind at home.

-Grace

July 30: Students enjoy a songwriting workshop with JR and Sarah Harmer, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Dakshita Jagota
St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

So the blogs are finally set up on the ship and this is my first day blogging. The experience so far has been so so so amazing and it is only our second day on the ship which isn’t over yet. I am super excited for what the rest of the expedition has to bring. I can’t even describe in words how awesome the activities and the people have been so far. The staff, the students, the crew members all are super super amazing and I am looking forward to spending time with them and getting to know more about them. I don’t even know where to begin. Well, I arrived in Ottawa on Monday and was surprised to see how nice the residency was at Carlton U. It was sooo hot in Ottawa, so much hotter than St. John’s.

On our first day (in Ottawa) we had the big orientation and the official opening evening of Students on Ice. We went to the museum of nature for a guided tour, which I have to say was awesome. Even though it was my second time at the museum, I learned so many new things and got to see the museum from a different point of view. That evening, we had some awesome speakers and had a super fancy dinner at the museum. Then we had a briefing by Geoff and went off to carlton to get some sleep.

Day 2 was filled with so much adventure. After breakfast we had a few different education sessions to get to know the staff and then we left to go to camp fortune an aerial park in Quebec. I finally got to do some ziplining which was terrifying at first but awesome when I completed the course. In the afternoon we got to do scavenger hunt at the parliament hill.

We had our flight on Day 3 to Greenland and got to take chartered plane which was my first time. It was a really unique airport experience. No security, no nothing. It was awesome. After when we got to Greenland in Sondrestrom Fjord, we took a bus to the ice caps and got to see the ice caps from a distance. It was a breath-taking and spectacular view from there. After that we got on the ship, which is huge and super fancy. It’s so much better than what I expected. We had a super fancy supper on the ship and some talks on Greenland after that. Next morning, so today, I got up early (#feelingaccomplished) to do some yoga. It was really relaxing and woke me up. Then we went to the Itteliq Fjord and explored the land. It reminded me of Newfoundland as it was super foggy and hilly. The view from here, again, was awesome! I don’t even know how to put it in words. Then I did a workshop on Geology and Landscape of Greenland with was really interesting. This trip is most definitely once in a lifetime experience and I absolutely can not wait to share my experience! Also I want to thank RDC forgiving me a scholarship which enabled me to experience this amazing opportunity! 

-Dakshita

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Mick Jefferies
Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Canada

Wow. Wow. Wow. There are really no words that I can use to do justice for this trip. The expedition is truly amazing, and it’s only Day Four.

So far I’ve learned so much about so many things. The expedition team is so diverse, so it makes for very interesting and insightful conversations. I am in awe with the staff and educators, all so passionate about their job and about educating us youth on things that matter. The students are phenomenal… Just conversing with them and learning about their interests, hobbies and goals for life is inspiring. Some of the things that the people here have already accomplished blows my mind.

Today I woke up at 6:00 AM. I wanted to get up, get ready and drink my coffee out on deck taking in the beautiful view of Greenland. I’m trying my best to cut down on shower time, to conserve water. This morning I was able to get in and out in about five minutes! Is it sad that this is an accomplishment for me? Out on deck this morning was amazing. Coffee in my hand, and relaxing in the surprisingly comfortable deck chairs, I was at peace.

The waters were very calm today, which made for a very comfortable zodiac landing. We landed on a beautiful clearing. We had about an hour to explore and take in our surroundings. I hiked up far on a hill and then found a quiet place to sit back and just relax. I was alone, happy and peaceful. It’s been a while since I had an opportunity to be outside, without technology and to clear my mind from everything and just take in what was right in front of me. It was…amazing. We were given soooooooooo many options for workshops, and it was very difficult to choose just one, however we were told that all workshops will be offered throughout the expedition. Eventually I decided to attend Joe’s workshop with the underwater ROV. It was so cool to be able to control the ROV ourselves and explore the ocean floor. At first it was difficult, but after time we got it! It was such an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to what will come next.

So long for now pals,

-Mick

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015

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

Frederika Giorcelli
Monaco

We’ve been in Greenland for two days, and things are going so fast. Feels like yesterday we were leaving for Frankfurt, and we’re now navigating through the Arctic pole. The two days we spent in Ottawa taught us things that might be usual to Canadian people, but are new to us. I feel like we have learned twice as much as the other students here. As soon as we got on the plane to Greenland, we knew it was getting real. We had two stops today, one where we did workshops (and made amazing photos) such as picking up plants and trying to name them all, or as Justin did, fishing plancton, it was a great first expedition. The second one was in a little town (not trying to spell the name because I might offend locals really bad) where we walked around and learned so many things I never though could be, and I LOVED IT. I can’t wait for the days ahead of us, even though times flies.

(Maman, je respire, je mange et je dors, le reste du temps, je vis tout simplement. mi manchi e ti amo)

-Frederika

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Megan Dicker
Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

We are finally in Greenland! The first few days of the expedition were in Ottawa, where we were greeted warmly at the airport. While in Ottawa we went to the Canadian Museum of Nature, Camp Fortune (ziplining), and got to know each other! I could not zipline – I climbed the ladder then climbed back down. The height was too overwhelming for me! I photographed some of my friends on the course and soaked in the sun. The weather in Ottawa was beautiful. The sun shone brightly and gave us bittersweet temperatures of 35+ degrees.

Yesterday we escaped the heat and flew to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. We had to make a fuel stop in Iqaluit before we arrived in Greenland. The view from the plane was breathtaking, with icebergs in the distance and beautiful green mountains. Once we landed in Kangerlussuaq, we went on a bus tour in the area. I saw an Arctic hare (ukaliq) during the ride. The polar ice cap was in sight and many photos were taken. We left Kangerlussuaq and boarded the ship.

The Ocean Endeavour is so elegant! A few whales were spotted this morning and some seals also. I did not see any wildlife, except for some sea birds. This morning we participated in our first “landing”, where we left the ship and went to shore. We explored the area, snapped the landscape, and divided into groups. Many presentations were available for us. I took part in sewing caribou fur to make juggling balls with Annie Petalaussie and Mary Simon as our instructors. The Arctic weather is definitely present! It was a chilly morning.

I am looking forward to visiting several communities here in Greenland and getting to know the other students. I have met many wonderful people from around the world. There’s so much more to explore and learn, I will keep you updated. This is such a wonderful expedition!

-Megan

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Henry Daniel
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

To be completely truthful the first day of Students on Ice I was nerves and a little scared but as the day came to an end I was fine. After meeting lots of people I became more comfortable because the people were nice and very interesting. Being on this trip makes me miss my friends and family but in the mean time I embrace all the students as my temporary family.

The staff on students on ice are so friendly and very funny. It makes me want to be a part of the team and give back. All the staff are part of our big family and take their time to ask us questions about us and I find this very awesome. Geoff is the one we should all be thanking because with out him and his passion for adventure and his connections Students on Ice wouldn’t be possible. I think Geoff is Amazing!!! And he seems to never be tired or stressed – he’s a working machine and he inspires me to be and do something great in my life.

I would like to say “Hi MOM! I miss you and I’m safe so don’t worry – and i miss marly too <3“ I miss my girlfriend but she will be fine. I would like to thank Geoff and all the Staff who made this expedition possible for me and all of these amazing people thanks again. -Henry

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Mehra Balsara
Bormanville, Ontario, Canada

This whole trip has been an experience of “firsts.” The SOI Expedition was my first independent trip away from friends and family, my first trip to the Arctic, and was the first time I have felt a strong connection with the Earth.

Like many people in our western society, I have taken for the planet for granted. This was not an intentional action, but through learning from the SOI educators and staff, I have begun to notice a few of nature’s subtle intricacies. Today we took a trip to Itteliq Fjord, and I chose to look for some Arctic animals and birds. We didn’t specificially see any species close-up, but with two SOI educators to guide us, we still had the opportunity to take a beautiful nature walk around the moss and lichen covered Greenlandic rocks. This allowed me notice things like animal scat, animal burrows, different types of feathers, and many other things. This simple experience was a realization for me, suddenly Greenland wasn’t just a pretty place to look at, I began to understand how important this habitat is for the species that live there. I knew all of these facts before the trip, but I never truly internalized them. This is just one of the many examples of what makes this trip, a once and a life time opportunity.

I hope that throughout my SOI Expedition, I will continue to experience many “firsts,” and eventually develop a more well rounded perspective on the environment.

-Mehra

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

July 30: photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Tyson Angnetsiak
Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

HI MOM! This is an amazing trip! We started off the SOI expedition very well. We made it to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland from Iqaluit, Nunavut within two hours. Also we rode on the Tundra buses for a little tour, going to the Greenland Ice Cap. And finally, we boarded on the ship called ‘Ocean Endeavour’. I was the first student to hop on the ship. So far, so good!

On July 30th, we had our first landing on the zodiacs, and it was fantastic! But as we were landing on the coastline of Greenland called Itteliq Fjord, I recognize that land from before. It had high hills, lots of flat rocks on the coastlines, and it looks likes a beautiful place to camp with our family and friends. We spent the time in the fjord for hours and I was soaking it all in: I did sewing making a Caribou skin juggling ball.

As we were heading back to the ship, what I did for myself to remember of who was here on this fjord, I placed an Inukshuk right near the coastline. This was a way to share my Inuit culture, and to give a lot of respect to this land. Placing an Inukshuk is an old Inuit tradition of marking the land: what was there, or who was there. It is also used to mark an Arctic animal (Caribou, Arctic Hare, etc.), sea creatures (fish, seals, etc.), or either a place to go camping and have tea.

-Tyson

July 30: Pat teaches a photography workshop, photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

July 30: Linda teaching her art workshop, photo (c) Lee Narraway #SOIArctic2015 #art #Arctic A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Lyric Oblin Moses
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Things have been quite hectic these past couple of days trying to get settled into our new home for the next two weeks, the Ocean Endeavour. Now that we’ll be having consistent routines (kinda) and blog stations set up, blogging will become a regular thing.

All the places we’ve visited so far have been beautiful and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the Leacross Foundation for their generous scholarship, the D’Arcy McGee High School staff for their major role in the application process, my family for their support, and Maureen and Mary-Ellen for their help and recommendation. Thank you all!

The ship layout and crew make this experience feel more like a cruise than an expedition. We have been greeted by such a warm welcome from the ship crew. I am most impressed by how formal dinner is. We receive a four course meal with menu options ranging from duck for dinner to “sweet temptations” for dessert. There are approximately 7 utensils laid out on the table for each person and the waiters and waitresses wear bowties! Our first dinner really set the tone for how fancy and welcoming this ship is. Our main room for briefings, presentations, casual hangouts, and recaps is in a room called “The Nautilus,” which is nicknamed “The Hub.” This is also where the blogging station is set up. This blog is our only means of communicating with the outside world for the next 2 weeks. Everything is sent via satellite to the head office in Gatineau, which then posts all of the updates.

We just departed from Sisimiut, Greenland. This is where we had the opportunity to walk on the land where the Arctic’s Indigenous Peoples have lived and thrived for over 4500 years. There are archeological finds such as old tools and remains of huts that are left close to the shore. The town itself reminds me of the Cree communities in Northern Quebec, but with lots of rock and bright primary colours and without any trees. The lack of trees here is its most distinctive trait and I have great respect for the people that lived off the land for thousands of years. It’s also really quiet. I found a spot to sit on a hill and if it wasn’t for the sounds of people talking in the group you couldn’t hear anything, including the wind. It’s weird to be able to see everything in all directions and not see movement or hear anything.

-Lyric

 

Cameron Flooren
Fort Vermillion, Alberta, Canada

Hi family and friends! This trip is absolutely amazing! The trip from Ottawa to Greenland took quite awhile but we finally got here! My seat was by the exit on the plane, so I got extra leg room and a window view. I couldn’t sleep because I wasn’t tired even though I know I should have. We had to stop in Iqaluit to fuel up and switch crew, and we heard a little Students on Ice story which was kinda cool. Then we took off for Greenland!!!! finally right? Its taken a while but the wait was worth it. I love it here in Greenland! Sure we didn’t get to see the ice cap because of a flight delay but at least we tried! We got on the ship in the afternoon and set sail. It was such a beautiful view, I felt like I was four years old again and with a new toy! This ship is quite amazing, lots of rooms and a fancy dining room where we are served dinner by waiters!

-Cameron

 

Meghan Flood
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

So fjords. Fjords are pretty cool. I mean, I already knew that, but now that I’ve travelled down the longest one in the world, I can truly say that they are unbelievable. First of all, ‘fjord’ has to be my favourite word ever. Second of all, fjords are my favourite glacial landscape feature. It’s unreal to imagine that thousands of years ago a massive hunk of ice was scraping along the rock and carved out a valley. Glaciers are truly amazing, they can move mountains!

It’s the second day of the expedition, or fourth if you’re counting the days in Ottawa. I only have another ten or so days on this phenominal boat with these phenominal people in this phenominal setting. The people are truly amazing. Talking to everyone is maybe one of the best things about this trip- learning people’s stories, finding out about their interests and where they’re from. I meet new people every day and surprisingly I can remember most of their names.

Having no internet is allowing me to enjoy writing in my journal and on the blog. Earlier today I found a great little nook by the window in the lab and sat with a cup of coffee and my journal for what seemedlike forever. It’s not as great as my nook at home, but I can definitely see myself spending a lot of time there, overlooking the water as we travel up the coast of Greenland.

On the agenda today we had a surprise stop in Sisimiut in order to get supplies. Its a great town of 6000 or so people in a beautiful setting. It was cloudy while we were there, and it’s still cloudy now, but earlier the sun was peeking through and reflecting off the huge sloping cliffs on the other side of the bay. The cliffs rose up into the clouds, and I can only imagine they rise for a ways before peaking. These cliffs are billions of years old, as are most of the rock we have seen so far. Everything here is grey with little patches of deep green grass. It looks like BC a bit, if the hills were higher and if there were trees. Being above the tree line is strange, coming from a province with giant old trees. The thing I like to do best is spot the features left over by glaciers; the roche moutonees, the erratics, the striations, fjords, and everything else. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the arctic as the expedition progresses. It’s truly breathtaking.

-Megan

 

Andrew Fitzsimmons
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

For my first blog I will give a quick recap of the past two days of our journey. Yesterday, July 29th, the we awoke early and headed to the airport to begin our joruney to Greenland. We boarded the plane and began our flight. Much to our surprise we made a stop in Iqaluit, Nunavut, the territory’s capital city. Sadly, we did not leave the plane in Iqaluit as it was merely a refeuling stop, but it was still exciting to see the famed bright yellow airport.

After the plane lifted off again we were off on a short jaunt to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, our arrival point. After landing we quickly were rushed through Greenlandic customs and onto ice trucks onour way to the Greenlandic Ice Cap, the world’s second largest, and the largest in the Northern hemisphere. Along the way we passed the world’s most northernly golf course at which the PGA tour could stop. The truck also gave us ample opportunity to see sites such as the mangled remains of a plane crash from the 1960s, and some of the only trees in Greenland. They were planted for an experiment in the 1970s and only a few remain standing today.

Soon we left the ice trucks at Long Lake and gazed upon the glacier in the distance. Huddled not to far away were researchers from Fairbanks, Alaska, but we were freely allowed to explore the area around Long Lake for a short time. I chose to began exploring and snapping photos. In time I discovered, thanks to the help of some Inuit and Greenlanders, some blueberries which were quite delicious. Sadly this was merely a short taste of what Greenland has to offer as we were gathered up onto the ice trucks and sent off to meet our vessel the Ocean Endeavour.

Soon we boarded the ship, it is quite an impressive ship. It is full of luxury amenities such as a spa, sauna, gift shop, and more. However, we will not be partaking in any of those indulgences as we sailed down the Sondrestrom Fjord.

One indulgence we did partake in though was the amazing dinner service on offer which included roasted duck breast, lemon crusted tilapia, and cheesecake. Following dinner we had a presentation of Greenlandic traditional music by Nanok, and a musical perfromance by Sarah Harmer. After these wonderful songs we were off to bed to rest for the day ahead. This day set an amazing tone for the rest of the trip. In the morning we arose early to set off on zodiacs to the Itelliq Fjord where we had our first extensive time on Greenland’s tundra. I had the luxury of taking an amazing photography workshop taught me to work with many features of my camera such as aperture, exposure, and composition. The low mountains which surrounded us offered a multitude of great snapshot opportunities such as macro photos of flowers, lichen, mosses, and seaweeds. Then we took wide angle shots of the massive vistas in front of us and also worked on portraits which were made all the better by the mist which rolled over the mountains and beach below us.

I was lucky enough to try eating mountain sorrel, a slightly tart, slightly sour plant directly picked from the tundra by famed Inuit artist Jolly. Following this Tyson from Pond Inlet, Nunavut built a small
but strong Inukshuk to cap off our visit to the Itelliq Fjord. A place I hope to return to sooner than later.

After watching the Inukshuk building, we headed to the boat to have our lunch buffet. I quickly ate a lunch and quickly ran to write this blog which was interuppted by the opportunity to see some seals swimming off in the distance. I have yet to see many animals but I have now seen the seals, some birds, and an arctic hare in the distance. Others on the trip have been lucky enough to see whales and even musk ox. Hopefully soon we will be seeing animals such as narwhals, polar bears, bowhead whales, muskoxen, and more!
-Andrew

 

Beatrice Chemtov
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Ottawa leg of our trip went by very quickly, and suddenly we are in Greenland! My favourite moment in Ottawa was when all 180 of us sat in a circle and said our name, where we came from, a quirky thing about ourselves and something heartfelt. Just hearing everyone speak made us know that we will all get along because we are all similar, in that we all really want to be here for the same reasons.

Yesterday, as we flew into Iqaluit, we saw mountain ranges with lakes and ice, which was extremely exciting because it really marked the beginning of our journey. Once we landed in Greenland,we got on buses headed towards the Greenland Ice Cap. We couldn’t go all the way, but where we stopped was breathtakingly beautiful. We were in front of a lake, surrounded by rocky mountains, and could see a massive wall of ice. All around our feet were small spongy mosses and lichens, and flowers. Its funny that people sometimes talk about how Greenland is all ice and Iceland is all green, but at least during the summer Greenland is very green. This morning we had the option to choose a workshop out of the many that were offered. I chose to sew traditional juggling balls out of caribou skin.

Originally I was most interested by the environmental side of this trip, but after meeting such a variety of people, I am excited to learn more about the culture. Today I also had a great conversation about whether art about the Arctic is worth making, because it’s environmental footprint could outweigh the positive effects of the art. It made me more motivated and inspired to bring what I’ve learned back home, to get the most out of this trip, and make it more than just a visit to the North. Anyways, I am having an amazing time, meeting a lot of very interesting people (both students and staff) and am excited to see what the coming week has stored for us. Even just writing this post has taken a while, because we keep running outside after hearing that there are birds, seals and even a whale outside the boat!

-Beatrice

 

Ashley Cummings
Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

It is only 1:30 in the afternoon and it feels like I have had a full day pass by. At 7:30, I woke up and headed to breakfast. Not long after breakfast, we went into the mud room to prepare for our first zodiac landing. We landed in Itilleq Fjord and spent the morning exploring the area. Tooma and I found patches of qunguliks and sat eating and telling people about them and getting them to try a leaf or stem. I took many pictures of the area and wrote poems with my poetry/songwriting workshop with JR and Sarah. Whenever I look out the window and truly think about where I am, why I’m here, and who I am, I get distinctly taken aback by the opportunities given to me and what a life changing and inspirational this journey is. I feel so fortunate and enveloped in a sense of home with the familiar looking mountains and and the plant life that I know well. We will be landing in Sisimiut later today and I am looking forward to what that will bring us. Hello to my friends and family who are reading this blog. I love you all! I look forward to doing some more blogging as we continue on this expedition.

– Ashley

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