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SOI Arctic 2015 day 6: Uummannaq, Greenland

Today the expedition visited the picturesque northwest Greenlandic town of Uummannaq. In Greenlandic, Uummannaq means “heart-shaped” after the twin-peaked mountain that is shaped like a heart. Located 590 north of the Arctic Circle, Uummannaq is one of the most northerly towns in Greenland.

Here is SOI Founder & Expedition Leader Geoff Green’s latest update about today’s visit to Uummannaq:

There are more than glaciers, icebergs and wildlife that instill lasting memories for Students on Ice. There are also the people of the north. Our welcome in Uummannaq was one of those most special days and as breathtaking as the Arctic Greenland scenery itself. Rugged mountain slopes some green with the summers vegetation contrasted with the sheer rock mountain slopes and fiord cliffs.

Like yesterday, a steady parade of icebergs, slipped by us as we sailed northward from Ilulissat to Uummannaq our last Greenland stop on expedition 2015.

Before we even reached shore, we knew this was going to be different. Schoolchildren dressed in traditional Greenlandic clothing welcomed us, each waving a Greenland flag.

We had barely got ashore before we were invited to a choir concert by a Greenlandic Men’s Choir who made a nine hour trip from Ilulissat in their own boat. Every pew in the 85 year old church was filled; SOI students and educators were joined by community people. The acoustics were incredible. The sound was so pure and clear ringing through the think stone walls of the old church. There were about three hundred of us transfixed by this pure harmony and spirit lifting music.

It felt as though suddenly we were all the same person, and there was no place else on earth except this tiny fishing village. The countless clusters white daisies that decorate every house and building around Uummannaq, almost as though they are part of the single wildflower garden added to the incredible day. So did the warm sunshine.

The church was just the beginning, in the school house a children’s choir from a Greenland orphanage preformed a mixture of traditional Greenlandic songs, then showed a remarkable flair for cross cultural and pan Inuit songs and dance. The choir had travelled and performed in Hawaii, Vancouver, Los Angeles and New York. They gave a wonderful Greenlandic interpretation of some of the best hits of Hawaiian songs, but perhaps the highlight was their ability to duplicate the songs and dances of the Canadian Mackenzie Delta Drummers and Dancers.

The Greenlandic singers and dancers are from an orphanage in Uummannaq. Their principal, Ann Andreasen said the school and everybody, is very remote, and they welcome opportunities with visitors adding, “We need people to share our happiness.”

Several SOI students returned the favour, two drummers from Iqaluit, Ashley Cumming and Tooma Laisa, performed a drum dance and song and then a combined throat boxing and throat singing with Brian Etoolook and singer Lindsey Evaloajuk. Three students and their teacher from Malaysia preformed a traditional thank you song for the Greenlanders.

On the education program, SOI educators launched the first three of a series of Arctic hour workshops, focused around the broad topic of Ice and its impacts and challenges in relation to the people, ecosystems and development. There were three simultaneous sessions: climate change and Impacts, Arctic Life support, and challenges in Exploration.

We talk a lot about karma on SOI and the whales influenced today’s Karma. Indeed several Fin whales, the second largest mammal on earth and several smaller Minke whales got the last word, by suddenly appearing at the bow of the ship and along both sides, before the panelists could conclude their final remarks. The lecture rooms emptied immediately as student rushed to get a better view or picture. Maybe a gentle reminder to presenters, when we talk about the Arctic, its climate and development issues, we had better not forget the wildlife.

In the expedition spirit,

Geoff Green

August 1: Uummannaq, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

 Krystyna Urbancic Kingston, Ontario, Canada Hello and good morning all who have decided to continuously check this blog for signs of life and stories, I appreciate the effort. This is the first time I’ve ever tried blogging, so bear with me as I delve into the most horrid, free thought flow paragraphs you have ever read. Here we go! (ps stay tuned, for I will try to be more consistent in my blog writing… in other words, I’ll actually do it ;3) What am I supposed to write about? The glaciers, the icebergs, the culture, the people—the animals, this list could go on forever. I guess it’s not so much to write about the where, as it is to describe it. They’ve given us the impossible task of describing something that is completely inexplicable. The English language is so restricted, we use the words “love” and “beautiful”, or even on occasion pull out “stunning” when what we see cannot be registered by the mind. But how do we really describe feelings? With these unsatisfactory words? I, therefore, will try to give you a mental image of what I believe is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what it actually looks like. Yesterday morning, we arrived in Disko bay (no, it was not as 80’s as I had hoped). All I have to say about it, is ICEBERGS. HOLY ICEBERGS. OH MY GOSH—– It was white, with glistening sides and incredible hues of blue peeking out through the cracks and undersides. The photos in National Geographic do not disappoint in terms of their accuracy of what is seen in person. The most mind boggling feature of the icebergs can rarely be captured on camera–the feeling you get when you realize how inferior you really are compared to these massive ice pieces, keyword “pieces”. Each iceberg, as huge as it already is, was previously part of an even LARGER sheet of ice, and that is an absolutely terrifying thought for a human; seeing things from the natural world that could completely destroy the little zodiac boat we’re on because we’re trying to take pictures of them! What a strange world. We feel the need to capture a moment, when the best form of memory I find is through smell. I love to put the camera down, close my eyes and just breathe in all the smells that are around me (sometimes this can be a bad idea, so be warned). Well, I know you really didn’t get much from this, but it is breakfast, and I need sustenance. Peace out for now! -Krystyna  

August 1: photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Nathan Pinto
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

For the past week I’ve been having an amazing time meeting all the staff and students attending the SOI expedition. Our first two days in Ottawa were amazing. I got to visit a museum that is not open to the public as well as visiting and taking a tour of the Parliment buildings. I can’t believe I got the chance to visit such interesting and breathtaking places. I learned many new things from both places. On the third day we left Carleton University and set off for Greenland. As soon as we landed we got to take a small tour on the way to the ship in which I learned a little bit of Greenland’s background. The sights were beautiful and surreal. I made sure to take lots of photos so I could show you guys back in Mississauga. We arrived a little off schedule to the ship so when we got on we just had dinner, which was amazing, and then had a discussion. Our first full day on the ship was great. We had our first day of workshops, which are basically station where you can learn about different things such as botany, photography, the physics of tides in the ocean. I chose to participate in the botany workshop where I met Paul, the botanist of the ship. I learned a bunch of new things that I never thought I would have. After we finished up the workshops we came back to the ship and ate lunch. To close our day off we visited the city of Sisimiut. We visited a museum which depicted how Inuit used to live. It was an amazing experience learning about a culture which I have no prior knowledge of. It was enlightening and also opened my eyes to something new. Today I chose to start my day off with the mental health workshop, where we learned coping strategies for stress/anxiety, as well as discussing various different cultures views on mental health. After the workshops ended, we visited another Greenlandic community called Illulissat. It feel like it was more populated than Sisimiut, and I even managed to speak to some of the locals. In the city we hiked to the Jakobshaven Fjord and saw the amazing combination of ice, snow, dry land, and grass all in the same place! I made sure to take an abundance of pictures because this is a sight I do not think anyone should miss. After we returned to the ship we had dinner and straight after that we got to go on a cruise in the zodiacs to end off our day. Today was amazing! In the morning we had Arctic hour, and for my Arctic hour I chose to join the group which was talking about climate change in the Arctic and how it is affecting us. The discussion was great in the sense that we talked about a serious problem which needs to be addressed. After Arctic hour was done we were able to see some whales, which were apparently looking for food at the front of the ship. We visited a small town called Uummannaq. The town was beautiful and filled with kind people. We were greeted by the citizens as soon as we got off the zodiacs. In the town we visited a church in which we attended a ceremony which consisted of choir singing and a prayer in their language. After that we visited a school where we watched performances that consisted of singing and dancing. The performances where great and I was even able to learn a bit more about the Greenlandic culture.

-Nathan

August 1: photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Christina Cheung Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada The Greenlandic people’s warm cordility contrasted most with the cold, face-slashing Arctic wind. Near the coast of Uummannaq, we saw the local Greenlandic children waving flags, welcoming our arrival. Their smiles, with eyes curved into two umbrella shapes, glittered with such sincerity that one can witness only several times a lifetime. Without any words, they passed us their Greenlandic flags, and as I received the flags I felt rejuvented. I finally broke out of my cocoon, or in other words, I no longer felt like a foreign visitor exploring this strange corner of the world on our Ocean Endeavour cruise, but rather I felt embraced by their culture and the local communities. I’ve never been good with expressing my feelings, but at that moment I found a sense of familiarity, an universal language, that is expressed simply through a smile. At the end of our day waiting for the Zodiacs, the firworks went off in broad daylight, and it was almost the entire community at the port, waiting for their soccer team who won the third place in the national game. Witnessing the entire community’s welcome as they sang and danced at the port made me see the spirit that really weaved this community together. As a special note, I must thank my sponsor the Leacrosse Foundation for supporting my Arctic expedition. Without the scholarship, I would not be able to hear stories from students and experts from around the world, nor would I be able to experience the cultures, and not just statistics taught in classrooms. Another special note to the future explorers is to always carry your bug spray! -Christina  

August 1: Paddle boarding Greenland! photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

 

Raslan Abdul Rahman
Malaysia

Hello everyone! The Malaysian contingent would like to send our salutations from Disko Bay, Greenland. Just writing another blog to keep you in the know about what we did on Day 2 and to assure you we have not been eaten by polar bears. Yet 😉 Anyway, we all started our day with a choice of workshops after breakfast. Personally, I went for the mental health workshop with Genevieve, Donna and Ethan. It was interesting looking at different aspects of mental health. In particular, the workshop participants talked a lot about stigma and ways to get rid of stress. To see people opening up and sharing their problems is amazing. Personally, I felt good just being able to lend an ear and listen to their stories. To tell someone to just “snap out of it” as if stress did not have any weight or meaning behind it is unfathomably disrespectful. Afterward, we docked at Illulisat to hike up to Jakobshavn Icefjord. Amazingly, the sun was shining above us. It came to the point where I, a Malaysian used to scorching hot temperatures back home, actually had to peel off a few layers because of the heat! Moving on though, the way to the icefjord felt serene. There was a long boardwalk that kept us walking single-file while taking in the scenery. Eventually, we climbed a hill and saw something absolutely breathtaking. Breathtaking. The immense Jakobshavn icefjord was incredible. As far as the eye can see, there was leagues and leagues of white beauty. Incredibly, that is only ten percent of all the ice of the fjord. The rest of it was under the water. Just imagine how immense the icefjord must have been! Sadly, the ice is continuing to melt and add 1.2 mm to the sea level every year. We can just hope that climate change takes a u-turn to be able to preserve this UNESCO Heritage Site. Eventually, the whole icefjord might melt. My beloved hometown of Perlis, Malaysia might be under water in less than 2 decades. =( Then, we returned to the ship and had dinner. After an excellent serving of spaghetti aglio e olio, we went on an excellent Zodiac cruise. We got up-close views of the majestic icebergs. Eventually, 16 Zodiacs were tied together in the middle of Disko Bay in the Arctic ocean. Together, we sang songs led by JR and Sarah. As simple as it sounds, it was such fun just chanting the songs. We ended the day off after that. If Day 3 is as good as the previous days, this will definitely be incomparable to anything else.

-Raslan

August 1: Soccer game in Uummannaq! photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

 

Beatrice Chemtov
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I have decided that today has been the best day yet. It started with very interesting workshops. In the one I chose we heard about the environmental, political and cultural sides of climate change. However, it was forced to end early… because there were two pods of whales swimming around the boat! It was beautful to stand on the deck, looking at a breathtaking horizon (complete with icebergs) and see blasts from fin whales every few minutes. After about twenty minutes, one started playing above the water, and we could see his fins popping out! After lunch, we went to Uummannaq, which was a cute (couldn’t think of a better word) town. Similarly to other towns, the buildings were multicoloured, which contrasted beautifully against the rocky heart-shaped mountain (Uummannaq means heart in Greenlandic). What was especially wonderful about this visit was that the town was expecting us. We were greeted as we came in and had a chance to explore the museum, the old blubberhouse, a building full of children’s art and the home of our host. After a short concert by a men’s choir, an epic soccer game broke out between us and the local teenagers. I played most of the game, which was very intense. We were playing on a dirt patch, and so much dust was in the air it was hard to breath. Shortly after a performance at the school, we went on the best zodiac ride so far. We made jokes the whole time, and travelled incredibly fast. I need to go on a debrifing for the day, but I’m glad to have had the chance to write today. This one day is making the fact that I really am in Greenland and the Arctic sink in. I’m glad that this is happening while I am on the ship, and not two months after like I had predicted.

-Beatrice      

Ashley Cummings
Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

Once again, today feels like 3 days packed into one. This morning we had an arctic hour with many different interesting options with very in-depth discussions within them. We made it into Uummannaq not long after lunch and recieved such a warm welcome from the community! We were greeted by many children in traditional clothes and and a woman handing out the flags of Greenland. Today was the 252nd anniversary of the town of Uummannaq and we were lucky enough to see the many celebrations and listen to the beautiful choirs. We were able to visit the yellow house which showcased the history of the town, as well as the old blubber station. It was very interesting to see the beautiful history of the village. Afterwards, we made our way to the church to see a choir perform Greenlandic songs and it was very calming to be in a place of worship and beauty, as the church was made out of the local rock for bricks and beautiful wood structures. I have never seen a church as humbly beautiful as this one. Throughout the town, you can very clearly see the beautiful reason it was called Uummannaq, which is the heart shaped mountain overlooking the town. We had time to see more of the town after we watched the choir perform, and I chose to sit and enjoy the gorgeous scenery in the daisies that grew in front of the place of worship. Many people chose this as well and made flower crowns. Everyone was then invited into the local school to eat a great feast and listen to many beautiful youth perform traditional Greenlandic songs as well as songs they learned in their travels to places such as Hawaii and songs they learned from other Canadian Inuit. They were very talented and played their gorgeous traditional drum dancing. I drum dance as well, so it was very interesting to see the different ways our similar cultures drum dance. Tooma and I performed a traditional drum dancing song that we know from the choir, Qaumatiilugusuli, for the people who were at the performance. It was very exciting to see how they perceived our way of drum dancing. When we were waiting to board the zodiacs after helping the people at the school clean up, the local women’s soccer team was arriving via boat to celebrate their national 3rd place soccer tournament win. It was amazing seeing the community singing songs, holding flags, and letting off fireworks in excitement and celebration. It was a very elating experience. Today was a very beautiful day and so unforgettable. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the journey brings. To all my family and friends reading, I love you all and thank you for taking part in this journey with me!

-Ashley

Petra Brown
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Today was a very awesome and special day. I woke up nice and early and went and stood out on deck watching the icebergs that drifted past before going to yoga which was very calming and relaxing. After breakfast we had our first Arctic Hour where I enjoyed a presentation about climate change from three different perspective: scientific, political and cultural. It was all very interesting and it really opened my eyes to the different ways of looking at it.
In the afternoon we visited the town of Uummannaq where we were given a very warm welcome. I got to visit the old Blubber house which had a lot of pictures and artifacts from the town. This was followed by a visit to the church where singers performed some traditional Greenlandic songs. They were very beautiful. We then went to the museum and learned more about the history of the town and finally finished in the school. From there I went on a hike to Santa’s house. He was not home but we still had a good time.

– Petra

August 1: Uummannaq, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on


Meghan Flood
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The one problem I have is that I never see the names of the places we go to written down on paper. It’s not that big of an issue, but when I go to blog or write in my journal, I realize I have no idea how to put the names on paper. Kangerlussuaq? Sisimiut? Illulisaq? Umanaq? Did I spell any of those right? The Greenlandic pronunciations all feel so strange on my tongue and the spellings feel even stranger to my pencil. (editors note: All spelled correctly except Illulisat and Uummannaq)

Today we went to an island called Uummannaq. As soon as I layed eyes on the town and the heart-shaped mountain behind it, I fell in love with it. We were greeted on the dock by locals wearing traditional Greenlandic attire and waving paper Greenlandic flags. We toured the town for a bit and the choir sung to us at the church, which we were told was the most important place in town. Afterwards, some of the group headed off for a hike to see Santa Clause’s house, which apparently is on the island. The hike was the most beautiful hike I’ve ever done. We scaled across rocks that are billions of years old, gneiss bands folded and twisted and faulted like no other rocks I’ve seen. When we got to an outcropping, we could see a valley by the shore with a little green hut nestled into the side of a hill. Santa’s house. Everyone signed the guestbook and had a look around.

I found a spot on a rock hanging over the shore. I know I said the ice fjord was my favourite place in the world, but this outcrop gave those bergs a run for their money. I could sit and listen to the ice moving and cracking while the water lapped at my feet. Across the water I could see mainland Greenland, mountains barreling into the sky, and the Greenland ice cap just peeked out from behind the summits, like marshmallow paste trying to escape its jar. It reminded me a bit of BC, with the rock giants rising straight out of the water at unimaginable angles it looked like a colder, tree-barren Desolation Sound. Seeing these landscapes makes me want to rewind and watch everything form, however many billions of years ago.

There are endless cookies here on the boat, so Mom, don’t worry that I’m not being treated well. In fact I’m pampered. Icebergs each day, painting and sketching, seeing breathtaking landscapes almost literally 24/7. Oh, and the cookies. The food is gourmet, with three courses every night at dinner and endless buffet food for breakfast and lunch. The tables overlook the ocean as we cruise up the western coast of Greenland each day.

Tomorrow we leave Greenland and make the pass over to Arctic Canada. I’m looking forward to experiencing the rough seas and spending an entire day onboard, breaking through ice. It’ll be an experience I’ll never forget.

-Megan

 

Gabrielle Foss
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Many years ago I read an article that started something like this: “We drifted between the icebergs as the passengers’ faces turned as green as the Arctic moss”. This sentence has held a place in my memory since then, as I have been waiting for the opportunity to explore above the Arctic circle, and let my cheeks mirror the hue of the flora surrounding me.

My name is Gabrielle Foss, and I am so fortunate to be participating in the 15th anniversary Students on Ice expedition to the Arctic, thanks to an incredibly generous scholarship from the Leacross Foundation. Leacross celebrates and supports young women like me on their paths to discover the world of science, and that is exactly what we have been doing aboard the Ocean Endeavour.

I apologize for my infrequent blogging, but Geoff and the SOI staff are keeping us so incredibly busy! It honestly feels like we have been in the Greenland for weeks. From lectures on climate change,to photography and botany workshops, to zodiac cruises and impromptu concerts on the open Arctic waters, I am trying my hardest to soak in all the beauty we are being exposed to every minute. As I am writing this sentence, I gaze out the window of the lounge and am blinded by the 24 hour sunlight reflecting off a nearby iceberg. We have just finished a three course meal that included a type of fish I have never heard of, and thoughts of our magical afternoon hike through the rocks of Uummannaq still dance in my head. We spent our last day on the west coast of the not-so-Green-land today, and I know that I have to return here in the future.

Being a tourist in another person’s home town is a strange experience, but today in Uummannaq we were not tourists, but guests instead. Ann, the head of a children’s home in the town, welcomed us onto the island, into the museums, and even into her own home (there are almost 200 of us, and we didn’t even need to take our shoes off!). Never have I felt so welcome in a place away from home. I also had the opportunity to present Ann with 4 photobooks I brought from Toronto. Back in the city, my friends and I started a project called Art with Heart (AWH). We deliver photo books to hospitals and retirement homes in an effort to improve physical and mental health. I carried 8 photo books on this expedition, and I was so happy to use half of them to boost the spirits of kids in the orphanage on the island.

The evening activities are about to start, so I must go now. Since the sun never completely leaves us, we are free to learn and explore until late at night, free of cues from darkness that would normally tell us to stop. I am so excited to continue to learn in this awe-inspiring part of the world (without a doubt the greatest classroom on earth), and make the most of absolutely every moment.

Whether it be the captivating dinner conversations, the hikes, or the opportunities to stare in silence into the horizon from the upper deck. I will cherish every single memory. Now off to the Northwest Passage and the great Canadian North! I can’t wait to continue to learn from our Northern neighbours, so I can share their lessons in the South.

In addition, I would like to send out my most sincere appreciation to the following supporters:

-the Leacross Foundation (from the bottom of my heart, thank you for funding my participation in this life-changing journey, and truly making my dreams come true)

-BUFF Canada (for donating 50 custom BUFF products to AWH, which will be used to fundraise for a mental-health-related project in the Arctic, see www.awheart.com to order)

-Westcomb (for providing me with some fantastic products that have been protecting me from those chilly Arctic winds)

-Henry’s (for helping me purchase some camera equipment to help capture every moment)

-Northern Secondary School Foundation (I will be sure to repay you with many school presentations in the fall!)

Lastly, I would like to reassure my family that I have not yet been tempted to pet one of those cute fluffy white bears. However, in the expedition spirit we emphasize two things: flexibility and good karma. Our karma meter is off the charts so maybe we will get lucky and see one, and I’ll be flexible enough to reach out of the zodiac and poke it! Hope that puts your mind at ease.

Love,

-Gabrielle

 

Dakshita Jagota
St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

Today in the morning we saw so many fin whales. It was a beautiful sight. All the people were on deck and you could feel the energy around you. It was a very special moment.

After that we prepared for the bottle drop project and wrote letters to go in the bottle which we will be throwing sometime during the expedition. We also went to the town of Uummannaq. The town was small but awesome! The town was surrounded by magnificent mountains including a heart shaped mountain from which the town got its name. All the people were super nice and I had fun talking to them in sign language. The stone walled church was beautiful just like the ones you see in the movies. Honestly I could stay in that town for the rest of my life and never get bored. The colorful houses surrounded by mountains and icebergs were just magical.

I also went on a hike to Santa Clause’s house, which was interesting. We sang Christmas carols in his house and then hiked back to go on a zodiac cruise again. The views on the hike were absolutely gorgeous. On the zodiac cruise we saw a big piece of iceberg fall which was kind of scary and awesome at the same time. Last day in Greenland was absolutely amazing with lots of great memories to take home and share with everyone!

Fun fact of the day: Ocean takes in 92% of the heat that we, humans, put in to our environment. So you can see that our oceans are really important!

-Dakshita

 

Ethan Larmand
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

This expedition so far has been truely inspiring. I have seen some incredible places and have been fortunate to meet and talk with some really amazing people. One highlight in Ottawa was getting to know Don Walsh who in the 1960’s went to the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench. We discussed how I could link my background in social work with environmental sciences and it got me thinking about future opportunities I could take part in to further my career. Also, our expedition includes Fred Roots who is in his mid 90’s and is basically an Arctic celebrity in terms of all of his accomplishments.

After we left Ottawa we stopped in Iqaluit to fuel up and then continued on to Greenland. Before boarding our ship we went on a tour to a lookout where we could see a massive icecap. It was a very beautiful site and we could see the impact of the melting icecap by the creation of run-off rivers full of sediments. After the tour we drove to the docks where we boarded our zodiacs for the first time and got onto our ship.

The first meal on the ship was dinner and I was not expecting white table cloth service with a very fancy menu. The smoked duck appetizer was amazing, as well as my chicken entree and I could tell that we were going to be eating well for the duration of our expedition. The food has been incredible each day so far.

The next day, July 30th in the afternoon after a morning of amazing workshops we visited a local fishing village called Itilleq where we explored the town and went into a local museum. The highlight of this experience was meeting some local children and their pet puppies. I also saw a kitten on the roof of one of the houses which I instantly had an emotional attachment to as I’m missing my pet cats.

The next morning, Friday July 31st, we woke up surrounded by icebergs in Disko Bay and had the opportunity to take some fantastic photos. I was all smiles as I had never seen icebergs before in person. Some of them were extremely big and we got really close to them.

After this myself along with the two other counsellors had our first mental health workshop. The participants were all very interested in discussing why mental health is important. Everybody participated by sharing personal stories and experiences with how mental health has impacted their lives. The discussions we had were very meaningful and I was happy to see how supportive of an environment we had and the whole experience was very empowering. We concluded by going over coping strategies for when we are feeling stressed or anxious. The workshop was a complete success as everyone felt grateful for the experience.

In the afternoon we got into the zodiacs and went to the village of Illulisat. We hiked through the town and ended up on a long boardwalk which brought us to a massive glacier which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because it produces the most amount of icebergs of all glaciers in Greenland. The view was simply breathtaking as we hiked around the rocks which overlooked the glacier. This was an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life as it put everything into perspective for me. It was a very emotional time as we thought about the beauty of the arcticand why it is essential that we protect it and continue to learn about its importance and how it impacts the global community. After dinner we got into the zodiacs again and boated around the icebergs. We saw a whale pretty close to one of the icebergs and that was an incredible experience because it was my first encounter with a whale in the wild.

We then linked up all of the zodiacs and had a special musical performance including Sarah Harmer.

Reflecting on the entire day, it was such a special and meaningful experience. I am so excited for everything else there is to experience.

To my family and friends, I miss you and love you but know that I am having the time of my life and can’t wait to share the experiences with you in person.

Yours truly,

-Ethan

 

Laura Lucier
Austin, Texas, USA

What a day! Time and again, I am blown away by the staff and students on this expedition. I chose to spend my personal vacation with Students on Ice with the hope that it would refresh my body, heart and mind, and wow – we’re not even half way in and every expectation has been exceeded.

To interact with so many young people so enthusiastic about learning is truly impressive, and to receive the teachings of so many experts is truly humbling. I have been very fortunate to have traveled to many places, and not all are capable of taking one’s breath away, and yet, in the past few days, there have been many occasions where I have been overwhelmed by the beauty of this place and the people I am sharing it with. To all of the parents reading these words, please know that your loved ones are in capable hands, experiencing the trip of a lifetime, learning lots and exhibiting insight beyond their years.

-Laura

 

Aislinn Mumford
Providence, Rhode Island, USA

The Ocean Endeavor is a great place to welcome in the new month. For me, August 1st began with a great breakfast of pancakes, hashbrowns, toast, and lots of fruit. Afterwards, a breifing explained what we would be doing during the “Arctic hour” that followed. I spent the Arctic hour listening to a fascinating panel disscusion about exploration and challenges in the Arctic. Learning about Arctic exploration was really interesting, and I now feel like I have a better grasp of the multi-layered debate revolving around oil drilling.

The discussion was then unexpectedly cut short by whales! I rushed on deck with my camera and began taking pictures of spray from their blowholes, and I even saw a fin. When we returned inside, we quickly went to the Hub, our main meeting place, to begin a bottle drop program. We were each given a bottle to drop in to the ocean so that, if the bottle is found, scientists can prove theories about ocean currents and check to see that climate change is not affecting currents as of now. About one in every twenty-five bottles is found, so hopefully a few from our group will be spotted on some distant shore.

After lunch, we made a zodiac landing in the town of Uummannaq. Built into a mountainside, Uummannaq is a vibrant community with much to see. First I saw the Blubber House, a historical building that used to store blubber after a hunt. Afterwards, the whole SOI group gathered in Uummannaq’s church for a welcome. We listened to several beautiful Greenlandic songs and saw adorable children who dressed in traditional dress to greet us. The town’s interesting history was represented by each of its three museums. Many artifacts, such as kayaks, showed the community’s historical connection to the sea.

The museums were fascinating, and I was also able to purchase a copy of a polar bear painting done by a local artist, so I have some great art to bring home. Soon, the group met up at Uummannaq’s children’s home and I was faced with a tough choice. I could either go on a hike to Santa’s house in Greenland or see a performance by some of the local children. Picking what to do was hard, but knowing that the next day was going to be spent completely on the ship as we crossed into Canada, I chose the hike. The hike was an hour and a half all together up the side of a mountain, but the view was worth it. Santa’s house was also a great place to visit and have a mini Christmas in August. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

-Aislinn

 

Matthew Newell
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

We are making our last stop in Greenland this afternoon and then heading back to Canada to visit Baffin Island! I’ve talked quite a bit about our adventures on land, so today I think I’ll talk about life on the seas.

We wake up at about 7:30 in the morning, local time, to Geoff telling us where abouts we are and giving us a brief report on our surroundings. We have three meals a day, breakfast and lunch are served buffet style while dinner is ordered off of a menu, they are delicious. I had some bread pudding yesterday that almost made me tear up, it was just so good.

At the end of each day, we have a recap on what we have done throughout the day, there is a lot of cheering and clapping at this point. The recap usually ends with a performance by one of our crew. So far we have gotten the honour of listening to the amazing Sarah Harmer live and an incredible Greenlandic artist named Nive. We normally go to bed at around 11:00-11:30pm.

The ship itself is very stable, besides the low rumble of our engines working against the water, there is barely any rocking. Our rooms are tight but cozy, the beds are extremely comfortable. Falling asleep is not an issue for me. I’m also starting to wonder if parents rocking their babies to sleep is simply a way of preparing them for sleeping at sea, if so, congratulations mom, it seems to have worked!

I am having so much fun. The things that I am seeing on a daily basis are surreal, and I don’t think that I could explain how absolutely stunning Greenland has been. Think of a beautiful painting by the most talented painter in the world, now think of that painting being placed all around you, that is kind of what this feels like.

I would like to say thank you again to my parents, my auntie Valerie and uncle Duane, Sue, and Papa for making all of this possible for me. I love and miss you all so much. I’ll update soon!

-Matt

 

Roszita Mat Zin
Malaysia

There’s a saying that goes’ there’s a first time for everything’ and for the past 5 days I have experienced so many first times that I didn’t even know where to begin. Let me begin with the first sighting of an iceberg.

Yup, ICEBERG.

For a Malaysian like me who lives in a country where the sun shines very brightly for almost 10 months and rains and rains for the next two months it wan an incredible moment when we first spotted an iceberg.

Almost everybody scrambled on to the deck to get a closer look at the iceberg. It was from a distance and it made us so excited to see more, and more we did. The first moment seeing the iceberg was amazing yet there are no words I can use to describe my exact feeling seeing the Ilulissat Icefjord.

Yup, THE ICEFJORD!

On the peak of the FJORD, Eric the glacier expert gave a talk about the icesheet and glaciers. Icebergs, icesheets, and glaciers are not just merely chunks of ice, but are incredibly important parts of the earth, affecting both water currents, and global sea levels. IMAGINE a classroom at the top of the ridge of the hill where you sit down and bask under the golden sun looking at the most beautiful view on the earth, the icefjord. What can beat that? Next time, I’ll be writing about my first experience seeing a whale. A WHALE!

-Roszita

 

Taia Steward
Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

Yesterday was the best day on the SOI trip yet! I was able to see so many cool things! I saw a few whales that were a little far away so it was a little hard to see. I still got a video so it was really cool! I also saw some huge icebergs! The boat got really close to some and I got some great pictures. After dinner, we all went out in the zodiacs to check out some icebergs. We also sang some songs together while we were out in the water. It was super fun!

-Taia

 

Winkler Sophia
Carrboro, North Carolina, USA

It seems like every day we wake up in a new world. Last night the ship left the Sisimiut area through a thick fog. We woke to the mist dissolving as the sun rose higher in the sky (of course, the sun had been up most of the night), revealing icebergs on the horizon! Our first icebergs appeared tiny, and the size was hard to gague even though we knew they were massive.

We began the day in Disko Bay and made our way through as we attended another round of workshops. I went with Leah, our group’s ice expert, to learn about icebergs and sea ice in preparation for some iceberg watching we would be doing. Just before the workshops, our captain took us very close to some icebergs in order to study the textures and colors up close, so we were able to show Leah the pictures we had taken and identify features in the ice. The icebergs were rippled with different textures: jagged in places, smooth in others, dotted with tiny bumps underneath, and we soon realized that even the colors on icebergs can vary. Stripes of grayand black show where years have passed, while blue patches and shiny bright white hint at the ice’s age.

After lunch, we bundled up for our outing to Ilulissat, the third largest town in Greenland. The Ilulissat landing presented Greenlandic culture and nature bundled together; we could have spent two weeks just in this town. The docks we came into were bustling with fishermen and families going out on theirboats for the weekend. Little girls threw rocks onto chunks of ice in the water while burly sailors loaded cargo onto boats. It being a Friday afternoon, people were doing their weekend business all throughoutthe city. Women walked their babies alongside the road in mosquito-netted strollers while their sons played soccer on a dusty field.

Simultaneously, 200 Students on Ice hiked through their town to the Jakobshavn Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each step of our journey gets more and more magnificent- a few days ago we were excited to see tiny chunks of ice floating on the surface, this morning were our first icebergs on the horizon, and just this afternoon we were sitting on the edge of an ice fjord, surrounded by a city of skyscraper-sized icebergs. Most days I laugh at my photos from days earlier, blurry zooms of ice chunks I would be touching from Zodiac boats a few days later. People keep asking me how I got here- was going to the Arctic always a dream of yours? I wish I could say a trip to the region was always in my line of sight, but to be honest, I never thought I would be able to come here. Sure, I was curious about the Arctic, and I pored over photo essays about cultures within the Arctic Circle, but I never considered it something I could do. Greenland was not a country I expected I would ever make it to, but now that I am here, I only want to spend more time here getting to know this country better.

-Sophia

August 1: Uummannaq, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015

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

Madeline Yaaka
Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec, Canada

Today was a great day! My morning started off with having breakfast (the food is delicious here by the way). After that we had arctic hour so we had three choices to choose from the one that I went to was the workshop about how climate change affects the peoples of the Arctic and how it impacts their way of providing food for their family. But then, right when Mary Simon finished speaking, we heard an announcement that said that there were whales out in front of the ship so everyone started running to the front of the ship to get a glimpse of those whales (I ran also). It was really breathtaking seeing the whales.

Before lunch we wrote messages in a bottle and what we wrote inside was saying that if anyone finds it to contact SOI, inside mine I drew drawings of inukshuks, ulus, wrote a little bit in Inuktitut syllabics and just explained why we are doing this experiment, where I am from and other things.

In the afternoon we went inside the village of Uummannaq. We went inside a museum, listened to a quire in a church and also strolled around the village. I got a delicous smoothie in a cafe. We went to a school, youth performed for us in traditional clothing. I also played soccer with youth from there. Then when we were at the pier, people from Uummannaq were wearing all blue jackets we were all wonduring why, then we saw two boats arrive and everyone started to cheer fireworks started going off. It turns out that a womens soccer team had won a tournament in another village. Being in Greenland has gone by so fast we are actually on our way to Nunavut right now. I didn’t buy any souveniers in Uummannaq because it was the towns 252 year anniversary so none of the shops were open. I’ve been having so much fun, doing somany things! Fact of the day: The town that we went to is called Uummannaq beacuese there is a heart shaped cliff right in the middle of the town.

-Madeline

 

Rakesh Bin Sala
Malaysia

Assalammualaikum WBK and very good morning…

Early wake up at 0600, taking a warm water bath and follow by coolest water bath (preparing for the Arctic bath…LOL!!! But seriuosly i getting myself prepared for the waters of the Arctic swim…).

Going to the science lab and having a coffee, facing the sea decorated with various size of iceberg…SUBHANALLAH. Although the weather is sunny, the temperature is cooled and chilled.

We were on our way to Uummannaq for more adventurous activities. Unfortunately, the pain at my scapula is driving my attention off the moment of silence with the nature.

I went off to join the yoga class with Dr. Kate.

By the time I am done with this writing…its going to be 0800. To my family…theres a tears along with the end of this sentences…I miss all of you.

-Rakesh

 

Chase Holwell
Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

I finally turned my alarm on last night, not because I didn’t know how to get it working but because I had a reason to wake up earlier than the wake-up call. Peter is doing a storytelling activity at 7:00am daily! So at 6:45am I woke up and and after completing my morning routine I headed for the deck.

I arrived just a little early and got to have a look at the wonderful view. Pascal and King Kong (his dog) were up as well to attend the storytelling, after everyone else arrived Peter told us about “The Mad Trapper of Rat River”- a man by the name of Albert Johnson who lived during the 1930’s and was the subject of “one of Canada’s largest manhunts” as Peter put it.

After breakfast and our morning briefing I got to choose between three different ‘Arctic Hours’, which consist of a moderator and three panelists. I chose the arctic wildlife panel and got to hear presentations from Don, Mary, and Trevor (who I now know was NL’s former Minister of Fisheries). I got to hear their accounts on an overarching theme of ice. Don talked about natural ice, Mary about the Inuit way of using the ice, and Trevor about how ice affects fishing.

Our presentation was interrupted in the most positive way when Geoff’s voice came over the P.A to point out the whales that could be seen and that the bow was open. I headed out to the front and ended up with a small group of others near the bridge. An iceberg had a piece break off which I unfortunately was unable to snap a photo of, but I did get the whales spraying water quite a few times. The wind was increasing in strength and I decided to go inside just as lunch was being announced.

We anchored outside Uummannaq and entered town using the zodiacs as we did at the previous communities. The mayor of Uummannaq greeted us at the dock, a woman named Ann, if I remember correctly. Our plan was to meet at the school at 4:15 and to go to three different buildings: The Blubber House, The Museum, and an art shop. Once that was done Gage, Megan and I went down to a local cafe which only accepted kroners, luckily Gage had some. At the school there was a choice to stay or to hike up to the one and only Santa Claus House! So obviously, not taking anything to mind, I went for the former.

It was a very long walk, maybe around an hour to and an hour back but once we got there the house itself was less impressive than I expected. Some of the fourty-odd people in our party went inside the house, which had a very disturbing, worn-out doll. Inside the building we did the only thing you can really do in a place like that; we sang Christmas carols on August 1st.

After returning to the dock to wait for the zodiacs the cycle was stopped by the arrival of Uummannaq’s soccer team, who went to a national competition and won 3rd place. So that happened but we were on our merry way back to the Ocean Endeavour to leave Greenland and cross back over to Canada. Just as the Arctic Hours were disrupted by whales, our briefing was as well, so after that was done and over with and Geoff recapped the day, we were given a demonstration of traditional Metis dancing by Jaimie, first a dance by herself which was completely traditional, and then with a group of people to a song by A Tribe Called Red. All in all today was just so amazing within the wonderful town of Uummannaq.

-Chase

 

Michal Leckie
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Hello everyone. It was challenging waking up this morning. After breakfast, we had Arctic Hour, where you pick one of three panels to go to. I chose one on climate change. It was incredible! I learned allabout what causes sea ice to melt, and what happens when sea ice melts, as well as information on pastclimate change conferences and the upcoming one in Paris. We also learned about how melting sea ice affects communities and their lives and travel.

Afterwards, there was news on the loudspeakers that there were whale spottings! We all ran (walked fast because running isn’t allowed) to the deck. I didn’t see the whale, but I did see its blow and I saw a seal. We had a delicious lunch after that. We landed in an incredible small town called Uummannaq. All the houses are different colours, with a mountain in the shape of a heart in the background. We explored the town. We went to a church surrounded by daisies, where we heard a beautiful choir perform. Afterwards, we had the option to visit the school or go on a hike.

I chose to go on a hike. It was spectacular. We climbed underneath the mountain in the shape of a heart. The path was very rocky, with little vegetation. There were some mosses and flowers though. We saw icebergs floating in the distance. We arrived at “Santa’s House”, a tiny green cabin tucked against the mountain, almost invisible.

We are now leaving Uummanaq and Greenland, heading towards Canada. I’ll see you very soon, Mom, Dad, Ben, and Farley.

Fun fact: In July 2015, 400.89 ppm of carbon dioxide was detected in the oceans, while in 1960, there was about 210 ppm.

-Michal

 

Megan Dicker
Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

What an interesting day! We started our day enjoying the view from the  deck, photographing the icebergs and embracing the fresh air. I learned about changes in exploration in the arctic and briefly discussed the oil and gas industry in the North. We have written messages that have been placed in glass bottles that have been sent out into the ocean. We wrote a personal note with contact information and about our amazing SOI Program. Numerous whale species  have been spotted throughout the day, giving us time to photograph and talk about them. They were so interesting!

After lunch  we were welcomed into the community of Uummannaq. We were greeted at the dock by some community members beautifully dressed in their traditional clothing. I love their kamiks! So nice. Then we spent a while exploring the town, visiting the museum, looking at a photo exhibit, listening to a choir from Illulisat…

Our first event as a whole was going to the local church. They welcomed us with a prayer and a choir from Illulisat sang a few songs for us. I had chills! This expedition continues to amaze me. I walked around town a bit, taking photographs and observing the land. The colors of the land (including the houses and icebergs in the sea) sort of represent how I feel.  So colorful, happy, vibrant! Many people tried mattak (whale blubber) in Uummannaq and we ate a lot of different cakes.  While we ate a wonderful group of girls sang for us, sharing their culture. They are so talented! They drumdanced, and it was interesting to see their way of drumdancing and singing. It is different than the drumdances in northern Labrador.

While waiting to board the zodiacs, a team from Uummannaq was returning from a tournament. They placed third in Greenlandic games and they were celebrating. They arrived in a speedboat! Some community members set off fireworks and everyone was cheering. It was exciting! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.

-Megan

Myca Nakashook

Pangnirtung, NU, Canada

I’m sorry, but I had no time to blog last night,it was curfew and I was practicing some throat singing with Lindsay. Going to perform  tonight or tomorrow. Yesterday was one of the best days in Greenland! The town or village we went to was just beautiful! Their houses were just perfect! We went to  the Ice Fiord and the ice burgs were huge! I never seen that big of ice burgs and there was so many! We went to Illuisatt I think thats how you spell it, and we went for zodiac ride, we were collecting jelly fish and any other sea creater we see.There was atleast 7 other zodiacs with different pods. I’m in pod A which is Alpha!! I am very excited to do a presentation back home  for my community. Ananna’s (Macey) birthday in just 2 days!!Can’t believe she’ll be turning 6 this year!! Nallinami <3 I’m sorry I wont be there for her birthday but I will buy her something. My anann! and Maata’s birthday in just 3 days, they are growing up too quick. Kunik them for me and tell them I miss them!! <3 Can’t  believe it’s already August!!  I love you all xox

-Myca

Hello everybody! Today has just been an AMAZING day!! I think the best place we have visited in Greenland is Uummannaq!! Like oh my God, there’s very kind people there, they have a shaped heart mountain in their little island. It was crazy beautiful and just so awesome! The community members are so kind and so talented! They actually had a performance/concert for us, they showed us the drum dance and they sang. It was so AMAZING!! I could just feel the energy when they show us how they traditionally dance,sing, or perform!! I would love to come back one day to Uummannaq maybe with some family or even best friends!! I have learned a lot again today, I learned about climate change and how it’s effecting the north/inuit and I would love to learn more about it, because the inuit needs to stand up for it, like all the pollution going on, the gas and etc. It is very interesting to learn about. I really wanna learn how to talk greenlandic or dannish (I find them so cool!) But sadly we will be leaving Greenland today 🙁 I will have to come back one day with some friends!!! Davis Strait tonight and tomorrow, Pond Inlet in 2 days! Going to spend time with my best friend (AWESOME) I am having such an amazing time here but I am a little home sick tonight, I just miss my family and my boyfriend so much! It’s very hard not having any connection (cell service) but it’s very good that I am learning and I want to become a leader in my community one day. I love you guys xox I will talk to you guys very soon, I will finally have cell phone service in Pond and I will call you guys soon as I can. Have a wonderful evening and know that I love you guys very much. (Tell babe I love and miss him very much Aasiva, please and thank you.)

Goodnight
xoMyca

Shawn Tourangeau
Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada

First things first, I’m sorry mom for not blogging sooner, I’ve just been trying to take everything in and spend as much time as I can outside.
I cannot believe that it’s been about a week since I had left my tiny town and began this amazing experience. When I had just gotten to the campus where we were staying and had pizza at about one in the morning – I knew this was going to be probably the best two weeks of my young life. I am currently sitting in the Hub as an enormous iceberg floats by us – probably about the size my school, no, I am not kidding. Everyone on this ship is so unique and has their own story to tell and I am trying to hear them all. I have met so many great people in the past week it’s unreal.

The very first view we had of Greenland was an unforgettable one. Massive clouds were lazing through the snow covered mountains. There was a surprising amount of green however, which could be due to climate change. But I’m trying to keep this moment happy so let’s not talk about that for now.

Every community we have stopped in so far has been spectacular. I cannot remember the names right now, but I will get them for when I return. We just finished eating dinner after getting back from Uummannaq, and the community has just been incredibly welcoming and it’s very heart warming. We listened to the most beautiful composition consisting of several violins, two cellos, a base, a clarinet, and my favourite, the flute. I felt truly moved to have the honour of hearing it in person. We also watched as a group of women danced and sang for us in their native tongue – That’s when I truly first began to appreciate the other cultures and things that Greenland has to offer.

Every single time I look out the window I am amazed. The scenery is unlike any other I have ever seen. It would be a blessing to wake up to it every morning. Icebergs are scattered along through the Sea. Today is the first time I have seen a live whale in person. It was a Fin whale, the second largest mammal in existence. The way they seemingly effortlessly arched their backs, barely breaking the waters surface is stunning. When their tails stand up, just above the waters surface for a mere second left me wanting so much more.
The ship is absolutely incredible, the staff of Students On Ice have everything you could ever want to know about the Arctic covered. There is never, and I mean NEVER a dull moment to be had on this ship and I feel so incredibly lucky and privileged to be a part of it. It would not be possible without the amazing support I have back home and of course, Parks Canada. There are times when I miss the people back home, but I’m just trying to enjoy everything for as long as I can – because who knows when is the next time I will ever have the chance to experience this again.

– Shawn

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