It is our seventh day of Students on Ice 2015 and we are crossing the Davis Strait sailing for Canada and the Northwest Passage. Rarely will anyone find the Davis Strait so calm, it’s like a painted ocean with the colours changing with the Arctic sky, from blue under sunny skies to sliver as we slipped through patches of fog and later hues of grey under changing and overcast skies.
When we reach Pond Inlet on Monday around noon, we will have sailed 550 miles from Uummannaq, Greenland in a period of thirty-nine hours.
The day at sea has given us time to catch up on many of our educational initiatives and protocol. We’ve been so busy; there hasn’t been time for a Captains welcome and reception until this evening. Captain Peter Gluskhe, was born in Germany, and now lives in the United States when he is not sailing Arctic waters. He made it clear, a ship full of enthusiastic students gives himself and the crew a lift and pleasure, compared to large number of tourists that are usually the passengers on these tours.
On our education program, we covered two full sessions of Arctic hour, a moderated discussion on key Arctic issues. Today, under the broad topic of Arctic culture, panels of experts examined issues such as, Education, Conservation of wild areas, the evolution of National Parks, Climate Change and the Northwest Passage, including managing this maritime highway and further opening the door to the industrial development.
In addition, historian, Peter Kikkert gave an inspiring over view of the of the centuries old quest for the Northwest Passage, from Martin Frobisher in 1576 to Roland Amundsen’s successful transit between 1903 and 1906. Peter included the ill fated Franking Expedition. He described it as a history of heroism and incredible achievements as well as crippling arrogance and ineptitude.
We also began our our evening of life stories, with “The Life of a Sailor”, a first person account from Dr. Don Walsh of his remarkable achievements. He is an explorer, oceanographer and lecturer.
Dr. Walsh served 24 years in the US navy, was a ship’s Captain for much of that time and said many times to the Arctic and Antarctic. He is best known for making oceanographic history in 1960 when he and Jacques Picard dove 35, 800 feet in a navy submersible to the bottom of the Marinas Trench. That was an historic event that was never duplicated. Don brings and shares these remarkable experiences with every student on the expedition. He’s become a role model for everyone, students and educators. His message and key to success, seize the opportunities that come your way, and don’t be afraid to be a “little pushy” to make you dreams and aspirations come true.
We did some fun science today with the annual students on ice bottle drop. One hundred and sixty sealed little brown beer like bottles stuffed with written messages from students were tightly sealed and thrown over the side into the ships wake. The exact time and GPS location of the where the bottle is thrown is recorded as well as who threw it. The project under the direction of Eric Mattson is to track ocean currents. Over the past fifteen years about sixty bottles have been found and returned from the coastlines of Scandinavia, Great Britain and France.
Tonight we crossed the International boundary back into Canada and tomorrow we visit Bylot Island and Pond Inlet on Northern Baffin Island.
SOI Founder & Expedition Leader
Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Canada
Hello, On this beautiful day of cruising in Arctic, I want to take time to talk about the Inuit I’ve met. I did not expect to be so inspired by them on this expedition, but I am. I feel like they are so underestimated internationally and I think the governors of the world should take the time to hear what they have to say about the amazing land they live on. Many people that I’ve talked to on the ship live in Greenland and they’ve taught me so much about their communities. They are so kind hearted and they want people to listen to what they have to say about their culture and climate change. We shared about our cultures and it was amazing to come together and see how we can collaborate to make our voice heard about the glaciers that are melting right beside us. Now, I want to talk about climate change. Two days ago, we went on zodiac and we saw a lot of icebergs. I kept saying to myself that future generations might not have the chance to see them if we keep hurting our planet. I was sad and nostalgic to see this, but I can’t deny the fact that it’s probably one of the prettiest landscapes I’ve ever seen in my entire life. There were about 10 zodiacs regrouping in one spot near a iceberg and we were singing traditional songs while hearing the sound of the water crashing on the iceberg. It was probably a world record of people in the middle of icebergs having fun. Finally, I am taking the opportunity that I have to write about my experience with Students on Ice to talk with you about the most amazing experience of my existence. Yesterday, in Uummannaq, I tried paddle boarding in the freezing cold water and I jumped off an iceberg and it was at that point that I realized how amazing this expedition is and how lucky I am to be part of it. I am so thankful for everything that is happening to me and I can’t wait to share everything with my community and to make changes to stop climate change. About that, Noah and I are starting our video project for the UNESCO conference of the youth today with other people on the ship and we can’t wait to collaborate on the mission of preserving the North.
August 2: Davis Strait “sea day”, photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Mililani, Hawai’i, USA
Yesterday we were in Uummannaq, Greenland, and I must say it felt like home away from home. We were greeted by the local children waving flags, and we got to explore their town. A choir also sang for us, which was so beautiful. We also had a soccer match against the locals and that was a whole new experience. But interestingly enough, I felt like I was playing soccer back home. The sun shined down on us making it feel like a normal 80 degree day back in Hawaii.
As I went into the school where most people were, I was of course super thirsty from playing outside for about an hour, so I made my way to the drinks table. I tried to stay low-key as I poured myself some tea. All of a sudden I hear a “Brandon is from Hawaii!” from Geoff, and I was like “what?!”. And EVERYONE turned to me and I stood there confused with my tea in hand. The local students were onstage in a line and were about to chant a Hawaiian prayer. And the lady who was hosting us, Ann, told me that they wanted to sing to me. So I got up on stage and watched them perform. At first it felt awkward but watching an indigenous culture chant another indigenous culuture’s prayer was something else. The Hawaiian words coming out of their mouths seemed almost natural for them, and maybe because they practiced; but, even then, the pronounciation of the words were great! I understood parts of the prayer, but I could never fully figure out the translation of Hawaiian prayers and songs by ear. If any of my friends are reading this back home, two parts that kept coming back to me were “‘Ike e, Luna e”. I know that “‘ike” means knowledge or to see, but luna can mean multiple things, such as the moon.
Anyways, I left the stage with the biggest smile ever. They performed the hula during their performance, which was also pretty good, and made me wish that I had taken the time to learn hula back home. After their performance I was crossing paths with one of the girls that were performing. I asked her how they learned Hawaiian. She told me that a lady from Paris that visits Hawaii every two years came to their town and asked permission to learn how to speak the Greenlandic language. And in return she taught them a bit of Hawaiian. I also asked if they had every been to Hawaii. And she said, “Yeah! Just last month!.” Man, I’ve never been so astounded by a people who live so far away from Hawaii but are so connected.
Before we said our goodbyes she asked to take a selfie, and I was like “what?! they do that here?” So I did and we walked our sepereate directions. I was really sad that we couldn’t have stayed for one more day. I could have spent another week talking to the people. They welcomed us as if we were family. The Aloha spirit doesn’t only exist in Hawaii, it exists in all of us, it’s just a matter of understand the importance of ‘Ohana.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Another day another journey. The story starts when we arived at “Disko Bay.” We all got called down to the mud room by our pods on the boat’s PA system. Prepared for the cold, we wore several layers. We boarded the zodiacs one by one and departed to Ilulissat. The scenery was spectacular and was just so breathtaking; words can’t describe it. I can’t tell you what it looks like because you have to see it for yourself – no spoilers. After a hike, we boarded the ship again, and we ate our amazing supper served by the amazing crew on the Ocean Endeavour. After our supper and a bit of time to gather our thoughts, we all headed out on a total of 16 zodiacs. A rough total of 190 staff and students explored “Disko Bay” with the zodiacs to try and catch a glimpse of the massive icebergs that stood in the bay. It was as if the icebergs were still and were the size of 7 story building. To get an idea of how big icebergs are, put an ice cube in water, 10% of the ice is above the water and 90% under the water. Lets go back to how big the ones I saw were only the tip of the iceberg. After we toured the bay, all sixteen zodiacs grouped together as we had a moment in the bay. All the zodiacs were tied together as best as we could and JR started to sing a song and most of us joined in. After JR sang another couple of songs, Sarah sang her song. On the calm but cold waters, icebergs weredrifting behind us. Sarah sang one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard as everyone sat in silence. I would like to thank her truly; she was amazing. If I had anything to say to all you blog followers, really step back and think about where you are now and the state the planet is in currently. The world is always changing, but the poles are changing 50% faster then any other part of our planet in our solar system in our galaxy. There is only one Earth. We have to make goals, but not expectations because we can reach a goal. What you put, out you’ll recive back more then you can ever expect. As we remember the past, not moulding ourselves around such things, take ownership but use it as a point at which we can teach and can reach a greater distance in time.
Ashraf Bin Mohd Nurulfaizin
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hello people of planet Earth! How are you? Hope you guys are having fun at anywhere and anytime. I’m Ashraf, one of the participants of Students On Ice: 2015 Arctic Expedition representing MALAYSIA wohoo! You know what, this expedition is extremely, amazingly fantastic! I’ve met so many new people; there are students, educators, scientists, artists, photographers, explorers, and others. I also met new friends aged from 13 to 18 years old. That is really cool! Alright, before we even started, I just want to apologise for any lacks, flaws in my usage of words and sentences. To be honest, this is my first time ever writing a blog. Could you guys believe that? Blogging and writing journals is pretty cool. So, let’s get started! For the fourth day on the ship, we had Arctic Hour and workshops, on sea! All of the activies were held on ship for the whole day. Three Arctic Hours underwent with the theme, “ICE”. The first panel was about oppurtinities and challenges, the second panel was about sovereignty and the last one was about healthy communities. The panels were really good. It triggered me to feel I’m one of the Arctic family. And, we also had our Bottle Drop! We started with the number 1 until number 80 in the morning. It was very amazing, we had so much fun, the enthusiasm and the atmosphere was really incredible. And the hilarious thing was, me and Mr. Rakesh were the judges to give our score marks as people threw their bottles into the sea. We were a couple of loco and lunatic people. But I don’t care, we are who we are. We were having so much fun together with the others. Next, workshops! There were a bunch of choices, pretty tough ones plus new additional workshops. So I went to the new workshop, a video filming workshop with Pascale and Grant. We managed to create a video titled “Mr. Bingles Gets In Trouble.” Mr. Bingles was a puppet. So, we took turns to be a puppeteer or the camera man. It was really interesting. Personally, I got to learn new stuff about video editing, software, the styles and angles when recording using a camera and many other cool stuff.
August 2: Davis Strait “sea day” bottle drop! photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Fort Vermillion, Alberta, Canada
Hey mom and dad! I woke up early today, so I have a few minutes to write. Yesterday was fun, we went to another town in Greenland (last stop). I went to see Santa’s house in Uummannaq. In 1997 they made a Danish movie on how these elves had went on a very large search for Santa, that house was made for the movie. It was a 45 minute walk and the scenery was beautiful as ever.
The mountain on the island was supposed to be heart shaped if you looked at it in the right angle, and there was a church the whole SOI team went into to listen to a choir. It was a small church (barely able to fit all 200 of us), but everything was put together with so much love you would have wanted to stay forever.
I went stand up paddle boarding, it was fun and scary because the water was so cold (but I got to wear a dry suit). The dry suit helps to fight the cold water, only your hands and head actually get wet. I also got to see a few Fin whales and Minke whales but only their backs and fins. I got up close with the icebergs and couldn’t help but be amazed at how massive they are.
Today so far is great we are about to cross the Baffin Bay soon, but I still see hills a little distance away. Thats all for now!
Nevada City, California, USA
Another day in the Arctic! Yesterday we visited the small village of Uummannaq in Greenland. Uummannaq means ‘heart shaped’ in Greeenlandic and supposely there is a heart shaped mountain near the town. Two years ago, SOI visited this town and it was celebrating its 250th anniversary. Yesterday happened to be their 252nd anniversary and so they performed for us in traditional clothing and served a huge meal with like 10 cakes, cookies, whale and other kinds of meat. It was a really great experience because besides just getting to tour the town, we got a way more personal experience. A big group of people hiked up to what is supposedly the house of Santa Claus. I didn’t go, but I heard it was really hard and you couldn’t even see into the house because it was so dark. On the way back to the ship we took the zodiacs around the glaciers and got pretty close. They looked amazing and even though it was really cold it was super majestic and beautiful. We barely get any sleep at night because we have to wake up so early and go to bed late. I’ll try to write tomorrow if I’m not too tired!
August 2: Davis Strait “sea day” bottle drop! photo (c) Martin Lipman #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Hello. So I somehow realized that I had forgotten to write yesterday about an incredible experience the evening before! This was the evening of July 31. We all got in 16 zodiacs to explore the icebergs. It was after dinner, so the light was at that perfect bright but not too bright, while also being soft.
First, we saw a whale swim along the edge of an iceberg. The iceberg offered ideal contrast to the dark whale. Ben, don’t worry, we weren’t too close. Looking at the icebergs and knowing that what we see is only one tenth of the whole thing is mindboggling. In a strange way, I think that this expedition has taught me that this phenomenon doesn’t only apply to icebergs. We often think that we know everything about something, or at least a whole lot of it; we think that through news, or articles, or photographs, we see most of what goes on in other parts of the world. However, I know that this really is not the case at all. As I learn, I am realizing how much I have yet to learn.
Anyway, back to the zodiac cruise. After travelling through the icebergs some more, we all got together in a zodiac clump. There, some of the SOI staff, including Sarah Harmer (Mom, you would have loved it) brought out their guitars. We had a sing-along. On 16 zodiacs. At dusk. In the Arctic. With people from around the world. It felt powerful.
Now to today. We have begun our travel across the Davis Strait. Seeing nothing but water is not as frightening as I thought it would be. We learned more about culture today, and what makes a healthy community. One main topic brought up many times was education (Pop, I thought of you). As one of the panelists said, quoting Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”
Yesterday, we prepared bottles for an SOI tradition: the bottle drop. Inside the bottles were messages with information on how to document the location of the bottle and time spent to arrive there in order to learn more about ocean currents. We also wrote a personal message about the SOI expedition, and we gave our email addresses so if the bottle does get found, we will know when, and by who. Today, we dropped the bottles. They were thrown, plunged into the water, and then bopped back up again. We watched them float away from us, while we floated away from them.
(Not so) fun fact: One notable effect of climate change in the North is the melting of permafrost. Permafrost melting causes buildings and homes to move, resulting in cracking ceilings and instability.
I will see you very soon, Mom, Dad, Ben, and Farley. Amelia, we might get to see polar bears tomorrow!
St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Friday, July 31st was the best day of my life. I peeled my eyes open at 7:00am, remembered where I was (again), and jumped out of my bunk to look out through my window. To my delight, we were sailing through Disko Bay and were absolutely surrounded by icebergs of every size. Being from Newfoundland & Labrador, I am familiar with the sight of an iceberg or two floating by each spring (I even have about 30lbs of one in my deep freeze). But not like this. It was impossible NOT to look at icebergs. Some could be classified as small bergy bits and others could have held the population of St. John’s. I was impressed to say the least.
First thing after breakfast, I attended a workshop conducted by Pascal Lee who works with NASA about Arctic Ice with relevance to outer space. I held a part of a meteorite from Mars. Mars. It’s a pleasure to be on a ship with such an amazing group of people.
Many of the sites we have taken in have strongly reminded me of the shores of my home province. Illulisat was no exception. Carefully placed amongst the rocky banks were brightly colored and humble looking homes. It’s a special feeling to be so far away from home, but feel so comfortable climbing onto the shores of a brand new experience. I noticed that there was less of a variety in house color in Illulisat compared to my home and the reason behind it was much more intriguing than not having a paint shop. I was delighted to learn that the color of their homes can indicate purpose or occupation: yellow buildings indicate doctors or hospitals, red buildings indicate trade or distribution of western products, blue buildings communicate religious involvement, and green buildings indicate hunters. The house that I live in back home is purple and until now, I had never wondered why.
Once off the zodiacs and onto the shore, we embarked on a hike up through the community towards a path that would lead us to Illulisat’s Ice Fiord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). On our way we walked through an area of town where the sled dogs stay and were lucky enough to come across a number of puppies who were happy to receive some attention, and vice versa. The beginning of the trail towards the fiord was immediately striking the right notes with me. The small breeze coming from the ocean and over the hills carried scents from the ice, rocks, and plant life. If I had to smell one thing for the rest of my life it would be that. The views were magnificent and it was difficult to know when to take photos – or rather, when to stop. I was walking alongside beautiful Sira, who is a videographer on the expedition. We were discussing what beauty meant to us in preparation for an interview she wanted to do with me during the day. I was blabbing on about something that I thought at the time was the meaning of beauty while looking over my left shoulder at Sira and climbing the last two steps in a set of stairs on the trail. When we had conquered the stairs, Sira pointed to my right and said “look over there” in her soft spoken way. When I did, my heart took over my entire body and refused to let me breathe, let me think, or let me speak. All I could do was feel. And I felt every emotion possible at the exact same moment. I have never been so overwhelmed with feeling before. For as far as the eye could see there were ice bits, ice chunks, ice boulders, ice sheets, icebergs, and ice mountains compacted in a grocery store conveyor belt fashion on their way to the open ocean. The only other things I was aware of were the rocks I was standing on and the water that must have been under there somewhere.
To top the perfect day off in a perfect way, we returned to the ship and ate an early dinner only to be surprised with zodiac tours around the shores of Illulisat. I lucked into being in the zodiac with Sarah Harmer and two members of a Greenlandic folk band called Neve Nielson & the Dear Children who had joined us for a few days on the ship. It’s a beautiful sunny Friday evening, I am sailing on a zodiac on top of perfectly still ocean waters beneath the evening (Arctic) sun, off the shore of Greenland, listening to beautiful acoustic nautical themed songs, weaving in and out of icebergs (safely) with people who love learning like I do. And then we saw a humpback whale in the near (and again, safe) distance. Next, we hear Geoff radio all zodiacs to the one place and we follow suit. Now there are 16 zodiacs linked together in the ocean surrounded by humungous icebergs and we have a sing along to end the day off right.
I am so thankful.
To those who care: I still got crepes on Sunday.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The Arctic sun takes hours and hours to set. It begins setting in the evening and stays stationary for what seems like forever. It hovers just above the horizon from dinner until long past the time I’m asleep. It’s almost as if there’s a nook in the sky and the sun just settles in like it’s finally home, where it can rest after a long day and take some time to enjoy itself, sitting there above the horizon. It makes me miss sitting on my blanket atop Burnaby Mountain and watching the sun go down, then driving around in the dark.
I fell asleep in the sun and awoke in the fog. We left Greenland sometime last night and are making the day-long trip across Davis Strait to Pond Inlet, Baffin Island. The farthest north I’ve ever been. All I can see is fog. The ship is engulfed in it, the sun barely fighting its way through and barely casting a shadow. The water is still and grey and the line between the ocean and fog does not exist.
The ship is abuzz today. Students are writing, drawing, talking, laughing, playing games, playing the piano and guitar and ukulele and singing. The atmosphere is amazing. Students are always in the lab looking at phytoplankton and plants and specimens under the microscopes. In the library you can find staff and students alike flipping through books about Canada, wildlife, plants, anything you can imagine. There are so many languages being spoken aboard. Students from Quebec speak French with those from Monaco. Many of the students from the North speak Inuktitut. Before this expedition, I had never heard any Inuktitut, and now I can speak some choice words and phrases. The other day two students performed throat boxing, a mixture of beat boxing and traditional throat singing, and I could’ve listened to them for hours. It’s so interesting to be immersed in so many cultures all at once.
This trip is tiring. There’s so many activities and so much to look at, you’re always running around and rarely get to relax. The only time I ever get to sit down is at meals, briefings, and in the zodiacs going to shore. I miss having free time to nap. I also miss internet. Not because I want to stay up all night on facebook, but because being this far away from home, the internet would be the only way to be in contact with everyone in Vancouver. I want to boast about all my adventures the moment they happen. Like, hey Gabby, I saw some pretty sick rocks yesterday that were billions of years old aren’t you jealous? Being totally unplugged from the outside world is great, except for when I’m missing it.
One thing that having no internet does is force you to be social, or be creative, or sit on the deck and just enjoy your surroundings. I’ve written in my journal every single day. Pages and pages and pages. By now I know most of the people on the ship, or have at least met them, so being social is pretty easy, unless I’m tired. At breakfast I mostly just stare at my food and listen to everyone around me have conversations. I feel like I need to get to know everyone on the ship, but there’s almost 200 people here and all my conversations usually go like “How are you? Where are you from? How old are you? What do you do? How did you hear about this trip?” Not very many deep connections but we’ll work on that. Dinner conversations are always lively and interesting.
I’m looking forwards to seeing Baffin Island and the sea ice and more wildlife. Crossing my fingers for polar bears and belugas.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Hey guys! I’m not sure if I saved my blog update from yesterday to the right place, so you may not have seen it! I basically just talked about how being on a ship has been, so I guess you didn’t miss much.
In case I didn’t save it to the right place, there was also a big thank you in there, so I will restate that. Thank you so much to my Mom and Dad, my Uncle Duane and Auntie Valerie, Sue, and Papa, without all of your support I don’t think that any of this would have been possible.
We spent our last day in Greenland yesterday! I visited Santa’s house in Uummannaq and got to see an iceberg almost tip over. It was swaying back and forth, but it managed to stabilize itself (sad face).
The past few days in Greenland have been incredible and I’m a little sad to be leaving, however, we are now heading back to Canada to visit the Canadian Arctic! So, that’s awesome! I have to go to our morning briefing, I will update soon! Love you all! Bye!
Pangnirtung, Nunavut, Canada
Good morning! Today is sea day, we’re going through Davis Strait today. This morning I am a little home sick, well I am just longing for my aya’s love and my family’s love. Don’t get me wrong it is an amazing experience here and I am loving it but I just miss the connection between my family and I. Just 1 more week and I will be reconnected to you guys, oh how I can’t wait to connect with you guys again. I hope all is well back home and everything is fine with you guys! I love you guys so much, have a good day and I will blog again later. Bye <3 - Myca
Naine, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
First things first, I absolutely forgot about what Geoff reminded us last night- “And don’t forget, set your clocks back and hour” that was paraphrasing so you get the drift. So instead of waking up at 6:45 in the morning I woke up at 5:45 which was a fantastic failure on my behalf. However it gave me an hour until the storytelling at 7:00 and I was able to finish yesterday’s blog and go get a coffee. Not much people showed up so Pete ended up cancelling and I got to hang around for a bit. Since both wake-up call and breakfast were half an hour later as a gift of sorts I had to wait a while until anything happened.
Breakfast was done and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a whole day on the ship, cooped up in here for a long day. The beginning of the day was an Arctic Hour, with three choices just as before. I listened in on the panel about Arctic Soveirgnity, moderated by Dominique, with Caitlyn, Don and Pete as panelists (I think that the first Arctic Hour I wrote about didn’t have Don on it so I made that mistake). It was interesting to see their opinions on the whole affair which were all very well-developed.
In the interlude between Arctic Hours and lunch there were two tasks everyone was asked to complete: To sign a tome, and for the first half of people to toss their bottles overboard. I signed the tome first and made my way for the deck where everyone was watching the other’s bottles sink into the water as they were thrown from aboard.
Lunchtime was different as I and the other students and staff were introduced to the colour-coded tables based upon the sticker that told us where our locker was in the mud room. There were also rules to follow; no sitting with other colours and you had to answer a daily question. The punishments for not following said rules are severe, the cruellest one is no coffee, so I have a strong incentive to follow the rules so I can wake up properly in the morning.
Workshops came next, and if the video was posted on the website; you may have watched “Mr. Bingles Gets In Trouble”, and you might have even caught my name in the credits. I went to a video producing workshop with Pascel and Grant hosting, which was very fun and informative on the process in my opinion. Everyone took part in some way, there were about ten of us, give or take a few. On a side note Fletcher (Geoff’s son) turned out to be quite the puppeteer as he controlled Mr. Bingles better than I did.
The second round of Arctic Hours had an overall theme of The Northwest Passage, I attended a panel focused on the shipping capabilities of the passage; with Don, Trevor and David each telling us about an aspect of the benefits and risks of using the passage as a shipping lane for cargo boats and related subjects.
The second half of bottle-dropping commenced and anyone who was done was given an hour of “Quiet Ship Time” during which nothing really happened. Then we had dinner without the colour restrictions in place so we were able to sit wth whoever we wanted.
That was my day in a nutshell, a day at sea; but one just as educational as the rest.
Raslan Abdul Rahman Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Again, hello! Day three did not fail to meet expectations. Uummannaq Fjord currently has a group of Malaysians who are all doing fine. Happily enough, polar bears do not seem to want to eat a bunch of scrawny Asians. After devouring some hash browns and toast, there were a selection of “Arctic Hours.” An Arctic Hour is a one-hour presentation from a select panel on a specific topic. Today, the central theme was “Ice” and I went for “Challenges to Exploration.” The first panelist, Don Walsh, gave a short introduction as to what “exploration” is. Sarah McNair-Landry talked after him; specifically on the challenges of personally travelling the Arctic. The ever changing climate is leading to more and more open water in the Arctic, rendering the traditional dog-sledding method almost impossible. She raised the fact that whoever was first to reach the North Pole mattered less; the last one to reach the North Pole would be the true victor. The final panelist, Peter, explored more on the history and challenges of exploitation of the mineral resources in the Arctic. The Arctic is a land of plenty when it comes to oil and gas. Even thousands of years ago, the Arctic was the prime area for whaling to extract the oil in whale bones! Now, more and more are interested in the prospect of drilling for commercial oil in the Arctic. However, a dilemma arises in this case: should the Arctic be explored for its crude oil or should it be left to ensure the beauty of the land stays untouched? The indigenous peoples of the Arctic have been roaming the lands and hunting since time immemorial. They do not want to risk harming such a fragile ecosystem. Moreover, the exploitation would be risky business considering the difficulty mitigate an oil spill because of the remote location and the harsh conditions in itself. Really, is the oil and gas worth it if causes the Inuit culture to become nothing but history? Having finished with the Arctic Hours, we docked at Uummannaq. We got a warm welcome from the people of Uummannaq and from a lady called Anne. She showed us around the island and let us explore on our own as well. First off, we stopped by the church of Ummannaq and we had the privilege to listen to the choir sing to us in their native language of Greenlandic. Although I could not understand a word of it, the men reinforced the idea of a universal language known as music with the tone of their voices. Afterward, we headed to the school for a visit. We got to play soccer on a small field next to the main building. The terrain was sandy and there were so many people, but it was mightily fun. I even scored a goal so that put a smile on my face. Finally, we gathered in the school building to watch the students. The students put on a show in their traditional gars when they started performing. Their dances and chants were amazingly simple yet captivating. The songs had infectious melodies and I found myself humming along to the tunes. Eventually, they finished. The Students On Ice team took some time to give a few tokens of appreciation for the the locals. When I thought it was all finished, Geoff came up and said there was one more performance. To my horror, I saw my teacher standing next to him on stage! Inevitably, I was called up to sing a traditional song alongside him. The worst part is that I did not notice Geoff trying to high-five me after I was done singing and I left him hanging. All in all, it was very comic but I had loads of fun. Well, that was Day three. That was our last day in Greenland and we will be heading across Baffin Bay to Canada. Exploring Greenland has been amazing and I expect the Canadian North to be just as great. Stuck on the ship for a whole day without any stops, tomorrow will be something different. -Raslan
Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
During this trip, there has been a clear evolution of my perspective and idea of what the Arctic represents. In my previous posts, I have mentioned how this is my first trip to Greenland and Canada’s north. This means that all the information that I received about the Arctic, came from my biology, environmental, and political textbooks. Before this trip, I had an isolated amount of empirical knowledge about the Arctic, lacking the emotion connection many of the Inuit experience. I focused on how the Arctic environmentally affected the rest of the world, instead of how the rest of the world negatively affected the Arctic.
This was a completely unintentional, but purely scientific perspective, and is shared by many people. This mind set has evolved over the course of the trip by listening to people’s personal stories, and by experiencing my own memories and connections to the Arctic (that will hopefully last a lifetime).
My current experience in the Arctic has allowed me to see many of the flaws that can be found in “southern” society. The school where I live, tries to objectively examine the Arctic’s scientific importance, they don’t feel the need to teach about the unquantifiable emotional aspects. Yesterday, there was an interesting presentation on the Metis step dancing, done by Jamie, and something that she said really stuck with me. To paraphrase, she explained how her culture believes that it is important to be healthy; this means that one should maintain emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental health. Only when all four aspects are balanced will you truly be a healthy individual. After hearing this, I suddenly had a realization. I have found that in western society we tend to only value people who are physically and mentally healthy. The individuals who find importance in a healthy state of mind and spirit, are looked down on and devalued by the portion of population who see the world through an “objective” perspective. I also, am guilty of this mind set. I have felt that in order to become an “important” member of society I must be a scientist or mathematician, in order to not be thought of as “emotional,” I had to bury my feelings. To connect this back to the trip, I have started to develop a more well-rounded perspective on the Arctic. Sure, the Arctic is an important place, scientifically and politically, but it also has so much more to offer the world.
Throughout this trip, my idea of what the Arctic represents, has changed from symbolizing an important part of the global environment, to representing a home for the people that live there. By talking to everyone on the trip and visiting the communities, the Arctic is now personal part of me, and has even changed how I view the world.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
On this day, we will be at sea. I woke up early and went outside to get some fresh air. It was freezing cold outside! The wind bit me all over my body and I couldn’t stand that coldness. I had a great time with my friends and enjoyed breakfast together.
First thing in the morning there was a presentaion from Mary Simon and Udlu Hanson. I learned new words today like ‘Ullakut’ which means good morning and ‘Unnusakut’ which means good afternoon. I’m really impressed with the presentations.
I was thinking like a thousand times to choose which presentation to go to in the Arctic Hours. It’s kind of crazy, every presentation was really important for me to learn. I decided to go with the healthy community discussion. It was great to see Mary Simon again but she was just the narrator. The panels were David, Whit and Genevieve. David really gave me some info about what is happening and how things have change in the Arctic region like the biodiversity, traditions and much more. Whit talked about social indicators and Genevieve talked about social development and education.
It’s time for a workshop! But my head spinning like tops. I’ve gone crazy to choose which workshop I should go to. Photography, video, the lab…urgh! With all the havoc in my head, I managed to get on with the photography with Rosemarie and Pat. It was really wonderful to see them, and with just two students in this workshop so it was easy for me to ask questions to Rosemarie. It was really fun taking photos and hanging out with them.
There was another Arctic Hour later and I was impressed with the panel presentation although I’m not quite able to understand everything Fred is saying I still got some important information from him.
I was really happy to see Yuyu smiling widely when I brought her a birthday cake. Everyone sang Happy Birthday in Bahasa Malaysia. That was so cool!!! She must be really happy, and I’m happy for her.
Foster City, California, USA
The only thing I can think about right now is the song lyric, “What a wonderful world, what a wonderful ocean, what a wonderful boat!” I have to say the last two days have been quite strenuous, and intellectual. From hiking up, and around a mountain to Santa Claus’s house. To spending a wonderful day at sea and learning from various workshops, panel talks, and personally building Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV). This experience has been just getting better and better.
Yesterday we had a great opportunity to travel on shore to Uummannaq where we visited the town with a great town filled with joy, and laughter. People of the town Inuit’s were excited just as we were. After a once again a great Zodiac ride out to shore I first visited the Blubber House there we saw a magnificent display of their local culture. Another fascinating thing was that I was able to see a poster that was for the Movie Inuk, and from what I believe that the movie was made in the town of Uummannaq. Following that I traveled up to another muesuem, interesting enough the townspeople just called the houses Yellow House, Red House, and White House as the places we could visit. At the museum we had a great opportunity to see fur skin from the 1400’s, hunting tools that were for sure used, and a interesting history of the people.
Following the Museum/ Display tour I wandered off to a “Cool Spot” where it was both cold, and had a beautiful scenery looking out onto the city, and the shoreline with icebergs floating off in the distance. Right after that I had the opportunity to walk up to the school, see the kid’s and fellow SOI students playing soccer. I then decided to take a journey, I went on the hike to see Santa’s House! The climb was very excititng as we travesed the wonderful landscape of rock of all shape and sizes. The experience can be said as we were twisting, turning, and hopping our way there. After arriving at Santa’s House instead of seeing a magnificently built structure, we saw a rather small, gren colored building which after arriving had sounds of carols that fellow SOI students were singning to. The one thing to remember is that the climb there and the climb back was of the same distance, and just as tiring. Every step felt like I was carrying weight on me, but I eventually made it through! After arriving back to the city we ventured our way down to the dock as the day here in Uummannaq was about to end. There at the dock we were greeted with delicious cake made by the local’s. I personally had the great chance to taste the wonderful lemon/choclate cake. This sort of cake only reminded me of from what I hd when I watched the film “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” where he had a cake that looked and tasted about the same. While waiting for our Zodiac’s to arrive the local soccer team just docked. The local’s were all cheering for them, though I thought it was for us, they were happily shouting, cheering, and appluading there local team which had just won third place in the Greenlandic National Soccer Game. There then was a set of fireworks that made me think of the Fourth of July! To conclude the day was wonderful seeing the culture of the people who were all unifiied together, to see their joy of being together.
I’ll end on one note, Goodbye Greenland! It’s been a cold, tough, steep, grassy, and unexplainbly beautiful experience.
Today on board the ship we had a great chance of learning from various workshops, from the topics on Towards a New Era, to Aborigional Movement, to two Arctic Hours which included the Understanding of Soveriengnty in the circumpolar world, and the second one was the Climate of the Arctic. The day once again was filled with three great meals courtesey of the wonderful Ocean Endeavour Staff, we also got to meet the Captain for an official welcoming!!! Day after day it’s been getting more and more exciting! See you soon Canada! Everyday has been great! 我们现在已经到了Canada还有九天多在船上，很快要再去看许多鸟类和有趣的公园。我回到了Canada我在跟你们说话。因为这里太美丽了所以我还么写功课但系有星尚这里！
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Today we crossed the Davis Strait. We got to sleep in! (Till 8:00) when I woke up it was very foggy outside so I could not see much. We spent the day attending interesting Arctic Hour sessions and I got to make a really cool block print of an iceberg. I also got to drop my bottle off the ship today. I hope someone will find it someday and read my message, and hopefully it will help contribute to scientific research.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Hello inhabitant of the blue planet,
I wish you could be here with me to witness the expanse of the Davis Strait from a comfortable little lounge on the Ocean Endeavour. There is barely any visible life, except for the occasional gull that passes by.
Garry Donaldson, the resident ornithologist, elucidated the hidden natural empire that thrives under the now nonchalant (and, at other times, unforgiving) Arctic waters that carry us. It is out of sight, but not out of mind. From the small phytoplankton that live under ice to the immense polar bears that dwell upon it, the biodiversity of the Arctic depends heavily on ice. With global warming however, this ice is fast receding; and becoming thin and scarce. As a result, the marine life is moving north. The lifestyle of the people, which is based on subsistence and relies greatly on healthy waters, is becoming more difficult every passing hour. Unable to find food in the water, the polar bears are resorting to move inland and attacking humans.
Albeit this change is most noticeable in the Arctic, it is not exclusive to it. Fish that lived near the equator are moving to greater latitudes in the north and the south. Species are being found in places they were never found before. Not only is this inconvenient (to say the least) for fishing industries, it is also reshaping food webs all over the world. Heat strokes are becoming more and more common along the equator, glaciers are melting, and the water is rising.
This information might be deja vu for you, but believe me when I say this, it is much worse than it sounds. As a student on Students on Ice Arctic 2015, I am privileged to experience these disconcerting side effects of our increasingly artificial lifestyles, in person. The wealth of information on board, the amazing people who devote their time to educating us, and the first hand experiences we are gaining, are mindset changing.
Mindset changing, because a good mindset is like a well oiled lamp. It can illuminate lives, but only if you choose to light the wick. You can choose to take action and change lives. The lives of humans, the lives of animals, and the life of the blue planet.
There is much more to our planetary home than meets the eye. Let’s go outside, it is not that scary. Or we can put 200 leaders on a ship for two weeks while sailing through the Arctic. What comes out of it is awe, wonder, and tireless motivation to protect the poles and protect the planet.
Lia Le Brun Robles Gil
Baie-Durfé, Quebec, Canada
Greenland is now behind us and we are entering the second part of our Arctic Expedition via ship. Now, looking back, I can immidietly call to mind some amazing experiences: our arrival by plane, our very first landing on shore in a remote area, the communities we’ve visited, the icebergs, the whales… and the friendships made. Every day has been a fantastic adventure. Each day had been long, starting at about 7:30 and often finishing near midnight. But in those sixteen or so hours, we’ve experienced so much.
When Greenland first appeared out our First Air windows, many of us looked out and admired one of the most gorgeous view I’ve ever seen. As hard as I tried, it was impossible to properly catch it’s splendour with a camera. There were mountains peppered with snow, fog rolling between them. Fjords of either crystal blue water or Turquoise in quality due to the sediments within it (as one of the many diverse experts explained quickly thereafter). And, in the distance, over mountains and hills, we could catch a tiny glimpse of the polar icecap. Even as we landed and took our first whif of fresh, crisp, Greenlandic air, it had yet to strike many of us that we really were there.
Even when we hit the zodiacs on our second day and went ashore in what looked like a remote valley, we were still filled with anticipation and excitement for what was yet to come. Heavy fog hung in the air, making us incapable of seeing any further than the next ridge, but that only gave the area an isolated feel. It made us feel more united; as if we were alone in the world for just a bit. Our own little seafaring community. We explored for the first time, discovering a multitude of things, such as the soft mossy ground, the ponds filled with fairy shrimp, the tracks of animals and birds, the flora and the compacted, sugar-like snow. The cool air felt amazing after the stifling heat of Ottawa.
And it went as such for two more days, during which we saw, for some of us, our very first icebergs. Sculptures of snow and ice, glimmering in the sunlight, floating on water. One of the only substances on Earth to have a smaller density in it’s solid form compared to it’s liquid one. Some looked like ships, other’s like a bear’s upturned heads, others even seemed to have come right out of an abstract painting. Then some whales, interrupting our briefings and brilliant workshops, only to bring us an even more astounding display. A display of blows, smooth backs and even tails. And let’s not forget the communities we visited, living in one of the harshest environments. Communities with beautifully coloured houses, amazing culture and art.
All of this topped of with breathtaking performances of at shapes, sizes and flavours. Songs, jigs, throat singing, beat-boxing, performed by experts and students alike.
In other words, an absolutely splendid first week. Full of new experiences and connections. We’ve just started to get comfortable enough with everyone to get past the What’s your name?, Where are you from?, What do you enjoy?, and What’s your area of expertise?. We are now in the zone of ideas, possibilities, inspiration, motivation, actions and debate. The fun and fulfilling zone. There are so many amazing people here, be it amongst the staff or the students.
And you know what’s the best part of it all? There is so much yet to come. We’ve still got an entire week ahead of us. With more encounters, places, workshops, laughter, and, I sincerely hope, Polar Bears!
All in all, thanks so much to everyone, be it the other students, the staff, or the people back home who gave me the possibility of being part of SOI.
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Yesterday I said a fond farewell to Greenland as we began our journey through the Davis Straight. The Ocean Endeavour has far to travel, so we wil be spending all day on the ship. We turned back the clocks as we moved away from Greenland, and, as a result, I got to sleep in an extra hour. This I was very thankful for! Breakfast was especially great this morning, and I was nice and full by the end. Afterwards, my pod group, Bravo, gathered in the Hub to practice our cheer before the briefing. Our practice payed off, and we won the routine mini cheer competition for the first time.
After the briefing and a presentation about the future of aboriginal populations in the Arctic, we had another Arctic hour. For this hour, I attended a panel discussion about the future of the Arctic that focused on culture. The panel discussions are great formats for these conversations because many different perspectives can come together to contribute to our overall understanding of the topic. One of the main questions that this discussion focused on was the question, “What is the right way to develop the Arctic?” As I am learning, in the Arctic, among many factors, there is a need for infrastructure and a need to protect the environment. In my opinion, only by balancing these needs can the Arctic have a sustainable future. After the Arctic hour, I was able to do some laundry and get ready for lunch. The workshop I attended after lunch focussed on the “Idea of North” and how that idea has changed over time.
After the workshop, I attended another Arctic hour. The focus this time was on climate change and how this specifically impacted the Northwest passage. More presentations followed until dinner. Dinner was great, and I finished eating just in time to hear the life story of one of the staff members onboard the ship with us. The main message of the talk was “be opportunistic” which I think is great advice. The day wrapped up with a briefing. Tomorrow, the plan is to be cleared by Canadian customs and make a zodiac landing in a national park. There is much to do tomorrow, and I cannot wait!
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
Interview with Fred Roots on Sunday, August 2, 2015 12pm
Location: Library of Ocean Endeavour on Davis Strait
I got the opportunity to sit with Dr. Fred Roots, legendary polar pioneer, leader and explorer. He was a part of the first Antarctic international research expedition in 1949 and holds the world record for the longest unsupported dogsled journey (189 days or 6 months). He has served on many United Nations committees concerning the environment, radioactive waste, and climate change. He received the Order of Canada and Massey medal for all his contributions to the scientific community. He is now 93 years old and is a part of the 2015 Arctic expedition team. He is also a sweet, humble man with many things to share with everyone on the ship.
I quickly scribbled down a couple questions for Dr. Roots and sat down beside him during our break before lunch. He was more than willing to share some stories with me. Here are two of the questions he answered.
1. How did you get involved with Students On Ice?
Fred worked as a geologist in the polar regions long before the idea for Students On Ice was thought of. Tourism in the polar regions was just beginning to form when Geoff Green, Founder of Students On Ice, approached Fred and other committee members of an Antarctic committee for research in 1997. What really left an impression of the business idea for SOI was Geoff’s enthusiasm, who was a high school student at the time. They agreed to help him start the program. “Geoff was the leader, of course. He made himself the leader,” says Fred with a smile. One of Fred’s jobs was to deal with the insurance for all staff and students, which was especially difficult for the Arctic since sovereignty was a complex issue at the international level for that part of the world.
2. You’ve been doing many expeditions to the two poles throughout the years, have you noticed any significant changes in the landscapes? If so, what kind?
“Yes, there has been noticeable changes. The tree line is moving north, areas covered by sea ice has changed, glaciers are bigger, it has gotten warmer, there is a difference in the animals. So, yes everything has changed.” He mentioned how moose are migrating farther north and polar bears farther south.
He shared some stories about his experience with his sled dogs while in the Antarctic. There were 62 dogs in total with each team carrying their own supplies and food to last them the 6 months they were there for. It was extremely humbling to sit beside him and listen.
Uummannaq, Greenland has been my favourite part of the trip so far. The people were extremely welcoming. The children from the orphanage performed for us and watching them proudly wear traditional clothing and play traditional songs was amazing to see.
This update is dedicated to my grandparents! Love you guys.
Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Wow. Today already marks the fifth day that we have been aboard the Ocean Endeavor. Every single day brings a new adventure, and today is the first time that we will be spending the entire day on the ship as we cross the Davis Strait. When we went to the previous towns of Greenland, the weather had always been sunny and quite warm. Yet there seems to be a blanket of fog today as we travel across the ocean (and I should be quite thankful that we won’t be freezing cold when we visit Nunavut).
I’ve begun to start missing home. I wonder how everyone is and what it’s like back in Vancouver. This expedition definitely keeps me busy and keeps my mind off of things, but we’ve finally gotten an hour for some down time to relax.
Yesterday was definitely my favourite day of this entire expedition. I was able to hike in Greenland up to Santa’s House. The entire town of Uummannaq (in Greenland) was very welcoming and they were definitely expecting us as we had a tour guide readily waiting for us once we docked in our zodiacs. They gave us a thorough tour of the blubber museum as well as the general Uummannaq museum, filled of great discoveries from the past hundreds of years of the town. Then we went into a church where they just had a funeral an hour before we arrived, but instead of grieving, they welcomed us with a Greenlandic prayer and a six-man choir.
The singing was absolutely stunning. I still cannot believe the perfection of the harmony as they sang songs about love, nature and Christmas. Christmas definitely seems to play a huge role in Uummannaq, which is why I really wanted to visit Santa’s House. Once I heard that there was a group going to see Santa, I immediately joined them. This was right after I finished the Greenlandic ice cream that had a more milky taste than Canada’s typical ice cream (and it was absolutely delicious!) The hike was definitely on the more tiring side, with lots of jumping and climbing up rocks. The view everywhere was absolutely stunning on the entire way up, with the glaciers in the background giving us an illusion of a cool Arctic breeze.
Santa’s House itself was definitely not what I had imagined. Walking in, the rooms were black, taking my eyes a couple minutes to adjust to the dim lighting. Santa was painted on the wall, and there was a small Christmas tree inside with a table the size of a nightstand. Our 41 hikers gathered inside Santa’s House and sang Christmas carols.
Something I absolutely love about the SOI Expedition is that everyone on board is a family. When I first arrived, I only knew Vivian and Christina, who were the other two girls from Vancouver. However, it’s only been 7 days in and I already feel like I’ve gotten to know everyone here, making the expedition an incredible experience. My cabinmate is someone from Nunavut, and yesterday night, she opened up about her experiences in her home and showed me photos of her relatives. I was so glad that even though we are so different, we were able to share our love for our families as we laughed through selfies, and complimented each other’s family members.
I wonder what else is in store for our expedition. So far, it has been a great experience (and of course, a truly life-changing one) and everyone here has left such an amazing impact on my life. I definitely look forward to spending the next 8 days with this group, and I hope that I will be able to get to know each of them better.
Kugaaruk, Nunavut, Canada
The first day on the ship was exciting but before we got on the Ocean Endeavour we went close to the ice cap. I was hoping to go on the ice cap in Kangerlussauq but we didn’t. The minute I went aboard the vessel – I was surprisesd – I didn’t expect it to be so luxurious. A member of the crew showed me to my cabin but he was sort of lost. He walked me to the restricted side of the stairs which was on the right side of the ship (starboard) and finally showed up at my cabin. We went to the Nautilus Lounge a.k.a The Hub. We had a briefing about what were going to do for the next day. I got to my cabin and Robert and I talked a little bit -getting to know each other.
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.