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SOI Arctic 2015 day 8: Pond Inlet & Sirmilik Glacier

From the outset of Students on Ice 2015, we planned on making Parks Canada today’s focus. However, we could not have planned the kind of introduction we got to one of Canada’s most recent and most spectacular National Parks, Sirmilik. It covers almost all of Bylot Island in the High Arctic, just off the coast from the northern end of Baffin Island and the community of Pond Inlet.

We began our day with an overview presentation of Canada National Parks system by Don Marrin, who is the Executive Director of Northern Parks and an SOI educator on this year’s expedition.

Parks Canada has sponsored thirteen students from its summer employment program to participate in SOI 2015. The initiative is part of an overall training and education program for Parks Canada’s developing staff. Seven of the Parks students are Inuit or First Nations and work in northern parks, including a resident of Pond Inlet, Justin Milton. Six others are chosen from southern offices.

When Don began his lecture shortly after breakfast, as our ship was sailing through a thick grey fog, there was very little visibility.

He took us through the history of the 45 National Parks in Canada and pointed out seven recent ones established in the northern Territories are directly tied to land agreements. In each region he said, aboriginal organizations, First Nations and Inuit insisted as part of their agreements, that National Parks be established to protect the critical areas and wildlife. In the northern parks system, aboriginal people maintain the right to hunt fish and trap for subsistence.

Barely had Don concluded, when bright sunshine came streaming in through the ships windows and as though someone had magically lifted a big curtain, there on starboard side was the majestic cliffs of Bylot Island, and on the port side, the village of Pond Inlet was clearly visible.

This region is historic for both Inuit and the early explorers.

Almost four hundred years ago, in 1616 explorers and whalers William Baffin and Robert Bylot sailed here and left their names on the two islands.

SOI’s Arctic Biologist and historian David Gray gave us a through overview of the regions past and present wildlife resources, explaining there is many fossils indicating this region was once inhabited by dinosaurs.

David said that so bountiful was this region in whales that historical documents from 1823, record forty one whaling ships operating at the flow edge, and one ship alone had recorded killing and processing 38 whales for their blubber and oil.

The Inuit and their predecessors, the Dorset and Thule cultures also lived and migrated through the area, and indication it has always been rich in wildlife and natural resources and of course breathtaking natural beauty.

It took several hours for all of us and the ship’s crew to clear customs, with two officers flying in from Iqaluit to validate over 200 passports and related documents.

Parks Canada Personnel also came aboard our ship to provide safety and familiarization briefings on Sirmilik park.

Finally in the late afternoon, we could go ashore in the Zodiacs and we divided into three groups.

The first tackled a two hour hike up a massive mountain steep incline. They didn’t make all the way to the top, but they got a workout and breathtaking photos, which we will be sharing.

A second group hiked about three miles into the base of a receding glacier. That was also a tough hike up and down a steep rocky moraine which is the terms used to describe the massive gravel, boulder and sand deposits left from the glacier. Glaciologist Eric Mattson provided an exceptional explanation on melting glacial process, and the formation of the massive gravel and rock beds reaching for miles in all direction with the melting glacier in the background and the rushing sound of the Glacier Rivers and streams clearly audible. Another example of this most remarkable outdoor classroom, that leaves its students of all ages almost breathless.

A third group participated in a variety of workshops along the shoreline, and some joined David Gray in a walking tour as he pointed out many locations that had been ancient camps, going back at least a few hundred years.

Overnight we will moving about 40 miles westward, toward some ice at the entrance to Milne Inlet, with the idea of a Zodiac excursion in the morning in search of polar bears, In the afternoon, we will be back here to visit with the community of Pond Inlet and more tours of the Sirmilik Park await us in the days ahead.

Geoff Green
Founder & Expedition Leader

*Check back for student blogs, expedition photos and videos!

August 3: Made it to Canada!! #SOIArctic2015

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

 

Tyson Angnetsiak  

Pond Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

Now our expedition visiting Greenland come to the end. We’re opening up our new trip, crossing Davis strait to north of Canada, heading to Pond Inlet, Nunavut, which is currently my hometown. I’m so excited! 
Back to mentioning of end of our expedition visiting Greenland. 
We landed at the well-known International Airport in Greenland, which is Kangerlussaq, that is where we hopped onto the cruise ship, went to Sisimiut to pick up some cargo first, then went exploring the community for awhile, then went to the most known community surrounded by ice caps, which is Ilulissat, and we went for a long hike, which is the thing I hate the most, no offence. Finally, our last journey in Greenland, we visited the local community in Uummannaq. We were welcomed by the locals, and it was amazing! The island was beautiful. It was a small community compared to ours and the perfromance was absolutely fantastic! The language was smiliar to ours. I understood some of the words and that was incridible! That is the whole story of Greenland.

-Tyson

Petra Brown
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

This morning I woke up to fog, lots of it. You could hardly see past the end of the boat. During the morning I attended an Arctic Hour on conserving our parks and wildlife. It really focussed on how the changing climate and human activities are threatening the survival of many species, especially in the Arctic. We need to work together as a team: Inuit, Parks Canada and everyone one else in order to protect and restore the threatened areas.
This afternoon we arrived near Pond Inlet, and then went to Sirmilik National Park. There I went on a hike up Triangle Mountain which was not as strenuous as they made it out to be. It was a very steep climb, but the view was spectacular. Though my favourite part was being able to stop on the way up to pick blueberries! (Mom you’ll get that one.)

Anyways have to get to dinner, see you soon Mom, Dad and Thomas.

– Petra

August 3: The Canadian Arctic #SOIArctic2015 A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on

Erinn Drage

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

A day at sea could not have come at a better time for the participants of Students On Ice. After four incredible days of visiting Greenland in communities that we will never forget (or learn how to spell), day five on the ship was spent on open water. 

The day at sea was greeted with open arms and bright smiles. Although many may not understand the excitement of being confined to a ship for over 24 hours, here at SOI we understand that a day on the water is a real treat. To look in all directions and see nothing but still, clear Arctic water, it is easy to understand how blessed we are to be on this expedition. It is safe to say that the hardest part about our day at sea was deciding which of the wonderful workshops offered to attend. 

Ocean Endeavour has become a home for all of us in such a short period of time. With such a welcoming crew and staff along with a friendly face around every corner, it is easy to understand why so many SOI students are already starting to fret about when the time comes to say goodbye. As we move into the Canadian Arctic for another week of adventures, we will all continue to seize every opportunity awarded on this amazing and exotic experience.

-Erinn

August 3: #SOIArctic2015 #CanadianArctic

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

Ashley Cummings

Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada

We are back in Canada! Yesterday was a sea day where we crossed the Davis Strait and it was filled with wonderful workshops, presentations, and Arctic hours. Today we are in Pond Inlet and will be going on Bylot Island to do some workshops and hiking. I am looking forward to what the rest of the day will bring!

-Ashley

 

Michal Leckie

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I’m going to be brief today since I don’t have a lot of time. This morning, we woke up to fog. You couldn’t see much more than a couple meters from the boat.  I went to a workshop on Natural Education. We talked about the benefits of children spending time outdoors, and about inquiry-based learning, where students tell teachers what they want to learn about. Dad, I thought of you during this workshop. We arrived near Pond Inlet, and then to Sirmilik National Park. I went for a hike to the glacier. There, we did some nice meditation. Here, I thought of you, Mom. Sorry to be so brief, but I have to go to dinner. I will see you very soon, Mom, Dad, Ben, and Farley.

Fun fact: Things may look much farther away than they appear (as we discovered when approaching the glacier).

-Michal

 

Myca Nakashook

Pangnirtung, NU, Canada

We made it to Pond Inlet!!! It is such a beautiful place. I actually wouldn’t mind living in Pond because it’s so much like home and the mountains are beautiful! Today I have been very emotional and just missing home (one of those days). I will actually be reuniting with my best friend in Pond Inlet tomorrow, after so many months of not being together. Just 1 more week and I will be reuniting with my family!!!!!! <3 it wil be an exciting moment.

-Myca

 

Matthew Newell

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I have two pretty cool things to share with you guys today! First of all, there is a new video going up on the website (it might already be up, I’m not entirely sure) about our visit to Uummannaq and it includes a bit of an interview with me, so be sure to check that out if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to! Secondly, we are now back in Canadian waters and getting ready to visit Bylot Island, after we get the go ahead to continue on course by Canadian officials. We have to watch a safety video before we leave the ship though, in case we should stumble upon a certain furry, white animal that resides in these areas. Yes, we might have a chance to see a polar bear today (hopefully not too close though), so I might get some pretty cool pictures for you, Meg!

I hope everyone has a great monday, I love you guys! I miss you lots mom, dad, and Meg! I’ll see you in a week!

-Matt

 

Isobel Obrecht

San Francisco, California, USA

This past week has been a truly amazing experience. I walked on the scraggly gorund covered with bright green mosses. I have seen the inscrutable faces of icebergs pass silently by, the sun glancing of their shinning surface. I have seen a halloween orange moon hang like a lantern over majestic purple mountains. I have learned how to flip a kayak, and stand on the deck, the air warm after the biting cold of the pool. I have seen the glimpses of the shining black backs of whales, arching through the water. I have seen the ocean so calm that I could observe looking glass icebergs minutely shifting. I have experienced the culture of an amazing people, eaten their food and spoken (terribly) their language. I have looked down upon a seemingly infinite field of Ice, feeling both connected to and utterly dwarfed by the world… and I have talked, a lot, and listened even more.

Finally, in the spirit of kumbaya and summer camps world wide, we all came together to sing songs such as “what should we do with a drunken sailor” or “this land is our land”. The only difference was that most summer camps gather round a campfire, not in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amidst a city of icebergs after a ride through the sun kissed waters on a zodiac, the vague threat of a capping iceberg lingering on the gentle wind.

-Isobel

 

Roszita Mat Zin

Malaysia

Raise your hands up if you have ever eaten whale meat! Yup. Whale meat.

So today I’m going to talk about whales. This is another ‘First Time Moment’ for me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about me eating whale meat but about me seeing a whale for the first time. I didn’t get to eat whale meat when the other SOI members got the chance at the Children’s House because I went for a hike to the Santa Claus’s house. Yes, you read that right. Santa’s Claus’s house. Well, that story is for another chapter of my first time moment. Wait for that.

Getting back to my first time seeing a whale. It was during a zodiac cruise. Thank you Captain Trevor for your keen eyes and skills. He spotted the whale first and told us about that and when we turned around to look, the whale decided he was quite shy and needed to hide for a moment. hah, not quite. He or she did the dive and appeared to the surface and to our excitement did the tail flip. Yahoo….we got pretty close (but not that close because our great Captain Trevor said “we can’t go to close, aye”). So, we just kept quiet and observed the whale diving and appearing to the surface a few more times. I kept my squealing of excitement to the minimum. Hah. My first whale! And by the way it was a humpback whale.

After that groundbreaking moment (for me), we got to see more whales from the ship. Minke and Fin whales, they were feeding. I happened to stand on the deck with Dr. Chris and a few others when all of us gathered on the decks when the announcement of whales sighting was made. He told us the names of the whales we were observing because most of us couldn’t really see them. They were just spurts of water at several spots in the horizon. Dr Chris has this book on types of whales and how to identify them. Yup, I believe he got them right. And wait! That’s not all the highlights of the day. I saw my first seal too. One lonely little seal swimming alongside the ship. What a day!

-Roszita

 

Justin Sargenti

Monaco

This is my first blog, and it’s already the middle of our expedition. The first week was really fast, now I probably know all the names of the expedition members. Last week was just amazing, Ottawa is a beautiful city and warm (the same as Monaco). Sisimiut (the first Greenlandic city we visited) was so pretty, just like a cartoon; there were houses of different colours (green, white, yellow, blue, red). Then, Uummannaq ! What a beautiful city, some houses under a big mountain in front of Icebergs. The people there were amazing, they put on concert for us with some traditional songs and dances, it was amazing I will never forget it !

I feel like a child with my camera, I love using each differents lens. Pat and Rosemary (professional photographers) have taught me how to use my camera for more artistic photos. On this trip I have learned a lot of things about different cultures in Greenland and in Canada, and many other contries represented here.

This is a great expedition, I have a lot of things to say, maybe to much!

PS: tout va bien ici, j’ai toujours voulus rencontrer des quebecois alors je suis heureux car ici beaucoup sont du Quebec. J’adore cet accent, cet facon de parler et de penser. Mon appereil photo est extra je m’amuse comme un fou avec !! ( desole pour les fautes d’orthographes )…

-Justin

 

Taia Steward

Sendai, Miyagi, Japan

This afternoon we went to Pond Inlet. We could choose between workshops, a medium hike, and a hard hike. I chose to go on the medium hike. While we were on the zodiacs going to land, the water was pretty rough so we got a little wet. It was actually quite fun. On the hike we were wearing our rainboots so my feet got a little sore. Other than that, the hike was great! It felt really nice to get moving again after a whole day on the ship. On the hike we could see a glacier. It was really cool because it looked like the ice was mixed with the rocks. There was also small glacier runoff. While we did some meditating, it was really nice and relaxing to listen to the sounds the runoff was making. The zodiac ride back was wet again. This time it felt cold because it was later in the day. It was really nice to get moving after a whole day and a half on the ship.

-Taia

 

Shawn Tourangeau

Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada

BACK IN CANADA

“GOOD MORNING STUDENTS ON ICE” Is the sound that we hear every morning before our day starts. It has offically been over a week since I had left home and began this crazy adventure, and there is still another full week of it left. We do so many great  things in one day, each day feels like at least three days.

We have successfully crossed the David Straight and are currently making our way to Pond Inlet, and then head over to one of the National Parks in this area. Yesterday was a full day at Sea and it was jam packed with things to do all day. From helping to shoot a short film…thing for children using a puppet (Mr.Bingles – he doesn’t like being called a puppet however) to learning about the economics and future of the Northwest Passage, we had it all.

On this boat, we are fed like Kings and Queens. Two thirds of our meals have desserts, two long aisles of a great variety of food to choose from at breakfast and lunch. A three course meal at dinner with some fancy foods I do not know how to pronounce. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I possibly can because who knows when the next time I am going to have an opportunity like this. I sure know that I will not be eating like this back home.

You know when a POLAR BEAR BRIEFING is put into the schedule things are about to get serious. But I stil can’t wait to see one of the famous Polar Bears in this region.

We were supposed to stop by a large patch of sea ice this morning, where there might be polar  bears hanging out. But due to low visibility, (the reason I am writing this blog now) we could not find the patch of ice, so no polar bears. I am sure there are going to be other chances to see them though.  The amount of icebergs we are seeing has dropped dramatically.

One of my favourite people on the ship is King Kong. No, he is not a giant gorilla, he is a dog. Yes, a dog. He was roaming the ship free yesterday and he, and I, could not be happier about it. He always looks so incredibly happy.

Since I did not write about my first experience on Greenland, I will write about it now. On the second day in Greenland, we did a zodiac landing in a remote area. I will never forget the first few steps and the spectacular view as I walked up the hill. I felt as though I used this word too many times when asked how to describe the view, but it was beautiful. I cannot believe that there are some people out there who believe that there is nothing up here but snow and ice. Yes, I took lots of pictures.

We met the Captain and his senior officers yesterday, where he officially welcomed us aboard his ship. I found it kind of funny how we had spent at least three days already on board before he welcomed us. But it’s better late than never.

Anyways, it is nearly breakfast and I’m hungry. So long.

-Shawn

 

Madeline Yaaka

Kangirsujuaq, Quebec, Canada

Recap of yesterday:  I woke up very happy because we got to sleep an extra half hour. Yesterday was our first full day at sea; we were going from Greenland to Canada. The day started off with Arctic Hour. They talked about opening the doors to the Arctic (stuff about the economy and how it affects the people). During that hour we talked about issues affecting the land and Inuit people from the circumpolar regions. For example, a guy from Russia who works for WWF explained how if there was an oil spill in the north of Greenland (where Shell is planning to dig for oil) it would affect marine life all along the east coast of Canada, Nunavut and Quebec. I found that really interesting. After that I got to throw a bottle into the ocean to track ocean currents. There were different workshops after lunch so I went to the Mental Health Matters workshop. One of the guys that was doing that workshop has worked up north  in Nunavut so he shared his hard experience working up there. Dinner was pretty fun. I sat with Peter the historian and Boomer, the guy doing a kayak making workshop. They had many interesting stories to tell. I got to try some Minke whale with Peter. It was really hard to cut because we weren’t allowed to use the knives from the kitchen so we had to cut it with some wood working tools that Boomer had. It was a challenge. Anyways, I think that’s it from yesterday.

We are back in Canada today! I’m pretty excited. The waters have been so calm it’s surprising. We are now in Pond Inlet, Nunavut; which is very beautiful. We will be going to Sirmilik National Park this afternoon. This morning we had another Arctic Hour. I chose the one about how to keep a park healthy. During that hour we learned all about National Parks throughout Canada and also talked about the Franklin expedition. I learned a lot this morning; it was fun.

-Madeline

Michael Mehreteab

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Today (well 2 days ago, because this was unknowingly handed late), after many beautiful days in Greenland and a day in Baffin Bay, we finally arrived in Canada! With that came a time change and a later wakeup time! We had a morning at sea, with a presentation on Parks Canada and 3 different Arctic Hours about Parks and Canada’s nature, all while we waited for Customs to clear us into the country.

After that, we met several new Parks employees that were taking us into Sirmilik National Park, not something that many people get to do. However, before that, we had to watch a presentation on safety rules and polar bear safety (you know you’re in the Arctic when you have to do that).  While we were getting there, we had some time to kill and if you were to walk around the ship, you would see all the impromptu workshops people set up and the fun everyone was having. It was a great bonding moment for the SOI family.

Now we were headed to the park! There were many activities: workshops, a long hike and a mountain hike, all were very fun. After that, we took a zodiac ride back to the ship. I don’t know whether the water was rough or if Trevor (the zodiac driver) was insane, but it was quite an experience! Upon returning to the ship, we had a late dinner, where I had a stimulating conversation with Pascal Lee. Then we had a quick briefing and an immediate curfew. It was a good day!

-Michael

Chase Holwell

Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

Land ahoy! Today we arrived in Sirmilik National Park in order to do some activities with employees from Parks Canada. After breakfast and a briefing, we had an Arctic Hour all about Parks Canada. I went to “Conserving Our Wild Areas”, which had a panel of Fred, Michael, and Udlu. Fred talked about how the parks have a variety of life, Udlu about the people surrounding the parks and how they are impacted, and Michael about the parks themselves and how they are maintained.

In our second meeting Kieran talked very briefly about dinosaurs and the possibilty of finding any out in Sirmilik National Park. David talked about the islands around the area, and gave an overview of what to expect from this part of Nunavut. Also, a presentation was given on polar bears and what to do in the event of encountering one, which makes sense seeing that we are visiting a park where polar bears have been sighted before.

The landing was so beautiful and I hadn’t even stepped off the boat. Triangle Mountain was so tall that I expected to pass Sam and Frodo on the way up. It was cited as ‘strenous’ but I guess I overestimated my ability to hike. So after my time on the trail, the shore’s workshops were really inviting. Annie was doing a knitting activity, Paul was off looking at flowers with students, Fred had something going on, and some muktuk was available. Narwhal tastes pretty good.

A grounded iceberg is an excellent way to end a day at the park. A few of us hopped into a Zodiac and managed to go away from the group to see this wonderul sight. A small iceberg compared to some ones I’ve seen on this trip, but towering nonetheless. Glacial water dripped down the sides, reflecting the sunlight perfectly.

We had a late dinner, at 9:00 or later, but I cannot be sure. It went on a little longer than most because the conversation continued for a while after desserts were finished. So today was really fun, yet very tiring. Cheers for now everyone.

-Chase

Megan Dicker

Nain, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

We are back in Canadian territory! We have spent a day at sea crossing the Davis Strait. Yesterday’s activities consisted of multiple “Arctic Hours” where we discussed topics that relate to the Arctic, such as the ice, its people and its future. We have been working closely together and learning from one another. While fog threatened the day, our good spirits led to blue skies and sunshine.

After the wonderful “Good morning Students On Ice” over the system we woke and prepared for the day. I happily participated in a “workshop” with my cousin Caitlyn, Lisa  and Mary Simon. Each individual inspired me and made me think about my future. I know for a fact that their words will always be with me, especially because they are such strong leaders. My favourite quotes from this morning included: “As a human being, we need to connect to nature” and “Take what motivates you and make a career out of it,” which was said by Caitlyn.

Once the fog lifted, the mountains of Sirmilik National Park and the Pond Inlet area were in sight. We passed Pond Inlet and headed straight for the Park, where we were introduced by some of the Parks Canada team. Our short, but sweet visit to Sirmilik National Park was amazing. Our SOI team was divided into three sections with one group hiking one of the nearby mountains (pretty steep and challenging), one group hiking to the edge of the glacier and the rest of the students and staff staying at the beach in workshops .  I decided to hike to the glacier, even though we did not get to the edge. We rested after our hike, and we took a moment to embrace our surroundings.

I am sincerely enjoying this expedition.

-Megan

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