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SOI Arctic 2016: Day 12

Above the Arctic Circle in Disko Bay, Greenland

We are sailing in an ocean of icebergs. At one point this morning, over forty icebergs could be seen off our starboard side as we sailed northward towards Disko Island, a large Island about 150 kilometers in both length and width, just off the coast of Greenland.

Early this morning while all were fast asleep, we crossed the Arctic Circle (66.33 degrees’ north latitude)

Our weather today has been very pleasant, some fog patches and cloud cover, but mild temperatures, very light winds and calm seas.
After a morning of workshops, life stories and other activities onboard, we arrived to historic and picturesque Qeqertarsuaq on southwest coast of Disko Island. About 850 people live in this sleepy fishing village and we had a wonderful afternoon visit filled with hikes, workshops, exploration, whale watching, qajaqing, music and more! A musical quartet welcomed us on shore with a unique mixture of blues, country, rock and a lot of traditional Greenlandic songs. It was a wonderful surprise for everyone.

Several our group leaders found quiet spots around the scenic sheltered harbour. Educators and students sat on the smooth rocks, or lay in the tall arctic grasses, so different from areas in Canada that are above the Arctic circle. The warmer ocean currents give Western Greenland a much warmer climate than Arctic Canada. Most of these sessions were extensions of sessions that began on the ship earlier this morning.

Our education program is moving into the “what’s next?” and wrap up stage. We are seeing students stepping forward to offer workshops on subjects that are important to them. Aviaq Johnston from Iqaluit is an aspiring author and she shared Inuit legends and storytelling with a group of our students and staff. Jonathan Glencross has received national and international awards for his achievement in the fields of youth, sustainability and education. He led an engaging discussion focusing on building upon lessons learned and determining individual career paths and personal growth.

We also heard four remarkable people recount their life stories this morning, each providing insights, context and inspiration. They came from markedly different backgrounds, but each in their own way, found success and fulfillment.

David Serkoak, was born in a traditional Inuit Camp in the early 1950’s. He is a respected educator and elder today, and continues to bridge the differences between the old and new worlds.

Tom Paddon from Northwest River, Labrador has built a remarkable career in mining in Canada. As President of Baffinland Mines he has been striving to reconcile the commercial interests of developers and shareholders with the rights and interests of the Inuit and environmental performance standards.

Maureen Raymo is a climate scientist and one of the leading experts on climate change. She has received multiple awards and recognition for her work, including Discover Magazine’s list of the 50 most important women in science!!

Miguel Rodriguez, is a diplomat with the United States embassy in Canada. A physician by training, he holds a master’s degree in International affairs and advanced training in economics. He speaks seven languages and his current portfolio at the US embassy includes the Arctic, science and technology and innovation.

Ninety-four-year-old, legendary polar scientist Dr. Fred Roots, reminded all of us tonight that we should also look for inspiration and answers from the wonders of Mother Nature. He recalled mapping on a Yukon mountain top in the late 1950’s and witnessing two wolves engaged in a “relay hunt” of a big bull Caribou. One wolf was chasing the Caribou in a big circle while the other rested. Fred witnessed one wolf take over the chase and the other laid down in the exact same resting point, waiting for his turn to come again.

We concluded our day with another night of stories, music, sharing, laughter and a spectacular video on yesterday’s visit to Evighedsfiord. Take a look. You will be amazed!

Tomorrow we arrive to Ilulissat where we will spend the morning visiting the wondrous Jacobshaven Ice Fiord, the iceberg factory of the Arctic.

We are a group of lucky, inspired and happy people, young and old, removed from the trials and tribulations of the “real world”, disconnected from the media, cell phones, computers, etc., for a few precious weeks. What a special group…parents be proud!! We’ve been immersed in the moment, the magic, the challenges and opportunities, and connected to nature on this extraordinary journey of discovery, reconciliation, transformation, emotion and hope.

It’s hard to believe that only a few more days remain until we return home. Look out!

In the expedition spirit,


Alissa Matoo – Arviat, NU, Canada


We will be stopping at Qeqertarsuaq today.  We are at Disko Bay. Since we haven’t been to any towns yet, it still feels like I’m in Nunavut. I am learning a lot. I am okay.

Amy Johnson – PhD Student

Hello! Today was awesome! We started out this morning heading North along the West Coast of Greenland and this afternoon we did a shore excursion on Qeqertarsuaq, a little town on Disko Island. The town was beautiful, with brightly coloured houses and a warm welcome from the locals who played music and sang as we came onto shore. I did a workshop on shore about climate change and then a walk around the town. I ended up on the far side looking out over the bay and there were tons of huge icebergs and three humpback whales that I watched for about half an hour. There were also quite a few harp seals that we saw while travelling and they were very active and porpoising out of the water. We are now heading toward Ilulissat and an ice Fjord that we will visit tomorrow which should be beautiful!


Sharing a laugh on steps of Qeqertarsuaq Museum. Photo (c) @lipmanstillpics / SOI #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce

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Darrell Wells – Instructor Marine Institute of Memorial University

We had an amazing day yesterday and from the sounds of the plan, today is going to be another great day.  The weather is still pretty foggy and we are travelling North and we have officially crossed the Arctic Circle!!!

We started with a series of personal presentations by some of the many experts on board  and the discussions focused on their own personal careers and journeys up to this point. Some of the stories and the paths that people have travelled are quite interesting and very educational.

This afternoon we are planning to land at Disko Island and visit the small community of Quqertarsuaq.  This is a very beautiful community where we will be able to see the many HUGE icebergs that are calving off the Glaciers of Disko Bay.  The plan is to do some hiking on the island and visit a little museum.  Sounds like some interesting encounters.  More pictures for sure.  By the way, I have taken thousands and thousands of pictures up to this point and there are many more to come.  The scenery is simply incredible and the pictures do not do it full justice, but it is the avenue that we have at this point.  More details after our excersions.


Emma Lim – London, On, Canada

Yesterday we had a BBQ lunch on one of the ship decks, with the beautiful Greenland Fjords surrounding us. After our lunch we had an impromtu music session with three guitar players and one of the doctors who was a celloist. With many people singing we composed a few songs, one about the common dandelion (I think I mentionned this in my past blog) and the other one called “I’m on a boat, wait- a ship!” This is beacuase we are on a ship not a boat. A ship is a vessel that has it’s own boats. Our music was interupted by a humpback whale sighting! We all ran to the front of the boat to look and I was able to go into the bridge with the captain and the equipment to look at the whale, which was super cool. Afterwards we took zodiacs to the Bay we were pulling into and got out. The Bay was absolutely gorgeous, lush with blackberry bushes and flowers, huge towering moutains, and waterfalls. The only downside was the bugs. The Bay was aptly named Mosquito Bay because it was swarming with the thickest cover of mosqitoes you can imagine. Luckily, they weren’t biting mosquitoes but the sheer volume of disgusting bug was horrifically uncomfortable. (That night when I tried to sleep it still felt like bugs were hitting me on the face). I went to a workshop on wilderness medicine held high on a mountain top!

After, there was the polar plunge which involved people running into the frigid Greenlandic water. (I saw frequent icebergs in the water that day) I stayed in the water for a bit although after a while it stopped burning and I couldn’t feel my apendages. Hmmm.

At our nightime briefing there was lots of music, some memorable songs involving one man singing the lullaby he sang to his kids, which was a song about a monster eating their heads and killing them. (It was a very unexpected twist). A student played his accordion and we all danced, a combination of square dancing, circle dancing and Inuit traditional dancing!

This morning I went to a talk about the diplomat on board’s career and then a workshop on uttilizing my experiences held by some alumni. I learned about the vast network of SOI alumi and was extremely inspired!!  I also discovered I had service and may have been hit with some charges! (Sorry!! I didn’t know that we would have service in such a remote location!) After lunch we sailed into a Bay which held a picturesque town surrounded by huge, looming mountains. It was cool because the fog covered just how high they were. The houses in the town were all painted different colours, which was lovely. People were there with music to greet us and I toured the town museum which held lots of nice art.

I went to a workshop on Inuit legends and explored the town. I was allowed to use the bathroom for free as well instead of paying 10 kroners becuase the man who owned the restaurant said for Inuit, it’s free. Many people on this trip have mistaken me for Inuit or First Nations so far, which is cool. This is a really long blog and it’s dinner now, so I’m headed there. (Shoutout to my cool blog reader!) Loads of love to everyone at home.

Arctic cotton. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce #NatureforAll

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Melissa Snedden – High School Teacher

Today was a pretty special day and our first day in an active community. Coming off the zodiac at the dock was a local band, which was a nice surprise. There was a long hike as one of the workshops, which I was planning on doing but because I woke up feeling under the weather I decided to stay for the Inuit Legend workshop instead. After the workshop we strolled around town and I ended up walking with Lyn who is one of the mental health councellors. We had some great conversations and searched for sea glass along the shore.

I’m hopeful tomorrow I will be feeling better as we’re visiting another community where we will be hiking and visiting shops.

Grace, Journey, Blessing.

xo Melissa

A musk ox skull decorates a roof top. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce

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The Greenlandic town of Qeqertarsuup. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce

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Final phase of ROV workshop. Photo (c) @lipmanstillpics / SOI #SOIArctic2016 #StudentsonIce #floatingclassroom

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