This morning when we landed in Maxwell Bay, just off the southern coast of Devon Island, we had no idea that today would be the day we would see so many different animals! We went out in zodiac cruises through year-old sea ice where we saw a seal, walrus and 3 polar bears. Claire Fu described the bears as “majestic and intimidating, but at the same time also cute in a way that made me seriously want to cuddle them.” Read the blog posts below for more first-hand experiences of seeing the animals!
The afternoon then consisted of workshops such as LGBTQ+ discussions, permafrost demonstrations, and even tested our ROV’s (Remote Operated Vehicles) in the swimming pool as part of a workshop with the Marine Institute’s Shawn Pendergast on remote underwater sensing. Other workshops included discussions about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and so much more! We also had time to do Isuma workshops where we finished up our art projects, songwriting, journaling and strolls on the deck. As we continued west through Tallurutiup Imanga we saw a walrus on sea ice, waterfalls and beautiful mountains.
The evening started off with an alumni panel with Students on Ice alum from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2016! There were performances by Louisa Steigenberger who performed an original song, Jimmy Uqittuq who throat sang and performed a “Atsalalaaq”, Kathy Snowball who sang a fun song while playing guitar, and Claire Fu who wrote a beautiful poem about academics. George Woodhouse and Ian Tamblyn then capped off the evening with “Lean on me” where staff and students shared parts and sang in harmony.
The evening ended with our favourite storyteller Michael Arvaarluk Kusugak. He treated us to a story he published this in 1993, about the Northern Lights and representation with the souls in the sky. Another heart warming end to an incredible day! Time has flown so quickly and soon enough everyone will be home, but in the meantime we are enjoying every last minute together and savouring each moment!
Chiara Concini, student
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Wow does time fly, tomorrow is our last full day on the ship and by Wednesday night I’ll be back in Edmonton.
I know I missed a post yesterday; in my defence I was very cold… FROM DOING THE POLAR PLUNGE! For those of you who might be confused, I went swimming in the Arctic Ocean wearing nothing but a bikini. The water was just above 1 degree celsius, and there were a few icebergs floating among us. To join the SOI Swim Team, you had to dunk your head all the way in. Of course, that is what I did.
I ran in three times, and by the third I couldn’t even feel my feet (that helped me stay in a few seconds longer)! The rest of my body hurt so much because of the cold, so once we got back on the ship I had a very hot shower to warm up.
Yesterday was also amazing because I went kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding! I was able to do a somersault on my paddleboard and I didn’t even fall off. However, I will admit that I had some trouble steering both the kayak and the paddleboard.
A wildlife update: yesterday I saw a few seals! We were all standing on the front deck when they were spotted jumping up and down in the water. We are pretty sure they were ringed seals.
I also wanted to update you all on our decision: we have decided to head north to Resolute Bay. As of now, the ice around the Bay is almost gone. We are hoping it fully disappears and then stays away. As we are on our way to Resolute, we have been heading even more north!
Today was just as exciting as yesterday (minus the cold), if not more. This morning, we went out on a zodiac cruise amongst the sea ice. Sea ice is known as an ecological hotspot. Sure enough, the cruise started off with us seeing a bearded seal on a thicker piece of sea ice. According to our zodiac driver, it was the fattest seal he’s ever seen.
About 3 minutes later, something extremely exciting happened. WE SAW TWO POLAR BEARS!! A mother and her cub were walking on a big piece of sea ice about 500 meters away. We stopped the zodiac and spent 15 minutes sitting in silence, watching them. It was an absolutely magical moment, and I was in pure awe. Later on, we saw another bearded seal, and then a rainbow! I don’t know if there is a better way to spend a morning.
Tomorrow is the last full day onboard the ship. I can already tell how much I am going to miss some of the amazing people I have met. As the expeditioners come from over 18 countries, there are people that I will never see again, or at least will not see for a very long time. As upset as I will be to leave, I do miss home and I’m excited to see all of you soon!
Before I sign off once again, I just wanted to say how grateful I am to Roslyn Bern and the Leacross Foundation. Without their support, I would not have had the chance to experience this opportunity of a lifetime. I am so honoured to have been chosen to participate in this expedition, and I can say with certainty that it has changed me in so many ways. – C
Claire Fu, student
I finally saw my first wild polar bear today! We had anchored in Maxwell Bay, a remote location amidst pieces of sea ice. When I got out on deck this morning, the water was unbelievably calm, not a single rustle of wind stirring the waves awake. Because of how still the water was, as a result the clear ocean was also incredibly reflective. Like a mirror, every cloud and mountain was a perfect clone of the original, and with the sea ice floating gently above the water, it was nothing less than spectacular. After a light drizzle, we even saw a rainbow form across the sky, in front of a jellyfish-lookalike cloud!
As we slowly cruise through on our Zodiacs, we first saw a bearded seal. His head was bopping in the water as he swam, perfect ripples disrupting the serenity of the water. When he saw us approaching, he ducked under the ice and reappeared farther away, safe from the clutches of our engine.
We saw another massive seal sunbathing on the ice (or was it a walrus? He was too far away for us to tell) which slithered into the water as soon as he spotted us. But not long after, an excited Nellie, Geoff’s daughter, squealed, “Bear!” and all of us whipped our heads around towards the large patches of sea ice in the distance.
It took me so long to see, because they were so far away. But there they were, two yellow dots padding gently across the white, oblivious of our existence. Geoff immediately shut off our engine and we drifted, silently, as close as we could (which was not very close due to the importance of safety and not disrupting them). I nearly tripped over my bag rushing to the front to get photos. Even with my camera lens zoomed out to the maximum setting, they were still very small.
It was a mother and her cub, hunting seals. I took so many pictures of the pair, but with another gasp, I turned to see an even larger male bear strolling across the ice, even farther away. They were majestic and intimidating, but at the same time also cute in a way that made me seriously want to cuddle them.
We need to protect these precious species. They have learned to adapt and live amidst the ice, and who are we to destroy their homes in order for our personal gain? As they lumbered about, minding their own business, it reminds me so much of my family, of my mother taking me around the city of Hong Kong when I was little to show me what I needed to see in order to grow up.
India Tory, student
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Hello! Sorry for not writing in so long… There is always so much to do! The past few days have been just as great as the rest.
Three days ago, we went to Arctic Bay for a celebration for a new protected area through the Arctic. I do not have the name of the area written down, and it is way too complicated for me to try to spell out, but the initials of the area are TI. It was really lucky that the timing worked out and we got to be there, and it was also really special to see the reaction and emotion of the staff and students on this ship who will be impacted (in a good way) by this change. It was also cool because right before the meeting started, the clouds went away and it became a beautiful day.
Two days ago, we saw a lot of birds! The morning was super chill which was so relaxing – I did some more sewing, made some friendship bracelets, watched a mini documentary on the Canada C3 expedition, and red my book. It was really nice to just do quiet things. Afterwards, we went on a zodiac tour to the Bylot Island Bird Sanctuary. There were so many birds. At first I couldn’t see them and I was so confused, but then I saw them and realized they were literally everywhere. Luckily no one on my zodiac got pooped on, but our engine stopped working for a bit and we all just sat eating sunflower seeds, floating in the ocean.
Yesterday, I had two highlights. The first was in the morning. We were sailing by Talluruti (Dundas Harbour), but staying on the ship, so we were all supposed to stand on deck to look at the remains of old houses and things. My friends and I brought chairs outside from one of the lounge areas and just sat outside in the sun looking at the abandoned harbour. It may sound simple, but it was amazing.
My second highlight was at Croker Bay (there were actually two). First, it was the workshop I did. We were talking about how climate change impacts us all individually, and then we worked together to make a video for the media team to show at COP25. The ideas some people came up with for the video were crazy – so thoughtful and powerful. The second highlight was doing the polar swim!!! It was so cold omg. I was the second last to film the video, so almost everyone had gone back to the ship, but my friend Eyglo (from Iceland) had waited while everyone else saw just so we could go in together. My body was not too cold, but my toes felt like they were going to fall off. They had warm hot chocolate waiting for us which helped warm me up.
I cannot believe that we only have two more sleeps left on the ship. It feels like its already been a month, but it doesn’t feel like time to go home yet.
Jennifer Sokol, staff
Northern Policy Analyst
Everyday has been an incredible experience! We often say “it can’t get better than this”, and the following day is just as amazing.
Yesterday at Cape Graham Moore we had a workshop on Climate Injustice and the students developed action statements to express to the world! Brilliant! We then had a chance to take the polar bear plunge – you bet I went swimming, right beside an iceberg!!
Today was just as amazing! I taught yoga this morning while looking over the coast of Devon Island. We had POD time (with Tuktu) and reflected on our goals and objective of the trip and touched on the future, after the expedition. Then we saw three polar bears on the sea ice from the zodiacs. WOW!
Thank you to all staff and students for making this expedition a life changing experience and for being YOU!
Joah Thompson, student
Haines Junction, Yukon Territory, Canada
I just got back from a zodiac cruise and while out there I got to see two polar bears! They were far away and hard to see even through the binoculars. I realized that they look more like a cream colour instead of a white colour.
While I was out on the Zodiac I was filmed with some of the other Junior Rangers on our expedition.
I also want to mention a couple days ago the expedition was in Arctic Bay for the announcement of Canada’s largest marine protected area called Tallurutiup Imanga. While in Arctic Bay the Prime Minister of Canada came for the announcement so we were able to meet him.
I have had a great time on this SOI expedition! I have learned about how the Inuit lived in the harsh climate of the north. Also I have learned a little about other cultures around the world. I hope that others from my community will have the opportunity to go on the SOI expedition in the coming years.
Linda McDonald, staff
Watson Lake, Yukon, Canada
We are in Maxwell Bay, or we were. We are now sailing somewhere else, where SOI has not been before.
It’s much colder here and there is sea ice all over the place. It is also more windy than previous places.
Yesterday, we were in Croker Bay. We did our workshops first and then the Arctic swim. I did part 2 of the song writing with George. The “Epic Song”, as George calls it, is going to be fantastic! A lot of very creative students on this expedition ands many who are so incredibly open and good with words. I offered a wee suggestion or two and laid back on the beach using my backpack as a pillow and I nodded off to George strumming some cords on his guitar as students offered their verses.
The cliffs are quite stunning in Croker Bay. There are two glaciers flowing into the bay, so we knew the water would be very cold. The beach was covered in sharp and flat rocks. The vegetation is much smaller and less of it than previous places. Also, in spite of the sunshine, the air felt cooler.
I was determined to do the swim, but I was apprehensive as it felt much colder than the day before. We all went in at different times before we departed to the ship. There was a small ice berg just off shore and many of us swam out to it and touched it. Tupic swam around it!! I have never swam in waters so cold. I will never again complain about how cold the water is, where I may go swimming next! Croker Bay is my top limit for cold! The hardest part was walking on the rocks to get back to my clothes and boots. People were ready with towels and hot chocolate. Thanks Shirley, Jenn, Savannah and all the other SOI staff who helped out to keep us warm. My cup of hot chocolate never tasted so good!! Some of the more hardy students went in a second time?? I honestly don’t know how they did that??
This morning when I went out on the top deck with Garry, looking for wildlife it was much colder and the waters were more rough. We went out in zodiacs this morning. Half the pods went out and the other half stayed back to write a letter to their future selves. I went out with the 2nd group and our zodiac driver was Andrew. We saw two polar bears! They were quite a distance away on the sea ice and with binoculars you could see them. My binoculars are not very strong, so I borrowed Andrew’s. What a sight! We all felt so blessed as some of the zodiacs which went out this morning did not see any. It rained just a wee bit and then we saw a rainbow. Andrew says that it is rare in the far north to see rainbows. What a morning!
Tomorrow is our last full day on the ship. Everyone is feeling sad and yet excited to go home. I know that many people will stay in touch. I am feeling nostalgic and I will miss my new friends.
I have to write a comment in honour of my son, Zuneza Cove who came on the SOI expedition in 2009. I have thought about him a lot as we sailed on these waters. We have gone a different route than they did in 2009, but I think they did go to Resolute Bay. He was on a much smaller ship than this one, with a lot less students, but I think we have had some similar experiences. Daily routines, like morning and pm briefings, curfew for the students, great food, time on the various decks, camaraderie, lots of laughs and deep discussions. As I sail I look out at the sunsets before I go to bed, I often think of you, Zuneza. Thanks for being the person you are, thanks for the lessons you have taught me. Thanks to all my family and friends who are reading this. You have all played a part in me being here.
This might be my last post, as tomorrow will be busy and we will all be wanting to squeeze in one more conversation, hug and laugh as our departure nears. Thank you Students on Ice, 2019!
Luana Moar, student
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Boozhoo, Hello, Aluu everyone,
This is Luana Moar giving an update from the past couple days since my last blogging entry. I would like to share brief parts and highlights since crossing over the Davis Straight back into Canada going along Nunavut.
July 30th I was a lot more energized since not being sea sick anymore which was a huge relief. That morning we had the chance to visit the community of Pond Inlet. Everyone was welcoming and it really was a great place to visit. We dispersed in groups for a tour around Pond and got to see a small museum. Walking around it reminded me kind of the rezzes back home.
All the Students on Ice crew were inviting to the local community centre for cultural performances. My favourite parts was getting to see the lighting of a traditional kudlik lamp which is a technology I admired for a really long time, and seeing the little children drum dancing and throat singing was so beautiful.
After we took off from Pond Inlet I had the opportunity to visit Sirmilik National Park. This park normally gets to around 50-200 visitors a year if I remembered correctly so it really was a special place that I was so grateful to see. It again was one of those places that looked unreal like something out of a magazine. I was able to do a caribou hyde smoking workshop on the beach and also started a little sewing project. It was really so great to work with this animal that has been utilized in the area I was in for so long just next to a huge inland glacier.
Also huge shout out to Parks Canada for taking care of this space along with many parks all over, putting in that good hearted work. It really is important for the overall environment as well as what these places mean to the indigenous peoples who have history in these spaces. Parks Canada is also the reason I am having this opportunity on Students on Ice having paid through a scholarship to support me being here. It really has been an experience of a lifetime so far!!
The following day on July 31st we went to Coutts Inlet. Everyday really had so much to offer and this one was something really amazing and exciting. We arrived on shore and went into different workshops. The one I choose was Inuit dancing and singing. I got to play some musical games that would have been used to distract and be happy in winter where there is no sun. Some of them were really funny and one song had a dance that later in the evening I got to perform with my group and it was so exciting to see that part of the culture.
After a while we went on a walk to archeological site with some very well kept sod houses, sealskin stretcher-dryer, a dog skull, and some other items. The most amazing oartis that we had an elder who had family history in this spot and she shared with us traditions and stories which was a huge honour and highlight to have experienced. When we were done getting a tour near by I had the chance to see natural stove made bannock being cooked which was awesome and once it was announced it was cute to see all the native kids get excited.
Siting down near the traditional site I was able to smoke my rainbow pipe for ceremony. The fact I was able to do something like this right near a place that holds such good energy but also long history and stories of the Inuit was really a good moment. Later in in the day I was given the opportunity to skin seal with a traditional ulu which again is another invention I admire and I was so happy. Wearing my traditional skirt and even getting to try a piece of the raw fat was so exciting. The elder who taught us was so kind and I was flattered because she thought I was Inuk and gave me the kindest smile even if we couldn’t understand each other too well.
It was crazy to see time going by, even now, but the following day was the first day of August. This day was as always a very special day. The morning consisted of a different panel workshops that discussed arctic related subjects. The one I choose was about indigenous works of action with the government and it was very informative. It was directed towards an event that we would visit later on in the day. August first was the first day that a large body of water in Nunavut would become protected. There is a specific work in Inuktitut for this space but I currently unsure how to spall it. We visited the community of Arctic Bay for this event.
Once arriving on zodiac a bunch of the local kids came to help hang out and share a bunch of high fives right off the bat which was so fun. Everyone was really excited to have us and were so nice. There were traditional clothes being represented, different elders, and community sharing an emotional and well deserved moment from a lot of work that was completed in a span of two years. There were also political and governmental representatives that came out on this day. I was really proud of the Inuit for making something like this possible and I hope to see more opportunities like this happening back home. It really is a big deal that will not only protect the water, but the mammals, animals, and coastal areas.
August 2nd: In the morning there were some reflection and group activities. After lunch we were back out on the zodiacs to go bird watching. This is when I’ve seen the most birds the whole trip. Two species lived in this area but the most interesting for me was the murre. It is a bird that looks like a penguin but also flies and can dive very deep in the water for food.
Trying to hurry writing so I have time to explain. I will share about August the 3rd. The morning I got to do more sewing with seal skin which has become something I truly love. We passed Devon Island that was said to appear like the Inuit womans traditional tattooing on the chin. We also passed a site with old houses and had an elder on board share personal connections to this place.
The evening I kayaked and supped near a huge glacier and went pretty close to a iceberg. The weather was beautiful and it really was the perfect day to do this. I also managed to do all of this still in a traditional skirt. This location we were at was Croker Bay and this is where I did the polar dip twice right next to an iceberg. If you don’t know the polar dip is when you swim in arctic water and it was freezing. I lasted about 10 seconds each time.
Today is August 4th and it has been jammed pack even though it only is a little past lunch. This morning I spent time writing some letters for a project. Afterwards the most amazing thing happened!! We went on a zodiac trip along a bunch of sea ice which was kind of the first time seeing a lot of it. We were surrounded by mountains and it was weird because the lighting looked like it would be later in the day.
Cruising through the ice at a pretty good distance I saw 3 wild polar bears that looked nice, big, and fluffy. We were all hoping to see a bear at some point and on the second last day it really was so so amazing. It rained on us slightly while still being pretty sunny. Once leaving this area we also saw an arctic rainbow which is not common at all. For myself in a super cheesy way it really was a highlight for me because of the connection I have to rainbows with Dancing Rainbow being my spirit name. Now I am off to more workshops and possibly another landing later.
Love and miss everyone back home and I cant wait to share more. Thanks everyone who has been following my journey and talk soon,
– Luana Moar
Martina Fjällberg, student
Offerdal, Jämtland, Sweden
Hello! I have not written a blog in quite a while but it is because I have been busy making friends and having fun. So this is going to be a short one, I think. Since I last wrote a blog I have kayaked in the sea, been to another glacier, prepared seal skin, taken a selfie with the Prime Minister of Canada, seen a bird nesting cliff and I swam in the ocean next to an iceberg. I have done some more stuff as well but I thought I would share the bigger events.
So today was quite a day. It finally happened. I saw a polar bear. But not just one, I saw THREE polar bears. We were out on a zodiac cruise when it happened. I made a weird sound of excitement and almost dropped my gloves in the sea. First we saw a mother and cub and then we saw a lone polar bear. It was awesome and we were able to see them for quite a while so everyone on the zodiac got to borrow my binoculars and see the polar bears up close. I have proof as well because I took some pictures holding my phone up against my binoculars. It was such a cool experience. I was just happy for the rest of the day and then after lunch I saw a walrus. Today have been awesome. I am speechless.
Hej allihopa! Jag hoppas ni har det bra och inte saknar mig allt för mycket. Jag har det helt fantastiskt och det kanske ni märker med tanke på saknaden av inlägg. Jag har fått sjukt många underbara kompisar från hela världen. Nu är det inte jättelänge kvar tills ni får höra från mig igen och ni kommer bli less på alla bilder jag kommer dela överallt. Jag hoppas också att Arvid kommer ihåg att han lovat att hämta mig på flygplatsen och om inte så får han lösa det. Jag skickar fortfarande pussar till er alla. Ha det bra nu så hörs vi snart!
I have meet some great people and I feel so sad thinking about going our separate ways. I sit up every night just talking and laughing with wonderful people and every day is filled with great experiences and smiles. This is probably going to be my last blog because I just want to enjoy my last couple of days with all these wonderful people and spend every minute I can with them.
Go where the journey takes you, love Martina!
Orvell Williams, student
Memphis, Tennessee, Canada
If I could share one thing about my expedition it would be that this trip is truly life changing. There are so many different opportunities to get involved in while being apart of Students on Ice and I love that so much. I get a chance to connect with many different cultures as well as see things that many people have not seen. I truly wish everyone knew how great Students On Ice is for connecting with different cultures and people from all around the world. While being impacted by the different communities along the expedition I have been motivated by the people around me to change the world.
Pat Parungao, staff
Teacher and Businesswoman
As a member of the zodiac loading team, I was to ensure the lineup to get to the zodiacs kept to the right side of the corridor. This allowed for free movement back and forth by others on the left side of the corridor. I also checked that folks had lifejackets on and clicked and that they had their room key which had a barcode that would be scanned to document if they were on the Ocean Endeavour or on a zodiac.
On my zodiac exploration today in Talluruti (Dundas Harbour), we sped between various sizes of sea ice. It was like nowhere else on earth! It was like travelling through a maze where the lines keep shifting. In fact, one of the zodiacs got stuck in the ice and struggled to find a way out. It could have been touch and go as we saw three polar bears in the distance – could they detect us? Might they be as interested in us as we were of them? (Actually they were very far away). Our zodiac helped by moving pieces of sea ice out of the way until we got close enough to tow it out. It took some effort and ingenuity with success at end.
Pirita Nakkalajarvi, staff
Communications professional & Sámi advocate
Oinniimet jiekŋaguovžža! Iđđes mii finaimet vuojašeamen gummefatnasiiguin Maxwell Bays, mii lea vuotna Devon-sullo davábealde. Dál mii leat nu davvin, ahte čázis leat juohke sajis uhccit ja stuorát báldut. Go vujiimet bálduid čađa lagabui jieŋa ravdda, nu fáhkkestaga oinniimet jiekŋaguovžža. Dat lei hui guhkin mis, muhto dan meare stuoris, ahte dan oinnii giikára hagage. Fiinna ealli!
Nubbi joavku, mii bođii moadde diimmu min maŋis oinnii golbma jiekŋaguovžža, main okta lei uhca čivga! Doaivvu mielde geasnu lei buorre kamera mielde ja oaččui buriid govaid dain!
We saw a polar bear! We are somewhere north of Devon Island, in one of the fiords. I think it is called Maxwell Bay. We did a zodiac cruise first thing in the morning. We are so north that the water is full of smaller and bigger pieces of ice floating around. As kept driving further closer to the edge of the ice, we suddenly saw a polar bear! It was far away from us but it was so big you easily see it without binoculars as well. A beautiful animal!
Another group that came a couple of hours after us saw three polar bears out of which one was just a little cub! Hope someone had a good camera and got good pictures of them!
Tukirqi Pilurtuut, staff
Inuktitut Curriculum Developer
Davis Strait crossing
As we were leaving Greenland crossing over to Canada which I call home I couldn’t help holding on to the last bit of land I could see over the horizon. Greenland was and is I hoped it would be in many ways, such as hospitality, great scenery which reminded of my home town Kangirsujuaq in Northern Quebec. It interest me there is a place called Kangerlussuaq in Greenland, yeah just like home!
Anyways, I had a vision during that crossing which I was so anxious to cross as I am terrified of the ocean. I’m on the 2019 SOI Expedition and I have never met the people whom has been here before me. Yet, there was a big reunion and I saw Geoff’s face whom was really proud of us.
Ved Varshney, student
Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada
So the expedition is nearing an end an I can truly say that this expedition has allowed me to cross of things on my bucket list that I didn’t even put on there. For example, I never thought that I would be stand up paddle boarding or kayaking in the Arctic Ocean. Especially ecstatic about the fact that I attempted the official polar plunge by submerging my head into the Arctic Ocean which is 1.7 degrees celsius. This trip has allowed me to learn so much about the Arctic environment, arctic culture, climate change, and potential solutions to climate change.
I honestly cannot believe how quick the time flew and it’s almost impossible to believe that I will be back at home in just a couple of short days. I am sad to leave this floating classroom but I am very excited to see my family and have the authority to be able to sleep in without having a curfew check and wakeup call!
See you soon Mom, Dad, and Ekansh!