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2019 Arctic Expedition: Day 6

Students began their afternoon in Uummannaq, Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) where we were greeted by our dear friend, Ann Andreasen, and the people of the Uummannaq Children’s Home. They welcomed us with a performance by their orchestra and then they invited SOI staff to perform. This included a song by Ian Tamblyn, throat singing by Becky Okatsiak & Lynda Brown, an Inuit drum performance by elder David Serkoak and a song by Nivi Nielsen.

The team then freely explored the town where some people were greeted into homes, given gifts such as beaded earrings, dried seal and caribou. Some went on a hike to Santa’s cabin, while others took part in the qajaq and SUP workshop where they viewed an iceberg flip and calve in the distance. Most of the team visited the Uummannaq Children’s Home where they tried freshly baked Greenlandic goods and tea and had the opportunity to play some music.

Once back on board several staff delivered presentations. Becky Mearns led a discussion about community health and wellness. Dominique Souris spoke about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. And then the annual SOI contest – who can name all students and staff onboard! Stephanie Quon was able to name all but a few!

To close the evening, students Kathy Snowball and Keryn Andersen who performed a beautiful song followed by Rose Chisholm who sang an original song with musicians Ian Tamblyn and George Woodhouse on guitar.

Farewell to Uummannaq! Now crossing the Davis Strait towards Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Nunavut.

(c) Kim Aubut Demers/SOI Foundation

Highlights
We asked students what their highlight of the day was. Here are their responses:

  • Oksana: My highlight was meeting a young boy and grandmother while they were walking their dog named Power. Two other dogs joined and they all started playing. We were able to communicate through broken English and gestures. They continued on their walk and the dogs followed them to the tea house. They named the dogs after the grandmother Rose and grandson Hans.
  • Riley: I think the hike was a highlight. I couldn’t even take a picture because I was so busy taking everything in, everything was so beautiful.
  • Wolfe: A dog stole my shoe and for about 5-10 minutes! As I searched for my shoe, I found it down the road with the little dog, which was pretty adorable.
  • Devon M. & Joshua Monteit : We had the chance to meet very distant family in Uummannaq, we also found out this morning that the two of us are actually related through the last migration from Canada to Greenland in the 1960’s. There was a shaman, both of our grandmas are related to him, one went to Greenland and the other to Nunavut.
  • Jon-Erik: I won a qajaaq race for rookies!
  • Stacey: The highlight today was definitely the generosity and hospitality that we received from Uummannaq. It reminded me how we Newfoundlanders treat people.
  • Nuiana: While I was walking up the street to the church I heard my name, I saw my childhood best friend with her new baby and husband. It was difficult to say goodbye to them.
  • Kyle donated $300USD to the children’s home
  • Iluuna: My highlight was when I saw a huge iceberg flipping or maybe as well as seeing some locals who invited us in. I was the translator for our staff and we had such a good time.
  • Donovan: Liliana was picking up the styrofoam and paper on the ground. I would like to congratulate my friends for cleaning up the community.
  • Karen: My highlight was getting lost in town with my friends, we went down every single street, we saw a taxi cab so I told my friend to stick up his thumb, he thought I said tongue so he stuck out his tongue!
  • Chase: My highlight of the day was seeing a puppy running down the street with a shoe in its mouth.
  • Andrew proposed to his girlfriend Ashley who works for Adventure Canada, he waited to share this moment with this group of people in Uummannaq
(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Participant Blogs

Anna Kelly, student
Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK

It’s just after 7 am and we are rapidly approaching the coastal community of Uummannaq. I just wanted to share a quick update after another phenomenal day of expeditioning yesterday – our first experience in iceberg territory! 

Ilulissat Icefjord is also widely known as an ‘iceberg factory’, at its height around a decade ago being the main outlet for 10% of Greenland icebergs. In the morning we were able to go out in the zodiacs and explore close up, which was a definite highlight of the expedition so far. Our zodiac driver (Ian) was so knowledgeable and also knew a number of traditional unaccompanied Greenlandic songs, which he sang as we were cruising. It was really moving, and I learned so much, both about the different types of icebergs and their importance in fostering the productivity of the local ecosystem. For example, in some icebergs there were massive depressions that began as tiny rock fragments attached to their surface. We learned that the darker colour of sediment concentrated a greater proportion of thermal radiation onto these specific areas, accelerating melting to create an effect not dissimilar to the inside walls of Matt Smith’s Tardis! However, it is this sediment that drives the oceanic ecosystem. Noel (one of the marine life specialists on board) said that the nutrients accumulated by the iceberg-producing Jakobshaven glacier are transferred to the water via icebergs and can even support the growth of Arctic pink coral!

We were able to put all of this into even more context later on, when we landed on the shores of Ilulissat, a 5000-strong community at the edge of the icefjord and the Ilulissat UNESCO World Heritage. Earlier on in the afternoon the captain had been concerned about finding a lead clear enough of ice to access the coast, so we were very lucky to get there!



Chiara Concini, student
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Hello everyone! I am writing today’s post just before supper. The weather today has been beautiful, and I got up early this morning to stand out on the deck. The sun shines really brightly here, and it never sets. It feels quite different to look outside at 10pm and see a bright sky. Yesterday afternoon we visited the Ilulissat UNESCO World Heritage Site. There, the icebergs are so close together you cannot even see the water below. It was a gorgeous day, and the sun started to peep out of the clouds just after we arrived. A quick wildlife update: I saw a whale! It was a pretty quick sighting, and I only saw the whale’s back. It was smooth and darkly coloured, which makes it difficult to identify the species. Nevertheless, I was very excited. This morning, we split up into different workshops. I decided to join the language activity. We learned about the 16 basic sounds of Inuktitut, and by the end I could write my name. This afternoon, we visited Uummannaq, a town further north in Greenland. This is probably the most beautiful town I have ever visited. The first thing you notice when stepping off the zodiac is a huge heart-shaped mountain, which is befitting given that the name, Uummannaq, actually means heart-shaped mountain. All of the houses are built into the hill, and they are painted in different bright colours. After being welcomed in the town’s church by a string-instruments group, we went on a beautiful hike to “Santa Claus’s summer house”. Unfortunately, Santa was not home but we were still able to go into his house and look around. I think my highlight of today was going to dip my feet into the ocean. It certainly was cold, but actually really refreshing. The views throughout the hike were beautiful as well. Tomorrow, we are going to be aboard the ship all day as we begin our crossing of the Davis Strait (a.k.a. Pikialasorsuaq). The water is going to be a lot rougher than it has been as of late, so I am hoping that I can continue my trend of not being seasick. Until next time!


Aerial photo of Uummannaq (c) Peter Wall/SOI Foundation

Claire Fu, student
Hong Kong

Yesterday was such a magnificent day. We had arrived in the Ilulissat Icefjord, and early in the morning I went off on a Zodiac ride around the icebergs there. From the window of the ship, I could see an entire field of them, but it was nothing like going on the Zodiac and getting a very close view of it. The icebergs were completely silent, massive and menacing, yet peaceful and serene, majestic white structures that reflected the sun’s brilliance. We remembered how fragile and powerful they were when a thunderous boom sounded and a large chunk fell and splashed into the water. They could be unpredictable and flip, too. Apparently on a previous expedition, one guy got too close and took a small piece of ice, which unbalanced the iceberg so much that the entire thing flipped, resulting in a massive three meter tall wave! Thankfully, he was safe as his Zodiac driver reacted quickly, but we now know enough as to only observe the structures and never touch them despite the overwhelming temptation. 

The view was unbelievable. I can’t imagine what it would be like living in a town like Ilulissat, where the view changes every day and icebergs, big and small, dominate the scene. We also hiked over to the Ilulissat World Heritage site, where I took so many pictures! Those icebergs made me feel so small in the best way; I was in awe of their versatility, of their beauty, of their imposing silhouettes against the never setting sun. I could not get enough of them. 

Not many people get the opportunity to see this, and I am so grateful that I’m lucky enough to be one of the few who does. Looking at their unique figures, standing there so still and tall, the winds seem to deliver a message, reminding me to use what I’m seeing and feeling to help protect them — to prevent climate change from letting this rare gem nature created slip away. And I will do everything in my power to do so. The effect is real – it was so warm yesterday that I stripped all my layers down to a T-shirt, even taking a photo in front of the icebergs like that! I believe that a hundred years ago, before climate change accelerated to the degree it is now, it would have been physically impossible to walk around the Arctic in a T-shirt — and eat ice cream, nonetheless!

Today, I just came back from the village of Uummannaq. The name itself means “heart-shaped mountain”, which I could easily recognize by the massive heart-shaped mountain (literally) that is noticeable even from far away. The colorful houses spotted the rocky hillside, which all nestled next to the mountain, as if the mountain was the guardian that protects it — and it was cute! It would be a great scene to paint. Rumor was that many people seeking love would go to this island, and that a Greenlander and a Vancouver-ian fell in love under this very heart. 

In the village, we met up with the Children’s House there. Children of all ages stayed there from all over Greenland. While Jeff was introducing them, he said something that shocked yet resonated with me at the same time: “The only requirement for joining the Children’s House was a love for music.”

So we sat down in a little church in the center of town and listened to them play. They were all smiling throughout the little concert, and instead of freaking out when they made a mistake they laughed out loud and continued playing. Their string orchestra traveled to Arizona and many other places to perform and I’m so glad they have had the opportunity to do that. 

After walking around town a little and desperately looking for a souvenir store that I  never found, my friends and I ended up going to the Children’s House performing space instead. There was more music, whether it was on a traditional instrument like the violin or whether it was more cultural, Greenlandic music. I even got to try an electrical violin! I asked for permission and, when I stood up in front to pick it up, the rowdy audience went silent and listened to me experiment and play Mozart’s Concerto No. 5. I played pretty badly — having obviously not practiced in over a week — but they all clapped and cheered for me, which made me feel a lot more relieved and confident.

The rest of the afternoon went by quickly and the children had fun playing even more music. It was amazing to listen to them play, and I felt so happy for them. I’m so glad that, despite the struggles they may be going through, they are able to find joy in playing music like I do, and to build their friendships with each other through their shared enjoyment in music. I came back to the ship with such a sappy warmth in my heart. Even after the hour that I spent writing this incredibly long blog, I still have their smiles and their music resonating in my head. 


(c) Kim Aubut Demers/SOI Foundation

Danielle Crowley, student
Staten Island, NY, USA

Hello back home! I love and miss you all so, so much. This is going to be a super rushed blog because we’ve almost arrived at Uummannaq, but I wanted to update you all on the last few activities.

Yesterday(afternoon/evening):

After arriving back on the ship from the zodiac cruise, I headed upstairs and a bunch of friends and I gathered around the 2nd piano (the more secluded one), and listened to our other friend, Emma, serenade us and play for a short while. Then, we layered up and headed off to Ilulissat where we hiked 4 kilometers to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ilulissat Icefjord. Let me tell you. It was beautiful. Probably one of the best things I’ve seen on the journey yet. It stunned me. I think my favorite part, however, had to be the moment of silence that we achieved with over all 230 of us. It was so quiet you could hear everything. Following that, we hiked back to the dock, and on the way we stopped at the only gift store, open where I bought a few postcards and a polarbear necklace made from reindeer antlers.  In closing the night we had a short briefing and a short musical performance.

Today (morning):

They let us sleep in! We got to sleep until 8am, breakfast at 8:30, and boy do I feel so much less sleep deprived! Also, I don’t believe I mentioned this yet, but my left arm has been really bothering me the whole trip and today has felt much much better. Starting off our morning we had a few presentations about climate change and then we got to pick our morning workshop. Surprise surprise, I chose the history of dog-sledding and harness-making workshop. I found this to be so, so interesting and got to begin making a harness for my dog, Dylan, which I will be finishing over the next few days. Also, now that I know how I can replicate a smaller version for my other dog, Missy, when I arrive back home. On this note, I hope Dylan is doing well and feeling better, my heart has been aching these past few days not knowing what is going on. However, I have been keeping him in my prayers and only thinking of the best. I trust you to do what is the best option for him in the end, and I hope I come home to my chubby best friend. 

In a few minutes I have to head off to bundle up for our landing in Uummannaq, so I will be signing off here. I love and miss you all so, so much, and  I will write another update tomorrow. I hope all is well and I can’t wait to return home and share all of my new knowledge and journey with you. 419 I love you. I’ll talk to you all soon.

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

Eyglo Sturludottir, student
Kopavogur, IS, Iceland

Hæhæ,

Ég man ekki alveg hvar ég hætti að blogga seinast en ég ætla að reyna mitt besta að segja frá öllu sem gerðist. Í gær þegar ég vaknaði og leit út um gluggann voru ísjakar út um allt og ekki einhverjir pínu litlir heldur voru sumir stærri en skipið sem við erum á. Hópnum var síðan skipt í tvennt eftir morgunmat, helmingurinn fór út á Zodiac og sigldi á milli ísjakanna á meðan hinn helmingurinn var eftir og lærði um Grænland frá þremur Grænlendingum. Ég byrjaði inni í kynningunni og fór svo út. Sá sem stjórnaði bátnum mínum heitir Ian Tamblyn og hann er mjög frægur söngvari og lagahöfundur í Kanada. Hann sagði að hann vildi að við fengum okkar eigin upplifun og fór með bátinn okkar í burtu frá hópnum þannig við vorum ekki öll í kremju. Síðan söng hann lag fyrir okkur um svæðið sem við vorum á sem var mjög falleg stund. Eftir smá stund kom hann auga á hvali og lét hina Zodiac bátana vita þannig allir gætu séð. Þetta voru þrír Humpback hvalir og það var ótrúlega flott að vera þarna hjá ísjökunum og sjá hvalina. Við erum búin að vera ótrúlega heppin með veður. Það er heiðskírt og sól og við getum verið úti á bolnum þegar við erum í landi. Eftir það fengum við hádegismat og fórum svo í bæ sem heitir Ilulissat. Við löbbuðum í gegnum Ilulissat og sáum mörg hundruð hunda sem voru í klettunum í keðju. Engar áhyggjur ég reyndi ekki að klappa neinum eða snerta þá. Hvolparnir eru ekki í keðju og þeir fá að labba um lausir. Við löbbuðum á stað sem heitir Jacobshavn. Þar sérðu hvaðan ísjakarnir koma frá. Þetta er nokkurskonar fjörður og innst inni í firðinum brotna ísjakar af jöklinum og fylla fjörðinn af ís. Þetta var svo magnað að sjá og smá eins og maður væri á milli tveggja heima. Einn grænn og sumarlegur og hinn hvítur og vetrarlegur. Þar sáum við annan hval en ég veit ekki hvaða tegund hann var. Síðan fengum við að labba um bæinn og skoða og undanfarið er ég búin að vera með mikinn hausverk og ég held það sé útaf klórinu sem er í drykkjarvatninu um borð. Þannig ég fór inn í búð og keypti nokkrar stórar San Pellegrino vatnsflöskur til að geta fengið mér vatn. Þannig núna er ég týpan sem ferðast með vatn með sér í ferðalögum. Ókei, þegar ég segi að dagurinn í  dag hafi verið besti dagur lífs míns, þá meina ég að dagurinn í dag var í alvörunni besti dagur lífs míns. Fyrir hádegi fórum við í workshops um borð og ég valdi að fara í fornleifafræði. Við lærðum hvernig maður á að greina mismunandi lög af leifum og pæla í því hvað gerðist og hvernig hlutirnir voru notaðir og menningunni bakvið þá og allskonar svoleiðis. Það var mjög áhugavert og mér fannst ekkert smá gaman að læra um þetta og pæla í þessum hlutum. Síðan eftir hádegi fórum við í land í Uummannaq sem er lítill og sætur bær á klettaeyju við Grænland. Það eru fullt af ísjökum í kring og húsin eru öll lítrík og krúttleg. Bærinn er byggður við fjall sem er eins og hjarta í laginu og það er það sem Uummannaq þýðir, hjartalagaða fjallið. Þegar við komum í bæinn fengum við að labba smá um og skoða áður en við fórum inn í kirkju sem er þarna. Í kirkjunni var sungið, spilað á hljóðfæri, trommudansað og fleira fyrir okkur og það var mjög áhugavert að sjá menninguna þeirra. Síðan máttu allir velja á milli þess að fara í göngu og skoða hús jólasveinsins eða fara og heimssækja barnaheimili og hitta börnin. Ég gerði hvorugt af þessu því ég var ein af tíu sem fékk að fara á kajak og SUP (stand up paddleboarding) úti á sjó hjá ísjökunum! Þegar við vorum komin smá út á sjó heyrðum við hátt brak og mikil læti og ég hélt að það væri bara smá partur að brotna af einum ísjaka. En síðan brotnaði mjög stór biti af og allur ísjakinn byrjaði að hreyfast. Ísjakinn byrjaði að halla og snérist alveg við um 180 gráður og fór á hvolf. Við vorum svona 30 metrum frá honum og þetta var það flottasta sem ég hef nokkurntíman séð. Síðan byrjaði aldan að koma frá honum og ég hélt að við mundum öll detta af og vera í hættu en það gerðist ekkert og allir náðu að standa uppi þannig þetta var alveg öruggt. Ísjakinn var örugglega eins og tvö einbýlishús að stærð að ofan þannig þið getið ímyndaði ykkur hvað hann var stór í heildina. Ég held að ljósmyndararnir hafi náð þessu á myndband þannig vonandi get ég sýnt ykkur þegar ég kem heim. Eftir það var ég í adrenalínvímu allan tíman og með bros límt á mér í svona klukkutíma. Ég veit samt að ég muni örugglega segja um alla dagana að þeir voru bestu dagar lífs míns en hingað til mun örugglega ekkert toppa þetta. Þannig núna er ég vel svöng og sólbrennd eftir daginn og er á leiðinn í kvöldmat. 


Rosemary Zurowski and Jeffrey Rohrer, staff
Senior Service Desk Analyst / Director, Strategic Communications at the Insurance Bureau of Canada
Mississauga, ON, Canada / Toronto, ON, Canada

Yesterday, we spent the day learning about and touring icebergs. Seeing as we are in Greenland, we started the morning with a talk about local culture and the impacts of climate change. People are experiencing the introduction of new insects and the melting of permafrost which is causing landslides, but also opening up the area to new resource development.

Then we loaded up in zodiacs and toured icebergs outside of Ilulissat and later the town itself, including the Jakobshavn Icefjord. Before the expedition we were told to plan for taking up to 5,000 photos. Now we know why. The icebergs were incredibly beautiful. It’s hard to find the words to describe them. We took some amazing pictures, but even they don’t do them justice. One can’t help but we struck by their enormous size and power. Yet, at the same time, they are clearly fragile and vulnerable to our warming climate.

We are looking forward to learning more about glaciers and icebergs and how they are impacted by climate change as we head to Uummannaq, Greenland.

Rosemary Zurowski and Jeffrey Rohrer


Jennifer Sokol, staff
Senior Policy Analyst

Hello everyone,

My name is Jennifer Sokol from Ottawa, Canada, and I work at Polar Knowledge Canada.  I am lucky enough to be on the SOI 2019 staff team as an educator, POD leader and on the energizer team leading workouts and yoga!!  We have had amazing experiences already and it’s only day 3. I am humbled by the wisdom, knowledge and expertise of all those on board, both staff and students. My highlights from the natural environment have been the whales, glaciers and icebergs . My personal highlights have been the heart-felt conversations shared in small circles where ideas, thoughts and emotions can be explored.  Thankful for the calm seas and the incredible experiences. Hello to my family and friends in Ottawa – love you all and see you soon. XO

Jennifer

Leonie Steigenberger, student
Lake Country, BC, Canada

The last two days have been amazing. Yesterday I touched an iceberg for the very first time, I saw three whales, and enjoyed a concert on the water in the zodiacs surrounded by icebergs! While we were on our morning zodiac cruise a huge slab of ice carved off right near our zodiac; the deep rumble sounded like thunder. After another amazing lunch, we were able to make a zodiac landing in Ilulissat. We hiked from the harbor to the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Sermeq Kujalleq. The view coming down the tundra on the boardwalk was unlike anything I have ever seen. On the way back, we strolled through the quaint little town, and Louisa and I enjoyed what one could call the best ice cream of the north at an adorable patio cafe. The communities are very different from my world at home, whether it is the brightly colored homes, or the many sled dogs tied up on the mountainsides. After returning to the ship for dinner, Nicholas and I saw a sunset that made everything look like heaven on Earth.


(c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Oksana Dryden, student
Ottawa, ON, Canada

I think I’ve sanitized my hands 5 times in the past 10 minutes. Due to my overwhelming urge to pet any dog that comes my way, you could say I’ve made some furry friends in Uummannaq. The charming village felt like home, although I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. The locals were warm and welcoming, their vibrant houses encased in white-capped mountains, facing the serene Arctic ocean with the imposing figure of the icebergs cutting a contrast against the bright blue sky. I did not hesitate to approach a little boy, Hans, and his grandmother, Rose. The pair directed me and my friends towards the hidden gems of the town, as well as offering simple conversation, going as far as to let me pet their dog, Power. Soon enough, two other Greenlandic dogs joined the flurry. As me and my comrades continued towards a breathtaking stone church, the two animals followed us. Through democratic decision-making, we decided to name the male Hans, and the female Rose, in honour of the generous locals. While that may have been the highlight of my day, countless other moments came very close to taking the cake, such as the glaciology workshop I participated in this morning, which presented a new career path for me to consider, as well as a more scientific and concrete view on climate change in the Arctic. The picturesque views of Uummanaq will forever be imprinted in my mind. Fun fact: Uummannaq means “heart-shaped mountain” in Greenlandic, named after the notorious rock formation jutting out of the ground, akin to a beacon for all those looking for a bit of love. 

Whoops! I nearly forgot to write about yesterday, which was just as magnificent as today. Firstly, I went on a Zodiac cruise in the Ilulissat ice fjord. I assure you right now, it will be impossible for me to convey the wonder coursing through my nerves, the towering icebergs staring down at me with an ancient and serene power, the sunlight glinting off the slick blocks of ice, as well as the astounding water. In fact, my friends and I agreed upon “blue gatorade” as the appropriate colour scheme of the undulating waves crashing rhythmically into the base of the icebergs. In my opinion, no blog or photo could do justice to the feeling of being a very small string in the intricate web of the world surrounding me. That being said, I shall now move on to the next portion of my day, my visit to Ilulissat, a world-known UNESCO World Heritage site. (Please note that I am skipping past the less-than-extraordinairy-but-still-amazing arrival to the village for reading length purposes). Once I completed the 4km trek, the landscape served as an immediate reward for my effort. After cresting the top of a hill, my view opened up to a scenery that cannot be compared to any other. God-like mountains surrounded a jungle of ice and snow.It seemed like a meeting point between two worlds: one of rock, the other of snow. From my screen to yours, I truly hope you get a chance to experience it for yourself.


Pat Parungao, staff
Burnaby, BC

Midnight and the sky is still bright!  Good thing for blackout curtains. Enjoyed pre-breakfast yoga class led by Tuktu co-pod leader Jennifer, however it is not easy to pose like a tree when the ship is rocking! 

I took the opportunity to attend Tukirqi and Alaku’s Inuktitut class (also Greenlandic).  Fun language fact – months were identified by annual events, e.g., May is Caribou; June is get to eat eggs and get eiderdown for parkas; October is mating season. Inuktitut also swaps consonants, like the Filipino language Tagalog.  In Inuktitut v, p, q can be interchanged and receiver of the message would understand; the same for Tagalog with b and p.

We were fortunate to locate a break in the ice which allowed our zodiac into the community of Uummannaq.  The warmth and hospitality from community was genuinely from the heart. How suitable, as Uummannaq means ‘heart-shaped’. Romance was in the air and expedition staff members Andrew and Ashley became engaged to each other today.

I was thankful that Roger and others organized a hike in Uummannaq to see if we could find Santa at home.  We did not find Santa’s home – rather this was an elves home and there was no one home. The breathtaking view of glaciers, icebergs, the availability to pick blueberries to eat and the joyful sound of students wading in Arctic water and skipping stones and reading letters to Santa from children (in the elves sod house) made for another most memorable SOI day.


Stacey Challinor, student
Cape Broyle, NL, Canada

I woke up this morning to the most astonishing view of Disko Bay. It was accompanied by the view of the Ilulissat fjord. I was completely surrounded by glaciers that were larger than my home community and this was something I could not believe. After another delicious breakfast from the wonderful staff that always provides tremendous service, myself and my pod attended another morning briefing and listened to an insightful presentation. This presentation was hosted by Vivi, Bilo and Tuku and was focused around Greenland’s culture, history and political movements that led Greenland to have its own government. All of the presenters are native to the north, and were eager to share their knowledge about Greenland.  

After the presentation was completed, myself and some peers boarded a zodiac to head into the Ilulissat fjord to view the huge icebergs up close. Our zodiac driver was Geoff, and he gave us an awesome tour answering all of our questions eagerly and encouraged us to go around in a circle to reintroduce ourselves to those who may have not already met us. By doing this, it gave us all some ease together as some faces were unfamiliar as there is a lot of students, staff and other professionals as part of this expedition. I learned from Geoff some facts about glaciers, icebergs, wildlife (particularly whales), Ilulissat and lastly, some prior SOI stories, all positive. I love that I am learning new things every day and as each day passes I am becoming more comfortable with my new surroundings and new faces.

We returned from our zodiac cruise with Geoff and had lunch on the ship before we headed into Ilulissat harbour to further dock into the community and explore. Once we arrived in the community I noticed that the plastic crisis we face worldwide is also strongly present in some areas in Greenland, particularly Ilulissat. The water just below the dock possessed floating plastic bottles either used for water, fuel or gasoline; furthermore, seeing this prevalent issue pushes me to further advocate against single use plastics, as they contribute to majority of the marine based pollution. It is important for us youth advocates and further youth leaders as SOI alumni to acknowledge that our current habits as humans are suffocating the marine environment, marine life and us humans in retrospect. 

Other than this observation, I thought the community itself was beautiful in terms of friendly locals, colorful houses and spectacular views of the glaciers and icebergs slowly entering the harbour from the Ilulissat fjord. I learned that this community is also heavily tourist based, as it possesses a UNESCO world heritage site, which attracts people from all over the world; however, the beauty of this site was unimaginable until I witnessed it with my own eyes. We hiked to this UNESCO site, which was about an hour long and totally worth it. The board walk along the coastline towards the site had a view that was unmatchable the entire way. Once we all arrived, I took sometime myself to sit along the rocky edge towards the huge ford and appreciate the view. The amount of gratitude I feel to be able to see these amazing places and be apart of a very supportive and positive group of people is large, and I cannot wait to show everyone all of my photos and videos. 

Today left me feeling a lot of different emotions, but each of those emotions are hard to put into words as this experience left my utterly speechless. To describe the connection I felt into three words, I would say the view and the experience of seeing this UNESCO sight was admirable, astonishing and wholesome. 

POEM

An iceberg floats in the Arctic Ocean,
As the ship sails smoothly and slow,
Clear, blue shiny water flows in a calm motion, 
As the waves ride the surface of the ocean low.
A large piece of ice breaks off,
And falls into the empty sea,
The iceberg still floats, standing tall and strong,
This view is both serine and physically, so close to me. 
The Ilulissat fjord is nonetheless beautiful, 
I see nothing out of place here or wrong,
The happiness I feel does nothing but radiate off of me,
As we now set sail into the Arctic Ocean head on.

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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.