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2019 Arctic Expedition: Day 8

After a day’s journey across the Davis Strait, we have arrived in The Canadian Arctic!

c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

The morning began with two important announcements – Happy Birthday to our We started off the day with announcements of two birthdays, Tukumminnguaq Olsen and Qumangaapik (Joshua Monteith)!

Our first landing this morning was in the beautiful community of Mittimatalik (Pond Inlet), Nunavut, on the northern tip of Baffin Island. Once on land, the expedition team split into groups and toured Pond Inlet with stops at the Co-op, the museum, the Hamlet and more! The tours ended at the community centre where Mittimatalik community members and Parks Canada staff graciously welcomed us and performed for us. Performances included Inuit drum dancing, throat singing and mouth pull (one of many traditional Inuit games that are a test of strength). Then SOI staff members David Serkoak, Ian Tamblyn, Andrew Bresnahan and George Woodhouse performed several songs to the joy of students, staff and community members who joined in and danced.

At the end of our visit, we began our Zodiac journey back to the ship where we welcomed several Parks Canada staff, including some alumni, as well as two babies onboard our floating classroom (the MS Ocean Endeavour).

During lunch, we sailed across to Sirmilik National Park, which in Inuktitut means ‘place of glaciers’. Here, we spent the afternoon on land with students and staff choosing between hiking to a glacier (where we drank the fresh water run off – so refreshing!) or remaining near the shore and participating in workshops that included sharing circles, caribou skinning, drum dancing, throat singing and ocean science (from the Zodiac).

(c) Martin Lipman/SOI Foundation

The evening was filled with performances! Students on Ice Arctic 2016 alumnus and now Parks Canada staff Jonathan Pitseolak was one of the performers. He even wore his vintage SOI shirt! Others included elders Moosa Akavak and David Serkoak (drum dance). Pirita Näkkäläjärvi also surprised us with her traditional folk songs including one called “The wind”.

Tomorrow we will be another day or learning and adventure as wea beautiful area and culturally-rich archaeological site located on northeastern Baffin Island called Qiajivik (Coutts Inlet) Nunavut.

“Hero moments” of the day:

  • Shawna Normore: My hero moment was when I was walking back to the ship in Pond Inlet and a young girl from the community grabbed my hand and walked back with me.
  • Danny B: I met a young local boy named Jordan. He likes basketball and rap music just like me, he even rapped for me. It made me realize he is just like me but in a less privileged circumstance and I had a moment of realization of the poverty in Pond Inlet. I ended up giving him my hat because I knew he would get good use of it and I felt like it was the right thing to do.
  • Anna Seagrave: Today I met my little sister’s birth mother, I am adopted but I consider them my family. I got to see most of my family and meet my baby sister. My soul was hungry for this.
  • Qumangaapik (Joshua Monteith): I would like to extend my gratitude for you all wishing me a happy birthday. It was hard to go back to my home community and you guys helped me get through it.
  • Tukumminnguaq Olsen(birthday girl): In Greenland we celebrate birthdays as a community so I would like to share a song with you where we all sing-along.

Participant Blogs

c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Anna Kelly, student
Oxford, United Kingdom

With Greenland now very much behind us as we approach the mountainous coast of Baffin Island, I just wanted to give some brief reflections on our last incredible day there.

A huge highlight for me was our visit to the coastal community of Uummannaq. Beginning with music in the church from local and on-board musicians, it was such a special atmosphere. A lot of Inuit songs focus on their deep respect and care for the environment and it was really inspiring to hear this passion portrayed through music in such a beautiful place. One thing that struck me most about the church was its sense of connectedness. There was an ornate painted wooden ship hanging from the ceiling, linking the community to the ocean as a factor that makes up a key part of religion. It was a really nice simplification of the complex way in which they view the environment both as a place for hunting and a place for preservation – humans and the environment must provide for each other. 

The afternoon was completely unbelievable. I was trying out kayaking and paddle boarding off the Uummannaq coast and saw a massive iceberg roll over! Apparently this happens because the exposed section of ice melts much faster in summer than the 90% section insulated by the cold water (the opposite is true in winter when air temperatures plummet). These different rates of melting create an imbalance of mass on the iceberg so it flips to accommodate. To see something so massive from the paddleboard was an truly incredible experience. It was a perfect demonstration of the relentless change that Arctic sea ice is constantly undergoing, and showed to a certain extent the effect of this dynamism on indigenous people – somebody out fishing nearby narrowly avoided the initial collapse.

We spent yesterday crossing the Davis Strait and had our first encounter with vaguely stormy weather. Early morning yoga was certainly interesting with everyone trying to maintain a tree pose whilst swaying dramatically from side to side! My favourite onboard activity was a panel discussion called  ‘Arctic Hours’. I chose to attend the session on the culture of the Sami people and their deep connection with reindeer herding. Several of the Sami students were involved and hearing about the challenges that they face both pollitically and in the face of global warming was very eye-opening. I was struck most by their deep passion to keep this aspect of their culture going, despite the increasing difficulty of making it a livelihood in the changing socioeconomic climate of the Arctic North.

The sea is much calmer now and I am writing from the other side of our first Canadian landing in Pond Inlet! The community threw a huge welcome party for us, during which we were shown traditional Inuit drum dancing, singing and games. The drum dancing was fascinating to watch because it involves mimicking the movement of animals from the surrounding environment (the lolloping polar bear was definitely my favourite) and everyone really goes for it! Afterwards, the band of Students on Ice musicians starting playing tunes for everyone to dance to and it was so much fun to join  in as a group. I can’t believe that I’ve known everyone on this ship for just one week!

Love to everyone at home and will post again soon.


Lisa Tran, student
Dutch Harbor, AK, USA

My experience with Students on Ice so far has been beyond amazing. I have met great friends that I regularly share laughs with and I have new experiences every day. I have picked berries off the tundra of Itilleq Fjord, made mini mitts from caribou hide, saw my first iceberg, learned how to clean fish, practiced the basics of the Inuktitut language, and have seen the heart shaped mountain of Uummannaq, which really reminds me of Radiator Springs from the Cars movie. I feel that in the final week of expedition there will be so many more memories made.

In the past 12 days I have been with SOI, I have also been exposed to different aspects of Inuit culture. From throat singing to food and language, I have gained a better understanding of the Inuit people. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences between the Inuit culture and the Unangan culture back home. Speaking with many elders and Indigenous youth, I have learned more information on how climate change directly affects Indigenous people. The Inuit know their land and they know when something is wrong, much like back home when locals notice the late arrival of whales and salmon. 

Aside from the Inuit culture, we landed in Ilulissat and took a zodiac tour to see the surrounding icebergs. The icebergs that were surrounding the ship were unreal and each was unique. In a way, the icebergs reminded me of everyone on this trip; we are all unique and have our own stories. 

In both Ilulissat and Uummannaq, we were all fortunate enough to be welcomed by the community. Many locals were happy to see us and everywhere we went there were often exchanges of greetings. Both communities reminded me of home due to the small size of the community and Ilulissat, especially because it was a busy fishing town. 

On July 29, when we began crossing the Davis Strait from Greenland to Canada, I found out that I could get sea sick. I woke up that morning and thought that I would be fine, but as soon as I got in line for breakfast, I felt it real bad. Dramamine saved me and afterwards it was all fine. We spent the day at sea having an Arctic race with our pod group and even though we came in almost dead last, we bonded. 

This trip has been filled with so many new experiences and I feel so blessed to have this opportunity.


c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Maria Fustic, student
Fort McMurray, AB, Canada

‘Connecting People and the Planet: Sirmilik National Park

Sirmilik is an Inuktitut word meaning “place of many glaciers”- a cold and unexpected place to warm the soul. I took part in a talking circle facilitated by Moosa and Pitsiulaaq, two Inuit elders that we are incredibly lucky to have on this journey. 

A talking circle is common to many Indigenous cultures as a form of group healing. It is a safe space to share anything you feel. We sat on the rocks, nestled in between mountains, glaciers, and the ocean. We released worries and tensions and experiences that we may have had difficulty facing even with ourselves, to a group of people we had only just met. It was an inexplicably freeing experience. 

Before beginning the talking circle, Moosa and Pitsiulaaq did a small “show and tell”. It consisted of dolls, snow goggles, games and tools that were all made of the land in some form or another- from various bones, rocks, and furs. We passed an egg shaped rock clockwise around the circle, talking once it was passed to us. When it was passed to Moosa, he told us his brief life story using small bones from seal flippers to represent significant people. 

To me, that was perhaps the most powerful moment that showed the connection between people and the planet. It was a clear example of how in Indigenous cultures, there is a deep respect and reciprocal relationship between them and the land. A seal had been hunted for sustenance, every edible part of it consumed, every other part of it used, and even the most unexpected and seemingly useless tiny pieces saved to tell powerful stories with. That is such a juxtaposition from the relationships most of us, including myself, have with our food. 

By the time Moosa finished his story and we had gone full circle, we had reached out to each other, and the suns rays reached up above the mountains peaks, lighting up the previously grey sky. We felt the warmth on our faces, our backs, and in our souls.  


Olivier Ménard, student
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Je voudrais commencer cette entrée par une petite correction. En effet, le corps d’eau que nous avons traversé hier se nomme en réalité le Davis Strait (ou Davis Straede en danois). Je m’en suis apperçu avant d’aller me coucher alors que je passais devant une carte de la région mais il était déjà trop tard. Cela signifie que si vous avez tenté de rechercher notre emplacement en tappant “David Straight”, il est très possible que cette erreur de ma part soit la raison expliquant pourquoi les résultats n’étaient pas concluants. Bref, tout cela pour en revenir à la journée du 28 juillet, un moment magique passé dans la communauté d’Uummannaq. Pour plusieurs de nos amis du nord, cette journée fut un moment de retrouvailles puisque amis et famille les attendaient pour les embrasser avant la reprise du voyage. C’était vraiment un moment emplit d’émotion qui a touché tout le groupe et fait place à bien des larmes. Après la visite d’une ancienne église construite il y a de cela environ 250 ans où des performances musicales par des enfants de l’orphelinat nous attendaient, le groupe s’est encore une fois divisé alors que certains partaient faire du kayak avec les glaciers (où un événement aussi spectaculaire qu’innatendu les attendait, vidéo disponible sur le site de SOI), d’autres, dont moi, sont partis en randonnée dans le but d’aller rendre visite au Père-Noël et le reste de la troupe est resté en ville afin de visiter un orphelinat et le reste de la communauté. Pour ce qui est de la journée en mer de hier, je crois que c’était une journée très révélatrice, puisque dès l’heure du déjeuner, il est devenu évident qui avait le pied marin et qui ne l’avait pas. Pour beaucoup, la journée a passé très lentement et à grand renfort de gravols et de “patchs” contre le mal de mer. Néanmoins, tout le monde a passé un super moment lors de notre propre version SOI du “Amazing Race Canada”. Pour finir cette journée en mer en beauté, certains inuits nous ont fait découvrir des jeux traditionnels de leurs régions. C’était vraiment extraordinaire de voir tout le groupe réuni dans le “HUB”, en train de scander en coeur pour encourager les participants. C’est un autre des nombreux moments inoubliables de cette aventure, qui restera gravé dans ma mémoire à tout jamais.


Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, staff
Media & Communications Professional
Inari, Finland

I just want to report that I did not get seasick yesterday and last night, when we crossed the Davis Strait from Kalaallit Nunaat to Nunavut in Canada! That is all thanks to our contact persons in Ottawa and the EU Delegation to Canada, because they helped us to obtain seasickness medication in Ottawa before we got onboard Ocean Endeavour. 

I didn’t have a chance to buy seasickness medication in Finland and I wasn’t entirely sure what kind I should buy. Our expedition doctor advised to get a patch which you stick behind your ear. The EU folks then made sure that everyone in our Sámi group got such patches, and they even delivered them to us to a skiing centre called Camp Fortune, where we spent all day before coming onboard. Thank you so much!

We were also lucky, because the waves were not that high last night. The ship of course rocked somewhat when I was going to bed, but I got used to it quickly. I’m always a bit afraid at sea, because I’m from the inland and the sea is a really foreign element to me. I’m glad everything went well! 

Hálidan beare muitalit, ahte mun in buohccán meara alde ikte ja mannan ija, go rasttildeimmet Kalaallit Nunaatas Nunavutii Kanada beallái! Giitosat das gullet min Ottawa-vehkiide ja EU:a Kanada-delegašuvdnii, daningo sii fitne oastimin midjiide mearrabuohccevuođadálkasa Ottawas ovdalgo dolliimet meara ala. 

In lean geargan oastit dálkasa Suomas ja rievtti mielde in oba diehtán makkár livčče buorre. Min ekspedišuvnna doavttir rávvii, ahte dakkár lástar, mii biddjojuvvon bealji duohkai lea buorre. EU-olbmot fuolahedje de dakkáriid olles min sámi joavkui, ja bukte dálkasiid midjiide Camp Fortune -nammasaš čuoiganguovddážii, gos leimmet beaivvi ovdalgo bođiimet támpii. Olu, olu giitu!

Mis lei maid buorre tuvra, daningo mannan ija eai lean nu menddo alla bárut. Támpa sugadii dieđusge vehá, go ledjen mannamin nohkkat, muhto hárjánin dasa johtilit. Balan gal álo vehá meara alde, daningo lean siseatnama olmmoš ja mearra lea hui amas munnje. Lihkus buot manai bures!

c) Natta Summerky/SOI Foundation

Shawna Normore, student
L’Anse-au-Loup, NL, Canada

Happy Birthday to my cousin Joel! hope you had a great day buddy, see you soon! 

Today we made it back to Canada! The day started with a visit to the town of Pond Inlet. There are some amazing people in that town. We toured around and looked at the museum which was interesting. We met in the community center where the locals did some traditional performances for us. They sang songs, did drum dancing and also played some Inuit games. At the end some of our crew played some music for us and we all danced, including some children from Pond Inlet. This made my heart smile interacting with kids. As I was walking back to the zodiac I felt a little hand reach up and grab mine. When I looked to see who it was, it was the little girl who I had danced with earlier, and she told me she had so much fun. Anyone who knows me knows I am a major sook and yes I shed a few tears. This simple gesture melted my heart.

After lunch we went to Sirmilik National Park. This was important to me because I was funded to attend SOI through Parks Canada, so to meet the workers of Sirmilik National Park was very nice. This park is unlike anywhere I have ever been before. When we landed it was all rocks and about a kilometer up the shore the glacier starts. We had the choice of hiking up it and I did that. It was breathtaking. Instead of going through it fast I decided to just soak it all in and take my time to observe this land and chat with people about what we were seeing. We also drank the water off the glacier. It was wonderful.

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