August 5, 2008
Photo by Lee Narraway
Southern Baffin Island Region:
Late night update!
In the true expedition spirit, the team is made an unannounced visit to Hantsch Island today on the advice SOI Educator, Garry Donaldson. Garry works with the Canadian Wildlife Service as a biolgist and has conducted migratory bird research there for many years, and says that it is the best location in this part of the Arctic to Zodiac cruise under huge, spectacular sea bird cliffs! It's also a good spot to look for whales, polar bears and walrus!
But our Student Ambassadors tell the story much better than we can...
Alexandra Polasko, Student
We have done so much today that writing this journal entry is taking me some thought! Here with the Students on Ice staff and fellow students, I feel as if have accomplished more in a day than in a regular school week! Life here is FANTASTIC! Our first activity today was taking an unexpected zodiac cruise to Hantsch Island. As I found out later today, the zodiac cruise was actually supposed to be to another island; however, being as flexible as we are, we just went with the flow, and going with the flow turned out to be the best thing that happened to me today. While at Hantsch Island, our zodiac group saw hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of magnificent birds: Thick-Billed Murres and Kittiwakes. It was breath-taking. While on the zodiac I closed my eyes and took in the sounds and smells that consisted of young and old birds chirping, the grey waves crashing against the boat, and of course the unforgettable smell of bird poop.
I have never felt so calm and peaceful in my life until that moment. As Geoff would say, I am in love with zodiacs.
When I thought the day couldn’t get anymore incredible, Students on Ice exceeded my expectations, and the day continued its amazing course. Eric gave us a lecture on ice and snow that was not only funny and witty, but also informative and interesting. Although the lecture reminded me of school, there was one humongous difference between Eric’s lecture and school; I was passionate and intensely interested in what Eric was saying, and the more he talked the more I felt connected to what he was saying. I loved every minute of it.
In conclusion to this unforgettable day, I realized that the Students on Ice program not only lets us see glaciers and mountains with our eyes, but also with our minds. With this killer combination, we are prepared to fight any battle, prepared to step into any unknown, prepared for whatever life may throw at us, and that, I believe, is the greatest gift anyone can give. Thank you!
Stanley Suvissak, Student
Going on the ship is fun and going on the zodiac was fun, too!
While I had fun in Ottawa, the weather was too hot burning my skin from the sun. While it is my first time in southern Canada and my first time going to places by the ship. I can’t wait to see Pangnirtung. I hope we play sports like soccer, floor hockey and Inuit games. I hope to make new friends and learn a lot of things and teach other people to play Inuit games and tell a little bit of Inuit stories. I don’t have much to say so - bye.
Phillippe George, Student
Today we woke up, early as usual, to Geoff’s intercom wakeup call at 7:00 am. Orlova’s crew gave us a nice kickoff to our first full day in the Arctic with a mouthwatering breakfast which included eggs, bacon, sausages, and pancakes. After breakfast we all gathered in the lecture hall to learn about Zodiac safety. The Zodiacs are the small, engine powered rafts that allow us to access places that we can’t get to with the ship. They also allow us to do landings and get up close and personal with the local wildlife. After the safety briefing we had our first introduction to workshops. Everyone got to choose a workshop and learn about the subject they chose. I chose photography. During this workshop the SOI photographer shared with us some of the pictures she had taken. We got to see a variety of pictures; each of them had a different story. The pictures were mainly used to show us different techniques of photography and how we can make the pictures we take look better. My pictures are still not great since I rely mostly on my video camera.
With the day’s lectures behind us we finally got to ride the Zodiacs and go on a small tour in uncharted waters off an island called Hanstch Island. During the tour we got to see bird cliffs, a huge iceberg, and some kind of white rock looking thing (apparently it was a polar bear in the distance). Finally, we were introduced to the bottle drop research program in which we put a message in a bottle and throw it in the ocean to see if anyone finds it. The people who do find it write the coordinates of the place they found the bottle and send it to the address on the paper. When the bottle gets to its destination you can see how far it traveled! Photo by Lee Narraway
Graham May, Student
Today was our first full day at sea, and we are really getting into the arctic spirit!
This morning I was forced awake by the early sun, shining high in the sky at 5 am!
I spent the morning iceberg watching as we sailed out of Frobisher Bay. We arrived at Hantsh Island around noon, and launched the Zodiacs for a closer look. The small island of about a square kilometer houses one hundred thousand Thick-billed Murres, an incredible cacophony of avian life. I am told that this is only 3 percent of the species in the wild, but still they occupy every crack and cranny in the steep cliffs. Vying for space with the Murres are innumerable Kittiwakes, small gulls with yellow bills, joining the fight for a place to nest. The island, being well above the tree line, was covered with low scrub and brush, and greenish lichen grew on the crags of the cliff face. I have gone over the biology of the island in such detail mainly for the benefit of my mother, who I know will appreciate it! After circling around Hantsch Island we motored up to a majestic glacier, the top covered with yet more birds. Lastly, and probably most exciting, as we pulled away from the island we sighted the highly symbolic polar bear, poster child of the arctic, walking high up in the cliffs.
The other event of great interest that occurred today was a lecture given by Ann Hanson, the Nunavut commissioner and Order of Canada recipient, with whom we have the immense good luck of sharing our expedition. She gave an intriguing and engaging overview of the Inuit people’s situation, given through her own experience. Apparently this is the first of many, and they will be greatly anticipated.
Spirit on the ship continues at an incredible high, with an infectious spirit of optimism pervading hroughout. This is a truly incredible group of people, and I feel truly lucky to be a part of it.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Leah Pengelly, Student
Our first day at sea was amazing! We had a wonderful breakfast and decided to explore an island rarely visited that had thousands of nesting birds. The island holds 5% of all the thick billed murres in the world which is around 125 000 birds. The birds resemble penguins but can fly as well as dive up to 200m. The amount of sound was unbelievable against the quiet of the ocean. There were also a number of gulls nesting on the cliffs whose eggs had recently hatched. After a few of us were pooped on we headed over some large icebergs where more birds were perched. The size of the icebergs was very impressive. On the way back our driver spotted a polar bear up on top of the mountain. It wasn’t very close but you could tell it was a very large bear. After the zodiac cruise we had a lecture on Ice and Snow that was very interesting. We also got our scientific bottle experience ready to put bottles in the ocean to track if the currents are changing because of different weather patterns. Tonight is mostly free time with a recap at the end of the day and a talk about the Inuit people from Ann Hansen. We have yet to encounter rough seas and are hoping our good karma keeps it that way.
Hopefully we see more wildlife and polar bears closer to the shore. Tomorrow we are heading due north and meeting the sea ice in Cumberland Strait. There we might tour around or keep heading north because we can’t go through yet. Hopefully it will be another exciting day!
Lauren Law, Student
Our day started off with a huge iceberg passing our ship. Yet, that was only the least of all the amazing things I saw today.
A highlight was stepping into a zodiac and visiting Hantsch Island. This island is inhabited by a huge colony of Thick-billed Murres, the most abundant bird in the Northern Hemisphere. These birds look like penguins and dive into the frigid Arctic waters like penguins, however they can also fly. The Murres were perched on cliffs and as we approached them a distinct smell wafted into the air. It smelt like rotting fish mixed in with the stench of garbage. We came within ten meters away from the birds and it was the most amazing experience. There were hundreds of birds flying over our heads and they cried out their distinct calls. However, we had to be careful not to get too close or the Murres could panic and they would jump off the cliffs into the water. This could create problems because some of the Murres were resting their eggs on their feet.
At the very top of Hantsch Island was a polar bear. Scobie, our zodiac guide, explained it was unusual to see a polar bear so high up on an island. The polar bear was forced to climb that high because of hunger. Instead of searching for the usual prey, this polar bear was feeding on the Murre’s eggs.
The boat I am sailing on is called the Lyubov Orlova. The majority of the crew is Russian so I have learned to say thank you in Russian – “Spa-seeba”.
Photo on right by Lee Narraway
Ophelia Snyder, Student
Today was our first real expedition day! We were supposed to take a zodiac cruise through the Lower Savage Islands, but, our fearless leader’s favorite mantra came into play: “flexibility is the key.” So, instead of trying to get through the lower savage islands we decided to visit Hantsch Island. This island is actually situated in uncharted waters and very few people (including the scientists who study bird colonies) have ever even seen it. In fact, the birds we saw completely ignored us and definitely weren’t scared of us like they are at other bird cliffs in the arctic. The island was, as you can imagine, made up mostly of steep cliffs covered in birds. These birds return to the same perch on the same cliff year after year to hatch their one and only chick on the season. The birds living on the cliffs were all thick-billed murres and kiddiewinks, many no of them had already hatched their chicks. The most memorable part of the cliffs for me where these two kiddiewinks, which look basically like seagulls, faced each other forming a heart with their heads and neck.
After the bird cliffs, we continued our cruise to check out the icebergs that were floating near by. I must say that icebergs and well ice in general, are some of my absolute favorite things in the arctic. Now, for those of you who have yet to take this amazing journey (and I am desperately hoping all of you will), ice is really the most amazing thing. Did you know that ice has all the physical properties of a mineral? Not only that but it is this amazing turquoise/blue color that just radiates everywhere! I sincerely hope all of you get a chance to see it for your selves because I am at a complete loss to describe how beautiful ice is and how much I absolutely adore it (so please please please! Help save the arctic ice and reduce your emitions!).
When we got back from the cruise, we had a lecture on snow and ice by the one and only Eric Mattson! We also prepared for our bottle drops which are some of my absolute favorite activities! For the bottle drops, we take glass bottles and put a note in them from The Bottle Drop Program. The idea is whoever finds our bottle will record their GPS coordinates and send them to the Bottle Drop Program to help study ocean currents. The fun part is we all get to include a personal note. Some of mine had song lyrics, poems, stories and they all had well wishes! After we filled over 200 bottles, we went to dinner and had an inspiring and slightly shocking lecture by Ann Hanson, the comitioner of Nunavut, about the Inuit people and the way they adapted to the changes brought up from the south.
So that’s it for today from the Lyubov Orlova, aka the Students on Ice Polar Ambassador! Hope you check in tomorrow for all the new adventures that surely await us!
Patrick Crawford, Student
Today, our first day of true expedition, was unexpected, magnificent and in the true expedition spirit. I feel overwhelmed by what we have encountered. Finding time to process the events that have occurred takes more time than is available. Through group discussions and writing these journals, we can combine our thoughts to react and respond to what we have experienced.
The views were spectacular, the animals observed magnificent, and the growing sense of community development within the entire SOI team is unparalleled. The inclusion of the scientific and social aspects expands our minds beyond their normal horizons. From the four main experiences of the day: workshop on GPS navigation, Ice education, Zodiac tour of the rarely seen Hantsch Island, and an amazing oration by Commissioner Ann Hanson all were varied, educational, one-of-a-kind, and amazing. One of the main challenges is trying to conserve time so that it does not go by so quickly. We must learn to stop and smell the roses, in order for the experiences to be fully appreciated.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Yibin Zhang, Student
Last night, the Lyubov Orlova set sail and we spent our first night aboard our traveling home. Early the next morning, we encountered a pretty epic iceberg, about 4 miles from the ship. Standing outside with wind-slapped hair and naked cheeks, I was shaken awake by the sight before me, and snapped a zillion pictures of it like everyone else. The endless horizon really breathed life into Lee Ann Wolmack’s words “I hope you still feel small when you stand besides the ocean.”
Our main activity was a Zodiac cruise to an unchartered territory called Hantsch Island. It was a haven for thick-billed Murres, which look like penguins when at rest, like ducks in the water, and like seagulls when in flight. They were pretty darn cool, and more than one of us hoped to be pooped on for good luck.
One of my favorite parts of the day was learning how to play Inuit games with Sergio, Adam[ie] and Simon. I’m absolutely terrible at them. Oh, and it was cool reuniting with my long-lost Mexican brother after 12 years J.
Oh, and shout-outs to New Jersey, home sweet home.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Charlie Nakashuk, Student
Hey I’m Charlie Nakashuk. I live in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. It’s an arctic place in Canada. I’m an inuk and this is my Journal
The ship doesn’t feel like a ship, but when I’m on the deck it feels like a ship and the commissioner of NUNAVUT is here with us. And shes going to be with us for the whole expedition. Oh and her name is Ann Hanson.
Meeting new people is cool because they are from all around the world.
Louis-Philippe Drury, Student
Protect the poles, protect the planet : Protéger les poles, protéger la planète. Ces deux extremités du globe, possède une fragilitée qui nous a été demontrée dans les différentes lectures et ateliers qui ont parsemés notre journée. Atelier qui nous a formé, et eduqué offert par les gens de leurs métiers. Des ateliers offerts pour nous aider a capturer cette beauté et l’engraver pour toujours dans un format destiné a être partager. Au passionant atelier destiné à nous enseigner sur la végetation et la technologie GPS. Suivit des excursions en Zodiac destinées à découvrir la sublimitée des ces lieux visités. Les plans ont un peu changés mais nous vivons avec la flexibilité des iles «Savage» aux iles «Hantsch» peu explorer, nous avons été dans les premiers a naviguer dans ces eaux non cartographiées. Pouvoir assister à ces endroits habités par des animaux de toute sortes, mais en majorité des oiseaux. L’incroyable vue de ces glaciers qui après les lectures, ayant appris vraiment pourquoi elle signifie tant. Situer seul sur cette marée en toute serenité pouvoir assister a la tombée d’un fragment de cette sculpture de la nature a cause de l’usure, crée cette gigantesque éclaboussure d’une carure et d’allure majestueuse. Maintenant appele à aller se faire bercer dans les bras de morphée. Je vais vous quitter mais cette aventure continue dans les jours à venir.
Stay Tuned for Further Updates!