August 9, 2008
Late night update!
The SOI Expedition Team spent the day exploring the fjords and islands of Home Bay. This is one of the most spectacular areas of the Canadian Arctic - and it's Home Bay waters are known for its whales. The team ventured from one end of Itirbilung Fjord to the other - and then after lunch sailed down the coast of the Home Bay and made a landing at an abandoned whaling station.
Read about their adventures!
Benjamin Tur, Student
Quand on voyage sur un bateau en arctique, il arrive que le froid gagne les cabines au petit matin, et réveille ses occupants, les amenant à devoir se lever bien plus tôt que prévu. Cependant, un réveil matinal présente un avantage, voir la nature en plein éveil, regarder le soleil se refléter sur une mer, elle-même réveillée par les remous du bateau et découvrir à mesure que le cocon de brume matinale se retire, un paysage grandiose: un fjord. Alors que j’abusais, comme de toute bonne chose, du panorama sur le pont avant, Geoff s’est approché de moi pour me murmurer ceci: «Aucun mot d’aucune langue ne peut raconter ce qu’il nous est permis de voir» (un fait que je peux désormais confirmer lorsque je vois à quel point il est dur de trouver les bons mots.) Alors faites appel à votre imagination, cette petite lumière qui a pu s’éteindre, mais qu’il est encore tant de raviver. Imaginez naviguer sur un bras de l’océan, une minuscule ramification de cette immense étendue d’eau qui aurait, de chaque coté, d’immenses falaises sculptées de part et d’autre par d’immenses chutes d’eau, pour enfin laisser apparaître au loin un Inukshuk, une de ces statues de pierre qui indique un vestige du passé, une terre chargée d’histoire et d’énergie.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Cori Eide, Student
Today was a great day! It started with yoga, then breakfast, and a lecture. Today we explored “whale country.” We learned that the Norwegians were actually the leaders when it came to hunting whales. Hearing that made me feel even more proud of my heritage! My father is full Norwegian and my mother is full Alaska Native. Here we are visiting native lands and learning their culture (which is very similar to Alaska’s). We also learn other history as well. Both happen to be where my parents originate.
Today we also had reflection/quiet time, but it required being outside. It actually wasn’t all that quiet, but I am sure everyone enjoyed it to some extent. We all formed a circle according to birth date and most participated in building a human pyramid.
During lunch we all sat with the people who share our birth month, to mingle with people we hadn’t spent much time with, yet. By the time lunch was over, I ate three biscotti because we had talked for so long. I couldn’t complain!
Later in the day, our expedition leader found an island through the fog. It was quite mysterious. All SOI went ashore and found many different types of bones, including human. Each artifact was so precious that we had to watch every step we took and most certainly not pick up anything! Ann Hanson, Commissioner of Nunavut, told us many of the historic events that could have taken place, with excellent evidence to back it up. There were many people who found this island to be a spiritual place or have a soothing connection. For me, it got me thinking of my culture and how it is really similar. I like to observe the reactions of other people on the ship to our surroundings because I have already seen a lot of this scenery and animal life. I just love it! One girl saw snow for the first time and it just made me smile.
Last night I gave a talk about Alaska and what a normal day is for me, along with some adventurous Alaskan stories. It was just so normal for me that I didn’t know people would actually enjoy listening to me. Can you believe there is a person in my town that has a reindeer for a pet? Her name is Velvet.
Today has been a great day and I am starting to believe that days with without firm plans can turn out to be the best and most unforgettable! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!
Photo by Lee Narraway
Yibin Zhang, Student
No blue-footed boobies yet, but we have seen an adorable young harp seal, a sunset that could have been digitally created, and a spectacular view from the tops of the mountains along Sunneshine Fjord that was only visible after hours of uphill hiking! All of these sights are now irrevocably etched into my memory! I recall being rather frustrated with my camera yesterday; it captured only mediocre depictions of the mountain scene and lacked any true depth or majesty. It doesn’t take long to realize that the wonder of most of these sights elude even skilled photographers, although Farzana or Lee could prove me wrong!
A few days ago, Johnny mentioned how strange it was for him to be five feet away from a seal and not be able to hunt it. The entire experience was new and awesome for him. In a similar way, I feel as though I, too, am able to view things differently after my experiences over the past days. Hearing Johnny’s stories about Inuit hunting in the Arctic made me feel awe, rather than sadness for the animals. I’ve come to recognize a difference between hunting as a cultural activity – during which every inch of the animal is utilized – and hunting for an industry that takes only the pelts to make extravagant furs in the name of fashion.
Yesterday, we visited the town of Qikiqtarjuak. It seemed like a cut-out from a Mexican village, to those who’ve experienced it, and was the home of about five hundred people—less than half of my school’s population. While language could have been a barrier, the people embraced us with open arms, which really improved our stay. They were very enthusiastic and it was quite exciting to practice my rudimentary Inuktitut with them!
Cultural differences were brushed aside as the younger children playfully tailed us until we played with them and by the afternoon it was as if they were our own little brothers and sisters! Truly, we only brushed the tip of the vast complexity of their lifestyles, but someday I hope to go back and see how Naimie and the others have changed. I cannot say I endorse every aspect of the community’s lifestyle. In a decade or so, I hope they do not follow others’ examples in littering all over the dusty town, or take up smoking, a common unhealthful habit there. The future looks bright: Bill Lishman is working on the New Whale Bone Concept, a project which aims to utilize scrap metal in improving the aesthetic appeal of the landscape as well as to cultivate new artistic growth and to raise profits for improving the lives of the residents overall. We cast our own carbon footprints into the azure skies during this trip, but hopefully not in vain.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Willia Ainalik, Student
Oh what a day! Today I had the greatest day since we started the expedition. Our first landing was to a community called Qikirtarjuaq. The village there is a great place for them because it is beautiful! A friend told me the population is around five or six hundred people. I hope I am lucky enough to go there again!
Delphine Rémillard Labrosse, Student
J’ai tout juste réalisé que, sur les mers, il n’y a aucun moment de véritable silence. Il y toujours le bruit et les vibrations des moteurs du bateau, le vent et les vagues qui s’entremêlent. Par contre, tout semble si paisible, dérangé que par notre passage éphémère (peut-être pas si éphémère à bien y penser avec les traces qu’on laisse par l’essence qu’on brûle). On oublie le son du moteur et on peut entendre les vagues se fracassant contre la coque du bateau, les oiseaux qui font la course au navire et même le vent faisant valser les drapeaux ornant le bateau. Ce matin, comme chaque matin, avant notre séance de yoga nordique sur le bateau et avant que tous se lèvent, je suis allée sur le pont. Quel sentiment incroyable que d’être seule dans le (quasi) silence du matin et de voir soudainement le brouillard se lever au fur et à mesure que le soleil se réveille et commence son travail. C’est comme un rideau qui se lève sur un spectacle. On vient tout juste, pendant que j’écris ces lignes, de quitter le fjord d’Iterbilung et juste comme on partait, le rideau s’est refermé sur ce paysage grandiose comme à la fin d’une représentation.
Aujourd’hui nous naviguons en terrain mal cartographié, car très peu d’explorateurs s’y sont rendus. C’est incroyable de penser que mes yeux se posent où peu d’autres l’ont fait. Tout est à découvrir, surtout que ces terres sont en pleins bouleversements et en constants changements dus aux perturbations climatiques.
Je dois dire que le paysage est à couper le souffle… et l’écriture…si difficile à vous décrire. Depuis quelques années, j’ai eu la chance de visiter plusieurs environnements. Généralement, on associe une couleur à un paysage: bleu pour la mer, beige pour le désert, vert pour la jungle, blanc pour l’Arctique, etc. Pourtant, à chaque découverte, je suis époustouflée de constater, qu’en fait, ces paysages recèlent des palettes entières de toutes les couleurs. Aujourd’hui, on aurait dit qu’un peintre était passé pour étaler toutes sortes de blancs et bleus sur les glaciers, toutes les teintes de vert, beige, terre, orange, rouille, rouge, gris, noir sur les montagnes et vallées. L’océan nous a aussi révélé une nouvelle coloration que je décrirais comme turquoise perçant (après bleu-marin franc…).
Pendant que nous naviguions à travers la vallée creusée par le mouvement des glaciers, j’ai eu le sentiment d’être si petite dans toute cette grandeur. Par contre, pendant que je constatais la force incalculable de la nature, en même temps, je sentais toute sa fragilité alors que j’admirais les impressionnantes chutes d’eau créées par la fonte des glaciers.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Leah Pengelly, Student
Today, we went up a beautiful Fjord called Itirbilung. The mountains that rose straight up from the sea were literally breathtaking! The colours were absolutely incredible, from red and orange to green and blue. The glaciers on the top of the peaks had waterfalls flowing down to the ocean. As we drifted down the fjord we saw whales, seals, narwhal and many other spectacular creatures.
It was a very warm day in the Arctic, since we were protected from the wind, so we played some games on the top deck before lunch. After lunch, we left the fjord and headed down the coast to Home Bay. We landed on the coast and found an old whaling station. There was so much history on such a little peninsula! Some places were over 1000 years old, whereas some sites were less than 100 years old. The mix of artifacts was really interesting. There was everything from ceramics to hunting traps and bones. We also spotted a couple of seals and possibly a walrus! The fog rolled in once again and gave the archeological site a mysterious, spiritual feel. After seeing all the old artifacts, I headed down the beach where I saw polar bear and Arctic fox tracks. The size of the polar bear tracks against our hands gave us a sense of how humans are really only a tiny part of the earth, while the artifacts showed us how large of an impact we have on the planet. Those polar bear tracks will fade into the sand, but the metal artifacts will last for many years. Something as simple as a plastic bottle will last longer than anything any other organism leaves on the planet. I hope that this voyage allows me, my community, and the world to think about the impact we have on the planet on a daily basis, and how to limit that impact.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Mabel Lee, Student
Today we started off the day with breakfast, followed by a lecture about whales and whaling in preparation for whale spotting later in the day. Next, we went up to the deck where we saw the most amazing view! The ship was surrounded by mountains! With the deep blue sky, the serene turquoise waters, the beautiful waterfalls and the exquisite mountains, it was a breathtaking moment! There were people who saw a whale, but I wasn’t able to see it, as I was too late to appear at the scene. While we were on deck, we were also able to play many games. Through those games, I was able to get to know many other people. It was a good chance to interact with other students on the trip.
I think the best part of the day was when we went on shore to an old whaling station. When I first got off the zodiac, I felt that there was something different. The air around me was very different. We also spotted a couple of seals and possibly and walrus. The fog rolled in once again and gave the archeological site a mysterious, spiritual feel. You could tell that people lived here many years ago. It was amazing to see so many graves and bones in one place. I was able to see an Inukshuk for the very first time! What really fascinated me when I was in the whaling station was the fact that there were whale bones as well as many graves. It was great to go to a place where not many people on the earth have ever visited. The highlight of the day for me was seeing a polar bear’s footprints - a mother polar bear and a cub. All in all, it was a great day for me!
Photo by Lee Narraway
Graham May, Student
Today I have seen some of the most spectacular scenery I am likely to see. As the morning sun burned through the fog, those of us on deck became increasingly amazed by our surroundings. The towering mountains around Itirbilung Fjord are majestic by themselves, but add glaciers flowing down the valleys like petrified rivers, and crashing waterfalls swollen with pure glacial water? That, my friends, is breathtaking.
As we cruised between these snow-cased mountains, three narwhals revealed themselves to us, almost underneath one of the spectacular waterfalls. The beauty and serenity of the scene was truly humbling.
In the afternoon, we left Itirbilung Fjord and entered a completely different world. The fog rolled in again and we went ashore on a secluded and almost flat strip of land. There were ruins from Inuit camps and graves, from whalers’ camps, and even a dignified Inukshuk in a ring of stones. The intense silence and thick fog gave the effect of a place as old as time, and if you stood perfectly still you could almost hear the explorers of hundreds of years ago.
The amazing contrast between the two scenes – the towering majesty of the mountains and the subtle peacefulness of the peninsula – demonstrates the incredible diversity of the Arctic world and how much we stand to learn from it. Twice today I have felt somehow connected to what surrounded me: first, to nature, and second, to history. I hope that everyone has the opportunity to experience such moments of inclusion, because I think it would make the world a much better place.
Photo by Lee Narraway
Khia Thompson, Student
Wow! Today was an incredible day, full of adventure and fun. We started off our day with breakfast, followed by an interesting lecture, presented by David Gray and Scobie Pye on whales and the history of whaling. I personally found this presentation to be quite interesting because until today, I had no knowledge of whales and their role in the ocean. After the presentation, we went outside to observe the fjord that we were sailing through. The view was amazing. Until today, I never really realized how beautiful the mountains and the oceans were; the sky was clear of fog and the ocean was a greenish blue color.
Later in the day we went on the zodiacs, venturing to a place where no other Students On Ice group has been. The island was quiet and serene. It was amazing to know that people actually used to live there. The first thing that I saw on the island was the Inuksuk. I was in awe because it was amazing to see that something so old was still standing.
All together today was an amazing day and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
Photos by Lee Narraway
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