STUDENTS ON ICE EXPEDITIONS | Natural Heritage Building | 1740 chemin Pink | Gatineau, QC J9J 3N7 CANADA | 1-866-336-6423


International Polar Year

August 10, 2009

Expedition Update

Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

The team had a great day yesterday at Hantzsch Island where they saw thousands of Thick-Billed Murres and Black-Legged Kittiwakes. Canadian Wildlife Service Migratory Birds Conservation Biologist Garry Donaldson talked about the birds and the cliffs that they nest on.

This morning they made a zodiac landing at Shaftsbury Inlet where they had a group photo taken and broke out into youth action groups where they discussed ideas for how the students will translate what they have experienced and learned on the expedition to meaningful action once they return home. The team also had their Arctic swim in the inlet!

Later in the afternoon they will visit the Inuit community of Kimmirut, which means "heel" in Inuktitut - so called because of the heel shaped hill across from it's harbour. An afternoon of activities such as a town tour, soapstone carving demonstrations and Inuit elder interviews in the community await them there.

Click above to watch "Hantzsch Island"

Students and staff pose for an expedition group photo at Shaftsbury Inlet
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Laurissa Christie - Student
Arctic Swim Team!

WOW!  What a great couple of days we have had here on the Polar Ambassador!  This morning was amazing; we had workshops on shore about how we can make a difference when it comes to climate change.  Then, everyone went in the water for the Arctic swim team! While in the water, I realized that we are swimming in the same water as whales, polar bears, and icebergs! It was one of the best swims in my life!   The past thirteen days have been the best days of our lives.  We have all learned from our experiences and will be taking strong messages back to our communities. Nobody is looking forward to saying good-bye; however we know that this is not goodbye as we begin “Generation G.”

Students take a "Polar Bear Dip"
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Randi Karstad - Staff
Shaftsbury Inlet

We’re leaving the sound after a longer stop at Shaftsbury Inlet where we all had a swim today. No wind, but many bugs, the bug jackets came in good use today. I had of course left mine in my cabin. Our two pilots were strategically placed atop the mountains on each side of the valley, scouting for polar bears while we enjoyed the place. Two fishing shacks rested on the shore line and were still apparently in frequent use. The ship lay anchored in the sound.

We are now sailing towards Kimmirut, a community of about 500 people. There will be a community welcome with some country food, probably seal. Of all the stunning sceneries and wildlife on this trip I find the visits to the communities to be the most exciting. The overall highlight, though, is hanging out with and talking to the great northern kids onboard, learning throat singing from Dina and Arlene, watching how Johnny the athlete and Joshua the elder work with the kids and inspire them and see how well everybody mingle and share their experiences and knowledge. The kids onboard come from such a wide range of backgrounds and opportunities, yet Geoff and his staff are able to meld them all together into one big family for the time being of this trip. That accomplishment in itself is such an exceptional thing to observe and seems to me to be the most awe inspiring feature of this trip that I have been so fortunate to be a part of.

Picking some blueberries
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Janet Waldon - Staff
For all my friends headed to work in high heels and summer skirts, I must tell you what I am wearing to my “office” today!  I have on my bathing suit, long warm underwear, fleece, rain jacket and pants – accessorized with hoop earrings, wool socks and hiking boots!  I am skipping the mosquito perfume, but I do have sunscreen on!  LOVELY!!!

We are off in the Zodiacs this morning to spend time exploring Shaftsbury Inlet; thinking about our action plans for back home.  I am working with other leaders presenting the material on doing presentation and media communications; a huge piece of the puzzle for some that are getting anxious about future speeches and sharing their stories with large groups back home.

I am starting to let my head consider the plane ride, checking out my house and garden, the first day back to museum work, re-connecting with family and friends. I am beginning to consider how to articulate this change of heart.  As I said to Johnny the other evening, “I came expecting to learn about changes in the Arctic and I leave knowing the Arctic has changed me.”

Student Lucy Kenuajuak takes the plunge into the Arctic Ocean
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Tina Kieffer - Staff
It’s hard to process just how much I have done and seen on this trip. During a recent zodiac cruise among the sea ice, a polar bear was having a seal for lunch and some walruses were lounging in the middle of the afternoon. Later from the bow of the ship, I saw bowhead whales, more walruses, some seals and a polar bear. It is hard to describe just how incredible it is to experience animals in their natural habitat. This morning we anchored in Shaftsbury Inlet for some activities, our group photo and another awesome adventure. Upon arriving on shore, it was clear that ‘bug nets’ were our only necessary survival gear. Tom, Devin and Ethan, there were swarms of huge mosquitoes and black flies all ready to take a piece of us all. We ended up taking a group photo both with and without bug nets. I am sure the smiles were bigger with the nets on rather than off. James, you have always said that fear and hesitation can last a moment but regrets can last a lifetime. Well, there was an opportunity to take a polar swim/dip this morning and I went in not just once but twice. Sam and Madi, the water was chilly on my legs but once it covered my torso it was literally “breathtaking”. It was cold enough to make it seem hard to breathe. I had gone in once and then noted that my friend Liz had yet to go in so we went in together. Our landing site offered more than just mosquitoes and a place to swim. There were more garnets in the exposed rock and a lot of blueberries. Dorothy, you would have loved some of the flowers that I have seen here in the Arctic. Oma and Opa, we are heading to Kimmirut this afternoon and I am again looking forward to a community visit.

I am having the experience of a lifetime!

Students make some new friends in Kimmirut
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Sophie Crump - Student
I am struggling to believe that what we have done today has only taken up half of it; we still have eleven hours and forty-five minutes until today turns into one of our very last days aboard the Lyubov Orlova. It’s too sad to think about, so we are all busy making these last days as wonderful as possible, and we are trying to spend as much time with each other as we can before we all have to go, and we are growing closer and closer together as part of the SOI family.

Today, our family-bonding experience was most certainly the Polar Bear Dip for those of us who participated. We had gone ashore Shaftsbury Inlet and had been discussing how we could take action upon our return home. Just before we all left we stripped down to our bathing suits – some of us trying to keep the swarms of mosquitoes away by wearing our bug jackets until the very last minute – and we ran into the water off of rocks and a small sandy beach. It was very quickly discovered that going in slow would make it impossible to actually convince our bodies to submerge themselves, so those of us who went in a little after the first people discovered the art of the shallow dive.

That water was cold. C-O-L-D, cold!!! But most of us got in, and the record I have heard so far of times submerged in the water is somewhere around ten. It was a great experience, and all of us helped each other through the freezing cold water; some through coaxing, others dragging and some even splashing those reluctant few who were frozen with the water up to their knees, with their toes quickly going numb. It was definitely an experience I am sure none of us will forget very quickly, and a story I will be telling for many years to come!

SOI educator Fred Roots takes a dip
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Alisha Sunderji - Student
The Zodiac takes off into a grey mist, as we head into nothingness. The shrill cry of the motor accompanied by the sound of crashing waves fills my ears. A pungent smell hits us first.

A brown form appears in the distance. As we approach it, an island rises out of the grey. We are welcomed with a cacophony of sounds: shrieks, cries, squawks and frantically frapping wings as the boat slowly approaches this ethereal place. Jagged cliffs stained with white tower over the open sea; birds surround us everywhere, almost like a scene of an Alfred Hitchcock movie. They have claimed this rock as their own. Craning my neck upwards, I stare at thick-billed murres, black legged kittiwakes, soaring, fighting, and eating, within their own city, teeming with activity like New York or Delhi.

Despite these birds being of different species, they have managed to share land, which to the human eye appears to be inhospitable and stark. While the murres flap pathetically at the surface, they dive to the depths of the ocean, leaving the kittiwakes to the open skies. Amidst the fog lies a world of rock, water and wings.

A student dives in the water
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Bilaal Rajan - Student

Hey Everyone,

Today was another amazing day! We started our day again at 7:30 and had a great breakfast. We then headed to an inlet where we landed and just got swarmed by mosquitos. There were at least 100 mosquitoes on every person so we all got nets that saved our lives. We would have all been bitten to death if it wasn’t for the nets. On the inlet we were able to choose which action group we wanted to participate in. These action groups were sorted into categories like pushing the government and media, art, presentation skills, choosing a life path, and much more. We were able to learn a lot and have fun discussing them. After these action groups we went for a swim!! I was the second to go in, but the first to get my whole body underwater. IT WAS COLD! It was so cold I surfaced and I could barely breathe. It was a lot of fun and I went in three times at intervals because if you stay in too long you might get pneumonia. We all took pictures and went crazy. After about half an hour we all got tired of running in and out so we headed back to the ship to raise anchor and to head to where we are now.

We got to Kimmirut and went ashore at 3:30 and got a great tour of the town. Inhabited by 450 or so people, it has 2 convenience stores, one school, one daycare, one souvenir shop and a lot more. At theeand of the tour we were walking back to shore and we saw a hunter cutting up a seal he had caught and the whole community was around him. He was cutting it up and giving the raw meat to the community so he could use the skin and other body parts. We were able to get some meat and it tasted… interesting. Not bad but different than the meat we have back home. It had a salty sweet taste to it and we I was given a seal claw by the hunter that had caught it. He told me about how every time some one catches an animal the whole community shares the meat to symbolize a group. He explained that it was tradition and that it had happened as long as time could tell. What really struck me was the willingness of the hunter to share what he had caught with the community around him. At the end he went to the seal and cut me a claw to remember my experience in Kimmirut and in the Arctic. I definitely will and hope to come back someday.

Over the course of this expedition the people on this ship have really come close together. We have truly become a family and I will definitely miss Geoff waking us up every morning with, “Good Morning, Students Ooooon Ice!” Also, I will miss Travis’s funny wisecracks, Vino’s crazy impressions, and everyone’s willingness to help. The expedition staff has been amazingly supportive and very knowledgeable and always answering every question you have. I know I still have one whole day left with everyone, but time seems to be passing by really fast. Anyway, it’s curfew now so it’s time for bed.

Over N’ Out,

Bilaal Rajan

Students join the Arctic Swim Club
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Danny Ishulatuk - Student
On this trip, I got to meet a lot of new friends, learn how it feels to live on a boat, learn and new things about the Arctic.  I’m just having fun.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss everyone.  I thank Kakivak for funding the scholarship for this amazing adventure.  I’ll see you guys from Pang in 3 days!  Later.  – Danny.

Students Forson Chan and Zuneza Cove have some fun in the cold Arctic water
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Gabrielle Alix - Étudiante
Shaftsbury Inlet et Kimmirut

Wow! Quelle journée! Aujourd’hui, notre journée à été palpitante. Nous avons navigué toute la nuit durant pour arriver à Shaftsbury Inlet ce matin. Cette petite île était de toute beauté. Nous nous y sommes rendus pour pouvoir prendre les photos de groupe, commencer la première partie des ateliers et faire notre inoubliable baignade en Arctique.

Expedition staff Johnny Issaluk demonstrates some Inuit games assisted by student Anthony Arreak
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenna Gall - Student
Today has been a really great day, as they all are! We started the morning with a great Yoga session. As we get closer to the end of the expedition there are less Yoga participants because I think a few people are getting tired ha-ha! However, I love waking up early for the group yoga session because I just feel way more energized and ready for a wonderful day. This morning we made a landing and got into groups called Youth Action Groups. I was in the Enviro-Action group and we talked about starting a Nature Reconnection Day because we felt like people are disconnected from the natural world lately and that is wrong and it is something we all need to work on!

The bugs were horrendous out at Shaftsbury Inlet, it made for such an interesting talk in our groups’ ha-ha! The highlight of the landing was getting to do the Arctic Polar Dip. We all stripped down to our bathing suits and ran into the ice cold water. It was such a great adrenaline rush! The water was so cold that it was painful on your legs and feet and when you went under water it took your breath away because of the cold. It was so much fun!! We ran around taking photos and getting all excited again! Now we are about to visit the community of Kimmirut. I am very excited. Also tonight for supper we get to have a BBQ on the stern of the ship! I have become such good friends’ with everyone on this expedition and we are truly like one big family who learn from each other! It has been the most incredible experience of my life!

Student Forson Chan eats a seal eye
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenny Donovan - Student

Today has been the best day yet!  This morning I represented OFSAA swimming in the Arctic…2m butterfly!  It felt like I was going pretty fast…it might have been my arms numbing from the cold water though!  The quest to swim in every ocean continues!

We got together today in workshops for “Action Groups”.  As a part of the conservation group, myself and 4 others from across Canada (and one American) worked together to create “Nature Reconnection Day” an initiative designed to make people stop and appreciate our surroundings.  We were able to get a video made and will present the idea to everyone tomorrow night at briefing.  We have a lot of great ideas and can’t wait to get them going!  More to come on that at a later dateJ.

The real highlight of my day was visiting Kimmirut.  We were greeted by at least 30 kids grinning ear to ear and running all over the place!  Dominique, who had lived there for a while gave me a tour of this village of 500 people (50% under the age of 18).  We were so welcomed here!  I watched as one of the town elders prepared a seal skin to make mitts and then watched another elder as he prepared a freshly caught seal to eat.  I got to eat some raw liver, after which the elder called me “Inuit” and gave me a big hug.  I feel so blessed to have been able to meet the wonderful people of Kimmirut and can’t wait to one day return and see where my new friends are.  Lots of love!!

An elder from Kimmirut shows students how to scrape a seal skin
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jesse Arnaqaq - Student

Today we woke up at 7:00am and at 7:30 we had a breakfast.  We loaded zodiacs after that and saw a lot of birds at Hantzsch Island.  On August 4th, we had hiking to the Arctic Circle and it took about 9 hours. The best part was crossing the rivers helping my group.

Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Johnny Issaluk - Staff


Well, my time on the ship has been extraordinary. Students on Ice has waken me up again, and the students have given me some excitement of hope for betterment of our land and our people.

Had great experiences, and have met a whole bunch of great people, and we’ve done so many exciting things, like swim in the ocean, hiked to the Arctic Circle, and swam in the river, or run off from the Glaciers at Auyuittuq National Park, and seen 120,000 birds on one Island called Hanztsch Island, and seen walruses, polar bears, and unexplainable beauty of the lands, seas, and ice over the course of 2 weeks.

I’m going to miss all these people, whom I’ve known for days, and feel like I’ve known them for ever, and that feeling is just as great in a sense where I will know them for ever now.

I’ve learned so much about my land, or our land which I have grown up in, and I am looking forward to learning so much more…

We have to do more for the sake of our land, and our people… lets go green…

I’ll say more some time,

Thank you,


Expedition videographers Pascale Otis and Alex Taylor take in the scene with their 'Assistant'
Photo by Alex Taylor, Students on Ice

Lauren Gamble - Student
Although it is not yet noon, today has been something else!  I woke up around 4:30 this morning to see the sunrise and being out on deck alone watching the sun was unexplainable.  I could not even sleep afterwards so hearing ‘Good morning Students on Ice!’ did not even bother me (for once)!  Right after another great breakfast (mmm, chocolate chip pancakes) we were off to another fjord where we had more focused discussion groups followed by… THE SWIM!  It was so cold I could not breathe when I hit the water.  My whole body felt like ice and I tasted the salt on my lips like I have never tasted.  Even Fred Roots, at 86, took the dip!  It was incredible.  There are no words for how crazy that was.

Breathing again,

Lauren Gamble

Putulik Saviadjuk - Student
Thanks to you guys, the Makivik Corporation. I’m making new friends, seeing new things and learning new things. If it weren’t for you guys sponsoring me, I wouldn’t be learning. I’m doing my first journal with Mary. I’m having fun out in the sea and I’ve been to places I have never been before. 

Expedition staff Dominique Henri, Richard Sears, Jenny Baeseman, and Evelyne Daigle
enjoy the Arctic evening light out on deck - Photo by Alex Taylor, Students on Ice

Tanya Taggart-Hodge - Student
Shaftsbury Inlet

The days seem to be getting better and better as the trip moves on! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my supporters, sponsors, family and friends who have contributed to making this experience possible; this has truly been an eye-opening, life-changing experience and I truly appreciate all the help you have given me. At the moment, I am dressed warmly and ready to get out on the Zodiacs towards our landing in Shaftsbury Inlet. We will be getting into action groups on shore to discuss various climate change issues. Saturday was definitely my highlight of the trip; looking out into the horizon and seeing an ice portal off into the distance, observing a polar bear eating a seal, seeing walruses from up close, writing some new music with Ian, finishing my painting with Linda, having a dynamic briefing with the group, learning more Russian and practicing my Spanish with the crew were all part of that unforgettable day. There’s my call to the gangway!

Thick-Billed Murres nesting
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Travis Payne - Student
Shaftsbury Inlet

Well with two days left aboard the ship everything is in SOI overdrive and everyone’s beginning to cringe at the thought of going home but also busy with the concluding activities. Today, we plan to put our Arctic swim team in the water here in Shaftsbury Inlet, where we also will continue talking about the change and action we can take when we get home. This afternoon we will travel to the village of Kimmirut where we will make a landing and take part in cultural activities.

Yesterday started off with a Zodiac cruise through the fog to Hantzsch Island (the location we were supposed to stop on day one!) We saw over 120000 arctic birds and saw them land on the cliffs, fight with one another and even dive into the water. At one point a flock of probably over a thousand birds flew from the cliffs together only clearing my head by a near few inches.

The day continued with several workshops and presentations regarding how we can be a part of Generation G, the force that has the opportunity to change what is harming our planet and reverse the effects we have seen first hand. The night concluded with several speeches and presentation to recognize Geoff Green and the entire SOI staff. I would like to personally thank them for their hard work in preparing and executing the trip, all the other staff on board for making the expedition both educational and enjoyable and above all Youth Science Canada for allowing me to take a new perspective of the north, meet great people and realize our dire need for change.

Staff member Liz Murphy makes a new friend in Kimmirut
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Mary Turnbull - Staff

Finally I have found the time to do a journal – along side of a new friend, Putulik – he is doing his first journal as well.

Today was our Arctic swim and I actually did make it into the water!

We just spent a wonderful time in the small community of Kimmirut where there are 450 people and about 300 of them are children.  They basically adopted everyone.  There was a fresh seal kill and we were all invited to partake.  I passed.  I figure that one new experience today was enough.

This is an amazing part of Canada and I am so fortunate to have been a part of this expedition.  I have met so many amazing people - students and staff alike.  And wonderful things seem to be happening – I can’t wait to tell you.

Happy Birthday Karen!  We’ll celebrate upon my return.  Love to all!

Painting by Student Dina Koonoo
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Dina Koonoo - Student
Don’t give up because we can help you and we can help each other. I want to say this: read more, learn more, change the globe and teach to each one. We can do this by helping each other and talking to each other. By working hard and giving a lot of yourself (this does not happen every day). And if you give yourself, pray for God or talk to elders.

I want to say this too that I care about you and I love you. You guys are always in my heart. Thank you very much that I can be your friends and that I can be here with Students on Ice.

Thank you.


Dina Koonoo

Landscape Artist Linda Mackey with Student Dina Koonoo and Dina’s painting
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Shane McNamera - Student
Shaftsbury Inlet

However cliché it may sound, each day just keeps getting better.  As friendships develop and we go on to explore more and more places, my cache of memories is beginning to overflow.  Today we got up and out of our beds at 3:45 am to catch the arctic sunrise over the mountains.  Ten of us waited up on deck to be greeted by the sun, as we overlooked the calm inlet that we were about to go swimming in a few hours later. 

The trip has done so many things for each and every person on the trip, and I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am for this opportunity.  The connections and friendships I have made seem stronger than those I have had for several years.  This trip has shown me so much and I hope to show everyone else as well. 

Stay Tuned for Further Updates!

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