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International Polar Year

August 11, 2009

Expedition Update

The team had a great time in Kimmirut yesterday. The community welcomed everyone with open arms. Many of the students said that it was the highlight of the expedition. They were greeted on shore by lots of enthusiastic local youth and were treated to a community tour and saw some soapstone carving demonstrations and were given souvenirs of their visit. In the heart of the community local elders made some bannock for the students, demonstrated how to carve up a seal and many of the students tried some raw seal! At the community's school, there were demonstrations of throat singing, drum dancing and Inuit games. Everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

Students and staff disembark from Zodiacs in Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Back onboard, they and invited local tour guides and had a Barbecue on the stern deck. The students had a photo challenge and entries were voted on by applause. Winners received framed photos from expedition photographer Lee Narraway.

This morning they made a landing at Nannuok Harbour where they spotted several Polar Bears. Scouts were sent up and everyone hiked up to a cairn where SOI educator Fred Roots gave a presentation on geology. This will be the last landing they will make until they reach Iqaluit.

The students have been busy with wrap-up activities and youth action groups to help them make sense of what they have experienced in the past couple weeks, and there will be plenty of time on deck to look out for Polar Bears, Seals and Whales! Students are extremely excited to share their new experiences, observations and ideas with friends, family and others when they return home. They have mobilized around diverse issues, projects, initiatives and actions that they will continue well past the end of the expedition. These young polar ambassadors are committed to making a difference locally, regionally, nationally and internationally!

Tomorrow morning they will reach Iqaluit where there will be a community tour and a community Barbecue celebration before boarding their First Air charter flight back to Ottawa.

Click above to watch "Arctic Swim!"

Click above to watch "Thank you Brita!"

Students and staff pose for a photo in Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Annelise Miska - Student
Frobisher Bay

Since today is the last full day on board the Orlova I wanted to recap my highlight of the trip. I did love seeing all the wildlife like the seas, polar bears, walruses, and the birds but the real highlight of my trip was hiking to the Arctic Circle.

I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of the park. The mountains soared way above us as we walked along the banks of a river in Auyuittuq National Park. The glaciers ran from the mountain tops down to the banks then into the river. We had to cross many tiny streams that were ice cold, pure glacier water. The first 6.5 km of walking was easy, flat ground with a slight incline… Then we hit the sand “dunes” or the beach of the Arctic. For the next 3.5 km we trudged through sand and streams, then climbed up slopes, and then more sand. My boots became so heavy from all the sand in them that the simple act of lifting my legs to walk became difficult. Finally, we reached the Arctic Circle after 4.5 hours of walking!

The feeling was fantastic… to know that I had walked all the way to the 66th degree of latitude. It also sunk in how luck I am to be able to see and experience this part of Canada that not many people do.

I have seen a park that only 200 or so other people a year get to. Fortunately for this group of hikers we had 2 staff members who had previously taken this journey a decade earlier. They told us of how much the National Park had changed. The mountain ranges and flowing glaciers are testimony to how much the North has changed.

I want to thank my sponsor Brita for this opportunity to learn about climate change while using the Arctic as my classroom. It has been an amazing experience that I will never forget.

Expedition Leader Geoff Green talks to students and staff in Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Students and staff learn about Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Janet Waldon - Staff
As I walked back over the land today from the cairn on the point to the Zodiacs I pondered all the things I have discovered in the last few weeks.  I could name every plant, flowering or not, that I passed.  I could visualize the movements in the rock formations in the landscape; I could hear laughter from the students walking behind me and I could name every one by the sound of their voice.  By silhouette I knew every gunman on bear lookout on the hilltops around me. Watching the pattern of the zodiac wake coming across the water, I could guess who was driving!

As I looked up from the jumbled rock bed I walked over, a field of wildflowers seemed to be putting on their last show. Joshua was walking towards me and in that moment it seemed like the last quiet time for me in the Arctic was distilled.  His land is my land.  This land is our land.

And with a flourish I threw my toque into my backpack and let my hair fly wild in the wind of my last zodiac ride back to the ship.  What a thrill!

Thank you to those who are following our webstory and have entrusted your dearest ones to this adventure. I have completely enjoyed the enthusiasm, insight and ferocious energy they bring to the issues that face our northern communities. It has been a privilege to share this part of history – both in their individual lives and in our collective experience. If this is the group that takes the reins of our future – we’re in very capable hands!

And so we begin to pack and to plan for our journey back into the hundred places we call home…

Students and staff prepare to hike around Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Students display their art
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Florence Albert - Étudiante

Ce matin j’ai sacrifié quelques heures de sommeil, enfin une seule heure, pour voir le lever du soleil à 3h50. Mais on peut dire que le soleil n’était pas vraiment au rendez-vous ou alors il était timide et se cachait derrière les nuages. Donc pas de magnifique lever de soleil... Plus tard pendant la journée nous sommes allés à Shaftsbury pour des séances de travail commun ainsi que quelques photos. Quelques intrus se seront glissés sur ces photos, en effet, les moustiques de Kuujjuaq nous avaient manqué à tel point qu’ils avaient doublé en effectif c’est pourquoi nous avions l’air de cosmonautes avec nos filets anti-moustiques. Ensuite l’Arctic Swim Team est entré en existence avec tout le monde, moi incluse, se jetant à l’eau dans les eaux de l’Arctique. Certes je ne suis restée qu’une poignée de secondes, mais c’est déjà ça! L’après-midi, nous avons continué nos activités du matin puis avons visité  une communauté.  

Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

SOI Landscape Artist Linda Mackey looks at a Danny Ishulutak's painting. Danny was one of five students to receive formal recognition for his work by the Canadian Society of Artists.
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenny Donovan - Student
Hudson Straight      

It is crazy to think that today is our last full day on the ship.  Today we packed our bags for home, a place that I will return to as a different person.  Time has been a funny thing on this expedition; you never really know what hour of the day it is and are only reminded of it by the delicious meals we are served.  The days seem so long, but it seems like just yesterday that we left Ottawa.  I feel like I have known the people here forever, and that this is where I belong.  I am nervous to return to the “real world”…which seems like a new concept because I feel like this is what the real world should and is meant to be.  I will miss the Arctic so much and truly have “ice in my veins”.  I will never forget the people I have met up here and how they changed my life.  Until we meet again, lots of love!

Student Rebecca Watts displays a painting
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jessie Nayome - Student
On this trip, I have a very good trip to the North that I never been there before and we have been landing to communities that I never been to before. I have never been on the ship before. I also like to go on the zodiacs. This was my first trip North by ship. The fun part on the ship was watching videos at the recap and briefing time and also going on zodiacs. I had a very good time on this ship. Now I have a lot of new friends that I made on the ship and they live in different countries. I also liked the staff because they are helping me or having fun with me. They made me laugh sometimes. That’s what I did on the ship.  

Student Tanya Taggart-Hodge shows a painting
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Tanya Taggert-Hodge - Étudiante
Hudson strait

After getting up at 3:40am to try and see the sunrise, the wake up this morning was particularly difficult. However, once we did get out of bed, we prepared for our last landing, in Nannuk Harbour; what a magical place that was! There seemed to be a general sense of sadness as we realized that our adventure together was coming to an end.

Cependant, le voyage ne fait que commencer. Même si cette expédition tire à sa fin, ce n’est que le début de nombreuses années d’amitiés et de coopération. De plus, la quantité et la qualité des choses que nous avons apprises ne pourraient jamais être mesurées tellement l’expérience a été riche et épanouissante. J’aimerais remercier de nouveau toutes les personnes qui m’ont aidé à réaliser mon rêve que ce soit financièrement ou émotionnellement. Cette expérience a changé ma perspective sur le monde qui m’entoure et m’a donné une nouvelle source de motivation à agir face aux problèmes environnementaux et sociaux dont nous faisons face.

As we have been told throughout this trip, we need to be the generation G (G standing for green, generous, graceful, and grateful…).  We are facing many challenges ahead of us in the world today and it is up to us to be crew members rather than passengers in the boat that we call life. I feel like the luckiest person on earth to have been part of this journey with people that have truly changed my life; I want to thank you Students on Ice, all of it’s staff members and volunteers, organizers and specialists, musicians and artists, for having been my inspiration for the future.

Student Alena Stevenson shows a painting
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Laurissa Christie - Student
Hudson Strait

Things are wrapping up here on the Polar Ambassador for the SOI-IPY Arctic Youth Expedition 2009, but we are determined to make the last days of our expedition the best!  Last night, we visited a local community where we were welcomed with open arms.  The community was very happy to see us.  We toured the area, ate traditional food, watched Inuit games, and met the people.  Last night, we also had a BBQ.  This morning we had our final landing on the expedition in Nannuk Harbor.  Now, our bags our packed for Iqaluit tomorrow morning, and in the next two days we will all return home.  I have loved everything about the Arctic: the people, the food, the wildlife, and the scenery.  

Students and staff prepare to hike near Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Students and staff hike near Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Susan Nanthasit - Student
Hudson Strait

Two days ago we went to Hanztsch Island, there were so many birds. The thick-billed murres were actually pretty cute. When they flap their wings on the surface of the water they look like penguins. It’s also really cool how they use the same movement to fly and swim. Garry estimated that there were 125,000 birds on the island, which would explain the very pungent smell.

We also started our Youth Action Groups which are really neat. I learned about a whole list of things that I can do at all different levels, so keep an eye out for that.

Officially yesterday, I am a member of the SOI Arctic Swim Team! First of all, the bugs were just ridiculously insane; we were all wearing bug nets. So when it came to the swim, we all had lots of mosquito bites and cuts from the rocks. The water was cold at first, but then you went numb and it ‘felt’ warm.

We also went to Kimmirut last night, the most welcoming community I’ve ever met. The children’s faces all lit up when they saw the zodiacs and they all wanted to help handout life jackets. Everyone was so open with how they lived and their culture, I loved it.

I can’t believe that tonight is our last night on the ship. The people I’ve met here are incredible, it feels silly to say this but I feel like we’ve all known each other for so much longer then 14 days. I remember that everyday seemed like a really long day, but now, looking back, it went by so fast. I’ll never forget this experience and I feel that I’ll never forget about the Arctic; the wildlife, landscapes, people. There’s a connection there now and I know that someday I’ll come back, hopefully sooner than later.

Student Zuneza Cove
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Waterfall near Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Tina Kieffer - Staff
Our visit to Kimmirut was amazing! We were warmly welcomed and again bid a fond farewell with bannock, fresh seal, Inuit games demonstrations and throat singing in between. When a young boy from Kimmirut approached me with a carving of a loon he had made, I could not resist buying it from him. While participating in the polar swim, I heard a loon cry and the small carving will make a perfect reminder of a great day and a great experience in the Arctic. Today, we made a landing at Nannuk Harbour and had planned to start our visit with a short hike before taking part in some group activities. Our look out team reported the presence of no less than 8 polar bears, some of which were sleeping, so we had to change the order of things until it was safe to roam the land. As Geoff always reminds us, flexibility is the key! This Arctic expedition has been the opportunity of a lifetime! The landscape, the ice, the flora, the fauna, the friendships made, and the both memories created and shared will be forever etched in my mind and heart. It was truly a shared experience. I would like to thank the Arctic and everyone for making this adventure truly memorable and soul stirring. James, Samantha and Madison, I hope some day we can share the wonder of the Arctic together!

Students and staff help each other along the way during their hike around Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Students and staff get together after their hike around Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Travis Payne - Student
Nannuk Harbour

Well it’s our final day onboard and we are preparing for our final landing. The day is jam packed with several concluding activities and the mood is bitter sweet. Pictures are being taken at a rapid rate of each other, luggage is being packed and e-mail addresses are being shared, while we still are taking this adventure head on.

Yesterday was easily my favorite of the expedition. We started the day with a landing at Shaftsbury Inlet where we were welcomed by the largest swarm of mosquitoes I have encountered. After donning our fashionable bug nets we took our group photo. After a brief discussion with our action groups, it was time for the Arctic Swim Team! Ranging from our 12 year old prodigy to our veteran leader Fred almost everyone took the plunge into the frigid waters. It was an exciting moment for all and a nice way to escape the mosquitoes!

As always, the afternoon brought another SOI quest. We visited the community of Kimmirut. The welcoming party of about 50 kids on the shore line brought a smile to everyone’s face and was an appropriate foreshadow of the entire landing. Many (including myself) were excited to see candy again! After shopping around and viewing the mini-museum we delved into cultural activities. First we watched the skinning of a seal and most of us tried parts of the raw seal. Personally, I tried the heart, liver, kidney, muscle, rib and brain of the seal! Thanks to SOI and the community of Kimmirut for the opportunity. Later we enjoyed more throat singing and traditional games. When it was time to depart the children of the village all chased us and even requested piggy back rides and insisted on passing out the life jackets, learning our names and pushing our Zodiac off the shore.

This will most likely be my final entry, so farewell to my loyal readers (aka Mom, Dad, Clark and Garrett) and I will be back home soon :(

Students travel with staff member Alex Taylor by Zodiac in Nannuk Harbour
Photo by Mariane Leduc, Students on Ice

Sophie Crump - Student
On our way to Iqaluit

It is too strange to think that we are now at the end of our expedition. I have seen so much, and learned w great deal from everyone who is now part of the SOI family – not only from the educators, but also my fellow students.

We have swum in Arctic waters, forded glacial streams, sat silently watching polar bears and other wildlife from the Zodiacs amidst fields of ice, and we  have grown together as a unit of people who are now very reluctant to leave.

I am returning home to an amazing group of supportive friends and family as and inspired and driven teenager, and I hope to start taking action to fight climate change as soon as I get home. There is much to do, but if each one of the over 100 people on this expedition begin an initiative and spread the word once we get back, things will happen! It is an exciting, albeit challenging time to be a youth today; we have much ahead of us that we will need to do, but we have the technology, passion and innovation to change things back before it is too late.

I can’t wait to get started!

Student Jack Krantz and Expedition Leader Geoff Green admire a final expedition sunset
aboard the Lyubov Orlova - Photo by Alex Taylor, Students on Ice

Tara Saber-Khiabani - Student
We had a really busy day yesterday. We started out on a bug infested fjord, where we posed for 9287463830 pictures amidst the bugs. We then had workshops and before leaving, jumped into the water. It was cold and rocky, but it was so much fun. Later on in the day we arrived in Kimmirut. The kids from the town were all waiting on the beach for us. They were incredibly welcoming and warm. After seeing the town, we all had the chance to eat seal, which was by far the highlight of my day. Leaving Kimmirut was hard because when we were at the beach waiting for our zodiacs, the kids were right there with us again. They wanted us to stay longer, but of course, we couldn’t. I loved everything about yesterday.

SOI Education Program Director Tim Straka and SOI Participant Coordinator Niki Trudeau
near Nannuk Harbour, southern Baffin Island, en route to Frobisher Bay
Photo of Tim by Jennie McDowell, Students on Ice; photo of Niki by Alex Taylor, Students on Ice

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