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


International Polar Year

August 3, 2009

Students pose on the deck of the Lyubov Orlova
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Don't forget to watch our new videos in the Expedition Videos page!

4:45 p.m. Update:

Good afternoon! All is well on board the Polar Ambassador! The weather conditions are sunny and warm - and everyone is well and happy. We had a great afternoon of hiking and zodiac cruising at Kekerten Island and we are about to drop anchor just off shore from Pangnirtung, deep in the Cumberland Sound. It is stunning here!

We have updated some of our previous pages with new photos and we have added many student journals for our August 1st. day.

(In case you are confused by our updating techniques, the communications team on board collects journals and photos every night and then transmits them to our HQ in Ottawa. We have a BGAN satellite system on board the ship and transmitting photos, video and journals takes a very long time! Once HQ receives the info., we collate it all and then do the posting. Which means that we are usually one day behind in terms of photos and journal updates. However, we speak with the expedition leader twice per day who gives us updates on activities! We do our best to keep our readers in the loop and as close to the action as we can!)

The Lyubov Orlova in Pangnirtung Fjord
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

8:43 a.m. Update:

Good morning from the Cumberland Sound! It is a clear, sunny morning - with calm seas, and the students are all on deck in preparation for their first full day on shore!

Click here to see where the ship was at 7:27 a.m. this morning.

We have received MANY new photos, videos and a slew of journals at last - and will be posting them all throughout the day. So please visit later this morning and again this afternoon.

Today, the students will be visiting Kekerten Island, located on the northwest corner of Cumberland Sound. Here the students will break into groups and visit various parts of the island - exploring the beach, the surrounding hills and tundra, and the remains of a once heavily used whaling station during the 1850s and 1860s. A number of artifacts remain as part of the whaling station and it's quite a remarkable sight.

After their morning landing, the team will head back to the ship for lunch, and the Captain will re-position the ship 50 km further west to prepare for our afternoon visit the bustling hamlet of Pangnirtung. The community is famous for its artists - and in fact - one of our educators on the expedition Jolly Atagooyuk - a world famous print artist - is from Pangnirtung!

The students will meet community members, including youth and elders - and will partake in a traditional feast this evening.

After dinner, a Parks Canada Official will come on board the ship to brief the students about their visit to the famous Auyuittuq National Park tomorrow - where we intend to walk across the tundra, through valleys and along streams until we reach the ARCTIC CIRCLE! It is about a six hour hike - and a highlight of the expedition.

SOI educator Richard Sears and Clyde River elder Jushua Illauq speak under a Bowhead Whale scull
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Annelise Miska - Student
So, I have yet to have cabin fever. Thankfully, the ship is large, the activities are numerous and the lectures interesting. There is so much to do while on board that I’m sad to admit this, but I have fallen behind on my journal… I love to write but at 10:00 p.m. while I’m lying in my bunk I feel overwhelmed by sleep and cannot do much else. But enough let me recap yesterday.

Because of ice conditions, we did not get a chance to leave the ship. However, it still was a rigorous day. The standard wake up call was at 7:30 a.m. followed by a lecture by Julian on plants. I’m not all fascinated about botany but his passion and enthusiasm made me appreciate what he was teaching us. The day continued on with lunch and then another lecture about marine life in the Arctic.

The highlight of the day was activity time, when Johnny from Iqaluit taught us some Inuit games. He is a very accomplished athlete; he has won over 200 medals and been competing since he was 16 years old. I enjoyed watching him attempt to do the “One foot high kick” while the ship was rocking back and forth with the sea. He was having some difficulty finding his balance amongst the tipping of the ship. After his demonstration it was the students’ turn to try it out but I just couldn’t do it! My feet would not cooperate and my legs were flailing all over the place.

At the end of the day everyone gathered on the bow of the boat to watch the sunset. I could feel the bond forming between us as we sailed towards the setting sun. And where there had previously been a divide between the Northern and Southern students, we came to realize that although we are culturally different, we also have a lot to teach each other. I’m glad to say that I feel comfortable with everyone and love learning about the places that they come from.

Bowhead Whale scull on Kekerten Island
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Chelsea Duncan - Student
This experience has been amazing so far and it’s only beginning. Being on the ship has had its ups and downs, but mostly ups. The only down part would be the horrible sea sickness most people experienced on the first day. By the second day everyone was feeling much better. There have been many highlights so far on this trip. One of the highlights would be seeing the first whale and polar bear of the trip only moments after stepping outside Saturday afternoon. Another highlight would be seeing big icebergs for the first time of my life. Sunday morning, we travelled by a huge iceberg. The sky was clear and sunny; it was truly an amazing sight. Another amazing sight was Sunday evening, watching the sunset. After a mostly cloudy day, the sky cleared up just in time to watch the sunset. I think I took about one hundred pictures of it. I sat on the bow of the ship with my feet hanging over the edge of the boat just taking it all in. They have us super busy on the ship with plenty to do. We have definitely learned that flexibility is key.

I have met many interesting people on this trip. They all are very nice and have interesting stories to tell. I have already made many friends and hope to make many more. I am learning so much and there is so much more to learn. I love the energy on the ship it is so positive. Looking out into the ocean gives you a calming feeling. It’s surreal. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the trip. This is a life changing experience and I’m so glad I get to be a part of it! 

Student Bilaal Rajan takes a photo of expedition landscape artist Linda Mackey at work
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Eden Full - Student
Cumberland Sound

After spending an entire day at sea yesterday, I am in awe of how vast and contrasting the Arctic is from living in the city of Calgary, Alberta. Back in my hometown, everything is crowded and fast-paced; it is truly refreshing to be able to get away to understand the world a little bit better. There is so much open space, so much freedom and so much peace. I can now truly understand why humankind continues to try and find technologies that make our world a greener place. We only have this opportunity in the present to do so, and if we do not seize it, we will leave a great burden behind for our future generations. Sometimes, it can be hard to contribute to a cause if you do not feel its impact personally, but after being on this expedition, I am even more inspired to follow my passions and do what I can to help.

I am an engineer at heart, and I always have been. An engineer is passionate about applying technical concepts in a manner that benefits others – families, communities, cities, and ultimately, the entire planet. Fortunately, there are many of us on this ship who are here to understand the polar regions from a biological and environmental perspective. In contrast, I am on this expedition to see what needs can be addressed through my responsibilities as an engineer. I want to do what I can to benefit these Arctic communities and to reduce the effects of climate change on polar regions. Although we have only visited Kuujjuaq so far, I am excited about traveling to future destinations. Unfortunately, we most likely will not make it to Clyde River because ice is currently blocking our passage up north. Nonetheless, there are plenty of other opportunities for us to examine Arctic communities soon!

All of us are starting to form a very tight-knit group – a family, even – just from spending a few days together on this expedition so far. From combating seasickness (I only got a little nauseous for the first day) to furiously taking notes in the lectures together, we have bonded. I have had the privilege of meeting many talented and knowledgeable individuals. I am absolutely amazed at the different reasons that people have for being aboard this ship.

Thank you for reading.

An impromptu dance in Pangnirtung
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Elise Jackson - Student
In Cumberland Sound, near Pangnirtung

Another glorious day. Once again, we were blessed with unbelievable weather- blue skies and light winds. After I wrote last night, I went outside to see the aforementioned sunset and it was incredible. I’ve never seen such beautiful, vibrant colours- it was just mesmerising. We were entering Cumberland Sound at the time, and we could see the pack ice up ahead of us, which the captain managed to find a path through during the night. I talked to Joshua, an Inuit hunter from Clyde River, about his childhood, and he had lots of interesting stories and knowledge to share. This morning, after the regular morning routine of wake-up calls and breakfast, we had some free time before loading into the Zodiacs for our first landing at Kekerton Island.

Kekerten Island was a whaling station for the Americans and Scottish during the nineteenth century, and there were many remnants of the whaling expeditions on the island. We had some talks from different educators about different aspects of the island’s history, including the induction of the International Polar Year, and were able to have some free time to sit and look at the scenery, which was amazing. The landscape up here is just so dramatic- it almost reminds me of Newfoundland in some respects.

We came back on to the ship for lunch, and had an hour or two to hang out, before landing in Pangnirtung at about 5:00 p.m. We were led around by some Students on Ice alumni, who showed us the Visitor’s Centre and Interpretation Centre, as well as a souvenir shop and an Inuit cottage (of sorts). We then all met up at the community centre, where the locals entertained us with some accordion-playing, throat singing, and traditional games. We also talked to two of the town elders, who described the changes that they had observed during their lifetimes, and were served traditional caribou stew and fish stew.

So, I’m off to bed now, because we have an early morning tomorrow - up at 6:00 a.m. to hike 25 km to the Arctic Circle and back. Will report back tomorrow!

A young Pangnirtung resident says hello
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Forson Chan - Student
Cumberland Sound

Onboard the Lyubov Orlova, a ship made in former Yugoslavia and crewed by a happy-go-lucky company of Russians, life is truly an adventure. Waking up in the mornings at 7 for a refreshing round of morning yoga is followed by a continental breakfast every day. As Zuneza, a newly discovered friend from the Yukon, once remarked, “The pancakes here are really the best I’ve ever had. I wonder what the Russians’ secret ingredient is that they use to make it taste so good?”

Life aboard this mighty vessel is certainly anything but routine. Just yesterday, we attended lectures about Arctic plants and whales, learned how to play various competitive Inuit Arctic Winter Games, wrote poetry about our experiences thus far, sang a hip-hop song about harsh Arctic environment, sailed by an iceberg larger than our ship. The day ended epically, when we watched the sun setting on a clear, straight, cloudless horizon.

Coming from Vancouver, I have dreamed of being able to see polar bears, seals, whales, and giant icebergs for my entire life. Ever since I read about Captain Nemo’s adventures Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and Shackleton’s journey to the Antarctic in Endurance, I have been excited about seeing the poles for myself. Thus far, the journey has been a dream come true. Having spent only 3 days on ship, with more than a week to go, we have already spotted polar bears on the distant horizon, a whale peek out from under the deep blue depths, sipped pristine glacial water flowing from a waterfall while on board a small zodiac boat, and threw 3 bottled messages into the waters off Baffin Island.

I came aboard this expedition with two goals in mind:

1) To bathe in the splendor of the Arctic and learn about Arctic research;

2) To meet amazing people from all around the world.         

The people I have met here are incredible. They come from all across the world and have so many stories to tell. In return, I serenade.

Today, I learned during breakfast that “how are you” in Inuktitut is pronounced something like Anup (Ah-nou-ehh-peh). Then, we boarded a zodiac, landed on an island in Cumberland Sound, and hiked around looking at Arctic flora crawling along the ground. A hundred year old tree is a twig in the Arctic. I would just like to take this opportunity to shout out to my mom and Dr. Ipsiroglu.

Thanks for reading :)

SOI educator Dr. Fred Roots
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jayne Waldon - Student
On the Ship

I can’t believe that I am truly here. It didn’t honestly hit me until I was getting off the plane in Kuujjuaq, and then it was so overwhelming! There were people there to greet us as we got in, and we were able to have tours around the town. I have been able to see so many wonderful things over the last few days, including a baby seal, a Minke whale, icebergs and a lot of different kinds of plants and birds. This morning we went out in the zodiacs (rubber boats) and landed on an island that used to be a whaling station. It had all kinds of bones, and wood, and bits of metal scattered around. It was definitely a memorable place!

To everyone back home in Edmonton, I would just like to say that every dilly-bar you guys bought are really paying off for me. I have seen some of the most amazing things, and taken part in some fantastic workshops and lectures. We have so many great staff members who are so knowledgeable in a lot of different fields. I think it’s also really neat that so many people here can speak different languages, and I love listening to people flip-flop between their languages effortlessly.

Anyways, I hope things are going as good for everyone as they are for me! Thanks again to everybody who helped get me to where I am now!

Kekerten Whaling Station
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenna Gall - Student
It is just after noon here in the beautiful Canadian Arctic and we have just returned from our first shore landing at Kekerten, which is a historical sight of an old whaling station! The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and the history was all extremely interesting! It was truly incredible to sit on top of those rocky hills and look out across the ocean and the coast for miles. The one thing I noticed as we pulled up to shore in the Zodiacs was the colorful rocks all around us. The vegetation was also a spectacular array of colors and I was glad to learn from our local “Plant Guy” Julian! J I took tons of photos as always and I got a chance to just sit on a rock, relax and reflect in my personal journal. For those who know me, they know I write a lot, but on this trip I have almost doubled my amount of writing because of all the inspiration. The colors, the ocean the wildlife and the ice are all things that are new and extremely fascinating to me, which fuels my creative writing spirit even more. Once again we had our Yoga session this morning at 7:00am. It was absolutely fabulous! It felt great and we almost doubled in members and it is so good to see everyone getting together to really prepare our bodies and minds for the day ahead.

I have already learned an incredible amount on this expedition and I am excited to learn more. All of our leaders, educators and fellow students are extremely knowledgeable and learning from them is a truly once in a lifetime experience! I love listening to Fred’s stories; he is the oldest member of our expedition and he has seen the entire world and I truly believe he knows everything. The places he has seen and the things he has accomplished is absolutely incredible. Dinner is soon and I am extremely excited to see what the afternoon and evening will bring! Last night we got a chance to see our first Arctic sunset! It was incredible…just like the ones in Saskatchewan only much more interesting because of the icebergs and ocean the leads your eye towards the light. To everyone back home, I love you very much and can’t wait to share this incredible experience with you when I return to Saskatchewan!

Student Jennifer Coldwell in a painting class
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenny Donovan - Student

Today was totally ball.  (Shout out to Micah!) What a fantabulously jam-packed day!!!  We got to do TWO landings today which were extremely welcomed by all on the ship.  The first place we visited was Kekerton, an old whaling station used by the Scots and Americans.  This site was extremely well preserved and really painted a clear picture of what life would have been like.  Scattered across this Heritage Site were countless bones of various species, including beluga, bowheads, seals, and even humans.  (Dad: after speaking with Phillipa from Newfoundland, she has informed me that indeed this was similar to the Viking landing spots in “feeling”J). After spending the morning at this fantastic spot, we travelled to Pangnirtung where the community greeted us with open arms.  We got a tour of the city (pop. 1500) and got the chance to speak with town elders, danced, did some Inuit games (sports) and ate some country food!! (YUM Caribou!) One common theme today was definitely the whalers and the conditions that they lived in.  “Hamaks” (small houses) were constructed out of whale bone and skins and were lived in all year round. 

I can’t wait for tomorrow as we venture on a 25km hike to the Arctic Circle. WOOOOOOO!!!!  Lots of love!

Arctic Cotton near Pangnirtung
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Katherine Sittichinli - Student
Today felt like I was home.

Complete strangers have now developed a place in my heart. I will never forget the people I have met, the things I have seen and the tons of life lessons I have learned! Laughter and smiles are incalculable. The once in a blue moon midnight tears are now tears of happiness.

The feeling of change. The things I have encountered blow my mind. As if time stands still, as if nothing else matters. Not the past. Not even the future. Just the present. The ocean so blue. The sun so bright like nothing I have seen before. The stories of knowledge you hear become stories of knowledge to tell. A sight to see, a sound to hear, a scent to smell. Wonders of the planet. So simply solved. I have found a part of me that I never knew was there. Like a dream, everything seems so unreal. Yet this is reality.

Laurissa Christie - Student
Last night, we witnessed something spectacular.  We had our first Arctic sunset over the wavy ocean with icebergs floating in the distance.  It is amazing how a place so far away can be Canada’s secret, an imaginary place.  The mornings have been awesome.  This morning we had sunny blue skies, coasting along the coast.  The Arctic looks like the moon.  The craters, mountains, and cliffs all resemble the pictures that we see in magazines of what Mars might look like.    We just got off of the zodiacs where we did our first landing!   The islands are beautiful and the scenery took my breath away.  Each day the trip has gotten better and better.  Today is perfect; we have the best of both worlds: the Arctic scenery with sunny summer, clear blue skies. This morning, I also saw my first beluga whale!  Throughout this expedition I have learned to look at things from a different perspective and to live each moment to its fullest in life!   As I am writing this, I realize that I say amazing a lot, but it really is.  There are some things in life that you really cannot describe and so far, the Arctic has been one of them.   This afternoon we are going to visit one of the communities that we were suppose to visit yesterday, but like all things in life: flexibility is the key!  Ship life is great.  I have made so many friends that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The laughs that we have had, the sights we have seen together, and the great ‘karma’ we are all achieving on this expedition.  Tomorrow, we are going on an 8 hour, 25 km hike to the Arctic Circle! Well, my pod group is loading the zodiacs!

Happy Birthday Sydney!

Susan Nanthasit - Student
Cumberland Sound

Yesterday we had a heavy traveling day. Since ice is blocking the way, we’re trying to go in and around Cumberland Sound where there is no ice. We’re hoping to see bowhead whales, seals, and I’m always hoping we’ll see polar bears. And I guess the Arctic birds are almost everywhere, if I could see them through the heavy fog.

However we had a window of sunlight, where we saw a huge iceberg. It made the first iceberg that we saw look like a melting ice cube. On top of the iceberg was a group of birds. It was like we were looking at the iceberg with awe and the birds were looking at us in the ship with awe. We also met our pod groups for the first time today. In an attempt to learn everyone’s names we shared a little about ourselves to our group. I still have trouble with the majority of names, but there are many more days to come. We also wrote a message in a bottle that we dropped off the ship later that day. The chances of the bottles being found are 1 in 25! It’s just really cool that it might be found on a coast really faraway. I just wonder how long it would take for someone to find it!

We also had our workshops again and I went to the Bird Surveying Workshop. But when we got on the bridge, starboard side, the fog had returned. So we only saw about two birds.

After dinner, the fog had cleared up and right on time too! The sun was just beginning to set and everyone climbed up to either the bow or the bridge to get a totally nice view. Someone even caught a “green flash” in one of their photos. I am really looking forward to seeing the photo, since I don’t even know what a “green flash” is. But what made the sunset really exciting was the fact that it was setting into the Baffin Island break offs, which was in a distant view.

Briefing and recap was really fun last night. A group of students performed a song, ‘Eat Light,’ which was really entertaining. We also got to hear a poem that eight of the students had composed, which was lyrically passionate. All in all it was a great night to finish a wonderful day!

This trip is, without a doubt, exciting and I really love it. Even the word ‘trip’ sounds too downplayed for what we are experiencing everyday. But I miss my family and friends; and only six days have passed. But I’ll survive with the help of the expedition family.

Tina Kieffer - Staff

Yesterday was an amazing day! The captain of the ship took us on a journey around a huge iceberg - we literally circled it before we continued on our way! It was spectacular. We ended the day watching the sunset in the Arctic. The moon slipped beyond the horizon like liquid gold while the moon rose and seemed to take a rest on the horizon. We are planning to make land on the southern side of the Cumberland Sound today that means Zodiacs – yippee!

Travis Payne - Student
Cumberland Sound

Well it’s bright and early and we are finally on our way to our first landing! Today we plan to explore Kekerten Island, a small whaling station in Cumberland Sound and later to Pangnirtung, a local town in which a few of our fellow “expeditioners” reside.

Yesterday was a day at sea due to a detour we needed to make around some ice on the coast. (Flexibility is the key!) However, nonetheless it was a great opportunity to learn and see the land we’re in and come together as a group. We spotted a massive iceberg which we circumnavigated and most of all provided a Kodak moment for all. This was one of the only times all day in which the skies were clear and the air was warm (for Arctic standards) and it allowed us to take in the majestic seas and ice together as a group out on the deck. (Good Karma!)

The afternoon brought our choice of workshops ranging from bird surveying, to art, to photography and my personal choice traditional Inuit games. (A choice my neck and back are paying for this morning!) It was a fun opportunity to learn several of the games that have been played for many generations in this land and get taught by Arctic Games medalist Johnny Awesome. I never faired too well with the high kick events; however, I enjoyed playing the “no need for coordination” musk-ox fighting, arm pull and leg wrestling events. It was a great opportunity to learn from many of the students who compete in these games and interact as a group in this fun, yet lighthearted competition setting.

The day finished off with another choice in workshop, for which I chose “Skins and Bones” with David Grey. We got to guess and touch different pelts, skulls and bones of various Arctic animals and learn about their characteristics. Finally, after the workshop, as a group we watched the Arctic sunset and once again snapped pictures and simply soaked in our surroundings. After a daily recap and briefing for today Geoff claimed the day as “The best sea day SOI has ever had,” and I don’t think anyone on board could disagree.

Zuneza Cove - Student

We awoke yesterday to find ourselves in the middle of an ice field. It was mostly just ‘bergy bits’ as they’re called. Just as the electric euphoria began to die down, a very large object loomed over the horizon. As we came closer it was soon clear that it was a leviathan of all things icy and that it dwarfed the Lyubov Orlova. It was a Cathedral Iceberg, one of the larger icebergs on the iceberg scale. We circled around it to witness a large flock of Glaucous gulls, hidden behind it, to lift off and do laps around the structure. I was able to take ‘zoomed in’ photos of the gulls by positioning my binoculars in front of my camera lens.

We soon corrected our course again to set off and watch the friendly giant recede into the fog which had been following us for a good portion of the morning. We spent lunch and afternoon being chased by the fog, which eventually caught up with us. Several workshops started after we ate, including an Inuit games workshop led by Johnny ‘danger’ ‘awesome’, an Inuit veteran of traditions and the games. I didn’t do too bad with a couple of them. I had even won a few of the events.

Eventually the chilling fog and wind became too heavy, even for my Yukon skin, and we had to leave the Stern deck and head inside. We ate a mouth watering meal prepared for us by the Russian cooks, and prepared for the debriefing and for bed. However, before debriefing we went outside to the bow of the boat and watched a magnificent sunset fall into the horizon, accompanied by a lonely seal drifting by the boat. A song was played by Ian Tamblyn and his crew after debriefing. Forson and I were the beat to the song. This trip has been especially helpful for me. Have you ever experienced that special feeling sometimes when everything just fits in, and when there’s nothing in the world that could ruin that moment. Well, all throughout this trip it has been like that for me. Everywhere we go our little bubble of good karma and happiness comes with. I believe this is truly the gold and diamonds of life sparkling down on us.

Stay tuned for updates from yesterday's adventures as we continue to update the website!

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