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


International Polar Year

August 6, 2009

Expedition Update

Today, the team is leaving Cumberland Sound and re-entering the Davis Strait and back into a world of ice. They hope to see more whales and seals - and this morning they will lower the Zodiacs into the water for some icy expedition exploration!

They will be busy onboard with a number of workshops and pod groups on botany, whale research, oceanography, music and art.

Afternoon Update

The team made it to Cape Mercy after navigating through some thick pack ice and were able to lower the Zodiacs and explore the ice floes. The sun is out and the ship is now making it's way out of Cumberland Sound into Davis Strait to see if they can find some Polar Bears!

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Students pose for a photo on an ice floe in Davis Strait
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Agatha Kang - Student
Flexibility is the key! Since we were not able to make our way up north to Clyde River, we decided to stay in Cumberland Sound for a bit. This allowed us to land on Kingnait Harbor and we had a fantastic hike there. I was mesmerized by the beautiful scenery! Also, I felt like I was at a very special place because Fred told us that the place is sacred and that it is a site for IPY station. Furthermore, looking at sea ice today was amazing. All my worries and regrets flew away when I stood beside nature. I felt spiritually connected to nature and especially the arctic ecosystem. The unfortunate truth that I learned today is that the arctic ecosystem is very vulnerable. If the sea ice keeps disappearing rapidly, Earth will heat up faster and cause the glaciers to melt at a faster rate. This can easily destroy the arctic ecosystem and increase the sea level. The arctic is the first indicator of the impacts of climate change and global warming. From a realistic point of view, it is too late to stop the effects of climate change, but we can definitely slow it down. There must be ways to slow it down because we cannot let nature to be destroyed.

Nature means a lot to me now. It is home to me, a friend that I cannot live without. I believe that human beings cannot exist without nature. Many of us take nature for granted, but it is a gift to us and we must cherish it. We need to protect and preserve nature for as long as Earth exists. Nature is something we all need to appreciate and pay close attention to because we never know when we might lose it. Also, even though wisdom and knowledge can be shared, nature is something that you have to experience yourself. You have to feel it with your heart. Once you feel the close connection to nature, you will realize the importance of keeping it alive. I love the silence of nature and it would be incredible for everyone to feel the same way. If our planet Earth was so small that we could hold it in our hands, we would value it more!

A Zodiac goes through some pack ice
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Alisha Sunderji - Student
Mercy Harbour

If mountains could speak, I wonder what they would say. Would they laugh at the miniscule beings splashing in their cool, glacial tears? Perhaps they tell us to follow our own pace, just like rivers follow their own rhythms, or arctic flowers forever pursuing the sun’s rays. Against the backdrop of such intensely beautiful places, time is insignificant, just like our presence.

The arctic is full of opposites. The jagged peaks of mountains, dwarfing everything below them, seem imposing and strong; while the glaciers that dust their peaks are vulnerable and fragile. Its flora, intricate and soft is also tough and resilient as they survive in a harsh and unforgiving environment.

Walking through valleys, my feet sinking into dense foliage that has been following the same cycles for over five thousand years, my eyes scanning glaciers that are millions of years old, I realize how young we are.

In this ageless, timeless place, one is left staring in wonder.

Ice floes in Davis Strait
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Forson Chan - Student
Cumberland Sound

My roommate Vino and I accidentally woke up today at 8:30 a.m., one hour past the ship’s intended wakeup time. Our absence from breakfast prompted Mike to burst into our room and drag us from under our covers.

During the night, our ship intentionally sailed into an icepack just outside Cumberland Sound. In the morning, we boarded a Zodiac and sailed among giant chunks of sea ice. I had the opportunity to climb on top of a block of sea ice; there, I made a snow angel and drank from a pool of fresh water.

Our lectures today were the most interesting of the Arctic Expedition thus far. We started by learning about the science behind ice in the Arctic and sea levels, which was followed by a session on Arctic politics and the Arctic Council.

In the late afternoon, I listened to Melissa, a family doctor who works out of Iqaluit, talk about health care in Nunavut. There are nursing stations scattered sporadically around northern Canada, and the one hospital in Nunavut is in Iqaluit. In order to receive treatment, doctors have to fly out from Iqaluit to the patient or the patient to Iqaluit.

It may interest Dr. Ipsiroglu to know that whenever anyone from Nunavut needs a sleep study of any kind done, they have to first see a doctor in Iqaluit, and then (eventually) fly to Ottawa, Ontario for the sleep study. Sleeping disorders are also rarely if ever considered a health priority. Furthermore, facial features and other indicators of babies and children are rarely, if ever, checked; FASD is almost never diagnosed, though alcohol consumption during pregnancy sounds quite common anecdotally.

I would like to take this opportunity to say to my mom, “Please don’t worry about me! I’m totally fine! In fact, I’m fantastic and having a great time here!”

Luminous colours of ice floes
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenna Gall - Student
Today has been an incredible day. We have arrived in Cape Mercy and we are finally breaking some sea ice with the ship. It is absolutely awesome! I was out on deck almost all morning taking pictures and being on the look out for polar bears and seals, but none so far today. The ice makes the air outside much colder than what we’ve been use to for the past few days, but I really feel as though I am truly in the Arctic now. We got out on the Zodiacs also and we went cruising through the sea ice. It was incredible to see how it all forms and I learned an incredible amount from Eric’s lecture. We got a chance to learn about it and then head out and observe it for ourselves, it was nice to see first hand how the ice thaw and melt works. We also got to land on some sea ice and take some pictures. The scenery was absolutely spectacular! Lunch was so much fun today also; I try to sit with different people each lunch hour and get a chance to really get to know everyone and today has been great. Last nights recap and briefing was also incredible, the excitement was at an all-time high because we had gotten a chance to get to a place that even Geoff had not yet seen. Everyone was nearly speechless by the end of the day. This trip has been breathtaking so far! I can’t wait to see what the days ahead will bring. I miss you all back home and love you so much…you are going to be in shock to here some of my incredible stories and see some of my breathtaking photos.

Zodiacs cruise among icebergs
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jennifer Castro - Student
Cape Mercy

Not being able to make it to Isabella Bay and having to change the plans has been GREAT!! Flexibility is key because without it, we wouldn’t have been able to make the discoveries that we’ve made in the past couple of days. I just got back from a fantastic zodiac tour out to ride between all of the sea ice and icebergs. The day is absolutely gorgeous out also, the sun is shining and the clouds lifted early in the morning. Going through the ice in the morning was an experience! The ship would shake every time we would hit a large piece of ice and at one point when I looked out we were completely surrounded by ice.

There are no words in the English language can describe the loads of fun I have had for the past week. All of the experiences have been unimaginable and taking part in this expedition has been the best decision of my life. I have learned so much about the geography, geology, botany, history and the animals of the Arctic through workshops and lectures. As much as I don’t want to leave in a week, I have many great ideas to spread what I have learned to my local community.  

Students on Ice floes
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jennie Day - Student
Cumberland Sound

Wow what a day. I woke up at 3:00 to watch the sun rise and I was not disappointed. Fluffy clouds perched on top of huge jagged mountains with a salmon streaked sky greeted me as I left the warmth of the ship and sat on the deck. Before this trip, a SOI alumni said that the skies here in the Arctic were inspiring and I couldn’t agree more. They stretch across the whole horizon with nothing in the way blocking the view. The sun is still setting at 12:30 each night, I’ve seen nothing like it before.

When we were all fully awake, we had a crash course about sea ice and glaciers by Eric before getting in the zodiacs and taking a look for ourselves. We even got to land on a piece of sea ice and drink the melt water! It was amazing!

These past 6 days have definitely been the best time of my life and I can’t imagine what awesome adventures we have to come. I love how sometimes we don’t know what we will be doing the next day, even Geoff occasionally. I have learned so much about myself and what I can achieve (hiking 9 hours to the Arctic Circle!), the community way of life  in the Arctic (today I ate beluga whale blubber) and the environment. Every day of this trip gets better and better.

A student makes a snow angel on an ice floe
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenny Donovan - Student
Davis Strait

Today was another fantastic day!! We got to go out in the Zodiacs and were literally, students on ice!  I made a snow angel.  We also got to break some ice using the ship today which was amazing; pictures really can’t capture what we saw.  I spent most of the day painting when not out on deck watching for polar bears (none were sighted).  I ate some pretty amazing things today…some iceberg AND ate some country food – beluga whale.  Two very different tastes to say the least!  We are back on the Davis Straight again and the Horizontal Club has returned.  Tomorrow we are hoping to land again (YAY LAND!) and explore Butterfly Bay.  Lots of love!

P.S. Happy Birthday Stephy Boo!!

Some students drink some melt water on an ice floe
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Lauren Sutherland - Student
This is my first entry online, a little late due to the fact that there is just so much to do on the Orlova! Looking back over the experience I have had so far, this has definitely been the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. For instance, I have made so many wonderful friends. Even after a few days, I’ve gotten so close to the people here and made friends that I hope will last a lifetime. Also, the lectures are fascinating! I have been considering career paths from the talks I’ve attended. For example, today there was a lecture by Dr. Allen about the medical system in the Arctic. I was very interested in learning about the procedures and protocol corresponding to diet and environment. I also enjoy learning about the various components of the Arctic environment and seeing them in person when we go out on the Zodiacs. Today we went through a huge ice patch and saw glaciers and sea ice. In fact, while writing this I took a break to look at a glacier! We also saw Bowhead whales yesterday, and did a short nature hike. Finally, a few days ago, 50 of us hiked to the Arctic Circle! It was the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. We hiked through a very diverse area, and when we arrived, we all jumped in the water and swam! (It was very warm). I am loving every minute of this expedition, and I am so glad I get to share it with such amazing people.

SOI videographer Pascale Otis and students pose for a photo
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Laurissa Christie - Student
Cape Mercy

What a morning!  This morning I awoke super early to catch an Arctic sunrise over the ocean.  It was the perfect start to my day.  This morning we are all rather tired, but we keep telling each other that we can sleep when we get home.  This morning we ran into some pack ice to get a taste of true Arctic navigation! It was so much fun.  It was really cold, but it was a great way to wake up!  Everyday the Arctic becomes more and more amazing.  Each day we try new things and have new experiences with other people.  I cannot believe the trip is almost over.  It is going to be so weird coming home on all levels; the meals, the people, and the scenery.  The Arctic truly is an imaginary place where icebergs, mountains, water, polar bears, seals, birds, fish, whales, and walruses call home.  This morning, we also did an ice tour on the zodiacs.  I am speechless, the scenery and the ice, with blue skies and the chilling wind.  My favourite part was when we got to walk and make snow angels on an iceberg!   This whole trip has been amazing, and by far the best 9 days of my life.  Each day is better than the one before it. 

Standing on an ice floe is a thumbs up experience
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Rachel Sutherland-Lord - Student
Leaving Cumberland Sound

Today was a very cold and windy day! In the morning I woke up to see icebergs outside of my window! I took a picture of my paper friend Flat Stanley (who is accompanying me at the request of my friend Ben in Rhode Island) with the ice through the porthole in the background. Although it often still seems surreal that I am here in the Arctic, I’ve almost gotten used to seeing spectacular scenery outside the window each morning! When I get home it will definitely take some time to get used to not seeing icebergs each day. (As I am typing this Geoff just announced that there’s a huge iceberg outside that the ship was able to get very close to, so I am going to go have a look!)

Wow, that iceberg was really big and you could see a lot of it that was under the water. I learned today that the iceberg visible above the surface of the water is actually only 10% of the entire berg! Eric gave a lecture on ice today and I also learned that the difference between sea ice and an iceberg is that an iceberg came from a glacier on land and sea ice is frozen ocean. Eric also discussed the very complex systems of how the sea ice melts and forms each year and how it affects and is very important to the entire Arctic region. Sea ice is measured by satellites, which have only been around since the late 1970’s so researchers don’t have many years of data to base predictions on whether the decreasing sea ice is just normal fluctuations or alarmingly unusual. However, scientists can use other methods, like core sampling and other geological studies, to see that the sea ice is shrinking each year more than usual. This is a huge problem because the sea ice decreases the most during the summer and the less sea ice there is, the more sun energy is allowed to be absorbed by the oceans, which causes overall temperatures to increase and less sea ice be formed the following winter. It was a very interesting lecture and I learned a lot from Eric.

Other highlights of the day included sailing through the sea ice earlier today. I was up on the top deck and had a great view of the ship breaking through the pack ice. It was so cool, literally! I had 5 layers on, but I could only cover so much of my face and the wind numbed the exposed skin. I can’t even imagine how cold the water must be. We were on lookout for polar bears and seals on the ice, but even with binoculars I didn’t see any. I was also on the lookout for orcas (I always am), but no luck yet. Hopefully our good karma on board will make some dorsal fins appear on the horizon tomorrow!

Student Anthony Qaqqasiq Arreak has a drink
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Randi Karstad - Staff
We have reached sea ice at the northern point of Cumberland sound this morning. Yesterday’s spectacular experience was watching the many bowhead whales feed in the Kingnait fjord. This morning brings new adventure. The air is crisp and windy as the Lyubov Orlova heads towards the rim of white ice, breaking the larger pieces as it chugs along. Once we are out of the wind 6 zodiacs are lowered to carry us into the ice flow. Slow driving into the ice maze is what we are doing. Ice bergs appear and come silently closer before we leave it behind in favour of the next. Each one is a creation on its own.

This is my first meeting with sea ice.  In my mind this is the very definition of being in arctic waters. The zodiac approaches a floe large enough to step out on. A crowd of us gather on it, and we cheer in the sun and the blinding light. Then we all fall quiet while the soft swells move us gently around. The coastal mountains are behind us – the open sea ahead of us, all is quiet, we see no sign of life –no seals, no polar bears, and the beauty is sublime.

Staff Wayne Lovstrom and Tina Kieffer try the water too!
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Sophie Crump - Student
Cape Mercy, Cumberland Sound

We have just passed through some sea ice – we had to pass through this on our way in, when we were visiting Pangnirtung and going to Auyuittuq, but we passed through the ice at night and none of us got a chance to see it. Today, however, we were all up and eating breakfast when we felt the first bumps of the bow breaking up some  small chunks of ice. We had all seen a little ice – some bergy bits – earlier on during the expedition, and earlier in the morning the ice had been visible from both sides, but it was out in the distance. We were all so excited and just jumped up from the breakfast tables to rush out on deck to see the ice. Most of us were dressed warmly, but there were some who had to go back and add on layers as it became apparent that it would be hard to leave the decks until we had passed through the ice.

Now we are putting down the anchor and planning on heading out to play in the sea ice in the zodiacs. Hoping to see some polar bears and seals, but I would be content to sit and watch the waves washing over that gorgeous pale blue and white ice that is covering sea as far as we can see.

Today it truly feels like the Arctic; the wind, ice, and cooler weather is something I think we have all been waiting for and today we were not disappointed.

A beautiful iceberg
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Susan Nanthasit - Student
Cape Mercy

Yesterday we saw so many bowhead whales! I got tons of pictures, but none where you can see the flukes. We were all standing up there on the bridge for probably a little over an hour. But the excitement of seeing 10 to15 of them made time fly by and we forgot that we were freezing.

We also had an Arctic Mammals presentation by David Grey. This was probably one of my most favorite so far. I took over a page of notes! It was one of those presentations where there were no words on the PowerPoint just pictures. I think that really displays the knowledge of the presenter, which is really admirable.

When we made it to the harbor of the Kingnait Fjord it was breathtaking. I took so many pictures of the landscape. I can’t wait to show everyone. It was incredibly surreal, almost like a picture drawn by an artist. To believe such things like that exist is mind blowing. All you could hear was the waterfall. All you could smell was the serenity. All you could see was beauty.

Tina Kieffer - Staff
Hi James, Samantha and Madison,

I think I will start this message with a quote from Jenny B., one of my new friends, “There are no words!” We spent the morning anchored near Cape Mercy. There was lots of sea ice floating on the surface of the water – what a spectacular sight. We were able to take a Zodiac cruise in and around the sea ice. But even more amazing than that was our landing on the sea ice. I was able to dance, sit, lie down and make an “ice angel” on the sea ice! Ian, our talented resident musician said, “If you are on thin ice, you might as well dance.” It was a once in a lifetime fabulous experience. With my hand, I grabbed a small handful of the ice and tasted it (salty, cold, and fresh). There was also a small pool of water on the surface of the sea ice and I made a short video clip of my hand splashing in the water. After returning to the ship, our captain took us through the ice. It was incredible to watch the ice crack, break and get moved by the ship. Hope you are well and I am always thinking of you!

Students keep a watch out on the bow of the Lyubov Orlova
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Travis Payne - Student
Cape Mercy, Cumberland Sound

Today it finally feels like we’re in the Arctic! Our ship is completely surrounded by sea ice and going on deck calls for winter clothing.  Since the ice has obstructed our path north, we have decided to make the best of it and play in the ice. Our plans are to get the Zodiacs on the water and go exploring in true expedition style. We are all hoping to see polar bears and seals in these prime conditions.

Yesterday, we had another SOI first as we sailed up the uncharted waters of Kingnait Fjord. On the way up we had remarkable wildlife viewings and saw an estimated 40 bowhead whales and countless seals. The group was on deck together continuously pointing in one direction or another at a blow hole, tail emerging from the water or a seal flipping around the surface.  Later as we cam into Kingnait Bay we took the Zodiacs out into the water and made another remarkable shore landing. This location was used as a research centre in the first International Polar Year during the late 19th century. After a small hike, we all gathered around a small waterfall in a valley and simply took time to appreciate our surroundings and explore the area. The polar experts that are onboard with us, and have seen almost every nook and cranny of the area, even concur that this landscape was amongst the most sublime they have encountered. As a group we have grown extremely close within the past few days and I’m sure many adventures, laughs and unexpected turns still await us in the next week.

Vino Jeyapalan - Student

Ice is all around us right now as we pass through a passage filled with sea ice. As I write this journal I think about the brightness that blinded me this morning as I stepped out onto the deck. As I squinted my eyes I saw nothing but sea ice and before you knew it we were all out standing on the sea ice! The day continued with a captivating lecture about sea ice and the importance of the arctic, but one thing I felt I took away very strongly was seeing how the sea ice would change in a few 20 years from now. I will tell you that it isn’t a good Obama kind of change. 

Stay Tuned for Further Updates!

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Natural Heritage Building
1740 chemin Pink
Gatineau, QC J9J 3N7 CANADA