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


International Polar Year

August 7, 2009

Expedition Update

Last night the ship headed north and encountered heavy ice. Around dinner time, the team turned south towards Cornelius Grinnell Bay.

The seas were too rough to visit monumental island so instead they are heading towards the protected waters in Cornelius Grinnell Bay. They hope to make a landing this afternoon and go for a hike. The weather is currently foggy, there is lots of ice, and the ship is making slow progress. Today the students will be busy with workshops and pod groups. This afternoon, SOI educator John Streicker will deliver a presentation on climate change, science and the Arctic.

Click here to see where the ship is with Spot Tracker!

Click above to watch "See Sea Ice"

Click above to watch "Pangnirtung"

Heather McKinnon - Staff
So far on this life-changing journey I have experienced the following:

  • stood under a glacier that will disappear in about 2 years;
  • walked on a piece of sea ice;
  • explored a forgotten valley and discovered a spectacular waterfall;
  • sailed through uncharted waters
  • observed feeding bowhead whales and seals peeking over the waves; and
  • watched a polar bear run over the ice flow.

I feel extremely fortunate to be able to share these experiences with an amazing group of new friends who radiate positive energy. However, I wish my family and friends from home could be here with me. Hopefully, I will be able to help them understand the beauty of this truly incredible place and the important role the Arctic plays in the global ecosystems.  I look forward to sharing my over 2000 photos (about 500 of which are of ice!) Since we could not get through the ice up the coast, we no longer have a schedule. This trip has turned into a true expedition of discovery! Who knows what tomorrow may bring?! I hope everyone at home is well. Take care and see all of you soon!

A Polar Bear navigates ice floes in hopes of finding a meal
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Anthony Qaqqasiq Arreak - Student
I really like Students on Ice because you get to meet people from all over the world. There are students from every province and territory in Canada. There are also people from The United States, Monaco, Tasmania, Norway, and Australia. The members of the ships crew we have on board are from Russia and Argentina.

So far, we have visited Ottawa, where we had a wonderful visit to Parliament Hill and the Canadian Museum of Nature's Natural Heritage Building where there were great displays of almost everything that is in nature.

I’m really, really happy that I’m on Students on Ice.

Now I want to say happy birthday to my sister, Cynthia, I’m thinking of you today. So, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Students and staff hike in Cornelius Grinnell Bay
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Dina Koonoo - Student
Today was great day because I learned about painting, climate change and about the world. I saw a polar bear today and it was awesome! And I’m so proud of me that I can be in SOI for learning things and seeing different parts of my homeland. We were in Pangnirtung few days ago and it was great because I saw my friends there and the elders were talking to us and we went to Qarmaq and Auyuittuq national park and then after that we went to the community center for presentations. The elders were talking to us about what they did long time ago and what was happening and after that two ladies were doing throat singing and I was throat singing with them too. After that the guys were doing Inuit games. We where eating caribou stew and arctic char stew. We went back to the ship then we had dinner and it was good.

Song writing workshop with Ian Tamblyn
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Forson Chan - Student
An unnamed Fjord

This afternoon, we saw polar bears; I believe there were three of them in total. Lots of people captured high quality photos of them, and I managed to get some good HD video of the polar bear hopping around patches of sea ice.

We had some Al-Gore-esque lectures today about global warming, which I really enjoyed. It is quite incredible how spin-artists paid by oil companies can distort the truth about global warming (in case anyone is doubtful, it is caused by man, and it is already happening). We are about to make a landing in the unnamed Fjord; I am very excited.

Thank you Tony Mercer, Brian Lee, and Len Reimer for all your support to get me on this once in a lifetime experience! (Unless I have the chance to come again)…

Student Anthony Qaqqasiq Arreak holds ice for an outdoor art installation
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jennifer Castro - Student
Exploring new places and seeing the wildlife has been a favorite of mine for the past couple of days. Right after lunch today, our first polar bear was sighted and there was a sudden mad-rush of people out onto the decks. There, standing up on an iceberg on port side, was a cream colored polar bear. Being as smart as they are, he stood up, ran across the iceberg and jumped into the water just as everyone was making it out to the decks. What an excitement for the day!! Despite the seasickness that is running through everyone, I would have to say that this has definitely made everyone’s day.

Without the help of so many people I wouldn’t be able to have these wonderful experiences. My mom and dad, science teachers and all of my other teachers in school who supported and helped me, my friends and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse who in the first place gave me and two other students the opportunity to participate on this expedition. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and I can’t wait to return and share all of my stories with everyone.

To complete the day, we just spent the last couple of hours after eating dinner out on the land exploring the landscape and learning about the geology, history, animals, and plants and also creating art out of the terrain. We stayed until the sun when down and on the zodiac ride back, we stopped for a minute just to listen to the silence and to admire the scenery with the boat all lit up and the mountains in the background. What a way to end the day!

Student Philippa Gosine participates in the bottle drop ocean current drift research project
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Gabrielle Alix - Étudiante
Quelle journée aujourd’hui! Ce matin, le bateau naviguait dans des eaux très agitées. Encore une fois, les coeurs sensibles, incluant moi-même, ont dû s’étendre à attendre que les eaux se calment. En fin de matinée, les eaux se sont calmées et le bateau a dû ralentir car nous entrions dans une partie de mer englacée. Grâce à ces glaces, j’ai enfin vu mon premier ours polaire! J’étais tellement excitée de voir cet ours. L’expédition n’aurait pas été la même sans avoir vu un ours polaire. J’ai pu voir ce magnifique animal dans son habitat naturel, c’est-à-dire sur la glace de mer. Nous n’aurions pas pu souhaiter mieux que de voir un ours polaire se déplaçant sur les glaces à une centaine de mètres du bateau. J’ai même réussi à avoir de belles photos (juste pour toi, Alexandre) car j’ai eu la chance de l’observer pendant une quinzaine de minutes! De plus, ce soir, nous sommes entrés dans une baie inconnue. Nous avons passé la soirée sur la côte à faire des ateliers très intéressants, à explorer les alentours et à marcher sur des petits glaciers bordant une rivière. C’est toujours très excitant de visiter de nouveaux endroits comme cette baie; nous avons l’impression d’être les premiers à découvrir ces paysages sublimes. Tout ce que nous vivons ici depuis plus d’une semaine nous dépasse. Nous sommes tous très privilégiés d’être ici. Je crois que chaque individu devrait avoir la chance de vivre l’immensité de l’Arctique dans sa vie, car c’est une expérience qui change toute notre vision des choses. De plus, j`aimerais prendre le temps de remercier tout ceux qui m’ont aidée à réaliser mon rêve d’être ici. Merci à la ville de Baie-Comeau, au Jardin des Glaciers et la Caisse populaire Desjardins de Baie-Comeau pour leur soutient financier. Merci du fond du coeur à toute ma famille et à mes amis de m’avoir supportée depuis le début, car je ne pourrais pas être dans cet endroit extraordinaire sans eux.

Student Chelsea Duncan works on a painting
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenna Gall - Student
It is only a little after 11:00 and today I got a chance to go up to the Bridge and navigate the ship with the Captain and crew members. It was so great and I learned so much! We got into a little bit of ice, so my steering time got cut short, but I got a chance to get good at finding our location by radar and satellite and then plotting it on a map. That was my favorite part! The ship is hitting a bunch of swells today, so there are many people sea sick…fortunately I don’t get sea sick at all so I am feeling great and I love the feeling of the ship rocking.

Out on deck today there was a lot of ice in the distance. There weather is cold, windy and foggy, not great for photography, but just fine for relaxing on deck. We are having an on-ship photo challenge and I am really excited about it. I am hoping to enter a few photos and see how well I do, but I know there is going to be some great competition as we have seen some incredible scenery in the past week. The yoga session had an interesting morning this morning – ha ha -- we did mostly floor and stationary poses because no matter what your balance level is, on a day like today it is hard to stand.

I have had a lot of time to reflect today on the expedition so far and it has been the most incredible adventure of my life. I am having so much fun and learning more than I ever could’ve imagined. The Arctic is truly an incredibly important place on our planet and I will definitely be back!

Student Sophie Crump shows off a painting
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Laurissa Christie - Student
No Name Fjord

What another fantastic day.  This morning we all awoke to rough seas, forcing some students to return to the ‘horizontal club.’  Today was really foggy and cold.  This afternoon was great!  We found some polar bears!  It was awesome!  They were so far away from land, so free, enjoying their natural habitat.  This morning we also had a lecture on climate change.  That made the polar bear encounter more meaningful for me because someday the summer sea ice will be gone, and the polar bears will disappear.  Tonight we are going on shore to a fjord that does not have a name.  The past ten days have been the best days of my life.  I would like to take the time to thank Youth Science Canada for sponsoring me, Glen Ackroyd, John Twelves, and Dr. Gino Ferri, and Ross Healey for writing me reference letters.  Last but certainly not least, I would like to thank my family and friends for all of their support to get me to a place that so few people will ever experience.   Thank you.

Student Maria Weyland examines arctic plants under the microscope
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Rachel Sullivan-Lord - Student
Davis Strait

I just saw a polar bear in the wild for the first time! It was SOOOOO COOL! When Geoff announced over the intercom that a bear had been spotted everyone went running up on deck. All we knew was that the bear was on port side at about 10 o’clock. When the landscape in which you are trying to spot a polar bear is all broken up sea ice as far as the eye can see, it makes finding that bear before he disappears very difficult. I went up on the top deck hoping that it would be easier to see the bear with a wide field of view and after a minute or so I SAW HIM/HER! He or she was about 400 metres away from the ship and moving away from us. The bear was swimming with its head above water and every now and then it would climb out onto the ice. My camera was able to zoom enough so I got a few pictures. Geoff just announced that two more bears have been spotted so I’m going to go try to get some better pictures.

Staff Heather McKinnon admires some sunburst lichen
Photo by Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Rebecca Watts - Student
On August fourth we hiked to the Arctic Circle. The full hike up and back took about eight hours in all. I have never hiked for that long of a time, I was exhausted towards the end but it was worth it. We hiked over rocks, through fast moving streams which reached our waists at some points, and over sandy hills. When we reached the circle almost all of us went swimming. The night before the hike I thought that the ground which we would be hiking over would be mainly flat and the weather would be really cold considering that it is the Arctic Circle, but that wasn’t the case. Throughout the whole trip most of us wore only sweat pants and tee-shirts.

Tanya Taggart-Hodge - Student
Heading to Cornelius Grinnell Bay

One of my favorite places on the ship is the bridge. During the first few days of the expedition, I would often go up and observe quietly as the captain gave out orders (in Russian of course). I was fascinated by the many buttons, GPS devices, maps and charts.

The captain has been very welcoming to the idea of us students spending time up there as he hoped that in exchange of taking us on as apprentices, we would help the crew members learn English. Last night, I went up to the bridge later in the evening and got the chance to chat with some of the crew that are on night shifts. It is quite amazing to see how hard some of these men work as they stay up for lengthy periods of time and rarely get a break. This morning, I returned to the bridge as it was my turn to be an apprentice. Learning how to chart the maps, avoiding another cargo ship, spotting icebergs, steering the boat (yes, I steered the ship through ice!) were all part of my morning. The captain called me Tatiana and explained what I believe was some sort of legend or story behind my Russian-originated name. Unfortunately, I did not fully understand the story as he said it mainly in Russian and then attempted to translate it; the two words I caught were <sister> and <beauty>. This afternoon, we are on the look-out for polar bears; I’ve seen two so far! The days at sea have been fantastic; full of adventures, zodiac cruises, morning yoga sessions, insightful conversations, reflection time and sharing of cultures. Time is going by quickly and I can’t believe there are only 5 days on ship remaining!

Mike Jensen - Staff
Through the Davis Strait to Ebierbing Bay

On any trip or vacation I’ve been on, there have been periods when I’m flying high, having a great time and thoroughly enjoying myself. And then there are times when the energy runs low and living out of a suitcase starts to wear me down. This would be one of those days.

Don’t get me wrong – this is still a fantastic experience. But there’s just a little part of me today that longs to hear the voices of loved ones. I’m not the only ones… some of the students have expressed the same feelings, especially amongst some of the Inuit youth. Family is so important to them and even though we’ve all become a family of our own here, it’s not the same.

It actually brings a tear to my eye to see and hear the Inuit adults on board comforting the homesick in Inuktitut. For many of the students, they had just met these adults at the same time as I did, yet already they trust and value their advice and guidance as much as they would with any family member back home.

The closeness of the Inuit communities and people I have met has surprised me. I can honestly say I don’t know much about the people who live down the road from me at home, yet folks from northern towns separated by hundreds of kilometers of barren tundra greet each like close friends who just got together for a poker game last week.

So all night we spent our time on the open waters of the Davis Strait, with its heavy swells that usually incur lots of seasickness. And how did I sleep? Like a rock. A snoring rock, apparently, according to my neighbour Joshua. But a rock nevertheless. And when I woke up… bam! Seasick. Blech.

And of course, right off the bat, I found out I’m leading a workshop. It went fairly well despite the tossing and turning (the ship mostly, but also my stomach). And in the afternoon came the announcement we’d all been waiting for – polar bears off the port bow. Only the dinner bell will bring out a stampede of teenagers faster than the chance to see these majestic kings of the Arctic.

Despite the fact that all four sightings of polar bears were from a pretty far distance (the closest one got was just a tiny creamy yellow dot in my camera image), it was still a highlight of the day. As we approached the calmer waters of Ebierbing Bay, the mood improved slightly. Word came down that we would have an early dinner before heading out by zodiac to land in an unnamed and unexplored fjord.

On shore, students got their choice of a bunch of different activities, including storytelling, bird-watching and beachcombing, geology and geography, botany and art. The array of experts we have on board is astounding. Strangely enough, despite my complete lack of artistic talent, I asked to help with the art workshop.

It was a lot of fun as we gathered up rocks, seaweed, seal bones, glacial ice and caribou antler to make a representation of planet Earth. Normally, it’s the Students On Ice motto to “take only photographs, leave only footprints”, but in this case since we didn’t actually disturb anything living, we felt it was appropriate to leave this symbol of our home on this untouched landscape that for now has been dubbed Students On Ice Fjord.

Maybe some day, future shiploads of creative and dedicated teenagers will visit this site to see the remnants of what we left behind after nature has taken its toll. “My favorite thing is to go where I have never gone,” said Diane Arbus. Today we have gone where few have gone before, but hopefully we won’t be the last…

Tina Kieffer - Staff
After dancing on sea ice yesterday, I thought the day couldn’t possibly bring more surprises but it did! I was invited to taste some traditional food. James, you would have loved the opportunity to taste frozen Arctic Char and Beluga skin with blubber. When I tasted the Arctic Char, which was amazing, I realized it must be in the salmonid family as it tasted a lot like salmon (and so it is). I felt very privileged and grateful to have been able to share in this traditional feast. Opa and Oma, the waves and motion of the ship were pretty rough last night and many of us were feeling the motion a little too intensely. In fact, as I lay down to sleep, I was sliding back and forth on my bed from the motion of the ship. Sam and Madi, today I saw a polar bear swim and then walk around on sea ice before entering back into the water. It was amazing to see it in its own habitat along with a seal just resting on some sea ice, albeit not the same piece as the polar bear. We have just pulled into an unnamed fiord (noting a polar bear walking the rock ridge) and plan to go ashore by Zodiac after dinner. This again is a new stop, never before explored by Students On Ice. Miss you but I am having a blast!

Stay Tuned for Further Updates!

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