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International Polar Year

August 9, 2009

A Zodiac ride in the fog amongst Black-Legged Kittiwakes near Hantzsch Island
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Good morning! We just heard from our Expedition Team and all is well on board the Polar Ambassador! Our Expedition Leader, Geoff Green, reported that yesterday was one of the best expedition days yet!

They spent much of yesterday under sunny skies - in zodiacs, exploring the ice and seeing some spectacular wildlife - including polar bears, walrus, bowhead whales, and seals. In fact, the students had the extremely rare opportunity to see a polar bear eating a seal!

In the meantime, the team is approaching Hantzsch Island for a morning landing where they will visit some of the most spectacular bird cliffs in the world.

Click above to watch "Bowhead Whale"

Jayne Waldon - Student
Hantzsch Island

What an adventure! This morning we went out in the zodiacs to see the bird cliffs on Hantzsch Island. I was fascinated by how many thick billed murres and black-footed kittiwakes there were and how they were all able to live on the very edges of the rocks. I don’t think I have ever seen so many birds in one place! On the way out the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see the ship at all, so I got an incredible feeling of isolation too. It was a really neat experience.

Yesterday was also a day full of new perspectives. I was able to view a polar bear feeding on a seal carcass and it was a moving experience. The bear was okay with us being extremely close, so we were all able to get a good glimpse into the lives of the polar bears. It makes a huge difference to see the animals for real, and not just in movies, or pictures or textbooks. To hear about them from people who know the land is so much more interesting than just reading about them in books or on the internet. You think you know things until you see them. Then you still don’t know them, you just realize that you don’t know them.

Thanks to everyone back home who helped me get here- either by supporting my fundraising, or just moral support. A HUGE thank you to Dairy Queen for doing everything you did -- I truly appreciate all the effort and time you donated towards this. I can’t thank you all enough.

Altogether this was an amazing day, an amazing week, and an incredible experience.

Black-Legged Kittiwake in flight
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Annelise Miska - Student
Hantzch Island

There are no fluffy clouds in the Arctic. They are either spread over the sky masking the light from the sun, quickly approaching with wind or not there at all. All the clouds I have seen are full of heaviness.

This has made me take to looking at icebergs instead of clouds. To me they are no longer just mounds of frozen ice, they take on shapes of polar bears and flowers. As we travel around Baffin Island I look off from the bow imaging icebergs, floating in the pure blue ocean, to be actually houses and giant trucks.

It makes me sad to realize that soon I will be surrounded by warm, blue skies and puffy clouds instead of chilly water and hard ‘ice’.

Some of the thousands of birds around Hantzsch Island
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Collin Jagoe - Staff
It's been just over a week since we boarded the ship and set sail on this arctic adventure.  We only have a few days left before it's all over and we all return to our respective lives.  It has been a transformational experience for many on board.  As an educator, I've been watching the students evolve and learn.  There have been many wonderful moments.  Listing to one of the Inuit students describe how she's learned a lot that she didn't know about her own culture, and how it's given her reasons to be proud, and to want to learn more was an amazing moment.  Watching the students come in today from having a surreal experience watching a polar bear eat a seal on an ice flow was great as well.  It was one of those educator moments that we love.  As soon as we returned to the ship, I wandered around, and in every one of the common areas, there were students writing, sketching and painting.  Some had journals, some went right to the computers to create web entries.  But the thing for me was that they were all doing something that appealed to them to attempt to consolidate what they had just witnessed.  I know that it was a hard thing to put into any type of context, as I struggled with it myself, but watching all these amazing kids working, thinking and creating was a sublime moment for this educator. 

The trip for myself and for twelve of these students was sponsored by Youth Science Canada, and I have to recognize them for their foresight and initiative in getting the partnership with Students On Ice going.  I've been able to spend time with the students who were sponsored and they are an amazing group of young adults.  This experience will undoubtedly lead to great things in Canadian science, as they move on to university and life beyond with this experience behind them. 

I miss my family very much and look forward to seeing them again, and this experience has been, for me, an amazing learning opportunity to help me grow as an educator and a citizen of the planet.

Student Danny Ishulutak marvels at the seabirds
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Dina Koonoo - Student
Hantsch Island

Today is a great day because we went to Hantsch Island and we were in Zodiacs so we had fun. I had a great day yesterday because we saw polar bear, whales, walrus, and seals. When we are in Zodiacs we went to near by the walrus and polar bear so… yeah we were having fun seeing different things. I just want to say that I was having fun because yesterday I saw a walrus first time in my life so yeah, I love doing Students On Ice because we saw ice few days ago and we were in ice and it wasn’t my first time because I live in Baffin Island (Pond Inlet) so yeah. I’m having a great day but sometimes I always thinking about my dad and my families so yeah and sometime I’m home sick but I’m having fun! Yeah.

Canadian Wildlife Service Migratory Birds Conservation Biologist, Garry Donaldson
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenna Gall - Student
Today has been a great day so far! Not nearly as exhilarating as yesterday, but as always it has been incredibly exciting. We went out in the zodiacs for a cruise around Hantzsch Island today and we got to see hundreds of thousands of Arctic sea birds. It was incredible to see them all huddled on the cliffs and so many all together! We also had a great discussion and lecture on climate change and different policies and governments. It really made me think about a lot and my brain is just on an overload today! It has been a great day! I also had lunch with Eric, John, Alesha, Geoff and David and we had a really great discussion. This afternoon we have workshops and then hopefully we get to go on shore and get some hiking and walking in. I am having the most incredible time of my life here on the ship and the people I have met are absolutely amazing. I am going to try and get some interviewing done before the end of the expedition; I want to get to know some of the experts a little better and really get to know more about all of their accomplishments. So that is my plan. I slept in this morning, I only woke up at 7:00am and I skipped Yoga because I just really needed the sleep in today and it felt absolutely awesome!

Thick-Billed Murre in flight
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Florence Albert - Étudiante
Quelle chance extraordinaire! Dans l’espace de quelques heures, nous avons vu une énorme baleine à une cinquantaine de mètres du navire à tribord pendant que j’apprenais à utiliser un radar. Puis, nous avons aperçu quarante morses allongés sur la glace, nous regardant passer d’un air goguenard. Un phoque au loin ne nous regarda même pas. Apparemment, un ours blanc n’était pas loin derrière, mais je ne l’ai pas aperçu. La suite de la matinée fut encore plus spectaculaire. Nous avons trouvé cinq morses que nous avons pu voir sous plusieurs angles, à environ vingt mètres. Puis, nous avons pu voir un ours polaire en plein repas, déchiquetant une carcasse de phoque. Les oiseaux autour attendaient impatiemment leur tour. Mais ont-ils seulement eu la chance d’en avoir? Cette journée est inoubliable et totalement imprévue, car même les membres de l’équipage ne s’attendaient pas à en voir autant. Tout le monde est de bonne humeur malgré la houle.     

Nesting Black-Legged Kittiwakes
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Jenny Donovan - Student
Hantzsch Island

Today was a pretty slow day, if you can call seeing about a million birds inhabiting an island slow. It was so amazing to see what seemed like an ocean of birds living on this rock, flying into their specific spots in waves.  There were Thick-billed Murres, various gulls and even a few puffins! (You could smell them from about a kilometer away!)

We had a lot of time to reflect today and got a chance to write a “letter to ourselves in the future” which should be interesting to read next year!  This experience has been so unbelievable and I have a feeling that it will take a while to absorb it all. I can’t believe we only have a few days left!  Lots of love!!

Students Jennie Day and Gabrielle Alix taking photos of the bird cliffs
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

John Crump - Staff
On the way to Shaftesbury Inlet

There are two sets of students on this journey, the younger ones and the older ones. While SOI is designed to give young people a taste of the Arctic and experiences they can use to help shape the rest of their lives, there are also benefits for those of us along as staff. We are the older students and we are learning in various ways – from the astounding world of sea ice and ancient carved landscapes we are passing through, from each other (tonight Fred Roots told a story about how Albert Einstein sat in on a couple of lectures he gave when he was an assistant professor at Princeton) and most intensely from the students. As the parent of three young women aged 15, 18 and 20, I am used to the intensity of youth. But being on the Lyubov Orlova with this crowd is up a few notches from the usual daily pace. As you have seen in the students’ entries, their days are filled with new experiences. Those of us who are sharing those experiences are filled with wonder at their ability to absorb new information, stay focused, make friends, have fun and still come back for more. There are some remarkable young people in this group. In the next few days we will work on developing ideas on how to take what they have learned and experienced and turn them into action. From what we have seen and heard, many are ready for the challenge and want to get going.

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

Gabrielle Alix - Étudiante
Encore une fois, cette journée fut mémorable.Ce matin, nous étions à HantzschIsland et nous avons fait une sortie en zodiac autour de l’île. Cette petite île est composée de falaises escarpées où nichent de nombreux oiseaux. Nous avons eu la chance d’observer plusieurs espèces d’oiseaux qui vivent dans les régions nordiques, comme le guillemot de Brünnich. C’était impressionnant de voir un si grand nombre d’oiseaux nichés au même endroit. Ils volaient tous au-dessus de nos têtes pour atterrir sur l’eau ou sur les falaises. Puis, cet après-midi, j’ai eu la chance d’apprendre les secrets de la navigation. J’ai pu apprendre tout le fonctionnement de la navigation et certains aspects de la cartographie. J’ai eu la chance de diriger le bateau durant une bonne partie de l’après-midi. Nous sommes encore vivants et le bateau n’est pas endommagé donc j’imagine que je me suis bien débrouillée. C’était une expérience hors du commun et jamais je n’aurais cru pouvoir participer à la navigation. L’expérience de Students On Ice tire déjà à sa fin et je ne réalise toujours pas à quel point l’expérience à été enrichissante. Toute cette aventure nous fait voir de nouvelles perspectives sur l’Arctique, les changements climatiques, la nature qui nous entoure et, bien entendu, sur nous-mêmes.

Student Alisha Sunderji enjoys a landing on shore
Photo: Lee Narraway, Students on Ice

Lauren Gamble - Student
These past twelve days have truly been out of a fairytale.  I am so extremely thankful to my sponsor, Youth Science Canada, for giving me this experience and trusting in me to use it to better the world around me.  The knowledge, the hands on, and the environment are all spectacular. 

When we are not out on the zodiacs exploring the land or the sea we are involved in workshops that can vary from extremely scientific to expressive.  There is always something to do:  write songs with Ian, participate in art with Linda and Jolly, or go to lectures about polar bears, sovereignty, or astronomy as a few examples.  If none of those float your boat we can always hang out in the lounge, library, or presentation room and do some bonding through cards,  jokes, or even break dancing (yeah, I tore it up)!  I am having such a good time and I am sad because there are only two more days and I feel that there is so much I should do! 

Cannot wait to see everyone!

Lauren Gamble, xoxo

Thick-Billed Murres in flight
Photo by Mike Jensen, Students on Ice

Wayne Lovstrom - Staff
Well, the expedition is almost ended and I sit here listening to some of the other staff visiting in the library.  I was fortunate enough to participate in the Arctic expedition last year and so I wondered how it would be different this year.  As it has turned out, difference and similarity existed at the same time, the comfort of knowing the Students on Ice staff was handling everything in their usual unruffled way and the excitement of unanticipated wonders to come.  Today and yesterday are two days that will forever mark my life with the wonders revealed.  We saw polar bears, walruses, seals, bowhead whales, ice in shapes fantastic and birds too numerous to grasp.  I knew from last year that there was no point in trying to anticipate what each day would disclose and as the morning’s plan underwent it’s usual alteration as the day progressed, we were exposed to one wonder after another.  From standing on an ice floe, to watching a huge bowhead whale glide past the ship only 50 meters away it has been one marvel after another.  One of the biggest marvels has been how the students came together so rapidly.  After only 2 days at sea they had formed into a single homogenous family.  The energy and intelligence is humbling and I know that we are going to hear from a large number of them in the future.  So once again I have learned a great deal from the students, the staff and the experiences I have shared with all on board the Lyubov Orlova as she sailed the Arctic waters for the last 9 days.

It will be very hard to say “So long.” to the many friends, both old and new, that have shared this time with me.

Mike Jensen - Staff
Near Hantsch Island

It’s hard to believe we’re nearing the end of our voyage. It seems like only two weeks ago that I began the intense job of packing for this expedition. Um, actually, it was two weeks ago exactly, and I have to admit I can’t take credit for packing everything (thank you Cortney!).

But now I have an even more daunting task – how to pack for home. Not just the physical stuff (which has increased substantially), but also the mental packing that needs to be done. There’s been a lot I’ve accumulated over the past two weeks in terms of memories, thoughts, ideas and concepts, and right now they are all swirling around in my head.

We spent some time today going over that challenge with the students today. I was a part of a workshop on writing for the media, since many of these youth will be asked or will want to submit articles, essays and journals about their experiences to media outlets.

We also asked students to think about what actions they would take upon getting home from their journey. Many plan on forming clubs, becoming politically active, or just sharing their interpretation of what they have seen. Some have already been hard at work on environmental concerns, like Eden Full.

Eden has received many accolades for developing a solar panel that can track the Sun without using motors or other devices that require a non-renewable fuel resource. When you think about it, it makes sense. Solar power isn’t helping to save the environment if its using gasoline to power the gears that move it. And a method of tracking the Sun without using gas or electricity would be a great benefit to many developing countries.

It’s that kind of commitment that makes this group of students so unique. Their commitment to leadership, the environment and planet Earth is simply astounding.

So what else did we do today? Ahhh, not much. Just explored the impressive bird cliffs of Hantsch Island, where we saw thousands of thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwigs perched precariously on soaring crags or skimming across the surface of the choppy ocean. Kind of boring, really…

Tomorrow we are off to another first-time visit for Students On Ice – Shaftsbury Inlet. “It’s where we go, and what we do when we get there, that tells us who we are,” said Joyce Carol Oates. Not sure what we’ll do or what we’ll see when we arrive, but that’s part of the fun. I’ve heard whisperings of the “Arctic swim team”, so I’d better get out my bathing suit…

Florence Albert - Étudiante
Monumental Island

Après une présentation, nous sommes sortis en zodiacs pour voir de plus près la falaise de l’île Monumental, qui abrite des colonies d’oiseaux, principalement des kittiwakes et des guillemots de Brünnich. Ce fut amusant d’apprendre que la flore pousse grâce aux excréments de ces oiseaux qui recouvrent littéralement toute la falaise, la rendant toute rose. Il faut dire que les oiseaux ont des goûts fins, leur mets préféré  les crevettes (d’où la couleur particulière...). Je vous laisse imaginer l’odeur... Les thick billed murres juniors ne savant pas voler, tout comme leurs parents d’ailleurs. Lorsqu’ils volent, ils écartent leurs pattes arrières comme s’ils étaient passés dans un rouleau compresseur, c’est assez comique. Le décollage n’est pas beaucoup mieux. C’était d’autant plus drôle qu’il faisait un froid de canard (ou plutot de kittiwakes), un brouillard épais dissimulait le navire et la houle... a fait perdre l’equilibre à plus d’un.  Nous sommes rentrés pour le déjeuner  puis avons eu des présentations à bord du bateau. Pendant la soirée, nous avons partagé les «highlights» de la journée, ce qui fut suivi pas des remerciements à l’égard de tous ceux qui ont contribué au voyage, finissant avec quelques chansons et des rires.      

Stay Tuned for Further Updates!

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