International Polar Year


Here are some of the Journal entries sent in after expedition participants have returned home.

Laurissa Christie - Student
Participating in the Students on Ice - International Polar Year Arctic Youth Expedition 2009 was the most inspirational, educational, exciting, best weeks of my life. When I was asked what my favourite part of the Arctic was, I was speechless. Picking a favourite moment of the expedition is impossible; I loved every minute of it! The places we went were incredible, and the people I experienced it with were amazing. The hardest part of the expedition was saying good-bye to all of the wonderful people I know now as family. It was the day no one was looking forward to, but we all knew it was coming. As I reflect on my experiences, I wonder how we managed to do all that we did in sixteen amazing days. Sixteen days full of adventure, memories, education, opportunities, friendship, teamwork, laughter, and inspiration. Everyone changed on the trip; now back at our homes, we are no longer the people we once were. For me, it has changed my career path realizing that the Arctic is my classroom. Each of us will be living ‘greener’ lives and have taken a piece of the Arctic home in our hearts with us. I have ‘ice in my veins’ and I will return back to this polar region again someday.

Alicia Sunderji - Student
The big city I’ve arrived in seems so small. My eyes look over things that have been tamed, manicured and conquered. We have managed to attach a name and a value to land by drawing invisible lines, creating a patchwork quilt of ownership over a uniform Earth. This only acts as a disservice to each other, and in turn we have isolated ourselves. The people of the North may be isolated geographically, but they have formed links with places, their culture and most importantly, each other. These links are non existent for so many, yet they appear to be of the most value. Joshua, the Inuit elder on our trip, once scooped up some earth during one of our hikes. He inhaled its scent and smiled, “I love this smell, it smells of home”, he says. “Don’t you know your land? Don’t you know your home?” he asks in response to the quizzical expression on my face. The labyrinth of ice, the secrets hidden within the intricacies of the land and the stories exchanged throughout the trip will continue to offer growth, inspiration and discovery to those privileged enough to have experienced it. Thank you.

Sophie Crump - Student
It is still hard to believe that I am ‘home’. I don’t even know if I can say that about this humid, muggy city I am living in. They say home is where the heart is, and my heart is now all over this country, into parts of the States, Australia, Monaco and essentially now all over the world.

I know that this expedition has changed my life, though it remains to be seen by how much or how drastically. I find it hard… not to believe, but hard to understand how it is possible for such a mind-blowing, life-changing experience to take place in such a short time. Less than two weeks we were aboard the Lyubov Orlova, and it wasn’t even a week in when the ship became home, and the people around me, family.

It should be an interesting return to school; none of my friends knew (nor did I) that I was going on this Arctic expedition at the end of the school year. They will be asking a lot more than they realize when they ask, “How was your summer?”

How do I even answer that question? “Life-changing.” is a simple enough answer, I suppose. But I should say something more. After all, I am back here wanting to spread the word and initiate change. It will be an interesting challenge to “spread the word” when I am still searching for words to explain this.

I am finding the words, slowly but surely. I can describe the people (from every province and territory in Canada, including twenty from Northern communities), the ice and snow (from icebergs, to glaciers, to bergy bits, to the reason we couldn’t get to Clyde River – and all melting), and the wildlife (not forgetting the thick-billed murre, or the striking, lasting image of a polar bear in its natural environment, eating a seal). I can answer questions and talk about the communities we visited. I can say that I have ‘ice in my veins’. But can I explain why?

I could tell them that it’s something you have to see to understand, this vast, wild place – the Arctic. I could say that, but I won’t.

I can try to explain that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this expedition, but not a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because I will be back and I will be back for longer than two weeks.

There is a lot I can say – a lot I want to say – and I think it will all come out at different times, but the main thing I have to say right now is this:

I love you all, my family.
You have changed me, and inspired me;
You have taught me so much.
I am forever grateful,
And forever indebted.

Nicole Labine - Student
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for this wonderful once in a lifetime experience. I am so proud and honoured to have been able to travel to the Arctic with Students on Ice and also to have SOI sponsor my trip. This experience has made a permanent change in my life; I have become a more outgoing, adventurous, physically active and flexible person. The skills of flexibility and good karma will be carried on into my life and I will continue to live by them. SOI has provided me with many opportunities; many which I hope to take advantage of in the future.

I learned skills to teach others about the Arctic and climate change that is causing the beauty of the Arctic to melt away. SOI has also provided me with a new family and support umbrella that I will use to disseminate and inform others about climate change and its effects.

I would like to thank Geoff Green for his inspiration, and for starting this wonderful program. Geoff Green has become my new role model! Tim, Reina, and all the other SOI staff have my eternal gratitude for working so hard to make the expedition what it was. I would like to thank Niki for all the work she has done to prepare us and all the other students before the trip and all the organizing she did during the trip. I would also like to thank all the scientists, experts, and chaperones for their passion, information and wonderful dinner conversations. I cannot forget the crew of our wonderful ship, the Orlova for letting my SOI family live aboard their ship for 2 weeks, while keeping the ship clean and tidy and cooking all our meals.

The Cultural component of the trip and the traditional knowledge gained by meeting and conversing with the Inuit people of Nunavik and Nunavut really entrenched the challenges and changes that these cultures are facing. I have been empowered to continue learning about climate change and wish to further enhance my knowledge base.

I will never forget this experience; it will forever be in my heart. I now have the skills and confidence to go out and teach others about climate change, and make a difference. The Arctic has empowered me and allowed me to look inside myself to find out who I really am as a person; it has also shown me the beauty of nature. One day I will return to the Arctic, because I will never let the ice that is in my veins melt. The passion of the people aboard the ship has allowed me to experience a new love for the Arctic and I once again would like to thank them for sharing this love of the Arctic with me.

Janet Waldon - Staff
Now that I am home I am touched and tentative about the constant stream of questions about my trip to the Arctic. On one hand – I am so thrilled others are curious and that I have an opportunity to share… on the other hand I continue to refine my answer. It was a profound experience both personally and professionally. People that have been to the Arctic seem to be able to see it in my eyes – they smile and nod and somehow understand something beyond words; I hardly need to say any more. Others ask me to describe images and highlights and ask about wildlife and the environment. Many are curious to know more about the students and their reactions. It is overwhelming at times, and yet these discussions are some of the most rewarding parts of my day.

My scrapbook lays on the table… a vision of many parts and pieces. It will come together in time. Until then, I continue to unconsciously run Ian’s songs in my head, to see Lee’s images in my mind, to hear Geoff’s voice over my alarm clock! The karma is still at work; in a moment I can put myself back in the Zodiac and feel the wind and spray, I can envision the blue-hue of the ice bergs floating in Cumberland Sound, I can recall the dusty hands of Abba creating the soapstone seal he finished for me in Kimmirut. I know it is still real when it continues to bring me to tears; it is life at it’s very best: people connected to people and people connected to their world.

I will keep you updated as Jayne and I prepare for some of our presentations.

Take care!

Mike Jensen - Staff
I’m home! After hundreds of hugs and teary goodbyes were said and done, I finally arrived back in Winnipeg safe and sound. It was quite the emotional day saying our farewells. It’s amazing how quickly this group of students bonded in such a short time, and it wasn’t easy to watch these new-found friends depart. With luck, Facebook and other social networking sites will allow everyone to keep in touch for a long time, but the reality is that this may be the last time many of them see each other.

Luckily, we all have our shared experience together that will remain with us for the rest of our lives. In retrospect, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with this adventure, as I hope all the students did. For 12 days, we explored the Arctic like few other people in this world have had the chance to do. Rather than reading about the effects of climate change on the poles through second-hand websites, magazines and books, we got to see and hear about it first-hand.

From Inuit elders to Arctic Circle hikes to zodiac trips around sea ice, evidence of global warming was all around us. And while there is no doubt that a portion of it is natural, much of it is man-made. The community of Pangnirtung felt it when the permafrost exposed by heavy rains last year, flooding the town and washing out bridges two summers ago.

Students on Ice founder Geoff Green labels the students who participate in the expedition and others their age “Generation G” for generosity, graciousness and other positive g-words. And although each of these students is committed to doing what they can to educate and counteract climate change, it’s everyone that has to make some changes in the way they live. Otherwise, places like the Arctic will continue to be drastically affected. And that would be a shame.

“O lands! O all so dear to me – what you are, I become part of that, whatever it is,” said Walt Whitman. It’s safe to say that I now have “ice in my veins”, as the saying goes. Having been to this beautiful and fascinating part of our planet, I feel like I’m a part of it now, and it a part of me. I can’t wait to go back.

But as much as the Arctic became a part of me, it was the people that I experienced it with that had the greatest effect on me. From the fantastic staff, scientists and fellow educators to the amazing students, I will miss each and every one of them. In some cases, like the staff, I hope our paths will cross again, perhaps on future SOI expeditions.

As for the students, I hope to see some again in the future. Already, I’ve planned to make some joint presentations with my fellow Winnipegger, student Susan Nanthasit. But in most cases, I expect I will hear more about them as a result of their successes in life, which I know will be plentiful.

To any of the students reading this, please know this. You were the most talented, dedicated, diverse, exhausting, interesting and funny group of young adults I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with. Although I was supposed to be an educator on this trip, it was you who educated me and I thank you for it.

I urge you to never lose that enthusiasm and passion that you all exhibited on this adventure. As you go through life, build upon what you have gained from the experience and continue to make the world a better place. I know my world is a better place having gone through this experience with you all.

It’s tempting to end with a quote about the voyage having come to an end, but really it hasn’t. “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing,” according to Helen Keller. So let the adventure… continue!

Colin Jagoe - Staff
Now that the Arctic 2009 trip is behind me and I’ve had a week or so at home to process and consider the experience, there’s a few things that have occurred to me that I think I’d like to share.

The experience for me had several levels. On one level, there was simply the experience of being a learner. Having never traveled to the Arctic before, there was a lot for me to learn. I’ve read and watch photos and videos of the ecosystems and landscapes, but I’m not sure it prepared me for the reality of it all. One word the kept coming up in my mind was simply ‘big’. Everything was big. Ocean, cliffs, fiords, sky. All big. As a science teacher, I was fairly well versed in the academic view of the north, but the reality and boldness of it took me a little bit by surprise. I can see how people get attracted and get ‘pulled’ to the region.

Another level of learning and interest was watching the logistics of the journey unfold. As someone who had taken students on canoe trips, I know how difficult logistics can be. Students on Ice is a machine when it comes to dealing with the difficulties of an expedition like this, which are magnitudes higher than anything I had ever dealt with. It was quite a thing to watch develop, and I learned just how good they are at doing it, since for the most part, it was never obvious what the staff were dealing with, but I know that the behind the scenes experience was far different sometimes. Kudos to all of the SOI team!

The greatest impact for me was as an educator and watching the students develop as a group and as individuals. As someone who has worked and taught environmental education for a number of years, it truly was a joy to behold the process that the SOI experience led them through. The days were absolutely packed with activities and experiences that were all focused on the goals and outcomes of the journey, which is to awake and ignite the fires that are in all of the students. It didn’t matter what the passions were, although environment is obviously a common theme, each student was given opportunities and encouragement to develop skills, knowledge and abilities that they may have had before, or may not have known that they had.

It was sheer joy for me as a teacher to watch and help students as they talked, discussed, wrote, blogged, painted, sketched, played or simply watched the world around them. It firmed up my belief in experiential education, getting students outside and the purpose of education as a whole. It energized me to take these ideas forward and attempt changes in my own practice and to develop ways of supporting others.

Post trip, it’s been fun as the students have continued the conversations and have posted photos and videos on their shared Facebook group. I’ve posted my journal entries, and about 200 photos on Flickr for all to see. I’ve read most of the student journal entries, as well as blog posts that my roommate Mike was making from the ship.

We know that we live in a super-connected world and it was good for a time to be in a ‘quiet’ zone and offline. It’s also great to watch the conversations and sharing continue between the students and the staff, as we all move forward and support each other in whatever activities we pursue now that we’ve returned from the Arctic. It’s fun to watch that too!



Here are some of the impressions, reflections and highlights from the students on the expedition! These impressions are a combination of ideas generated aboard our expedition vessel the day before arriving in Iqaluit and entries sent in after students have returned home.

My fellow Students on Ice,
Lend me your ears, because I can't hear you.
Lend me your eyes, so I can see what you see.
Lend me your mouths, so I can shout out to everyone, "I miss you."
Lend me your hands, so I can cross the river of life m......ore safely.
Lend me your arms, so I can remember your hugs.
Lend me your voices, so we can sing Shalom and I love you.
Lend me your spirits, so we can pursue goals without limits.
Lend me your photos, so we can share in the memories.
And lend me your money, so I can visit you all. – Forson Chan

I learned so much on this trip, about myself and my surroundings and specifically the interplay of our actions on the environment. Being able to experience such raw beauty is inspiring and really makes you think about how important it is to protect our planet and not take it for granted. I am sincere when saying that I want to take even greater action in my endeavours to include environmental causes with my commitment to other social issues. I strongly believe they are not independent of each other, but very much interconnected. This expedition has been an eye, soul, and mind opening experience for me and I will remember it for the rest of my life. – Bilaal Rajan (12 yrs.)
Together We Can Make A Difference

Never have I seen something so pure, so rigid, so powerful and yet so fragile... That is the Arctic. – Lauren Gamble

The most awe-inspiring, life changing experience I have ever had a chance to take part in. I love the Arctic!

WE are the ones that we’ve been waiting for! WE can change the world! ...Lets make it happen!

Pure reality lays here in the Arctic tundra. – Alicia

Remember to share; share of yourself, share with all adventures.

I am now changed and I’m never going back ever. – Nicole Labine

Who needs warm Caribbean waters to swim in? The freezing Arctic Ocean is way cooler!

Nothing happens unless first we dream... Dare to believe.

Thank you to all the SOI staff and educators for your countless hours of effort. We appreciate it so much! You inspire us.

Light on the Arctic waters is something incomparable, even if the water is rough or if there are clouds.

Don’t underestimate the power of youth. We can change the world and we WILL!

Plans just slow you down...! ;)

If youth hold the reins to our future – we’re in good hands with this bunch!


Awesome creativity!

We only have one Earth. Every Human, every Copepod, every Thick-Billed Murre, every Sedge lives here. It’s beautiful. Let’s not mess it up!

You are the future. I believe in you. Now I believe in the future. You can make a difference and I will try my best to make a difference as well.

Remember how small you felt beside the big mountains...

If this is a dream, I don’t want to wake up.

I used to think that my age was a barrier, but now I realize that my age is POWER.

If Earth was so tiny that you could hold it in your hand, you’d cherish it more!

Do something! Take Action! We can make a difference!

Try not to let it melt!

I’ve met so many amazing people!

I truly hope this won’t be a once in a lifetime experience.

You’ll see all of us someday doing something amazing and special. So keep your eyes peeled for all of us!

Challenge yourself. See past initial reactions.

Reconnect with nature!


There is something incredible about getting on a ship in Quebec... and at the end of two weeks to have turned complete strangers into the best of friends – to family.

This expedition has changed me forever. You all changed me forever and now I really want to make a difference.

I'm going to miss everyone!

What happens in the Arctic SHOULD NOT just stay in the Arctic! We all need to take action NOW!

The Arctic is a powerful and beautiful place with ever changing moods! I felt more alive than ever before!

SOI has helped me grow personally AND professionally. That is truly rare. Thank you!

Best two weeks of my life!

I have never felt more alive than when I was here.

Fantastic! Great way of learning about climate change.

Swimming at the Arctic Circle was awesome!

Feeling like the smallest, unimportant thing when in nature but realizing that you have the most important thing: RESPONSIBILITY.

I will miss my northern friends!

Don't let your memories melt!

This ship rocks!

I love the Arctic air.

Students on Ice is the best class ever!

Actions live forever.

Auyuittuq has put ice in my veins.

Unforgettable people, unforgettable places, unforgettable journey.

Be the change you want to see in the world!

I don't think I could have seen anything more beautiful or made better friends!

Good Karma!

Flexibility is the key!

A landscape of great beauty, variability and diversity. People who are closer to the land than I have ever known.

Discovering this place through your eyes, thoughts and actions has really been an inspiration for me. I thank you guys!

He is 86. He went swimming in the Arctic Ocean. And he went on a 10 kilometre hike. Any guesses who it is? ...Fred!

A brief encounter may have led me to a life-long bond with a rich, natural land and a family of peers and mentors. Alicia

Snowball fights in the summer are the best!

This expedition has reinvigorated me, inspired me and recharged my passion for fighting climate change and making a positive difference in the world, our only planet and home.

I have a new home and a new family.

...Happiest 2 weeks of my life!

Anything is possible after this expedition.

I don't believe in limits.

Choosing to go on this expedition was the smartest decision I have ever made. Thanks for making me into who I am and who I am going to be! Sophie Crump

Listen to each other, listen to nature, listen to yourself.

I have never felt so incredibly real! This has been the best time of my life!

Everything is just beginning...

I swam in the Arctic Ocean. What did you do this summer?

Most amazing place to wake up in.

I made it to the Arctic Circle by FOOT.

We have become a family in a matter of weeks and we will stay as such forever.

I never thought I would have this much fun! I've learned so much and I'm planning on returning as soon as I have the chance! Thanks to everyone.

Polar Bears, Whales, Seals and Mosquitoes! Amazing wildlife!

The most SUBLIME place I know.

Read more, learn more, change the planet.

The only thing you can count on in life is change!

Life is too short to sleep!

I will always remember this place. It has become the only place where I feel at home.

I have missed my iPod, but I will miss SOI more.

The Arctic is where I belong.

This expedition has encouraged me to think clearly, feel strongly, care deeply and act meaningfully. I now have the inspiration, experience and support to make a difference in the world.

One word: NUMINOUS!