August 14, 2010

                         Students visit with elders in a traditional sewing hut.

Expedition Update

Yesterday was an exciting day for students exploring Monumental Island!

After several days of the expedition and many Zodiac cruises and landings, the Students on Ice expedition team finally saw their first polar bear! In fact, they saw 7 polar bears in and around the Monumental Island area yesterday! Students had many opportunities to get up close and personal with the bears (through their zoom lenses) to document the encounter. No doubt the journals for today will be filled with details about these magnificent predators.

Today the ship sails for Kekerton Island and Pangnirtung in the afternoon. During  morning the students will disembark the ship by Zodiac to make landings and take a hike on Kekerton Island. Students will attend a presentation on Fisheries by Trevor Taylor where they will learn about the fishing industry and consider ways to promote sustainable fishing practices.

After the presentation, students will have a hearty lunch on board the ship before being briefed about their visit to Pangnirtung - a great northern community at the doorstep to Auyuittuq National Park. Once in Pang  the students will have an opportunity to explore the community, visit with elders, athletes, artists, and community leaders - as well as the opporuntiy to enjoy a big, traditional feast!

(They will need it! Tomorrow the team hikes to the Arctic Circle!)

Follow the Expedition now! Click the spot logo below:

Student Journals and Photos by Lee Narraway:

Trent Powell

Hey everyone! So far today has been good but yesterday was amazing! We went on a zodiac cruise hoping to see some polar bears and ended up seeing 7! It was amazing! One was perched on a cliff just looking down at us, the second and third where a momma bear and her cub and they were climbing the side of the island. The fourth was just on a rock near the water so we kept some distance from him, but then he scampered away across the shore. But the fifth, sixth and seventh were the best. It was a momma and 2 cubs! They were all in the water swimming. Bye, miss all of you!


Ingrid Skjoldvaer

Kumberland Sounds: Kekerton Island & Pangnirtung  

It has been a truly amazing day!We have visited the remains of a Scottish/American whaling station at Kekerton Island. The whalers hunted the bowhead whale and stayed in this part of the Arctic for over a hundred years. By the time they moved they had killed nearly 18000 and the bowhead was at the edge of extinction. It was a really fascinating site and much different from the whaling stations I saw in Antarctica when I went there. 

After spending a few hours at Kekerton we sailed further into the fjord to Pangnirtung, and after lunch we anchored up and went ashore. Our guide met us at the beach and showed us all the major sites in town. My highlight had to be visiting the elders, in this case two women, who teach anybody who’s interested in how to make traditional Inuit clothing. The houses where they work are amazing!

You have to check out the pictures and videos on the website for sure!


David Grey tells about life in an early whaling station.

Jacqueline Phillips

Kekerten Island


Yesterday’s encounter with polar bears was evidence of the magnificence of the Arctic. This morning’s excursion to Kekerten Island, however, was a lesson in history – a reminder of horrors once perpetrated in these waters. At one time, this land was home to the largest whaling station in the Arctic, claiming the lives of over 18,000 whales in little under a century.


By the remains of a bowhead skull resting on the beach, I pulled “Arctic Dreams” out of my backpack. Barry Lopez’s words brought this place to life: “Here and there lay the dead bodies of hundreds of flenched whales …the air for miles around was tainted with the foetor which arose from such masses of putridity….The northern fulmars and glaucous gulls wheeled and screeched over the crangs. It was the carnage of wealth.” It was far too easy to imagine Kekerten busy with the activity of whale processing, the bay stained red from continuous slaughter of docile, bowhead giants.


Every now and then there is talk of commercial whaling being reinstated by the IWC. And while there is no doubt of the devastating impact this would have, let us not forget that whales are currently under attack by humans. Although the modern method of eradication is indirect (via interference with the food web, toxins and alterations to ocean pH levels), the long-term impact on cetacean populations may well prove to be far more damaging than commercial whaling. 


A.B. – True blue. Oceans deep.


Andrew Wong



What I’m looking at, right in front of me, is a spectacular scene. While everyone is inside the ship feasting on dinner after another day of discovery, I have decided to spend some time out on deck alone. So, I’m currently writing this journal sitting cross-legged at the bird’s nest of the bow, overlooking the entrance to Pangnirtung Fjord. As our ship slowly travels into the Fjord as the warm sun sets, the Fjord’s unspeakable grandeur speaks to me. Surrounding me are calm and reflective seas, with ice-capped mountains that are lit yellow by the setting sun. Now let me make an important observation: I can see with my own two eyes that these ice caps ARE in fact melting faster than they re-accumulate. The ice has receded significantly since last season and I can prove this because there are huge empty rock peaks that have absolutely no lichen growth on them. The reality is that in only a few short years, no ice will remain. Take a moment to think about that. It is having a negative impact on everyone in many, many ways. To update on what I did today, we visited the community of Pangnirtung, and spent time at the art studio appreciating the amazing Inuit art. I will keep tomorrow’s event a secret. All I’ll say is that it involves many, many river crossings!   

Students beside whale rendering equipment on Kerkerten Island.

Arctica Cunningham



This morning we went to Kekerten Island, a historic site of a left over whaling station. It was very eerie to be there knowing how many thousands of whales had been harvested over the years, and now we are unable to see one. It serves as a good reminder that we must always stop before it is too late.

We have just come back from an incredible afternoon in Pangnirtung. The community welcomed us with open arms and friendly smiles. We got a walking tour of the town and learned a lot about the history of the community. The art store was incredible, and I bought some souvenirs there (yes, mom, you will have to wait to see them!). We also got a briefing from a parks ranger about our hike tomorrow, as it is the big day; the hike to the Arctic Circle! I had some difficulty deciding whether to do the long, all day hike to the Arctic Circle, or go on the shorter (10 km) hike, then go to an art workshop in the afternoon. In the end I decided to go on the long hike!


Emily Best

Kekerten Island 

Hey everyone. Right now we are at Kekerten Island and this afternoon we will arrive in Pangnirtung and have a community celebration. A couple of days ago we did our first bottle drop – that was fun! Yesterday we were at Monumental Island and we saw five polar bears – 3 adults and two cubs. We got to go really close to an iceberg on the zodiacs and that was amazing! We also had a couple of presentations and they were very interesting. This morning at Kekerten Island we saw lots of whale vertebrae, including a whale skull, and the old whaling station. I can’t wait to see Pang!


Northern Fulmar.

Hannah Jacobs



Today feels like four days rolled into one. We woke up bright and early this morning in order to land at Kekerten historical whaling site. It was incredibly picturesque with a boardwalk all along the coastline and artifacts from the original whaling colony. After a wonderful couple hours at Kekerten we headed back to the ship to raise anchor and go on to Pangnirtung. Once there we had a great tour from one of the locals and a community presentation with Inuit games and Throat singing. We are now on our way up the fjord and on to Auyittuq National Park for our full day hike to the Arctic Circle. Off to bed now so I am awake for the hike!


Julie Hanson-Akavak



We arrived in Cape Dorset on Aug.11th/2010. I looked out my porthole, saying to myself in my head “Oh my goodness I am in Cape Dorset!”. I was so excited to see all my friends and family. Getting off the zodiacs and actually standing on Nunavut ground felt so amazing. I visited the art center which was cool. There are many well known very talented artists. I met this one young boy who was only six years old and he asked me very quietly,“ would you like to buy my carving, I made it myself”. I asked him how much he was selling it for and he replied “$20”. I then asked him what he was going to buy with the money, he told me that his family did not have much food in their home, so he was going to buy bread, milk, cookies, juice and so on. It touched my heart so much that I gave him $40. He was so proud of himself and I’m glad I put a smile on his face!

Glaucous gulls land on calm seas.

Megan Schlorff

Pangnirtung, Nunavut


Today we began with a visit to Kekerten Island, where we visited an old whaling station that is now a historic site. The site is very impressive and most of the original artefacts have been left intact and preserved. There is also a boardwalk set up to walk along. It was really peaceful on the island and it made me think about the lack of whales in the area now because the whalers seriously decreased this population. 


We have now just returned from a visit to Pangnirtung, which is a small picturesque community in Nunavut. We had a tour of part of the community and visited a cultural centre, the Parks Canada office, and the arts centre. The arts centre was full of amazing pieces of art including weaving and prints. We also visited with some elders in a modern sod house. It was very inspirational to listen to the elders, and it was concerning to hear about the effects they are feeling from climate change. We also had a reception at the community centre and heard some great throat singing performances and had some delicious bannock. Tomorrow is Auyuittuq National Park!


Olivia Rempel

Pangnirtung, Baffin Island, Nunavut


 When we landed on Kekerten Island (by the way, Kekerten means island in Inuktatut, so in English, we landed on Island Island) I immediately tracked down Pascale and we began filming interviews. The “International Year of Youth” video is coming along quite smoothly. The cooperation of my fellow students (*cough*interview*cough* *cough*victims*cough*) has been fantastic, and in only a few hours on Kekerten Island, we filmed nearly all of the new footage that we need for the video.

 Kekerten is an old whaling station, and artifacts from that era were scattered throughout the area. As I traipsed across the island with Pascale, in search of interviewees (*cough*prey*cough*), my eyes were constantly drawn across the water to the smooth blue iceberg floating between the island and our ship. 

Unfortunately, that is all I have time to write today. The laptop battery is dying, I have to go to sleep soon (tomorrow I am braving the 9 hour hike to the Arctic Circle, which requires I wake up at 5:30 AM… So… Wish me luck?), oh and we are currently sailing through uncharted waters. So I had better sign out.

Town of Pangnirtung below cliffs.

Tegan Schellenberg

Kekerten and Pangnirtung


This morning we visited Kekerten, an old whaling village. It was rather intense, imagining how the whole bay would have turned red with blood, and the air would have been filled with the smell of rotting fish. Maybe not the most pleasant thought, but it was certainly a thought that ran through my mind. We then sailed three hours to Pangnirtung, where we were given a tour of the Parks Canada building, the Interpretation Center and the Community Center. We were again welcomed with throat singing, and were given a high-kicking demonstration. Just like in Cape Dorset, it was certainly not cold out and what has become more and more common, I was incredibly over dressed. Tomorrow is the million mile hike into the unknown... more like a 25km hike to the Arctic Circle. I can't wait until I can step into what can only be called the undeniable, unquestionable Arctic.


Uliana Kovaltchouk

Kekerton, Nunavut


Visiting the scene of the massacre of thousands of whales in Kekerton allowed me to step back and realize the damage that we are able to cause. However, I also realized our capability of working together to achieve a common goal -- as the bowhead whales now remain a healthy species. This concept parallels to the current climate change crisis.  Although we may have all at some point contributed to the progressive decline in the health of our planet, change is always an option. Essentially, that is what all of us have adopted on this expedition: change. Having the knowledge – from the many enriching lectures -- that global warming is a natural process, but is progressing at a faster rate than ever before, is important to understand in taking the fist steps to change. Although the day is far from over, I view this as a symbol that the fight against climate change is also far from over. 

Lavina takes a break to write in her journal.

Vera Lo

Kekerton Island


POLAR BEARS!!! Can you feel my excitement? I have been wanting to blog since yesterday right after we had finished cruising around Monumental Island, but the dizziness from focusing and zooming in and out with my camera on the zodiac had set in. I saw a total of five polar bears during the cruise ride yesterday. Some of the other people saw up to 10 polar bears. Other than the polar bears, another highlight of the day was the mock Arctic Council meeting. I am really glad that I attended it. This workshop reminded me of the model UN Conference that I took part in earlier this year. Everyone participated enthusiastically and it has provided me a lot of insights into the seal-ban issue and other Arctic-related issues. The discussions were very intense, but it was a lot of fun at the same time. Right now, I am very much looking forward to the community visit later today.

Aanchal Ralhan

Cumberland Sound 

Hey everyone! Today we had an early wakeup call at 6:30 am and we were in Cumberland Sound! We got in zodiacs at about 8 am and cruised along to Kekerten Island, where we saw some more icebergs! The water was so calm that you could see right down and see the bottom of the iceberg under water. We got to touch it, taste it, and hold it! Kenkerten is a historical sight as it is an old whaling station. We got to see old bones from Beluga whales, Bowhead whales, and seals! We even saw burial sights, which were done in a way where they put the bodies in barrels and covered them with rocks. We got to see lots of skulls and other bones! We had to be respectful so we had to try and walk on as little tundra as possible and instead walk on the boardwalk. We are currently on our way to Pangnirtung, where we will have a community welcome and meet the elders and spend the day there until dinner. Anyways, can't wait to go visit the community!

Dave, Jamisie, Carly and Ingrid lie beneath a bowhead whale skull on Kerkerten Island.

David Elitzer     


It’s Getting Hot in Here (David Elitzer’s Op-Ed)

The other day, I was lying on the deck of the ship in a t-shirt and bathing suit, sunbathing in the warm sun.  A completely normal summer occurrence elsewhere, but I’m in the Arctic. Something does not feel right.

My name is David Elitzer, and I am a sixteen year old boy who lives in New York City.  Right now, I am on a ship in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory, with an organization called Students on Ice.  Before I came on this trip, I had pictured the Arctic as being a cold, icy wasteland covered in snow and ice…but it is far from that. There are times where I feel as if I’m at some sort of pool club. Most importantly, it’s not barren.  There are mountains, islands, and animals, but most importantly—there are people.


Ezra Manson

Cumberland Fjord


Today we ventured over to Kekerton Island. Kekerton was an old whaling station for the Americans, Scottish and Inuit back in the 1800’s. Apparently the Americans, Scottish and Inuit had a very cooperative arrangement - the Americans and the Scottish used the oil found in the blubber of the whales while the Inuit made use of the meat and bones. They killed thousands of whales, predominantly of the bowhead species, but others as well. Since whaling was, and still is, such a significant aspect of Arctic culture, the locals turned the old Kekerton whaling station into an outdoor, very hands-on, museum. It was truly incredible to be right there and see the skeleton remains of all the whales.


We also went into the community of Pangnirtung. It was very cool comparing my experiences in Cape Dorset with Pang. I will elaborate more on that tomorrow since it is bedtime and I have a 9 hour hike to the Arctic Circle tomorrow.


Khloe Heard and Moe Qureshi


Dedicated to my main man Joe and his Mom, Constance, who reads this every day.

Today was a great day! We went to Kekerten Park which is a National Historic Site. It is a place where they used to harvest Bowhead whales. There used to be 18,000 whales and now there are only hundreds left. We saw the skull bone of the whale which was at least twice our size but it was only one third of the head! 

We also went to Pangnirtung today which was a great experience. It was interesting to see how drastic the change in tide was in the few hours we were in the town for. We participated in high kick which is an Arctic game. We explored the town and bought some souvenirs. We also saw some very interesting artwork, which was just beautiful. We are looking forward to tomorrow which brings a strenuous hike of 25 km. Game time!


Arctica Cunningham


This morning we went to Kekerten Island, a historic site of a left over whaling station. It was very eerie to be there knowing how many thousands of whales had been harvested over the years, and now we are unable to see one. It serves as a good reminder that we must always stop before it is too late.

We have just come back from an incredible afternoon in Pangnirtung. The community welcomed us with open arms and friendly smiles. We got a walking tour of the town and learned a lot about the history of the community. The art store was incredible, and I bought some souvenirs there (yes, mom, you will have to wait to see them!)

We also got a briefing from a parks ranger about our hike tomorrow, as it is the big day; the hike to the Arctic Circle! I had some difficulty deciding whether to do the long, all day hike to the Arctic Circle, or go on the shorter (10 km.) hike, then go to an art workshop in the afternoon. In the end I decided to go on the long hike, but I told SOI that if they need more people to go on the short hike, I would be happy on it too, so I still may be switched!


Nathan Broomfield


This morning was amazing. We went to Kekerten Island, an old site of left over whaling stations. It was very amazing to be there because thousands of whales had been killed there over the years, and now we can’t even see one and the landscape is really pretty.

Everyone just got back from an awesome afternoon in Pangnirtung. The town welcomed us with a lot of smiles. We got a tour of the town and learned stuff about the history and we went to their art shop and it was awesome!

Tomorrow I am hoping to go on the long hike to the Arctic Circle (22 km walk) because I like walking and I heard it’s very peaceful with amazing landscape.


Fatin Chowdhury


I crouched to get into the sodhouse and sat on one of the two beds; the walls were plastered with colourful, out-dated magazines. I enjoyed this part of our Pangnirtung visit the most. While our guide, Hannah, interpreted what the two elder Inuit women told us, I wondered if words or meanings got lost in translation. They spoke about their lives and how long ago they were forced to move into this community. From their perspective, we were able to understand what it was like to live before technology permeated their traditional way of life. Christina asked if they would go back to living the way they used to, and after much thought they answered that they had adapted to their current lives. While institutionalized schools weren't part of their nomadic lives, they understand the importance for their children. Still, the Inuit make sure the stories of the elders and their traditions and cultures are kept alive by passing the knowledge to their children. The sodhouse is a place for the elders to teach the young generation. After, I asked Matty about the silent atmosphere in Pangnirtung compared to the lively community of Cape Dorset. With a population of about 1500, she told me many citizens rely on government assistance if they are not working for the government or the fishing industry. On our way here, we saw a plane take off leaving behind a trail of thick dust. After visiting the print and tapestry shop, I understood the importance of preserving cultures and traditions; whether it is the words of the elders or the print of people ice fishing, they all tell the story of the Inuit. 


Kim Aubut Demers


Aujourd’hui est le jour tant attendu de la baignade glaciale, où tous joindrons la « Arctic Swim Team » ! Mais avant, il faut encore, se réveiller… Je peux très bien sentir, dans tous mes membres, la longue randonnée d’hier. Ce n’est pas tous les jours qu’on fait 22 km! Je réussi tout de même à me lever presqu’une heure avant le « Good morning, Students on Ice! » et à aller sur le « deck », le pont, afin de scruter l’horizon à la recherche de baleines… Et que dire des baleines! Au cours de la matinée, nous avons pu observer une quarantaine de baleines boréales, des « bowhead whales » ! À l’appel de Geoff, tout le monde est sorti en pyjama pour pouvoir être témoin de merveilleux spectacle. L’heure du déjeuner a finie par sonner, et après s’être très bien nourris, nous enfilons nos costumes de bain ainsi qu’une deuxième couche par dessus. Nous sommes accueillis par un « welcome in paradise » de la part de Geoff, qui, avant de nous faire débarquer du Zodiac, nous indique la direction à suivre pour nous rendre à une cascade. Nous prenons notre temps pour nous y rendre, afin d’observer le magnifique paysage, nous arrêtant en chemin pour écouter l’atelier du Dr Terry sur les premiers soins en pleine nature. J’ai continue ma marche avec Carly avant de rejoindre ma « pod team » pour notre dernière rencontre. Nous parlons de l’ensemble de notre voyage, de ce qui nous a le plus marqué. Suite à cela, direction : le « beach barbeque » ! Incroyable à quel point les repas du chef sont excellents, même à l’extérieur du navire! Puis, attention tout le monde, course folle jusqu’à l’eau où nous jetons tous! J’ai de la peine à croire que la température de cette rivière est au dessus du point de congélation tellement elle est froide! Mais nous bougeons, nous rions, nous nous réchauffement (bon d’accord, juste un tout petit peu) et nous devenons parfaite fusion avec la nature, sentant toutes ses particules contre notre peau. Mon « highlight » de la journée s’est produit dans cette eau glaciale. Pascale a sautée a l’eau et lorsqu’elle m’a vue, elle m’a prise dans ses bras et m’a fait cet immense câlin en me faisant tournoyer dans les airs et cela m’a rendue très heureuse, puisque c’est grâce à elle, à cette très importante personne que je suis ici, dans cette merveilleuse aventure. Je n’ai plus assez de place pour vous raconter « The Great Tidal Escape From 2010 », alors cette excitante péripétie sera contée lors de mon retour! Il y a tant à faire ici, tant de choses desquelles il faut profiter pleinement avant de retourner à la maison. Je passe le plus de temps possible dehors, regardant l’océan, et néglige un peu mon journal de bord en ligne à cette fin. Par contre, je peux affirmer que mon journal de bord écrit à la main sera totalement rempli à mon retour!


Hier, j’ai eu des protestations de la part de Marine, Julie et quelques autres, parce que je partais le 19 août et non pas le 20. Suite à cela, ce sont des supplications qui ont suivies! Je crois que, si cela est encore possible, j’aimerais rester encore, une journée de plus, avec ma « happy, slightly dysfunctional family », et profiter de mes derniers moments avec eux. Alors, s’il-vous-plait… venez me chercher un jour plus tard!


Mike Jensen

As I believe I mentioned before, other than the town of Kuujjuaq, all of this year’s excursions are at places I’ve never been to before – until today. This morning we returned to Kekerten Island (which I learned today is redundant because Kekerten is Inuktitut for island). Kekerten is an old whaling station that was one of my first stops on last year’s expedition and I recall being stuck by the haunting stillness of the place. If you stood still, you can literally imagine the whalers hauling these majestic creatures up the shoreline, slicing them open for their blubber oil and other body parts, the entire beach running red with blood.

It’s graphic but it’s reality. Kekerten has since been transformed into a park, with interpretive trails and displays. It was nice to be able to revisit this place and recall my memories from having experienced it a year earlier.

But there was little time for reminiscing, as my cabin-mate and fellow educator, Jeff Baxter, a teacher from Paulatuk NWT, had planned an activity to demonstrate how blubber insulates against the cold. To make a long story short, it involved Ziploc bags, duct tape and LOTS of shortening. The students really seemed into it, and raised it as a highlight in tonight’s briefing.

Pangnirtung was also a blast to revisit. Students On Ice visits this community every year, as it is at the head of a fjord where we always hike. They always give us a warm welcome, with demonstrations, food and tours. For many of the northern kids, it was a chance to revisit with some family and friends who live there. And for almost all of the students, it was a chance to taste civilization again. The Co-op and Northern Store were heavily hit, with junk food, pay phones and energy drinks the most common commodity.

The elders of Pangnirtung also generously take some time to talk to the students about the changes they have seen in their community during their lifetime that have resulted from global warming. It’s valuable first-hand evidence of this crisis, and I challenge any climate change nay-sayer to contradict their reports as the oral history of the Inuit peoples far predates any written meteorological records.

Tomorrow we're headed up Pangnirtung Fjord to Auytittuq National Park. This is where all the staff and students get separated into two groups – one for a longer 25-km hike to the Arctic Circle, while the rest do a 10-km hike to a beautiful waterfall. There was some minor disappointment as students who expected to go on the longer one were put on the shorter one as some staff felt they were physically better off there. But in the end, it will be a rewarding and challenging experience for everyone.

I hope my endurance has a better showing than it did a few days ago on Digges Island…



© 2010 Students on Ice
All Rights Reserved

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