August 16, 2010

Expedition Update

Without question, yesterday was an unforgettable day for our young Arctic Explorers. After successfully hiking to the Arctic Circle through Auyuittuq National Park, 60 staff and students earned some pretty impressive bragging rights! Not to say that our short hikers were outdone, they spent the day combing the beaches and attending workshops closer to ship, expanding their knowledge on many different areas of study.

Today, another action-packed day lies ahead. This morning, Paige Olmstead will kick off a busy morning with her presentation called ‘Putting the International Year of Biodiversity in Context.' Paige is currently a research associate at the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation, part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

After Paige's presentation - and throughout the rest of the morning - students will have the choice of attending several workshops. Educators will be presenting on Biomimicry, Green Design, Community Living, Art, Music, Journal Keeping, Hunting, Albedo and Protected Areas. It will be a jam packed morning!

After lunch, students will head out in the zodiacs to explore the stunning Kingnait Fiord. Hiking and zodiac cruising are in the cards for an exciting afternoon.

Tomorrow the team will begin heading south - but not before visiting Butterfly Bay - just off the southern coast of Baffin Island.

To follow the expedition click the spot logo below:

Student Journals and Photos by Lee Narraway:


Christina Rodriguez-Fierro

I am now part of the Arctic Swim Team! This is a very exclusive club that I am proud to be a part of. In just one year I became part of both the Antarctic and the Arctic swim team. Let’s just say it’s not the easiest process. First you have to stand out in the freezing weather and strip down to practically nothing. Just think, you get all bundled up and warm before you head out and then in a matter of seconds you have nothing on. The second step is actually getting up the courage to jump in the water. This can take a few seconds or even a few minutes. You usually have to grab a few friends and this helps you build your courage up faster. The third step is taking a deep breath and just running as fast as you can into the water without thinking of how cold the water will be. Once you are in the water you have to let yourself fall in and then from there you can do whatever you want. Unfortunately today I didn’t follow the third rule and I stood waste deep in the water for a few minutes, and I finally dunked my head once I could no longer feel my lower body. As soon as my head went in I took it out. I don’t think I was fully under water for more than 5 seconds. Now, after you get out of the water the most important thing to do is get warm; unless one of your dear friends decides to tackle you right back into the freezing water which you so desperately tried to escape. While in the water your body feels awful, but as soon as you’re out and the blood gets flowing and even standing in the freezing arctic, you feel warm. So it’s almost like a cycle. You go from warm and comfortable, to numbingly cold, back to warm and relieved that you are finally a part of the SOI polar swim team.


New members of the SOI Arctic Swim Team.

Ingrid Skjoldvaer

Kingnait Fjord


Another day on the Orlova, another day in the Arctic and only three days left till we leave… These 13 days have flown away. Everything we have experienced is all in a big blur. It will probably take a long time to digest all the impressions.


Today we have been at an amazing place called Kingnait Fjord in Cumberland Sound. As we sailed in the fjord early this morning we spotted about 40 bowhead whales! My “Animals to see in the Arctic”-list is complete! We arrived at the end of the fjord just after breakfast. Once on shore, we hiked up along a river to a gorgeous waterfall where we had some quiet time on our own before we hiked down to the beach for a barbeque followed by the legendary “Arctic Swim.” Cold and fantastic!


Today we have started to wrap up the expedition, talking about how we can make use of what we have experienced and learned towards meaningful change back home. Paige had an excellent presentation where she explained the meaning of life. Not bad!

It’s late. I’m going to go out on deck for a sip of fresh air before heading to bed.


Andrew Wong

Kingnait Fjord


What a day! I woke up to the sound of Geoff Green saying on the PA system something along the lines of, “We’ve got Bowheads out on starboard side, they’re EVERYWHERE!” So I quickly ran out and to my amazement saw many Bowhead whale flukes and blowholes. Although they surfaced at a distance from our ship, it was quite impressive and special to see them. Later in the morning, we explored Kingnait Fjord, which was to me a gem hidden by mountains. I can’t wait to show you all the photos of this amazing place. Photos are no substitute for actually being here, but they certainly help. I had several highlights today. One was a pretty cold one: going for a swim in the absolutely frigid waters of the Arctic in nothing but a bathing suit! The other was spending time with Paul Hamilton to look at the thousands of small shrimp swimming in the shallow waters near the shore at Kingnait Fjord. Those two events were truly special for me, and I’ll remember it for a long, long time! Now, a look into the future. To be honest, I don’t really know what we are doing tomorrow. Every day is an adventure!    


BBQ on the wilderness beach of Kingnait Harbour.

Carson Hardy

Kingnait Fjord  

The days are all a blur for me now.  I have experienced so much these past weeks. I am so tired. After that big hike the other day, waking up and going for a landing seemed like the last thing a lot of us wanted to do.  But, as with everyday, it was amazing!  Today was more of a relaxing day, we had time to ourselves to sit and think. Then we had a barbecue and I joined the arctic swim team.  The presentations now are trying to tie together the experiences we have had. One was even titled “the meaning of life”.  I don’t have much to say today, my brain just isn’t working. Either way, I will be home soon and you can all hear it first-hand.


Megan Schlorff

Kingnait Harbour, Nunavut 

Today was somewhat of a relaxed day, yet it was full of excitement. The action began early this morning when we woke up to an announcement indicating that bowheads were spotted.  After an exhausting day yesterday, the fresh air early this morning was really what I needed to wake me up. Of course seeing the bowheads was exhilarating as well. 


We visited Kingnait Harbour, which is one of the more secluded spots we have visited in the Arctic. It is absolutely beautiful and features some great waterfalls and geology.  We were able to take it slow and didn’t have to do much hiking, which was wonderful since I was still really tired from yesterday’s trek. We had a chance to have some time alone again, and I spent it journaling on a nice big rock by the water. As I was sitting there, the whole experience just seemed completely unreal. The weather was beautiful and the scenery breathtaking.  I kept thinking about how I was in such an isolated place completely away from the world, yet I was not alone at all because friends and nature surrounded me. We brought BBQs ashore and had a picnic lunch, followed by the polar dip. I almost didn’t join the Arctic swim team because it got really cold and was raining, but I decided to go in the water, and I am so glad that I did! Today we also started talking about how we can take what we have learned back home with us. I can’t wait to share my story!


Students learn wilderness first aid.

Olivia Rempel

Cumberland Sound 

"Formal pod dinner?" With the affirmative answer I was waiting for I dashed into my cabin and put on the nicest outfit I had packed. Then I speed-walked to the dining room, but in retrospect, I probably should have been more graceful, seeing as I was attempting to be 'formal'.  Eirik and I entered the dining hall at the same time, commenting that we shouldn't have to wait in line for dinner, seeing as we were all dressed up. We filled our plates and sat down at the reserved table, to wait for the others. We were soon joined by our fearless leaders Bryn and Jeff. It was a nice touch that Jeff had his jacket slung over his shoulder runway model style, and Bryn was looking stunning as usual. Shortly after we were joined by the rest of the group, Aanchal with her hair arranged strikingly in a side bun.

We made a toast in the middle of dinner, and clinked glasses. Never in my life have I laughed so hard, there will never be another pod group quite like the 'Norwegian Zoo Donkeys' (don't even ask, it's a long story). 


Estelle Simon


          Voilà quelques jours que je n'ai pas pris contact avec la technologie! Mais il faut dire que nous n'avons pas arrêté deux secondes. Je me lance! Hier, nous nous sommes levés vers les 5hAM, (et oui!), pour partir dans l'expédition de notre vie! Nous nous apprêtions à faire toute une marche vers le cercle arctique. Nous sommes donc partis vers la terre, dans le parc national AUYUITTUQ. Et on marche, et on marche, et on continue de se dire que ce n'est pas si loin que ça, que la chute au loin semble si proche! La marche n'est pas très difficile, mais on arrive finalement à un point ou l'on doit traverser des rivières. Facile! Dites-vous que l'eau de la rivière provenant d'un glacier est probablement à 4C! Jamais je n'ai été aussi trempée ! Après quelques heures, nous arrivons finalement devant un inukshuk avec une petite pancarte signalant la latitude du fameux "Arctic Circle". C'était un moment très émouvant, je dirais indescriptible. Nous nous sommes assis, chacun dans son coin, pour écouter la nature et le bruit incessant de ces chutes glaciales autour de nous dans ce paysage grandiose. Il y avait une énergie, une aura, quelque chose dans l'air qui vous donnait la fièvre des foins, comme disent mes parents! C'est quelque chose que nous devions absorber, et je dois dire que c'était toute une émotion. Je pense que jamais que n'ai eu ce sentiment de liberté totale, d'être perdue dans la frontière du cercle arctique au milieu des glaciers canadiens imposants. Tranquillement, nous avons du partir, les larmes aux yeux en silence, comme une procession vers le futur. Et le retour fut pénible...! Nous marchions dans la boue jusqu'aux genoux, en traversant les rivières l'eau à la taille! Alyssa et moi avons bien ris... De la glaise plein la figure, les cheveux dans le vent, la moitie du corps dans l'eau glacée, nous avons éclaté de rire en se demandant qu'est-ce que nous faisons ici! En fin d'après-midi, nous avons vu le bateau au, loin, et j'avais l'impression d'être Jacques Cousteau qui voyait la terre après des mois dans l'océan! Aujourd'hui, nous prenons conscience de ce que nous avons réalisé. 11 heures de marches, 25 kilomètres, 4 litres d'eau dans nos souliers, deux cartes mémoire de photos et une façon plutôt bizarre de marcher puisque nos muscles font la grève!


Ce matin, le seul cri qui nous a réveillés fut :"Bowhead Whales everywhere!" Nous sortons de notre lit comme des fusées, puis nous nous rasseyons parce que nos jambes molles de la veille sont encore endormies, et nous sortons finalement sur le pont. 30, 40, 50 baleines autour de nous, c'est difficile à dire, mais nous voyons le jet de leur respiration partout. Nous voulions voir des baleines, mais la, c'est une colonie! Nous avons vogue à leurs côtes pendant quelques heures, puis elles ont disparu dans notre sillage, en laissant de magnifiques sourires dans nos visages! Notre journée était aussi très spéciale.  Nous sommes descendus sur terre et avons marche (c'était plutôt pénible) vers une chute ou nous avons eu un barbecue et quelques activités. Juste après, en entendant le signal, tout le monde a enlevé ses manteaux, et on s'est tous retrouvés en maillot en plein milieu de la baie, de l'eau jusqu'au cou en claquant des dents. You're now part of the Arctic swim team! Gelée jusqu'aux os, je suis sortie de l'eau en me disant que cette journée est probablement l'une des plus rafraichissante, au sens figure et propre, de ma vie!

What an amazing day!


Hiking upstream at Kinnait Harbour.

Ezra Manson

Kingnait Fjord Yesterday, Auyuittuq National Park is where the magic happened.  We woke up at 5:45 AM to begin our 22 KM hike but I almost missed the whole thing because I slept in. For 4 hours we hiked through glacial rivers, kilometres of sand, rocky terrain and mud. I was stuck in my running shoes with no ankle support while everyone else had their fancy hiking boots. At 11:30 AM we reached a little sign cemented onto an Inukshuk, which read “Arctic Circle” in English as well as in Inuktittut.  We had finally made it and it felt great! We proceeded to eat lunch, do some activities, play some games, and go swimming! I get cold thinking about my Arctic Circle swim. Anyways, we hiked back, yadda, yadda. The rest of the day was not that entertaining.Today we went to Kingnait Fjord. It was a very relaxing day since yesterday was very intense. I woke up extremely sore. We pretty much just relaxed by the waterfall all day. We made an Inukshuk as well. When lunch time rolled around we got to have a barbeque on the land which was a great switch up from eating on the ship every day. When it was time to take the zodiacs back to the ship, we discovered that the tide had gone out so we had to hike for a good half hour to get to deeper water. Fun, fun, fun, ha ha.

Oh, we also saw some Bowhead whales this morning and this afternoon. I am amazed how much wildlife I have been able to see on this trip so far.


Jonathan Alexander

 Today was a really good day. First, we went to Kekerton Island and it was interesting to be there because it was once one of the big whaling stations in south Baffin. Seeing the old pots where they used to boil the whale blubber in was really interesting because I didn’t know they used to boil the blubber. After seeing the old pots and oil drums, I went to go see a Bowhead whale skull and it was amazing because I’ve never seen a full skull before. After we visited Kekerten we then headed over to Pangnirtung and we were all getting excited to go into Pang. On the way the weather was really nice and it was probably the best weather we ever had on the whole expedition; really calm waters, calm winds and the best landscape. Upon our arrival in Pang we had a tour around the town and we went to the Parks Canada office, the art center, and to the community center. At the community centre, we had a welcoming and then played some Inuit games; there was throat singing and a feast. At the feast there was really good caribou stew, fish chowder and bannock. 

After our tour and welcoming we went back to the ship and had dinner. Later on into the night we had a briefing about the hike tomorrow morning and there is going to be 2 groups, 60 staff and students are going on an all day hike to the Arctic Circle and 55 staff and students are going on a short hike in the park .


Nicole Rodriguez-Fierro

Moe Qureshi

Kingnait Fjord 

Dedicated to Carson Hardy, for always writing these journals with me.

Man I'm tired. I'm practically falling asleep trying to write this blog. But I know as soon as I get downstairs the boys and I are going to have some fun and not sleep until a few hours later.I woke up this morning half an hour earlier than the wake up call because there were numerous sightings of bowhead whales. Around 40-50 were spotted. They truly are magnificent and majestic animals.Later on we pulled up into Kingnait Harbour, which was gorgeous. We had a barbecue and I joined the Arctic swim team. Even though the water was ice cold, I enjoyed every second of it.

I would continue writing but I don't remember what else has happened, and there is a line up of people who need to write their blogs.


SOI Arctic 2010

Tyandreas Butler 

Kingnait Fjord 

This place was spectacular and breathtaking. Entering the fjord on the zodiac was like entering into the lost city of El Dorado. I felt like an explorer looking for the ancient city of gold, but instead I found the most serene and magical place on the planet. I was at peace or at one with nature once again. I took some solo time on the trail. I viewed each of the marvellous waterfalls.

I even became a member of yet another Arctic Club, the swim team. Although I have yet to master the techniques of water fluidity also known as the ancient practice of swimming. I have climbed to new heights and reached deeper depths. I cannot wait to see what the next facet of life holds for tomorrow. If you really got the chance to know me you could tell that I am not the outdoors hiking type. This expedition has taken me to a new level in both maturity and perspective. I look at things in a new in-depth way.

This morning I woke up to see a pod of Bowhead whales coming up for air. I have seen all the animals I wanted to see while I was in the Arctic. To my pod GRAY’S ANATOMY - YOU RULE!!!!!  I believe in the magic of the fjords here. We as a team have the best karma on EARTH. I plan to carry that karma with me throughout life. I have met many wonderful people and seen even more amazing scenes of nature. Oh yeah not to forget the bbq on shore reminded me of home. I love you MEMPHIS!!!!


Running into the icy waters of Kingnait Harbour.

Jonathan Alexander

 Today was pretty fast and good, this morning we went to Kingnait harbour and went for a short hike and had a BBQ at lunch. It was really good and I made sure to thank the chefs. After lunch we went for an Arctic swim and it was really fun being in the cold water with everyone. It was definitely one of the best times we ever had on the expedition. 

Later on when we got back to the ship, we had some free time. I was just hanging out on deck looking out over the horizon and thinking that we only have 3 days left on the ship. I also thought about how this expedition was so much fun and at times it was simply amazing. We did so much and I had so much fun with all the students and staff.

Marine Riponi

John Crump

65N, 65W

The Bowhead whale is one of the largest living things on the planet and can live up to 200 years. We saw about 40 from the Lyubov Orlova as we made our way through Cumberland Sound, the vast bay that pierces the eastern side of Baffin Island. They travel singly or in small groups to feed in the summer time before migrating to warmer waters in the winter.

Based on our sightings, we made a rough estimate that there could be up a couple hundred of Bowheads in the sound. But it is impossible to tell. What we do know is that there were once many more. For nearly a hundred years – from the early 19th Century to the 1920s – European whalers exploited the stocks of whales in Cumberland Sound. During this period, more than 18,000 whales where killed. This slaughter was replicated in other parts of the Arctic and the Bowhead was driven to the brink of extinction. Hunting was banned for decades and only resumed in a limited and controlled way following the settlement of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. This agreement gives Inuit the right to take one Bowhead a year and is not a threat to the population.

Kekerten Island lies near the mouth of Kingnait Fjord and was traditionally used by the Inuit for whaling. It was also the base from which European whalers operated and today is a historic park. It is also a haunted place with bones and rusted metal cauldrons scattered on the shore. Huge iron spikes still protrude from the flat granite shoreline where whales were hauled onto shore and rendered into oil, their baleen extracted for use in the kinds of household goods for which we now use plastic. Outlines of vanished buildings are scattered and a boardwalk leads visitors down to the shore where a massive Bowhead skull sits bleaching in the sun.

In the hills are the graves of whalers and Inuit, adults and infants. The dead were placed in barrels with a few personal items and the makeshift coffin was wedged into the grey, craggy hillside. There they sit today, disintigrating slowly in the dry arctic climate. It is an eerie place and on this quiet, windless day one could feel the presence of the generations that lived and died chasing the riches that came from whale carcasses.

I climbed the slope to where Erik sat with his rifle, keeping a watch for polar bears. With 90 or so people on shore, we always have spotters and gun carriers who leave the ship first and scout both a good landing place for the zodiacs and climb the hills to make sure there are no bears around. Or if there are, they are far enough away to be of no concern.

Collecting Erik, his rifle and two other companions we walked further up the hill to where ancient beaches testify to continuing isostatic rebound -- the slow but steady rising of the land that began when the last Ice Age ended. The weight of a kilometre of ice pressed the earth down and it continues to rise in many places in the Arctic. In this location, you can clearly see the terraced lines of beaches that were once washed by the tide that now rises and falls 50 metres below. Amidst the black lichen covered rocks was a firepit and a ring of stones that once held down a skin tent. Both were easy to spot because the rocks had been disturbed. But how old they might be, that was another question. The site was logical. It afforded a view of the cove below, so obviously hunters had used it. But when? It was clearly a long time ago. There was no sign of any activity, no debris, no charred bones in the firepit. Its age was impossible to tell with any accuracy.

We stood on this spot in silence. There was no wind. No birds. No voices from below carried this far. We had to come this far north, to this place that still echoed with the voices of labouring men long gone, to hear the Arctic silence.


Enjoying the beauty of Kingnait Harbour.

Mike Jensen

So the morning started with a 6:55am announcement from our fearless expedition leader, Geoff Green, that there were bowhead whales off the port bow. Now normally, this would have me racing for the upper decks in eager anticipation of seeing these majestic creatures of the sea. But instead, I turned over and studied the inside of my eyelids.

Now this might seem to be to antithesis of what I should be doing, and in fact, if Geoff read this, he’d probably kick me off the ship. And don’t get me wrong, the opportunity of seeing bowheads is one that no one should miss. They are truly one of the highlights of any Arctic trip.

But as Geoff continued to crow about the dozens of bowheads that were appearing on all sides of the ship, I kept turning over and tuning him out. Here’s the thing. Bowheads whales, among other creatures, have been hunted by ships for decades. They have an instinctive fear of these vessels and always seem to give us a very wide berth.

So I knew fairly confidently that the best view of the bowheads that we would have, would be of a distant dark spot on the horizon, the occasional spray of a blowhole, or if we were lucky, a distinctive fluke arching above the waves.

They’re the same pictures I got LAST year. And I was tired. So, forgive me if I didn’t race out of my room to do some early morning whale watching.

Next up, was a trip to Kingnait Fjord, another encore SOI stop for me. Last year, we hiked to a beautiful waterfall, and this year we did the same thing. But in addition to that, we also had a BBQ on shore, our 2010 group picture AND the Arctic swim. All of those went fairly successfully, especially the swim – which I managed to again join.
But once again, the best part of the day was the UNPLANNED part. For the second day in a row, we experienced an unusually quick receding tide (at our daily briefing, we were told it was a 9-meter tide, instead of the expected 4 meters). As a result, the zodiacs were once again hard put to make it out of the rendezvous spot to deep waters.

So, off we trotted to a location farther down the shore (thankfully, the BBQs that had been brought to shore for lunch had left on an early zodiac). It was a wet, muddy and tiring trek to catch up to the tide with 80 or so people, but in the end, all returned safely to the ship.

It sure punctuated one of our mottos on expedition – flexibility is the key.

Tomorrow, because of our delayed departure this afternoon, we will be hard-pressed to make it to our planned destination – the Lower Savage Islands. At the very least, we’ll have a full day at sea, with lots of workshops and activities to fill the time.
P.S. As I type this, two of our staff, Matty McNair and Remy Rodden, along with one of our many talented students, Khloe Heard are jamming in our presentation room with two violins and a guitar. I don’t know what they are playing, but it’s just one of many moments I will never forget about this expedition.





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