August 11, 2010
Dave eats raw seal meat at the community feast in Cape Dorset.
Good morning and welcome to the beautiful community of Cape Dorset!
The team was welcomed by the whole town today - and has had a busy time, touring the community, meeting with artists, local students and memorably, speaking with Elders about current northern issues, with a specific importance placed on the roles of climate change and how it has affected their community and lifestyles.
Cape Dorset is known throughout the world as the Art Capital of the Arctic. And the students will have a chance to meet with sculptors and carvers. Students also had a chance to see and participate in some exciting Inuit games. These games are competitions of strength, dexterity and agility and test a participants physical and mental limits, often pitting them directly against one another or challenging them to outlast their opponents.
After the presentations and demonstrations, the expedition team will be treated to a community feast followed by a tour of the Cape Dorset community itself with plenty of opportunities to shop at many of the local shops and gallerys.
Presentations by staff today will be given by David Gray on the history of Baffin Island, David Serkoak on Inuit social history and Norm Baker on “Saving the world’s oldest sailing vessel in continuous service, Anne Kristine.”
*Update: We have received new journals and photos for the following days, August 4, 6, 8, 9 so check them out in case there's any you might not want to miss!
Follow the journey by clicking the spot logo below:
Student Journals and Photos by Lee Narraway:
Hi everyone. Today we stopped in Cape Dorset and had a great time! I ate some raw seal, watched some Inuit games and entertainment from locals that was a blast! Now we have started sailing to Butterfly Bay. It’s a 2 day sail from where we are. This trip is amazing though it’s way more than I thought it would be. The only downfall is that I miss everyone. Well I am off to another presentation. Bye, and miss you all!
Hier soir, après la conférence de Peter (qui est partis cet après midi), nous sommes allés sur le pont ou il s’est passé plusieurs choses, la plus intéressante étant le concours de morse. Non pas le langage code mais bien les espèces de grognements/aboiements des morses que l’on avait vu le matin. Et donc, poussée par Kim et Julie, j’y ai participé. Je pense sincèrement avoir imité le mieux le morse, mais le prix est revenu à David, un adulte inuit. Le trophée étant un mars, je n’ai rien regretté, surtout que je me suis bien amusée!! Le plus marrant, c’est que depuis ce matin on n’arrête pas de me dire que j’étais la meilleure et que j’aurais du gagner. Je suis tellement fière de bien savoir parler morse... xD
Ce matin nous avons débarqué sur Baffin Island, de la côte sauvage, très apaisant. Il y avait beaucoup de vieux os, mais je n’ai toujours pas compris pourquoi. L’après midi, on est allé dans la communauté inuit, Cape Dorset. On a été accueillie par de la musique Black Eyed Peas, les filles avaient des casquettes Dora l’Exploratrice et des T-Shirts Hannah Montana, et j’ai vu plusieurs Ipod... Mais nous avons quand même vu des habits traditionnels ainsi que des chansons. J’étais très déconcerté. Mais malgré tout ca, ils ont quand même une vie pauvre. Apparemment, ils boivent entre 12 et 20 cannettes de soda par jour et, étant donné qu’elles arrivent par avions, elles coutent 5$ chacune, ils dépensent donc jusqu’à 100$ par jour en cannettes!! Mais les gens étaient très sympa, il faisait beau et chaud, on a passé une très bonne journée.
Evening briefing on the outside deck. Scobie entertains with a tall tale.
Today we are in Cape Dorset! I’m very excited to finally use the phone and call home!!! I really miss my family but in the end being here is something very different and unique in its own ways. Yesterday we all went on a zodiac ride around Walrus Island for the very first time. It was neat to see so many walruses because it was my first time seeing so many at once, plus they stink but it’s their nature I guess.
Afterwards we went back on the ship, and went to workshops and started all kinds of fun. I myself went into the art workshop and thus learned how to paint!
Today we are checking out a site of some sort. I’m not sure what kind but it sounds interesting, I’m ready for a little hike. Besides that, I really want to check out the art that the Arctic is famous for, and Cape Dorset is especially known for its Northern artists. I can’t wait to share my amazing experiences with my friends and family back home!
On Sunday we went to Douglas Harbour. This was my happiest day of the expedition. These are the reasons why:
~ The Fog Rising up
~ The flat land
~ Learning about caribous was the most interesting part of the day along with seeing the caribous
~ Being on our own on the land
~ Picking Berries
A few days ago we went to Diana Island. It was our first stop. It was so foggy! You couldn’t even see the mountain! When we got there, I was happy to be on an island (after being away from land for so long.) As we were walking, I got hungry and Jolly was generous enough to give me a cracker. It made me see that the Inuit are so generous. They are willing to teach everything to anyone. It makes me happy to be Inuit.
The next day was Digges Island – it was good and bad. I felt better going on top of the mountain because there was a little breeze. I was happy to see cloudberries – it made me feel like we were back in my home of Nunavik.
At one point of the day I was lying down talking to Meagan and listening to her suggestions about finishing school – and talking about the great opportunities she has at her school. She’s learning about water. It made me think about what I want to accomplish.
First thing I heard yesterday was Geoff. I thought I was dreaming but no, it was his voice over the intercom. I opened my eyes and then I closed them again hoping to go back to sleep, but he was excited to tell us that we might see walruses! And we did. We saw tons and tons of walruses.
We had a really interesting meeting yesterday that really opened my eyes about the Métis. I even met one yesterday, one of the students on board, Nathan. He told me a few stories about going seal hunting and caribou hunting. He told me he caught eleven caribou once! I’m glad we have the opportunity to meet other First Nations people. I love that about this expedition. I didn’t even know Connor was a Métis.
I’ve been teaching other people throat singing. They make me laugh. When they do the syllabics they sound like a moose, or a donkey. But they are practicing and they try hard. I was amazed this morning at how open to learning Niki and everyone is. They really want to know about our culture.
Today an elderly woman taught me how to throat sing and I even taught her a few things. She had never heard of “Love Song”. I guess this is because it is the younger people in college that wrote that song. (Elders wrote the rest of the songs.) It was interesting to teach one of the elders. She enjoyed listening to me and Larissa. When I have children, I will for sure teach them how to throat sing.
I’ve only ever had seal frozen before. Today was my first time having the liver and the meat of a seal. It made me feel stronger and made me think of the Sanikiluaq people. Today was a long day but it was fun; seeing houses and buildings and a very interesting group of people. They’re not different, but it was hearing the different languages that were special.
When we were on the land, Tina and I stood by the little beach with our feet in the water – the nice cold water. We were eating seafood – a long line of kelp. The expedition is different than what I thought it would be. I thought there would be fewer people. I also thought I would make few friends – but now I have many.
p.s. It’s fun to see blue eyes! It’s not a common thing in my town. It brightens up my day when I see blue eyes. It’s like seeing sky - you can’t stop looking at them.
Geoff, Will and Peter
Today we were in Cape Dorset. I had a lot of fun and making new friends.
When we were on Walrus Island I saw a lot of walruses and I even saw a baby walrus. It was so great to see a walrus for the first time!
On Digges Island I was climbing up to the top and I saw a lot of akpa (caribou). This was also my first time seeing akpa.
It was an incredible day today! We started off the day with a Zodiac landing in a neighbouring archaeological site near Cape Dorset, taking in Thule camp remains. I went on a reflective walk on a very ancient land. Later, we landed at the much-anticipated (at least for me) Cape Dorset, Inuit Art Capital of the world! My time at Dorset was so exciting because the community held a celebration of high energy for us. My next sentence will make you think I’m crazy: I tried seal! Afterward, I went to the Art co-operative where I took in the sculptures and the prints by famous Inuit artists. Well, I’m quite tired and tomorrow is a full sea day, meaning we’ll be sailing all day to travel far!
Well, today we arrived in Cape Dorset and we did a lot of things. Peter Mansbridge and his son Willie had to leave us today. Most of the community and the Mayor got together to do a presentation about what we’ve been doing for the past week. After that we had a bit of free time so we explored the little town. I met some new people from this community. We are back on the ship and I am going on deck to go take pictures for the photo competition now.
Love my parents and my sisters.
Didn’t write yesterday because I had very little time, but we were at Walrus Island where we saw hundreds upon hundreds of walrus. Today we arrived at Cape Dorset early in the morning, and boarded the zodiacs for a landing before lunch. We visited an old Thule settlement, checked out an Inukshuk, and hiked a small bluff for a view. David told us everything you would ever want to know about the Thule people. We saw bones from all types of animals at this spot, most were broken and eaten, but one could see what they used to resemble. After lunch we went to the village of Cape Dorset where we had a nice gathering with the locals. I ate raw seal and char. We continued into town to the Co-op and the Northern, both being small stores. Bananas cost $5.49 a pound! Today I participated in a mini black market, where the children sell carvings at extremely low prices, but they seemed happy, and I was happy. Many of the young Inuit were overly friendly, following you, and trying to give you their possessions. We have set sail again, heading out into exposed waters. Hopefully, the nice weather holds and we don’t have another day full of zigzagging down the hallway.
Moe and Will examine an ancient Thule site in Mallikjuaq park near Cape Dorset.
We had a jam-packed day today that included a visit to a Thule archaeological site and an amazing visit to Cape Dorset. After stepping onto Baffin Island for the first time we went for a short hike that landed us at a beautiful pink granite Inukshuk that was silhouetted against a perfectly blue sky. Our visit to Cape Dorset started with a wonderfully warm welcome with throat singing from 3 generations and fresh country food. We then visited an artist co-operative where I bought a stunning sculpture for my Dad’s new house when he moves back to Canada.
So I wrote that yesterday was one of the most stimulating days but today was a close second. The morning was spent at an archaeological dig of Thule people. It was the ground huts that were used in the winter by multiple families (usually 8 or more to a hut). It was a magical setting because as David Gray was explaining the site, David Serkoak was playing the Inuit Drum. This was truly an experience that not many people get to have.
After lunch aboard the boat everybody went to the community of Cape Dorset where the municipality had put together a celebration. There was a presentation from the Mayor (a man from Manitoba), throat singers, and singers from Fiji and New Zealand. After that there were demonstrations on how to prepare a seal and arctic char. I part took in the eating of all the local food including raw seal liver and rib (not as bad tasting as I had imagined), raw arctic char, and cooked goose stew. There was also a demonstration on Inuit games that was extremely interesting. We then toured the town and made our way to the art shop. I did not purchase anything as I am waiting to see what the artists in Pangnirtung have to offer.
Tomorrow is a sea day, which means that I will write tomorrow for sure.
Cape Dorset, Nunavut
Today has been an incredible day! We had two landings, which were excellent and really made the day full and busy. The first landing was at an archeological site on Baffin Island where there are remains of structures. It was amazing to see that there is still evidence of these structures after thousands of years. One of my favourite moments was seeing an inukshuk that had been constructed. It was the first time I have ever seen one in person. I also loved the bit of a hike that we were able to do, although rubber boots are not the best footwear for hiking.
Our afternoon landing was in the community of Cape Dorset. This was the first time that I have ever been to a northern community, and it was really an eye-opener. We don’t realize how so many people in Canada live and I really enjoyed experiencing this unique culture. Cape Dorset prepared a wonderful program for us, including throat singers. I always love listening to the throat singers. Two of the younger throat singers, Alyssa and Janis got to know me, and we had a great time discovering the community together. The bannock they made for us was delicious. However, I can’t comment on the taste of the raw seal meat because I wasn’t that brave. I also loved visiting the artist co-op. The work is truly inspiring. I am going to miss all of the children and the friends I made in Cape Dorset.
Hannah Jacobs admires a carving in the print shop in Cape Dorset.
Dedicated to Peter and William Mansbridge, who had to depart the expedition today.
What an incredible day. Cape Dorset is a small town on Baffin Island that we hiked around and visited a local community.
The hike was interesting because I saw an Inukshuk and a small habitation of the early Inuit people over 1000 years ago.
The community visit was by far the highlight. We started the visit by playing some Inuit Arctic games such as “high kick and one armed stand.” I don’t know the exact name of the games but I was one of the few successful participants.
After that, there was a nice gathering with the local Inuit. They cut a seal in front of everybody and they ate it raw. The SOI girls came up for some seal and received tiny pieces, while the guys got a huge chunk of the ribs. I tried it and it had a most interesting texture.
I have endless stories so I’ll condense it. As I went through the community, I met many people. Eventually, I had three little boys following me wherever I went trying to be cool like me. In no time, boys and girls surrounded me and asked endless questions. The boys were all trying to imitate my “swag,” as they called it, and were showing off all the cool stuff they had. The girls on the other hand kept hugging and taking pictures with me.
The saddest part was when I had to leave. They all offered me ridiculous gifts that I could not accept such as someone’s favourite hat or necklace. They asked me to come visit them soon. One thing for sure is that I will never forget them.
“I ate some raw seal liver, which part did you try?” “I have no idea, all I know is it was really… Bloody.”
Yes, it is indeed true, today when we arrived at Cape Dorset, Baffin Island; I tried raw seal meat that was butchered right in front of us. I must admit, watching the butchering process made me want to go vegan, especially when I watched one of the elders pop and suck the juices out of the eyeball. However, in order to truly experience the Inuit culture, one must eat what the locals eat, and I must admit I sort of enjoyed it. It was much like eating sashimi, besides the fact that it was covered in blood and the aftertaste was quite… Iron(y). Now I know why my mother was concerned that I would try to go all vegetarian during this expedition and get sick. Well, she can lay all her concerns to rest now. I’m pretty sure that small chunk I consumed this afternoon supplied me with enough iron to last the rest of the expedition.
Today we got to see an Arctic community and it was very interesting. The majority of the community was there to greet us. I shook hands with the elders, and those who wanted to tried fresh, raw seal. It was quite the experience, seeing how one of their games is “high-kicking” and how all the children couldn’t wait to ask us our names and follow us around while we wandered the community. The artwork we saw was amazing and truly captivating. The Co-op grocery store was, however, ridiculous. Ridiculous in the sense that half a pineapple was over four dollars, and a block of cheese was just under twenty dollars. How are these people, with such a low average income supposed to live off of food that is priced for the rich?
To sit in a house that was inhabited one thousand years ago, and lived in for perhaps for the same duration of time, is truly a profound experience. The utter extent and miraculous endurance of human civilization appears limitless. We are an amazing species, evolving beyond our rivals to the point where we are nearly incomparable. And yet, we remain intimately connected to them in every way. Every choice of every individual has enormous ramifications in the world around them. From the grass upon which we walk, to the habitat destroyed on the other side of the world to make our goods, everything comes from the land. The Thule culture understood this, and it was for this reason that they could survive the most hostile and unforgiving environment on earth. They took only what they needed, they grew close to the world around them, and they relied on the strength of community. Could these people, who fell into extinction, be superior to us? In many ways I believe this to be true. However, it has always been our greatest strength to adapt in the face of change. So I pose this challenge to society, to learn from the mistakes of others, to reverse our fate.
I am in the Arctic for the first time; it is also my first time in Canada. I am floating in a sea of dreams, dreams of the Inuit wishing their homeland will be safe. The dreams that hold the future of the entire human race. SOI is not just students seeking knowledge about the Arctic; we are fighting to protect it. Just like Superman, we wear an S on our chests, which is sending out a distress signal, an S.O.S that stands for saving ourselves as a human race.
What I have learned in just a few days is that we are killing ourselves slowly. Global warming is affecting the Arctic, which is going to lead into a chain reaction that will affect the rest of the world. Without a doubt, it has already begun to happen for it can be felt in the southern states of the United States. I am a witness to that as I grew up there in Memphis, TN. Now in my city, the summers are ridiculously hot and when I left it was 115 Fahrenheit.
Hudson Strait, Canada
It has been another awesome day. I visited Cape Dorset. At first we explored the desolate outskirts. I saw an ancient Thule site and some old Inukshuks on the mountains.
The best part is when we crossed the river after lunch and went to the Cape Dorset community. Everyone was expecting us. The first thing I did was some high kicks on a tennis ball that was hung from a pole. Apparently this is an old Inuit game. I met a lot of people upon arrival. This guy called Peter lived in Ottawa last year and now lives in Cape Dorset. He was kind of my tour guide today. They are such kind people. I was also surprised to see a large piece of plywood lying in the middle of everything with all the food on it. On it I saw a whole seal that was gutted and eaten raw, some sliced raw fish, other seal spines, and some goose soup in pots. We ate with no forks and knives, but I was all right because Peter lent me his switchblade to cut stuff with. There were some nice pastries that resembled Jonnie Cake. The seal was too bloody for my taste. I tried some of the rib, but I did not like it because whenever I bit it I felt like I injured myself. Also, this lady sold me a chunk of baleen for $30.00.
KT makes new friends in Cape Dorset.
Today was a great day for me because I played Inuit games. Playing with other people was fun. I went shopping with some friends and it was awesome! 1 foot high kick was the best for me and I got to show a lot of people the different games. Next month hopefully I will be in Coral Harbour for the Inuit games. It will be a lot of fun because I haven’t been to Coral Harbour before. I am excited to go to Pangnirtung which will be our next community visit.
Today was a wonderful day. We woke up at the usual time of 7:00 am! Then we had a wonderful breakfast followed by a zodiac adventure to Baffin Island. We took a look at some old sod houses and then meandered through the rocks and grass to a lake. After our tour of a small part of the large island, we reboarded the ship and had lunch.
Then the exciting part started! We got to visit our first town of the trip since we have started sailing! We were greeted by lots of townspeople, we learned about some Arctic sports and I tried seal for the first time. It wasn't cooked but it was still quite good.
We got to tour the town afterwards and look at the art, which was beautiful! I was lucky enough to buy a piece as a souvenir. We met many kids from around town who took a liking to us. It was just a fabulous experience. I am now looking forward to spending our first full day at sea tomorrow!
The taste of bloody seal liver is still lingering in my mouth. At first I was gushing with excitement and awe as I saw one of the elders gutting the young harp seal that would eventually become our meal (or so to speak). He began by sharpening his thin but long knife while kneeling over the small seal. In one swift movement he skinned the seal and then he sliced it in half revealing its bloody insides along with a putrid smell that knocked all of the SOI kids back. I was feeling risqué so when one of the women sitting on the floor handed me a huge piece of the seals liver, I, with a big smile on my face, accepted it. At first I wasn’t sure whether I should stuff it all in my mouth or eat it piece by piece. I assumed that it would be the same as quickly tearing off a band-aid so in one regrettable swoop I shoved the bloody and slimy seal liver into my mouth. In an instant I tasted blood.
Students participate in the Inuit traditional games in Cape Dorset.
Dedicated to Peter Mansbridge. An extremely emotional day today, for it is the fateful day that God had warned us about. Today Peter Mansbridge and his son William (lil Willie) had to leave the expedition. Though we all knew this day would come we could only wish that they could have stayed longer. On another note, today was also very eventful because for the first time ever I ate raw seal… mmmmmm. Though it did have a rather exquisite taste and texture, it isn’t something I would want to have every meal. I also had the pleasure of participating in Inuit games. It was a great day and there are many more to come.
A colony of walrus bobbed its head up and down just a few metres from our zodiac. These enormous beasts that can weigh up to 4500 lbs are truly a spectacle to watch; they bask in the sunlight on the shallow shores of the island. On the zodiac, Geoff had a book about marine mammals and although I could see the picture of the walrus and read all about it from the book, the urge to look at them and study their behaviour myself seemed a lot more interesting. What distinguishes this trip is that every day we are somewhere new on the map learning about something from a totally different perspective.
What intrigued me today was that the consequences of melting glaciers and ice could be severe as global mean temperatures continue to peak. Furthermore, as we ventured into the potential of resources in the Arctic, I realized that the Inuit would have to weigh the positive and negative aspects of these developments and whether they want to pursue them. As Peter Mansbridge said in his presentation (he will be leaving tomorrow), “imagine what the world would be if we developed our passions and pursued our interests”. With my head bursting with more questions than ever, I am going to sleep. As Geoff said, hope we “sleep like a walrus!”
Aujourd’hui je ne m’étais pas encore réveillé que je souriais de gratitude. Durant la nuit j’avais eu froid et cette fois ci, en se levant, Estelle avait mis sa couverture sur moi, c’était si gentil! Je me suis rendormie. Au réveil je suis directement montée sur le pont pour voir les morses de Walrus Island. J’ai souvent l’impression de me réveiller à la fois au milieu de la nature et en communauté.
En début de matinée nous avons eu une intervention sur l’apparition de la vie et les dangers du changement climatique par Paul. L’intérêt y était mais le meilleur restait encore à venir : voir les morses en zodiac!
À 11h nous étions parties. Cette fois ci j’espérais prendre de belles photos et ne pas être gênée par ma batterie. Je ne prenais pas le temps de regarder les photos que je faisais ; je mitraillais, je capturais des souvenirs.
Nous étions entourés de leur cri, de la mer et des oiseaux. De temps à autre je lâchais mon appareil photo quelques minutes pour observer autour de moi…j’aurai pu rester là des heures. Parfois on les voyait plonger ensemble dans l’océan, nager ou même se défier.
De retour on nous a annoncé que la piscine du bateau allait être ouverte sous une ovation générale. J’ai couru enfiler mon maillot et je me suis soudain retrouvée devant une piscine presque vide, toutefois entourées de tous les jeunes et membres du staff.
Dès qu’une personne avait sauté dans l’eau on en appelait une autre : “Tim! Tim!
Certains faisaient leur baptême de l’eau en kaway comme Tim, d’autres en tenue SOI telle Estelle ou encore complètement habillée comme Jackie.
Personnellement j’y étais allé vêtue mais lors de l’appel général j’ai quand même pris le temps de me mettre en maillot…je n’aurai jamais pensé me baigner dans ces conditions ! Après le repas j’ai eu le temps de faire une nouvelle lessive et de tapper à l’ordinateur mon journal de bord.À 15h j’ai participé au Workshop sur la photographie avec Lee. J’ai beaucoup appris sur le point de vue ou l’on doit se placer, sur la place de l’objet à photographier, sur comment créer un effet de profondeur, comment jouer avec la lumière…j’espère pouvoir le mettre en pratique !
Ensuite jusqu’à 18h nous avons eu une pause, cela me permet d’écrire mon journal a d’autres horaires que minuit !
Juste après nous avons eu une conférence sur les mammifères marins : baleines, ours polaires, morses, narvals…
A 19h30 nous sommes allés manger, c’est un moment que j’apprécie particulièrement dans la journée car on peut prendre le temps de discuter avec les autres. Ce soir je me suis entretenue de choses plus ou moins sérieuses avec Geoff, Jeanette, Marine et Hugh.
Dans la soirée, Peter, un journaliste nous a, lors d’une conférence, raconte plusieurs anecdotes survenues lors de sa carrière et les leçons qu’il avait pu en tirer comme le fait d’agir sans chercher de la reconnaissance.
Nous sommes ensuite allés sur le pont car on voulait profiter du beau temps pour le debriefing. C’était très chaleureux, John a lu un poème, Lee nous a parlé du concours photo qui allait avoir lieu, il y a eu un premier essai du “Name Contest” mais cependant infructueux. Il y a même eu un concours de cri de morse et Marine a perdu de peu. Pour finir Remy et quelques jeunes ont chanté “SeaSick blues”. Il y avait une telle fusion dans le groupe ! J’ai bien rigolé avec Kim et Marine…j’ai souri…
Ce soir nous n’avions pas envie de nous coucher mais plutôt de faire la fête et de profiter…ce sera pour une prochaine fois !
Walrus Island, Hudson Bay (63N, 84W)
After a morning zodiacing around this small island at the top of Hudson Bay, the vast inland sea that looks like a gouge out of the middle of the Canadian landmass, we are under way again. It is a perfect day – clear blue sky, no wind and water as flat as glass. Look down and you see jellyfish and other creatures moving beneath the surface. You can see the keel of the Lyubov Orlova glimmering above her anchor chain that drops down into increasing darkness.
The pool has been filled and so with the great bay to port, the students and many staff don bathing suits and jump in to raucous chanting and applause. The “pool” is big enough to hold about six people at a time. With water at 2 degrees Celsius, the pool is more for dipping than diving anyway.
It’s good practice for the polar swim that will come later in the trip. Hitting the water is a shock. Nerves shut down, numbness takes over, breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Two dips and I headed for a warm shower, the taste of salt in my mouth. All I could think of was the thousands of walrus on the nearby epinonimous island.
This morning we saw approximately a thousand of the massive sea mammals hauled up onto the smooth, eroded gray rock shoreline. Their voices – snorting and grunting – carried across the water in the still morning air. So did their aroma, which smelled strongly of the bivalves they consume at the bottom of the sea. Those that weren’t roaring and grunting were sleeping in the sun, their skin many hues of brown and pink. Walrus circulation systems are designed to keep then warm by drawing blood into their core of their bodies during their long, deep dives foraging for food. Hauled out on the warm shore of the island, blood vessels open and push blood to their extremities and out towards their skin to keep them cool.
We floated in quietly, engines cut, so we wouldn’t disturb the animals. Occasionally something would rouse them – perhaps it was five black zodiacs bobbing 30 metres off shore. Heads up, tusks glinting in the sunlight, heads swinging back and forth, small eyes scanning, nostrils scenting. One or two animals would move towards the water’s edge and followed by dozens of others into the water.
These are not small animals. Walrus can weigh several hundred kilos without even trying. They feed on clams that burrow into the seabed, digging them out with their flippers. They can spend up to 20 minutes under water and hold their prey in their lips and suck the insides out whole. It takes a lot of clams to fill a walrus stomach. How their food source will respond to changing water temperatures and increased ocean acidity due to climate change is a question that begs research.
This is the second day we have explored a living island. Yesterday the sheer cliffs of Digges Island hung thick with Black-billed Murres. The Arctic is often mistakenly described as “empty” but we have seen and felt that it is very much alive.
We check out a lot of natural locations along our journey through the Arctic – seabird habitats, prime walrus viewing spots, caribou hunting grounds. But as great and important as all of these locations are, some of the best places to learn about the effects of global warming are in the communities that we visit along the way.
We’d already been to one community, when we landed in Kuujjuaq to board our ship. But today we visited Cape Dorset on the southern coast of Baffin Island. Cape Dorset is well-known for its Inuit art carvings and prints and the ship was a-buzz with excitement.
Our first stop today was an archaeological site across the bay from Cape Dorset. Thousands of years ago, a series of huts were built along the edge of a freshwater lake a few hundred meters from the Arctic Ocean. Today, all that remains are the dugouts with collapsed rocks strewn within them. After hearing about the history of the people that built the huts, courtesy of our resident mammal expert turned Arctic historian David Gray, we set off on a choice of hikes.
Still recovering from the trip to Digges Island a couple of days ago, I chose to head down a short, gentle slope to an inukshuk on the shore and sit with my feet dangling in the water, skipping stones. It was a nice relaxing time and I couldn’t help but be a bit disappointed when we were called back to the zodiacs. After lunch, it was off to Cape Dorset. The plan was to meet for a community welcome complete with some traditional country food (including caribou stew), throat singing and Inuit games demonstrations followed by a talk with some elders to discuss their perspectives on the effects of global warming.
Well, at least, that’s how it was supposed to go. Yes, we got the throat singing and Inuit games, but in addition to the country food, we were also treated to a fresh seal that had been caught and killed earlier today. I’d experienced raw seal liver on last year’s expedition, and this year, I managed to get my teeth around a seal rib. But my best amusement was saved for watching the students sample the various parts of the seal for the first time. Most kept it down… some didn’t.After the demonstrations, we were given free time to explore the community, instead of talking to the elders. Our group quickly dispersed, much to my dismay, as it felt like my herd of sheep was scattering into the wild. Some went and hopped up on junk food at the Co-op, while others went searching for souvenirs. Many were “kidnapped” by some of the local children, who held the hands of various students as they went exploring the town. One of our male students, Connor, was even offered three marriage proposals.He turned them down.This was a great community visit. But as amazing as it was, it illustrated to me just how much we have become a little floating community of our own. It’s been a week since we’ve all come together and the bonds between everyone has grown strong.It was especially evident when we said goodbye to our first friends – Peter Mansbridge and his son Will. It was a teary good-bye for some, as they had become attached to Will, who despite his younger age, made some close friends during his short time. However, based on my experience from last year, it is a mere fraction of the emotions that will be experienced on our last days.
But that’s in the future. For now, our community will have a day at sea tomorrow, with lots of activities and workshops planned. In the meantime, hopes of a full night’s sleep tantalize me... good night!
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