(All photos by Lee Narraway)
August 5 Update...
The Torngats mean "the place where the spirit lives." And judging from the feelings that are being described to us about the past few days in Labrador... this stunning mountain range is living up to its name. The combination of superb weather conditions, stunning landscape, one-one's with local elders, wildlife encounters, epic hikes and activities - all this has left our team breathless...
Yesterday afternoon, the team visited the beautiful Rose Island.
Rose Island is an Inuit grave site with up to 600 Inuit graves. The island is covered in rock mounds (graves) and caches. Over 100 of the graves were excavated by an archeologist in the early 70s without Inuit permission. Only in the last 5 years has this injustice begun to be rectified. Many of the remains have already been repatriated to the island and on this coming August, the remainder will be repatriated and a traditional burial ceremony will take place for the re-burial on the island. Only a small section of the island is open to visitors and we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to visit the site. Our guide Gary, was instrumental in returning these remains to the island and was extremely proud of their accomplishment. The elders told us that they were happy that we were able to visit and hear their story.
The team returned to the ship for a late dinner (the chef cooked up the Arctic Char they had caught that day) followed by the evening recap and songs from Ian Tamblyn.
Their epic days are making it tough for daily communication. It is hard to believe that just three or four short years ago - before our ships acquired state of the art satellite systems - that we would receive one phone call per day - if were lucky! - and the occasional journal, and two or three low-res pictures. Now of course, we are used to constant communication.
However, the schedule doesn't always allow for this.
A briefing on the stern deck
Cassie Jones, Montreal, Quebec
August 3rd we made it back to Canada. Today we visited a base camp set up at Torngat Mountains one of the newest National Parks. The base camp has around one hundred people consisting of students from the North, scientists, researchers, and Elders who are measuring climate change. I went on a hard hike on Inuit land up a mountain. I was wearing tons of layers, which made it exponentially more tiring. We got back there was a bonfire and BBQ on the beach. We sang songs of all origins, laughed and danced. There was an energy that all of us recognized. We were meeting new people and bonding over simple things then and there. It made us all giddy and feeling alive for the rest of the evening. I even tried a taste of some country food a delicacy to the Inuit. It was Muktuk - a piece of raw, frozen Narwhal. I am assuming it is an acquired taste. We were granted permission by the Elders to visit Rose Island tomorrow a sacred part of the land that contains mass graves of the Inuit. We were really grateful!
Gloria Lingard enjoying a long hike
Kiran Dhatt-Gauthier, Sudbury – written on Aug 3
We waved and hollered as a twin otter flew over our heads yet again, as we sailed quite slowly through uncharted waters to the Kangidluasuk Base Camp, the home of other indigenous youth learning science, culture and researching the ways of the Elders. We were welcomed with open arms by not only them, but an armada of quite healthy mosquitoes, sucking out about 50% of my blood by the end of the day. The long hike to the top of the mountain provided a spectacular view of the camp, and the desolate landscape which swallowed us in its incomparable size. On the descent, a Government plane whizzed overhead, pulling out all the stops for the students watching in bewilderment from the camp down 300 feet below. Just as the plane danced around in the air, the orange bonfire swayed from side to side as the oddest of couples waltzed alongside from both the SOI crew and camp, non variant on age, gender or basically any platform. The Elders of the camp have also welcomed us to Rose Island, an ancient burial ground with a very recent past of mass grave robbing. I must end the journal here, as the muktuk (whale blubber) and ringed seal apparently do not like the insides of my stomach and would most probably like to be back in the ocean where they belong!
Minke whale off the port bow!
Regan Burden, Port Hope Simpson
Dear Journal: Last night when I was in bed, I couldn't bring myself to fall asleep too easily. I didn't want the day that we just had in North Arm to come to an end, from our hike to the pristine reflective lake, to our fire on the beach with the Elders and to our powerful visit to Rose Island. I couldn't seem to get my thoughts together as we visited that sacred place, just having permission from the Elders to go there was an amazing feeling. But as we stood around that mass grave of so many Inuit people, hearing the story of how they were taken away from their resting place and the challenges that their people faced to get them back gave me cold shivers. I imagined the Torngat Mountains to be big, beautiful, isolated, and mysterious, but this is greater than anything I could have ever come up with.
A minke whale
Kayleigh Spencer, Mistissini, QC
Awe, wonder and joy are the three words that best describe yesterday. I'm still digesting the day. First we woke up to seeing our friends from the base camp who joined us on the Clipper Adventurer. We set sail to head to the north arm of Saglek fjord. On our arrival at the fjord the gun handlers were already there. After an hour and a half of fishing, playing some music and eating some caribou meat we went for a hike to see another waterfall that streamed to a beautiful lake. We had a bbq on the beach for lunch. Afterwards we took a big group photo with all the elders and the students from the camp, followed by a polar dip in the Arctic Ocean. I am now officially a part of the SOI Arctic swim team. To finish up the day we said our goodbyes to all our new friends and with the blessings of the elders we visited Rose Island and learned about the island's history. We also went for nice zodiac cruises where we spotted a minke whale and named it peek-aboo after a half hour game of cat and mouse. I will never forget leaning over the zodiac and seeing a seal swim right beneath us and sticking its head up about 5 feet away from the boat. We named it Charlie. It's Friday and this is our second last day on the ship. I can't get over how fast the time flies but when I look back it feels like I've known these people for so long. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to be on the SOI 2011 arctic expedition. I've met so many interesting people from around the world and shared so many awe moments with them and memories that will last me forever. I can feel myself changing; the way I look at things and the way I think about life and the environment. I sometimes find myself alone sitting on a bench thinking of my friends and family back home. A few more days and I get to see all of you.
Cruising inlets and bays
Victoria Wee, Coquitlam, British Columbia
Attention attention! Hear ye, hear ye! Today is a historic day, a day to be celebrated for all time. Today marks the first official meeting of the SOI Arctic Council. I represented the Canadian delegation with Kiran, Kendelle, and Chase. Russia sat to our right and the United States on the left!
STAY TUNED FOR MORE!