Stormy seas on the Denmark Strait
JULY 29 UPDATES...
(All Photos by Lee Narraway)
JOHN CRUMP: SOI Educator & Senior Advisor, Polar Centre, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
Blue whales cure seasickness. Or they stave it off for a while, at least.
We woke this morning in the Denmark Strait where a great upwelling of water flows out into the world ocean. Water from this 900-kilometre wide strait takes about 1000 years to reach the Southern Ocean. It is home to the largest creatures ever to inhabit the planet -- the blue whale. This morning we saw at least three of them, including a mother and calf that came so close to the ship that you thought you could touch them.
Their arrival precipitated a rebirth of sorts. The Denmark Strait is notorious for its rough waters. Since we left the protected waters of the northwestern peninsula of Iceland we have been cruising at about 20 knots directly into the wind. The ship’s up and down motion in the swells had the predictable results and dinner was a dismal affair with diners few and far between. Most of the students and a lot of the staff had taken to their beds or spent hours walking the decks hoping the fresh air would cure their seasickness.
When the whales were spotted at around 0800 an announcement was made over the ship’s intercom. Suddenly, people at appeared at the deck rails, cameras and binoculars in hand. The mother and calf stayed with us for nearly an hour, running along just below the surface of the grey water, their blue hides visible from the ship. They surfaced many times, presenting their blow holes and backs in a slow arc that revealed only a small portion of their massive bodies.
It is rare to spot a blue whale. There are a few old Arctic hands on board who had not spotted one until today. And the students, many of whom had emerged like Lazarus from their cabins, saw them on their first day at sea. It has led to some speculation about what else might be in store in the coming days. In fact, we saw more whale spouts tonight but they were much farther off and whatever they were -- and the speculation was blues by the size and frequency as well as the length of time between dives -- they didn’t want to play near the ship.
We are bound for the southeast coast of Greenland and expect to see land by morning. Our goal is to make our way through the ice, which the charts tell us is thick along the coast, into Napassorssuaq Fjord. Very few of the fjords in this part of Greenland are charted. That means were don’t know how deep they are. But the captain of this vessel has been there, and he has made his own chart and it shows a depth in places up to 500 metres, plenty to bring in the ship.
If we can’t get into the fjord, we will play in the ice. We’ll drop the rubber zodiacs over the side and cruise in the ice. Because in the Arctic, where there is ice there is life. We’ll be on the lookout for polar bears, seals, walrus and the illusive narwhal with its singular tusk.
The wind dropped tonight as we came into the lee of Greenland. The water is calmer, and reflected back the blue sky that seemed to appear out of nowhere. The energy is back and the students have gone to bed anticipating more adventure tomorrow.
Andrea Brazeau, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec
It's been already 6 days since the expedition started and time is flying. Yesterday was our last day in Iceland. While the others went for a hike I decided to stay back and paint with the other group. Yesterday was our first time using the zodiacs, during our zodiac ride, we saw different kinds of birds and we also got to see some dolphins. It was pretty cool. Surprisingly, I haven't been getting sea sick; usually I'm the one always getting sick. Everything is okay, besides almost everybody getting seasick. This morning we spotted about 4 blue whales, it was my first time seeing a blue whale. It was awesome. Anyway, I will be blogging again soon to tell you guys what we saw and did. Anaanaangi, qanuingitunga alianaqattatu tamaani nutaani ilaliursuni. Kamatsialangavunga, Kamatsianiarivusi. Nalligivatsi isumainna! P.S. umiani miriagatangngitunga.
Angie Jo, Yongin-si, South Korea
I love being at sea. I'd never been on a vessel faster or bigger than the ferry to Vancouver Island until this trip, so I didn't know what to expect. But just standing on the deck, hair whipping around my face, my nose and hands red and tingling, my eyes tearing up from the wind, and staring at the waves breaking and the incredible skyline-- it is the most exhilarating feeling I've ever had in my life. It's better than bungee jumping, it's better than any rollercoaster, better than any high. . . This is probably not a good analogy to make at the moment, but I'm appreciating Titanic so much more now that I've actually had that "I'm the king of the world!!!" moment up on the deck. You just feel like screaming into the wind up there. There don't have to be leaping dolphins or suicidal birds or blue whales (although we've had all three) for the ocean to be as mesmerizing as it is. The sky and sun and sea are enough to make you want to stay up there forever. Not seasick at all, just lovesick for the sea maybe.
Beatrice Yeung, Hong Kong
A whole pot of mixed feelings is stirring up inside of me right now. It has almost been a week since the expedition started, and we have already spent one and a half day on the Clipper Adventurer, but everything still seems beyond surreal. Iceland was definitely a terrific start to our journey, and the opportunity to have a nation which operates mostly under green energy to welcome us was an invaluable experience. However, now that we are all finally on the ship, sailing in the Denmark Strait and on our way to Greenland, our journey really begins here. Our first day on the ship set off with a warm welcome from several dolphins, and thanks to Richard, an SOI staff member who studies whales, we all had perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see several blue whales, a few of them really close by the ship. Our journey has already begun to unfold itself, and it is just the beginning.
Blue Whales - mother & calf
Bo Yeon Jang, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The funny thing is… you never know how bad something is until you actually experience it. When we first got to the Clipper Adventurer, two days ago now, there was a general air of excitement and anticipation in the expedition group. Finally getting away from civilization is exhilarating in itself, but actually boarding a ship that would take us across the sea to lands unknown made it almost magical. Being on deck, seeing dolphins and whales, our first zodiac landing - it all went by in a blur. But the thing I'm perpetually feeling on this trip isn't excitement or wonder - it's the never ending agonizing seasickness. I had no idea it'd be this bad. Sure we were warned, but I for one thought it'd never happen to me. Big mistake. The rolling and pitching of the ship is making me nauseous to the point of misery - let's just say that I haven't kept food down for the last 24 hours. And what makes it so annoying is the amazing experiences we're having, the unbelievable food, a lot of them had to be postponed or missed because of it. I've had to stay in my cabin for half of the last day, sleeping and trying to ignore the not-so-gentle rocking. If we weren't seeing so many wondrous things, I'd almost wish I was backing home. Almost.
Cassandra Elphinstone, Nanaimo, BC
Today was amazing! We hiked through spectacular fjords to a giant bird colony on the cliffs. The energy and openness of these remote mountainous places gave me the unique feeling I only get in the mountains. I found the burrow of some creature that may have been an Arctic Fox. Later I heard some other kids had seen a fox and one girl chased it to get a picture. We ascended a hill to get a better look at the cliffs. As soon as we reached the top though the clouds came in and surrounded us. It was exciting but slightly unnerving coming down in the fog. Once we reached the beach again we boarded the zodiacs and went out to see a bird colony. There were Kittiwakes, Murres, and Puffins! Sadly the zodiac driver had found a dead Kittiwake floating on the ocean. He picked it up and we each got an opportunity to hold it. What a strange experience. I have never held a dead animal and numerous emotions filled my mind. It was strange in a place with so much energy and life that there was death. Looking at all the birds soaring overhead I was filled with the feeling of how precious life is, but also how natural death was. Strangely it was very peaceful. So far this trip has taught me numerous lessons both deliberately and accidentally.
Cassie Jones, Montreal, Quebec
In the past couple of days a lot has happened. On our first day aboard The Clipper Adventure I had the delightful pleasure to see white-nosed dolphins and the largest mammal on Earth, the Blue Whale swim alongside the ship. Students on Ice cast off the ship for a day. We took the Zodiacs to the Northern tip of Iceland - a remote region that even some Icelandic people never experience. We came across a grand cliff that was a summer home to approximately 100,000 Arctic birds and several species. A dead Kittiwake lay face down eerily drifting in the oceans wake. It seemed the birds squealed as they congregated, nestled in the cracks of the jagged rocks to mourn its death.
On shore we explored and hiked. We discovered piece of wood, which contained nails and a harshly worn foundation. There were no trees in the area and was scarcely found in Iceland as a whole; therefore we assume that it was a primitive hunting shelter. We made our way slowly but surely up a 450 metre high ridge. I was humbled by the large and powerful landscape. The hike and the landscape combined left me breathless. Although, I felt smaller in comparison to the scale of the century old mountains it gave me meaning, It left me feeling that I played a significant role in the future of this land. I could make it a good one. I know I have to help protect the poles because I want a sixteen year old like myself to come to a land so rich and untouched. I want that young person to feel free, a sense of peace and find meaning in the beauty and complexity of the North. I wouldn’t want people to forget how to relate and bond with Nature because when that happens we will have severed our connection with ourselves. Humans are a part of Nature. And Nature is a part of humans
Chase Murdoch, Newmarket, Ontario
Hey everyone, we are now on the Clipper Adventurer. Over the past couple of days, we have experienced our first zodiac cruise and landing, where we hiked up a giant hill (about 450m tall) in a place where very few people have ever been, into a gigantic cloud of most. After the hike, we boarded our zodiacs for a cruise around a bird cliff, where we got an awesome close-up view of some various bird chicks as well as their parents, who presented many opportunities for amazing photos of the bids. As we began sailing away from the Icelandic fjord in which we were anchored for a few hours as we watched birds, went on a hike, or painted a picture of the amazing scenery of Iceland.
Looking outside the window in the dining room, I started to notice that the waves were becoming stronger and stronger, as the ship was rocking more and more. As the motion became more intense, people were becoming sicker and sicker, with the speed racing towards a coastline. Soon, most of my fellow students and some of the staff had joined the "horizontal team" of people who were seasick, with sickness bags hanging out of their pockets, and on the table beside them. By late afternoon, the ship's staff had placed sickness bags all over the ship, for those of us who felt the need...
This morning, an announcement came over the speaker system, notifying us that Blue Whales have been spotted just off both sides of the ship. Within a few moments, all of the ship was crowded together leaning over the railing of the ship so that we could see the whales surfacing. Each time they surfaced, we all could hear the click click click of all of the cameras going off at the same time. Later on in the day, we had another set of workshops that we could choose to do. I chose to do one on trophic levels in the Arctic, and the relationships between them. During the workshop, the group of us that chose to take it, split up into two groups, and drew different food webs on the deck of the ship. Throughout the day, we were able to view a couple of presentations. One on the oceans and how they work, and the relationship between density, and salinity/temperature of the ocean. Between lunch and dinner, a few sets of whales were sighted however, the only whales I saw, were the Blue Whales at the beginning of the day. So far, this is a great experience, and I can’t wait to see Greenland tomorrow.
Drum dancing workshop with Derek Gill, David Serkoak, Robin Ikkutilsluk,
and Johnny Issaluk
Kendelle Anstey, St. John's, NL
Our first day on board the ship yesterday we had got to stop at this wildlife bird reserve where we hiked up this glacier carved mountain in northern Iceland. The zodiac ride off the ship was a bit chilly but once we got on land for the hike the journey was very interesting. All over you could notice all kinds of different plant species and every step you'd take up the mountain you'd end up squishing into a lot of mosses and Arctic plants, so it was quite difficult hiking up, but once we got there the rewards were fantastic. On top of the mountain there was a small lake from the melted snow, lots of fog and birds and all kinds of animal burrows. There was also a small pile of snow and ice and you could really tell by looking at the moss that a lot of recent snow had melted because of the weather which also leads to some cool stuff I learned today! In the polar education workshop I went to, the scientists showed us predictions about the ice and where it is in winter and now where it is. I also heard what someone else on the students on ice team had said about where she lived on Baffin Island, they usually have sea ice formed in November, but it never came until January. It’s very different when you talk about climate change and actually see and hear it for your own eyes from stories from everyone around the world and what we have learned in the workshops. Another highlight for today was we seen some blue whales!!!! I've always wanted to see one and how big they are. I got some pretty cool videos too. But for today this is it for now, we are about to do a bottle drop for a water current study! So much to learn and see!
Joanne Idlout & Ayagutak Alexander-May weathering a bout of sea-sickness
Kristin Kolka Bjarnadottir, Holar, Iceland
I am so glad to finally be on the Clipper! We're heading to unfamiliar shores (for me at least) and that is a very welcome change from the familiar landscape of Iceland. Yesterday we said goodbye to Iceland by going hiking and zodiac cruising in an area that many Icelanders, including me, have never been to and that was awesome. The zodiacs are so much fun and especially if Ian is your zodiac driver because he'll sing songs and tell jokes. The hike was longer than ones we've been on before but you are of course always rewarded by the view from the top... Or are you? When we got to the top we only saw white on the other side because there was so much fog and the view from the side we came from wasn't that good either. But the fresh air and exercise was good, especially because we were introduced to the Horizontal Seasick Club later that day and I am officially a member like almost all the other students! But seasickness aside, the Clipper Adventurer and the crew are amazing. Chocolates on pillows, menus and waiters at meals and the friendly crew make a delightful experience. We're also started on workshops and yesterday I went to the wildlife sighting workshop and today I went to the trophical activities workshop. Both were lots of fun and very informative and now I'm feeling better and looking forward to more workshops and presentations and Greenland tomorrow!
Michael Gardiner, Torbay, NL
Yesterday we had our first stop on the ship. It was the first time we had really gotten to get out into nature. We were finally out of the city and into the wilderness. Our trail went along side a small mountain with a giant rock face. It was an incredible view from below. I thought how amazing it would be to touch that rock face and go off the beaten path. A friend of mine felt the same and after a few minutes we reached the top. The view was spectacular. We were on one side of a valley that in the middle was carved with rivers and padded with moss. Straight ahead of us we could see the clouds topping the other mountains. After the walk up, in the clean air with a valley at our feet I felt an ecstatic calm. A sense of incredible satisfaction. We had been to a place where perhaps no one had been to before, and for that feeling I am truly grateful.
Saladie Snowball, Kangiqsualujjuaq, Quebec
Today is the 6th day of our trip and time is flying. It has been 2 days since we boarded the ship. We left Iceland yesterday and I went for a long hike with the group. The scenery was great! We saw a lot of birds too while we were on a zodiac. I have been getting seasick and for the past few hours the toilet has been my friend lol. I can't wait to board to Greenland and eat the country food! We saw some dolphins yesterday and saw some blue whales today. I will be entering some music classes while we are in this ship. I am getting used to this ship and haven't vomited today and that is great!! I miss my little brother the most because I miss teasing him. On the other hand, everything is going all right and the food is great! Anyway, I am out of words and I'll keep you updated. Anaanarani, Ataatarani, Aniapirani, Angajurani, Piqatikkani paingnguqunga kisiani tamaani qanuingituq, alianartuk nutaani piqatitaarsuni. Takutilaarivugut, nallirivatsi. P.S: Andrea is beside me, we're writing together. ahaha. =D
Expedition Leader Geoff Green checks the charts on the bridge
Samantha Lyall – Letter A
We are now aboard the Clipper Adventurer, setting sail to Greenland. Our last day in Iceland was pretty tiring. I slept most of the ways on the bus. But, the little town we stopped at to meet the ship was nice and cozy; it reminded me a bit of home. Besides the fact that the whole place smelled like fish. I had a nice little chat with one of the staff members, I can't remember his name now; he reminded me a lot of my dad. He told me that the majority of hump back whales go to Newfoundland and Labrador after they are done mating. I did not know that; you learn something new every day. I'm getting along really well with my new roommates; were all Inuit so it makes it easier for us to relate and communicate with each other. It was a very exciting day for all of us. We're all pumped to be on the ship now and glad we don't have to take any more buses. I can't wait to get to Greenland and explore a new place and take on new adventures. I'll have more to tell you tomorrow.
PS – A shout out to my parents; I didn't get sick yet and I hope it stays that way. I love you both so much and can't wait to see you. I'm having amazing time and making new friends every day. Oh, and mom, there were no ullu earring in Iceland. But, don't worry, I got you something else. :)
Samantha Lyall – Letter B
Today felt very much like home. We anchored out near the coast of Iceland and took to zodiacs to shore for a hike. We hiked to the very top of the mountain; it was an amazing view and I got lots of nice pictures. On the way back down, we saw two arctic foxes. I chased one right over the other side of the hill. It was so good to see wildlife again. I was really hoping to pick some berries too but they were all dead. After our hike, we went out in the zodiacs again to look for birds. There were a lot of seagulls; the most I've ever seen in my life, and a few puffins here and there. It was so good to be out on the land! When we got back to the boat, a lot of people started to get sea sick, I'm happy to say that I wasn't one of them. Even though people were sick and beat out from the hike, we still had workshops. I went to the one with Lee about photography. I learned a few ways on how to take more eye capturing pictures; I can't wait to try them out. We should be in Greenland tomorrow; I can't wait to explore a new place!
Gelena Koonark hanging out on deck
Samantha Lyall – Letter C
I'm getting along really well with my roommates now. Were all laughing and talking right now as I'm writing this. I really like it because it was very awkward between us first. I'm making new friends every day. My dream came true today; we went to a traditional farm and got to go to a stable where they had 60 or more Icelandic horses. I was pumped! I got to pet them all and one was licking my face. I would love to live on a farm with horses. Another highlight of my day was having a speed date with all the staff. They told us all about themselves and what they are doing on the trip. It was really interesting and got me thinking about my own future. I'm really excited for tomorrow; it's when we leave on the ship. I can't wait to set sail!
PS – A shout out to my parents; I won't be able to call you anymore. So, I just want to say I love and miss you both so much! I can't wait to see you and share all my stories with you. And don't worry about me; I'll be fine... I'm in good hands. :)
Shaquille Starks smile lights up the Denmark Strait
JULY 29 - MORNING UPDATE
Our team is presently in the middle of the Denmark Strait - en route to eastern Greenland. ETA is 09:00 AM tomorrow morning!
We have just spoken with Geoff Green, our Expedition Leader, who assures us that the sea conditions are much more favourable than they were yesterday and that students are up and around and enjoying activities.
The team started the morning with a bang - with the sighting of a pod of Blue Whales! The pod - along with a small calf - came quite close to the ship and students had a good look at one of the rarer experiences on Earth. Blue Whales live and migrate through many oceans on Earth - but an up-close and personal encounter is very rare! The team were buzzing about the experience all morning. And if anything can make you forget about sea sickness for a few minutes - it's a chance encounter with the biggest and one of the rarest animals on Earth!
This is a sea-day - which means that there will be no landings or zodiac cruise as the ship makes its way to Greenland. Sea days however, provide excellent opportunities for our amazing educational team members to present lectures and lead workshops.
Here is a schedule for the day...
8:00 – Yoga
8:30 – Breakfast
9:45 – Presentation: The Ocean at the Top of the World – An introduction to Arctic Oceanography by Eric Galbraith.
11:15 – Workshops (students may choose among the following)
1.Drum Dancing & Song
3. Polar Education Experiments
6. Trophic Activities
7. Conducting Media Interviews
1300 – Lunch
1430 – Bottle Drop Preparation & Drift Bottle Drop #1
1530 – Presentation: Blue Whales in the North Atlantic by Richard Sears
1700 – Introduction to Pods & Pod Meetings (Students break into groups to plan ad develop post-expedition projects).
1830 – Presentation: Greenland – The Largest Island on Earth by David Fletcher
1945 – Captain’s Reception
2015 – Dinner
2130 – Evening Recap (Into to the SOI Evening News, Visions of the Arctic Slideshow)
Keep in mind that even though this schedule looks jam-packed - students have time to explore the ship, meet & talk, visit the bridge, journal, read or sit on the deck and look for the next Blue Whale.
Stay Tuned for Further Updates!