(All photos by Lee Narraway)
An SOI Pyramid!
JOHN CRUMP: SOI Educator & Senior Advisor, Polar Centre, UNEP/GRID-Arendal
The students have just finished a series of workshops where they are learning everything from how to use a GPS to how paint or write a song. (The latter course is taught by Ian Tamblyn, one of Canada’s foremost songwriter/musicians. In his non-musical life, Tamblyn has also led Arctic expeditions and can drive a mean zodiac).
For the next hour everyone has gone to seek a quiet spot on the ship. I’m on the upper stern deck at a heavy wooden table writing this blog. Others are nose first in novels or looking over the side for more fin whales. We just saw a pod of six or seven of these magnificent creatures surface to breath right next to the ship. We slowed down to watch and take photos and the whales obliged by hanging around a bit, spouting high into the calm waters of the Denmark Strait. After about a dozen deep breaths they sounded, not to be seen again. We are back under full steam, heading south along the fog-shrouded coast of eastern Greenland.
This morning we arrived off the coast of the largest island in the world. Fog hid the land in a thick grey blanket. The temperature had dropped. That and the fog told us there was ice nearby and soon it began to appear on the bridge radar.
The sun cast eerie shadows on the water. A “fog bow” encircled the Clipper Adventurer like a magic portal through which we were continually entering but never leaving. Slowly the ice began to reveal itself, ice bergs at first emerged wraithlike from the mist but quickly gained solidity. Small, hard pieces of ice called “bergy bits” (the actual glaciological term) started streaming by. The fog lifted a bit and more ice appeared. Now we had enough light to see the bright turquoise bottom of the ice bergs dropping into the inky water, rollers sliding up their flanks and splashing back. Sea ice has streamed out of the Arctic and now clings thickly to the coast, mixing with ice bergs being ejected by hundreds of glaciers along the coast.
The ship slowed and we edged our way into the ice looking for an opening that would take us to Napassorssuaq Fjord. Slowly, slowly we bumped into small pans that spun off the side of the ship. Some had dark spots showing where marine mammals, possibly seals, had lazed in the sun. One was spotted with blood, leading to speculation that it was the last resting place of a polar bear’s meal.
On the bridge, the radar shows a solid yellow fluorescent field of ice ahead and all around. We abandon the attempt to get into the fjord still over 10 kilometres away. Even if we could have made it in we might not have been able to leave. The wind, currents and ice movement are unpredictable at best. We turn south and put on speed, heading for Prins Christians Sund at the bottom of the island. It’s a sound that cuts off some of the journey around Cape Farewell, the southernmost point of Greenland. We hope to reach there tonight and maybe get out in the zodiacs. After three days on the ship, two of them in rough weather, many people are looking forward to a temporary escape.
But for the moment, the sun is shining on the on the stern deck, the sky is blue, the winds light. It’s a perfect day. “Flexibility is the key” is one of the mottos of Students on Ice. It’s a lesson all are learning first hand. If we hadn’t turned back from the ice, we wouldn’t have met that pod of fin whales on its way south.
JULY 30 JOURNALS, PHOTOS AND UPDATES...
(All photos by Lee Narraway)
James Day, Inuvik, NT
First of all I'd like to make a shout out to my Ma, Dad and rest of the family. Kaila and the rest of my friends back in Inuvik! Missing you all and hope everything is well. But I am really enjoying myself on this expedition. We have already done so much! My mind is scrambled on all the things we have done. Not only do I get to experience stuff I never got to do before, but I get to meet new people. It’s amazing, the land is amazing, and the experience is amazing. I definitely will be taking a lot back with me: new ideas, knowledge, and also just great memories. My highlight of this trip so far is... all of it -- from getting to know new friends that will last a while, to meeting new fears and experiencing extraordinary things. I can’t wait to share the stories and experiences.
George kisses his bottle before into the sea in the Drift Bottle Program
(a study for the Institute of Ocean Sciences, Canadian Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans)
Amaya Cherian-Hall, Whitehorse, Yukon – Letter #1
Wow, the food on this boat is amazing. We start with appetizers then soup, salad, entree and finally dessert. The waiters even put your napkin on your lap. It's funny - I was really craving fries and guess what? They served fries! Unfortunately they came with a burger and I don't eat anything that haS a mother so, I ordered pasta with fries. Don't worry Dad, I am getting enough protei! I have been eating beans almost every day. I changed my mind, Dad. I would like to spend the 20th to the 26th with Aurora. I love you family!
Becky Okatsiak (right) teaches a dance from the Western Arctic
to Nausheen Rajan (second from the right), Bella de la Houssaye Crane,
Alice Wilson and Cassie Jones.
Amaya Cherian-Hall, Whitehorse, Yukon – Letter #2
I always wondered how artists did those beautiful silhouette pictures where the colours of each shape are contrasting and don't blend into each other. My question was answered today at around 2 o’clock when I took an art workshop with a man named Jolly. He showed us how to do print making. You draw a picture and then you cut each shape out in wax paper. After that you line them all up one after the other on a new piece of paper and colour them in. It’s hard to explain with words! We saw about 7 fin whales right beside the ship today and they were amazing. You could hear them coming out of the water. Yesterday we saw some blue whales, too. We also saw some dolphins. I love you family!
Nausheen Rajan, Orlando, Florida
Wow! What a last few wonderful days. We finally have made it to Greenland, and it is definitely colder. It was such a beautiful sight to see the sunset for the first time yesterday, and then wake up to icebergs surrounding the ship today. The last few days have been intense with sea sickness (I didn't throw up thankfully, knock on wood!) to climbing the cliff, to educational presentations... all so thrilling! There have been little sparks, and some memorable highlights. The hardest and most memorable experience so far has definitely been climbing the cliffs. It was hard, but once we made it to the top it was totally worth it and breathtaking. We've been so lucky to spot blue whales and porpoises the first couple of days. I really hope we catch the Northern Lights... that would be the cherry on top. I learned a cultural dance today, and it's really interesting to see how the dance creates a traditional story. I'm never bored, there is also something to do. I've joined the ship's newspaper team The Daily Ice Cap and I really hope that adds to my experience in totality. POD groups were also announced yesterday. It has been such a great experience so much, and I'm getting all this great knowledge thrown at me. I can't wait to go back home and share it with my community. There are so many educators, staff, students, etc. all here in this together, and each individual is so unique in their own way... even the toddlers! There is a lot of good karma surrounding us, and I hope I continue to both inspire and be inspired!
Doreen Kanayuk from Pangnirtung, Nunavut
Yesterday, it was my first time seeing a mother and a baby blue whale. Today has been a good day so far, we saw 8 or 9 fin back whales. It was awesome but I didn't have a chance to take pictures of them, but they were awesome. I didn't get seasick yesterday, but I have been feeling seasick this afternoon. I was so happy to see some dolphins on our first day on the ship. Tonight was an awesome evening with songs and throat singing. Johnny’s film was impressive, jumping and kicking the ball.
I am thankful that I have made friends on this trip!
Jonathon Chatman shows off his polar bear hat
Kiran Dhatt-Gauthier, Sudbury, ON
Arriving at our first destination in the Northern fjords of Iceland, we could only hope to see those breathtaking views for which Iceland has received international merit. And did it ever deserve those countless awards, captivated tourists and homelanders in the volcanic ruins of old. It is no surprise that Iceland attracts thousands of tourists every year to see the vast, untouched regions of Iceland. Being the first time for not only the students, but also the crew made the event memorable for all of us, seeing as none of us knew what to expect. Even the majority of Iceland could not have explained to us the freefalling cliffs, rolling hills and a countryside rich in colours from the lightest blue to vivid orange. Watching dots after dots turn into six foot tall beings find their way up to the precipice was an experience in itself, having nothing but time to fully engage with the world around you, and with those dots travelling beside you. The birds who called this rock home apparently thought that we were simply part of their ecosystem, inspecting us as thoroughly as we inspected them, yet never finding the need to leave, even as the waves and waves of humans rolled in. Kittiwakes, black guillemots, razorbills, and puffins lined the cliff edge while the other thousands flew overhead. The constant bantering of the birds left us silent, perhaps trying to reconnect with our homo sapiens ancestors hoping to decipher the code of these flying dinosaurs. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Iceland, and with tears in our eyes, we sailed off into the never-setting sun, waiting to find the true land of ice, Greenland.
Assuming that everyone has read the blogs of other people here on the expedition, I’ll take a moment to focus on the food on this absolutely fascinating ship.
The food that we are having is always different. The way that I see it is through degradation of taste. What you do is you take a spoon of chocolate cake per se, and then in your mind you break it down to the smallest particles you can imagine. Once the chemicals start having some effect on your taste receptors, you have to try to send this game of randomness to your brain stem, and try to make order from chaos. Music that I heard here was thought to be long lost in my mind. Because of the chef I heard the greatest compositions of violin, drums, piano and cello, and I am truly thankful for that.
Morning started at five thirty and usually a strong moral principle is required for me to get up; today was very different. I was very excited to see the ice which I did see later this day. It was rather inspiring to see a fog bow and very promising since it is a sign of luck, which it was because we saw a black fin whale even though it was foggy. However we did have to wander around the Greenlandic ice because we couldn’t get through. Hopefully we will get through soon, and by plan we will by four o’clock in the morning.
Bridget Graham works on her painting
Amaya Cherian-Hall, Whitehorse, Yukon – Letter #3
The last two days have been a blur of sleep and sea sickness, only getting out of bed to see the occasional whale. Today I finally got out of bed and haven't vomited yet. I don't think I will ever go on a cruise. We were hoping to be able to take the zodiacs into Greenland this morning but the ice was too thick. I hope we will have better luck this evening. I was excited to go to Nuuk but I don't think we are going there now. I am not too disappointed just as long as we get to walk somewhere in Greenland.
We have to start workshops now so I don't have time to say a lot of things but I would like to quickly say how much I love my family.
Jolly Atagoyuk teaches Amaya Cherian-Hall the art of stencilling
Beatrice Yeung, Hong Kong
Unfolding the rippled curtains in my cabin, I started my day by gazing at the calm gentle sea, hoping to see an outlining figure of Greenland, only to be greeted by a cloud of steamy fog. After breakfast, I went out on the deck to get some fresh air, not expecting to see a thing in the thick cloud of fog. However, in the mist, there was a figure of Greenland at the distance, and although I could not really make out its appearance, it was beautiful to me. Soon after, an announcement on the spotting of our first sea ice was made. As usual, everyone dropped everything they were doing and rushed out onto the deck. A surge of freezing cold air struck my face and hands, and the cold stabbed me like needles. I felt the cold, yet the feeling of excitement completely threw the coldness away from me. Coming from Hong Kong, I have never seen an iceberg or sea ice, and the fact that I am there seeing all that was just overwhelming.
Later on in the day, there was a presentation on permafrost, glaciers and sea ice, and throughout the presentation, the speakers explored the impacts of climate change on all of them and how it affects our world. The heavy sea ice obstructed our route and caused a change in our itinerary: as Geoff always says 'Flexibility is the key'. If it wasn't for the change of plans, we would not have been able to spot the seven to nine finback whales. Overall, it has been a flexible but good day. I am so glad I am having this amazing experience.
Joey Loi, Victoria Wee and Jack Pong celebrate their Chinese heritage
Jack Pong, Hong Kong
I could not have asked for a better day for learning new things today. We just arrived to Greenland this morning and as we traveled along the coast of Greenland I saw small blocks of ice drift pass us as we went along. I was extremely excited to see icebergs and sea ice for the first time in my life and I anxiously waited on the deck. Unfortunately, the fog today was pretty bad so we couldn't really see anything in the front. However, as I returned to the deck with warmer clothes massive blocks of icebergs started appearing behind the fog, within minutes we were surrounded by a combination of sea ice and different icebergs. The scene was breathtaking and all I did was stand and absorb everything I was seeing. The ice that we saw could fit everyone on this expedition on it, although the ice that we say today may not be as big as the others we will see in the following days, nonetheless, the scene sent chills down my spine.
However, the day was not over. I didn't think that anything could happen today that would even match what I saw this morning, but in the afternoon as workshops ended, seven to nine finback whales were spotted on the side of the ship. Watching the whales swim up and down just meters away from the boat was just as memorable of an experience as seeing sea ice and icebergs for the first time. It was probably one of the coolest things I've seen so far on the expedition and I hope this isn't the end of it!
Jo-Anne Idlout from Iqaluit, Nunavut
Today has been a pretty good day, I haven't gotten seasick yet. It has been an amazing trip so far. I have learned so much! We are currently on our way to Greenland and so far, we have seen icebergs, different types of whales and birds. I cannot wait until we get to Torngat Mountains. That will be the highlight of the trip for me. I find it very interesting and would like to learn more about it. There are many amazing people on this trip. I find that the diversity of the people on this trip makes it all the more special. As we are halfway through the trip already, I would like to end with the fact that I wish this trip could be longer (aside from the whole seasickness)!
Yashvi Shah and Joey Loi learn to paint
Sherilyn Sewoee, Arviat, NU
When I got into the ship we were all happy. But the next day I got really seasick. I was so seasick that I went to sleep for 2 days. Before I got sick I saw some dolphins. They were beautiful. I'm happy now that I'm getting better. Hope I won't get sick again.
Derrick Gill, Memphis Tennessee
First of all HAPPY BIRTHADY to my big sister! Today I saw my first iceberg ever. IT WAS SO COOL. I have learned so much since this trip started and have made lots of new friends. Today I also learned a new dance and taught one as well. I taught the “Beat It” dance by Michael Jackson and “The Dougie.” I am having a blast and can't wait for more fun.
Jack Pong, Hong Kong
Today started off with a blast, blue whales were spotted before breakfast was even served. The largest animals to ever live on this planet were swimming right next to our ship. Apparently there were three blue whales swimming next to us and two of them were a mother and her child. As I stood on the top deck I could just see the large shadow of the mother whale as it dove down after its breath. I was amazed at the sheer size of just the top half of the blue whale. I probably haven't realized what a privilege it has been to share the same air the blue whale has taken in. Throughout the day, I heard that many of the staff who have been exploring as their job for over 30 years who have never seen a blue whale in the wild. This unique and sacred experience also reminded me about how fragile our environment is. Although for the past few days we’ve seen the absolute wonders of this planet but to hear about how rare it was to see the blue whale just reminded me that my generation has the large responsibility to protect the wildlife left on this planet.
Annie Petaulassie shows Otera Ortega and Eileen Emudluk
how to embroider
Katharine Nuotio-Trimm, Grand Falls Windsor, NL
The trip so far has been wonderful, minus the fact that I got seasick yesterday, and I have a cold. I really miss Iceland, but I'm really looking forward to go to Greenland. We are having a great time on the trip. There are song writing workshops, painting workshops and a whole lot of wildlife. We even got to see some blue whales and some puffins. It's really cold here. It kind of feels out of place to wear a coat in the summer.
Mary Paquet, Ottawa, ON
So I was seasick. I spent lots of time on the stern with Liv from Greenland trying to get over our seasickness. Thankfully that's over now, and I can eat again and attend lots of presentations and workshops! On our first day on the ship, we had a small pod of dolphins escort us to the Arctic Circle; it was absolutely amazing! Its incredible how many impressive people are on this expedition. I find myself taken back by all of their amazing experiences and hope that I'll be able to take as much as I can from them during this expedition. I loved being out on the deck this morning when we saw our first sea ice and icebergs. It was a phenomenal sightseeing all of the ice emerging from the thick fog we've had since this morning. Sorry I haven't blogged every day Mom, but there is too much to do!
Thomas Nashak, Kuujjuaq, QC
Today was really fun: I saw up to 9 fin back whales. The flight to Iceland was really long: 5 hours. Iceland is a beautiful country. I would want to go there again. Being on a big ship like the Clipper Adventurer is really fun!
A "fogbow" forms over the ship's bow
JULY 30 UPDATES
*** To see where our team was at 6:50 AM this morning... Click here! ***
LAND HO - or perhaps ICE HO is more fitting!!!
Welcome to Eastern Greenland!
The team is just off of the coast of Greenland and land was spotted earlier this morning, but has since been veiled by a quite a bit of fog. They are proceeding into the fog and everyone is out on deck, eager to spot some sea ice. There is a beautiful fog bow, the sun in shining and a whole new energy has taken over the ship!
Last night concluded with a really relaxing recap and briefing. Lee’s Arctic Dreams slideshow was played to Ian Tamblyn’s music, the daily Ice Cap team assembled and the SOI Broadcasting Corporation was introduced (with the aim of presenting the evening news each/every other night on the ship).
Known as the world’s largest island - Greenland is home to an extraordinary landscape, incredible wildlife opportunities, snowy mountains and deep fjords. It is simply one of our favourite places to visit in the world.
The latest ice charts show a good amount of sea ice and icebergs in the region - and so our students certainly would have spotted their first icebergs hours ago, if not last night.
* Expedition Leader, Geoff Green, just came on the PA system to tell us that the ship’s radar has spotted the edge of the sea ice and that the team will be pulling up beside it to follow it south and possibly to find a way through it *
Today is what we call an "Expedition Day" - meaning that depending on ice conditions - our Captain and our Expedition Leader, Geoff Green - with their years' of experience visiting this region - will find the best opportunities for the team today.
But again - depending on ice conditions! - this day will surely include exciting zodiac cruises, possible visits to sea ice, ship cruises up extraordinary fjords, landings and hikes near glaciers - and lots of educational opportunities for students - thanks to our educational team on board.
Here is the general shape to the day...
700 – Yoga
730 – Breakfast
900 – Visit to Nappasorssuaq Fjord for an ice cruise and/or landing and hike.
** Afternoon schedule depends on landing and zodiac cruising opportunities
1230 – Lunch
1430 – Presentation: State of the Cryosphere
1600 – Workshops:
1. Journal Keeping Circle
2. Visual Art
3. Inuit Craftmaking & Sewing
4. Global Positioning System/GPS
5. Music & Songwriting
6. Wildlife Research Techniques
7. North Atlantic Deep Water Formation, Microscope Same Examination & Polar Science Experiments
1800 – Presentation: The Arctic Year
1930 – Captain’s Reception
2000 – Dinner
2130 – Evening Recap & Briefing
We did receive many photos and journals from yesterday's sea day across the Denmark Strait. Our team is currently updating the website - and please expect to see this updated by mid morning.
And if you haven't visited the Video page in a few days - please have a look! We updated the page yesterday with a new video about the team's extraordinary Blue Whale encounter that happened yesterday morning.
Stay tuned for more updates!