Arctic Expedition 2014

Follow the journey : July 9 - July 24

Students on Ice | Natural Heritage Building | 1740 Chemin Pink | Gatineau QC J9J 3N7 | 1-866-336-64231-866-336-6423

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nachvak Fiord / Ramah Bay

Expedition Update

The morning included discussions and experiential learning in the field including landscape water colour painting, hands-on research, learn about wildlife monitoring from Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Garry Donaldson, wilderness medicine by Dr. Brenda Brennan and music workshops with award-winning singer/songwriters Ian Tamblyn and Kathleen Edwards. Before heading back the ship, the zodiac drivers took the students up river to Eclipse sound where they got to observe a beautiful waterfall.

After a late lunch, the staff and students were able to see their first polar bear. During this time students heard from Canadian Museum of Nature mineralogist Paula Piilonen. Before dinner, the students and staff took part in an other zodiac ride around Ryan's Bay where they were able to see their second and third polar. The last polar bear could be observed swimming beside the boats, much to the amusement of the students. More exciting workshops took place in the afternoon as students learn the art of visual storytelling, created their own Inuit art masterpiece and learn about the Arctic landscape from geologist and glaciologist Eric Mattson.

Students and staff did not arrive back on the ship for dinner until after nine, and their end of day briefing did not conclude until after eleven o'clock. One of our students from Pond Inlet, Tat Akpaleeapik, performed a rap song, which was followed by a few songs by Kathleen Edwards and Ian Tamblyn concluded the evening with a short performance. Students and staff are all enjoying themselves, and are all tired but quite happy! 

Stay tuned for more updates and don't forget to re visit previous daily journey updates for new photos, blogs and video!

Update from SOI Expedition Leader Geoff Green:

Unfortunately, the original schedule had to change because of the preserve of ice ahead. This morning we experience our first new destination. During the morning the ship entered the Eclipse Channel our first encounter with Torngat Mountains National Park.

As the mist cleared we began to appreciate the stunning surrounding our scout boat had found a landing and all were soon in the zodiacs enjoying a trip up a river culminating in a beautiful waterfall then back to the main bay where we landed on some ledges before moving to some exquisite Tundra. Here folks divided into group supporting various workshops covering a use range from Plankton sampling to Inuit sewing what a truly wonderful active scene it made.

All too soon lunch come around, back to the ship and on towards further adventures. Around 16h00 the ship hoved to end somewhere away in the fog lay Iron Strand, the beach famous for its garnets. A little earlier in the afternoon we had been given a presentation on minerals so were briefed on what to expect. Sadly in the arctic, the weather has no respect for best laid plan. A scout boat went in and reported back that a combination of poor visibility and large swell meant a operation was not possible. But on here there is no time for despair, new plans were soon hatched, and the ship moved to the fairly short distance to another new destination Ryan's Bay.

As the ship entered the bay, the skies broke into layers of blue, high clouds and low mist setting off the rugged scenery. An announcement from the bridge caused great excitement, a polar bear was seen on the beach. Its presence brought on instant reaction from the ship the zodiacs were lowered and a magical evening zodiac cruise went ahead. During the cruise another bear was seen swimming, it was treated with respect and passed by without any sign of stress. A recap and briefing ended a really superb expedition day.


Students Charlotte Irish and Davonna Kasook - Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Charlotte Irish on shore at Torngat Mountains National Park


Shelley Ball teaches a photo workshop on the land - Photo (c) Lee Narraway

Jasmine sketches the beauty that surrounds her - Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Jill works on a watercolour painting - Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Claire concentrates as she sketches a tiny Arctic wildflower - Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Karen and Melody work together on their paintings - Photo (c) Lee Narraway


A Polar bear pauses before diving into the fiord - Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Photo (c) Lee Narraway


A curious Polar bear pops out of the water to look at our zodiacs - Photo (c) Lee Narraway

 Photo (c) Lee Narraway


Photo (c) Lee Narraway

 
Eider ducks over Eclipse Harbour - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Students on zodiac explore a hidden waterfall - Photo (c) Martin Lipman



Daniele Bianchi samples the biology in the water with students Chaim Andersen, Melody Teddy, Karen Benoit, and
Sergio Raez-Villanueva - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Noel Alfonso, fish expert with the Canadian Museum of Nature  drags a net on the beach at Eclipse Harbour with
students Teddy Hurley, Mila Mezei and David Macintyre - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Wylee, Tanya and Dylan look out over the Eclipse Harbour - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Leacross students make a human totem pole - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Inuit bear guard Maria Dicker from Nain, NL - Photo (c) Martin Lipman



Juno award-winning singer/songwriter Ian Tamblyn laughs with student Sregio Vaez Villanueva after playing together
Photo (c) Martin Lipman



Pangnirtung master printmaker Jolly Atagooyuk completes a landscape after a painting workshop on the land
Photo (c) Martin Lipman


An evening zodiac cruise on Ryan's Bay - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Tatega Akpaleeapik from Pond Inlet, Nunavut raps for the students in the forward lounge of the Sea Adventurer
Photo (c) - Martin Lipman


Garry Donaldson of the Canadian Wildlife Service perform a maritime bird survey. Such surveys from moving vessels are important to provide data noon the location and density of sea birds at sea. - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Students Addison Asuchak and Justin Fisch write personal notes that they will insert and seal in to a bottle for the SOI annual bottle drop to assist in tracking changes to ocean currents. In previous years, bottles have been retrieved from various parts of the world and students contacted. - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Students Monica Johnson (r) and Brianna Brown await the start of the SOI annual bottle drop to assist in tracking changes to ocean currents. In previous years, bottles have been retrieved from various parts of the world and students contacted. - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Polar historian and Polar Medal recipient David Fletcher leads a seminar on polar leadership, during one of the many option seminars offered during a sea day enroute to southern Greenland. - Photo (c) Martin Lipman


Garry Donaldson of the Canadian Wildlife Service perform a maritime bird survey from the bridge of the Sea Adventurer. Such surveys from moving vessels are important to provide data about the location and density of sea birds at sea.
Photo (c) Martin Lipman

 

Student Journals - July 14, 2014


 

JASMINE CANAVIRI-LAYMON
Brampton, Ontario

Today begin with with an early morning and a late night. Since we are now officially in Labradour (we were in Quebec earlier) we had to change the time zone, thus meaning we lost an hour of sleep. As sad as that is, we got to go on the coast of the Torngat Mountains National Park and choose a Workshop. Me being who I am, I wanted to do everything but only got to choose one. Out of all the science, arts, and nature-loving things, I chose the sketch-watercolor workshop. Now anyone back home that knows me, knows that I am terrible at watercolor, thus me choosing the sketch portion.

Soon, we will be going to choose our second workshop and once again I am unsure what to choose. Now apart from these fun workshops, being up here is beautiful. I wish that everyone here can experience what I am experiencing; I wish that they can experience what I am feeling and what I am seeing. There is just so much to see and do. One thing that I did see today was a polar bear. Although it was from a far distance (the polar bear was a little dot that moved on the mountain), it was amazing. It is weird how much I still haven't seen. Back home I am convinced that I have seen everything there is to see. To be able to get out and see more is unfathomable (I'm trying to use big words and I'm unsure how to spell them but I know what they mean!).

Now all that I have to say has been said and now I'm just going to relax (until our excursion)

P.S. Shout out to anyone reading this!

 

JILLIAN CERULLO
Scituate, Rhode Island

I’m so so so sorry for not bogging the past few days! But I have legitimate excuses: two days ago the blogging room wasn’t set up and last night I couldn’t find the library… oops.

Any way, now I’m here and so much has changed since I last updated you guys. So, two days ago we woke up at 5:45 am and got on a chartered flight to Kuujjuak. We had breakfast on the plain and it was my first experience with air plane food; it was not good. I usually don’t like flying, but it wasn’t so bad.

When we landed, we walked around the town for a bit and I bought ketchup flavored potato chips that I guess are really popular in Canada but I didn’t like them. We then got on a bus to the zodiacs and finally went to the boat. It is amazing.

We're on a 5 star ice-breaking arctic cruiser, I’ve never been to a 5 star anything; even the movies I watch are usually 3 ½. So this boat is really nice. I share a room with Brianna Brown but I miss my old room mates, but there was a little chocolate on my pillow when I got there which was so cute. They make the bed twice a day, once to make it, and then again to pull back the blanket and leave the candy - its crazy. The student lounge is a room the size of my house, lined with a couch that wraps around the room, and filled with little tables and chares. Cookies, tea, and coffee are available at all times in the lounge. Even better is the dining room; its amazing. You get a menu and waiters, and there are 4 forks, 2 spoons, and 2 knives for each meal. WHAT? Any way, the food is amazing and everything is so fancy.

Even more amazing, though, are the views. Yesterday we took the zodiacs out and toured a little bay, and there were chunks of ice floating in the water and it was so beautiful. We even got to drink water from a small fresh water waterfall. Then we got out and explored a little abandoned town which was really cool to look at the insides of all the old broken houses.

That night, we took another ride around the Button Islands which were also beautiful. The sights of the mountains and snow and ice, the water and sky, ugh, it's just breath taking. Today, during breakfast, there was a polar bear wandering around on shore. It was pretty far away but it was my first polar bear which is pretty cool!!

Later, we went out again to this little river cutting through a canyon. No tour has ever been there before, it has been untouched since the natives left, and no one has been back to explore it until we did today. The pictures that we took today were the first ever of that river, and they were stunning. The water was so clear and the rock walls were amazingly high. When we got to the end, there was this stunning waterfall it was just so unreal.

After we got on shore, we broke up into workshops, I did art so I painted a pretty un accurate picture of the landscape which I will not be showing to anyone due to its level of visual unattractiveness. So far this experience has been so amazing and so different from anything I’ve ever seen before I know. I’ll continue to be amazed by what I see, smell, taste, touch, and learn, I’m so grateful for this experience. I’ll try to blog as often as I can. Until then, I miss and love you.

~Jill


 

JUSTIN FISCH
Montreal, Quebec

Nunavik, Nunavut, Nunatsiavut

The Canadian Arctic is a distant place. So remote, in fact, that much of the land is neither formally surveyed nor mapped, and many of the bays and channels are left uncharted -- open for discovery. Without accurate geographic information, confusion ensues. The tale I tell is of geopolitics, mapping, forced relocation, and location confusion.
Just last night, our ship laid anchor right across the bay from Killiniq, a relocated Inuit community on the tip of the Torngats. The village was forcibly abandoned over 35 years ago, yet strong vestiges of human existence remain: homes, tractors, gas tanks, cables, and boat hulls. Today, the site is inhabited by what appears to be a meteorological station: possibly a strategic Coast Guard post on the entryway into Canada, the Davis Straits.

Forced relocations occurred all throughout northern Canada, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. Following "colonization" -- or sedentarization -- of Inuit peoples, the Canadian government began having its doubts about all the settlements that had been established. For geopolitical and economical reasons, some of the smallest new Inuit communities simply did not suit the wants or needs of the government -- whether federal, territorial, or provincial. So the government told the people to move.

Relocations occurred throughout the then Northwest Territories, Quebec, and Labrador, with disastrous family consequences. Killiniq was one of those towns.

However, our entire expedition crew remains perplexed as to the town, its history, and its location. Oral history tells us that the Killiniq population was relocated to Kangiqsualujjuaq, hundreds of kilometres to the south. Yet, our trusty National Geographic "Canada East" map has Killiniq mapped on an island belonging to the territory of Nunavut (in the early 1980s, part of the Northwest Territories). Would the government have taken the drastic step of relocating these people to another jurisdiction? To another province? This seems like quite the endeavour.

For fact-checking, we turned to the only other political map we had on hand, courtesy of Tourisme Quebec. As is the norm in uber-political Quebec, the map shows the island on which Killiniq is located to be squarely within the French-speaking province. Problem solved! Or not... As is reality in political mapping, the government has also labeled a myriad of Hudson Bay and Ungava Bay islands within its jurisdiction, most of which belong to the territory of Nunavut. Trust the Quebec-produced map? Not likely.

At this point, the dilemma started captivating our attention. Was the town correctly mapped? (After all, it hasn't existent for over three decades). Is old-town Killiniq on the mainland or "Killinek Island"? (Disclaimer: content from Quebec map). Is this mapping issue a territorial dispute, or simple cartographic mistake? (Nat Geo vs Tourisme Quebec).
Forty-five experts on board, and no sure-fire answers of yet. Internet, sometimes I miss you.

 

WYLEE FITZ-GERALD
Surrey, British Columbia

8:35 I saw my first polar bear! It was a little white speck on the mountain but still very exciting. We are now headed to a town that translates into 'place of polar bears' so hopefully there is more to come!

We also moved over a time zone late last night and went ahead another hour.

I just got back from our morning exploration in the Torngat Mountains National Park. We had the chance to visit a waterfall, but had to leave quickly because the tide was going Out and we would be stranded. I'm finding life at sea very changing, with the tides, the ice flows and the Labrador current. You can't leave a coffee mug on the table or it might just slide Right off. I haven't been sea sick yet but I have been cold Every once in a while.

When we landed on The beach we were able to chose a workshop and today I just floated between them. I looked at seal bones, caught tiny fish, skipped rocks and saw voles playing in and out of their Hiding holes. I was told that sometimes As Inuit walk along the beach they turn over the bones to allow the spirits to turn over in their sleep. Becky, an Inuit educator, showed me where to find certain herbs and I tried these clover-like ones that tasted of tomatoes. I like that the park has No intentions of Putting up signs or infastructure. On top of that 9 out of 10 staff are Inuit and the Inuit communities have rights to hunt and fish on the land for their own survival. I find that Everyone is exhausted by the end of the night And Ready for bed.

It is quiet time now which we haven't had much of yet and most people are on deck looking for signs of life. I'm going to go join them and hopefully Spot more seals because the mountains are swallowed by fog.

16:41 Our second exploration was just cancelled. A lot of factors contributed to this like the thick fog, and the swells on the beach. Another big factor is how easily a bear could sneak up on us and our bear guards wouldn't be able to do their job. Hopefully we make it through this weather by our next stop so that we can get into the town.

 

MIKE GE
Toronto, Ontario

Today was another adventurous day on the Sea Adventurer as we embarked on two zodiac cruises to
different regions of the Torngat Mountains National Park.

We began with a zodiac landing at Eclipse Sound where it was our first visit to the Torngats and my first
time filling up my water bottle with fresh meltwater from sea ice! There I participated in a Beach Comb
workshop with the knowledgable David Gray and found out about more of the wildlife and vegetation
through personal encounters. It was here that I realized once again the power of the landscape
surrounding us and the cultural significance to the Inuit peoples.

In between our two zodiac cruises, David also observed a polar bear from a distance on ship. This was a
powerful moment as it was my first time seeing this majestic land mammal that we all imagine when
thinking of the Arctic. Through the focus of binoculars we were able to watch it engage in various
behaviours and realize there was truth in the Polar Bear safety briefing.

Then we were planned to arrive at a geological site for another series of workshops but this got cancelled
as we anchored and realized the safety concerns because of the fog. Instead we took a zodiac cruise in
Ryan's Bay where we saw another polar bear and seal playing in the water (not together). Our zodiac had
some fun on the way back with two new drivers and at least five "donuts" around other zodiacs!

The expedition seems to have given all students and faculty more personal awareness about their role
here and anticipation for more to come.

 

ALEKSANDER GODLEWSKI
Rothesay, New Brunswick

After writing yesterday's blog post, we embarked on zodiacs to explore the Button Islands. The rocky landmasses jutting out of the sea were envelopped by fog, and had a beauty difficult to describe. As we moved through the narrow channels surrounding the islands, it was easy to imagine the earlier explorers who might have done the same - perhaps the wooden boats of the early Norse glided through this same mist? Seemingly desolate, the dark rocks were broken by the blueish white of the ice still clinging to winter.

This morning has also had its own share of adventure. For the first time, I set foot in Labrador - and the Torngat mountains - at Eclipse Channel. Without trees, its easy to imagine that this place would seem empty, but with the sun the landscape fills with colour. The dark brown of the rocks meets the green and yellow vegetation, hugging the ground, the odd wildflower briliantly drawing the eye. The moss underfoot feels as soft as a pillow, absorbing my steps, inviting. The mountains themselves are huge, and reign over the otherwise unbroken landscape unchallenged. I can't help feeling like I've stumbled on to one of the hidden treasures of the world, and one of the last wild places.

It's difficult to fully process the scale of the Arctic without trees and vegetation to provide perspective. Seeing the mountains cutting through the fog, the fjords are like a dream.

A brief note on fashion. I think I've finally figured out how to layer properly for the Arctic summer. Initially, I went for volume. Though I was warm and content as a marshmallow, I've managed to reduce my poof getup to a controllable level.

 

DAVONNA KASOOK
Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Well this is my first blog, but we've been on the ship since the 12th.

The first day didn't consist of too much other than getting settled in, meeting the rest of the team, and enjoying the view as we left the beautiful community of Kuujjuaq, Quebec.

Our second day was pretty awesome. We visited a small community called Killiniq, which I believe was in Labrador, where we explored abandoned homes belonging to the Inuit people who lived there in the past, hiked up the hill where we enjoyed the GORGEOUS view of the little harbour below and the other hills and mountains in the far off distance, as well as taking tons of beautiful pictures and selfies.

After that we went on a little cruise on the zodiac to explore other places in the area. Everything was just jaw-dropping amazing, the landscapes were SO beautiful and every bit of it resembled home in its own little way. Surprisingly I'm not home sick at all; just missing a few of my everyday peoples like craaaazy. Yesterday evening the group did a zodiac cruise to explore the Button Islands. I didn't go because I was enjoying my 12 hour sleep.

The first two days we had some pretty sweet presentations and some briefings as well but the excursions were MUCH more exciting. This morning we arrived at the Torngat Mountains National Park, and after our morning safety breifing on polar bears, we jumped on the zodiacs to head to shore to do a number of different workshops. On the way there we got to go into this little river that led to the bottom of a pretty massive waterfall; it wasn't the biggest, but it was definitely a powerful one and was very beautiful. The sound of the water rushing into the river stream was very relaxing and soothing. I really enjoyed it and got some stunning pictures and videos. We saw some rough-legged hawks and peragon falcons coming in and out of the river as well.

After that we came back home for lunch and actually right in the middle of writing this blog an announcement was made that a polar was spotted at 10 o'clock. So my blogging was interrupted for a few minutes to go and see a big polar bear just chillin' on the side of the mountain. It was really neat, I got to see it through binoculars so it wasn't just a tiny white speck on the side of the mountain. Anyway, it's about 3 pm right now and we still have things to do this afternoon but it's quiet ship time and it was kind of the perfect time to catch up on blogging so I had to.

I just want to make a shout out to the IRC who are myself and Charlotte's sponsor! Thanks a whole lot; this trip has been amazing so far and its only the beginning, and just to put it out there we're probably the proudest Inuvialuits around right now (haha).

I also want to send my thoughts and prayers back home to all of Sasha's friends and family as they lay her beautiful soul to rest. I'm so heartbroken I couldn't be there for her memorial, but she's in my thoughts and prayers and in my heart forever <3. Rest in paradise smashamillie, I'm really going to miss you =( and I'll cherish all of our memories and especially your last day here with us. I had so much fun hanging with you that day and I'll never forget it, especially your loud infectious laugh and beautiful smile.

I also wanted to say a huge WUDDDUUUUPPP to my homies back in the NWT. I miss you guys like CRAZY and love you to da moon and I can't wait to tell you all about this amazing trip and show you tons of pictures. To my momma bear I love you and I miss you SO much and I hope you're taking care of yourself and of my baby Zeus (my dog). And last but definitely not least, to my love, I hope you're taking care of yourself as well, I hope the quitting smoking part isnt too much of a hastle, and im really proud of you for making the decision to quit because its only going to benefit you greatly in the long run. I miss you and I LOVE YOU more than words can explain!!! I can't wait to talk to you and tell you about everything your gunna be SOOOOO jello lol.

I also wanted to say I'm doing good on the smoke-free part of the trip and I feel amazing already and I'm so proud of myself for quitting on this trip once again. Anyway, this is basically a novel so I'm going to wrap things up for today and I hope everyone back home is checking out the photos and blogs I hear they're pretty amazing. The view outside of the Torngat mountains is amazing right now so I'm going to head on deck and soak it all in and enjoy the view so Im going to have to say goodbye for now and I hope you all enjoyed reading my blog for the past 3 days! =)

 

EMMA LEE
North Vancouver, British Columbia

Today's day kicked off with a delicious meal accompanied by last night's briefing that we missed. During the briefing, we also discussed what to do to protect ourselves in case we encounter a polar bear. The video we watched to prepare ourselves for the possible danger was amusing and interesting. I had not known that the nose of a polar bear is one of the most sensitive parts of a bear.

We were divided into two groups once again and we ventured out into the Arctic Ocean in our Zodiacs. The scenery was amazing today - we encountered falcons and trickling waterfalls. We once even went close enough to feel the rapids that resulted from a waterfall. After our excursion, we visited a national park and disembarked at the Torngat Mountains. The view was spectacular: I had never stepped foot on a mountain that was iced by fogs and humid air. The weather was also very nice, in spite of the -10 weather, which made the whole morning's experience more accomodating.

Once at the mountain, our group split into smaller groups to be part of a workshop that we were interested in. I chose the "beach combing" workshop, where we walked along the coast and discussed about the various plants and wildlife we found hidden in the soil. One of the most memorable discoveries I made today was a type of plant that looked like an ordinary budding sprout. It was edible and tasted like fish and grass. I also found plants that could be brewed as tea that smelled like a type of spice. Each day, I'm becoming more and more wonderstruck by the vastness and beauty of our home, Earth.

Shortly after lunch, I saw my first polar bear! It only looked like a speck from the ship's balcony, but nevertheless, it was a pretty spectacular sight.

 

EMMA LEE
North Vancouver, British Columbia

It seems as though part of my journal of today's journey has either been deleted or already posted.

In summary, I wrote about our day traveling to the Button Islands where we disembarked and split into workshops of our choice. I did the "beach combing" workshop where we looked at little critters and plants in the ocean, and spoke about them as a group.

"in continuation with my prior journal..."

Shortly after seeing our first polar bear, we went on a second Zodiac cruise where we disembarked on a nearby bay. This was truly the most spectacular view of nature I'd ever seen in my life. As we entered the mouth of the bay, we were greeted with cries of falcons flying overhead. The rays of sunshine that spillled from the summit of the mountains allowed me to reflect on the true beauty of the environment that we were immersed in. Deeper into the bay, we were greeted with small waterfalls that were reflecting the colors of the spectrum. In short words, the view was stunning and captivating.

I will have to end my journal here today because it's curfew time, but I cannot wait for another wonderful Zodiac journey tomorrow that will begin after breakfast.

 

STEPHANIE MASTRO
Katy, Texas

Yesterday was definitely my favorite day so far.

We woke up, ate a delicious breakfast and then went to a briefing. After the briefing, we had lunch and then the best part began. Another zodiac ride! On this excursion we went all over the place. At first we just cruised around and got the chance to just take in the beautiful scenery, and then we went to a waterfall. I didn't get the chance to, but apparently many others drank water straight from the waterfall and it was delicious. After the waterfall, we went to take a tour of this somewhat abandoned town. It was so interesting yet, sad. We saw a perfectly intact grave stone of a 3 month old child, we saw houses that were completely destroyed, and my favorite part- 100-year-old abandoned ships. It was also a really neat experience because everyone in my group tasted a leaf that was green in the center and had a red rim around it but it tasted exactly like tomatoes, it was so strange.

After we got back from the town we went to dinner, and then again got to go out on another zodiac ride. This zodiac ride was originally a chance to hopefully spot some polar bears, but unfortunately, there was so much fog we could hardly see anything. It was still so much fun minus the fact that it was so cold I couldn't feel my face (haha)! Luckily though, this morning at breakfast (my birthday!) someone spotted a polar bear super far off into the distance but still so amazing.

When we finished eating breakfast we all put on out warmest clothes to go on a land excursion where we split into different workshops. I chose a workshop where we walked out with a giant net to catch whatever we could and then examed them. My favorite thing that we caught was a tiny, tiny fish that was so small it was impossible to determine what type of fish it was exactly.

Just 5 minutes ago, someone again spotted a polar bear and this one was even closer! I had to completely stop in the middle of this blog post to go see it actually. Anyways, we just ate lunch and now have a bit of free time so I took advantage of mine to come write this. Hopefully after this, we will be going on yet another excursion. It's been an aaaamaaaazzzzinnngggg birthday.

 

STEPHANIE MASTRO
Katy, Texas

Today is the 4th day of the expedition and this experience has been incredible so far. I knew the second I got to Ottawa and met all of the people how much fun I was going to have. In Ottawa, before we were even on the ship I had an amazing time, and now that I am on the ship, it is even more amazing.

My favorite part of the trip so far was 2 days ago when we first got on the zodiacs that were going to take us to the Sea Adventurer. My stomach got butterflies as soon as I saw the boats and the life jackets being handed out. The energy was so great on the zodiacs as all of us were uncontrollably smiling so wide as the ice cold winds blew into our face. When I took my first step onto the ship, Jill and I started jumping around screaming of excitment. It got even more excting as I walked into my room. They're so nice! I have 2 roommates which is also really cool because we never run out of things to talk about as well as we are all from very different places so I get to learn about 2 completely different cultures.

Anyways, after we got on to the ship we had a little bit of free time where we all went into the lounge and sang songs and played an uncountable number of games of apples to apples and ate delicious snacks that the staff made. After we hung out in the lounge for a while we had a quick briefing where all of the staff came up and introduced themselves and then we went to dinner. After dinner, we had yet another briefing and then we were off to bed. It was a great day.

 

ELODIE MILES
Monaco

Hier soir, durant notre petit voyage après le dîner, nous n'avons pas pu voir grand chose, mis à part quelques oiseaux, et le froid, amplifié par l'humidite causée par la brume.

Cependant, c'est après notre petit déjeuner que la voix de Geoff nous annonce : "Polar bear at 6 o'clock !". Meme s'il était très éloigné, nous pouvons le voir a travers des jumelles. Cet ours était le tout premier de notre expedition, mais pas le dernier de cette journée...

Après notre briefing matinal quotidien, nous nous sommes préparés pour embarquer sur les Zodiacs, afin de faire des ateliers sur terre. Durant le trajet, les pilotes des Zodiacs ont decidé de passer par une cascade, qu'ils avaient découvert le jour même ! Elle était magnifique, et Elodie a eu un petit bonus : un phoque. Nous avons accosté à l'endroit où se trouvait l'ours précédemment. Nous avons pu y faire quelques ateliers. Loris a choisi la photographie et Elodie se baladait avec une amie.

Nous sommes retournés sur le bateau pour manger notre déjeuner et nous avons eu un "Quiet time", car le brouillard nous a empêché de faire une autre sortie. Nous avons ainsi pu jouer aux cartes avec nos amis. Durant notre "Quiet time", un évènement nous a interrompu : le deuxième ours polaire de la journée, plus près (un demi-kilomètre environ), qui se balladait sur la cote et s'est offert une petite baignade. Après cela, Geoff nous a annoncé que la brume s’était dissipée et que nous irions finalement sur les Zodiacs, pour observer les magnifiques paysages de cet ancien fjord sur lequel nous naviguions, accentues par des percées du soleil a travers des nuages. Comme on dit, jamais deux sans trois, et ca n'a pas manque : nous avons vu le troisième ours polaire de la journée, qui pêchait.

Nous sommes retournés sur  le bateau pour manger vers 9h. Nous nous sommes couchés vers 11h.


 

AUDREY MORIN
Saint-Félix-de-Kingsey, Quebec

J'étais très heureuse ce matin puisque nous étions arrivés au Parc National des Monts-Torngat. J'avais un profond sentiment que les paysages que j'allais voir aujourd'hui seraient parmi les plus beaux que j'aurais vus et qu'ils resteraient à jamais gravés dans ma mémoire.

Nous sommes sortis en zodiaque un peu après le déjeuner pour se diriger vers la côte et assister à différents ateliers éducatifs que nous pouvions choisir, il y en avait pour tous les goûts. Nous avons d'abord fait un détour pour aller voir une chute dont l'existance était jusqu'à présent, ignorée. Nous sommes peut-être donc les premiers ou du moins, parmi les rares, qui avons vu ce magnifique endroit. Une fois sur la côte, la vue des montagnes rocheuses, de la végétation arctique et des cours d'eau, a confirmé les sentiments que j'avais ce matin. J'ai assisté à un atelier de broderie traditionnelle inuit, le projet consistait à broder le dessin de notre choix sur un ours polaire découpé dans la feutrine pour en fabriquer un aimant pour le frigo. Je n'ai pas réussi à terminer mon projet faute de temps, mais la broderie que j'ai commencé sur le mien est un inuksuk. Je pourrai forcement achever ma création d'ici la fin de l'expédition.

En après-midi, j'ai passé un peu de temps sur le pont du bateau, nous avons vu un ours polaire, quelle créature impressionnante! J'ai aussi pu contempler les montagnes couvertes légèrement par la brume et éclairées par le soleil brillant, rien ne peut décrire précisément la beauté grandiose de ces paysages.

 

PATRICIA PENDON
Brampton, Ontario

The past few days have been insane. On Saturday, the expeditioners, including myself, woke up at 5:45 am to get ready to bring our luggage down and prepare for our oh-so-extravagant chartered flight to Kuujjuak,Quebec. I was happy with all the activities we did in Ottawa, but the fact that we were going to ride and stay in a ship was exciting.

My experience in Kuujjuak was quite memorable. The place itself was a contrast compared to the busy city where I'm from. It was quieter with a peaceful silence. From the distance, I really admired the abundant number of houses that were painted different colors, making them look colorful and lovely. I was amazed by several games the people showed us. From the one-foot high kick, arm pull, airplane, leg wrestle, etc. It was so interesting to learn more about the Inuit culture. Afterwards, we finally got to reach our ship via zodiac. It was slightly intimidating at first, fearing that I would flip over the boat and into the water, but the feeling of the wind as we crashed through the waves was epic. It was my first time and certainly not my last.

Yesterday, Sunday, we had numerous presentations about explorers and the Torngat Mountains Park. They were informative and full of knowledge. It was great to see how much dedication and passion the leaders and educators had in their area.

Aside from that, we rode a lot of zodiacs which brought us to places like Killiniq. To me, it was such a powerful sight. The abandoned buildings have a story of their own, with the astounding landscape as a support. I got to shoot a bunch of pictures, one including me doing a sort of yoga pose on a large rock (Everyone has a weird side, right?). The sight was so different from anything I've ever seen. We also got to simply ride the zodiac, travelling through the waters and exploring waterfalls, humungous rock forms, several melting glaciers, and more.

Today, we were told by Geoff that we finally arrived in Torngat Mountains. The ship will be staying here for a while as we explore. We've done some workshops on the land. I chose the songwriting workshop with Kathleen. Because it was a little too cold for us to strum the guitars (since our fingers might freeze off), we decided to hike and walk across the land. We even reached the bear guards. Several of us gathered together and spoke about our music interests, perceptions of the specific industry, and we also asked Kathleen about her experiences. I got to know more about those around me and it made me feel more comfortable with my peers.

Even though the day's not finished yet, I'm still looking forward to what's coming. I'll blog you all soon!

P.S. Sorry for not getting a chance to call you, mom and dad. I lost service when we reached Kuujjuak. But no worries! I'm doing fine and I haven't drowned...yet. Kidding. Mahal ko kayo.

THOMAS PIEKUT
Mississauga, Ontario

Today was an extraordinary day!!!

The day began with a quick briefing concerning details about bear safety; a presentation which was highly necessary especially since today the SOI team entered Torngat Mountains National Park, whose Davis Strait polar bear population is one of the few global populations which is increasing in number due to several favorable conditions.

Following the presentation and a good breakfeast, the entire SOI team boarded ten zodiacs and left to explore the northern fringes of the park, before which we stopped at an incredible waterfall near the end of the Eclipse Channel. I got a chance to listen in on a photography workshop with Shelly and use a macro lens to capture the subtle details of the flora of the Arctic.

In addition, today we were fortunate to spot two polar bears in the Torngats, the second of which was impressively close to our ship and gave everyone the opportunity to observe the majestic animal in its natural environment. It is also likely that we will go out again today in our zodiac cruisers in order to explore Ryan's Bay.

I would love to wish everyone at home in Mississauga all the best. The SOI experience is incredible and I feel really fortunate to be one of the few individuals who ever get a chance to witness the various aspects of the Arctic.

SERGIO RAEZ VILLANUEVA
Mississauga, Ontario

Hello everybody!

Today and yesterday have been very busy and packed with many activities! Yesterday we visited the town of Killiniq, an unpopulated Aboriginal community that was left behind because the native people were basically forced to leave by the government a long time ago. Nonetheless, they still return with their children to teach them about their past and learn how to connect with their land. I must admit that I am very touched by this land, since we got to see decrepit houses where these people used to live. I even saw a small tombstone for a child that had lived for less than a year. We must always understand that sometimes the things we take for granted are in fact very difficult for other people to have, like shelter in this case, and a safe place to call home.

Today we visited the Torngat Mountains, a National Canadian Park that has a scenery that could only make me say, "wow," every time I saw the mountains, the endless fields of land and the sparkling, colourful water. I got to do some beach combing with David in his workshop, and we saw kelp and something he liked to call "Arctic mud". I think what impressed me the most of exploring today was that the air was just so pure, and the whole area gave a sense of peace and a longing to scream out loud, "I love my life." Those moments only come when we feel so small compared to the massive world we live in, and yet we feel achieved and humbled because we are so lucky to be alive.

Back in the ship, after a fabulous lunch, we managed to spot a polar bear! I was right beside David when he saw it, and he gladly lent me his binoculars. Albeit we had seen a polar bear that same day in the morning, it had been way too far away to actually take a decent picture and to actually see it in detail instead of just a white dot. But this time, it was very close and it followed us for a little bit in the water as the ship pased by. It is wonderful how nature plays its role and most of its beauty comes from how unpredictable it can truly be. When everybody wanted to see the bear, it never showed up, and when it was least expected, it appeared, making the whole surprise that much more memorable. Also, I managed to play my ocarina, a musical instrument, with Ian who plays the fabulous guitar. We made some improvised tunes and Ian with his expertise simply makes the tune that much better. How extraordinary it is how music can bring people that much closer together.

At the moment, we are amidst a mysterious but fascinating fog, and the trip seems that much more special. There are many moments to contemplate the many blessings of this Earth, and I am sure that there are a lot more to come.

We're, hopefully, going out on the Zodiacs in a while, so I hope that this fog clears up. I'll stay in touch!

 

TALIA SCHMITT
Fairfax, Virginia

Today is definitely a polar bear day. For the first day of my life, I saw a polar bear. And not just one polar bear but two! So with that, here are some polar bear facts I learned.

The first thing you should know is they are not always the cute, cuddly creatures people make them out to be. They are smart animals that should be respected and understood, but if humans get too close they can be mistaken as prey. Especially as typical food sources and ice become more limited, polar bear encounters with humans on land will become more common. For this reason, we had plenty of "bear guards" ready with their guns.

Polar Bears use the ice mainly for hunting. Therefore, they typically do most of their hunting in the winter and store up their fat for the rest of the year. With decreasing time where the ice is present, some worry about a starvation problem for the polar bears. However, polar bears have proven to be very adaptive. While some species are decreasing, others are doing fine. They have started to eat seals basking on ice and can swim for 100 miles at a time.

The future of polar bears is not so black and white.

FUN FACT: Mother polar bears have to protect their cubs for the first 2 years of life because otherwise the male polar bears will eat them.

 

MATTHEW SZCZEPANSKI
Mississauga, Ontario

Hello world! I’m blogging again from the Sea Adventurer in the Torngat Mountains National Park. Today was a super gnarly day. I started the day off with a delicious breakfast (PB&J sandwich, omelet, variety of fruit, etc.) complementary of the ship’s hotel department.

On my way back to my cabin, a polar bear was spotted! I hastily made my way to the upper decks and saw my first polar bear. After presentations and a briefing, I found myself loading a Zodiac with GoPro in hand. The Sea Adventurer was anchored in the Eclipse Sound; the setting was breathtaking. Being situated between towering mountains, we cruised away from the vessel towards a newly discovered river. This river cut right into the mountains and climaxed with a 10m waterfall expelling melt-water. We later came ashore and I participated in a photography workshop with Shell. I learned how to capture the moment like a pro!

After returning to the ship, we sailed to Ryan’s Bay. Here we anchored and again loaded the Zodiacs for an exploration cruise. Ryan’s Bay is surrounded by the rugged Torngat Mountains; I felt very insignificant in such a grand landscape. A polar bear was spotted diving right in front of our Zodiac! We immediately radioed the entire SOI team. Soon there was a gathering of 10 Zodiacs observing this bear. Life is cool on the SOI expedition.

We returned to our home and ate dinner. After a delicious 5-course meal, we all gathered in the lounge for a briefing and musical performances. Our amazing musicians, Ian and Kathleen, blew me away. I was feeling one with their music; my stoke level was off the charts! Once everyone returned to his or her room, the boys organized a show for Mike (bed check staff guy) during bed check. He was thoroughly entertained. I immediately went to sleep like a diligent student on ice.

Peace, One-Love,

Matt

 

EMMANUEL TSE
Port Coquitlam, British Columbia

On July 14, to start our day, Gary gave another talk on the TMNP, including the type of creatures we could find such as muskox, seals and polar bears. We were also given instructions on how to act around polar bears if an encounter occurs, and we actually heard a story that an older woman surrounded by a couple kids managed to kill a polar bear by waiting until the bear was right in front of her and punching it in the nose. So from this point onwards, I will remember to do that one move, since a lot of the nerves are found in its nose.

Then Paula, the passionate geologist, taught us about the definition of minerals, diversity and how to identify them. In the morning, we actually bearly saw a polar bear on the shore but it brought a lot of hype despite it being really far away.

I guess one thing that I experience more often are the similarities between cultures, even in a simple thing such as a card game with Melody, where a game called big two by some, president by others, is also played in the North with some slight variations. Despite our physical and cultural differences, we are all quite the same in ambitions, passion for music, love of nature among others.

In the morning, our focus was on zodiac cruising and I chose the beachcombing workshop, which was really neat as we found hiden treasures on the beach adjacent to Eclipse Sound. From small items such as the arctic willow to seal bone parts and lemming holes, it just seemed unreal to be standing on the living grounds of such foreign but very self-evident creatures. I think the one thing that struck me was the simplicity of the beautiful landscape. I just was astounded by the hues of blue and green glistening in the water. The further you look, the deeper the green tint which really merged to become my favourite colour; I definitely enjoyed the teal to blue gradient and just watching the waves ripple.

This trip encouraged me to explore my own city, its treasures in its trails, lakes, forests and rivers and renewed my love for nature by simply giving me the opportunity to really spend moments alone, with nothing else and nothing more desirable to do but soak in the surrounding landscape. Through my experiences in the boat, in the zodiac and out on land, I've gotten to speaking with people around the world and again, similarities were shared and stereotypes were dropped. This trip really has become one of understanding different backgrounds. I learned about LA as being an urban wasteland and how San Francisco is in fact not very sunny but actually pretty foggy, and even some Americans realising that not all Canadians say "eh," or that Vancouver gets very little snow . It's not just been a learning experience of understanding and appreciating nature, but that has become a vehicle to appreciate the different hues of humanity and its different cultures.

Then at last we saw our second polar bear, it was a lot closer thist ime and I could finally "sea" it this time as it was a lot closer. The view was arguably more surreal because we were able to witness an ominous and majestic mountain with fog all but enveloping it entirely.

Going down Ryan's Bay we saw a third polar bear, but this time it was while we were in the zodiac and it was in the water, a couple hundred metres away from us. It was quite content in just staying there, swimming and sticking out its head, or just diving under water only to reappear shaking off the water from its head. It was a really awesome experience and was proof that sometimes plan b is better than plan a, as we previously wanted to cruise around a different set of land but because the fog only subsided later, we were able to encounter the polar bear up close.

Yesterday the speaker asked us to start learning from where we are at, and literally I'm on a boat, with 130 something strangers that have become like family; travelling North but learning to be flexible because of the fog. Likewise I'm kind of on a metaphorical boat, travelling from high school to university. Despite the fact that it has already been mapped and conquered by others, it still is unfamiliar territory for myself, much like the North. And like so often in life, the journeys often come with obstacles, fears and worries, but I think I need to just keep a watch for opportunities to continue to grow and find my way. That is very much the reason why I'm on this expedition boat in the first place. Do I really know where I'm going on this metaphorical boat? No. So? I'm just going to try it out and sure sometimes it may seem that we go in the wrong direction but even those experiences can help us grow and it really is about giving it a shot. It starts with observation and keeping an eye out for opportunities to grow, much like keeping an eye out for polar bears on deck.

The day, of course, ended with dinner, as I sat with a handful of people from up North. I learned to really love these guys and laughed a lot, getting amused from the simplest of things and just learning about their hobbies, some phrases in their language and where they live.

This day has been by far the most memorable and I can't wait to see what is in store in the next week or so.

 

BRYANT YANG
Thornhill, Ontario

I've got so much to write about, and yet i still don't have enough time, mostly because my alarm didn't go off early enough today. Anyway, I'm going to keep it short and simple this time because I still need to write about the news article for the Icecap newsletter.

Yesterday was a long day. I am tired to the point where I cant really remember some of the things we did yesterday. I am just that sleepy. Although, I do remember a few things.

For the entire morning, we had lectures. While they were really good and informative, the boat did not like me at all and i managed to get seasick during the lectures, and get really tired due to the rocking of the boat. I was not sure if I was seasick or just tired, but it was probably mostly seasick.

Right after lunch, we went to the abandoned town of Killiniq, where we wandered the buildings, as well as looking at the wildlife. We found of an abundance of rocks, animal bones, as well as feces. The scenery was also quite beautiful, and I took a ton of photos there. We also had a boat tour of the surrounding area, which also resulted in some very beautiful photos. I thoroughly enjoyed the visit there.

In the evening after dinner, we went on a boat tour on the Button Islands. While the fog presented the worst conditions for photographing, forcing me to utilize my phone camera as I would be scared of damaging my good camera.

Other than that, food was edible, bed was comfy and I still haven't thrown up from the boat.