Sunday, July 29, 2012

Arctic 2012: Day 2-4 Ottawa

Hmm, no comments to my last blog post - not a good sign that anyone's following! Oh well, if there's no one out there listening to my blathering, that's alright by me. It's just fun to type. So as expected, there was no way to keep up the daily blogging. Not that Days 2 & 3 weren't busy - just not blog-worthy. We had the same six students the entire time. They consisted (did I mention this last blog?) of northern Arctic students who did not have passports and would have taken weeks to get them done from their home towns. By coming to Ottawa, they could be done in days. But in the meantime, they had to be entertained. Our days consisted of: tours of the Canadian Museum of Nature, trip to the Carleton U pool, shopping at Byward Market and Rideau Centre, and the best of all - a trip to Gatineau Park and Meech Lake beach. Mini-Chris was there... see attached picture! But the best part of the pre-expedition chaos is the meet and greet of the students (and staff). My entire day today was spent at the airport, cheerfully holding the SOI sign to hundreds of people as they filed off of aircraft, looking for the 3 dozen or so somewhat terrified teenagers as they madly search for some familiar sign that they are in the right place. And all in all, things went smoothly. One lost luggage, one missed flight, and one cranky Canadian customs agent. Seriously, why let one student pass from the same town, with the same documentation, doing the same expedition... but then detain the other. Senseless. Oh well. Everyone made it and everything is good. We had our first briefing, conducted our first bed check, and we now look forward to tomorrow's departure for the capital of Nunavut, Iqualit. But the days ahead have some interesting... hurdles. SOI leader Geoff Green reports that Frobisher Bay (in which Iqualit lies) is socked in with pack ice. An unusual situation considering sea ice overall is rapidly diminishing. But it also creates a problem for our vessel, the Akademik Ioffe. A strong ice-breaker in its own right, the ice is simply too thick to safely traverse. However, Geoff reports that our very own Canadian Coast Guard may swoop in to the rescue and escort our vessel safely to harbour. And as for getting out - well, that's the part that remains to be seen. Flexibility is the key! To wrap up, I thought I'd list off some of the diverse group of students I met today. I hope to tell you more about them in the days to come, but here's taste of the international flavour we have. Brendan from Newfoundland, Danno from Saskatoon, Isabella from Iceland, Julian from Germany, the group of 6 from Russia, Malaika from India, Ivalu from Greenland, Derrick and Kevin from Tennesee, Michela from Ottawa, Rosemary from California. There's dozens more and we'll meet more tomorrow as we meet up with the students gathered in Iqualit. It'll be a long day, and I hope to have some sort of communication in Iqualit, so I hopefully will blog once from Iqualit. But if I can't get things to here, be sure to check out the expedition home page at !! Good night from Arctic Mike and his ever-smiling partner in crime, Mini-Chris!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Arctic 2012: Winnipeg to Ottawa

Hello my faithful blog followers (are there any?! Comment if you are!), As many of you know, I am participating in my FOURTH Students On Ice Arctic Exepedition (check out the details at But this year, I am NOT making the promise to blog every day - for one main reason only. As one quick glance at LAST year's expedition will tell you, keeping up a daily blog is exhausting. And this year, I promised myself I wouldn't do that. Yet here I am. Oh, well, glutton for punishment. Today was a fairly low-key day. Did the 90-minute-delayed direct flight from Winnipeg to Ottawa, cabbed it to Carleton University - our home for the next four nights - and then met up with the trickle of students and staff already in town. The four students (now 5!) are all from northern communities and needed to get passports done so they can travel to Greenland with the expedition (yes, GREEEEEENLAND!). We grabbed some dinner and then headed to the Parliament Buildings to see the Mosaika light show. If you ever get a chance to get to Ottawa - see this show! It's quite well done with a nice tour through Canada's history and diversity. Tomorrow it's off to the Canadian Museum of Nature, followed by visits to numerous Inuit resource places throughout Ottawa followed by an evening swim. Woo hoo. Anyone who also follows me on Facebook has probably already seen numrous posts with a weird image of Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in them. Mini-Chris, as I like to call him, will be traveling on expedition with me. It's a publicity event for the REAL Chris Hadfield's eventual launch to the International Space Station later this year. I've attached a picture (hopefully) to this entry. OK, off to bed. Sleep is a precious commodity.