Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Monday July 25th, 2013 – in Cumberland Sound, Baffin Island

In my “normal” life, I’m not much for the idea for coincidences or other “higher power”-type beliefs that leave your fate (or mine) to someone other than yourself.

But with Students on Ice, there is something that seems to happen that, well, doesn’t change my thoughts on that… but it does make me shake my head in amazement. We refer to it as SOI Karma.
Simply put, it’s the concept that a series of certain events that fall into place in a certain order that allows certain amazing results to happen. Over my five expeditions with SOI, I’ve experienced many of these events. One of the more recent was last year’s “rescue” of our 2012 expedition by the Canadian Coast Guard, who did a fantastic job of transferring us from our ice-locked position in Iqaluit, to our ship in Frobisher Bay.

This year, it’s happened again, with similar fantastic results.

Back in late June, I met up with two SOI alumni from my 2009 and 2011 expeditions – Jenna and Bridget, respectively. Both of these exceptional and passionate young women were in Winnipeg to participate in a program through the University of Manitoba. They would spend a few weeks in July living in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, learning Inuktitut, and experiencing Inuit culture and ways of life. It was great to catch up with both of them, who had become fast friends even though they had done separate expeditions.

Although Jenna and Bridget would be in the Arctic at the same time that SOI 2013 was happening, our planned itinerary would have taken us nowhere near where they were staying – Pang is along the south eastern coast of Baffin Island, and our course would take us much farther north along the northern coast and towards Resolute along the Northwest Passage.

But, as I mentioned in a previous blog entry, thick ice has prevented us from keeping that itinerary to Resolute, and has instead changed our direction towards Iqaluit. As we headed south along the east coast of Baffin Island, our first destination was the town of Pangnirtung. Naturally, I thought of our two SOI friends, and wondered if we would have the chance to meet.

Arriving in Pang was like visiting an old friend. It had been three years since my last visit and it was nice to just wander around town and take in the changes, and the things that were still the same. I stopped by the art studio, where an old SOI friend, Jolly, works. Jolly is an Inuit artist who makes stencil prints, some of which I’ve purchased on previous expeditions. It was great to reconnect with him, and I managed to pick up a beautiful stencil of narwhals that I’m very proud of.

As we gathered in at the community centre for some demonstrations on Inuit games, dancing and celebrations, I was beginning to think we wouldn’t have a chance to connect with Jenna and Bridget. But just as it began, up the road came Bridget, all smiles. She had managed to get into town, but Jenna was still out on the land. We had a great time introducing her to this year’s expeditioners, reuniting with SOI staff and having a great time.

And when we said goodbye, tears and all, we thought that SOI karma was at work again.

Little did we know.

After bed check that night on the ship, as we prepared for hikes the next morning, who should walk in but BOTH Bridget AND Jenna. Without getting too detailed, they had begged a ride from a local fisherman and somehow managed to get on board the ship! After having lived off the land for a few weeks, they were happy to camp out for the night on our ship as official SOI stowaways.

The next day, stowaways and all, we travelled further up Cumberland Sound to the southern tip of Auyittuq National Park to conduct a couple of hikes through this beautiful part of Canada. Half of our group signed up to do the “long hike” to the Arctic Circle, a 25km+ journey. The rest, including myself, Jenna and Bridget, were on the “short hike” to a scenic waterfall a few kilometres away.

The day flew past. Hike in the morning, lunch on the ship, back to the shore for educational workshops, dinner on the ship, and evening briefing. Before long it was time to say goodbye to Auyittuq, and to Bridget and Jenna, who in their short time with us, became a part of our expedition.
Tears were once again shed, emails exchanged, and off they went, back to their adventure, and we to ours.

Today, we visited Kingnait Fjord – again an encore visit for me. Another hike, another waterfall, and another Arctic swim (cold!!!!).

Through it all comes the realization that this is our last couple of days together as a group. Saturday will mark our arrival in Iqaluit where we will begin to say goodbye to our new SOI family. As usual, emotions will be high. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to update on these last couple of days and reflect on the expedition as a whole.

In the meantime, it’s time to say goodnight.

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