Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic August 03, 2012 - 1:26 pm

Students on Ice voyage threatened with cancellation

Iqaluit ice conditions prevent zodiacs from reaching cruise vessel

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Scores of Students on Ice participants and educators remain stranded in Iqaluit Aug. 3, unable to use zodiac boats to get to their vessel, the Academic Ioffe, which was anchored just off Iqaluit. If ice conditions don't change over the next 24 hours, the expedition may have to be cancelled. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)
Scores of Students on Ice participants and educators remain stranded in Iqaluit Aug. 3, unable to use zodiac boats to get to their vessel, the Academic Ioffe, which was anchored just off Iqaluit. If ice conditions don't change over the next 24 hours, the expedition may have to be cancelled. (PHOTO BY JIM BELL)

The 75 students waiting to go on the Students on Ice 12-day expedition to Greenland were getting anxious Aug.3, as ice in Frobisher Bay still prevented them from boarding their vessel, the Akademik Ioffe.

If the ice clogging Iqaluit’s harbour doesn’t clear in 24 hours, as of Aug. 4, the trip may be cancelled, expedition leader Geoff Green said.

“Our window to get to Greenland is closing,” Green said.

Originally set to depart Iqaluit Aug. 1, the team has been waiting at Arctic College’s old Ukkivik residence for winds to turn.

However, the 75 Canadian and international students, along with 43 educators and staff, remain optimistic that a northwest wind may clear the huge blocks of ice in time to start the educational trip, where they will learn about marine life and climate change. 

“It’s ironic, because globally the sea ice is diminishing. We seem to have what’s left of it in Iqaluit and Frobisher Bay,” Green said.

Staff and educators are trying to carry out the Students On Ice program to the greatest extent possible while stuck in Iqaluit.

While waiting, the students, aged 14 to 18, spent time on hikes and workshops, attended a community barbeque to meet Premier Eva Aariak, and taken a walking tour with Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern.

Elder Alicee Joamie taught the students about the traditional uses of plants and vegetation around Iqaluit. 

“One great thing was how the community has rallied around us,” Green said.

Students on Ice remain in touch with the Coast Guard to see if anything can be done to help get to their ship.

“We’re just looking at that at the moment,” Green said.

And local boats are on standby willing to help ferry the team and their gear to their ship, whose zodiacs cannot maneuver around the ice.

Russell Chislett, owner of a local fishing boat, has agreed to help, as has the Arctic Kingdom outfitting firm, which offered the use of its zodiacs.

Local people with fishing boats have also stepped up to the plate.

“I think we could do it with one or two of those boats,” said Green, adding that he hasn’t seen this much ice in Frobisher Bay before, especially chunks of multi-year sea ice as high as five metres.

But for the kids, the situation teaches a lesson that “Mother Nature really is in control,” he said, although that wasn’t how Students On Ice originally planned to teach that lesson.

Still, the students are having fun.

Last night, two of the youth from Nunavut heard a throat-singing performance and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory did a Greenlandic mask dance for the group.

“We’ve been blessed with all different kinds of wonderful things in the last few days,” Green said.

But he still wants to get the trip underway.

“If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.”

The students are anxious to get going of course, yet they are dealing with this unpredictable situation with remarkable understanding and maturity, Green wrote on Students On Ice’s daily blog.

“There’s got to be a way,” he said.

The goal is to get going on the ship in the next 24 hours, leaving tonight or tomorrow if possible.

If the Students on Ice ship, the Akademik Ioffe, leaves any later, there will be no time for stops.

The first scheduled stop is the Savage Islands near the southeastern tip of Baffin Island.

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