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2014 Fall Arctic trip

OCTOBER 22, 2014

Today was full of both joy and sorrow. Jordan and Maria thought they'd be saying goodbye to Baltimore today, but due to the extreme ineptitude of a certain airline, they not only get to stay another night but also got a glimpse of DC!

We said our goodbyes at Park right after school let out, and headed to the airport where we found out that our flight had been delayed to tomorrow morning. We really wanted to try to make it to Winnipeg tonight, so the airline offered us spots on a flight out of the DC airport. They paid for taxis to take us there, but then due to another mess-up, we missed that flight. So, it was back to Baltimore to stay one more night here. Tomorrow we'll be up bright and early for our 6:45 AM flight, and hopefully we'll actually leave this time!  

- Annika Salzberg (Park School) and Maria Nallim (Kelvin High School)

OCTOBER 23, 2014

I was too exhausted to stay awake on our flight from Baltimore to Minneapolis, but at least I was on my way to Winnipeg, and later Churchill. We dined on coffee (lots of coffee), breakfast pastries, and chopped veggies with hummus and ranch. We talked about the other teenagers and adults whom we would meet shortly. We talked about rules and expectations. The straight-faced “no sex, drugs, or rock ‘n’ roll” talk was delivered with an expert straight face and piercing eye contact. Excitement and fatigue mingled in the corners of our eyes and smiles as we waited to board the plane. Our travels, although long, seem unimportant when I look back at the entire day. Straight from the airport, we headed to the Assiniboine Park Zoo to check out their four polar bears and educational exhibit about Churchill. Seeing polar bears, even in captivity, was exciting, especially knowing that soon we might see them in their natural habitat. Their exhibit on Churchill was a thrilling preview of the week to come. It highlighted the Churchill Northern Studies Center (CNSC), where we would be staying and working shortly. Dr. Stephen Petersen, the Head of Conservation and Research at Assiniboine Park Zoo, gave us a fascinating tour of his work. A bit after the zoo had closed, we left for a potluck dinner and photo calibration session with the Kelvin High School students and teachers. I am so excited to be here, to learn, and to meet my fellow inhabitants of North America.

- Eva Schneiderman, Park School of Baltimore

OCTOBER 24, 2014

 The saying “getting there is half the fun” certainly applies to Churchill (although, in reality, nothing can compare to the time spent in that enchanting place). However, it would be a lie to say that today, a travel day, was not without its own adventures. As a student from Baltimore, this was the first time that I really got to know the group heading up from Winnipeg. The trip started bright and early, meeting in Kelvin’s parking lot at quarter till five. Excitement built as we tried to make out unfamiliar forms shifting around in the dark, soon to be transformed into new friends, and loaded gear into the vans. As we headed north to Thompson, we were certain to grab a snack at a Tim Horton’s on the way out of Winnipeg, and stop by Pisew Falls, just a hour from Thompson. The nine hours went by in a flash, with the vans always keeping a stimulating conversation going, whether comparing the geography of Manitoba and Maryland, discussing our literature or language classes, or simply going through our pictures from the day.

            As we made our way onto the train, we finally got to know each other as a fuller group for the first time, although we still had yet to meet two more students from Churchill the next morning. We split up into groups for icebreakers and preparing for our arrival in Churchill, discussing questions we had about the trip, and designing lists from A to Z for naming polar bears (the winner of which being “things to flavor food with”). Afterwards, we continued with more activities. People who had taken calibration photos with rangefinders yesterday had the opportunity to form regression lines for their cameras. People also got to get their hands on the Whisker Printing software, and gain a deeper understanding in how this essential analysis worked. Finally, we all got to have a chance to try out mitten making with the help of Jordan, a student from Churchill. Although so many of us dread the idea of an entire day on the road (or rails), today, we started to build the bonds that would leave us closer and more connected with our group than we’ll have ever been with most people.

- Cory Silver, Park School of Baltimore

OCTOBER 25, 2014

Today we got off the train, and were greeted by a documentary team, who are filming us for their mini-series on Churchill, and headed off to a few museums to learn about the culture of the area. 

We then went to the CNSC where Heidi gave us an orientation for the centre and then we got some lunch. Then we got to put our stuff in our rooms and freshen up and do some preparation before we did some Science on the tundra! We got to see some life that lives in the ponds around the CNSC (don't worry we had a bear guard). 

After dinner we heard a research talk from Dr. Jane Waterman, teaching us some polar bear biology before we saw them tomorrow on the tundra. Next we worked to prepare ourselves for the day out on the tundra buggy tomorrow! 

We went to bed nice and early to get lots of sleep before our long next day. 

- Jessica Katz, Kelvin High School

OCTOBER 26, 2014

Today was the day we finally got to experience the grandeur of the North.

We went out on the Tundra Buggy, which was surprisingly comfortable with a heater and flush toilet included on this behemoth of a machine.

When the first bear was sighted he was greeted with awestruck silence, this was the first time many of us had seen a polar bear in the wild. The majority of our day was spent waiting for polar bears to pose for the cameras or trundling along the rocky roads searching for bears.

The camaraderie was evident as we worked together to help each other get the shots we need to WhiskerPrint the bears as well as estimate their body condition and body size.

We brought bagged lunches on the buggy along with some tomato soup and hot chocolate, they were a welcome addition to the cold winds blowing across the tundra.

            Returning to the research center tired but elated we spent the remainder of the day analyzing our findings, breaking for a delicious stir fry dinner then returning to work hard on a few different projects. We ended the day a bit later then usual, we were all a bit excited after the excitement of the day.

- Thomas Andrews (College Churchill)

OCTOBER 27, 2014

Dear readers, today was like every other day out here at CNSC, wake up at 6am, be ready for breakfast by 7 and ready to go to the tundra buggies by 8, just another day in the life of an ISAMR member. The buggies was amazing, we saw 10 bears and of those 10 there was a mother bear with two cubs only 20 feet away from us!  We got back to the CNSC after a day of getting amazing photos and getting thrown around the buggy and people sleeping, we had a very heart warming presentation from Caroline about the book Night Spirits and her life while she went through the residential school system and the after affects. After we stormed through piles of data and photos, putting them to and from various computers, storage devices we got the okay to go to bed, but even then people didn’t want to go to bed and wanted to stay up fight the sleep and work. Over all the day brought new ideas, made peoples friendships stronger and put us on track to finishing all the work on time.

- Logan Rodger, Kelvin High School

OCTOBER 28, 2014

After an exciting night of work and play, most of us woke with a bit of difficulty. Those of us who hadn’t already packed our stuff up did so before and after breakfast. Later, we all brought our bags down to the foyer.

Too quickly, our stay at the CNSC was over and we headed to Cape Merry. Cape Merry was really interesting! We got a tour from a Parks Canada Ranger. He told us so much about the first European inhabitants of Churchill. My cheeks were numb, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in that, but most of us stuck it out for an extended tour. Those who were lucky found nearly frozen cranberries growing in a dusting of snow beside lichen-covered fragments of the Canadian Shield. Isostatic post-glacial rebound is fascinating, and so is France’s role in the American Revolution.

After our visit to Cape Merry, we went into the town of Churchill to visit a few stores so we could bring home mementos for you all.

Next, we went to Jill’s house for lunch, ATV rides, mitt (adult mittens) making, discussion, and general merry-making. Jill is a Canadian Ranger, and leader of a group of Junior Canadian Rangers, some of whom were part of this trip. The snow goose, Canada goose, ocean river trout, and bannock were delicious.

We cleaned up our mitt making mess then left Jill’s house for a visit to Dene Village. Dene Village was the third site that the Sayisi Dene people were relocated to by the Canadian government. We paid our respects by sprinkling tobacco below a plaque honoring those whose lives had ended in Dene Village.

Next, we visited a Métis woman named Myrtle. She told us about her past and her culture while helping us make key fobs (chains).

After sunset, we headed to the train station where said our goodbyes to the Junior Rangers, Jill, and the camera crew.

We gorged ourselves on donuts and Gypsy’s pizza for dinner then quickly got to work processing our pictures with the WhiskerPrint program. It has been exciting to see results from our work. Others continued work on their mitts, which look superb.

Around 1:30am, those maniacs who were still awake (most of us) realized that the sky had cleared and the Aurora Borealis was visible through the train windows.

- Assorted Kelvin and Park students (We miss you, Jordan, Antonina, and Dania!!)

OCTOBER 29, 2014

Our last day together was a long one. We woke up after a long night on the train; watching the northern lights and working hard to process data, along with some poker played with goldfish. It was a great way to spend our last night, and everyone was exhausted by the end of it.  After getting off the train, we began our 9 hour car ride from Thompson. It consisted mostly of sleeping, making jokes, and talking about all our favorite memories of the trip.  Once arriving at our drop off point, Kelvin High School, we began our lengthy goodbyes. Hugs, jokes, and plans for the future were all shared, as well as an Oscar Wilde soliloquy. Though it was the end of our trip together, it was by no means the end of the friendships we made. 

- Alexander Tivoli, Kelvin High School

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