Schools on Board: A Warm Welcome in Kugluktuk

October 5, 2011

In the morning, we crossed the street to go to the elementary school to give the students a presentation about our experience on board the Amundsen. We didn’t realize we’d be presenting to such a young audience, but we did a good job adapting our presentation on the spot. It was nice to hear the students ask so many insightful questions.

A science teacher at the high school then took us for a hike near the Coppermine River, just outside Kugluktuk. He explained the geological history of the area to us, which was much different than learning from a textbook because we were actually standing on the rocks he was telling us about. We came back and presented to the high school students.

We also went to the grade 7 Inuinnaqtun class. An elder in the community told us some Inuit legends and explained the way she lived as a child. I find it remarkable to see how well the Inuit have adapted to a living a Western lifestyle in such a short period of time.

In the evening, we had a community feast. The students performed traditional dance routines for us, and we also had some demonstrations of Arctic sports. We then had a meal with some of the students and other members of the community. I got to try some Arctic char! What a great way to end our stay in the Arctic! —Karen Butt ’12

Schools on Board: Phytoplankton and the Arctic Ecosystem

October 1, 2011

Today, we learned about phytoplankton, which is important because it is responsible for most of the primary production in the Arctic ecosystem. Scientists want to know if the Arctic Ocean will be emitting or absorbing CO2 in the future due to climate change.

It’s starting to feel like we will be leaving the ship really soon. We started discussing a farewell presentation for the scientists and crew. The helicopter pilot also started giving safety briefings to prepare us for getting off the ship.

Even though we are leaving soon, we are still doing exciting activities. The chief engineer gave us a tour of the engine room this afternoon. It was very loud and smelled like diesel, but it was cool to see the inner workings of the ship. What I found interesting was the fact that the heat from the engines is used to boil seawater in order to obtain freshwater for the ship. —Karen Butt ’12

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Schools on Board: Physical Oceanography

September 30, 2011

This morning, we had a presentation on physical oceanography, which includes the study of waves and currents. We learned about how water circulates between the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans, and how climate change can drastically change this. I like physics, and it was interesting to see how it can be applied to climate change.

The scientist then showed us the Rosette, a piece of equipment that samples ocean water at different depths. He showed us the probes it has to measure temperature, salinity, pH and fluorescence. They lower it into the water with a winch that has 3km of cable. It is the most important tool on board in terms of the ship’s scientific operations, because all the scientists need to know characteristics of the ocean water from which they are sampling.

Later on, I looked at a variety of zooplankton under the microscope. I admire the patience that the scientists have, closely examining each creature and trying to determine what species it is.

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We also listened to a presentation about microbes in the ocean. They do not know much about what is found in the ocean because most of the bacteria they find cannot be cultured. I love finding out about everything that there is still left to discover. —Karen Butt’12

Schools on Board: Marine Mammal Exploration

September 28, 2011

In the morning, a few students went to the data acquisition room, where we got to see a sonar device used for detecting marine mammals and fish around the ship. The two scientists working with it explained that they were creating a database with the best frequencies to use to detect different species. I was surprised to find out that no one knows how to detect these animals that well, and even less is known about their behaviour. So far, I have had the chance to realize how truly mysterious the Arctic still is, even to the best scientists.

In the afternoon, the ocean was very calm, so the captain had the chief officer take all the Schools on Board participants out on the barge to look for wildlife. We were able to see quite a few seals get close to the boat, and we also saw several bowhead whales in the distance. At one point, we caught a glimpse of something white poke its head out of the water, and we were pretty sure it was a beluga.—Karen Butt ’12

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Schools On Board: We Finally Arrived!

September 24, 2011

Today was a great day, because we finally landed in Kugluktuk and got on board the Amundsen! The five students who met in Quebec City met the other 4 students today. We’ve learned to get along really well in such a short period of time.

One of the students needed to go back to Kugluktuk before getting on the ship, so I went with her and got to see a part of the town. Everything is so different! It’s a small community of 1,300 people, and everyone knows each other. The houses are built on supports in such a way that they are not touching the ground. The freezing and refreezing causes the soil to shift a lot, so they need to adapt their houses to the conditions. We drove by the hospital, the grocery store, the hotel, the arena, and the elementary and high schools. It’s not hard to tell that life in Kugluktuk is very different from Montreal, but I’ll find out much more once we get off the ship and spend a few days there.

We got to take a helicopter from the airport onto the ship. That was definitely the coolest thing I have ever done in my life. I can’t believe how much stuff there is on this ship. It never looked so big from the outside. The space is used effectively though, with narrow hallways and steep staircases. We’re free to go almost anywhere we want, and there’s so much to explore. We just went up on deck, and it’s actually really cold because of the wind. I’ve seen many instruments and scientific equipment and I’m really curious about how it all works.—Karen Butt ’12

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