Dylan Tellei on the Coral and Ice Exchange

Leaving home, alone, for the first time was definitely the first of the many new things I experienced that caught me off guard and had a lasting impact throughout the trip. That sense of being alone wasn’t necessarily bad though, it gave me a sense of freedom, a sense of individualism going into the trip. Soon after, however, I found that I wasn’t entirely alone. I found myself in the company of Chloe, a Micronesian from Chuuk, together we traveled to Canada, I had found someone similar to me and had begun to feel more comfortable going into the expedition. For the next few days we roamed the city of Ottawa, getting a chance to try local food, or “country” food as they call it. We walked around the city market watching street-performers and musicians, visited museums of history and nature and a gallery of Canadian and Inuit art, and cycled around the city to the waterfalls at the end of the canal.
Once our tour of Ottawa had concluded we embarked on our expedition starting with a flight to Resolute Bay, one of the northernmost communities in Canada. Before I go into this next section please keep in mind that Palauans were NOT meant for cold climate at all. I’ll be honest once the doors of the plane opened and the slightest touch of the Arctic winds touched me I was ready to go back to Palau. Being from a place that is normally 30-40°C to 0° was a total shock! That intense cold was so foreign to me. As I got off the plane I saw my breath for the first time in that 0° cold and kept breathing just to see it over and over again until I couldn’t see it anymore. Finally when it was time to board the zodiacs, which are small rubber boats that use inflated pockets to stay afloat, I saw it for the first time, ice. This was the first time I had ever seen ice just floating in a body of water, excluding the ice I get in my iced tea or water, this was a joke I had told countless times throughout the expedition.
Throughout my time aboard the Ocean Endeavor I was able to experience so much. Each day we were given a presentation about something new and exciting, along with that we participated in workshops that tested both our hands on skills and overall knowledge. Each workshop was designed to accommodate everyone’s personal style of learning from artful crafting workshops to scientific data analysis workshops. Off of the Ocean Endeavor we were given the opportunity to go on hikes to arctic glaciers and rock formations and mountains, go standup paddle boarding and kayaking around various fjords, and even do some fishing and foraging around certain areas.
All in all the expedition was great educationally but what really had a lasting impact on me was the hospitality and warmth of the staff, students, and people I met along the journey. Throughout the entire expedition I was met with nothing but open arms and warm smiles. Each and everyday everyone would meet and be glad and we would all enjoy the day conversing and joking, each of us enjoying each other’s company. The atmosphere surrounding our group reminded me of my home and my family, and soon enough that’s what we became, a small little family nearly 200 strong all connected by the experiences and stories we all shared. My hope is that ALL future expeditions will develop a bond similar to ours and that each and every student and staff may stay connected as alumni and family.