When the Martin Bergmann research vessel heads out to sea for this year's annual Arctic expedition, it won't just be for research — the crew will also be helping artists in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut quarry soapstone for carving.

Though it's common to find Inuit carvings all over Nunavut, the soapstone deposits that provide the raw materials aren’t always located near communities, and stone can be hard to come by.

“It’s hard for us to get a lot of it,” says David Nakashook. “Out on the land, we have to spend a lot of money to get it out of the ground and you need special tools, so we order rock from out of town.”

This year, the Martin Bergman will carry several carvers to traditional sources of soapstone in Bathurst Inlet and Wellington Bay.

“My grandmother had a big qulliq [a traditional stone lamp] from that area,” Nakashook says. “I want to get my hands on that stone.”

Cambridge Bay carvers

Jorgan Klenenberg, Damien Iqalliq and David Nakashook are all keen to get their hands on soapstone from the traditional deposits outside of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (Shannon Scott/CBC)

Adrian Shimnowski is with the Arctic Research Foundation.

“The work we do this year will open up the area, so the artists can organize an expedition to come back in the spring and winter to collect more stone,” he says.

Shimnowski says his group is looking for funding so those carvers who make the trip can get paid for their local knowledge.

He hopes the first quarry Cruise will set sail at the end of July.