Jun. to Sep. 2001
by France Pinczon du Sel
Photos (Eric Brossier)
see also Groenland 2000
Vagabond arrived the 30th of September in Brittany
Octobre 6th. 2001,
While we are leaving Ammassalik, on
the 5th of September, a two seater kayak is getting close to us. It
is Lonnie Dupre and his team-mate who is ending the first Greenland
utter round by waterway. We are able to read happiness on their face
thanks to the success. Our congratulations are unanimous, and Christian
speaks a little bit in a more technical way with them. Well done !
We fill up with water to the usual nearby fjord, we stay overnight
there, and then we sail to Tiniteqilaq for the last call. Max is there
waiting for us to buy two paddles and a kayak overall from Christian
and François. We also offer him a few more useful accessories which
are impossible to find here. It is a nice friendship exchange before
For this return trip to Iceland, we are nine on board : in addition
to the kayakers and us, Swad, Christophe and Pierrot are joining us,
as well as Clifford who arrived straight from Madagascar, and Nicolas
who did several days walk around Ammassalik.
First day of navigation, a myriad of whales escort Vagabond, 5 of
us are in the mast (crow's nest or shaft helm) to watch them well.
Magic of their last salutes before sounding in the quiet sea.
Afterwards, the passage proves less calm : three days with gusts of
wind and a few worries about sea water which enter by an airway in
the diesel-tank (it was plugged later), but also by the shower porthole.
Would the hull have worked till slightly deform the porthole frame
Reykjavik finally offers to us his pontoons, as well as a general
round to the swimming pool, with sauna and Jacuzzi, restoring us as
early as the first hour. Today is the 11th of September. At 13 o'clock,
a guy interrupts our Fish & Chips meal to announce the attempts in
the USA. We are hard put to it to realise, to measure the event, before
hearing more information on RFI French radio.
Reykjavik is also the nice party on board to celebrate Christian's
40th birthday, and the pleasure of meeting again our Icelandic friends
from last year. We have a nice evening at their home. The day after,
Yohé, who is a pilot for Icelandair, gives us a fantastic surprise
: 1 h 30 of flight on board of a small Cessna above geysers and Gulfoss
waterfalls. Our friends' welcoming and kindness will stay unforgettable.
The polar news are at their height at the moment. Whereas we are breaking
the meeting at Barrow's Point of Michèle Demai (Vagabond godmother),
with the Irish yacht Northabout, both embarked in the North-West passage,
we also meet here in Reykjavik harbour, Henk de Velde, who just attempted
the North-East passage with his yacht Campina (like Vagabond, Campina
and Northabout were drawn by Gilbert Caroff). Unfortunately, Russians
did not allowed him to pass. That is why we could finally meet again
in Siberia next summer... Unexpected and strength of the character
make the exchange very exciting. At the same moment, Harry Causer,
a friend of Nordenskjold family, is writing to us that he saw Vagabond
in Greenland on BBC TV !
Weather forecast is clement again, Vagabond put the sea, we are 5
on board, heading to Faroe Islands. On the way, we call at Vestman
Islands on the 16th of September for technical checking and some tourism.
Unfortunately, the rain does not stop.
Faroe Islands, 20th of September - In spite of a very good weather
for four days, we are stuck in front of the first cliff for more than
four hours, facing an over than six knots dangerous tidal stream,
because we couldn't read nautical instructions written in the local
language ! We finally approach the chosen fjord and get his strong
earth and fresh grass smells, forgotten for three months. The little
crowd, come to greet us on the quay, is now moving to welcome an old
wood boat filled with sheeps captured in a small neighbouring island.
The show is droll of seeing these muddy and gladdened men, women and
children, catching as possible each sheep ! It is an important moment
in the village life, like the unusual, unique and traditional whale
hunting which we assist by chance the following day. We are meeting
men calm and willing to help, and these 24 hours spent at Hvalba (Suduroy
island) give us the taste of another world.
Weather forecast still announces anticyclones we shall take benefit
from. Except the first night without autopilot (jammed), the journey
continues at the watch quiet rhythm and in the general good mood,
between New Hebrides and Scotland, and till the Irish sea. It is hard
to believe that we are right in September in North Atlantic ocean,
with such a nice weather. We think of arriving on Saturday 29th September.
But "sea is not like the TGV train", said Pierrot...
Weather forecast maps announce a brutal change. A few hours call in
Rosslare (South East of Ireland) on the 26th of September is necessary
to take breath and let in a cold wave. Two days before the arrival,
when we leave there, 30 knots of wind and bad waves full face take
place in order to handle roughly and delay us. To avoid sea-sickness,
we must keep busy, and we find a remedy : listening to the radio all
day long. Finally, we will not be at the appointment on Saturday,
and stamp our feet, thinking of all the energy exerted by Paco to
prepare our arrival.
The last day is great, wind has changed, Vagabond, all sails out,
is breaking the sea at 7 knots, the sun shines, it's hot... less than
100 nautical miles to Saint-Quay-Portrieux ! Everyone enjoys these
last radiant instants on sail, shared between impatience of arriving
and desire of holding a few time.
Sunday 30th of September, we already catch a glimpse of a motorboat
approaching, cameras pointed on the red hull... Vagabond bypass the
Port d'Armor's causeway at 3 o'clock p.m. sharp, welcome by friends'
horns and screams, close harms, photos of those who'd already come
back, a few journalists, TV... We are happy of being back, of having
done what was planned, thanks to many of you. See you soon !
Ammassalik, September 3rd. 2001,
Monday morning, 3rd of september,
Vagabond just arrived at Ammassalik, after more than 3 weeks geological
expedition (Tectomagma). Several hundreds of measurements and samples
taken by the 5 geologists, thousands of pictures, hours of film, unforgettable
moments shared together, always with humour, despite difficult conditions
: 9 nights drifting as Vagabond was trapped in the ice pack, fog patches
coming suddenly, very strong currents, catabatical wind up to 50 knots,
swell coming from the open sea and dangerous with the ice pack...
Some bumps on Vagabond's hull, but everyone is fine, including Christian
and Francois, picked up on Sondre Aputitek island, saturday 1st of
september, with their kayaks. Hard conditions for them as well, stuck
there for 13 days.
My diary is much too long to come here... I'm happy to let talk the
expedition members :
"I will remember not only waking up at 3 in the morning on the frozen
deck, holding an ice pole (sticking because of the cold) in the 'washing
machine' (ice pack, strong currents and heavy swell together), but
also serene hours still in the ice, outcrops (rocks) at a hammer distance,
inaccessible..." (Gilbert, geologist)
"The song of styrene which, nightly, make us go to the ice pole, the
pastel of dawn, the slides on gneiss (old granite) polished by the
ice, the deep measure of the Inlandsis on the edge of the green continent
- blinking Erik (the Red) - and the boreal feasts on board Vagabond.
As much memories engraved deeper than the fjords." (Yanni geologist)
"To Vagabond and to the wanderers you are, I say bravo for what you
are doing and for what you are. If Vagabond suffered in the ice floes,
it was for a passionate team and this is her real mission." (Jacques,
cameraman and photographer)
"There are not 36 solutions to transform conditions a priori very
unfavourable for scientific exploration, in a final success : it needs
to be pugnacious and brave, and not to hesitate to commit oneself
despite the risks. These are the skills I found on board Vagabond.
Moreover, when abilities meet contentment, I must recommand the use
of this ship for scientific purpose. The mission 2001 on East Greenland
could have been disastrous (ice pack) but is achieved with results
very respectables." (Laurent, scientific expedition leader)
"How could I forget these foggy mornings in the middle of the raging
ice pack, master by Eric's power and France's gentleness ! Such great
moments on the deck and warm time in the wardroom !" (Herve, geologist)
"Our friends geologists worked very well in spite of the ice conditions
not really favourable for various prospections. This publication (available
on request) is the obvious proof of abilities of french scientists
in the concerned field, that is jokes and good mood !!" (Franck, logistician)
"Same people, same trip... Not at all, each day of this second expedition
was different from any previous day. Each morning had some surprise,
frozen, geological, or humorous. I will always keep in my heart memory
of these frosted moments, but so alive and so warm." (Jean-Paul, geologist)
(from Vagabond's guest book)
Tonight, while the sailing crew for the trip back from Greenland to
Saint-Quay-Portrieux is setting up into quarters, we are lucky to
welcome on board Emmanuelle and Max, introduced before.
August 8th. 2001,
of August. For the first time this summer, we are trying to go around
Ammassalik Island, by the south. This area, Vagabond cannot forget,
she was trapped, drifting in the icepack for 2 days, one month ago.
Marc has just arrived, and
he is already climbing the mast to take his position in the crow's
nest. This is the first ascent of our sailor-climber ! Cleo, Piem,
France and I are watching from the deck level. 2 of us are using ice
poles, one is transmitting information to the helmsman. Altough we
are concentrating, the wonderful feeling of sailing in the ice is
catching us again, in this little noisy atmosphere. Ice all around
is alive, stopped by the high mountains on the starboard side, breathing
on the port side, up to the open sea. We cannot even see on the horizon.
The icepack seems to be thick, but a little passage appears along
the coast. Suddenly, we see another red hull coming in front of us,
with her 2 little masts : Timmik belongs to the Ammassalik Hotel.
By VHF, I ask the captain about ice conditions. Coming back from Ikateq,
the village we are heading to : 'We had not too much ice when we went,
but it is getting worse quickly now, and we are not sure to reached
back Ammassalik tonight'. Current is strong, we can hear some anxiety
in his voice.
Another VHF call, Soren, our friend from Ammassalik Radio is also
here, just behind us now, then overtaking us, very happy and proud
on his unique funny boat. He is showing us how he can cook saussages
on his engine, and is ready to try and give us some before going back
to Ammassalik ! Ice concentration is increasing, sun is now hiding
behind the mountains, it's time for him to go back.
Vagabond is moving slowly in the icepack, using ice poles more and
more. The passage is very narrow, and if there is one, this is due
to shallows and rocks. Underwater parts of icepack are also in our
way. Stuck on one of them, Vagabond is one more time showing what
she can do, thanks to her 2 engines and to the ice poles. Hopefully,
concentration is decreasing for sometime, and we zigzag gently, enjoying
the lights of the long sunset. From the inside, drinking a hot chocolate,
we like the icebergs becoming pink, the incredible blue sky, the moon
rising... We go outside, in the cold, for pictures mainly.
Entering the Sermilik Fjord is also wonderful. After a long approach
of Ikateq, Vagabond is sailing between many little islands, and houses
can be seen in outline, but no lights. No information about depth
or moorage on our sea chart, so we finally choose a place to anchor,
we will wait tomorrow to visit the village. Midnight, this was 7 hours
With Marc in the crew, we cannot miss any opportunity to climb on
the ice. Roped up, equipped with crampons and ice axe, we cross a
glacier or enter some crevasses. At the end of Tasilaq Fjord, from
a hudge glacier without name, we see the 2 tents of the canadian women
climbing team. They are too far for us to visit them now, they are
probably climbing anyway. Still 2 weeks to go. I meet Dave at Kulusuk
airport 2 days later, he spent a month with her, and he tells me about
the 47 hours ascent they did with 2 nights on the rock face.
Position of the kayakers, 5th of August : 66 37 55 North, 34 20 39
West, they passed Gustav Cap already, where we worked last year with
the geologists. Ice concentration is not so high according to them.
We are preparing their last food supply.
Vagabond is getting ready to welcome, Friday 10th of August, the remaining
scientific team, in order to leave for a 3 weeks geological expedition,
500 km north of Ammassalik. Franck, logistician for the French Polar
Institute, and Jean-Paul, geologist, arrived yesterday, just after
Jacques and Samuel, producing a film.
Hanz-Peter, from Ammassalik, gives me his advices on the best sea
route to follow, shows me dangerous fjords and glaciers, shallows,
and areas where we can meet polar bears. He mentions that several
inuits are now hunting there.
Adventure is still on the web site,
even if our webmaster left Vagabond, after a good dive under the ice
; he is now looking for hot springs in Iceland.
Eric (and France !)
July 31st 2001,
27th of July,
Vagabond is mooring in front of the little village of Tiniteqilaq,
near by the great fjord Sermilik, always carrying many beautiful icebergs.
We are in a safe place, expecting a gale announced by Ammassalik Radio
since 2 days. We are here also to visit Max.
He was young from Marseille when he came here 12 years ago. He is
now a seal hunter and a guide, very well integrated into the local
Max is going by kayak to the next little bay to feed his dogs with
a freshly hunted seal. Piem, Nicole and I are following him with the
dinghy. Max first cuts methodically the animal, then shares it out
between his 16 dogs, all chainned up close to a small stream. He patiently
reply to all our questions about his life, about his dogs, about sleigh
riding in winter...
Later, in his comfortable house, while eating some fresh seal meat
given by his neighbour (delicious with some mustard), he keep explainig
to us what is the life of a seal hunter here. He also tells us little
about his plan to go around the fjords, skiing on the inlandsis for
a 3 weeks expedition.
Max, his wife, and 3 children, are then coming on board for dinner.
I really enjoy being able to welcome them at home. This has always
been a dream for me while travelling around, the guest becoming the
host. 15 people around a chicken with lemon, there is fresh bread
just out from the oven (thanks to Christiane), some saucisson, cheese
and cream dessert. Max and his family are happy, we are all happy.
Our mission is now to get to the base camp of the Canadians, to suggest
them to sell some of their equipment to Max, when they will be finished
with their first ascents, by the end of august.
Last news, the kayakers Christian et Francois collected the food we
dropped for them 10 days ago. We are now thinking about the next one,
July 23rd. 2001,
the last three weeks tense moments and various encounters have followed
one another so that my diary is still a series of sketchy jottings...
but I don't give up hope of sharing our experience with you more fully
very soon. Meanwhile here are a few remarkable moments :
July 7th - The three Canadian women mountaineers we had picked up
in Reykjavik are left by Vagabond, with Dave their cameraman - and
their 300 kg of equipment - at the farend of fjord Tasilaq, near Schweizerland
range where the Fox Jaw granite peaks rise. Their expedition is due
to spend one and a half month trying new ways up to the summits.
July 10th - 2 kayaks brought by Vagabond all the way from Brittany
are made ready by Christian and Francois. Also we agree on how they
can communicate with Vagabond and where food etc... are to be left
for them by Vagabond. Christian and François leave Ammassalik for
the North ready for a 2 month paddle along Greenland East coast. We
couldn't leave their first bundle of food in the exact place as planned
(66N) because of dense drifting ice-pack - but with survival suits
we manage to step on flat ice sheets and swim to the shore. Using
the radiovacations with Pierre and satellite link with Marc, we were
able to let them know the exact spot their food and equipment were
left. We are closely following their progress and might pick up their
food again and leave it further on for them, icepack conditions permitting.
Sunday July 22nd - Vagabond is drifting towards the opening of Amassalik
fjord hemmed in by dense icepack. Anchor is dropped opposite Kummiut
for the night but drifting ice soon pulls it off, so taking advantage
of the tide going out we try to crawl on for a few miles, hoping to
strike an icefree space eventually. The tide comes in again, the icepack
gets tighter - nothing doing except wait for the next tide change.
No good. Reaching Kulussuk has become impossible. After 24 strenuous
hours pushing off - or trying to - drifting ice with poles, waiting
for it to move off, hugging the shore at great risk of touching hidden
rocks on the bottom (which eventually happens... a few seconds of
fright !), we finally drop anchor in Ammassalik harbour in the small
hours of the morning. Those who leave Vagabond have to catch a helicopter
to commute to Kulusuk airport - and vice versa for those who are due
to embark today. A stroke of luck : the weather is perfect, the aerial
view of the broken pack must be memorable.
Our encouters with Hans-Peter, a greenlandic teacher of mathematics
at Ammassalik, with Emmanuelle Saliou, from Brittany, who has been
working for the Philatelic service at Ammassalik for the last 5 years,
and with Max Audibert, from Marseille, a seal-hunter and guide for
the last 12 years at Tiniteqilaq, have been just as inspiring and
thrilling as our discovery of the surrounding fjords, glaciers, villages
and - for some of us - the new experience of living on board Vagabond.
Tomorrow 24th July, the whole crew of Vagabond is invited to the opening
of the new permanent display on Paul-Emile Victor at Ammassalik Museum.
July 4th 2001,
After having tried to pass the heavy ice floe
for 2 days, vagabond finally arrived at ammassalik (east coast of
greeland) tuesday afternoon, thanks to the 8000 hp of the Kista Arctica.
Everyone is fine on board, we keep going, depending on ice. The whole
story will be soon on the web site.
June 22nd. 2001,
Vagabond and her crew arrived in Iceland this
morning at 3 o'clock (5 am in France), story of our journey coming