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Studying coralline growth

  • Echantillons coralline et capteurs prets au deploiement
  • Pano Arctic Bay equinoxe

Already one month since we arrived in Arctic Bay. Aurore and Léonie have made their marks at the Inuujaq school, and we are gradually getting to know this community of 1030 people, very welcoming. The preparation of the scientific program kept us busy since September 14th, with Jessica Gould who has just left this morning, back to her university in Boston.

So that's it, 142 samples of coralline met again their habitat, 15m deep, 2km from the village. The first dives were a real relief, I found enough nice pieces of coralline in 4 rather short dives. Then, we had to choose them, clean them, re-cut the bigger ones, soak them for 48 hours in a colored bath to mark the beginning of the study, stick them on their small supports, weigh them precisely, photograph them, and finally install them in groups of 10 on plates equipped with light, temperature, pH and salinity sensors. Finally, on the 28th of September, in a long 50-minutes dive, I hammered down 19 stakes in the seabed, and placed as many plates of coralline samples and sensors. The study of the growth of this special algae began.


Seabed mapping in uncharted areas to support ocean modelling, by

  • Releve sonar multifaisceaux front du glacier Cap Norton Shaw
  • Sonar multifaisceaux et bras repare

Combining climate change research and crowdsourced bathymetry, by Gabriel Joyal

The velocity and dynamics of tide-water glaciers are highly influenced by the submarine morphology near the terminus. Water depths at the glacier front and fjord bathymetry determine the circulation and stratification of ocean water within the fjord, and exchange of water across the continental shelf. These processes have a substantial influence on regulating submarine melt rates, retreat of glacier termini, calving of icebergs, and thus the contribution of tide-water glaciers to global sea level rise. Unfortunately, existing bathymetric data in the Canadian Arctic has large gaps, with the majority of glacial fjords completely uncharted, preventing numerical ocean models from accurately characterizing ocean circulation and the influence of the ocean on the mass balance of marine-terminating glaciers. In order to increase the spatial resolution of the bathymetry in uncharted fjords, there is a need to develop new mapping programs in the High Arctic, using acoustics or optics methods. To this day, large survey vessels (e.g. NGCC Amundsen) with deeper draft are not well suited for safe navigation in shallow uncharted near-shore areas, whereas satellite remote sensing technique give coarser resolution bathymetric data. For the last 3 weeks, with a multibeam echosounder, we collected data from Vagabond on the Eastern coast of Ellesmere Island during a seabed mapping dedicated research cruise. This innovative research program has been made possible through collaboration between academic researchers, R2Sonic LLC, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service. The results highlight the major role played by marine geomatics in climate change research. Moreover, the research-collected data shared with the federal authorities will allow Arctic charts updates, in a context of increased marine traffic and tourism in glacial fjords of the Canadian Arctic.


Life of contrasts

  • Minuit baie Talbot 25 aout
  • Equipage Vagabond a Arctic Bay

How to describe the contrasts offered by this summer's missions. To focus only on the Nunavut part, the three weeks with Maya Bathia and her colleagues around the Jones Sound were only wonderful weather, ice breakage near by Grise Fiord, doing science while quietly drifting in front of gorgeous glaciers, and even camping! With Andrew Hamilton and Gabriel Joyal the three following weeks, we sailed up to the north, the cold and the fog. We had to shelter against gale, to rush back wind with strong swell, to turn back in Talbot Inlet the main objective of this mission because of ice blocus... We even broke the arm of the so precious multi-beam sonar which received too much shocks. But we came back in and with patience enough, we succeed to achieve all the work planed here in the fogy labyrinth. For example, the deployment of an oceanographic mooring (multiple floating instruments in the water column) that Andrew tried to do for four years without success! We did the way back strait to Arctic Bay where Vagabond will spend next winter, with for aim to meet the Austral, cruise ship from Ponant company to give a talk onboard. A reel technical stop and an unreel moment in an extreme luxe. And more ever after few days to live as we can, feeding us as the sea permit, feeling tension and even fear into strong sea with a complete and blocked mainsail...

Life of contrasts... In order to express the general feeling of the moment, to live on a sailboat in the Arctic, working with always different scientific missions, means experiencing strong contrasts marked with magics moments as much as very hard moments. Within the family, the hard moments links, weld ourselves, and when the positive is back it is more strongly. Experience the tiredness, the hunger and even the fear offer to appreciate even more the moments of beauty or joy. Everything is enhanced. And we chose this life, we made it becoming true since twenty years, nothing is best than this freedom. Freedom to live in these territories that we are still fascinating by and in the mean time to be useful for science.


L'Austral, by Aurore Brossier

  • Leonie grand piano L Austral
  • Aurore au bout de Croker Bay a bord de L Austral

At first, Léonie, who was the first to wake up, woke us up in a tornado: "There's L'Austral who's here !!!" In fact, it was another liner, the National Geographic Explorer. We finally had to wait until 1:30 pm, a zodiac came to pick us up. Dad told us to put on tight clothes, and finally, it did not get wet. Once on L'Austral, we went to the bridge where the captain, Patrick, was waiting for us. Then, Leonie went to take a shower in the cabin reserved for us by the crew, while we, the captain, the doctor and the second went to the cafe on the third floor (the largest one). Once we took a shower in turn, we went back to the catwalk, then with the ice pilot, we had a snack of fruits and vegetables. The ice pilot then took me to the hairdresser. She made me two little braids and some English girls. Léonie had two braids. I found Dad and Gabriel in a cafe (not the 3rd), then the commander, the doctor, the photographer (Philip Plisson), the chief mechanic, and we went for an aperitif. Then we went to the restaurant. There was plenty of raw vegetables. That was delicious. During the movie, Léonie and I went on a guided tour with the doctor. We even went to the places reserved for the crew! After, we went up on the stage, to answer questions. Finally, a zodiac brought us back on VAGABOND, with a box of fruit, the welding of the sonar arm, and a can of engine oil. It was an amazing day, but VAGABOND is great too!


Talbot Inlet

  • Objectifs campagne Talbot Inlet
  • Depart Andrew pour Resolute

It's a real relief for the entire crew: the shelter behind Easter Island, in Talbot Inlet, is good. We stay there for 2 nights during a gale from southeast. Taking advantage of lulls, we try from the south to reach Wykeham and Trinity, objects of our mission. These glaciers are the two largest icebergs producers in Canada. So we explore the narrow and shallow passage between Easter Island and Ellesmere Island, which meanders between two more quiet glaciers. Superb, but at the exit of the passage the ice holds us and eventually break the sonar arm! Nevertheless, bathymetry continues with Vagabond's echo sounder (single-beam).

We find our way through the ice coming from the east and manage to deploy the complete oceanographic mooring that Andrew has been looking to install in Talbot Inlet for 4 years, with the Amundsen icebreaker. Certainly Vagabond can venture more freely in uncharted waters, and maneuver more easily between large icebergs and ice floes that constantly clutter the bay.

Still impossible to reach our two glaciers, but we manage to prove that there is no sill between Talbot Inlet and the Nares Strait, so there is a high probability that Atlantic waters will go up to Wykeham and Trinity glaciers fronts. We need about 10 hours of ice navigation to perform two series of hydrographic surveys (CTD transects), north-south and east-west. For Andrew, the essential is done.

Everything is so calm that you can hear the breath of the bear. Met one hour earlier, out of the mist, he found us on the other side of the large ice floe, while Vagabond is stopped during the dinner break. The bear is very close, just a small lead of water separates us, we watch him for long time. The next day, at anchor in Cadogan Bay, I spot a bear swimming towards Vagabond. He ends up turning around and goes back to shore. These encounters are always fascinating.

Andrew must join his family as soon as possible but the weather is not good and the Twin Otter (small plane) can not pick him up near Cape Isabella. So, before heading south, he enjoys with us the very good conditions for a series of CTDs in Cadogan Inlet, which might be the thickest glacier in Canada.

Two days of nonstop and a little rough navigation to Dundas Harbour, south of Devon Island, and Andrew is finally picked up by a Twin Otter, less than 2 hours after our arrival.

We learn then that the remains of a Russian rocket fell exactly on our way, a few hours after our passage!


Science and chocolate cake

  • Leonie et Andrew CTD et filtrations
  • Test sonar en position relevee

We took aboard Gabriel and Andrew a few days ago. Gabriel works with a sonar and he measures depths up to several hundreds meters on each side of the boat (it helps when we are looking for anchorage), while Andrew does CTD that measure salinity, temperature and depth. An me, Maya (scientist from the previous group) asked me to collect some samples for her to measure the nutrients and oxygen that there is in the water. For this, I use a 2 liters bottle that we send get the water at the good depth with a winch, than I filter it and full 2 small bottles that are the samples for Maya. Yesterday, we got stuck in the ice. It would have been easy to go if there wasn't this huge sonar on the side of the boat that is fragile (the sonar). They were 2 to push the ice with poles for her not to hit the under water part. We start to see walruses and seals; we saw polar bears and muskox too, and once narwhals but in a big group (more or less 70 narwhals). Now we are at anchor up to Saturday because the weather said that their was gonna be a lot of wind. That is a good moment to make my chocolate cake!


Heading North

  • Depart helico pour manip sur glaciers ile Devon

Maya, Erin and Dave have an appointment in True Love on Devon Island, a little scientific station built in 1960. On August 9th, a Twin Otter (small airplane) coming from Resolute Bay is dropping their gear and supplies, and a helicopter is meeting them for 2 to 4 days of field work on Devon Ice Cap and Sverdrup and Belcher glaciers. So we are standing by and watching Vagabond. The anchorage we found, 5 km from the station, is not well protected from the swell, so we decide to camp! It's a little bit like holidays...

Happy with the work done, the team is boarding again on August 13th to cross Jones Sound, back on the southern coast of Ellesmere Island, towards South Cape Fiord. While coming back in "our" fiord, we get to see not less than 4 polar bears, walruses, many seals, with blue sky and beautiful glaciers in the background. After a long day profiling and sampling the fiord's waters, and before heading to the next fiord, France and I are taking time to visit again our wintering site (2011-2012), at the entrance of the fiord. Lots of memories, emotional...

Weather still perfect for the last stations, in Grise Fiord, Vagabond's coolers and freezers are all very full! We drop anchor in front of the village on August 15th: offloading, team change, loading the sonar and other equipments, community event organized by the scientists, diesel resupply, training for 2 Rangers (Jimmy and Jason) for them to carry on measurements and samplings during their patrols in the area.

At last I meet with Andrew Hamilton, we have been in touch for the last 2 years about this oceanographic and hydrographic project in Talbot Inlet. After so many mails exchanged, here we are! He is coming with Gabriel Joyal, hired to operate the multi-beam sonar. A complete day is necessary to set it up along the port side of Vagabond, using the mounts we have prepared in St-John's in Newfoundland early May (we did 7400 km since).

So we are bound for Nares Strait, getting a nice gale pushing us quickly out of Jones Sound. Nice stop in the large bay with no name near Cape Norton Shaw: the sonar is giving us a beautiful image of the underwater part of the glacier termini, but we see only the tracks, fresh, left by the polar bear not long before going for a short walk ashore.

Vagabond is notably slowed down by the sonar, happily the winds are fair and on August 22nd, we arrive in Talbot Inlet!


Young ring seal

  • Leonie et jeune phoque
  • Aurore et Leonie observent jeune phoque

This morning we saw a baby seal that was playing around the dinghy, before to go away. My dad, that was on the roof, told us that he was coming back slowly. I went in the dinghy to see it better and I watch him playing around me. Because he was mostly interested by the outboard engine that I had just put in the water, my mom told me to put the hand in the water to see if he was interested. I got so surprise to see him coming by my hand! He passed right under it and I pet him. Right after, he went swimming to the beach and we sailed away, but it was so cool!


Glaciers around Jones Sound

  • Recuperation bouteille prelevement eau

Luck is with us! Just out from Fram Fiord after one complete day to wait for better weather, no more wind and no more swell, stopped by the abundant ice floes. We can make all the planed stations in front of Jakeman glacier, hooked to some big ice floes. A station is: a CTD (instrument measuring salinity and temperature at each depth along the water column), and two or three water samples at some specific depths, with two 10 liters Niskin bottles. Then we have up to 4 hours of filtrations, done with a peristaltic pump or a simple syringe plus a filter. Here is a list, to let you know more about the objectives: nutriments, oxygen isotopes, chlorophyll, carbon particles, dissolved organic carbon isotopes and inorganic ones, mercury on three different forms, proteins, DNA, ANA, mineralogy, number of bacterias and also phytoplankton. Each filter is carefully stored in a fridge, a deep freezer or a special -80°C. After crossing Jones Sound we keep going working in front of the beautiful Belcher glacier from 6pm to 2pm the next day. We take advantage of perfect conditions to study interactions between ocean and glacier.

More in the west, after sailing along Devon island, Vagabond try to enter in the Sverdrup glacier bay. But there is no sounding on the chart, we can see lots of rocks and the swell is not helping. The day after we try to find a way to the glacier front and we are so happy to discover a kind of big shelter behind several rocky barriers. At 10 km from the entrance of the bay, on a peaceful sea we can work again... while the wind and the swell are rushing outside. We will spend 4 days and nights in here. In between two stations we even don't remember sometimes if we are just drifting or if we are at anchor! Leonie is taking her part of the scientific work and contribute a lot to reduce the time of the stations!

On the channel 26 of the radio we can listen to our friends from Grise Fiord, North of Jones Sound. They speak to each other from their speed boats, looking for narwhals and seals. It's touching to recognize each one by his voice, to understand their navigation conditions. And we feels less isolated.


Improbable situation

  • Maya et Erin assistees par Leonie et Aurore

In Fram ford with Maya, Erin and Dave, our three glaciologists interested by the glaciers biology. Early this morning our anchor drifted with 30 knots of wind so we found shelter at the end of Fram fjord by 10 meters dept, where Sverdrup wintered whit the famous ship Fram. The first water samples are experimented with 10 liters Niskin bottles in only 13 meters dept. Then the cosy Vagabond turns like to be a laboratory: after some electrics events, the filtration system is working good, everybody is busy like if we where in a proper lab in town! But we could just look around to see the big wing and this nice old glacier fjord emptying itself with the tide going down. More and more pieces of ground and gravel are appearing few meters from us! We are almost grounded but nobody seems perturbed. I watch over, curious to see the tide changing...