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!
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.
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...
Friday, July 26th, late in the afternoon, we first meet with Amon and Neevee, while we sail around a few square kilometers last sea ice floe, not far from Grise Fiord. Being back in this community, that has been welcoming us for 2 years (2011-2013), is very emotional. Hard to believe that it has been already six years since we left... but our friends can tell by the sizes of Aurore and Leonie, for sure they grew up quite a bit! Liza and Aksakjuk are on the beach to welcome us, also Imoshee. Later we meet with Annie and Larry, Susie and Jeffrey, Geela and Jimmy, Tivai and Raymond, Kavavow... what a pleasure to see each other again.
Time to do our custom formalities and entry to Canada, easily by phone from the local police office, and we meet with the next scientific team, that has just arrived as well, with a few hundreds of kilos of equipment! Maya Bhatia, Dave Burgess and Erin Bertrand are boarding Vagabond the following day for 3 weeks, after having selected what they need the most. First objective, hydrographic profiles and water samples in front of Jakeman Glacier, where we were stuck in drifting pack ice two days ago...
There is still a lot of ice in front of Grise Fiord, Vagabond is taken away from anchorage or is drifting around, depending on wind and tides. The breaking-up seen from the summit of the Greenlander, above Grise Fiord and above the entrance of the nearby fiord, is absolutely fascinating.
We meet again with local wildlife, enjoying a real festival: walruses on ice floes, narwhals just in front of the village, muskox in Fram Fiord, many groups of harbour seals, and always a lot of birds.
Kicked out by the drifting pack ice in front of Grise Fiord, we spend the night away, hooked on a giant ice floe. The next morning while it is so quiet we hear some strong blows, then suddenly appears from under the ice one small group of narwhals, two, then... around 70 narwhals which appear sometimes from right under our boat! They are everywhere in our little open water, it's like a ballet. They look like breathing again after a long dive, some seem pretty tired, others dashing. We keep for ourselves this amazing moment; Grise Fiord hunters will not need our help to found them...
This morning, we are in the ice. We have almost finished the crossing and we have only 20 miles left up to Grise Fiord. For this navigation I had prepared a chocolate cake and 6 "meneles" (small cakes) by person to keep the mood up. Because we still had our sea legs, it was a better crossing for my sister and I than usually, and I think that it was the first time that I wasn't seasick at all! Because we are close to Grise Fiord, we tried to call them by VHF, on the first time, nothing; but on the second time, they called back! How nice to hear them. A bit later with Dad (Mum and Aurore were sleeping), we saw a seal going up and down at the surface. Then he came out again with two friends! Right after they where three, then four, five, up to nine, all in the same hole! It was crazy. Now we are waiting for the ice to drift and let us pass.
The coralline mission ended yesterday. Over thirty dives to explore the West coast of Greenland, looking for that red algae telling us about the past of the ocean, sometimes for a few centuries. The larger idea behind this project is to understand the long term evolution of the sea ice. The limestone mounds, collected by scuba diving, contain internal layers similar to tree rings, which can be analyzed in the lab and give information on sea ice duration. Climate archives older than satellites data!
Jochen, Natasha and Louis flew back home from Qaanaaq, where we met again with our friend Hans and his wife. Leonie's drawing is still on the wall in the entrance of their hotel! A breakwater is under construction, to better protect the hunters boats, but the shelter is not good enough for Vagabond and we decide to drop anchor near the old village of Qeqertarssuaq, 20km west. There we spend some family time before sailing to Nunavut.
Vagabond is sailing again, at last. The wind has stopped and it is time to search for coralline again. The mission will end in 5 days and our collect is rather small since Upernavik. This is where Jochen Halfar, in charge of the scientific program, joined us for 17 days.
From Disko Bay to Upernavik, we didn't dive, we already explored this area in 2016. Since Upernavik, with Jochen, the search is intense again, the dives often fantastic, but relatively little red algae to sample... Nevertheless, plates are easily filled up with scallops, mussels and sea urchins!
Crossing Melville Bay is incredible. Sea ice is just breaking up, we even get stuck for a while in the ice (a lot less than in 2011), surrounded by numerous icebergs. Sun is shining night and day above a glossy sea. Whales and polar bear are seen nearby. A few trips ashore let us enjoy the immensity of this wild region of Greenland.
In Savissivik, remote village North-West of Melville Bay, down a big little auks colony, we meet with Ole and his family again. They welcomed us very warmly and gave us dogs in 2012. With 5 kids, they represent 15% of the local community. Ole likes better hunting narwhal with his kayak and seal skin float, rather than using his speed boat, which is allowed since 2006. He gives us some skin (maqtaq), that can be eaten raw or cooked. We give him the only scallop I found when diving this morning, in front of his village. Local but unusual food for him! He is really curious about our search for coralline, Jochen and Natasha are giving him a little sample. We all have a shower at the community building, then we sail towards Cape York.
Wind is pushing us to the North-West, a little bit too fast (up to 9 knots!) because conditions are getting too difficult to explore the seafloor. The anchor in Parker Snow Bay doesn't hold, so Vagabond keeps going at a good speed. No way to stop to Thule Air Base because wind is taking us in the other direction. Around 6 in the morning, I drop anchor in less than 2m depth, close to Fitz Clarence Rock (200m), in Booth Bay. But early in the afternoon, 50 knots of wind is kicking us out from anchorage: in very shallow water, engines running at high speed to avoid being smashed on the rocky shore, Vagabond is trying her best to get to a better shelter inside the same Booth Bay. No sea charts here, eyes are constantly watching the radar and the sounder. What a relieve, after a long fight, when the anchor is holding. It will even hold until the end of the gale (4 days in total).
While we are not able to leave the boat because of the weather, Aurore and Leonie, decorating the boat and cooking pastries, make sure everyone is enjoying France Day, July 14th!
We already sailed more than 3000 nautical miles from Miquelon.
After one month of coralline mission, technical adventures to overcome the snorting of our compressor and narghile, the scientific teams are happy and we finally arrived at the bay of the meetings:
1- Le Manguier. Appointment made in Akunaq based on a small island, on National Day, June 21st. We didn't have any opportunity to meet since the North East Passage in 2009, on the tug boat now reconverting into artists residences. Philippe Hercher the captain felled in love with Greenland, we are happy to spend time with him again. This Manguier is still poetic.
2- At Ilulissat it's Thierry Dubois, on La Louise, who takes the moorings. Happy reunion! I have known him for 25 years for having sailed on his 60 feet Amnesty International while Thierry was racing on the Vendée Globe, Route du Rhum, Tour of Europe... Built with his hands, his schooner La Louise is beautiful. His charter program is very intense but it matches his character, always as lively. He has also enjoyed this high latitudes for 9 years.
3- At Oqaatsut, just further north we find Atka, Ben and his sons who have wintered here. There is also Julien who lives in the village with wife and children, for 15 years in Greenland. More extraordinary characters, with lot of incredible lives stories, it is like a breath of fresh air and enthusiasm that everyone on board fully enjoy!
After the north wind, we will leave...
Steffen, a german scientist, is now on board searching for coralline and setting up some data loggers on the sea bed to study the coralline habitat. We have 4 more diving tanks from Nuuk firemen, as the compressor is under repair. We get it back in Aasiaat. But on this leg, the first 7 days are so unsuccessful: no coralline most of the time! Finally the 3 last days we found very good spots around Aasiaat and now, the narghile is working again. Saved mission!