South Cape Fiord

  • Rencontre du Pierre Radisson dans Fram Sound ©EB
  • France et Leonie cherchent de la coralline pres du cap Morse ©EB
  • Rencontre avec Raymond et Tivai dans le fjord du Cap Sud ©EB
  • France laborantine ©EB

Vagabond is at anchor near the entrance of South Cape Fiord, Ellesmere Island, exactly at the spot where we lived from October 2011 till July 2012. Our daughters were pretty young then, the winter was amazing. Memories are coming back nicely while sorting out the last coralline samples after a good dive at Cape Storm on August 13th...

August 10th: a polar bear is running away on the beach near the old scientific station Truelove. I was diving the night before without knowing he was around! Nice seafloor, a lot of kelp (we monitor our observations for Arctic Kelp team), pretty good sampling. The sea is calm, we keep searching for coralline as well as doing oceanographic stations. During the Jones Sound crossing, from Devon Island to Ellesmere Island, we even manage to send the CTD and sampling water down to 630m deep.

On August 11th, a large group of walruses prevents me from diving near Olsen Island, in Goose Fiord. I don't really want to play around with these big guys... We are searching for coralline near Fram Sound and Hell Gate. We have to deal with quite a lot of drifting ice and strong currents, which make us turn around, precisely before Cape Turnback! In the middle of the sound, while we are getting ready to launch the probe between ice floes drifting East at 2 knots, our AIS is suddenly showing a ship. The Pierre Radisson is a Canadian Coast Guards icebreaker and we can communicate in French! Watching us carefully, he starts moving towards us, probably thinking we are trapped in the ice... But once the station is done, Vagabond pushes, sneaks, and proudly reach open water. We greet the icebreaker, still following us, and enter Hourglass Bay. There, we first have to cross a very shallow and uncharted area (2 to 3 m depth) before getting to a good shelter. The little red hut is still there, it was built 20 years ago to commemorate the Centennial of Fram and Sverdrup expedition (1898-1902).

We enter the great glacial South Cape Fiord on August 14th. We have 21 hydrographic profiles to do with the probe (CTD), as well as 27 water sampling (Niskin bottle) and filtering series (nutrients, oxygen isotopes, Chla, CHN). Conditions are perfectly calm, luckily! Many icebergs, glaciers calving actively, a lot of birds, one more polar bear (we saw 9 in 3 weeks), bearded and ring seals... the rich waters are very attractive when the ice disappear for about 3 months. Raymond and Tivai are here hunting, they caught a seal and a duck, it looks better than our ocean data and filtered water bottles! They are the first people we meet since we left Arctic Bay, and we are really happy to see them again and to chat for a little while with our friends from Grise Fiord (the village is 70km away, to the East).

Vagabond Cruise 2020 map.

Sverdrup Glacier

  • Bonne ambiance sur le pont pendant les manips ©EB

Endless westerly wind is challenging our North Devon Island cruise. After standing by for three days, we took full advantage of a calm weather starting measurements and sampling at 4am yesterday morning in front of Sverdrup Glacier. The transect was completed not long after 1pm, when wind and swell were picking up again! We are back at anchor near Cape Hardy, sheltering as it is impossible for now to head West to followup with the schedule.

However we are determined! Either searching for coralline or kelp, either studying the glacier meltwater impacts on marine ecosystem. Scientific protocols have been digested, jobs are getting clarified, routines start running, fieldwork is going smoothly, more efficient, more fun. Enjoying team work together with the family in an incredible scenery!

We are happy to meet again with Jones Sound wildlife. Despite polar bears, we have been watching muskox, walruses and even belugas. Vagabond keeps faithfully offering us an intense experience, facing wind, swell, snow (already on August 3rd!), uncharted shoals (many times in less than 3 meters depth the past few days) and drifting ice.

Vagabond is sharing her position every two hours, see the Vagabond Cruise 2020 map.

A polar bear on the beach

  • Leonie Aurore et ours Pointe Raper ©France Pinczon du Sel

The day before yesterday, in the evening, we went for a hike to see if the swell would be less on the other side. I was walking a little bit behind to watch all the drift wood on the shore, also to look at the skuas flying above us, suddenly I stopped. My eyes just came across something white, slowly looking at me. My first thought was: "A bear! How did I miss it!?!". My second thought was: "Oh my god, Dad, Mum and Aurore didn't see it, they are walking strait to him!". So I shouted, not too loud: "There is a bear!". I was getting worried because Dad was still walking at a good speed towards him, when Mum stopped: she had just seen the bear too, he was then coming down to us. I didn't want to catch up with them, but they did by turning around: we were heading back to the dinghy (not running of course!). Mum took out her flare gun and Dad got the riffle out of its case. The polar bear was following us. He was even walking faster than us although he looked like he was taking his time. We reached the dinghy. Once all onboard, we went closer to the shore, where the bear was standing, to take some pictures from a safe position. Then, once on board Vagabond, sitting around the table, we watched him until he disappeared behind the cape.