Winter Newfoundland explorations

  • 2138 Premier bivouac pres de Buchans©EB
  • 1105 Eric sur la rive du lac Hinds©FPdS
  • 1522 France sur le lac Hinds©EB
  • 1254 Pause snack au soleil©EB

From Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, the large Canadian island of Newfoundland reaches out to us. An hour and a half by ferry only.

In search of wide open spaces well covered in snow, and after a few weeks of preparation, France and I set off for the center of the island. Starting from the village of Buchans (the same size as Miquelon and 5 times larger than Grise Fiord!), we discover a region with exceptional conditions for a nice little ski-pulka expedition!

Temperatures are between -20°C and -5°C, the layer of snow is thick, wooded areas provide good shelters in high winds, a large frozen lake reminds us of the sea ice, small mountains offer beautiful panoramas, animal tracks are everywhere... Two memorable encounters with moose, another with a coyote.

For about ten days we tow our sleds and carefully choose our bivouacs, what a freedom! What is unusual, almost weird, is that we have neither scientific instrument nor protocol!

In the only emergency shelter in the area (located 8km north of the site indicated on the map!), we enjoy the wood stove to unfreeze our equipment and we meet some happy hunters passing by. They wonder how we decided to come here: the only foreign travelers they can remember are two Germans with huge backpacks, fifteen years ago, in summer, exhausted! We definitely picked up the right region for our winter wanderings.

Miquelon's seaweed

  • Mesures algues©Eric Brossier
  • Plongee Miquelon©Pascal Leborgne
  • Prelevements algues Miquelon©Eric Brossier
  • Prelevements algues Miquelon©Pascal Leborgne

The water is cold and gales follow one another in winter in Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, but on January 18 and 19 the weather conditions are exceptionally calm.

Thierry and Pascal join me for a great sailing from Saint-Pierre harbor to Miquelon. We spend the night at anchor in front of the village, and we have a successful dive the next day in the bay.

Our mission? To collect around fifty Saccharina Latissima, a kelp algae currently being studied by Merinov over the Canadian Atlantic provinces. Perhaps we will discover that the genetic and nutritional properties of seaweed from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are unique, even exceptional?

From Grise Fiord to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

  • 0827 Loic premiers essais filtrations ADNe Grise Fiord©EB
  • 1103 Equipage Grise Fiord Saint-Pierre©EB
  • 0554 Vagabond voiles ciseaux sud Terre Neuve©EB
  • 0759 Vagabond a quai a Saint-Pierre©EB

Before we set sail and leave Grise Fiord, I am invited by the Hamlet to say goodbye. There are many of our friends, gifts, speeches, each one higher than the other, hugs, tears... "Thank you for giving us another look at science", "Aboard our little boats, we feel safer when Vagabond is around", "Come back soon with the whole family". Very emotional moments.

Loic Sanchez arrived three days before departure, which allowed us to set up the water filtration system to collect environmental DNA. The aim is to better predict the impact of climate change on fish populations. The DNA collected in the filters makes it possible to identify the species present in the area during the 30 minutes before sampling. Our friend Sébastien Roubinet is also taking part in this unprecedented scientific program and we chat together every day, while he is on an incredible expedition!

France, Leni, Ana and Yves flew back south, also I'm happy to welcome my four Breton teammates: Marie, Christophe, Ronan and Yves. Time to get our last food supplies, fresh water and fuel: ready to head south.

The ice is blocking the northeast of Devon Island, we are struggling to get out of Jones Sound. And darkness is back and it is snowing! The crew is adapting quickly, the watches are intense, we reach open water the next day. Here we are in Baffin Bay.

First stop at Clyde River where I find my old friend Philip. He provides us with engine oil and we share our diving memories!

Three days later we have a very friendly time in Qikiqtarjuaq where I lived with my family between 2013 and 2016. I'm so happy to see all our friends again, I keep sharing news for almost two days, without forgetting to climb the hill overlooking the village with my teammates.

The next stop, in northern Labrador, is due to the bad weather. Luckily, we find a good shelter for two days in a magnificent region. A polar bear, caribous, lots of blueberries and other berries that we can even pick up under the northern lights!

On September 21, Loic, Ronan and Yves disembark at Nain, in the middle of the night. Time for them to fly back to France. Vagabond set off again while the weather is fine.

Last stopover in Cartwright, still in Labrador, to let Fiona pass! Another four days for Vagabond to round Newfoundland and reach Saint-Pierre and Miquelon on October 1 at 1am, after sailing 3,200 nautical miles (5,900 km) from Grise Fiord.

Scientific explorations between Ellesmere and Devon islands

  • 1045 Yves collecte coralline Tiriqqualuk©EB
  • 1832 Leni filtrations©EB
  • 1122 Arrivee Borge Ousland et Vincent Colliard glacier Sverdrup©EB
  • 0551 Manips oceano depuis Vagabond dans le pack©EB

The latest events have also affected the crew, Leni is replacing Minoli who is sad to leave our team...

Still too much ice to reach Nares Strait (between Greenland and Canada), so the search for coralline continues on the south coast of Ellesmere Island. We cannot find any thick algae near Harbour Fiord neither at Cone or Smith islands, but Starnes Fiord is a real mine! The thick samples collected might offer great sclerochronological analyzes (the aquatic equivalent of dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating).

We probably have to forget about Talbot Inlet this year due to the ice conditions, but the winds have blown away the ice in Jones Sound: so Vagabond can repeat oceanographic transects through Jones Sound and in front of Sverdrup Glacier, as well as an ocean profile at the deepest site (852m), as every year since 2019.

It's at the front of Sverdrup glacier that we pick up Borge Ousland and Vincent Colliard. They have just crossed the Devon Island Ice Cap. It's really great to meet again! Vince is staying on board for a few days more, happy to help us out with the science work.

At the end of August, we drop anchor at Vagabond's overwinter site 2011-12. A good opportunity to stretch our legs and to climb "our pyramid" where two batteries used for timelapse series have been waiting for recovery. Vagabond's three timelapse photo equipment are being used since 2021 by David Didier's team for a Grise Fiord coastal erosion study.

At the end of the mission, I was asked to search for some equipment lost near Brume Point, not far from Grise Fiord. This ended up with a great dive for me and a relieved scientist!