Soleil de minuit

From tonight, there will be no more sunset, until August 21st. The permanent day light is a bit disturbing, but now, we cannot be caught by the night (!), and it is easier to check the surroundings. Also we could see last night a polar bear coming to us, with a collar, maybe the same than last Sunday. We scared him away when we thought he was getting too close from us. Little later, a bigger polar bear came, the signal pistol was also enough to make him leave the area. This second polar bear was following the first one, walking with determination, amazing sight appreciated by all of us till the middle of the "night". This morning, while the crew was still sleeping, a polar bear walking towards Vagabond suddenly change his direction when he saw me going out, although I didn't make any noise, and the dogs didn't bark...


Just before the arrival of the new team, Sunday afternoon, we could watch for a long time a polar bear close to Vagabond: he first destroyed the tent, where is stored some scientific equipment, then he suddenly came towards us. 2 bangers and 2 flares were needed to stop him, but not enough to scare him away. The polar bear was wearing a collar and is probably followed by satellite by some biologists; he finally left, much more serenely than the one last Friday. Our Dutch friends Marina and Mark, who have been living in Longyearbyen for the last ten years, and who wintered on board their sailing boat Jonathan 2 years ago in the north-west part of Spitsbergen, stayed with us until this morning. We are now 5 for the rest of the week, with Florent, ice expert, his guide Stefano, and Anne, artist, who came to Spitsbergen to take her inspiration from the return of the light since the end of the polar night. Temperatures are increasing slowly, sun is warm, and snow is becoming wet.


Very nice weather for the last 4 days, permanent daylight, pleasant temperatures and great snow, we are going around on skis or with the snowmobile, sometimes with the dogs, sometimes with the scientific equipment, climbing the glaciers and the summits, or going on our preferred icepack in the Storfjord; we are enjoying spring. And not only us, as shown by our dogs, lying in the sun for hours, or by the many foxes prints, such a shy animal, also by the reindeers, crossing now and then the nearby moraine, or by the 9 skiers who visited us yesterday morning... not forgetting this polar bear, the most curious, who went close to Vagabond without scaring the dogs (they didn't bark!), and who woke us up climbing on the front of the boat (8:20 Friday, reasonable time)! The horn didn't disturb him, but when I hit the double window, while he was just behind, he got scared and went down, then towards the back of the boat. Very curious but not aggressive, he came at less than 2 meters from the dogs without worrying them. Anyway France sent him a big banger to scare him, he ran away at once, superbly agile in the deep snow, outline against the sunlight on the moraine. In a few moments, the new team arriving will discover the nice prints he left us along the hull.

Beaucoup de neige

After 3 days of bad weather, temperatures close to zero, and a lot of snow, it was today possible to go for or usual CTD casts. But there is so much snow that our snowmobile can only take one person, and it is also necessary to pull a sledge with the equipment for the experiments. Also I went alone with everything needed, without forgetting snowshoes in case the snowmobile had a breakdown! I still managed to get stuck 3 times, a lot of work to get out and keep going. Results are worth these efforts as we can see brines from 15 m deep till the bottom (about 90 m at each of the 2 visited locations)! To know more about what is going on under sea ice in the middle of the Storfjord, unreachable with snowmobiles because of too many hummocks, a helicopter flight is planned in 2 weeks time, when the oceanographers in charge of the program will be back. For now, it's snowing again!


Nice weather since yesterday, also we were able to use the CTD again at agreed locations (at 12 and 7 km from the boat), looking for brines (a lot!), and to travel across the icepack with the icemeter. This instrument also allowed us to check the ice thickness (around 70cm) all over the site that welcomed the seismometers last week. Today, a complete snow layer analysis at usual location, 1km from Vagabond, close to the great glacier front. In the same time, France finished setting up our solar panels, which, when it is sunny, are giving more energy than the wind generator, even when strong wind! Nice trip with the dogs then, before hard work to get out from under the snow, dog house, snow shoes, skis, sticks, frozen in ice for some time. Soon we will have to think about our dinghy...

2 petites semaines

Here we are, alone, France and me, since yesterday morning, until April 17th. The seismic network left the icepack without any other misadventure, and according to Jean-Philippe, the icepack is well deforming, she is cracking, she is resounding, she gave a nice set of data, some seismic signals unexpected, and this is thrilling. Strong wind, low temperature (35 knots and -28°C, which is -64°C with the chilling factor!), no trip out today, unless to feed the dogs and make them run a little bit. Peaceful life on board, being warm inside, with a great view on the storm. Tonight, the sun will not go below 6° under the horizon, which is the definition of twilight; no more northern lights, no more moon shines...

Ours sismologues

Thursday evening, after the storm, we saw a polar bear on the icepack deformations study area... A GPS antenna broken, and a battery up side down. Today, the 2 scientists saw another polar bear interested by the same seismic recorder, the northern one, when there are 7 of them! This second polar bear, bigger according to the tracks, displaced the recorder and the battery, he cut the GPS antenna cable, and he even dug out 2 seismometers from the icepack. After all, damages are not too serious, and sensors recorded the steps of the polar bears on the icepack, probably original. Tomorrow, the seismic network will be packed, the experiment is finishing.

12 !

The icepack is showing some nice cracks, but is resisting and already offering interesting results. 2 of the 4 scientists left, as well as the IPEV's representative and the guide, while a cameraman joined us for few days. Samuel was on board Vagabond in Greenland in 2001, and in Russia, in the North-Est Passage, in 2002. We are really glad to welcome him again! About our 4 friends mountaineers, Marc, Jacques, Patrick, and Philippe, travelling from Longyearbyen on skis, they made us very happy when they set up their camp next to Vagabond last night. After meeting us in Kamchatka 2 years ago, where the mountain rescue instructors from Chamonix met their Russian equivalents, we already thought about our next appointment... Also we were 12 people on board for a lively evening! The study of the icepack deformations is going on for the next 4 days (we are now 5 on board); France and I are busy with running the boat, insuring safety on ice during scientific work (polar bears watch), filming with Samuel, snow sampling, measurements with the new CTD... Days seem shorter and shorter, although daylight will be soon permanent!


The new team arrived Friday, March 25th: 6 people including Franck Delbart from IPEV (French Polar Institute), and Simen, their guide, in charge of polar bear watch and snowmobiles. Before them, we had unexpected visitors for the first time, probably because of the very nice weather and the Easter holidays! First Kjell Tore, from the Norwegian Polar Institute, and his girlfriend, then a journalist from Svalbard Posten. Already the first day, the network was set up on the ice pack, 6 km away from Vagabond, on about 6 weeks old sea ice, where was the large polynia last January. Also the icepack is moving a lot in this area, and this is what the ice experts and geophysicists are interested in. They are finishing today to set up the 27 seismometers and the 7 GPS stations (also many cables and batteries) to study the sea ice deformation. During 5 or 6 days, the sensors will record every little movements of the sea ice over a one square kilometre surface, in order to better constrain sea ice modelling, as well as the role of sea ice on the global climate. Let's hope that the icepack will resist to the bad weather coming, and will not take away all this expensive equipment, unless a polar bear too curious would come first...


The "Brines" team from the Jussieu Oceanography Laboratory (Paris) left Vagabond this morning, it was snowing. Looking at the last results, Jean-Claude think that the planned objective is about to be reached, and that we will reach it if the weather remain good. We are now 2 on board, France and myself, for 2 days, time to prepare the arrival of the "Banquise" (icepack) team. To be continued!