Barometer 999.9 mb, temperature -3, wind from south-east 23 knots, cloudy sky, snow, poor visibility, sea ice thickness around Vagabond 22 cm. And always about 1 polar bear per day average.
So Marina and Mark are settling down in Inglefieldbukta. With the five dogs and about a polar bear everyday, it is very crowded, almost a small settlement. The forecast for tonight and the morning is quite windy, but better weather after. The ice in the bay comes and goes, the water temperature is low enough.
Because of bad weather (icing), the helicopter had to turn back on Sunday morning. Yesterday, conditions were better, and the Dauphin from Airlift landed close to the dogs, scaring away a polar bear who has been eating a seal for the last few hours. We went across heavy brash ice with the dinghy, carrying our bags to shore, then it was time to take off, the pilots didn't want the polar bear to approach the helicopter. Strange feeling for France and me when leaving Vagabond, great and quick flight to Longyearbyen, where we met briefly Marina. She will join Mark, Vagabond, and the 5 dogs within 1 or 2 days. At the moment, the polar bear is probably back, finishing his seal! On our side, after a stop in Oslo, we are already in France, surprised with the warm weather, the trees, the crowd... forgotten since summer 2004.
You will regularly find some news here, from Marina and Mark on board Vagabond. Also look at News page.
Vagabond is ready for the winter, well anchored in her shelter also with ropes to shore. Our 5 nice friends left yesterday to Svea, the closest inhabited place, which they should reach on foot within 3 days. Mark, France and I walked with them to the glacier, where some left over from a seal, recently eaten by a polar bear, made our 3 dogs really happy. Then we could watch 5 or 6 belugas passing slowly few meters from us, near the glacier front. Wonderful.
The helicopter is expected this morning with the 2 dogs of Marina and Mark, their dog houses, and some equipment. France and I will leave Vagabond, then given to Mark and the 5 dogs. Marina will come few days later, having a lift with another helicopter flight.
After 15 months away from France, we are happy to come back for few weeks, to see our families and friends, and to take part to the Adventure Film Festival in Dijon in 3 days!
The dogs, onshore since we arrived, woke us up this morning, barking after a polar bear who was approaching a bit too much. So we know that our new companion, Ymiak, is efficient to alert about polar bear. France and I are now finishing preparing Vagabond for the winter, setting up the weather station, and explaining everything to Mark. In the mean time, the 4 young guides on training are walking around with their instructor Erik, and preparing their trip back on foot to a more inhabited place.
We reached the East coast of Spitsbergen during Sunday to Monday night, looking at very nice northern lights. The sea became better and better, allowing us to do some sea profiles with the CTD, and to watch a killer whale before entering Inglefield's bay. A polar bear was waiting for us on the snowy beach, like last year when we discovered this very nice and protected bay, where Vagabond is about to spend a second winter.
8 people and 3 dogs on board Vagabond, at anchor in a small bay south west of Spitsbergen. While waiting for better winds to sail around south cape, life is nice on board : with Mark, who will replace France and me when we will be in France, with Erik, guide in Svalbard (trekking, ski, snowmobile), and with his 4 young guides on training, Jeppe, Ingebjorg, Vera and Kristin.
Vagabond is in Longyearbyen for few days more, as you can see on the harbour webcam : http://www.ssd.no/files/havna/havnebilde/havnbilde1.jpg.
The summer in Greenland was great, the birdwatching and geology programs were very succesful, photos are on line. We are now preparing for the second wintering, as well as for our journey back to France, once Vagabond will be at her winter location and between good hands, in the same bay than last winter.
After a very nice stop at Polish Polar base in Hornsund (http://hornsund.igf.edu.pl/index_en.php) - first shower for a very long time ! - Vagabond arrived at Longyearbyen yesterday. We are getting ready for the scientific programs waiting for us in Greenland. Gérard Guérin, who is back on board for 3 days, is busy setting up a huge hydraulic winch ! Departure within 2 days if possible...
Peacefull stop in a great bay, south-east of Spitsbergen, Isbukta. We could leave our wintering location on Wednesday, we are now heading to Longyearbyen. We should be back to town on Sunday or Monday... On the way, we did some CTD casts from the boat, where we came with snowmobile or helicopter during the winter. Also a great dive, looking for a tidemeter set up 10 years ago by Antarctica's crew, not found.
The way is almost clear. Above zero temperatures and tides have been eating our ice pack, only few large floes are remaining, one is still keeping Vagabond here. Even our last week-end swimming spot has been taken away! Seals are more and more curious, getting closer and closer to us, and attracting polar bears. 7 of them today, showing us different hunting techniques, all day long. Waiting, running, swimming, all efforts not giving much results despite the many seals around. Within few days, there will be no more sea ice, and polar bears will have to go much further to find their food. On our side, packing is going on, we need to change our hut to a boat again, tie and check everything, and get back onboard all the equipment left on ice or on the beach. The water is so cloudy, chain is so deep into the mud, that my 2 last diving attempts to get the anchor gave no result. Engines running high speed are not yet enough to move away, but we know that departure is coming soon. Dogs don't doubt about what will happen to them...