Lows are following each other, barometer and thermometer are going up and down, but between 2 snow squalls, the moon is serenely coming to light. Then I must get the chance for a walk with the dogs, for instance to look for the close icebergs trapped in sea ice, like Vagabond. They are replacing the ones from last winter, gone drifting away during the summer time, and are sometimes used as a rest place by polar bears. Or as an ice climbing site by 4 Gallic in need for exercise, as shown by this victory marker left at the top of the Black Iceberg by the previous crew. From the boat, I can hear the swell, open water is only few kilometers away. Waves, despite the 80 cm of ice pack covering Inglefield Bay, are reaching the hull which is moving and bumping gently in her ice bed. On board, the small technical problems are finding their solutions, inventories are about to be finished, already one week I'm back on board...
At 8 o'clock this morning, a polar bear damaged the ice cairn and the igloo. The dogs barked before, the search light and a flare were enough to scare him away. The welcoming committee didn't wait long since I'm back on board, but the previous crew never saw any polar bear during the last 3 weeks!
When I went out from the plane, Friday in Longyearbyen, it was raining! With help from Torgeir (weather man), Jarl (Norwegian Polar Institute) and Sébastien (UNIS), I collected quickly warm clothes, snowmobile, sledge, rifle, food... and we left with Stig's caterpillar truck on Saturday evening. This machine is slow and noisy, but can carry up to 16 passengers sitting in warm. For Stig, Mark (co-pilot), Sébastien (UNIS) and me, it was a 12 hours trip to reach Vagabond. Few problems with the snowmobile, which was then towed but could not escape rolling over 2 or 3 times, also problems with the engine of the snow truck. Warm reunion on board, and I was glad to see the 3 dogs again. Marc first showed me the great emergency igloo he designed, nearby the ice cairn built by Dominique and Hervé from Savoie. Marie prepared a punch, a bread and a Breton cake, making a nice meal with the Swiss fondue that Sébastien brought with him. 4 hours of sleep for everyone, a last team pictur e, and the snow truck left in the darkness. I'm now alone on board, until the end of the polar night, end of February. I first wanted to call France, to share these first moments with her. I will need few days to find my marks again, but the sky is clearing up, the moon light is showing this familiar landscape, a northern light is dancing at south, and the dogs are happy.
The year 2005 is consumed.
The attack of the Black Iceberg started.
Let us hope to finish the job for 2006.
With the menu of the midnight supper:
den of bear,
Medoc confined meadows of the stove,
home made foie gras,
keen parts of scrabble,
long sleep to be enjoyed...
Fraternity and hello to all humanity.
The crew change finally went fine last Monday night. Mark is back home, in Longyearbyen, where Marina was waiting for him (their website). Our friends Marie, Marc, Dominique and Hervé are now on board for almost 3 weeks, until I come back to Vagabond. They left the Alps to get quickly into the polar night, far from any settlement, with our 3 dogs... The experience is going to be unforgettable!
The first trip to Vagabond went well, under the moonlight. The guides arrived on the boat sunday night/monday morning after a appr. 4 hours driving. They ate, slept, packed and headed towards Longyearbyen at 15:00 yesterday. They arrived back home around 20:00, after some small problems with scooters, difficult snow conditions and water from glaciers and rivers. But they got back safely with Marina and in one piece. Erik will start preparations for next trip now, while Mark is alone onboard, waiting for the next crew from Grenoble to come.
Conditions are now a lot better but I am afraid not for long. Wind will turn south again for some days. But for the dogs it is a lot better now, no more over water. Today we have been digging out the dinghy. It was not to bad though but a lot off water under it. The search light works great with polar bears. Looking into such a strong light blinds them so much that they leave, so far. Mark
Marina and Mark are sharing their adventures, click here to read their complete story (89 Ko - pdf).
Bad times in Inglefjeldbukta, there is a gale blowing from the north-east since yesterday. Minus 16 and snow, so the dogs are rolled up outside and us inside. Jin did some rebuilding to his house yesterday so now he has an open front. But I had to block the doghouses anyway because the snow was closing them inside in less then an hour, ones with Frost inside. He was very happy when the shovel hit him through the snow. Mark.
Mars is already visible around noon now, days are short. We just put the dog houses on the ice, we connected the chains to the dog houses but we do not know if that works... It is quite handful to have 5 dogs. Little Imjaq, also called Dombo, needs a lot of attention. He gets so out of control that he cannot listen anymore. He is not so skinny now and his fur is much better. With enough time you can make a nice dog out of him. Jin and Frost are doing ok. There has been a few small fights and one bigger one. No serious physical damage but some egos might be hurt badly. The polar bears find the lines to shore interesting, one was destroyed at the shore end. On board things are fine, and we are really enjoying the view from the salon.