At least 20 cm thick sea ice, covered with a good layer of fresh snow. A snowmobile, a rope, ans skis (Pure for instance). Conditions were the best yesterday, great landscape, orange lights, full moon on the horizon. Few icebergs of clear ice, standing in Inglefield Bay's pack ice for the winter, to go round to make a fun route. Slower and majestic is the Emperor's Walk. The DVD just arrived on board, bravo Jérôme for these pictures. The winter we spent in Kerguelen, in 94, surely contributed to your passion.
France and I are alone on board since 9th March, for ten days. The weather is deciding about our activities: study of sea ice, ski tour, various maintenance, emails, book, film... The sun came back less than 3 weeks ago. He is now rising at 6:30, after 1:30 hour of twilight, and night is not starting before 7pm. Sun glasses are already very useful in the middle of the day. What a change after the long polar night! A polar bear visited the weather mast (designed to resist to the most curious of them...), he dug a bit, but did not damage anything.
After less than a week, the open water in Storfjord is covered with 20 to 30 cm of ice, sometines very hummocky, but enough to drive on it with snowmobile. While the weather mast is sending data every 6 hours, other experiments could start. Like last winter, the icemeter, in its new pulka, is measuring ice thickness; the CTD, with the good hand winch, is giving temperature and salinity of sea water depending on depth. All is about finding a way between ice blocks and leads, to get to Storfjord deeper waters, constantly moving. Northern lights and moon shine seem to be congratulating us for the work done.
France and the second crew arrived Wednesday nigth, at 11pm. For more than one and a half hour, I could see the lights from the 3 snowmobiles coming to me. The polar bear who was hunting since the morning, in front of a seal hole, probably left when hearing the engines. The workshop tent was set up yesterday, the few items lost on the way were found (!), Hervé and Nicolas are now preparing the weather mast. As there is not enough sea ice in the turbulent Storfjord, it is the pack ice from Inglefield Bay, not far from Vagabond, which will support this important experiment.
The first team left yesterday. 3 busy days for Florent, glaciologist, Rémy, photographer, and Stefano, guide. The pack ice in Storfjord has been blown away by the last storm, Florent had to set up his 2 stations in Inglefield Bay where there is still ice. He is measuring the thermal conductivity of the snow, to calculate the sea ice formation speed, and then the quantity of brines rejected. Northern lights, polar bears, first minutes of sun on Vagabond, everything was there... except sea ice. The star of DAMOCLES program is being desired. The cold but strong North-West wind is not helping much to form sea ice thick enough to travel on it with snowmobile, few kilometres offshore. Without enough pack ice, studying Storfjord becomes much more complicate.
Very nice northern lights at night, great sun rises, a polar bear every day, 2 first birds, and first visitors! Erik and his 3 guides on training stopped here for few hours, before sleeping in their tent 20 km further.
First, the summits became pink. Then I went to the end of the moraine, from where the south horizon is the clearest, and I had the show, few minutes only. It is really worth waiting for the sun to come back.
One year ago, the family carnival was on, a great time on board, celebrating the end of the polar night, unforgettable.
Today, our projects got a new base camp. After the steel hull for the Arctic, the stone walls for Brittany.
Surrounded with white and calm, my mind is wandering between memories and future.
Today, 17th of February, the polar night is finished. But the horizon was cloudy at noon towards the South, and only groans from the ice pack were there. Between whale song, children moan and door grinding, the sound track was quite in harmony with the grey sky. If, in Spitsbergen, the sun could not share his first light (we'll wait more for heat), in France, the newspaper Le Parisien was telling about our adventures today, and the radio Europe 1 was asking me about global warming.
Around noon yesterday, I saw a light, about 20 km north. Probably a snowmobile, it lasted only few seconds. People from Longyearbyen (70 km from Vagabond) are starting going further also; they are enjoying enough brightness to discover again the area, coming out of the polar night. When the sky is clear, we don't need any torch from 8 am to 4 pm. The weather is really nice today: -30 degrees, no cloud, full moon, light wind. Ideal conditions to reinforce sea ice which will support soon some new scientific equipment. There has been a lot of pressure last week with the wind and ice is all bumpy now, it will not be easy to move around. Far away, I can see an open lead, showing powerful and constant action from the currents. Polar bears are probably along this lead, visits are not so many now. Imiaq, the best watchdog, is less busy, but his companions Jin and Frost are there. If they are not so proud when a polar bear is getting close to them, they don't forget to remind Imia q he is 'new' in the team!