Un air de vacances

Yesterday was fantastic. Great sunshine, around zero temperatures in the morning, perfect conditions for diving. A frozen regulator did not allow me to explore much under the ice, but after several free dives, I could collect some shrimps for the aperitif. Skiing afternoon, a lot of snow, becoming lighter later in the day, while temperature was decreasing down to -19C. Back to the boat around 11pm, wonderful sky, characteristic of this cold air. But the dogs, starving after so much efforts in the snow, were disappointed because the box with their food was frozen. It is snowing again this morning, temperature rose up to -5, stomachs are full now.

IMB's antenna, damaged by a polar bear, was repaired few days ago. The instrument is working fine, but data are still not transmitted, neither position, so we will have to recover it before ice breaking up, not to loose it.

Bonne récolte

5 days busy with Hervé, Fred, Tonio and Torbjorn, who left today, not long after a polar bear passed near Vagabond. Despite the heavy snow falls and not cold enough temperatures, despite getting stuck many times with the snowmobiles, a good work has been done. Successful first results with the Ice T, a new instrument to measure ice thickness from underneath; conditions were not good to let me dive to do some more calibrations, but Tonio could enjoy the hole that has been prepared carefully to have a look at the hidden side of the ice (water temperature: -1,9°C !). The currentmeter recorded any movements of the water, at every depth, during 4 days, and the CTD was sent 27 times down to 90m during a tide cycle. Every evening on board, cachaça and prune were necessary to do good analysis of the results.

Equipe retardée, IMB muet

Too much snow yesterday, the team trying to reach Vagabond had to turn back. Second attempt today. About the instrument deployed on 30th March (IMB), it has stopped transmitting (ARGOS system) since 3rd April. We will go and check, as soon as the weather will be fine, if a polar bear damaged it, or if the icepack has drifted away...

Ours dans le camp

Wind and snow yesterday were not pushing us outside. Office day on board. Suddenly Frost barked, a polar bear was in the camp, between Imiaq's dog house, the storage tent and the snowmobile! The boat's horn and a banger were used in addition to Frost's barking, the polar bear was not starving apparently and didn't stay. A female, with a collar. Under these weather conditions, we didn't see coming the animal, neither the dogs! Finally, as there was no damage, we are glad having seen it so close.

Premiers skieurs de passage

During our short tour yesterday afternoon, we found new tracks from 2 skiers and pulkas. We could see them with the binoculars, and we reached them quite quickly with the dogs, while they were finishing setting up their camp, on a flat and open area on pack ice, not far from where we deployed the IMB. It was nice meeting Jan and Arnold from Belgium, who told us that when going down the Inglefield Glacier, they knew that they arrived on the sea when they saw the boat on the other side of the bay!

Dernières aurores

I woke up suddenly this morning, I thought I heard steps on the deck, but it was only ice cracking, echoing against the hull. The polar bear we met last night, who stopped us while setting up a new scientific instrument (IMB), was still present in our minds! As well as the big fight between our 3 dogs that occurred few moments before.

It has been as very nice weather for one week (blue sky, temperatures between -15 and -30, no wind). Light is now enough at midnight not to need a headlight any more, and we will have to wait for the end of September to have enough darkness to watch northern lights again. Within few days, sea ice was back in front of Inglefield Bay, and we could start again our usual measurements (CTD, electromagnetic icemeter) after the bad weather. Amazing to be at about 10km from the coast, above 100m water, driving a snowmobile on 30 to 40 cm of very flat ice, when it was all open water on 15th of March. Busy days this week, enjoying one of the best time of the year: scientific jobs, ski tours, climbing icebergs, setting up a new wind generator... Sebastian and Trond, from the Norwegian Polar Institute, spent 2 days with us to set up 3 spectrometers on the weather mast. These sensors will measure for about 2 months the intensity of the light received, reflected and transmitted by the pac k ice. We were happy to share their experience, and to get a new, simple, clever system to measure ice thickness.

Energie vagabonde

Le vent a soufflé fort la semaine dernière, et notre bonne vieille éolienne fournissait inlassablement ces quelques ampères qui améliorent le confort à bord. Elle tourne ainsi, presque sans discontinuer, depuis 4 ans, depuis le début du partenariat entre Accastillage Bernard et Vagabond. La Rutland 913 a ainsi vécu la première circumnavigation arctique, 17 mois d'aventures et d'inévitables tempêtes; puis un repos de 10 jours au Salon Nautique de Paris en décembre 2003, lorsque Vagabond y était à l'honneur, sur la moquette. Quelques mois plus tard il a fallu repartir, et c'est au Spitsberg que notre éolienne s'est installée depuis l'été 2004, fidèle au poste pour le deuxième hivernage actuellement en cours. Elle fût soulagée pendant la nuit polaire, lorsque la plupart des ampoules des plafonniers ont été remplacées par des ampoules 5w, divisant par plus que 3 la consommation électrique liée à l'éclairage. Elle s'impatiente presque en sachant que bientôt, ce seront des diodes qui réduiront son travail. Mais surtout, elle ne fût pas déçue de voir arriver la relève : il y a quelques semaines, la première équipe scientifique apportait une éolienne neuve et identique. De plus, le soleil s'est levé fin février, marquant la fin de 4 mois de nuit polaire, et les 5 panneaux solaires (Unisolar souples 32W) ont alors repris du service. Lorqu'il n'y a ni vent ni soleil pour recharger les batteries de Vagabond, le générateur du bord alimente notre infaillible chargeur Cristec, envoyé en urgence par AB lorsque Vagabond était en panne d'énergie au Japon, au printemps 2003. Si, au contraire, vent et soleil s'associent pour fournir une dizaine d'ampères, alors nous pouvons allumer le gros convertisseur Victron, et disposer de 220V pour alimenter principalement le congélateur et l'ordinateur. C'est la situation idéale, qui permet de ne pas faire tourner le générateur, d'économiser du gasoil, et de minimiser les gaz d'échappements. Un point essentiel pour nous qui assurons la logistique du programme de recherche international DAMOCLES, concerné par les changements climatiques. Toute cette gestion d'énergie est contrôlée de près avec notre inséparable moniteur Victron, qui nous confirme l'état de fatigue avancé des batteries du bord, dont le remplacement est déjà prévu par des batteries Delphi, plus petites mais plus puissantes. Si les programmes scientifiques, auxquels Vagabond et son équipe collaborent, se déroulent bien, c'est donc grâce au soutien d'AB, qui conseille et fournit ces équipements. Pour une meilleure connaissance de l'Arctique et de l'évolution des climats de notre planète.

Vent du nord

Northerly wind has been blowing for the last 6 days, blowing snow and poor visibility. The Polar Ocean Profiler (POP) could not be deployed in Storfjord, but some tests have been done in Inglefield's Bay, not far from Vagabond. It is close to the glacier front that we found a rather good depth (40m) to experiment this automatic CTD for 24 hours. The Ice Mass Balance (IMB) has not been installed in the too sheltered Inglefield's Bay. This known instrument doesn't need any test, and France and I will have to set it up in Storfjord when the weather will be better. Jean-Claude (French), Danielle (Canadian), Bruce (American) and Simen (Norwegian) had to cancel departure yesterday, but they could leave this morning despite the wind (equivalent chill temperature -42°C). A short week-end for 2 of us, then will come the next crew.


Jean-Claude Gascard, in charge of DAMOCLES, is on board since Saturday, for new experiments on sea ice. Cold and strong wind are increasing fast the ice thickness, but also making difficult the search for the best location. Half of the crew already got some frost bites.

Polynie de printemps

Open water at less than 1 km from Vagabond, this was yesterday's surprise. The icebergs we were going around the day before are now drifting off shore, as well as the experimental tube which resistance to ice was on test before putting the scientific instrument. Polar bears are back, and experiments next week will be difficult. The image 66 is well showing fast and unpredictable movements of sea ice.