It has been 2 weeks since it started… and finally the sea ice seemed strong enough for us to walk the 3km distance to the village. As soon as the daylight was good enough, we walked between tabular icebergs, North of the direct route, in order to avoid some very thin ice areas. We also had to check around for the big male polar bear that had been seen the day before, and which footprints were going along the boat overnight. After a 50 minutes walk, we arrived on Qikiqtarjuaq's shore where a friendly welcoming committee gathered for us (it created almost a traffic jam of quads, pick-ups and pedestrians!). Kids waved, the Mayor came to say Hi, and Sarah and Leelie offered us to take a shower. We apparently earned our stripes by becoming the first ones to walk on the ice, early morning! Several people followed our progress and were phoning people to spread the news. People congratulated us, wishing us a great return to town and, as always, joked around: “you are still alive?”.
We also learnt that some elders talked about us on the local radio, inviting people to take care of us, to call us daily because we are “the Aninatalik neighbours” (name of the boat wintering bay, a place where they have a lot of their childhood and hunting memories).
It is true that every day someone called us on the VHF radio, checking how things were going, giving us news on the sea ice conditions or the polar bear observations. We realised later that a lot of people were following our conversations!
We appreciate a lot this very fascinating community atmosphere, that we have lost in the cities. Elders, as the most respected inhabitants, are the ones keeping this sharing and cooperation values alive. Now that winter is here, people talk about coming to the boat by skidoos and very soon, we will have dogs around as polar bear warnings.
We also were given a polar bear skull to be cleaned, we put it in the water under the boat for the shrimps to eat the brain. Every day, we have to maintain the hole in the ice (so that it does not get too thick) and check the shrimps’ job! On that skull, we can collect marine snails and sea urchins which provide a little fresh taste to our meals. Tasting their food or learning their technics is a source of great pride for the Inuits and seems to be the key for a good reputation.
We are now half-way of our stay on board Vagabond and from now on, the sun will not shine anymore on Qikiqtarjuaq. It will stay behind the mountains of the Baffin Land until the return of Eric, France, Léonie and Aurore.