Mosaic Leg3 should have started since February 15th. But the replacing team is still on board the Kapitan Dranitsyn, going at an average speed of 1 km/h with 80 tons of fuel per day... The Russian icebreaker left the Norwegian fjords on February 3rd and was expected on the 15th next to the Polarstern for an almost complete crew change (100 people) and to deliver about 40 tons of freight (food and equipment). We even celebrated the end of Leg2 on February 8th, in order to be ready for mid-February handover!
No ship has ever reached the North Pole in winter. All 145 successful voyages since 1977 happened between the end of May and mid October, 81% were done by nuclear icebreakers. Even if the ice thickness and the ice cover have been decreasing spectacularly for the past thirty years, chartering a middle class icebreaker to get close to the North Pole in winter is still a real challenge! If the Kapitan Dranitsyn cannot reach the Polarstern, Mosaic expedition will probably use aerial logistics... Stay tuned on Mosaic blog.
Meanwhile, scientific field work continues, intense and fruitful. The drift keeps taking us to the north-west, the expedition is now North of the 88° parallel at 200 km from the Pole. The sun will not rise before mid March, but the twilight is more and more each day, with Venus nicely visible above the horizon for the last two weeks. In addition to the hiking or skiing trips allowing everyone to go out on the ice, the last full moon was time for another great camping trip with the braves. Very few animals have been seen since we joined the Mosaic expedition mid December: a fish caught in a net by 1000m depth, a seal seen in the ROV hole (underwater remote operated vehicle), a polar bear on a picture near remote sensing instruments, a fox running around Polarstern. Together with nutriments and plankton regularly sampled, the symbolic Arctic food chain is complete, even in the middle of the winter near the North Pole. All are waiting for the light to return.
France, Léonie and Aurore will be back on board Vagabond on March 2nd. I hope to meet them as soon as possible to carry on the scientific program (winter study of the coralline algae) and for the Artists' residence. The end of the winter and spring will be nice and busy, as well as the summer cruise (August and September) which will be following-up the 2019 summer cruise.
On February 9th, Louis was invited to go seal hunting near Arctic Bay. He's telling us about it: "Departure at 8am for hunting with Rex, Olayuk, Tom and Logan. We meet about ten skidoos on the way and when stopping for tea. We go as far as the floe edge, it's great to watch the open sea. Wind is picking up, it's cold. We need more than one hour to get there, the terrain is quite rough due to the strong winds of the past few days. It's -41°C. Cold is biting, even for some Inuit which get a few frostbites, although their are more resistant. We catch 5 seals. We don't waste time and we are back around 17:30 for the volleyball game, but before we meet at Tom's place to eat fresh seal stew with potatoes. The next day, we eat grilled seal meat with barbecue sauce at Rex's place. I sew a parka with help and advice from Rex and Darlene! Sun returned yesterday."
Tom also helped Louis for diving on Saturday. Louis managed to change in his truck, parked on the ice by the diving hole, and he was warm inside to download the loggers data (pH and salinity) between the two dives. Visibility underwater is excellent!