The ice breakup is late... France and I have been back in Grise Fiord since July 25, but the ice is forcing us to be patient!
Finally, on July 31, after two attempts, a lot of shoveling and the use of four different machines, Vagabond is floating again. Thanks to Charlie, Nathan, Paul and Jessie. And thanks to the whole community for looking after our boat so well.
The same day, the scientific team is boarding and setting up all its equipment. On August 1, Maya Bhatia, project manager, and four students are on board for a first trip: our goal is to test everything and validate the protocols. The pack ice, beautifully covered with large melt ponds, is keeping us close to Grise Fiord. No way out. On the other hand, the neighboring fjord is free of ice and on August 3 there are eight of us on board for a long day of oceanographic measurements and sampling. All good.
Yves arrives from Qikiqtarjuaq just in time for a first dive at the bottom of the Greenlander, the mountain next to Grise Fiord: we get a nice collection of coralline! So we dive again at the foot of this amazing cliff the next day. Minoli and Ana, the science team, are busy with the samples.
There are therefore five of us on board: Minoli, Ana, Yves, France and me, for a one-month mission in Nares Strait, between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, and north of Devon Island. When the ice will permit.
On August 7, we attempt a dive at Skerries Islands. Search in previous years were promising, but conditions were never favorable for diving. This time, thanks to the pack ice which has not yet broken up, the sea is perfectly calm around the islands which we manage to reach by zigzagging through the ice. A polar bear sunbathing on the ice is watching us from afar. France, Minoli and Ana first explore the seafloor from the surface, using the drop camera, and identify the best sites. When Yves and I jump into the water from Vagabond, the ice is quickly drifting around us. Barely time to reach the bottom and take a few samples of coralline that we hear the boat's engines! We come up, find that Vagabond is coming straight at us and that the ice is compacting against the islands... Under the moving ice, we are looking for the right place and the right time to surface. There you go! On the ice with all our equipment, then on the boat! The bear didn't move, phew, enough emotions for today.