5 July 2023, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon
It's Wednesday at 9pm, the music is beautiful, but we know we've got to go.
The air is cool. Not freezing, just around 9 degrees. Although, it's a little humid. Actually, it's downright damp, the same kind of fog we've been blessed with in Saint-Pierre for a good week now. Perfect weather to not have to look far for a horizon that once might have been blue. Best to just concentrate on scraping down the hull of the ship whilst it lays aground and the tide is low. We're giving the hull a coat of beautiful antifouling paint. This deep black protective agent should repel algae, keep us safe from the abyss, and might even attract whales (or perhaps mermaids too!).
For above the waterline, we'll settle for just a few red and white touch-ups to restore the ship to her former flamboyance. We might have repainted the whole ship, but the local fog is hardly conducive to the task. Besides, she might end up looking too new and dapper for a vessel that's been playing the Arctic for over twenty years now.
I remember twenty years ago. In 2003, we were in Kamchatka. The ship was in the middle of its grand tour. It had completed the north-east passage and was about to begin voyage of the north-west passage. Having now passed her exam of these two daring passages with flying colours, the deities of the boreal decided she could stay.
Armed with this credential, our proud vessel has never left the Far North since. Overwintering 12 times, first in Svalbard and then in Nunavut, and putting the ship to work on some sixty scientific programs, our valiant crew have remained faithful to their project - to provide a logistical base for polar science.
In 2007, a little Léonie was added to the crew, followed by her littler sister Aurore in 2009, but the ship hasn't changed course: once ice, always ice.
This year, even though the girls have gone to sample the summer delights of the warm French metropolis, we must go back once again. Science can't wait, and serious business awaits us on our first mission of the summer in Greenland. Just look at the title of the project: "Protero-Litho in the Gardar magmatic province". But it's probably too early to talk about scientific details, so just hang on a while and, if you continue to follow this blog, some of the researchers will tell you more.
It was 9pm and we had to go, but the music was beautiful. For our departure, the shore had been invaded by a group of Irish musicians: "The Celtic Cods", a name the brings delight the little son of a cod fisherman that I am. And so three fiddles, three flutes, a mandolin, a guitar, an accordion and even a Celtic tambourine (which we should call bodhran), offered us a beautiful aubade. Sorry, I should say a magnificent serenade, since it was the evening and an aubade is reserved for the dawn of the morning.
After reciting "Au bord de l'eau" by Rémi Geffroy, a song that always moves me, we cast off. Swallowed up by the fog, we hear a flute playing "Cape Clear" in the misty distance, a melody that tells us about Cape Clear Island, yesterday's powerless watchtower turned temple of memories, with its long-shimmering tears dried in the wind. A jewel rediscovered from the splendour of the ocean, still looking for its starving children in a fold of the horizon.
The music is beautiful, but we know we've got to go.