Since the storm last week, the first for Léonie, the sky is cloudy and temperatures are quite high. Snow started to melt, but pack ice is still fine to go for the daily CTD. A small team sent by IPEV last week-end came to pick up one of the 2 snowmobiles, and to supply us in the mean time. Now is a study time on board, regularly animated by our happy little daughter.
"It was a real pleasure to welcome the Frozen Five on board. This morning, they left with Eric on skis and with our 3 dogs to help pulling their heavy pulkas. Alone with Léonie, I was feeding her peacefully when I heard strange sounds: at 5 meters from the boat, a polar bear was working hard on the almost new seat of one of our snowmobiles! Feeding interruption for Léonie, incredulous, who found quickly herself fastened in her baby chair while some shouts and one banger scared away the lout. Coming back inside, the door handle broke! After playing for some time with a wire cable near the cabin, the polar bear came back determined. Poor Léonie: new interruption and this time, two loud flares I sent to stop him getting use to our territory, then she started crying! This story's moral is that we feel destitute without a dog to alert, with a broken door handle, and with a polar bear busy evading your eye to show up without notice... Eric, back to Vagabond, found himself face to face with the polar bear coming back again! We will remember it, particularly since the high polar bear season will begin soon." France
The Frozen Five were may be expecting a real drinking session with sailors, although they didn't seem afraid of lullabies and calm to respect when Léonie was sleeping, and they contributed to a happy birthday party for France! I joined the terrific team with our 3 dogs for few kilometres yesterday, before leaving them under a perfect blue sky, fantastic day on pack ice. By the end of the day, during the daily measurements, I was again watching a polar bear quite close, splendid.
Yesterday morning, the American group left Inglefieldbukta with a beautiful weather, it was nice following them for a while with our small sledge, before turning back to Vagabond. Then, a few hours later, we could see the Frozen Five (www.frozenfive.org) coming towards Vagabond: after 5 weeks skiing and pulling their pulkas, they were right on schedule! Warm reunion, even our best seal (Léonard) was here to welcome them, next to the scientific hole he is enjoying since we removed the instrument, 50 meters from Vagabond. The Svalbard Scientific Skiing Expedition is staying 2 nights on board, to get some rest and to pack their pulkas with the 150 kg of supplies we have been storing for them. A polar bear came few hours ago and check their big storage wooden box, but all the food was already in a safe place... then the polar bear went to visit our seal, but no chance for any interview, Léonard dived right away. Still 6 weeks of skiing ahead, but the Frozen Five wish it could be longer!
Our dogs were suddenly very excited last Tuesday, and one hour later, 4 sledges, 30 dogs and 12 people were setting up their camp next to Vagabond for 2 days. We were really glad to see Lisa and Paul again, and to meet the rest of the group from Wintergreen, in Minnesota (www.dogsledding.com). Our 3 dogs joined one of the dog teams, happy to be with uncle or sister for a trip on sea ice, to the usual location for our oceanographic measurements. France was sitting on a sledge, and could feed Léonie outside, on sea ice, for the first time!
This is the name of the scientific program which second part just ended, after 2 days measurements on pack ice, at 7 km from Vagabond. The researcher Frédéric Vivier and I set up several instruments, including a prototype under test and calibration, to measure heat exchange between air and ocean, ice and snow thickness, salinity, temperature, current... Few visitors, including 2 polar bears, came for company or only to watch us from a distance, while the sun was going down, without disappearing. Despite midnight sun, temperature went down to -22°C early in the morning, but luckily, no wind, great sight, always so imposing. Next sun set, 20th August. Before enjoying summer sailing, the coming weeks should be more quiet for 3 of us, until the ice breaking-up, probably in July, like the two past years.
Sponsored by Frederik Paulsen, a helicopter flight yesterday allowed us to recover the last mooring lost after the 24th March ice breaking-up. The very good weather helped to locate the instruments, and few holes with the hand drill were enough to free them from a 70cm sea ice, on which the helicopter could land safely. The day before, accompanied by a journalist from Le Monde, our friend and guide Stefano came to pick up family and friends to drive them back to Longyearbyen with snowmobiles. France, Léonie and I are alone for a few days, relative solitude because we just had 10 skiers from GNGL visiting us! Weather conditions remain very good and allow me to do daily CTDs since early April, at 4km offshore, on 80m depth, thanks to a safe and negotiable pack ice.
Léonie met her grand father, coming down from the sky with many gifts... thanks to the helicopter that came to pick up Océanopolis' team. So we are for 5 days with family and friends, fresh snow and sunny pack ice for the occasion. While for scientific observations, conditions are good to go every day on pack ice with the CTD. Fantastic.
After welcoming a German TV team for ZDF, who was lucky to see 2 polar bears within 3 days, Vagabond is now welcoming an original team (with Roland Jourdain) for the launching of the exhibition 'Voyages to the poles' at Océanopolis in Brest. Vagabond is representing Damocles and sea ice studies, privileged witness for the climate change. A live call will allow Vagabond's crew and her guests to communicate with the public of Océanopolis on Friday 13 April at 18:00.
The main mooring, drifting for the last 8 days, was recovered yesterday with the helicopter of the Lance, the ship of the Norwegian Polar Institute, at about 45 km from Vagabond. Results should be exceptional.