Half way of the 4 months polar night, Fabrice and Sanna are about to replace Ulli, but the snowmobile expedition is getting very difficult. More story soon...
While Michael is about to see the sun again in France, Ulli has been setting up on board since Friday. The crew change was organised with snowmobiles, under northern lights which have been many for the last few days. Jin, the biggest of our 3 dogs, is always so chicken: he is happy moving closer to Vagabond with his companions, now that the pack ice is thick enough (36 cm).
Very quiet weather for the past week, -20°C these days, sea ice thickness is now about 35 cm around Vagabond. Since 10 days, Michael didn't see any polar bear: they are not any more pushed in Inglefield's Bay, and they can enjoy a larger hunting area every day. If the weather is fine, Ulli will come from Longyearbyen next Friday and replace Michael.
Ice is forming slowly around Vagabond... Michael was wondering why it was not increasing fast, compare to previous years. He just found out he was measuring in inches! Today, ice is 30cm thick, and there is no snow on it yet.
Despite a sleeping rhythm very disturbed with the polar night, Michael is trying to enjoy every day's short period of glow, at midday, to visit the dogs. These are still on shore, waiting for pack ice to be thick enough to set up their dogs houses next to the boat. Polar bears are losing patience as well, and there are more visits now. Michael is watching a film daily, a way to get out for a while. He had a hard time when daylight totally disappeared, "probably the time I needed to measure the night... now I'm feeling better." More news here ici (in French).
A growler wear out one mooring rope, until it broke; but Michael could join end to end after removing the damaged 7 or 8 meters. New polar bear tracks were found at 10 meters from the dogs yesterday, but they never barked, the visitor was certainly peaceful!
Today for the first time, Michael measured the pack ice thickness, few meters from the boat: 8 small centimetres. Surrounded with ice, Vagabond was moving under the strong gust. "I hope the wind will not increase, and that pack ice will resist!". But at 5pm, sea ice was breaking up...
Vagabond moved a few meters away, she is not grounding and listing any more. Sea ice is setting up, at least. Michael is telling us about 15th November evening: "8pm. Dark night. No wind at all. I'm sitting in the saloon watching a film. Suddenly Imiaq is barking loudly. I know what it means. Search light... He is here, at 5 meters from me, on the new ice. He was probably next to the boat... He looks at me. He doesn't like the light, but he is not really scared. Again, I can see the very long hairs covering his feet. He shows his black tongue at times... The polar bear is walking now, following the boat: swaggering, slow steps, opening his feet to spread his weight on ice not to go through. Perfect control. Magic moments. Which are reminding me why I'm here."
With westerly winds, it's been colder for the last 36 hours and sea is freezing. The boat has been pushed close to shore, and at low tide, she is grounding, listing 6 or 7 degrees... If the situation does not change, Michael will try to pull on the south rope to go back to the middle of the little bay. "But with so much ice around, I'm not sure to succeed...", he is telling us. In the meanwhile, he has to run the generator at high tide only, and if the sea is finally freezing, it could be a recurrent problem...
From Ny-Alesund where he is working for IPEV, Alan is telling in his blog about Vagabond's stop last September.