Wih the help of the same big machine and also 2 powerful boats, Vagabond could leave the beach and go back to the sea. Repaired and newly painted, she is floating again! The local team has been enthusiastic and efficient, Vagabond can now go on her route and look after the given assignments.
Not long after midnight, at high tide, Vagabond was hauled up onto the beach with help from a mechanical shovel and few people from the scientific base of Ny-Alesund. Our proud ship has not been on land like this since spring 2004. Now she set up for 3 or 4 days in front of marine biology laboratory, time to check carefully the hull, after 4 winters frozen in ice. We mainly want to repair the leaks from the cages protecting the propellers, lightly pulled out by ice during the last winter. For these few days, we set up on land, at the IPEV station.
An excellent scientific mission is finishing. 3 Italians, one Dutch, and one French journalist, came on board Vagabond for 8 days, to study the only known warm springs in the archipelago. The biologists have been sounding carefully Troll and Jotun, at the end of Bock fjord, in the north of Spitsbergen. Water is coming out in various springs, at almost 30°C for the warmest. Nothing very impressive, but a flora that seems suddenly very luxuriant in this Arctic environment. The many samples also allowed to identify some small amazing fauna. We stopped again at Linda's hut, on our way back, and then we met quite a lot of drifting ice. But not enough to stop Vagabond! For the next 3 weeks, we will be at Ny-Alesund scientific station, preparing Vagabond for the next winter in Storfjord.
Linda set up in Mushamna for a year. Her boyfriend will join her in a few weeks to share the long winter, at the very north of Sptisbergen. Every year, the governor is giving this trapper's house to a couple of volunteers. They have to carry on the traditional way of life of trappers. Linda prepared for us an omelet with Eider ducks eggs, gave some seal meat to our dog Zagrey, and offered us few fishes just out of the sea. Delicious stop! The camp will soon be covered with snow, the drift wood is already cut and burning in the stove.
After few more days of sailing in the fjords close to Longyearbyen, the little capital of the archipelago, Vagabond is getting ready to embark 4 scientists and a journalist. The stop was also the opportunity to meet the team of an amazing hovercraft, designed for arctic oceanography. A fast machine that should avoid some research projects to charter an expensive ice-breaker, to work on pack ice. First snow is already covering the mountains, and the sun is getting closer and closer to the horizon, in the middle of the night. Autumn is coming!
We are choosing our stops depending on the weather, and according to what we wish to discover. We want to enjoy the short sailing period as much as possible. Vagabond is frozen in ice from October to July, and summer doesn't last long: it was snowing yesterday, in the northern part of the island... Wind was more than 80 km/h, Vagabond was pulling hard on her mooring! But today, the weather was great, the crew could watch very well about 15 walruses, and meet with coast-guards, who came to get a fishing net lying on the beach. Dangerous for local animals.
Vagabond is at Longyearbyen. Today, the little capital is disappearing in the fog. Luckily, the sky was clear yesterday and we could watch the solar eclipse (93% in Longyearbyen). We were having a subdued light for while, strange feeling in this period of permanent day light! Coincidence or not, a walrus set up on the beach down the old peer. During 2 days, he got many visitors who probably pushed him to finish his siesta. Walrus population is increasing at Spitsbergen, they usually gather in small colonies.
After 2 days stop in Longyearbyen, Vagabond sailed again for some coasting in the surroundings. While 3 of or dogs are watching a kayaker's camp on the other side of the fjord, Zagrey is enjoying the summer with us: 5 children and 5 adults on board! Not long after 2 pm today, our ship was driven on a shoal, not written on maps, and not visible because there is so much Old Red in the water. Waiting for high tide, the crew is walking ashore, kayaking or simply looking at the great view we have on the glacier Sefström. There is like a holiday atmosphere on board...
With a peaceful navigation along the west coast of Spitsbergen, 2 stops at Hornsund and Fridtjovhamna could allow us to meet up with Algol. The beautiful boat of our friend Jean-Baptiste didn't come back to the archipelago since 1984! On board, transported from France for us, 2 big rolls of mooring rope and part of the food for next winter! We are now at Longyearbyen, 2000 people, capital of Svalbard. Temperature +10°C, no wind and perfect blue sky. It is always strange to come back here with Vagabond, after more than 9 months of a still isolation. The relative agitation is surprising us again this year.
Yesterday at 2 in the morning, the anchor was up at least. The 4 dogs were on board, and Vagabond was sailing South. We left behind us 6 cairns, showing the land anchorages, 4 dog houses, filled up with stones, and the small hut full of equipment. Next to this hut, a weather mast, still recording. This will all be useful when we will come back in October, for the fifth wintering. Pushed with a strong northerly wind, our crew anchored yesterday afternoon at Isbukta, waiting for better conditions to go around the south tip of Spitsbergen.