Once in a while, a polar bear is getting closer to Vagabond, but none of them has been too curious so far. Dogs don't need to bark long, and I am using neither banger nor flare. The animal that passed near the radiometers was even careful enough not to step right under the sensors, measurements were not disturbed! I've been alone for one month, and I'm glad to welcome France and Léonie tomorrow, as well as my brothers Piem and François. Extra people to pack camp and to take to the sea again! But the helicopter will take away our dogs, Jin, Frost and Imiaq, towards their new home, and the camp will suddenly appear much empty without our companions, faithful for 5 years.
In Inglefield bay, pack ice started to break up on 25th June, 8 days earlier than last year. Vagabond is only at 1 km from open water! On the few square kilometres of sea ice left, dozens of seals have been sunbathing all week-end long. Yesterday evening, I was watching a big polar bear eating one of them, while another bear was still hunting a little further. My field for work and trips is reducing fast, and thaw is offering a moraine more and more muddy, as shown on pictures taken from the roof of the cabin at 8pm every day.
While the fifth and last wintering of Vagabond in Inglefield Bay will be soon finished, Sailing News is coming with the series "Vagabond, day after day". The first episode is online since yesterday : http://www.sailingnews.tv/index.php?stream_playlist=3885#.
Many reasons to have a party: summer solstice, music, fathers, Fred's 40th birthday... and the new label given to Vagabond, now Patrimonial Interest Boat! I try to imagine the atmosphere that most of those reading me might know these days. But I'm enjoying without regret the world around me, which doesn't care about yesterday or tomorrow. My neighbours the barnacle geese finished parading and are sitting on without a break. Terns are always screaming to give notice of their arrival. Seals are sunbathing, keeping one eye open. Polar bears are not yet visiting much Inglefield Bay, as pack ice is till allowing them to hunt further off shore. Sometimes, fog is taking hold, and I must trust the dog with me, even more on the watch when we meet fresh polar bear tracks.
Snow and wind today, it was only 10°C inside this morning. Of course, the stove had been turned off for a few days. In the sun, with the greenhouse effect, no heating is needed: if it's 2°C outside, it can be easily more than 20°C inside. Yesterday, not a breath of air, bright sun in a sky without clouds, ideal for sunbathing! It was even too warm for the dogs, and I waited for the evening for the daily ski-seal trip. The point is to spot a seal, and to head for it. When the dogs see it, the rate is suddenly faster and I don't need to push on my ski sticks anymore. Of course, the seal dives before we reach him. But as far as there is a seal visible on pack ice, the race keeps going!
After 3 weeks away, I'm back on board Vagabond. Alone, I'm waiting for thaw! It's snowing quietly, in total stillness. Almost, because dogs cannot stop singing, what a welcome! Today is the oceans world day: here, all around, as far as I can see, sea is hard and white. But rivers are in spate because snow is melting, and we needed a small helicopter to change crew. It was not anymore possible to ski, as I was hoping to. The pilot didn't stop the rotor, I hardly said hello to Julien, it is for him a sudden return to civilisation. "I've had an extraordinary experience... Now I have to share it with those who stayed down there, in the men's world... Another adventure is starting." (from the guest book)
If snow and ice are melting around the boat, it is not as hot as in La Réunion, where Léonie and her parents came to share their adventures (http://www.auboutdureve.fr/). Next week-end, we will be in Saint-Malo (http://www.etonnants-voyageurs.com/)! Then it will be time for me to go back to Vagabond, where the weather is superb, +3°C, not a cloud. Julien, on board, wrote tonight: "I cannot get tired of the scenery which I still find extraordinary. All is quiet, there isn't the shadow of a polar bear, not even a track. Little scientific work is going well. Dogs, in front of me, are sleeping in the sun on top of their dog houses. RFI is still on strike! Unbelievable. So no news from the rest of the world. Which is fine."
3 o'clock in the morning, sun is not as high as at midday, and snow is getting harder: it is the right time to go on pack ice and plunge the CTD to the bottom of the fjord. Later, snow will be too soft and the snowmobile will get stuck. Light is superb during the "night". Few ice floes are drifting in the lead nearby, opened by yesterday westerly wind. Last scientists left on Monday evening, as well as France and Léonie, and a lot of equipment. Tomorrow, camp will be tidy up and I will be finished with instructions to Julien, who will replace me for 3 weeks. No sooner had he arrived at Vagabond than he could see a female polar bear and her two cubs, passing not far from us, while doing some pack ice thickness measurements.
Success for the glider's first flight! The designers of this amazing under water glider were roused to see the autonomous instrument disappearing under pack ice... and coming back thirty minutes later, after accomplishing its mission. Great moment, with the midnight sun. The day before, we needed twenty minutes searching with helicopter, to find the big red buoy which has been drifting for one month across the frozen fjord. Ice was thick enough to land, and the valuable instruments were waiting for us, hanging under pack ice. Damocles high technology is now at Vagabond!
The polar bear that just came to visit us was not shy at all. We had to shoot 4 bullets in the air, 3 flares and one banger to make him move away. He came fast, Imiaq barked. He stopped at less than two meters from Frost! And yet it was the good weather for a rest day: cloudy and wet, too bad visibility to go and work on sea ice. Our 3 guests left yesterday: Johan and Erik, from NERSC, came for one week to test an impressive sonar able to measure ice drift, and Franck, from IPEV. In two days, we will welcome the last scientific team, and we hope we will manage to recover the instruments still drifting originally in Storfjord.