First measurements with the icemeter, for Christian Haas, from University of Alberta, in Edmonton (Canada). The electromagnetic instrument (EM31) is detecting ice-water interface. By pulling it on pack ice, we get a thickness profile. One or two holes are done with an ice drill to calibrate the results.
We didn't expect a so quick progress, a perfect sequence: Saturday, we prospect in open water, and decide to drop anchor by six meters depth; Sunday, surface is freezing; Monday, the dinghy is taken out from young ice and hoisted in the stern; Tuesday, we do our first steps on ice; today Wednesday, on about thirteen centimetres thick ice, the trip from the boat to shore is done without getting one's feet wet! Also, the direction of the boat seems very good, considering prevailing winds. Around us, a huge mirror has formed, sometimes floodlit by oblique sun, sometimes by full moon. Without snow, this clear, bright, and dark pack ice is fascinating.
76°26.9'N - 84°41.1'W. The position of Vagabond now should not change before July 2012. Pack ice is being formed, beautiful. Yesterday, we were already walking on the ice, around the boat. Today, we moved a little bit Vagabond, not to ground at every low tide. Tonight, the moon is lighting stripes of water full of ice crystals, taken by a good northerly wind.
Before coming to South Cape Fiord, fifty kilometres West of Grise Fiord, we went around Brume Point, following Aksajuk advice. Ice is suppose to be very stable there and above all, this is close to the village. I could reach it on foot indeed, after four hours walk (nice trip but hard terrain at this time of the year). But we were willing to be in a little bay more protected from winds and swell.
On our last stop at the village, on 5th October, the sea was unusually calm, at first. Time to do some shopping and waves made embarkation too difficult. So we were welcomed for the night. In the evening, Aurore and Léonie enjoyed playing with other kids in the gymnasium, then we watched hunters coming back (nine seals, a big fish and a few ducks for Liza and Aksajuk!). On 6th morning, I had to slip on quickly a dry suit and jump in the dinghy to catch up with Vagabond: she was disappearing between snow flurry, drifting offshore with the wind. The anchor didn't hold. Norman and Jimmie helped us a little later to take on board the family, the sledge and everything else. Then we were heading west on a fascinating icy swell.
After weeks spent juggling with swell, it will take us some time to realize that now wintering is starting and Vagabond is about to become a hut on the ice again. To celebrate this, and before polar night, each of us got a new rechargeable head lamp!
Last days of preparations, before sailing to our winter quarters. We've been at anchor once more, for the last two days, in the nearby fjord, waiting for next lull to go back to Grise Fiord. Freezing spray and night are making navigation more difficult. Chill temperature today, with the effect of the wind, is about -30°C.
Last Wednesday, when arriving at the village, new polar bear tracks were welcoming us on the beach! A few people saw the animal the same morning... It was "Terry Fox" day, with a run for everyone to fight against bone cancer, a national event all over Canada. Departure was from the school, where we show a film about Vagabond a few days earlier.
Little by little, we get to know Grise Fiord inhabitants, who are welcoming us very generously. Clothes, food, toys, candies... so many gifts! Some Inuit are already enthusiastic about visiting us soon, to share their experiences and discover our unusual home. Tom or Norman would come to show us how to use a seal net. Jimmie is thinking about some collaboration with Arctic College. Mark is interested with our daily reports on ice and weather for the Hunters and Trappers Association. Wendy and Harold, from the Health Center, gave us some advices for the children, and completed our medicines. Lisa, at home, showed us how to make kamiks (traditional skin boots), and then drove us to the dogs for a first contact with our future companions. Amo was happy to find his anchor, using our dinghy!
Yesterday evening, the sea was calm in front of the village, and Vagabond got three tons of diesel oil. Tanks are full now, enough to feed the stove, the central heating, and the generator for the winter. Also the engines to sail to the wintering place. Here in Grise Fiord, each house needs about five hundreds litres of heating oil per week. Almost ten times more than Vagabond.
Today, there is swell again... Last Saturday, it was the biggest waves people have ever seen here. A little hut was even flushed away. There is no more drifting ice coming from the Arctic Ocean, to protect the village. Hunters are having more and more problems to launch there boats. Last night, they were all gone for seal hunting, and when they came back, dogs could eat finally.
Since last Wednesday, Vagabond is sheltered at the end of the fjord Grise. Tomorrow and after tomorrow, we should have better weather conditions to drop anchor in front of the village, at the mouth of the fjord (thirty kilometres). Air and water temperatures are decreasing, it will be soon time to get our supplies and sail to our winter quarters! In 1999, sea started freezing on 19th September around yacht Northanger. Today, we can feel global warming, but winter is coming anyway.
Before snow would hide everything, we find some planks on the beaches, to build dog houses and a winch stand for instance. All windows are getting their double glazing, the back door joint has just been improved, warmer clothes are out...
Wednesday, Larry Audlaluk invited us at home, and drove us to the end of the track, to his best picnic area. On our way back, he was happy to stop with us at the dump to look for things and materials to recycle! Larry arrived in Grise Fiord in 1953, when the government decided to relocate a few families from Northern Quebec. Only his sister and him are left from this tragic time. Larry is putting himself a lot into telling the story of his little community, in Canada and abroad. He is regularly in the press, in books and in documentaries. His wife Annie lent France a special tunic to carry Aurore, Larry left us a copy of Otto Sverdrup's book, "New Land, four years in the Arctic (1898-1902)".
Three ships stopped in Grise Fiord recently: a tanker and a cargo ship, for their annual deliveries of fuel and supplies, and a cruise ship with about a hundred tourists, who could watch an Inuit fashion show in the local gymnasium. A lot of occupations for the 145 inhabitants!
Marty Kuluguqtuq, assistant senior administration officer, is suggesting us to do a presentation of Vagabond for everyone, at the school. When there will be less swell, we will also have to fill up our diesel tanks. Marty is happy with the idea of having his daughter on board Vagabond once in a while, she has the same age than Léonie!
While we wait for a new pump for our generator, and for some scientific equipment, we have to get some more food and munitions, as well as a seal hunting licence, to send a hard drive with all the video rushes we did during the summer...
Jeffrey Qaunaq is leaving four of his dogs to us for the winter, as well as a sledge and a net to catch seals which are their main food. Marly, Bella, Elvis and a puppy with no name yet.
We are planning to be at our winter anchorage early October, before packice. We have been invited to haul Vagabond up onto the village's beach, but the bay we selected so far is at 45km West of Grise Fiord, at the entrance of a beautiful fjord. We give priority to the boat's safety, the scenery, possibilities for scientific work, and access to the village. We'll confirm our winter location in two or three weeks!
In our search for the ideal site, we dropped anchor in Harbour Fiord, below the cross erected by Otto Sverdrup and his companions, when they wintered on board Fram, in 1899-1900. Magnificent place.
At about one hour sailing from Grise Fiord, Vagabond dropped anchor away from the swell that keeps us from going ashore to the village. Summits are drifted with new snow, and the stove has been relighted for the first time yesterday. Before, a chimney sweep's brush was improvised with an old cable found on a beach!
When leaving Bay of Woe, we saw another polar bear, on a rock; he was like waiting for pack ice to form, for easier seal hunting. Front winds and up to six knots contrary current hindered the CTD casts planned in Cardigan Strait, we headed East at almost thirteen knots. First fjord on the left, Walrus Fiord, has the right name: we sailed close to about twenty walruses on the beach, exceptional encounter. But a little further, the small bay we spotted on the map was very shallow and with strong tidal currents: all engine power was needed to avoid being pushed on shoals.
In Hourglass Bay, we visited the hut set up by the crew of yacht Northanger, in 1999. Seven people, including a two and half years old girl, spent the winter here in 1999-2000, a century after Otto Sverdrup's expedition (four winters on board Fram). The place is nice, but quite far from the village (140km). We are in touch with our predecessors, who are sharing experience and advices.
Arctic hares are gambolling on the nearby tundra, many narwhals and seals are going up and down the fjord, it is time to feed as much as possible, before the cold. No more permanent day light. In the middle of the night, half-light is intensifying every day. In less than two months, sun will disappear totally, until February!