Cinéastes à Grise Fiord

  • Aksakjuk inspecte filet phoque
  • Larry decoupe phoque
  • Presque pret au depart

Wednesday, I drive Léonie to the school Spring Show, in Grise Fiord. The cameramen are with us to film the event, almost all town is gathering in the gymnasium!

Léonie is quite sad when Ariane is leaving by plane, the next day, but she is happy going to school for two days. The film crew takes the opportunity of our stay in town to meet some of our friends. Jimmy is welcoming us in his Arctic College office, Larry is showing us how he cuts a seal to feed his dogs, Aksakjuk is checking his seal net (no seal on that day), and Kavavow is leaving with his dog team for a long polar bear hunt.

Saturday evening, we meet again with France and Aurore, on board Vagabond. Temperature is mild (-10°C), light is beautiful, new snow is glistening in the sun.

Pic d'affluence

  • Avec equipes Paris-Match et Envol
  • Remplacement antenne satellite HS a cause du froid
  • Ice road jusqu a l'ancien village

For two days, Vagabond is full. Cabins are all busy, so Alfred and Etienne are staying in the wardroom. They are doing a report for Paris-Match, they also came to cover an important Canadian Rangers exercise, end of April. So they are about to join Resolute Rangers searching for our friends Grise Fiord Rangers (Liza, Jason, Imooshie et Jarloo), hidden in a secret place somewhere on Devon Island. A military plane (see inside) is used for safety, for patrols resupply, and to transport journalists, because this operation is given a wide publicity in the media.

Alfred and Etienne also brought a new satellite antenna, replacing the one damaged by cold early March. As well as Easter eggs, cheese, red wine, books for the girls... and a pile of Paris-Match magazines! When driving back to Grise Fiord airport, by snowmobile, we enjoy the new ice road from the old village up to town, across the fjord Grise. Etienne, the photographer, manage to get from the pilot of the plane to fly above Vagabond. The boat is almost on the Grise Fiord - Resolute Bay route.

Many hunters are out hunting during the week-end, and I often stop to have a chat with those I meet on my way. Imooshie and Terry went up to Vagabond to show a baby seal to Léonie. They found it not far from the boat, lost on the snow far from his den. In their sledge, three more young seals, one of whom one was killed by a polar fox. Terry tells me how, a few days ago, when approaching a female polar bear, they scared her two cubs. So he took them both on his knees, on his snowmobile, and brought them back to their mother!

Daylight is now permanent. On 15th April, light at midnight is as much as light at noon on 3rd February.

Jeux de Pâques

  • Concours glissades sur peaux de phoques

Snow inukshuk making, seal skin sliding, harpoon throw... and of course, Easter eggs hunt, around the frozen pond in town. This festive Easter Monday ended up with all kind of games in the gymnasium. Ariane, Hugues and Adrien could join and film these events, they arrived last Saturday for six weeks of shooting, to make a documentary film for French TV (produce by L'Envol).

Liza hunted a polar bear on Saturday, with Norman, north of Devon Island, they came back very tired on Sunday evening. The following day, she showed us how to prepare the skin, and how to cook the animal's feet, a highly sought-after dish here.

Tuesday evening, we were back on board Vagabond, with the film crew, after an almost five hours trip for the film needs. Beautiful light at sunset, but everyone was happy to get inside Vagabond with +15°C on arrival. Aurore and Léonie were very excited coming back home!

Yesterday, while I was doing usual scientific measurements, I could follow big polar bear tracks, new, up to two seal dens. It's the season for baby seal hunting, polar bears love them, humans too! Since a few days, ptarmigans are coming from south, spring is here. There is now enough light at midnight, we don't need lamp anymore, and temperatures are increasing, slowly: -32°C in the morning, -19°C at lunch time!_

Entre Grise Fiord et Vagabond

  • Au sommet pyramide

Conditions idéales, aujourd'hui, pour enfin gravir la pyramide qui nous nargue depuis notre arrivée, il y a exactement six mois. Lemmings, renards et lièvres m'ont précédé. La vue est superbe. Décidément, nous avons choisi un très beau site pour hiverner !

Demain, je retourne au village, où j'ai laissé France, Léonie et Aurore le week-end dernier. La banquise est couverte de petites congères de neige, depuis la dernière tempête, il faut maintenant près de trois heures pour parcourir les 50km en motoneige. Bientôt, nous pourrons profiter de la piste que les villageois vont tracer sur la banquise jusqu'à l'ancien village, de l'autre côté du fjord Grise (10km). Pour cela, la mairie m'a demandé les épaisseurs Best conditions, today, to climb the pyramid which has been taunting us since we arrived, exactly six months ago. Lemmings, foxes and hares got there first. The view from the summit is great. We really found a nice spot to overwinter!

Tomorrow, I'm going back to the village, where I left France, Léonie and Aurore last week-end. Packice is now covered with snow drifts, since last storm, and we need almost three hours to cover the 50km by snowmobile. Soon, we will enjoy the ice road that will be made until the old village, on the other side of Grise Fiord (10km). For that, the hamlet asked me about the thickness data; a minimum of 120cm is needed.

France is resting, getting rid of dizziness; she is also going to sewing and kamiks (skin boots) lessons. Léonie is happy going to school and playing with friends. Aurore is pampered by Liza, and also the nurse who had to treat her after a nice stunt!

Jean Gaumy left this morning, by Twin Otter, after having integrated discreetly with life in the village for a week. Before that, his stay on board "allowed him, according to a process carefully non scientific, to check the inevitable limits between reality and fantasy" (from the guest book). We will share soon on line some of his pictures!

Last Friday, a delicious feast was organised by Meeka, mayor of Grise Fiord, to celebrate the end of nutrition course. Tomorrow will start Easter holidays and games...

So, meanwhile, I'm alone on board. Nice weather, no wind, the silence is as fascinating as evening lights. We wish this season would last. I watch a fox passing on the shoreline, short and quick steps, always on his guard. Temperatures are increasing slowly, and I even managed to take a coffee outside (-15°C at lunch time)! While doing scientific routine measurements, I met tracks from a female polar bear with her two young cubs, whose tracks are not even bigger than dogs tracks. They might have come out from their den not long ago. One night, I was waken up by little knocks, as if someone was at the door... When I got up, I scared ravens that were eating our piece of muskox meat on the front deck!

Printemps ?

  • En traineau

During each field trip, in the area of Vagabond, we can see new polar bear tracks. There, a male has been enlarging the breathing hole of a seal to take it out of the water, after killing it with his paw through the ice. Here, a female and her cub explored the holes I did the day before to measure ice thickness. Further, a big male walked around the fjord, followed by a faithful polar fox... We hope to see our neighbours closer soon, from the boat for instance!

Blue sky set in about eight days ago. Sunglasses are necessary now, and the sun is giving up to 10°C in the middle of the day: -42°C this morning, -31°C at 3pm. Few days after equinox, real night is fading: at midnight, twilight is remaining, in the north. Polar night is not far behind, but midnight sun is already coming.

Icemeter is doing tens of kilometres, behind the snowmobile. Ice thickness in the area, quite variable, will soon be holding no secret for us!

Other trips and activities? getting iceberg ice for fresh water, clearing of snow after March 16th storm, short dog sled trips, slides and games in ice ridges along the shore, miniature gardening (seed tray inside the boat, green vegetables for everyone), solar flight for aerial pictures, hole in the ice to film under pack ice, time lapse trials to show tides (3.50m range!), last pictures in the night before permanent daylight...

During that time, fighting against the cold, Jean Gaumy is focusing on material (ice, snow, rock), and is looking for perfect composition, with twilight. Nice contemplative trips with him. In a few days, he will go and stay in town for a week, before flying back to France._

Dans le blizzard

  • Premier essai ballon solaire
  • Bouee Ukiuq installee le 11 mars

After meeting some of our friends from Grise Fiord, who are taking him to see muskox while I'm preparing the snowmobile, Jean is getting in the big sleigh to go to Vagabond. Time to go for 50km of packice, it's -40°C. I'm stopping several times on the way to check my passenger, as well as the icemeter (in the pulka behind the sleigh), and to better tie up a frozen seal trying to give us the slip!

From the day he has arrived, Jean Gaumy is observing, contemplating, and composing his images with material and light, by dint of having much fingers numb with cold! Especially when he is coming all day with me for more measurements with the icemeter in South Cape Fiord.

In his luggages, he brought courageously the buoy Ukiuq. We deploy it not far from Vagabond on 11 March. A phone exchange with students from Ice sentries, a project organized by Délires d'encre, CNES and Sicoval (Toulouse), happened two days earlier.

12 March: first flight, successful, with a solar balloon! Aerial pictures are not yet perfect, but we wait for the end the blizzard, blowing since yesterday, to try another flight.

France has had strange dizzy spells for the past two days, our main satellite connection is not working since 5 March, and Grise Fiord health centre, is closed because of bad weather (100km wind last night)... Happily, we could speak to our doctor with our second Iridium phone, and France is feeling much better! Temperature increased up to -15°C, all condensation ice is melting inside the boat._

Fiord froid

  • Traces d ours repu
  • Exploration Fjord Cap Sud
  • Banquise deformee par glacier

Sun is shining on South Cape Fiord, beautiful, but temperatures are still low. -46°C yesterday morning, when I was leaving Vagabond with the icemeter to explore, at least, the packice of our long fjord: the glacier front is at more than 30km, we came close by boat and then on foot six months ago. On the way, many polar bear tracks and polar foxes tracks. There, a seal hole had a visitor, a well-fed polar bear rolled in the snow many times. At some places, ice is very much uneven, pushed by glaciers that nothing can stop, not even winter. Cracks and fall of seracs are ringing out between the shores of the fjord.

About the hidden part of the ice, the under water video is showing us a hull clear from ice on the bottom, even propellers are free to turn. Amazing!

During the day, while solar panels are charging batteries, sun is heating our panoramic roof, green house effect is highly enjoyable.

France prepared the polar fox skin, dogs have eaten the meat and are keeping an eye on two ravens that cannot stop steeling pieces of seal fat.

On board, we are getting ready to welcome the photographer Jean Gaumy, and Léonie is happy to set up in the same cabin with Aurore.

Au fond du fjord

  • Releve hydrographique 7 fevrier 2012

Very low temperatures probably got the better of the nylon rope used for the CTD casts. It broke yesterday, the probe is now on the bottom of the fjord. It is not possible to recover it, too deep (130m). Two days earlier, I did six casts at the same location, every thirty minutes, to observe the influence of tidal currents... Shattering. But scientists response is incredibly encouraging as another CTD is already considered.

Sous la banquise

  • Site d hivernage de Vagabond au fjord du Cap Sud

By Humfrey Melling

Why Eric works so hard to plumb the depths...

Vagabond is spending the winter in South Cape Fjord.

A fjord is a long narrow bay, usually quite deep, which has a shallow connection (its “sill”) to the sea. It is formed by the flooding of a river valley that has been scoured out below sea level by a glacier.

The ocean outside supplies seawater to the bottom of the fjord and a river at the upper end supplies less dense fresh water to the surface. The two layers of different density remain distinct as long as the inflows continue and their inter-mingling is inhibited by their density difference.

Wind, tidal current or convection could possibly mix the fjord from surface to seabed if the stabilizing presence of light water over dense were to vanish. Alternatively, denser water from outside can spill over the sill to flood the bottom of the fjord, a process, known as deep-water renewal. Such renewal can bring new oxygenated water to the fjord and force pre-existing nutrient rich bottom water up towards the light. In the absence of mixing and/or renewal bringing up nutrients, there may be relatively little algal growth in fjords and not much marine life.

The description so far pertains to fjords at temperate latitude: the stabilizing structure is maintained by stream flow, wind and tidal currents promote mixing within the fjord and wind outside the fjord may occasionally be the impetus for deep-water renewal.

Fjords in the cold climates work the same way in summer. However, the cold weather of winter shuts off stream flow to the fjord and creates a cap of fast ice that protects the ocean from mixing by the wind. At the same time, the steady freezing of seawater through the winter injects salt into the upper ocean, driving convection and reducing the density contrast between top and bottom waters. This dramatic seasonal change in conditions makes ice-covered fjords very different from their temperate relatives.

There have been very few year-round studies of ice-covered fjords, particularly in locations where fast ice prevails everywhere. Vagabond’s sojourn in South Cape Fjord is providing an opportunity to watch a fjord carefully through the winter, to observe how its structure changes and possibly to understand what makes it tick. There are already some interesting questions. Why was the fjord so rich in marine life (narwhal, harp seal, sea birds) last August? Why is its ice cover now so much thinner than that in nearby waters? Is the near-surface water truly often above freezing temperature? If so, what is driving warmer water towards the surface? Could the same process explain why ice here breaks up 2-4 weeks earlier than in adjacent Jones Sound? Could the same process bring up nutrients so as to make South Cape Fjord a great place for marine life?

An understanding of the physical oceanography of ice-covered fjords also has more general value. Fjords attract humans because they offer good shelter to ships (like Vagabond), and often have level ground for habitation at the upper end. Human waste that ends up in fjords – garbage, sewage, mine tailings for example – ideally remains isolated within the dense bottom water that is trapped behind the sill. However, water contaminated by such waste may possibly be remobilized via deep-water renewal or in ice-covered fjords by winter-time mixing. If remobilized, it could spread elsewhere with undesirable consequences. By contributing to the understanding of Arctic fjords, our study at South Cape promotes the stewardship of a pristine marine environment, soon to be under pressure from resource development and change.

Petit séjour à Grise Fiord

  • Grise Fiord au soleil

We take advantage of the Rangers, on their trip back to Grise Fiord, to travel under escort. Two days later, the patrol is gathering for a festive meal at Liza's, she is offering beaver and seal fur mittens to those who distinguished themselves during the trip. Then all Rangers in town are meeting at the gymnasium where they present their annual parade, with awards and honours. Jason, 18, finished his training and becomes officially a Ranger, he was before a Junior Ranger (12-18 years old).

Since light is back, hunters are skilfully providing varied food to everyone; that's how, during these three days, we eat some caribou, muskox, polar bear, seal, narwhal skin... and turkey coming from the South by plane!

Larry is taking me to check his net. We drive three kilometres by car on the ice, remove planks and tarpaulins which are a little bit insulating the holes, break the ice in the three holes and clean them, free the ropes at both ends one after the other to bring the net through the centre hole, get the seal trapped in the net, put the seal in the pick-up, set up the net again, and go back home with the seal who is right away climbing the stairs and waiting his turn quietly in the entrance, in the warmth!

I give a hand to Amon to hang his polar bear skin to dry, in a warm garage. His son is here too, he is getting ready to go tomorrow to Whitehorse to represent Grise Fiord in badminton at Arctic Winter Games. Raymond is supplying us with seal meat for our dogs; Annie gives us dog fur for clothing; Liza, arctic hare fur and muskox meat; Geela, muskox wool to pu inside our mittens... But not much fresh food in the shop, some people are looking forward to get eggs, maybe soon by plane. We still have powder eggs on board.

For the trip back to Vagabond, by ourselves, it is cold: -44°C, which is -80°C with the chilling factor when driving at 40km/h. The girls are wrapped up warmly in sleeping bags, lying on mattresses and caribou skin. Aurore is sleeping all the way, Léonie doesn't want to miss the scenery. We arrive at Vagabond at sun set, the sky is reddening, beautiful. The stove is purring, the generator starts easily and its sea water pump flows right away: water is still liquid under the hull, despite the ice thickness (1.10m), getting close to Vagabond's draught.

Yesterday was a test day on the ice with the icemeter as we have some worries about the calibration of the instrument.

Léonie is five years old today, party on board!