South Camp Inn. This is the name of the hotel where we are waiting for a call from Kenn Borek, the only airline flying from Resolute Bay to Grise Fiord. We left France one week ago, and we hope to reach Vagabond and our friends in Grise Fiord before Christmas! Six of them are here with us, looking forward to be back home.
Our journey back to Canada started with a festive evening and a short night with polish sailors, in Toronto. Then, the bad weather pushed us to visit Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut (6500 people): two nice unexpected days with Sue, our host. Finally, since Saturday, we're stuck in a blizzard in Resolute Bay. To this was added yesterday a widespread power outage! Where we understand the energy dependence of a small village immersed in the cold polar night...
Meetings are not lacking and easily mistaken expectation, Aurore and Léonie have even see Santa!
In the end, Kenn Borek's Twin Otter arrived. We left Vagabond to Jeffrey's care, and we said goodbye for two months to our friends from Grise Fiord. As the plane was 24 hours late, we were about to wait for five days in Resolute Bay... but luckily, a plane from Northwestern was passing by and the two pilots offered us a ride to Yellowknife the next morning! Memorable encounter and experience, each of us could sit in the cockpit and pilot. Then our journey was all modified, as before Paris we had to change plane in Calgary and in London. When flying above North Quebec, northern lights were fantastic.
After seventeen months in the Arctic, for the past ten days and for the coming weeks, on the menu: reunion with our families, friends and partners; festivals, conferences and shows. Léonie found again the school in Hanvec, accompanied for the first time with her little sister Aurore.
For two weeks we have been preparing Vagabond for winter, and also a journey by plane all the way to France. While we will be away, our friends from Grise Fiord will be watching Vagabond and the scientific equipment. Sand and gravel has been piled up around the hull to improve thermal insulation. Two big boxes with grocery came last month for us with one of the two yearly cargo ships. Not long after, the other ship, a tanker, supplied the town with fuel for one year: one million litres of diesel oil and a hundred thousand litres of gas! It is know cold enough to store our frozen products outside. Since Vagabond is on dry land, we made dry toilet; we will have enough sawdust from the new Hamlet office - community hall under construction. Léonie is going to school every day and is improving in English and in Inuktitut. The little pond in the middle of the village is now frozen enough for hockey players, and our daughters are happy skating. Muskox and Arctic hares are many around town, even a polar bear has been roaming around for a week. He found some whale meat and he cannot stop coming back to finish his feast. So I was very careful when I climbed mount Greenlander, just above town. Last week, waves were breaking against the hull: very strange feeling on board a still boat! Sea starts to freeze now, water is becoming thicker at the surface. Snow falls and gales are preventing the plane to come: the 120 Grise Fiord inhabitants are waiting for Thanksgiving turkeys, while we are all set to leave...
On September 17th, we have a good weather option and we leave Greenland. Crossing to Canada is quick but tiring. Wind is pushing us in the right direction, but it is hard to make a difference, in the wavy nights, between ice and white caps... On the other hand, the children are totally accustomed to life at sea, and are jumping for joy when they see Grise Fiord early morning on 19th! Jeffrey is following Vagabond's track on the Internet and is greeting us by radio, then friends are coming to welcome us on the beach, and later in the evening, Liza is organizing a little party for our return. A sweet feeling of being back home.
The next day already, all conditions are gathered to haul Vagabond out of the sea: a high equinoctial tide, a calm sea and an available loader. At 4pm, the boat is on land, for ten months! Thus, invited by our friends, we will spend the winter in the middle of the village, close to them, to the dogs, to the school... A new life is starting. We also are at a good place to do the winter scientific field work, renewed and expanded by the researchers.
There is no protected bay in front of the village; it would have been too risky, while it is the storm season, to drop anchor and, as usual, wait for the sea to freeze around.
Dernière escale au Groenland pour Vagabond, Savissivik, à peine 50 habitants; c'est le plus proche village de Grise Fiord, notre destination finale de l'autre côté du détroit de Smith, au Nunavut (Canada). Entourés par d'immenses icebergs, nous jetons l'ancre devant le village enneigé et débarquons tant bien que mal sur la berge balayée par les vagues. Le temps pour Léonie et Aurore de retrouver le square bien apprécié l'été dernier, et nous voilà déjà chez Ole Kristensen, qui nous accueille spontanément dans sa petite maison en bois. Ole est chasseur, et fait vivre sa famille de huit enfants avec les fruits de sa chasse. Ses deux aînés sont à l'école à Qaanaaq et à Aasiaat, trois autres sont à l'école du village (6 élèves au total, de 6 à 13 ans), les plus jeunes sont encore à la maison. Léonie et Aurore sont vite intégrées dans ce monde d'enfants ! Ole nous raconte comment il chasse l'ours (environ cinq par an), le morse, ou le narval (avec les [photos Last stop in Greenland for Vagabond, Savissivik, less than 50 people; it is the closest village from Grise Fiord, our final destination on the other side of Smith Sound, in Nunavut (Canada). Surrounded by many huge icebergs, we drop anchor in front of the village covered in snow, and we land with great difficulty on the beach swept across by waves. Léonie and Aurore are happy to find again the playground they enjoyed last year. Soon we are invited by Ole Kristensen in his little wooden house. Ole is a full time hunter, and is making a leaving for his wife and their eight children. Their two oldest children are studying in Qaanaaq and in Aasiaat, three others are at school in the village (6 pupils total, from 6 to 13 years old), the young ones are still at home. Léonie and Aurore are quickly integrated in this children's world! Ole is telling us how he is hunting polar bears (about five per year), walruses, or narwhals (showing us Nathalie and Alain Antognelli's pictures). He has 25 dogs, but he has to use his boat sometimes in summer, unfortunately because fuel is expensive. At 12 years old, his son Qaaqqutsiannguaq is already hunting with his five dogs.
Very few foreigners are coming to Savissivik, and our visit at the school turns to be a little event! A helicopter is coming twice a week, a cargo ship once a year. No road, no car, few old snowmobiles, but Internet and mobile phone for most people. Somehow, life in the village could change soon: Shell is coming here tomorrow to explain the company's prospecting in the area...
Vagabond is slowly going North, sailing into every main glacier fjord. For Eric Rignot and his colleagues of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Nasa), for two weeks, we are doing bathymetry and hydrography, using a deep water echo sounder and a CTD probe. Our friends Gilbert and Annick are joining our family crew from Uummannaq to Augpilagtoq, for the first part to the work. Perfecting equipments and procedures is taking a bit of time, but this will be useful for a more ambitious project next year. We are sometimes sailing along the coast, open to the waves from offshore, and sometimes inside the fjords, very icy. Lights are beautiful in September, gales too! It can be hard to find a place to anchor in the night, in a steep fjord full of drifting ice, when swell, wind and snow come into it. In these conditions, sending down the CTD to 500m depth is not easy as well!
Surprisingly, not far from glacier Kakivfait, we meet four fishing boats, one after the other, all sailing as slow as Vagabond across heavy ice concentrations. The night before, not far from there, I dived to check the transducer: clear water, -1°C, 600m depth!
Villages are often meaning nice encounters, and at times good anchorage. At Augpilagtoq, Thomas is trying to sell us a huge geode, and is fascinating us with dozens of trophies won in dog sledge races. At Naujat, Gabriel is teaching patience to our daughters willing to get close to young dogs; in the meantime in front of the small village, at dusk, two other hunters are training in their kayak. At Nuussuaq, where we are happy to come back (photo 2011), Aurore and Léonie are easily integrating with pupils from the school for some class work.
Geologists left for Brest. Lightened by 900kg of rocks and equipment, Vagabond has her bow up again! She is already missing René's explanations, pillow lavas, drifting ice pushing her away from anchorage in the middle of the night, exploration of small coves with the dinghy, fresh water collected from waterfalls, lost plastic boxes on beaches useful to store rock samples, lively aperitifs, rough beaching, corer purring...
Before starting the following mission and then heading for Grise Fiord, we get in Uummannaq, biggest town visited since June 2011 (1400 inhabitants), part of the supplies we need for the winter: food, spare parts and equipment are coming from our partners in France or from Denmark. Making the most of the nice weather, I spend about two hours diving under the hull to set up the transducer for next mission. Ann Andreasen, enthusiastic and dynamic leader, is showing us around: she is in charge of the children's home (famous after the film Inuk), she is chairwoman of the Polar Institute, and she helped setting up an exhibit about Jean Malaurie.
Sailing around the world, Coriolis is dropping anchor near Vagabond for an unexpected meeting. We are all invited on board for an evening. The crew is coming from Murmansk, she just gave up the North-East Passage and is about to sail the North-West Passage!
At Illorsuit, our next stop, France is fishing about fifteen cods in twenty minutes! Then Vagabond is sailing again along the entire coast of Svartenhuk, because the geophysicists from last month mission Volcabasin are also interested with our depth measurements. In the fjord Arfertarssuk, former mission base camp, we have appointment with Claudine and Alain Caradec, on board Kotick. We are happy to get to know these great sailors better.
The weather is beautiful when Vagabond is finding her way between icebergs and leaving Svartenhuk. The scientific expedition Volcabasin is finishing successfully, we are heading for Uummannaq with hundred of kilos of rocks and equipment. Laurent Geoffroy, expedition leader:
"The scientific purpose of this survey is to investigate an about 6 km thick, 50-60 million years old, volcanic field, located almost entirely above the sea level, at a continental / oceanic lithospheric (the upper 50 to 100 km of the inner Earth) boundary. This huge volcanic event was induced by a lithospheric break-up of Eocene age. This event, that divided a former unique tectonic plate into the nowadays Greenland and North American plates, occurred above an exceptionally hot upper Mantle. This specific setting is believed to bring on an unusual type of passive margin: the “Volcanic Passive Margin”. The detailed study of the lavas will allow identifying the depth and composition of the mantle source of these unusual magmas, and linking the melting event to the extensive deformation of the margin. More generally the aim of this program is to further understand the mechanisms of break up of a continental lithosphere under a particularly hot regime."