Enjoying the ice

  • Un dimanche sur la banquise
  • Epaisseur banquise Qikiqtarjuaq 7mars2014
  • Reception 640kg de materiel scientifique

Friday, the icemeter surveyed about 100km of fjords, south of Qikiqtarjuaq, to the entrance of North Pangnirtung Fiord. Beautiful. A privilege to travel on a smooth ice, although snowy, surrounded by mountains and fascinating cliffs.

At the end of the fjord starts Akshayuk Pass, which crosses Auyuittuq National Park to Pangnirtung. It attracts hikers and adventurers of all kinds, summer and winter. Among the first of the season, despite still low temperatures, four runners visited us on board Vagabond before attempting to run the 140km within 48 hours. Soon there will be an attempt by bike! Usually in this season are skiers.

Saturday, with Leelee, we went seal hunting, but we only found breathing holes that had not been used recently... empty-handed. Anyway, it was a great day on the ice!

Sunday, south of Broughton Island, in a nice and warm cabin, Sammy, Philip, Yves and Eric got ready to dive under the ice, helped by wifes and children. Nobody gets tired of these shared moments and everyone feasts on clams.

Thirty boxes of scientific equipment sent by the team of Takuvik finally arrived yesterday... the same day as the first chicks hatch! Swiss residents have brought eggs and made ​​an incubator here, to the amazement of Inuit who had never seen chicks!

It's now time for scientific field work!

more images.

Party in town

  • Commemoration secours exceptionnel

We just returned from a party in the village for a special event: it is the anniversary of an important search and rescue which took place last year. A man was lost for seven days while travelling by skidoo; he was found alive, he had no food and temperature was around -30°C... His father's speech, although in Inuktitut, was moving.

On our side, we are surviving very well on board Vagabond, everyone has a smile, even if cold hands are sometimes unavoidable for smaller ones!

Another world

  • Degager le sable pour trouver des clams
  • Charlie remonte avec sac de clams

Less than a meter of ice is separating us from another world. The water is clear in winter, sunlight passes through the snow and ice, and the rich underwater life contrasts with the apparent white desert at the surface. Diving into water at -2°C, when it is -30°C outside, represents some constraints, but the show is unforgettable. It's mostly a chance to follow Charlie, one of the few divers in Nunavut collecting clams for a living, and to enjoy his warm shelter above the hole!

More news in pictures; see also Leonie's blog and album.

Winter nights

  • Aurore et lever de lune sur Vagabond
  • Charlie rince les palourdes

The winter sky is festive, over Vagabond. Dancing northern lights, bright moonlight, pinkish dawn, low sun... This one is back for a few days, it is at the highest (south) at 11:28, so it is especially in the morning that we enjoy his light.

We have been back on board for ten days, we could not wait! Valentine and Vincent spent two short days with us before flying to Quebec, leaving us an impeccable Vagabond. Maybe they will come back soon? They were adopted by the inhabitants of Qikiqtarjuaq, also giving us a very warm welcome, with many "welcome back home!". It is a 4x4 truck that took us across the three kilometers of sea ice from the airport to the boat. Amazing!

Leonie found her friends at school, as well as Inuktitut and ice-skating courses, right on the day after our arrival. She was very much expected. Aurore was also eager to return to the "Parents and Tots" (for children under five years old, age of school entry). The following weekend, some children came on their own by snowmobile to play outside with them, next to Vagabond.

Floortje was on board this week, with her ​​cameraman Oscar. We will discover their report next month! Together we watched Charlie diving under the ice, very happy with his good collection of clams. I took advantage of the hole to use our plankton net.

The camera set up in early October still works, at the rate of one image every hour. The freeze up and the polar night have been recorded! The ice reaches almost a meter thick in the vicinity of the boat, above water at -1.71 °C... Field work and trips on the ice are in preparation, most of the equipment will soon be shipped from Quebec. The new Takuvik's snowmobile is breaking-in, it is now time to find and organize qamutiks (sled). We will be very busy in spring!

Last Wednesday, the wind allowed us to test one of the four sails offered by ParaskiFlex when we visited the headquarters of the company, near Montreal. A beautiful partnership totally unexpected! Thus our journey in France and Quebec was busy.

Christmas games

  • Jeux de Noel suite

Christmas Games in Qikiqtarjuaq (From December 23rd to January 3rd) have been an amazingly funny time. A very special moment in the year as the whole village vibrates to the sound of the community activities, while the daylight is at the shortest. Every evening we gather for various games, all very creative and unexpected: paper airplane contest, basketball tournament imitating monkeys, dices games, candies throws and even races with a piece of paper in your bottom! Dancing, singing, making faces, the most popular games are often the ones where we look really ridiculous.

On Christmas Eve, a gigantic feast is organised with local clams and narwhal Maqtak and the Hamlet team gave out a variety of fruits.

A religious ceremony with all the faiths happened on both Christmas’ and New Year’s Eve, this last one being followed by a parade with all the cars of the village. We would have never imagined that there were so many! We drove in each street and the parade ended on the sea ice.

Those games, parties and ceremonies have been an amazing opportunity to meet new people and learn more about each family and family members. A great time for visits, presents and invitations. We even have been invited to stretch the festivities by playing “Uno” in a cabin 40km south of Qikiqtarjuaq, far away from the village parties.

On the boat, all is good, the ice is now almost 75cm thick. No snowfall for a long time, but tonight a blizzard warning is in effect. We were missing it for a complete experience before our departure in 10 days. The Brossier family is on its way and actually in Quebec to organise the next scientific mission of Vagabond.

Until then, we will watch the sun coming back, go to school to present the movie done with the students and sadly, prepare our luggage…

Merry Christmas! by Valentine and Vincent

  • Au creux de l'aurore
  • Pickup pres de Vagabond

For 3 weeks now, we are able to walk to the village on the sea ice, so we are back to our routine back and forth from the boat as well as having visitors on board. Some of them met France and Eric in Grise Fiord, where they left their mark during their stay. People are often asking about them, and girls at school are waiting for Leonie to come back!

We have a dog since yesterday. Putsch, rather small and very friendly, lent by Jayputee.

At the beginning of December, everyone got ready for the winter : checking the skidoos, preparing the seal nets, doing the first trip away fishing on the ice, looking for « agluus » (holes maintained by the seals to breath) and building a new qamutik (wooden sled)! It is a great pleasure to discover those activities and it is amazing to participate.

We also spent time at the school to do talks about some of our expedition trips and to answer kids’ questions. In the end, the students participated in a project organised by Valentine: describe their day-to-day life to the kids « down south », what they like, which game they play, what they do after school or just what they feel like sharing with them by drawing, writing, filming, etc. An amazing adventure!

Big surprise one morning, a friend came to pick us up… by car! « As soon as the sea ice is solid enough (more than 35 cm) and not too covered by snow, the inuk uses his car » he said looking at our astonished faces! Few days later, 4 big pick-ups arrived next to the boat! Maybe we should start organising a parking lot!!! People of the village are still nevertheless mainly travelling by skidoos and very nicely often give us a lift back. Watch out for that offer: you will need to cover every square cm of your skin.. The outside temperature is now -30 degrees, so the one behind a full-speed skidoo is… quite refreshing!

Here like everywhere else, Christmas is on its way: each house has now its lights and (plastic) tree, everyone talks about the games organised during a week between Christmas and New Year’s and the school concert yesterday was the start of all festivities!

Valentine by Vincent, Vincent by Valentine

  • Valentine et Vincent

After graduating with a Master’s degree in International Affairs, and after two years as an auditor for a major financial company, Valentine Ribadeau Dumas changed course in the direction of her true passion. For the past ten years she has been at sea or on land, running logistics for scientific and exploratory expeditions around the world. By applying her background and experience in administration and logistics, Valentine has contributed to important missions on the field in a variety of roles: expedition logistics manager, crew member on sailing boats, cetacean research captain at the Mingan Island Cetacean Study (MICS) and in several projects abroad. Valentine began exploring the Arctic as co-first-mate in Svalbard aboard a polar sail boat. Then she worked in Resolute Bay (Nunavut, Canada) for an Arctic diving mission (“Deepsea Under the Pole”) and for the “Catlin Arctic Survey” scientific expedition. In 2012 and in 2013, she spent several months aboard the “Students On Ice” sailing boat, a research and logistic base in the Arctic for various projects around Baffin Bay. The wilderness of Polar Regions and the Inuit culture inspire and fascinate her. She started communicating about the lessons we could learn from there and the challenges to face in the next years. Today taking care of Vagabond represents a unique way of staying in the Arctic, living close to the community of Qikiqtarjuaq.

Vincent Berthet spent five years of his childhood living at sea on a school-boat, learning how to sail and navigate in the Caribbean region. On board, the crew participated in archaeology and ethnology missions with native Americans. They also filmed their adventures and day-to-day life, an opportunity for Vincent to discover his passion for filming. Back in France, he graduated from a cinema school and then worked for a company producing documentaries, taking care of the preparation and logistics for a lot of shootings in various countries. In 2008, he joined a sailing expedition “Around North America” as a cameraman. From Alaska to Norway through the Panama Canal, he is in charge of all the videos and pictures of the expedition. During summer 2009, he decided to work in eco-tourism in Spitsbergen, trekking on glaciers and sailing in fjords, discovering then the polar regions. After this new experience, he moved to Quebec in Canada. In 2010, he was a member of the Under The Pole Project which aim was to dive under the Arctic sea-ice between the Geographical North Pole and Canada (Movie: "Deepsea Under The Pole"). 45 days were spent on the sea-ice, sled-hauling and living by -50°C. In 2012, he explored the East coast of Greenland kayaking during 51 days (Movie: “Ice trap”). Finally in 2013, he was the partner of Sebastien Roubinet for the expedition “La Voie du pôle”, an attempt to cross the whole Arctic Ocean from Alaska to Norway with an ice boat. Today aboard Vagabond, he enjoys his first polar night and he is watching the boat getting iced in.

Links:, Catlin Arctic Survey, Students on Ice, Arctic Tern, 69nord, Under The Pole, Wide, La Voie du Pôle.

Village reached on the ice

  • Premiere traversee sur la banquise entre Vagabond et le village

It has been 2 weeks since it started… and finally the sea ice seemed strong enough for us to walk the 3km distance to the village. As soon as the daylight was good enough, we walked between tabular icebergs, North of the direct route, in order to avoid some very thin ice areas. We also had to check around for the big male polar bear that had been seen the day before, and which footprints were going along the boat overnight. After a 50 minutes walk, we arrived on Qikiqtarjuaq's shore where a friendly welcoming committee gathered for us (it created almost a traffic jam of quads, pick-ups and pedestrians!). Kids waved, the Mayor came to say Hi, and Sarah and Leelie offered us to take a shower. We apparently earned our stripes by becoming the first ones to walk on the ice, early morning! Several people followed our progress and were phoning people to spread the news. People congratulated us, wishing us a great return to town and, as always, joked around: “you are still alive?”.

We also learnt that some elders talked about us on the local radio, inviting people to take care of us, to call us daily because we are “the Aninatalik neighbours” (name of the boat wintering bay, a place where they have a lot of their childhood and hunting memories).

It is true that every day someone called us on the VHF radio, checking how things were going, giving us news on the sea ice conditions or the polar bear observations. We realised later that a lot of people were following our conversations!

We appreciate a lot this very fascinating community atmosphere, that we have lost in the cities. Elders, as the most respected inhabitants, are the ones keeping this sharing and cooperation values alive. Now that winter is here, people talk about coming to the boat by skidoos and very soon, we will have dogs around as polar bear warnings.

We also were given a polar bear skull to be cleaned, we put it in the water under the boat for the shrimps to eat the brain. Every day, we have to maintain the hole in the ice (so that it does not get too thick) and check the shrimps’ job! On that skull, we can collect marine snails and sea urchins which provide a little fresh taste to our meals. Tasting their food or learning their technics is a source of great pride for the Inuits and seems to be the key for a good reputation.

We are now half-way of our stay on board Vagabond and from now on, the sun will not shine anymore on Qikiqtarjuaq. It will stay behind the mountains of the Baffin Land until the return of Eric, France, Léonie and Aurore.

The magical time of getting iced in!

  • La mer gele debut novembre

The dinghy was able to make its way to the shore until recently but in the past few days, we were already reading the signs: local fishermen doing their last boat trip of the year, polar bear sightings becoming more frequent, hunters’ boats filling up with seals while there is still open water and ultimately our visitors on board told us that soon they could not come anymore! The Bay where Vagabond is anchored, small haven sheltered from the offshore swells, is the place where it started… Since November 8th, we noticed those reflections on the water in the morning, the ones that made us get out of bed very early to check it and believe it is for good, the ones for which you can think “and there it goes… for 8 months at least”.

First some thin ice, then packing up, forming pancakes and finally getting stronger every day peacefully, quietly, without chaos! The wind then slowed down the process, giving us time for a sunny week-end busy with a nice walk to Tusinaq (5km from town) where some of the locals have their cabin and with a lot of visits on board: they pass by for a tea, coffee, for playing a game, sharing a cake, some French bread, banik (bread fried in a pan) or fish, we talk about the local news and always laugh! Sharing is a meaningful term around here and it is done very naturally. We are very pleased by those last visits from friends that came to make sure we have everything we need for the few days “stuck on board”, time to get iced in for good. We listened to the elders and their knowledge of the ice. Not enough open water anymore to travel by dinghy, but the sea ice is not yet thick enough to walk on it safely. The same day, one of the local divers, Samy, just back from his diving trip, brought us some clams for dinner!

At the beginning of this week, the ice around the boat was already getting a little thicker and we even tried to step on it, one foot, the second one… we ended up going for a walk on it! We can now get to the point located 1km away from the boat towards the village, but the passage to the village after that is not yet safe.

The sea ice is forming as we write, respecting its own rhythm, -18 degrees today and no wind.