Under the sun of Qik

  • Degustation lagopede
  • Aurore premier et seul poisson attrape par la famille

Spring is here, temperatures are positive at mid day, snowfalls alternate with nice weather. This morning blue sky is calling us outside, Aurore and me, for various little jobs and for a picnic. Takuli is joining us and pulls the pulkayak. Leonie is at school, France is in town too, for filtrations in the lab, and to clean a seal skin I found last week on the ice, left by a hunter.

Last night, during the awards ceremony of the fishing derby, Sarah, Charlie, and other of our friends have received awards for the fishes they caught: the heaviest, the largest, the smallest, the first... The main event took place on a lake, at 3 hours by snowmobile, while for those who could not go, a sculpin fishing competition was organized in front of the village.

The lake is located in Auyuittuq national park. Inuit are free to drive and fish, in the park and elsewhere. Others have to pay to enter the park, to use their tent, to fish, and are not allowed to drive a snowmobile. The administration of Parks Canada finally granted free access for Aurore and Leonie, and asked us to participate in an orientation with Stanley, the local agent: environmental, safety, techniques for river crossing (which are not running in this season!)... Friday night, arriving near the main camp where families gather for the fishing derby, we decide to stay outside the park, for financial reasons, and we pitch our tent 3km away, alone. We learn the next morning that a tent burned in the night. And that a bear visited the nearby huts 3 days ago. For more safety, it would seem wise, one day, to facilitate the gathering of all participants on the occasion of this major event in the community life...

Saturday, Leonie patiently explains to our very surprised friends that her parents can not drive in the park, and she wonders "maybe I can?"! We find easily someone to drive our snowmobile to the lake. And Aurore is the first to catch a fish: "Mom, it moves, it takes...". She needs a little help to get it out, it's her very first fish! An Arctic char, 44 cm long. Besides two mini fishes, this is the only catch for the family, and we enjoy it the same evening, on the frozen lake. Beautiful day, great shared moments, sumptuous scenery and delicious fish.

Bad weather and nothing planned the next day, we decide not to return to the park and we leave for Nuilatuq, 10km north of the park. It's snowing and visibility is very poor, but the GPS allows us to find our friends cabins. Loassie is welcoming us with a dish of young seal, very tasty. Then, despite the falling snow, the girls prefer our cozy tent, so we turn down the cabin proposed by Philip. Life is peaceful on this small peninsula surrounded by sea ice, kids and adults are happy to share their stories and meals (caribou, ptarmigan... Brittany cake and candies!).

Comfortably installed on the muskox skin in the sleigh, Aurore and Leonie enjoy the trip. We love this feeling of freedom, being able to travel both on land and on the frozen sea, self sufficient for several days. This is the best time of the year to do so because it is not cold anymore and the snow has not yet melted.

Tuesday, it's time to go back to our routines after an exceptional 3 days break: ice cores, hydrographic profiles, water sampling, diving and collecting clams, sea urchins, amphipods and algae under the ice, filtrations in the lab...

Liza in Qikiqtarjuaq

  • Anniversaire France
  • Liza France et Aurore grotte Broughton
  • Des palourdes pour Liza

Aurore and Leonie are very happy, our dear friend from Grise Fiord is coming to visit us. Liza is hosted by Mary, her counterpart Mayor of Qikiqtarjuaq, and her husband Sam, whose mom, charming Minie, lives in Grise Fiord too. The next day, Liza is joining us for scientific field work on sea ice! We also have a nice visit of the cave not far away.

Comes the weekend with a nice trip to Mary and Sam's cabin in Atirialik, 3 hours drive to the north. As we leave town later than our friends, when done with lab work, they maliciously posted two road signs on the way, on the ice, to be sure we don't get lost!

Arriving at Atirialik on Saturday afternoon, we set up our tent and have a tea with Ena, Leonie's Inuktitut teacher, and Sammy, in their nearby cabin, before they head back to Qik (Sammy wants to dive and dig for more clams tomorrow, to pay for a new boat!). In another cabin, we also meet Geela (who gave us both dogs Pikuli and Takuli), her husband just returned from hunting with a seal pup. Then our friends arrived with Liza, they were fishing Arctic char, and shortly after, Mary's son is back with three ptarmigans!

Emotional journey for Liza, who is meeting with some childhood friends and visiting the site where she used to camp and fish with her parents when she was 7 years old. We learn that she lived in Pangnirtung before Qikiktarjuaq, then Clyde River, and then Grise Fiord.

Shared meals, celebrating France's birthday (44!), playing inside the tent, sliding on sealskin, climbing on rocks... On Sunday, the trip back to Qik in this sumptuous scenery leaves a true taste of happiness.

Aurore (4 and half years old): "Is it not by chance a little top to go camping?"

Before flying back to Grise Fiord, Liza wants to watch Eric diving: she loves clams! Eric first gets some for the scientific program, as well as sea urchins, amphipods, algae under the ice... the rest of the good harvest of the day (two dives) is eaten raw on the ice, near the diving hole, then packed in her luggage for her relatives in Grise Fiord. Then Liza wants to spend her last night on board Vagabond! We are delighted to have been with her for about five days.

800km sea ice thickness measurements

  • Mesure epaisseur banquise sur 800km mai 2014
  • Eric et deux glaciometres sur banquise sans neige
  • Briefing avec Christian Jaypootie et Charlie

Christian left after a great one week survey. We travelled 800km in Qikiqtarjuaq region with two icemeters, an auger and a snow probe. Local hunters are already interested by the results, like Jaypootie who guided us for five days up to Home Bay. He welcomed us to his various huts (Nedlukseak, Ekalugad, Ilutalik). Fortunately, at our first stop, he found his two dogs lost for 3 weeks! Then one of them accompanied us for the rest of the journey.

On the first day we met Charlie and his daughter Nadine, on their way to Clyde River, located 350km north of Qikiqtarjuaq. But their snowmobile broke down shortly after and they had to ask for help to return to Qikiqtarjuaq, cancelling in the same time Charlie's underwater exploration projects (there is no diver Clyde River).

Hunters keep in touch between themselves using HF radio. This is how we could follow the difficult progress of Jaypootie's father, who was driving a brand new snowmobile from Iqaluit back to Qikiqtarjuaq, through the western and central Baffin Island, in the absence of snow on the more direct route. A deposit of food and fuel was our small contribution to this amazing trip!

We saw a few polar bears on the way, also some of the first birds, we visited the amazing Cape Hooper station (DEW Line), there were spectacular cliffs and icebergs, and sometimes very thin ice! Christian wants to develop a slush detector, when deep snow is accumulating on thin ice...

During this time, France did main field and lab work for Takuvik, then took Aurore and Leonie out camping for the weekend. And they had adventures in the slush!

First week-end free ! by France

  • Escale sud ile Broughton
  • En route pour un week-end au sud

We just had our first free Sunday. Now, the lab work ends up Saturday morning. So at 11am precisely, our little family left with snowmobile and qamutiq with a good enthusiasm, heading South, for a first family camping! Is it our need of fresh air? It looks like sailing in a surrealistic world on some fresh powder: so many islands and steep cliffs sticking out from a perfect smooth ice, large bays idyllic for navigation... but everything is frozen, white. Just unreal. A small tour of friends cabins on different sites, then the tent is pitched on a corner of sea ice, close to ... near the hamlet of Tassialuit where Jacopee and Ulli are spending the weekend. An expected and deserved change after these weeks of non-stop scientific work.

Early Monday morning, we leave for a very complete ice station at the study site, then follows the lab session, and then in the evening, a nice feast in town. Always ready for more, on Tuesday morning, we join for the the annual school trip: 11 qamutiq and snowmobiles, the whole school on the road, the caravan crosses Brougthon Island from west to east with some difficult passes before arriving on a lake for enjoying picnic, fishing in holes, sliding, climbing to a bear den freshly abandoned... We drive back to town by circling the island from the south through a beautiful ice somewhat chaotic. One hour later, Christian Haas landed in Qikiqtarjuaq for 8 days of scientific field work.

Good Friday

  • Leonie kite bonne brise

Aurore, Leonie and I finished emptying and filling eggs with melted chocolate. Enjoying a gentle breeze, Leonie takes out her kite and practice a little bit. The next time she will try with her skis! France is walking back from the lab (about one hour walk), she gives a good piece of narwhal meat to Pikuli and Takuli, and prepares a homemade pizza for the family. Leonie tells us about his first night in town, at Mary and Steevie's, the day of the total lunar eclipse. That same day, I was diving with Steevie, and also Charlie. Sampling of bivalves (for science and for the plate!), of algae under the ice with a slurp gun, and of sediments. Caroline left yesterday. In the morning, together we discovered big bear tracks near the weather mast. Tomorrow, I will see if the bear came back to visit the scientific equipment. Despite some upheaval, there was no damage!

Lab in town

  • France et Caroline au labo a Qikiqtarjuaq
  • Petite rando ski kayak chiens

Caroline arrived to support us 6 days ago, and after testing our small, pretty and chilly laboratory on board, she agreed with our decision to move it to town. The main reason is to be close to the -80°C freezer, to store part of the samples. Now, "Parents & Tots" building is welcoming all our water samples and ice cores treatment equipment. So we are sometimes working surrounded with very young kids! Working on some of the filtrations that we cannot find time to do all by ourselves, she has to sleep in the lab to do the work!

After three days of snow with a little blizzard, the terrain became soft. But our dogs still managed to pull most of the family on Saturday, Aurore in our sleigh, others on skis, France ahead making the track! Scientific dive for Eric yesterday, with various sampling (bivalves, sea urchins, algae, fishes...) and testing the slurp gun to sample algae that grow under the ice.

Today, ice corer training for Caroline, in addition to the usual full ice station, and evening with our Swiss friends in Qikiqtarjuaq.


  • Ski chiens
  • David en partance pour Akshayuk Pass
  • France labo Vagabond

The pace is setting up, tasks look more and more routines, and Caroline is coming tomorrow to help. Bloom has started and it is not to miss the event, it is the object of the study commissioned by Takuvik!

The sequence spans two days. Ice station at 20 km southeast of Vagabond, where we installed the weather mast and the current meter: 3 hydrographic profiles + light intensity + fluorescence, down to 100 meters, then water sampling (5 meters depth), and ice cores. Vagabond's Lab (aft cabin): treatment and various filtrations (10 different protocols!), the same day for water, the following day for ice once melted. Here we go again, until the ice breaks up.

Without wind, in the sun, it is almost hot now, mid-day (-15°C, but -27°C in the morning). Perfect for a good family picnic yesterday Sunday. Or for a ski-dog ride Saturday. Early last week, David pitched his tent next to Vagabond for two days before going to Pangnirtung by bike! It was not an April Fool. The day before, it's Charlie who came to taste our clams; nice to share with him, as he told me his techniques to collect them diving under the ice. Passing near the dive site last Thursday, I saw a mother bear and her little cub. We also meet great people in town, or when we have visitors on board...

Starting and running scientific field work (continued)

  • Carotte du 26 mars
  • Labo Vagabond

Takuli and Piculi, two friendly huskies, have become the guardians of our camp. The ice seems to have swung entirely into spring; the sun shines, the days lengthen, seven hours of sunshine per day currently. A huge tabular iceberg has also topple after fracturing, leaving a chaos of ice remarkable between the boat and the village.

About science, the setting up is intensive. For six hours of fieldwork on the ice (alone, two persons or family) for ice cores, hydrographic survey and water sampling, it then takes five hours non-stop in the aft cabin to do the second part of the work: filtrations of water, mixed with some toxic products, meticulous and varied protocols... all in our makeshift lab where it is not so hot (7°C)! No much time left for family life, additional school, playing with children or nice cooking, excluding routine maintenance of the boat... And yet, it does not include all the required filtrations. We would need more than 24 hours to do the daily work required! Protocols currently being adjusted.

In the village, some are beginning to go for few days with family hunting or fishing. Last Sunday, the diving hole south of Broughton Island was a good rallying point for those who took advantage of the nice day. After a big collect of clams, Eric drove the whole family in the sheltered qamutiq, back to the boat and in the lab for a few more hours of water filtrations...

Starting and running scientific field work

  • Reglage capteur de vent

9 hours on sea ice, this is the first effective fieldwork day for Takuvik. Wonderful sunny Saturday, the whole family is out. The weather mast is set up, the auger doesn't want to drill, but after a few hours at the hamlet's workshop and some modifications later, holes are done and the ADCP (current meter) stores its data underwater, as well as the thermistor chains through the ice. A tripod, strange metallic animal, is waiting to support the CTD. The corer has trouble to deliver its first ice core, but it works better after a few adjustments... So goes the trial period.

Not far from us, others are diving to collect clams, or searching for seals. Everybody is busy on the great white ocean!