Sunday's dive

  • Yves remonte
  • Yves et Eric collectent clams
  • Derniers reglages pour Eric

It's Sunday, the weather is nice (-35°C), our little family is getting ready for a day out on the ice, everyone is excited! I pack in the sled the usual safety equipment, rifle, fuel... and my diving gear. France is sitting on the snowmobile with me, our daughters Aurore (5) and Leonie (8) like it better inside the sledge, on musk ox and sheep skins, warmly dressed in their Inuit clothing. We need about half an hour drive on pretty smooth ice to go from Vagabond to the dive site.

Sammy is already under water for a first dive. His wife Ena is standing near the hole, holding the safety rope that connects Sammy to the surface. If he pulls three times, she will help him to quickly reach the surface. Close to the hole, Sammy and Philip, two of the four divers in town, set up a hut with a stove, they move it any time they want to change diving site (ice is cut with a chainsaw). I come in with my equipment to unfreeze, and it's time for a picnic. Sammy is just coming out of the water with a net full of clams (Mya truncata and Serripes groenlandicus). While he comes to warm up and have a coffee in the hut, France helps me to put on all my equipment. The dives usually last thirty minutes, 15 to 20 meters deep, the water is at -2°C. A diver is coming back out when his tank is almost empty!

I'm ready to dive, with a light on my head, a camera, a net to collect clams, sea urchins and algae. Soon I will also take what is needed to collect sediments and an instrument to suck the algae that grow under the ice (very few in this season due to lack of light). I explore, I film, I follow scientific protocols, and I also collect clams to offer to some friends in the village and for our own meal tonight! On the surface, our wives are looking after our lifelines. They are happy to be together; Ena is the Inuktitut teacher at school, Aurore and Leonie love her. Hunters stop by from time to time, they come to take news and clams, and to drink tea. Diving combines leisure, scientific work, traditional food collection (modernized here!), social exchange. Four of us are happy to share these moments with our Inuit friends.

Preparing Green Edge project

  • Presentation GreenEdge a la mairie de Qikiqtarjuaq
  • Reco Green Edge Ice Camp 14 fevrier 2015

Marie-Helene Forget and Joannie Ferland, coordinators of the program Green Edge starting in three weeks from now, came from Quebec to meet people and visit places on site before taking final decisions. Finding accommodation, cafeteria, transportation, laboratory, and organizing sea ice field work for up to 20 people together in a village of 500 people, this is not an easy task! We have been working with the local municipality since last December. For 5 busy days, Marie-Helene and Joannie were able to meet, visit and confirm our wish that this program should benefit to the local community using Inuit's skills (sled construction, guides, polar bear monitors, cook assistant...), choosing private accommodation, developing educational projects with the school... To inform about our needs and involve residents, the public meeting at the community hall was a success. During a weekend on the ice, Eric led them to the intended study site to check the route and watch sea ice conditions. On Sunday, everyone went to the diving site. Collecting seaweed, sea urchins and clams, and also sliding on Broughton Island slopes in the beautiful low sun light. Some clams were enjoyed the same night on board Vagabond! It was a week with no school for Leonie and Aurore, who also had fun with our two visitors!

Vancouver Island

  • Shellfish Tour Vancouver Island

Last week I was invited by the Municipality of Qikiqtarjuaq to participate in an 8-day trip on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, with two of my fellow divers. There, the production of clams is very developed, as well as professional diving and scientific research. Many encounters and exciting tours, which should contribute to develop a sustainable commercial exploitation of the coveted natural resource. The Government of Nunavut had a big budget voted in January 2015 to develop the exploitation of marine resources. The scientific interest in clams is also important because their shells tell the characteristics of the ocean throughout their slow growth. Currently ongoing studies are measuring inventories, describing accurately the species and its habitat, and setting up possible quotas.

The first clams consumers are walruses, which can be seen in the summer, a few dozen kilometers from the village, when the ice breakup. Qikiqtarjuaq saw its first divers in 1997 and could become a pilot village for other Nunavut communities. Today, only four divers collect clams, in a very traditional way, selling them directly to local consumers, $1 to $2 per clam. Only business to one of them, complementary activity to the others. Concerns about food security, safety of the divers, and associated costs with diving prevented commercial operations since the early 2000s.

Eric away for ten days

  • Degraissage peau de phoque a l'ecole

Only girls on board for ten days! Regarding weather, we get white out, snow, blizzard... but an exciting week at school: a kamiks lesson is given by the elders, they pass on their knowledge. For 3 weeks, Leonie's Inuktitut teacher gives us a lively course. Each class comes to attend (young kids) or try (older students) all manufacturing steps. Degreasing seal skins, cleaning, drying them with frames, tanning manually. Same thing for the soles with the famous bearded seal, which skin is black when shaved and is so thick and waterproof. Each step is as precise as tricky! Then comes the stitching, preceded by the softening that gives cramps to hands! I'm lucky to participate in this workshop, it's an opportunity to change the soles of my kamiks, to give a hand and to practice these traditional techniques. I also notice the nuances that exist among villages. Aurore is happy to join me, and I discover how comfortable she is in her school environment. Leonie is proud to observe her mom at work, during her course of Inuktitut!


  • Fin de plongee pour Sammy
  • Moins 41C

-41°C. Not hot today. Not a good day for heating problems. However, the complete service of the boiler was necessary. Fortunately, once replaced, a few hours later, it started like clockwork. But meanwhile the stove stopped and the temperature quickly became negative in the boat! Cold air was falling so hard down the chimney that we needed several hours and a lot of smoke to get a nice fire again. Relief.
Wednesday night, I was invited to talk about Green Edge to the council meeting in Qikiqtarjuaq, on behalf of the laboratory Takuvik, who we work for since 2013, and who is leading this scientific program for 2015 and 2016. I had fifteen minutes flat, the atmosphere was very solemn, and there has been little debate: the municipality approved the project! An ice camp will be set up for four months in the south of Broughton Island to allow nearly fifty scientists to contribute to a major study of the phytoplankton spring bloom. Everything must be ready for mid-March, busy time!

Researchers are happy that I can do various underwater sampling, I also enjoy gathering with my fellow divers under the ice, picking up clams for us and for some friends (in addition to scientific sampling), and sharing some family time around the diving hole and inside the diver's shack. Good news, after repair, my suit is waterproof again, much appreciated!

Alex Hibbert for whom we dropped a large supply north of Greenland (September 2013), came to Qikiqtarjuaq with two fellow-countrymen and a very ambitious project. Probably too ambitious, as the previous one: the depot was eventually offered to a caribou hunter. This time, they want to ski the Northwest Passage (3200km), without assistance, without resupply. Why? "Because it's harder!" Alex replied when he arrived. A week later, the various trials have questioned everything, it is now to organize resupply, to put harnesses to the dogs, and to try to reach Pond Inlet (800km). A great trip, anyway. Good luck!

End of holidays

  • Piem et Francois 2 janvier

Last Christmas games happened on January 4th. Three days later, Aurore and Leonie were heading back to school... not easy for them to wake up at 7am when they were used to go to bed around 5 in the morning, back from the games!

François and Piem are heading back today to Grenoble and Barcelona. We had great time together. We climbed the mountain above Qikiqtarjuaq, we went to bubble lake for a fishing competition, we got stuck in rough sea ice, we enjoyed many northern lights, we jumped above a fire on the ice during New Year's Eve. We felt we were Charlie.

Three brothers for Christmas

  • Sapin Vagabond 2014
  • Retrouvailles musicales

Since the winter solstice, we are six on board Vagabond! The slow return of light is coinciding with the beginning of the games, in Qikiqtarjuaq. For ten days we are either in the village, with our Inuit friends, either aboard Vagabond, for family time. Shooting competition, spear throwing, slow snowmobile racing, hunting competition, team games or Christmas Mass in the gym-village-hall, music, frozen caribou, seal and clams feast... Decorating the boat, cooking, opening gifts, music and computer session, games with Pikuli's puppies, setting up swings, packing up snow along the hull (insulation), building up toilets (snow wall!), collecting ice at closest iceberg (freshwater)... life is good on the ice, with a beautiful gift this year: three brothers together for three weeks!

Upon returning from my mission in Antarctica (see photo album), I met up with Aurore, Leonie and France in Brittany for two short weeks in greenery! Mid-December, together with my brother François, we arrived in Quebec for a few days of meetings at Laval University, to work on a major scientific project scheduled from March to July 2015 with Takuvik. It was also the opportunity to visit the icebreaker Amundsen docked in Quebec! Sunday, a last plane took us back to Qikiqtarjuaq, where my brother Piem and our friends welcomed us warmly. Two snowmobiles and a lot of warm clothes were waiting for us to go to Vagabond, pack ice thickness was a little more than a foot. End of eight weeks solo experience for Piem, everyone happy to gather on board.

Happy Holidays to all!

Piculi, by piem

  • Piculi et ses boules de poil

The ice became thick enough to move around. It was time to invite the dogs. Piculi, who knew the boat already from last year, recently had two puppies. They are only fifteen days old.

In less than two hours, Yves built a doghouse to shelter those two little balls of fur. First, a detour via the dumpster of the village to recycle wood and insulation. Then to the workshop, for some woodworking.

Under agile hands, electric saw and hammer quickly transformed some old wood in a solid shed against cold and wind of the ice field.

I came back with three dogs on the snowmobile to install my new companions next to the boat. I was a bit afraid to leave my new neighbours outside at first.

But when the sky is clear, they already prefer to sleep outside to watch the northern lights, by -20ºC. Arctic dogs, without a doubt.