The friends list would be too long: the wonderful table we had last night was only prepared with gifts (including chocolates, wines, candles, plates...)! Thank you very much to you all for having shared our unusual New Year's Eve.
Amazing weather. December has been unusually warm, and we had a lot of snow. South wind is now bringing a very wet snow (-2). By the way, two days ago, in the package, there were some slippers! Incredible logistics. It will be more comfortable to watch the polar bears and the sun when they will come back next year.
While we were on our way back, after our oceanographic trip in the middle of Inglefield Bay, here was a helicopter who came and flew above us, a strange and unexpected civilised noise. Just about time to reach Vagabond, with the CTD and all the equipment, pulled by the dogs, and we saw a spectacular delivery! The pilot didn't want to land on pack ice, hidden below a thick layer of snow, and brought us quickly the package, crossing the huge cloud of snow created by the rotor still running.
Wind has been blowing for the last 3 days, the thermometer was showing about zero yesterday even though it was -26 the day before, what a season! The moon light is going a little through the clouds, we are hoping a nice moon shine for the Christmas Eve...
It is winter solstice. To celebrate the middle of the polar night, storm is raging again, Vagabond is enveloped in a huge snow flurry. The calm moment only last one day, this was when the helicopter, the 5 crew members, and the 3 Governor's representatives brought us their good wishes, their arms were loaded with many presents (see the picture!). The moon was shining (exactly behind the helicopter!), we could see again the landscape which has been hidden for a long time.
Here is what was read and written on 20th December in our Guest Book: "The Governor of Svalbard and Airlift wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. You are representatives of a new tradition of explorers staying in the polar night in a boat frozen in ice. It is an environmental friendly activity and an important contribution to the tradition of over wintering at Svalbard."
Our best thanks to everyone for all these wonderful attentions.
Advice to children: if the quantity of present is proportional to the size of shoes, you should try the snow shoes!
Another storm, pack ice is sinking due to the weight of the snow and is flooded with about 30 cm of sea water. Also, when removing the thick layer of snow, we reached Frost's doghouse, it was filled up with freezing water, rescued just on time. Toilets, which were working yesterday, are frozen again, and with this weather, we cannot find any shelter to expose our bottom to the air. Better to need to go not to wait too long with the trouser down to the knees. But we need to take time and dress up properly (gloves, cap lamp, balaclava, and toilet paper) and then sweep up the snow from the deck! Daily little adventures are keeping us busy... About our last attempt with the pulka, pulled by the dogs, snow became hard after the strong winds, and they were going so fast that it was really hard to slow them down! Happy Birthday to Eric (2 years old !) and to Jean-Claude for who we are happy to study the packice.
The snow has been falling down a lot last few days, and the storm is finishing sculpting our new background. Huge snowdrift took us a doghouse, the safety case, the hand drill, the dinghy, the pulka... a good shovel party is starting! Pressure is coming up (40 mb within 36 hours!), still some wind (50 km/h), -15 degrees, which is about -40 degrees with the chilling factor. Sky is clear now, stars are shining at noon like at midnight, and northern lights are crossing the canopy of heaven. The lost polar bear cub settled in the rear cabin, waiting for the sun to come back, cohabitation is easy, unusual, amazing...
The south-east wind increased the temperature over 20 degrees within 24 hours, it's too hot here! Snow is heavy, clothes are wet, ice around the windows is melting inside the boat... but sea ice is easier to drill with the hand drill. Today, 10 minutes for 54 cm thickness, but 30 minutes (and a good sweat despite the - 25 degrees) for 59 cm 2 days ago! Also, the pack ice is not cracking anymore along the hull, muffled creaking is finished... until usual average temperature will come back. Regarding water draining (toilet, basins, sink, bilge pump...), outlet pipes are still all frozen, and Vagabond keep being about 1 degree tilted on port side, since freezing in, probably till June.
With the clouds, there is no difference between noon and midnight, also we are not going out so long every day, and we enjoy longer the warm inside.
We hadn't seen any polar bear since 20th November. Yesterday around noon the dogs suddenly barked a lot, a polar bear was already very close to the boat, it was hard to see him in the darkness, although there was a nice moonlight... We scared him away, but he came back few moments later, he was even looking bigger, we moved and shout as much as we could and he finally gave up. Today, during oceanographic observations on pack ice, while snowing heavily, we were probably more careful than usual!
Here we are, far from the busy Paris Boat Show, where Vagabond was in the limelight a year ago, after her circumpolar navigation. This year, the moon for projector, and the pack ice around the hull is well real, but no visitor to contemplate the enchanting surroundings with France and me.
We found a good stock of fresh water, a big block of ice coming from the glacier, and trapped in the sea ice close to Vagabond. How old is this ice sputtering while melting, and giving a unique taste to our tea?
Some results of our oceanographic observations are on line here: http://www.lodyc.jussieu.fr/~sandra/VAGABOND/