Takuvik team, with who we are preparing the GreenEdge project, is wondering about the influence of two icebergs, close to the future ice camp... I have to measure the ice thickness in the surroundings, and to take pictures. And I'm using the solar balloon!
For 3 years, the same ice island coming from the Petermann glacier (north west Greenland) stayed aground south of Brougton island. We went all around with Eric on a beautiful day by -25°C, passing by the future ice camp site, by the wonderful neighbour iceberg, and through some rough ice. Some windy swirls get up here and there. The island has changed a bit, one piece was separated, two valleys are heading towards the centre... A polar bear is running away on our arrival; we have a picnic sheltered from the wind south of the island, along an endless wall. Variable heights, a snowdrift allows us to reach the top. Although this is early March, we get stuck in the slush: two snowmobiles and one sled, nearby the island! After a lot of effort pushing, wading, manoeuvring, using ropes, we got out of the slush. Opportunity to check that my kamiks are really waterproof! The circumference of the island is more than 17 km!
Tuesday, the school teachers handed awards to the students: "perfect attendance for the month" and "student of the month". Aurore and Léonie got four each!
Thursday, after their patrol, Qikiqtarjuaq Rangers organized a public parade with awards and medals. The instructor suggested we wear our red sweatshirts, France and myself, given by Grise Fiord Rangers 3 years ago!
Tonight, despite the heavy snowfall, we go on family weekend in Tasialuit, 45km south of Qikiqtarjuaq.
Yesterday Leonie celebrated her 9th birthday. Despite the blizzard, and thanks to the GPS, we could go to the village by snowmobile to pick up the happy guests (Sheema, Samantha, Becky, Nadine, Rita, and Jessie) to enjoy party and games on board Vagabond. Later in the evening, we had the family celebration!
Today, after my bi-monthly collection of bivalves, Leonie put on her suit to see beneath the surface, in the dive hole: "I was almost half of the ice!". Samantha did the same with Leonie's suit, then France tried with mine!
Since 2011, Eric did alone the ice thickness measurements with the well known EM31. This instrument with long arms is detecting water surface under the ice, and tells it all via electromagnetic waves to the heart of the instrument. Eric has been pulling the instrument by skidoo, on foot, on skis, on various distances, various durations from few hours to one week. We were already doing these measurements in Svalbard 10 years ago by joining field work and fun: ski and EM31 towed by our dogs!
But these days I could go with Eric again. This time in nice conditions and maximum safety, two skidoos, in the marvellous landscape. First we followed the recently levelled ice road going to Tasialuit (45km). In the village, many people were expecting the ice thickness data along the way. Then back zigzagging to well cover the area, not without some extensions along a fjord. Frequent stops to check that the equipment still works (by -34°C, you never know), to take a picture, for a snack, for a numb...
The first day, after a few hours, a snowmobile broke down. Unable to repair on site, we kept going both of us on the same snowmobile. The next day we went back to pick it up, we hoisted and strapped it onto a sled and then brought it to the town's garage. The following day we took the route carefully chosen by Eric, drawing geometric lines on the flat and white surface of another fjord. What a satisfaction to cover miles that will reveal what we can not see!
Laurent and his team left this morning, after eleven days of intensive shooting. Florent and his camera, Jacques and his underwater camera, and Joel and his camera, have been following Laurent. He directed their activities day by day, following his script. Cedric, free diver and partner of the trip, could stay six days only, he left very happy.
For us, as with each visiting team, it started with a few days of preparation. Presenting their project and their intentions, establishing contacts with the municipality, and with local divers. Finding cheap accommodation in the village (a real challenge!), a snowmobile and a sled for rental, and tent, stove, auger, ice pick, diving equipment... Organizing a meeting with students at school, another one at the community hall, a throat singing session, and most of all the diving trips. Defining sites, making holes in the ice, watching for bears, and filling up tanks every night on board Vagabond. But what a pleasure to create a link between these courageous visitors and this isolated community.
The villagers remember the free diving session for all last September, thanks to various wet suits brought from France. Many young and older people were candidates to go under the ice, ready to brave all their fears. Edmond, Samantha and Dion, the lucky ones, had the opportunity to slip a suit and bravely try some dives with Laurent: very beautiful but very cold!
France and I too enjoyed some free dives with Laurent near our dear iceberg. It was a real delight to admire it without the heaviness of the aqualung, and without bubbles! Jacques never stopped filming these moments. And in the evening, our friends had some fresh clams that I had picked up earlier, diving with a tank this time.
The team did not see the bear, but watched many northern lights. They shared happy moments with the people from Qikiqtarjuaq, on top and under the ice. Laurent gave away some wet suits, it was a big day. Already, we are asked if they will come back next summer.
"There's a bear out there!", says Aurore with a smile. She is on the deck, ready to go to school. Léonie made a brief exit a few minutes earlier to start the skidoo: "I soon returned, not very reassured by the tracks of the bear that came last night!". Indeed, yesterday in our absence, most of our seal meat reserve was taken.
We watch him from the deck. The bear is going to the village. Then I film France and the girls going by skidoo. The bear starts running, and then turns around and comes back towards Vagabond ...
When arriving at school, Aurore told Steevie (school councillor, deputy mayor, chief of the Rangers, diver and her teacher's husband!), who quickly drove by car with a new teacher... we see them coming to the boat "to take a picture of the bear!". I never stopped following it, using binoculars, it is still there, but a little too far to make a good picture.
In the afternoon, parents are invited to school to listen to their children reading stories in English, and to eat a big ice scream with all kind of stuff on it. After school, we are invited to Jessie's birthday. Meanwhile, the bear probably finishes his digestion, because in the late evening, our dog suddenly barks.
This time the bear eats all, our dog food is gone. After shooting three flares, and with the help of our well barking dog, the animal ends up walking away.
Yesterday evening while returning to the boat, surprise, the seal meat cache for our dog was all open, trampled with bear tracks.
And this morning, when going to school, Aurore, out first on the deck, turned to us with a big smile: I see a bear! We enjoyed watching him, we filmed him from the deck, then it was time to go to school.
The bear was walking fast towards the village. Together with Aurore and Leonie on the snowmobile we were going in the same direction as the bear, he was getting closer and closer. He got scared and started running. Until we passed him, that's when it turned back to our bay! Once at school the girls were happy to tell this morning adventure. "You had your rodeo with the bear!" said Daisy.
The next night, everyone was sleeping and I was about to go to bed too when Annu barked. The bear was back and leading directly to the seal meat cache near our dog, without paying attention to his barking. Should I start filming? Or scare him away? I woke up Eric after the big bangs on a metal lid didn't work.