About 3 days of storm from north-east has been filling in the large polynia. A thick and chaotic ice pack formed quickly, on which it is now more difficult to progress.

Last night, despite the satellite link cutting off, we were happy to answer the questions of the public (including friends and family!) of the polar festival of Saint-Martin-d'Heres (Isere).


Today, we are celebrating the return of the twilight, meaning that the sun, at midday, is now at less than 6 degrees below the horizon. When the sky is clear, we don't need anymore our cap lamps! Yesterday, when we reached the nice lead found 4 days ago (see photo 91), we discovered a huge polynia, a large area of open water, the packice had disappeared (see photo 92, taken from the same position than 91)! Then we followed the edge of this unexpected lake, preceded by a polar bear which we finally saw not for ahead of us, the first one this year. But he let us use peacefully our CTD instrument, in a sea water more salty and colder than usual...


In order to be comfortable in a private moment, we began to build a toilet-igloo. The snow on the ice field was not strong enough, so this igloo became a snow-tipi. Comfort there was perfect, but on the inauguration day, toilet on board Vagabond unfroze. Therefore, the snow-tipi is slowly absorbing into the ice field, as everything situate on top of it...

Yesterday, the surprise was to discover big tracks inside. So the last one to use this place is the first polar bear to visit us this year!


Great trip last Monday, with the full moon shining from the North, and a red glow from the South, like a perfect studio lighting on this ice pack which is for us a magical stage. A nice lead then offered us a big bunch of frost flowers (see pictures 90 and 91, soon).

Mercury has jumped yesterday from -25 to +2, while the pressure dropped down of 40 millibars within less than 24h hours, the wind blew over 40 knots... after this thaw, the blanket of snow is covered with a layer of ice, and the dogs are pulling us at top speed, despite the weight of the sledge, like on a billiard table! Also we saw a nice polar bear track, so they are not all of them sleeping...

Radio France International

This afternoon, we were able to listen to Arielle Cassim, on Radio France International; in her sea program, she was paying tribute to Sir Peter Blake, and to his last expeditions on board Seamaster, in Antarctica, and in Amazonia where he was killed 4 years ago. This great polar yacht, 36 metres long, ex-Antarctica of Jean-Louis Etienne, wintered in Spitsbergen in 1995 and participated to the same oceanographic studies than we are doing now, with the same scientific leader, Jean-Claude Gascard. Today, Jean-Louis Etienne is at Clipperton Island, with Gerard Guerin, who was our team mate during the 17 months circumnavigation journey of Vagabond, around the Arctic. About Seamaster, she is now Tara, since end of 2003, owned by Etienne Bourgois, who called us yesterday by satellite phone from King William Island, in Antarctic Peninsula! France knows pretty well this island since she sailed there on board Pen Duck III in 98... This is not all, brace yourself, the Captain of Tara is the best friend of France, Celine Ferrier, remember, she was working on board the Grande Hermine before, this long term fishing vessel we met in the Barents sea in June 2002. Here are the 2 mates, who were sailing together during their studies in Marseille, now at 16000km from each other, at north and south ends of the Atlantic Ocean, each one on board a fine polar boat! Few more words were exchanged with Catherine Chabaud, then the communication cut off, letting us back to our peaceful polar night...


While the light is more and more every day, announcing the twilight coming back in 8 days, and while the moon almost full is participating to this enchanting display of polar lights, we are discovering the new scenery around Vagabond, designed by the last storm. In 2 weeks will be arriving the first scientific crew, logistics is getting ready.

Effets de la glace

A strange whistle in the fore part of Vagabond was intriguing us. Then we realised that the door of the battery compartment was not anymore rubbing on the floor, meaning that the volume of the tank underneath just decreased. The water left froze at the beginning of the winter, creating an overpressure in the tank, and a small leak suddenly allowed air to go out, simply whistling.

The stem lifted up more than 10 cm. Because of the storm blowing when our icepack was created, early November, we could not get the anchor back. Tension in the chain was increasing, and we were getting worried about it, also we felt like we should loosen some chain. Surprisingly, Vagabond lifted up in her icy cradle, it was time to act! This is because the icepack is sinking gradually, under the weight of the snow, pulling down our chain trapped in ice. About the anchor at the end of the chain, we will see what will happen when pack ice will break up...

When snowing, temperature is increasing, and ice accumulated around every windows (34 total!) start melting. It is then time to remove this ice, before flooding on board. This is what we just have been doing for a while, back from our longest trip (5 hours on skis to do a hydrological survey off the entrance of Inglefield Bay).


Last night, the show was great. Curtains of light, green with sometimes a red border, light beams crossing the sky quickly, night version of rainbows, projectors ballet above Vagabond's mast, the forgotten landscape was suddenly revealed by wonderful northern lights. We were not feeling anymore the -22 degrees, temperature after all very bearable.


Every 2 days, except if a storm is keeping us inside the boat, we are using the CTD instrument in Inglefield Bay to measure the salinity and the temperature of the sea water depending on depth. We are doing better and better, and each trip looks like a small expedition! First we have to load all the equipment in the sledge, without forgetting the 'safety' case and the gun, to harness the dogs, and then one is breaking the trail in the light of his cap lamp, while the other is pulling the sledge helped by the dogs. Depending on weather conditions, we are going more or less towards the middle of the bay. At chosen location, we then have to shovel up the snow from the ice pack, drill a hole with the ice hand drill, set up the stand with the winch, get down the weight only to check the depth, finally plunge the CTD going up and down twice to guarantee good results. We must not waste any time till this point because the CTD would freeze and would not record anything! Then, a 'homemade' height gauge allows us to know the sea ice thickness (1m today), and the GPS records the precise position of the hydrological survey. The trip back is always quicker, the dogs know very well where are their food...


Around noon today, the sky was clear, we were feeling the sun coming back. It is only after one and a half month that he will appear at the horizon. For now, we still need the cap lights to move around on the icepack! Cold is back (-25) and northern lights are superb.