• Mosaic
  • Vagabond arctic bay freezeup by Clare Kines

I'm boarding tomorrow morning the Kapitan Dranitsyn (see her position). From Tromso, Leonie's birthplace, and while Aurore is turning 10 years old, I am preparing for a long mission without my family crew... The Russian icebreaker will reach the Mosaic expedition, near the North Pole. About a hundred scientists, technicians and sailors are taking turns every two months aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern for a year-long Arctic drift. I'm member of the second team, which will return to Tromso at the beginning of March.

This is to do a comprehensive study of the Arctic Ocean before it is exploited. The current changes are considerable as currently reported by Mike Horn and Borge Ousland trying to finish their crossing of the Arctic before winter. Very tired and almost out of food, they should be rescued soon. See their position.

Meanwhile, near Arctic Bay, Natasha joined Louis aboard Vagabond. In this protected bay, the pack ice is now thick enough to circulate serenely (about 30cm). Samples of water and coralline continue, but the dive this morning was difficult ... The polar night started mid-November and will last until the end of January, the thermometer reads -23°C. At this time of the year, it's good to share social life in the neighboring village.

Crew change

Louis arrived yesterday afternoon, with our friends pilots George and Sophie, aboard the small Pilatus loaded with food and various equipment. Their flight from Montreal was superb! After a happy evening on board and a few hours to pass all the instructions to Louis, we entrust him with Vagabond and the scientific protocols for the next 4 months. Our boat is about to freeze in. There was a lot of hesitation about the ideal anchorage: a good shelter, not too close to the shore, in a depth of about twenty meters, not too far nor too close to the village... The wintering will last until the ice break-up, in July 2020!

The photo album of the 2019-2020 winter will be updated regularly.

Polar bears and quotas

  • Arctic Bay 1030 habitants

Public meeting last night organized by the Hunters' and Trappers' Association at Arctic Bay Community Hall. There are 24 polar bears tags for this season 2019-2020, half male and half female. There has been 9 defense kills in recent months, including two cubs who account for half. It remains a quota of 16 tags for the community. It was voted with two voices close that the 5 local outfitters will be able to organize only one sport hunting each, instead of two usually. These sports hunts are mandatory dogsled and are reserved for foreign customers who pay thirty thousand dollars on average for a trophy. Of the remaining 11 tags, it was decided that 5 will be hunted from midnight last night! Shortly after the meeting, the first boats were leaving the bay... As for the remaining 6 tags, a meeting will determine on February 28th, 2020 if they will be drawn, or left to the first 6 successful hunts like this fall. Bear skins sell for about $400 a meter. The meat is consumed by the community.


  • Classe Aurore grade 5 Arctic Bay 2019-2020
  • Classe Leonie grade 8 Arctic Bay 2019-2020

The school here in Arctic Bay is... noisy! It's not very disciplined and, especially in the morning, I do not have much to do because I'm almost the only one to work and it's not the same level, barely the average in France (I think...). In the morning, in English we work maths, science and English itself; and in the afternoon, in Inuktitut we do history, health and Inuktitut. We also do sports three times a week and half an hour of cultural class where we can sew or do different things in beads. For my part, I have already made two bracelets and I'm starting sealskin mitts for which I have only the outside to sew because I found an interior already sewn.

There are not many students, especially for me who come back from a class of 39 in Ecuador. In the morning, it turns around 10 students, and the afternoon, more around 13 because some sleep in the morning but still come in the afternoon. It's pretty balanced between girls and boys. It is true that I already have a little idea of ​​what I would like to do later: a biologist specialized in global warming. I'm not sure they have a lot of ideas. We know the family of Horizon (one of my classmates) and I know that her mother would like her to have her own dog team (here, I admit that I am almost jealous...). Otherwise, in sports, it's often games, but I do not participate very much because I have trouble understanding them and them to explain to me. I do what I can to work my French school aboard Vagabond, but I have not received much work...

Seal hunting

  • Tom et Eric partent chasser le phoque
  • Barque brise-glace Adams Sound

Yesterday Tom offered me to join him, he needs seal meat to feed his dog team. They too are waiting for the pack ice with impatience to stretch their legs! Well wrapped up in our parkas, we sail up Adams Sound at about 40 knots. The water is smooth as a mirror, it's snowing and we squint to scan the surface for a muzzle that would point his nose to breathe. There, Tom sees one, he stops his boat, stops the engines, and waits for the animal to resurface... Ten minutes, here it is! He shoots a little too high, the seal disappears. We wait again, Tom shoots but misses again. After 4 tries, he laughs about his target he calls "the magic seal", and he decides to go to end of the fjord. The sea started freezing, but to my surprise, smiling, Tom does not slow down: his boat, launched at a brisk pace, comes to clear a path by breaking the 3 or 4 cm of ice. Spectacular! Here and there, we see breathing holes made by a few seals, clearly visible on this young ice without snow. Tom explains that it is easier to hunt when the sea gets thick, just before freezing, because there is almost no swell and the boat is then very stable to aim.

Studying coralline growth

  • Echantillons coralline et capteurs prets au deploiement
  • Pano Arctic Bay equinoxe

Already one month since we arrived in Arctic Bay. Aurore and Léonie have made their marks at the Inuujaq school, and we are gradually getting to know this community of 1030 people, very welcoming. The preparation of the scientific program kept us busy since September 14th, with Jessica Gould who has just left this morning, back to her university in Boston.

So that's it, 142 samples of coralline met again their habitat, 15m deep, 2km from the village. The first dives were a real relief, I found enough nice pieces of coralline in 4 rather short dives. Then, we had to choose them, clean them, re-cut the bigger ones, soak them for 48 hours in a colored bath to mark the beginning of the study, stick them on their small supports, weigh them precisely, photograph them, and finally install them in groups of 10 on plates equipped with light, temperature, pH and salinity sensors. Finally, on the 28th of September, in a long 50-minutes dive, I hammered down 19 stakes in the seabed, and placed as many plates of coralline samples and sensors. The study of the growth of this special algae began.

Seabed mapping in uncharted areas to support ocean modelling, by

  • Releve sonar multifaisceaux front du glacier Cap Norton Shaw
  • Sonar multifaisceaux et bras repare

Combining climate change research and crowdsourced bathymetry, by Gabriel Joyal

The velocity and dynamics of tide-water glaciers are highly influenced by the submarine morphology near the terminus. Water depths at the glacier front and fjord bathymetry determine the circulation and stratification of ocean water within the fjord, and exchange of water across the continental shelf. These processes have a substantial influence on regulating submarine melt rates, retreat of glacier termini, calving of icebergs, and thus the contribution of tide-water glaciers to global sea level rise. Unfortunately, existing bathymetric data in the Canadian Arctic has large gaps, with the majority of glacial fjords completely uncharted, preventing numerical ocean models from accurately characterizing ocean circulation and the influence of the ocean on the mass balance of marine-terminating glaciers. In order to increase the spatial resolution of the bathymetry in uncharted fjords, there is a need to develop new mapping programs in the High Arctic, using acoustics or optics methods. To this day, large survey vessels (e.g. NGCC Amundsen) with deeper draft are not well suited for safe navigation in shallow uncharted near-shore areas, whereas satellite remote sensing technique give coarser resolution bathymetric data. For the last 3 weeks, with a multibeam echosounder, we collected data from Vagabond on the Eastern coast of Ellesmere Island during a seabed mapping dedicated research cruise. This innovative research program has been made possible through collaboration between academic researchers, R2Sonic LLC, and the Canadian Hydrographic Service. The results highlight the major role played by marine geomatics in climate change research. Moreover, the research-collected data shared with the federal authorities will allow Arctic charts updates, in a context of increased marine traffic and tourism in glacial fjords of the Canadian Arctic.

Life of contrasts

  • Minuit baie Talbot 25 aout
  • Equipage Vagabond a Arctic Bay

How to describe the contrasts offered by this summer's missions. To focus only on the Nunavut part, the three weeks with Maya Bathia and her colleagues around the Jones Sound were only wonderful weather, ice breakage near by Grise Fiord, doing science while quietly drifting in front of gorgeous glaciers, and even camping! With Andrew Hamilton and Gabriel Joyal the three following weeks, we sailed up to the north, the cold and the fog. We had to shelter against gale, to rush back wind with strong swell, to turn back in Talbot Inlet the main objective of this mission because of ice blocus... We even broke the arm of the so precious multi-beam sonar which received too much shocks. But we came back in and with patience enough, we succeed to achieve all the work planed here in the fogy labyrinth. For example, the deployment of an oceanographic mooring (multiple floating instruments in the water column) that Andrew tried to do for four years without success! We did the way back strait to Arctic Bay where Vagabond will spend next winter, with for aim to meet the Austral, cruise ship from Ponant company to give a talk onboard. A reel technical stop and an unreel moment in an extreme luxe. And more ever after few days to live as we can, feeding us as the sea permit, feeling tension and even fear into strong sea with a complete and blocked mainsail...

Life of contrasts... In order to express the general feeling of the moment, to live on a sailboat in the Arctic, working with always different scientific missions, means experiencing strong contrasts marked with magics moments as much as very hard moments. Within the family, the hard moments links, weld ourselves, and when the positive is back it is more strongly. Experience the tiredness, the hunger and even the fear offer to appreciate even more the moments of beauty or joy. Everything is enhanced. And we chose this life, we made it becoming true since twenty years, nothing is best than this freedom. Freedom to live in these territories that we are still fascinating by and in the mean time to be useful for science.


  • Leonie grand piano L Austral
  • Aurore au bout de Croker Bay a bord de L Austral

At first, Léonie, who was the first to wake up, woke us up in a tornado: "There's L'Austral who's here !!!" In fact, it was another liner, the National Geographic Explorer. We finally had to wait until 1:30 pm, a zodiac came to pick us up. Dad told us to put on tight clothes, and finally, it did not get wet. Once on L'Austral, we went to the bridge where the captain, Patrick, was waiting for us. Then, Leonie went to take a shower in the cabin reserved for us by the crew, while we, the captain, the doctor and the second went to the cafe on the third floor (the largest one). Once we took a shower in turn, we went back to the catwalk, then with the ice pilot, we had a snack of fruits and vegetables. The ice pilot then took me to the hairdresser. She made me two little braids and some English girls. Léonie had two braids. I found Dad and Gabriel in a cafe (not the 3rd), then the commander, the doctor, the photographer (Philip Plisson), the chief mechanic, and we went for an aperitif. Then we went to the restaurant. There was plenty of raw vegetables. That was delicious. During the movie, Léonie and I went on a guided tour with the doctor. We even went to the places reserved for the crew! After, we went up on the stage, to answer questions. Finally, a zodiac brought us back on VAGABOND, with a box of fruit, the welding of the sonar arm, and a can of engine oil. It was an amazing day, but VAGABOND is great too!

Talbot Inlet

  • Objectifs campagne Talbot Inlet
  • Depart Andrew pour Resolute

It's a real relief for the entire crew: the shelter behind Easter Island, in Talbot Inlet, is good. We stay there for 2 nights during a gale from southeast. Taking advantage of lulls, we try from the south to reach Wykeham and Trinity, objects of our mission. These glaciers are the two largest icebergs producers in Canada. So we explore the narrow and shallow passage between Easter Island and Ellesmere Island, which meanders between two more quiet glaciers. Superb, but at the exit of the passage the ice holds us and eventually break the sonar arm! Nevertheless, bathymetry continues with Vagabond's echo sounder (single-beam).

We find our way through the ice coming from the east and manage to deploy the complete oceanographic mooring that Andrew has been looking to install in Talbot Inlet for 4 years, with the Amundsen icebreaker. Certainly Vagabond can venture more freely in uncharted waters, and maneuver more easily between large icebergs and ice floes that constantly clutter the bay.

Still impossible to reach our two glaciers, but we manage to prove that there is no sill between Talbot Inlet and the Nares Strait, so there is a high probability that Atlantic waters will go up to Wykeham and Trinity glaciers fronts. We need about 10 hours of ice navigation to perform two series of hydrographic surveys (CTD transects), north-south and east-west. For Andrew, the essential is done.

Everything is so calm that you can hear the breath of the bear. Met one hour earlier, out of the mist, he found us on the other side of the large ice floe, while Vagabond is stopped during the dinner break. The bear is very close, just a small lead of water separates us, we watch him for long time. The next day, at anchor in Cadogan Bay, I spot a bear swimming towards Vagabond. He ends up turning around and goes back to shore. These encounters are always fascinating.

Andrew must join his family as soon as possible but the weather is not good and the Twin Otter (small plane) can not pick him up near Cape Isabella. So, before heading south, he enjoys with us the very good conditions for a series of CTDs in Cadogan Inlet, which might be the thickest glacier in Canada.

Two days of nonstop and a little rough navigation to Dundas Harbour, south of Devon Island, and Andrew is finally picked up by a Twin Otter, less than 2 hours after our arrival.

We learn then that the remains of a Russian rocket fell exactly on our way, a few hours after our passage!