I've been stuck in the cabin of the Hourglass Bay for two days, because of bad weather. The beautiful lull yesterday was too short to consider a return to Grise Fiord while measuring the ice thickness in Muskox and Baad Fiords. A recording problem forces me to do it again. Fortunately hydrographic profiles are looking good! Rest, repairs and maintenance, I enjoy the cabin before returning to my tent. I learned that two hunters are stuck in their sleds at Devon Island! I had better luck there last week, the weather was great to cross the Jones Sound to Sverdrup Glacier, near which I pitched my tent (in the end, the bear and her two cubs did not come to me). So I try to go around usefully with the icemeter and the CTD, in places that turn to be more fascinating than each other: Craig Harbour next to the floe edge (what a sight to see suddenly open water!), South Cape Fiord where we spent last winter (it was so strange for me not to find Vagabond)...
Our tent became too small, we just got one ordered by France and we'll celebrate her birthday by going out camping in 4 days!
Frenzied week! Each village has its own tradition, three Inuit teachers have come to call the tune. Every evening from 7 to 10pm, the gym sounds of accordion, guitar, bass and drums, which punctuate a wild round. You must be at least 12 and chain figures that one learns on the job, stomping. Eric either does not stop: since the arrival of new instruments working fine, he travels the region without satiety, returning one o'clock in the morning when not camping somewhere along the way. I was able to accompany him on a weekend, happy to prepare quietly our camp near the shore of the fjord (in the wind!) while he was doing measurements to the end of the fjord ... until midnight, this is his time! Happiness to enjoy the nature that never goes out.
First test of my kamiks, completed just in time for the weekend: "Wow bravo, then you're ready for marriage," said an Inuit friend, laughing. Skins of seal, sheep, some caribou to enlarge over-kamiks, inside socks with various textiles... and I am like in slippers, ultra light and fluffy! Liza and Eva have not missed advices throughout this production. The pleasure of useful sewing from skins is something that we well share together. Previously Eric and Kavovow brought me the skin of a seal after hunting. I was able to treat it from the beginning. Liza showed me: first remove any grease using a frequently re-sharpened ulu, reach the leather, without making any hole, a good half day of work for me, one hour time for her! After cleaning, the skin is stretched over a frame outside, where it dries out a few days to become stiff as cardboard. Then comes the time to make the skin more flexible: treading the skin as much as possible in all directions before softening it with an ulu curve and blunt. So finally, the skin is ready for sewing. Hunted animals here are entirely used. Meeka, in one of her cooking classe in the evening, provided us with factsheets detailing all good nutrients from each animal. Beluga, seal, narwhal, walrus, caribou, polar bear, muskox, ptarmigan, arctic char, algae. Elder women demonstrate some traditional culinary or medicinal uses, with animals, plants or mushrooms. Each session is an opportunity to cook a new recipe that is eaten on the spot. This time it is the discovery of kinoa! But of course, this is also an opportunity to get together with women and share in a good mood. Everything is done to help: raffle with many prizes and leftovers to bring home!
Feed back from Humfrey Melling: there is a lot of heat in the water column close to the ice in the fjords… less so out in Jones Sound. But this situation is very different than what one sees west of Resolute Bay and in the Beaufort Sea. Here the near-surface water is using about 10 mC below freezing (i.e. super-cooled). This all serves to reinforce the validity of what we were seeing (with less than optimum CTD equipment) last year in South Cape Fjord. Now we need to understand why this is happening.
Latest news published on our partner's website, Technopôle Brest-Iroise.
Temperatures are around -20°C, it is spring in Grise Fiord! The weather is often nice, so not only hunters but also families are going out of town to enjoy more long days on the ice. The daylight is now permanent, and that's when the lights are the most beautiful that one's need to go to bed... school starts in the morning!
A new icemeter (EM31) and a new CTD arrived a few days ago, sent by Christian Haas and Humfrey Melling, for who we have been working since summer 2011. All conditions are now good to collect data, already 350km ice profile (thickness from 50 to 200cm) and 8 hydrographic surveys in neighbouring fjords (Starnes, Fram, Grise). A good excuse to visit the area and a real relief after several attempts and disappointments. I have also checked the ice thickness to the old village, before the passage of a grader to make an ice road!
Thursday night, I slept in a nice cabin belonging to a very handy hunter. This weekend, France was able to join me and we pitched our tent on the ice. Joanne, nurse, the only French speaking person in the village, was again offering to have for one night our two little girls, blissful! On Easter Sunday, between the Good Friday feast, the egg hunts and other Easter games (harpoon through, seal skins slides...), France and I were delighted to camp on a beach, despite the -28°C. While others took advantage of the long weekend to hunt caribou, seal pup, bear, Arctic char, ptarmigan, musk ox, with success; walrus, narwhal and beluga in vain. Success and satisfaction too for the first two foreign hunters (eight expected this spring), which each had a bear and a musk ox. In Nunavut, this sport hunting is an important economic contribution and perpetuates certain traditions: it must be done with dogs (snowmobile used only to transport the camp), who need to be fed on seals throughout the year. Without sport hunting, there would be far fewer dogs in Grise Fiord, in favour of snowmobiles.
The first seals are out of the water, they have expanded their breathing hole and just sunbathe on the ice.
Thirty years ago, Vagabond wintered at Nanisivik (northern Baffin Island), 380 km south of Grise Fiord (south of Ellesmere Island). Since then, and long after the camels, all kinds of travellers have passed through the region (hunters, rangers, sailors, scientists, photographers...). Today, for example, an international team is getting ready to ski across Ellesmere Island (New 2013 Land expedition), while a Russian team is trying to reach the island by truck from Russia via the North Pole (Marine Live-Ice Automobile Expedition)! To the east of the island, the Dutchman Bart is overwintering alone aboard Tranquilo at Fram Haven... On the other side of Baffin Bay, in Greenland, our friends from Gambo are also doing some oceanography from their boat frozen in.
Bad weather is keeping us inside and is encouraging to give news! During a first family picnic yesterday (-25°C), we began to feel the heat of the sun, high enough in the sky now. The day before, it was the Sun Celebration at the school, another opportunity for the people of Grise Fiord to gather in the gym. In the morning, France and I took Vicki Sahanatien on the ice; she came to present to hunters a WWF program on narwhal tagging (migration routes are not well known), she is also studying ice with Christian Haas, for who we work. She could see at work our new CTD (many tests on going) and the EM31-icemeter which seems finally repaired! At the end of the day, after a happy celebration for Stacy's birthday, school friend of Léonie, I showed some pictures to Kavavow about previous weekend, when I follow him to a bear hunt. Three in the same day. First time ever, he said. We were four of us and we spent a night in the nice cabin of Hourglass Bay (set up by the yacht Northanger's crew, in 1999), at 140 km from Grise Fiord. A memorable trip. Three days earlier, it was Tom who suddenly asked me: "Do you want to see a polar bear hunt?". Time to start the snowmobile and to drive a few kilometres on the ice, and we reached the animal, spotted from the village. On March 9, between these two bear hunts, I answered some questions from the Savanturiers's public, by phone, after Rémy Marion's film "Latest news from polar bears"!
It is also the period of cultural programs at school, and students learn how to hunt, how to make a sled or sealskin boots, and they listen to stories told by elders. At a meeting on community development, various projects in progress were discussed: trails and markings for tourists (2 or 3 cruise ships every summer), safe harbour for small boats (more and more exposed to the swell in summer, due to the decline of the ice), youth yurt, playground, shooting range, metal recycling, fishing exploration...