Article by Sébastien Panou, in Le Marin, weekly magazine about maritime economy.
Friday night, we left for the Fishing Derby. The old sleigh recovered for the occasion is solidly repaired and ready: it welcomes our little family as well as sleeping bags, food and fuel for five days, not to mention the fish box that we hope to fill up. No less than nine hours, with some "stuck-push operations" through some rough ice area, are needed to reach the frozen lake north of Devon Island.
Around 4am the tent is set up, arrivals of grisefiordmiuts go before and after the official opening, in the same morning, at 10am. Will be awarded the three longest fishes caught and a secret size in two categories, adults and kids. Motor augers are getting through the silence and through the meter of ice, near and sometimes inside the white cotton tents. Wooden sticks are fluttering rhythmically, ice fishing began. Leonie, first to start, is soon rewarded for her patience by a nice size arctic char.
Raymond, from the neighboring tent, find some time to hunt a caribou and give us a haunch. Eric is delighted to help carve the beast.
The sun is not showing much, a light snow accompanies our stay, under spring temperatures: -4°C to -7°C. We are a small French speaking camp with our friend Joanne, Grise Fiord's nurse, for greatest joy of Aurore and Léonie. Four days out of time, a few fishes hooked by all of us, snowmobile tours to explore the surroundings, friends all around...
The return trip is more windy, Tuesday evening, and instead of a single crack, we have five or six to cross, this is the result of the rising temperatures. Ice is changing fast.
Besides the pleasure of the outdoor vacation, our stay was successful: a box filled with arctic char and caribou, and the first kids prize won by Leonie, as well as the prize for secret size!
Launching the web site dedicated to our partnership with Essilor: www.essilor-extremetesting.com.
Christian Haas, for which we have been doing most of our work in the area of Grise Fiord for nearly two years, has just spent a week with us. The main objective was to install three cameras on hilltops to observe the differences of melting and disintegration of the ice of various thickness. One unit is currently on a near Grise Fiord top, two are above Vagabond's previous wintering site in South Cape Fiord. Pictures are taken every 30 minutes and the cameras will be recovered by the end of July, or later in September. It was also an opportunity to do some CTD, to inspect the IMB, without ever separate us from his favorite instrument, the EM31 (with which we have already traveled 2500km for ice thickness measurements this year). An opportunity as well to discuss with hunters in Grise Fiord for possible future collaborations to continue observation of the ice. Christian, thank you for giving us such good excuse to share these memorable journeys!
From Grise Fiord, the complete female crew (Léonie, Aurore ans me) had to be patient, nicely busy inside the boat during the bad weather: blizzard and white out were never ending, with some picks hardly ever seen up here. Apotheosis with 65 knots gusts (120km/h), a very special day: hamlet closed, health center closed, store closed and school closed! At this time Eric was in the nice and strong cabin in Hourglass Bay. Léonie wanted to play in the wind... I came with her for a while, but Aurore was not allowed to follow us... A neighbour roof almost flew off, one house had no electricity, no heater and no phone, our heavy qamutik went sliding fifty meters away. The next day, Léonie was the one who discovered the four puppies from Bella, one of our last year's dogs, another puppy was just cold and dead. Since then, Eric is back, we went out camping, this time with the whole family, for one night... 23°C bellow 0. The reasons were to test our new tent and celebrate my birthday under the midnight sun!
Silence amazing. Fourth day of waiting here (down snowmobile) and I am still impressed by the intense silence. I'm the source of any sound. I hear my pulse. Just daring to breathe. I often stop all motion, thinking I heard something. It's amazing the diversity of sounds that I continuously generate. A soundman would be in heaven, or very unhappy!
Blame it on this trip three times longer than expected, my diet lacks a bit of fat and calories. While exploring the area, hoping to improve my meals, I find traces of lemmings. No hare or ptarmigan, or fox, or caribou or muskox, not even raven. Not bear or seal. In the next fjord, South Cape Fiord where Vagabond wintered, there are yet many seals on the ice, and often bears. But the ice is much thinner, the warmer water flowing under the ice is reducing the growth. It also brings nutrients from the bottom. This is what probably attracts seals and those who hunt them.
The differences between the fjords of the south coast of Ellesmere are significant and not always easy to explain. "If we knew it all, we wouldn't be researchers.", recently concluded a scientist receiving my latest data.
After weather stand by and technical problems, skidoo break down. A new reason to enjoy this longer and longer trip, but I will not be back in time for France's birthday!
The weather improved, I left the cabin on Wednesday night. A big bear, then another, have stood in my way. I returned to Muskox Fiord (no muskox this time) with the icemeter (and running!) And I took a short nap in my sled (not the courage to pitch my tent). Before entering the next fjord (Baad), I found a tent! A hunter had finally agreed to come in this area but he left Grise Fiord three days later and got caught by the very bad weather, just after catching a bear. We are glad to be together! After the measurements in Baad Fiord, I was suppose to go back to his tent. Not seeing me back, he thought I left to Grise Fiord, where he learned upon arrival last night I was down in Baad Fiord. Another hunter will soon help me out... A three days trip about to last ten!