Yesterday night, like every week, we visited Joanne. The hamlet's nurse speaks French, with a great accent. She is from Tracadie Sheila (Acadian Peninsula), and she has been working for more than twenty years in Nunavut. Joanne became our friend, Aurore and Léonie love her.
Many friends gathered at her home last night to say goodbye. Complete surprise, we were very touched! That's almost two years since we arrived in Grise Fiord to live and observe the ice. Ice is in no hurry to let us go, breakup is very late this year. It offers us a few days (weeks?) more with our friends!
There is still ice in front of Grise Fiord, open water is at about twenty kilometres from the village. Despite cracks more and more difficult to cross, hunters are still travelling by snowmobile, sometimes with their family, and they carry small boats for safety and narwhal hunting. So our dinghy went for a ride, however it remained well strapped to a sled. I also got the curiosity of my friends with the hydrophone, which allows you to listen and record seals, walruses and whales underwater. Some new sounds for them!
July 9 was Nunavut Day, the weather was beautiful (2°C, light southerly wind, bright sun). Draw for a muskox hide, cake contest, wooden duck race in the river, music and barbecue... Twenty years after the creation of Nunavut, testimonies evoke pride, regret and hope (read articles from CBC or Al Jazeera). A statue created by three artists including Looty Pijamini from Grise Fiord (author of the Exile Monument), was inaugurated in Iqaluit for the occasion (discover Nunavut's capital in 3D).
Gradually work and maintenance on board Vagabond occupy most of our time, while the last measurements are carried out on the ice every two or three days. The main current program is to follow the melting snow, the drain of meltwater, and the formation of melt ponds at the surface of the ice. The melt cycle is disrupted this year with unusual precipitation! The IMB station has been recovered, while the three cameras continue their timelapse series (every 30 minutes).
"This is the first time I see that much snow on July 1st!", we heard repeatedly. We were a few dozen yesterday in Grise Fiord to celebrate Canada Day. Flag raising and singing O Canada, sculpin fishing derby under the ice, miniature sail boat race on the pond in the middle of the village, bikes and cakes decorating contest, tea and bannock making contest, games, raffles, great picnic... snowfall did not deter Grise Fiord people to participate in this happy day!
Grise Fiord families are now going back and forth, by snowmobile, from town to their favourite sites to camp, to repair or build a new cabin, and just to enjoy the summer. The sun is still pretty high in the sky at midnight, and seal hunting can last all night on packice, which is much more practical than last year at the same time! On land, the geese are very popular too (hunting is encouraged by scientists), and sometimes one picks up some Arctic heather for cooking (very little driftwood here). A few days ago, a fox (a chef?) pilfered our wooden spoon! Approaching hares, listening to snow buntings singing, watching spring tides, discovering new flowers, visiting other camps... it is because we need to prepare the sailing season and to carry on the scientific measurements, that we need to go back to Grise Fiord from time to time.
Nevertheless, ice break-up is coming, even faster than we can think sometimes: some of our Arctic Bay neighbours were stranded on a drifting ice floe. This reminds us of memories! For our friends onboard Gambo, in Greenland, all ice was gone by June 12th already.
The area is coveted by fans of adventure, it welcomes all kinds of expeditions: a Russian team managed last month to reach Resolute Bay by amphibious trucks, via the North Pole (see MLAE log book); another Russian team rallied Greenland from the north pole by dog team (see Konyukhov's website); a pilot from Slovenia has just crossed the Arctic, via North Pole, on board a very light aircraft (Green Light World Flight); Babouchka, Sébastien Roubinet's very special mini catamaran, is about to attempt a crossing from Alaska to Spitsbergen via North Pole; Tara has started a circumnavigation of the Arctic (ten years after Vagabond!), while at least a dozen sailboats (Tooluka, Dodo's Delight, Arctic Tern, Gitana, La Belle Epoque, Traversay III, Lady Dana, Panorama, Noème...) are getting ready to sail the North-West Passage; as well as a rowboat and even a racing boat; when the night will return, Alex Hibbert will try his luck again from Qaanaaq (Greenland) to the North Pole. We should make some food depots for him during our journey into Nares Strait in September.
5 days vacation! 5 days with ski and sledge only pacing the ice, to the best of my stride. Only guided by my intuition, the weather... and Mother Nature: a too large crack in the ice skewed my loop into Starnes Fiord. The days are not alike. Skiing for 2 to 8 hours a day, walking around, discovery of a historic site. My wonder is made with the surprises of the mist, the heat of the sun, wind, snow or rain. Meetings? a fox waking me up, ctenophore in the crack, seals, ducks and geese, a bird turning over flat stones tirelessly around the tent. Then four white and empty tents from the camp of a weekend. Mine is set up on ice, gravel or paving stones with some difficulties due to changes in season: 1 hour to pass the foreshore, the blocks of ice between pack ice and land are floating at high tide and are tilted at low tide, sometimes at one meter of each other... Then Brume Point, last turn before Grise Fiord. A snowmobile, ridden by three individuals including two little girls, is coming to meet me, I'm happy to see my family again!
End of the school year in Grise Fiord, the kids are on holidays for the summer until mid-August, Léonie left school with many diplomas and gifts! The day before, all the children contributed to pick up garbage popping up everywhere with the melting snow, which attract dogs, ravens, gulls ... Fortunately, no more fox roaming around, they sometimes carry rabies, which was worrying people this winter.
France should be back on Sunday night, she left alone for a five days ski trip. Thursday night, she wrote me "I had to stop at 11pm, too big crack, fog, I'm camping right there, strange atmosphere"...
The previous weekends, we did some family camping near Lee and Anstead Points, east of Grise Fiord. One Sunday, Raymond invited us to his cabin to enjoy his first goose of the year, stating that we were his first guests! He built his cabin in 2012. Not far from there, we were fascinated by the remains of some stone huts from Thule people (1000-1600 AD). Many families are enjoying the beginning of the summer holidays while it is still safe to travel around on the ice, to escape the village, going out camping and hunting... despite a rather wet weather and persistent fog.
Tuesday took place the traditional graduation ceremony, for only one student this year in Grise Fiord: read from CBC.
Thursday, Edna Elias, the Commissioner of Nunavut, came for an official visit and to give awards (read NNSL article). Before leaving for Iqaluit, she came to visit us aboard Vagabond this morning. She is representing the Queen for Nunavut.
Another recent highlight: slide-show after the special one-week trip organized for 12 students from Umimmaq school (muskox in Inuktitut, the symbol of Grise Fiord), to Ottawa, the capital of the country, very difficult to access because of the cost of airline tickets. Many funds won by the teacher in charge were supplemented by revenue from brunches, various sales and raffles, organized in the village during the winter.
6 to 8 June 2013: Dunkerque World Sea Film Festival. The film Children of cold will be shown to the public on Friday 7th, June, at 2:30pm. A teaser can be watched on Ecrans de la mer's website. A phone link will happen with Vagabond's crew in Grise Fiord (Nunavut, Canada), after the screening.