Village reached on the ice

  • Premiere traversee sur la banquise entre Vagabond et le village

It has been 2 weeks since it started… and finally the sea ice seemed strong enough for us to walk the 3km distance to the village. As soon as the daylight was good enough, we walked between tabular icebergs, North of the direct route, in order to avoid some very thin ice areas. We also had to check around for the big male polar bear that had been seen the day before, and which footprints were going along the boat overnight. After a 50 minutes walk, we arrived on Qikiqtarjuaq's shore where a friendly welcoming committee gathered for us (it created almost a traffic jam of quads, pick-ups and pedestrians!). Kids waved, the Mayor came to say Hi, and Sarah and Leelie offered us to take a shower. We apparently earned our stripes by becoming the first ones to walk on the ice, early morning! Several people followed our progress and were phoning people to spread the news. People congratulated us, wishing us a great return to town and, as always, joked around: “you are still alive?”.

We also learnt that some elders talked about us on the local radio, inviting people to take care of us, to call us daily because we are “the Aninatalik neighbours” (name of the boat wintering bay, a place where they have a lot of their childhood and hunting memories).

It is true that every day someone called us on the VHF radio, checking how things were going, giving us news on the sea ice conditions or the polar bear observations. We realised later that a lot of people were following our conversations!

We appreciate a lot this very fascinating community atmosphere, that we have lost in the cities. Elders, as the most respected inhabitants, are the ones keeping this sharing and cooperation values alive. Now that winter is here, people talk about coming to the boat by skidoos and very soon, we will have dogs around as polar bear warnings.

We also were given a polar bear skull to be cleaned, we put it in the water under the boat for the shrimps to eat the brain. Every day, we have to maintain the hole in the ice (so that it does not get too thick) and check the shrimps’ job! On that skull, we can collect marine snails and sea urchins which provide a little fresh taste to our meals. Tasting their food or learning their technics is a source of great pride for the Inuits and seems to be the key for a good reputation.

We are now half-way of our stay on board Vagabond and from now on, the sun will not shine anymore on Qikiqtarjuaq. It will stay behind the mountains of the Baffin Land until the return of Eric, France, Léonie and Aurore.

The magical time of getting iced in!

  • La mer gele debut novembre

The dinghy was able to make its way to the shore until recently but in the past few days, we were already reading the signs: local fishermen doing their last boat trip of the year, polar bear sightings becoming more frequent, hunters’ boats filling up with seals while there is still open water and ultimately our visitors on board told us that soon they could not come anymore! The Bay where Vagabond is anchored, small haven sheltered from the offshore swells, is the place where it started… Since November 8th, we noticed those reflections on the water in the morning, the ones that made us get out of bed very early to check it and believe it is for good, the ones for which you can think “and there it goes… for 8 months at least”.

First some thin ice, then packing up, forming pancakes and finally getting stronger every day peacefully, quietly, without chaos! The wind then slowed down the process, giving us time for a sunny week-end busy with a nice walk to Tusinaq (5km from town) where some of the locals have their cabin and with a lot of visits on board: they pass by for a tea, coffee, for playing a game, sharing a cake, some French bread, banik (bread fried in a pan) or fish, we talk about the local news and always laugh! Sharing is a meaningful term around here and it is done very naturally. We are very pleased by those last visits from friends that came to make sure we have everything we need for the few days “stuck on board”, time to get iced in for good. We listened to the elders and their knowledge of the ice. Not enough open water anymore to travel by dinghy, but the sea ice is not yet thick enough to walk on it safely. The same day, one of the local divers, Samy, just back from his diving trip, brought us some clams for dinner!

At the beginning of this week, the ice around the boat was already getting a little thicker and we even tried to step on it, one foot, the second one… we ended up going for a walk on it! We can now get to the point located 1km away from the boat towards the village, but the passage to the village after that is not yet safe.

The sea ice is forming as we write, respecting its own rhythm, -18 degrees today and no wind.