To know more about Grise Fiord history, where Vagabond spent two years, here is a new web site: iqqaumavara.com.
Aurore and Leonie are very happy, our dear friend from Grise Fiord is coming to visit us. Liza is hosted by Mary, her counterpart Mayor of Qikiqtarjuaq, and her husband Sam, whose mom, charming Minie, lives in Grise Fiord too. The next day, Liza is joining us for scientific field work on sea ice! We also have a nice visit of the cave not far away.
Comes the weekend with a nice trip to Mary and Sam's cabin in Atirialik, 3 hours drive to the north. As we leave town later than our friends, when done with lab work, they maliciously posted two road signs on the way, on the ice, to be sure we don't get lost!
Arriving at Atirialik on Saturday afternoon, we set up our tent and have a tea with Ena, Leonie's Inuktitut teacher, and Sammy, in their nearby cabin, before they head back to Qik (Sammy wants to dive and dig for more clams tomorrow, to pay for a new boat!). In another cabin, we also meet Geela (who gave us both dogs Pikuli and Takuli), her husband just returned from hunting with a seal pup. Then our friends arrived with Liza, they were fishing Arctic char, and shortly after, Mary's son is back with three ptarmigans!
Emotional journey for Liza, who is meeting with some childhood friends and visiting the site where she used to camp and fish with her parents when she was 7 years old. We learn that she lived in Pangnirtung before Qikiktarjuaq, then Clyde River, and then Grise Fiord.
Shared meals, celebrating France's birthday (44!), playing inside the tent, sliding on sealskin, climbing on rocks... On Sunday, the trip back to Qik in this sumptuous scenery leaves a true taste of happiness.
Aurore (4 and half years old): "Is it not by chance a little top to go camping?"
Before flying back to Grise Fiord, Liza wants to watch Eric diving: she loves clams! Eric first gets some for the scientific program, as well as sea urchins, amphipods, algae under the ice... the rest of the good harvest of the day (two dives) is eaten raw on the ice, near the diving hole, then packed in her luggage for her relatives in Grise Fiord. Then Liza wants to spend her last night on board Vagabond! We are delighted to have been with her for about five days.
Christian left after a great one week survey. We travelled 800km in Qikiqtarjuaq region with two icemeters, an auger and a snow probe. Local hunters are already interested by the results, like Jaypootie who guided us for five days up to Home Bay. He welcomed us to his various huts (Nedlukseak, Ekalugad, Ilutalik). Fortunately, at our first stop, he found his two dogs lost for 3 weeks! Then one of them accompanied us for the rest of the journey.
On the first day we met Charlie and his daughter Nadine, on their way to Clyde River, located 350km north of Qikiqtarjuaq. But their snowmobile broke down shortly after and they had to ask for help to return to Qikiqtarjuaq, cancelling in the same time Charlie's underwater exploration projects (there is no diver Clyde River).
Hunters keep in touch between themselves using HF radio. This is how we could follow the difficult progress of Jaypootie's father, who was driving a brand new snowmobile from Iqaluit back to Qikiqtarjuaq, through the western and central Baffin Island, in the absence of snow on the more direct route. A deposit of food and fuel was our small contribution to this amazing trip!
We saw a few polar bears on the way, also some of the first birds, we visited the amazing Cape Hooper station (DEW Line), there were spectacular cliffs and icebergs, and sometimes very thin ice! Christian wants to develop a slush detector, when deep snow is accumulating on thin ice...
We just had our first free Sunday. Now, the lab work ends up Saturday morning. So at 11am precisely, our little family left with snowmobile and qamutiq with a good enthusiasm, heading South, for a first family camping! Is it our need of fresh air? It looks like sailing in a surrealistic world on some fresh powder: so many islands and steep cliffs sticking out from a perfect smooth ice, large bays idyllic for navigation... but everything is frozen, white. Just unreal. A small tour of friends cabins on different sites, then the tent is pitched on a corner of sea ice, close to ... near the hamlet of Tassialuit where Jacopee and Ulli are spending the weekend. An expected and deserved change after these weeks of non-stop scientific work.
Early Monday morning, we leave for a very complete ice station at the study site, then follows the lab session, and then in the evening, a nice feast in town. Always ready for more, on Tuesday morning, we join for the the annual school trip: 11 qamutiq and snowmobiles, the whole school on the road, the caravan crosses Brougthon Island from west to east with some difficult passes before arriving on a lake for enjoying picnic, fishing in holes, sliding, climbing to a bear den freshly abandoned... We drive back to town by circling the island from the south through a beautiful ice somewhat chaotic. One hour later, Christian Haas landed in Qikiqtarjuaq for 8 days of scientific field work.
Michael Charavin, who watched Vagabond for two months in Spitsbergen in 2007, and who will be on board again in August 2014, just started an incredible expedition: the Greenland icecap circumnavigation, with Cornelius Strohm. They are not alone in trying this first: Greenland Ice expedition started on April 10. To be continued!
Aurore, Leonie and I finished emptying and filling eggs with melted chocolate. Enjoying a gentle breeze, Leonie takes out her kite and practice a little bit. The next time she will try with her skis! France is walking back from the lab (about one hour walk), she gives a good piece of narwhal meat to Pikuli and Takuli, and prepares a homemade pizza for the family. Leonie tells us about his first night in town, at Mary and Steevie's, the day of the total lunar eclipse. That same day, I was diving with Steevie, and also Charlie. Sampling of bivalves (for science and for the plate!), of algae under the ice with a slurp gun, and of sediments. Caroline left yesterday. In the morning, together we discovered big bear tracks near the weather mast. Tomorrow, I will see if the bear came back to visit the scientific equipment. Despite some upheaval, there was no damage!
Caroline arrived to support us 6 days ago, and after testing our small, pretty and chilly laboratory on board, she agreed with our decision to move it to town. The main reason is to be close to the -80°C freezer, to store part of the samples. Now, "Parents & Tots" building is welcoming all our water samples and ice cores treatment equipment. So we are sometimes working surrounded with very young kids! Working on some of the filtrations that we cannot find time to do all by ourselves, she has to sleep in the lab to do the work!
After three days of snow with a little blizzard, the terrain became soft. But our dogs still managed to pull most of the family on Saturday, Aurore in our sleigh, others on skis, France ahead making the track! Scientific dive for Eric yesterday, with various sampling (bivalves, sea urchins, algae, fishes...) and testing the slurp gun to sample algae that grow under the ice.
Today, ice corer training for Caroline, in addition to the usual full ice station, and evening with our Swiss friends in Qikiqtarjuaq.
Presenting a selection of the photographic and scientific work of the Arctic Photographic Observatory (watch 3min film) at Central DUPON Images, 74 rue Joseph de Maistre, Paris. Exhibit until April 18, then from April 29 until May 31 at Vincent Hilaire gallery, 6 rue Gonnet, Paris.