Precious samples are flying away!

  • Banquise du 10 juillet 2014
  • Transfert echantillons -80 degres
  • Aurore et Leonie en kayak
  • Transfert echantillons et instruments par helico

On French National Day, the fruits of our work for Takuvik took off! All samples prepared in the lab and by diving since March have been entrusted to the Amundsen's helicopter, as well as main scientific instruments that must be checked (CTD, ADCP, SPAR). While the icebreaker was heading north, 50 nautical miles from the coast, the helicopter made ​​a return trip to Qikiqtarjuaq, to maintain the cold chain (-80°C and -20°C). It was also an opportunity for us to get some spare parts and a few groceries which cannot be found in Qikiqtarjuaq!

Then all the remaining scientific equipment was dried out, sorted and stored in a container until next winter. Under the sun and hordes of mosquitoes! Skidoo covered with tarpaulin, qamutiks (sleds) pulled up on dry land, the Vagabond-Takuvik 2014 mission is over for us.

The ice breaking up is progressing slowly, it is very late this year. Not seen since 1981, according to the elders. Our neighboring campers at Aningaatalik are patiently watching the ice melting, they hunt seals before going sailing in the fjords. During a wonderful evening birthday with them, I won a knife at a shooting contest!

Last Saturday, the anchor was lifted up, after 9 months of stillness among clams at 15m depth. Lifted with a 60 liters container filled with air, I was able to bring it back under the hull of Vagabond. France then could bring up 60 meters of chain lying on the bottom since October. While diving, I inspected the hull, despite very poor visibility: nothing to report, except the two propeller anodes to change and the deep sounder probe to better fix. Meanwhile, Aurore and Leonie, more and more capable by themselves, are visiting melt ponds by kayak!

From one party to another one

  • En traineau dans la brume
  • Concours de peche Canada Day

July 1st: Canada Day. The ice is getting very thin in places, fractures widen... but we are still snowmobiling to town, with some detours. The whole family went to the village for the festivities!

July 9: Nunavut Day. This time it is by boat that we reach the village. First with our dinghy, necessary to land on the ice from Vagabond, because our pond is quite large now. Then we have to walk to the ice edge, pulling our dinghy. From Aningaatalik tip, where half a dozen tents are set up, the water is open all the way to town. Some adventurous hunters are still using their snowmobiles.

These events are opportunities to share real feasts (frozen caribou and Arctic char, seal, sea weeds ...), fishing competitions (sculpin), bike races (children), scavenger hunts, dice or skill games...

Meanwhile, in the village, I left the sleds as close as possible to the shore (where they will soon be taken up on land) and I brought the snowmobile to a garage (where it will stay until snow is back). July 2nd, I started to walk back, but I was soon caught up by a skidoo which dropped me near Vagabond!

Visiting our neighboring campers, sharing a tea prepared on a heather fire, getting fresh water from the nearest river, enjoying the wind for some last snowkiting sessions, building up the big kayak and circumnavigating Vagabond (4 of us in the kayak!)... alternately with maintenance and other jobs on board.

Early summer

  • France snowkite pano

Summer? We just had two weeks of snow, snow, snow and the sun finally seems to be back for some time. So the ice that was blue with large melt ponds is white again, deceptive; now appear real lakes, open on the bottom. This is a superb yet amazing season, which doesn't tell us much about what is going to happen next: when will the ice break-up? How fascinating material is ice, and all its metamorphoses during melting process. Time to do all kinds of work on board, maintenance, storage, time for snowkiting on ice and large puddles, and we already think in the "sailing dimension" (Vagabond is listing now when it is windy!) while Leonie and Aurore play princesses, cards, school or camping inside and outside. And we swoon over the buds of tiny pink flowers that are slow to hatch!

Soon to go to the village it will take almost an hour walking, avoiding crakcs and too thin ice, since it is time to store the snowmobile. And soon, it will be walking and sailing (dinghy). In short, it means adapting to ever changing ground!

Snowy summer solstice!

  • Leonie tracte Aurore dans kayak
  • Demontage station meteo
  • Eric et Aurore snowkite 22 juin

To celebrate summer, no midnight sun due to more bad weather! This does not stop our local friends to go camping and fishing, especially since Arctic Chars just left the lakes to reach the sea. Fishing trips are followed by drying and smoking sessions.

Yesterday, between two heavy snowfalls (!), France and I went to recover the weather station set up on the ice last March for Takuvik. We were surrounded by seals lying on the ice beside their holes. All scientific equipment was finally brought back to Qikiqtarjuaq.

While I was sending the latest weather and current data, Marcel Babin, director of Takuvik, asked me this morning to "think about the feasibility of pursuing a re-sized sampling of the bloom... With a zodiac? Other?". Ideally a hovercraft!

The ice condition now requires detours, especially to go from the boat to the village by snowmobile. Surprisingly, the ice is white again, and fresh snow is hiding melt ponds. Hoping that it does not hide real holes, such as those near the village, where the ice has been fully eroded by currents.

Time for clean up, maintenance, preparing Vagabond for the boating season, and getting supplies. We are ordering for the summer and even next winter: the two ships supplying Qikiqtarjuaq once a year will leave Québec soon (Desgagnés and NEAS). Smaller packages sometimes arrive in the mail, from southern Canada or from Europe. Mid-July, while the ice-breaker Amundsen will sail off Broughton Island, her helicopter will come to pick up all samples and some equipment. In the same time, we will get parts for Vagabond's engines. As for Aurore, she just received, from an Iqaluit (Nunavut's capital) priest, a pair of the right size rubber boots, impossible to find in Qikiqtarjuaq!

Vagabond is getting supplies also thanks to our partners (Celnat, Even, Hénaff) and to our friends sailors. A few boxes are waiting for us in Nuuk (capital of Greenland), they came all the way from Brittany on board WHY. Other supplies are en route to Tasiilaq (Greenland), aboard Algol. At last, in the geologists drums, now getting ready in Brest, there will be more supplies and equipment for Vagabond. These drums will embark with the scientists in August in Greenland, and will be send back to Brest, after the mission, loaded with rock samples!

Tundra takes color

  • Remonter le filet
  • Motoneige sur traineau car trop d eau
  • Aurore et Leonie dessinent

And the ice is blue! The snow melts and the sea ice is flooded. This fresh water flows slowly through cracks or seal holes. In the meantime, we sometimes wonder what we are doing with a snowmobile with so much water around! Yesterday we had to lift up the front of the snowmobile onto the sled to dry the engine and to be able to move away from a too flooded area.

Since June 11th, the school is over for Léonie; until August 15th. The summer holidays are slightly shifted with our sailing season (late July to late September). On our return from Greenland, Aurore will also go to the Inuksuit school in Qikiqtarjuaq to learn English and Inuktitut. Léonie now loves to sing in Inuktitut, she brings us more Inuit culture.

We are just back from three days camping in the first fjord, northwest of Vagabond. We had our tent on shore, looking at flooded ice, not far from a big torrent. The first flowers appear, as well as many berries form last year, which have been frozen all winter: despite a small characteristic taste, everyone is enjoying them, including our dogs! Leelee and Sarah, came to visit us twice (a good hour by snowmobile from the village), they show us different berries, plants used to make tea, to make fire...

Between two scientific stations (measurements, ice coring and water sampling every two days on the ice for Takuvik), we tried a large net, 100 meters high and 2 meters wide, set up just above the bottom of the fjord (370m) for 24 hours: a total of 8h of work, but nothing, no polar cod in the net! There was one however in the hole four days later, swimming in the strong current generated by the flow of meltwater...

Last week, Mike Beedell and a group of French friends visited us after a challenging ski trip. We were all pleased with these shared moments on board or in town. France and I never had so much company during our scientific work, either on the sea ice or in the lab! Thanks to Billy for all skidoo transfers (Billy is also the local Gospel Church Reverend!).

In order to bring back the anchor before the ice begins to drift, risking to break the chain, I hooked it to a 60 liters plastic drum during my last dive. I filled it with air, but the anchor did not move! I'm going back soon, with another drum.

A laser under the ice

  • Eric pret a plonger avec capteur

José and Claudie are working for Takuvik, the research laboratory in Quebec for who we are doing a complete study of the bloom. They came for ten days with a prototype ice detector by laser polarimetry to test under the ice. Eventually, it will be used with ARGO floats in the Arctic. The system will provide the possible presence of surface ice to the float at a depth of 15-20 meters to stop its ascent and avoid contact. This development is part of the NAOS project and strengthens the French contribution to the ARGO mission, deploying 110 floats during the 2012-2019 period.

For now, it is to validate the system, and for that I'm diving and aiming with the laser, from 10m depth, thin ice, or thick ice, or ice free surface. My mask is equipped with laser protection lenses, and I feel like diving with sunglasses! The last dives are taking place near the boat, where thick snow on the ice is filtering most of day light. I do not see much, difficult to aim! José nevertheless seems satisfied with the results, and concluded that "experience in the field has provided important information for the optimization of the system!"

The usual work on the ice and in the lab continue during this time, more than ever: "That's it, the bloom is here!!! The purpose of the mission. Congratulations!", is telling us Marcel Babin, director of Takuvik, who is monitoring our results. Claudie also came to check the use of the CTD, and to learn how to do ice cores. Returning from the last station, we saw a polar bear on the ice near the shore of Broughton Island, on which he then climbed a steep and snowy slope. Fascinating.

Yesterday, my brother Paul (Piem) reached Ushuaia by bike. He left Barcelona 3 years and 2 months ago, he was on board Vagabond during our difficult crossing of the Atlantic in May and June 2011, at the beginning of his long journey. Since then he has lived many adventures and encounters! Never forgetting to look after this website, among others, being the webmaster.

A few days ago, as if to mark these events (coincidence?), my brother François and Cie La Batook presented to the public their new show: La Fille de l'Air!

Under the sun of Qik

  • Degustation lagopede
  • Aurore premier et seul poisson attrape par la famille

Spring is here, temperatures are positive at mid day, snowfalls alternate with nice weather. This morning blue sky is calling us outside, Aurore and me, for various little jobs and for a picnic. Takuli is joining us and pulls the pulkayak. Leonie is at school, France is in town too, for filtrations in the lab, and to clean a seal skin I found last week on the ice, left by a hunter.

Last night, during the awards ceremony of the fishing derby, Sarah, Charlie, and other of our friends have received awards for the fishes they caught: the heaviest, the largest, the smallest, the first... The main event took place on a lake, at 3 hours by snowmobile, while for those who could not go, a sculpin fishing competition was organized in front of the village.

The lake is located in Auyuittuq national park. Inuit are free to drive and fish, in the park and elsewhere. Others have to pay to enter the park, to use their tent, to fish, and are not allowed to drive a snowmobile. The administration of Parks Canada finally granted free access for Aurore and Leonie, and asked us to participate in an orientation with Stanley, the local agent: environmental, safety, techniques for river crossing (which are not running in this season!)... Friday night, arriving near the main camp where families gather for the fishing derby, we decide to stay outside the park, for financial reasons, and we pitch our tent 3km away, alone. We learn the next morning that a tent burned in the night. And that a bear visited the nearby huts 3 days ago. For more safety, it would seem wise, one day, to facilitate the gathering of all participants on the occasion of this major event in the community life...

Saturday, Leonie patiently explains to our very surprised friends that her parents can not drive in the park, and she wonders "maybe I can?"! We find easily someone to drive our snowmobile to the lake. And Aurore is the first to catch a fish: "Mom, it moves, it takes...". She needs a little help to get it out, it's her very first fish! An Arctic char, 44 cm long. Besides two mini fishes, this is the only catch for the family, and we enjoy it the same evening, on the frozen lake. Beautiful day, great shared moments, sumptuous scenery and delicious fish.

Bad weather and nothing planned the next day, we decide not to return to the park and we leave for Nuilatuq, 10km north of the park. It's snowing and visibility is very poor, but the GPS allows us to find our friends cabins. Loassie is welcoming us with a dish of young seal, very tasty. Then, despite the falling snow, the girls prefer our cozy tent, so we turn down the cabin proposed by Philip. Life is peaceful on this small peninsula surrounded by sea ice, kids and adults are happy to share their stories and meals (caribou, ptarmigan... Brittany cake and candies!).

Comfortably installed on the muskox skin in the sleigh, Aurore and Leonie enjoy the trip. We love this feeling of freedom, being able to travel both on land and on the frozen sea, self sufficient for several days. This is the best time of the year to do so because it is not cold anymore and the snow has not yet melted.

Tuesday, it's time to go back to our routines after an exceptional 3 days break: ice cores, hydrographic profiles, water sampling, diving and collecting clams, sea urchins, amphipods and algae under the ice, filtrations in the lab...