On Antarctic sea ice

  • Trajet Astrolabe R0 2014
  • Glaciometre devant L Astrolabe

Every year, L'Astrolabe is doing five trips (R0 to R4) from Hobart harbour (Tasmania, Australia), to Dumont d'Urville station (Terre Adelie, Antarctic), to supply IPEV French missions. For about three years, ice didn't break up around the station, and the ship cannot dock. Unloading fuel has to be done via the ice, something new over there. This is to assist the new logistics that I went to the other side of the world! Before driving heavy convoys on sea ice, I took part into reconnaissance and did ice thickness measurements between L'Astrolabe and the station, with an EM31, the same instrument that we have been using for about ten years in the Arctic. On November 1st, it was not possible for L'Astrolabe to approach less than 75km from the continent, but the supply had to begin as soon as possible, tanks were getting low. See pictures.

Setting foot in Antarctica, discovering Dumont d'Urville station, meeting up again with albatrosses, getting to know the emperors and Adelie penguins, embarking on L'Astrolabe (which sailed the Northeast passage eleven years before Vagabond), helping the French scientific missions in Antarctica, travelling around the world ... what a trip!

Ice jams, by piem

  • Pleine Lune

In the end, it was on the third take that the ice settled. The first sheets of fresh ice were blown away by the dozens of knots of wind howling in the night, scratching the hull in the strangest noises. Twice I woke up in the morning to discover the ice had gone and the waves were back.

With their little boats, locals keep hunting when the ice is still only a few centimetres thick. That's when Robbie came to share a coffee a few days ago, breaking the fresh ice. And all the ice went again. Starting over.

On a clear day, the sun came to greet us in what will be its last apparition of the year, casting its oblique rays in the bay, crossing the fjord horizontally from one hill to the other and in less than an hour.

Yesterday, the ice had settled again, and Johnny visited me. This time, to take me to shore, only a few hours, enough time to share a lunch with Yves and Céline. So nice to break my solitude, be it for a few minutes.

On the way back, I asked his brother Amo, on his powerful boat, to push Vagabond so it would point North, the bow heading to the dominant winds. He told me no straightforwardly, but started driving in large loops, breaking the thin ice around the boat. Free once again, Vagabond kept swinging a few more hours in the wind before stopping in the cold of the night.

Northern sky, by piem

  • Aurore dans le mat

Already three weeks on board, and I still have a serious pile of books to read, and a a long list of things to do. I tried though, to make use of a full week of heavy snow falls to stay warm inside and get used to withstand the siege of the ice.

And snow there is, a lot this year. Even locals seem to agree on that. It is good news: more water for spring, and less stones under the skis.

Friday, movie night at the Hamlet, the town's council house: Céline had organised the projection of "Vanishing Point". A chance for me to meet part of the community, and to fill my eyes with smiles amongst all these kids.

Saturday, back on the boat, I almost wished it would be my last ride on the water. But the ice didn't seem to come. An elder was remembering how a few years ago, the little bay where the boat is was freezing much earlier; they would come to hunt seal.

Yesterday afternoon, a boat approached before turning around Vagabond: Yves, Céline, Anita and Andrew came to pay a visit! So nice to have guests on board, and share the delicious food they brought.

Tonight, clouds made place to a sky full of stars, and a vast brush came to paint a dim green light: my first northern lights.

When I went out to admire the show, I felt a strange silence, and found the boat suprisingly still. The ice has started forming around the boat.

Ready, by piem

  • Lever de lune sur Qikiqtarjuaq

After reaching a safe haven with a nice collection of tiny flights, I joined Vagabond at her mooring about ten days ago, moved to board again on her red hull that I know well, more than three years after leaving her under the same latitudes, on the other side of Davis Straight.

I quickly found some of my marks and habits again, and thanks to the precious help of Yves and his excellent onshore routing, sorted out the few remaining technical questions. And here I am, ready for a few weeks of immobile navigation. I enjoy each moment passing by, the few rays of sun that still come to dazzle a porthole, and the stunning view on the neighbours "cruise ships", those large tabular icebergs that came to cast their anchor at the entrance of the fjord.

The news from the antipodes and from Brittany are good. The complete crew will join me just in time to celebrate winter solstice. In the mean time, "country food" stew simmered on the stove, home-made bread with chestnut flour, season's soups and broths, the crossing of autumn also promises to be culinary.

The antipodes! by Eric on board L'Astrolabe

  • Vagabond au mouillage

15 years ago, on Oct 28, 1999, I bought Vagabond. Since then, my brother Piem has been looking after our website, to share our stories with everyone. Today is also Piem's birthday, and he is alone on board for nearly two months. Looking after Vagabond while the sea is about to freeze. To celebrate this big day, I couldn't be any further, as we are entering pack ice in the Antarctic, on board L'Astrolabe!

Ready for winter

  • Chasse au narval
  • Vagabond dans le port de Qikiqtarjuaq
  • Dans l'annexe pour aller a l'ecole

That's it, Vagabond is ready for winter. Fuel, water, food... Maintenance, storage, cleaning... Converting our boat to a hut is done again, we'll be overwintering for the tenth time.

When we arrived in Qikiqtarjuaq, October 6, many children were on the beach shouting "welcome back!". The drone was released to film the end of the long summer journey (almost 7000km). But he fall down into the sea due to some unexplained loss of control!

On October 7, Leonie met with her friends and with her new teacher, while Aurore was entering school for the first time in Nunavut.

On Sunday, 31 boats were hunting narwhals right next to us, what a show!

On Tuesday, Clementine and Adrien flew to southern Canada, looking for a plane for their next long adventure, starting in June.

On Wednesday, France and the girls flew to Paris.

Yesterday I gave the keys of the boat to Yves, the engineer of the village, who will be watching Vagabond awaiting the arrival of my brother Piem. He will then be alone on board for two months until our return in December.

I'm leaving for a one-month trip to Antarctica for IPEV on board [L'Astrolabe](http:

//fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Astrolabe_%28navire_polaire%29) (follow ship's track here).