The pack ice is more and more flooded. Snow is melting at the surface, and real lakes are growing around us. Skiing is becoming more and more water skiing! Water can only run down the cracks along the shore, or near icebergs, sometimes also by the seals' breathing holes. These holes look like bubbling traps now. From Vagabond we could watch a polar bear hunting. On the look out for few hours, still, he caught a seal when he was coming to breath through his hole. The polar bear moved the seal (50 to 60 kg) for about a hundred meters before eating it. 2 hours later, he was sleeping close to the carcass, carefully cleaned up. During the night, the polar bear passed between Vagabond and the dog houses, curious, but a banger was enough to scare him away, he was obviously not hungry! Dogs could eat some little left-over fresh meat, birds and foxes are now finishing the job.
"le Quotidien de la Mer", program by Arielle Cassim
We will be by phone on Radio France Internationale tomorrow June 21st, at 11:45 UTC, after marine weather forecast (www.rfi.fr).
Lucas and Nicolas, after 5 days skiing across the glaciers from the West Coast of Spitsbergen, arrived Friday to Vagabond. They brought some mail, including 2 letters 'lost' in Longyearbyen for over 6 months... one of them, from December 12th last year, was announcing a nephew or a niece to France for June 17th, the day we received the letter. And yesterday morning, June 18th, we had a message saying the baby was born during the night ! Medicine is amazing.
So we are 4 on board, ready to sail again. Navigation season already started, about 10 days ago, on the West Coast. But our bay is so well protected that the ice breaking up may come very late, also we enjoy as much as we can the nice summer weather. France started making a kite, to ski faster, with the remains from the tent destroyed by polar bears. Digging under the snow, we managed to find a little stream, no need to go and collect ice anymore to get fresh water.
number 12 available, including a 13 minutes film about Vagabond's wintering 2004-2005
Nice day yesterday to check our sails. Sun shine, westerly wind 15 knots, for about 4 hours Vagabond looked like sailing close to the wind on a flat sea covered with snow... walking around the boat under sails was an amazing feeling, it was like moving in a picture. From a nearby summit, the icepack is not showing any movement around us... sails and engines are not yet enough to reach the open sea!
Thousands of shrimps are living under the hull! This is what I saw while diving under the ice earlier today. I could use the hole we hardly dug last month, and which is now well open as the sun has been shining for the last 3 days. I even could surface at the back of the boat, through the hole made by the sea water exhaust from the generator. You may imagine how I surprised the dogs, sun bathing on the snow, when they first heard bubbles, then saw a strange animal, and then recognized my voice! Vagabond is completely free from ice now (she is floating!), light is making a nice halo all around, very nice seen from under the sea, while darkness is everywhere else under the icepack. It is amazing in this season, because we forget about night with the permanent daylight. During the winter, the hull let her print in the ice, which was increasing slowly, and also getting a bit down after each big snow fall. The final architecture is amazing. Still about 10 km of icepack are keeping us away from open water... Polar bear visits are not finished, the last one took away the seal skin France was about to tan!
Intense stay for Fred, Jean and Lucas: short dive under the ice, even shorter sea bath, seal hunting, visit of a polar bear... The weather became bad again for the trip back. There was just enough snow to drive the snowmobile back to Svea, from where our 3 friends were taking the plane. Without any visibility, looking carefully at the GPS, driving slowly across the glaciers, I was not so proud about pulling the 3 skiers in such conditions. 12 km from Vagabond, Jin suddenly went back. One of our 2 dogs was following us faithfully towards Svea, to join me for the trip back, to help pulling the pulka and to watch my tent during the night. I drove back few kilometres, I called in the storm but no answer. I only had to find my friends again, hoping Jin was not lost. When we arrive in Svea few hours later, after a really tiring trip, France told us on the phone that Jin was not back to the boat. The next morning, I said bye to our 3 friends, I parked the snowmobile, I took the mail, and I started pulling the heavy pulka back to Inglefield's bay, 45 km from Svea. 36 hours after having seen the last prints from Jin, I set up my tent at the same position, hoping to see him coming back. It is only the following day that I found some tracks on the moraine between Edvard and Nordsyssel glaciers, 10 km from Vagabond. I looked around for few hours, before resigning myself to go to Vagabond, because bad weather was coming again. This last gale was short enough, France and me could go back there quickly, set up a camp to search more with Frost, despite the permanent fog. Yesterday at last, down Storbollen, at the end of Evard glacier, Jin heard our calls. Emotion to see him running to us, after more than 5 days of roaming! The governor also will be happy, Jin will not do like this other dog lost in spring, killing reindeers to eat and hiding himself from the snowmobiles looking for him. No polar bear visit on board while we were away, and Vagabond even lost her listing, thanks to thaw.
We missed each other at meeting point on Saturday, the 3 skiers arrived at Vagabond when we were still expecting them on Evard glacier! As they were finally carrying the needed spare parts to repair the snowmobile, Lucas and Jean could use it to come and pick us up. What a surprise for us! Beautiful day on the icepack yesterday, 1 skier with the dog, 3 others pulled with the snowmobile, we could even do a CTD cast.
Endless storm. The helicopter could not come with the spare parts, so the snowmobile has not been repaired, and I didn't leave Vagabond. It is not possible to dive under the hull or to do any CTD cast, but above all, our 3 friends are still standing by on the other side of Spitsbergen. We have been preparing our reunion for a long time, and we are looking forward to get a better weather ! June and May are usually the most quiet and calm months up here... We managed to talk briefly to Fred, Jean and Lucas by phone this morning, they are now well sheltered in a very tiny hut, about 10 km from Svea, and about 40 km from Vagabond. The weather is going to be really bad until Saturday, France and me are hoping to meet them on Sunday, on Edvard glacier, we will go to them with the dogs. Between 5 and 7 o'clock yesterday morning, during the only short calm period, I went to Storfjord, where I saw the icepack slowly disappearing, like eaten by the storm. Inglefield Bay's icepack is still solid, but Vagabond is listing more and more (6°) under wind pressure, like when we are sailing under sails!