Vagabond on Europe 1 (French radio), live from Spitsbergen, program from Catherine Chabaud about poles
Peacefull stop in a great bay, south-east of Spitsbergen, Isbukta. We could leave our wintering location on Wednesday, we are now heading to Longyearbyen. We should be back to town on Sunday or Monday... On the way, we did some CTD casts from the boat, where we came with snowmobile or helicopter during the winter. Also a great dive, looking for a tidemeter set up 10 years ago by Antarctica's crew, not found.
The way is almost clear. Above zero temperatures and tides have been eating our ice pack, only few large floes are remaining, one is still keeping Vagabond here. Even our last week-end swimming spot has been taken away! Seals are more and more curious, getting closer and closer to us, and attracting polar bears. 7 of them today, showing us different hunting techniques, all day long. Waiting, running, swimming, all efforts not giving much results despite the many seals around. Within few days, there will be no more sea ice, and polar bears will have to go much further to find their food. On our side, packing is going on, we need to change our hut to a boat again, tie and check everything, and get back onboard all the equipment left on ice or on the beach. The water is so cloudy, chain is so deep into the mud, that my 2 last diving attempts to get the anchor gave no result. Engines running high speed are not yet enough to move away, but we know that departure is coming soon. Dogs don't doubt about what will happen to them...
«The North-West Passage with Vagabond», (85 minutes, Jacques Laine), film broadcasted on France 5 (French TV)
After staying with us for about 3 weeks, Lucas and Nicolas left yesterday, not able to wait any longer for Vagabond's release. They hope to reach Svea, the closest civilization, in less than 3 days, if rivers are not too difficult to cross. So France and me are alone on board again, less than 2 km from open water... Tenths of seals set up on the sea ice still around us, and we can watch a polar bear hunting now and then, sometimes visiting us on his way. Our dogs also our curious, and without worrying about water ponds, they can pull us very fast towards one or the other seal. Jin and Frost seem amazingly distraught to see it disappearing before reaching it!
The Super Puma from the Governor of Svalbard brought us the mail! The crew used this flight to do a hoist training, the fascinating operation last about half an hour. So it was a rescueman, great in his red survival suit in the blue sky, who came down to give us 2 parcels (last postman was in May). He left with few letters to send, and some unneeded equipment for Lucas and Nicolas, who will certainly have to walk back, as the ice breaking up is later than we hoped. Nevertheless, the 50 knots of wind during the previous night helped pushing away all the icepack in front of Inglefield Bay, and it is 'only' 3 km of ice left between open sea and Vagabond... On top of this lively day, a big polar bear came to the boat last night, Frost barked on time, and one fire cracker was enough to stop him! It is today 9 months that Vagabond left civilization.
Vagabond participate to the meeting between Jean-Claude Gascard and Erik Orsenna about Gulf Stream, program by Isabelle Autissier, France Inter radio
Birdwatching and geology expedition, wilth IPEV, Scoresbysund and National Park region, North East Greenland
Despite the cold wind that has been blowing for the last 2 days, we made a fire last night on our small beach, about 200 m from Vagabond. Sitting on a big timber from Siberia, or on a whale vertebra, surrounded by the ice pack, it was really nice to grill some local meat and toast some fresh bred. It was pretty early this morning when a polar bear came to visit our little territory. As usual, Frost barked, Jin hide himself in his dog house. 2 bangers and 4 flares were just about to make the curious leave the place. Regarding the ice thickness, still 1m30 near Vagabond, like 2 months ago!
After one week of bad weather (temperatures around zero, snow fall and rain), sun is shining again. The ground is showing up more and more, and it is now possible to walk a bit along the shore, where seaweeds, whales bones and timbers can be seen again. What a pleasure to walk without ski or snow shoes! More and more water ponds on the ice pack, still solid around us. Also our feet were soaked on our skis yesterday when we tried to reach the open water, 9 km from Vagabond, attracted by the nice sound of the waves; but few cracks dissuaded us from going to the edge. If the ice thickness lost only 4 cm during the last month, almost all snow melted and ran out to the sea by cracks and seal holes. Ice pack is then much lighten, and is now about 15 cm above (measuring free board). A CTD cast also shows the quick evolution of temperature and salinity of the sea, very different from the surface to the bottom (95m). A lot of seals and birds, they don't seem to be in a hurry to see their preferred icepack going and drifting away ...