This Sunday morning, when I woke up, I found a polar bear sleeping at our dog Zagrey's place. In the night, the animal killed and partly ate him. We did not hear our dogs barking, we still don't understand why... Zagrey, Léonie's best friend, taranautes' faithful companion, is now lying near a little iceberg, in the middle of Inglefield's bay. He will leave for a last drift, when ice will break up. The polar bear came again tonight, quietly, and I decided to push him few kilometres away with the snowmobile. Jin, Frost and Imiaq are happy to be now a bit closer to the boat. On board, we are trying to make up the sudden gap, and to keep doing our jobs.
Since our drifting experience, 8 days ago, the westerly wind never stopped: the instruments already covered more than 50 km towards south, at the mercy of ice... In the mean time, 9 French skiers visited us; then a team from the Norwegian Polar Institute (2 German, one Finnish and one Englishman), for 2 days, for snow and ice analysis. It was then an Estonian colleague, doing a solo ski-trip. And then yesterday night arrived an English-Lebanese scientific couple, and a friend-partner from Marseille (France), driven by our Italian friend and guide! To crown these series of visits, 2 polar bears were frequenting our bay today.
A seal and a flying snowmobile. Here is what Léonie remembers from today. This morning, the weather is very nice, our little family is going on pack ice for usual work and picnic. A seal, curious, looks at us, Léonie and me, then dives. France is meeting us later, on skis behind three dogs. The CTD is just put back when wind from west is rising suddenly, we shorten lunch. "The sea !" is saying Léonie in front of open water. Few hectares of pack ice broke up, a lead is blocking our way, we are drifting offshore at 0,5km/h... Luckily, despite the strong wind, it is not cold, and above all, sky is clear. So the helicopter can come. Soon we are flying over the lead, now huge. The snowmobile and the sledge are transported to Vagabond during the second flight. A third flight is necessary to find again the scientific winch, detached from the sledge. The rescue team was so efficient that we didn't have much time think about such a drift without helicopter... Only the winch did not recover from this misadventure. Now we have to follow Argos position of the scientific instruments set up under the ice, hoping we will be able to reach them soon.
Twilight, at midnight, is now brighter than full moon. Permanent day light is setting up here for five months. Since the last team left, nice weather has been encouraging long dog sledge trips and experiments on pack ice. Except that the snowmobile broke down 2 days ago, and our dogs are not enough to pull scientific equipment to the field work location... But our little dog team would have enjoyed going longer with the two Norwegian skiers. After few minutes stop at Vagabond, they kept going south pulling hard their 85g pulkas (self-sufficient for 35 days), headphones on! Not long after, on the other side of the bay, I found new polar bear tracks from a female and a cub...
Jean-Claude Gascard, Damocles coordinator, and his 3 colleagues, Guillaume Massé, Pascaline Bourgain and Michel Jouannic, left yesterday, by snowmobile, with the guide who came from Longyearbyen. Weather has been tricky during their stay on board, and for more than 3 full days we had to stay inside (in good spirits!), it was not possible to do much outside. Pack ice was sinking under the weight of snow, and it was hard to avoid getting stuck in the slush! At least, a good weather window allowed us to set up the oceanographic mooring: since 3 days, MOPS and ADCP are measuring non stop salinity, temperature and current, under the ice in Storfjord, at 9 km east of Vagabond. An Argos beacon is telling us about the instruments' position, which will be recovered around 10th of May.
Coming out of 100 ans d'explorations (pocket book), about the 70 main French exploration expeditions, all over the world, including Vagabond's circumpolar journey.
Pack ice has been taken away during last storm, 18th March. What a feeling to see open water! It is no more possible to access 100m depth, the track made between ice blocks doesn't exist anymore. France, Léonie and I were yesterday at the ice edge, near the very young ice under formation, covered with frost flowers, beautiful. The first scientific team arrived last night. Four "mates" for Léonie! It is cold (-30°C), ice is quickly becoming stronger. In few days, we hope that we will be able to go further on pack ice to set up the heavy and hi-tech instruments. In the mean time, we enjoy gifts, mail, cheese, newspapers... and listen to news from the rest of the world.
By phone with Vagabond during Polar Ocean Days (18-25 March).
It's blowing a lot today, snow storm. The wind generator is turning to safety mode at every gust more than 40 knots (74 km/h). We keep busy inside. Not a weather for a dog to be out, bad luck for ours, which houses are entirely under snow drifts. Eric is a bit worry about the snowmobile track he will have to do again, in a reshaped landscape, to reach the field work site in Storfjord... Léonie, far from that, is enjoying her parents before scientists' arrival (next Monday). Last full moon passed, next one will be visible with permanent daylight... France
"Bump", is telling us Léonie, while the sledge is tipping up! After 8 days of snow, wind, poor visibility and temperatures close to zero, we are discovering again the landscape, and dogs are happy to run again. It is -30°C and pack ice is more welcoming, with all our measuring equipment. Threading our way through hummocks, it is now possible to reach depths about a hundred meters, needed for CTD casts. If the GPS can take us to the same positions than last years, scenery, renewed every winter, has changed a lot! Polar bear and fox tracks, or seal hole, are signs from our neighbours, certainly more relaxed than us when ice thickness is less than 40 cm...