La pression remonte

  • Au fond du fjord Grise

Since last Wednesday, Vagabond is sheltered at the end of the fjord Grise. Tomorrow and after tomorrow, we should have better weather conditions to drop anchor in front of the village, at the mouth of the fjord (thirty kilometres). Air and water temperatures are decreasing, it will be soon time to get our supplies and sail to our winter quarters! In 1999, sea started freezing on 19th September around yacht Northanger. Today, we can feel global warming, but winter is coming anyway.

Before snow would hide everything, we find some planks on the beaches, to build dog houses and a winch stand for instance. All windows are getting their double glazing, the back door joint has just been improved, warmer clothes are out...

Larry Audlaluk

  • Larry et Annie Audlaluk

Wednesday, Larry Audlaluk invited us at home, and drove us to the end of the track, to his best picnic area. On our way back, he was happy to stop with us at the dump to look for things and materials to recycle! Larry arrived in Grise Fiord in 1953, when the government decided to relocate a few families from Northern Quebec. Only his sister and him are left from this tragic time. Larry is putting himself a lot into telling the story of his little community, in Canada and abroad. He is regularly in the press, in books and in documentaries. His wife Annie lent France a special tunic to carry Aurore, Larry left us a copy of Otto Sverdrup's book, "New Land, four years in the Arctic (1898-1902)".

Préparation de l'hivernage

  • Mouillage Grise Fiord

Three ships stopped in Grise Fiord recently: a tanker and a cargo ship, for their annual deliveries of fuel and supplies, and a cruise ship with about a hundred tourists, who could watch an Inuit fashion show in the local gymnasium. A lot of occupations for the 145 inhabitants!

Marty Kuluguqtuq, assistant senior administration officer, is suggesting us to do a presentation of Vagabond for everyone, at the school. When there will be less swell, we will also have to fill up our diesel tanks. Marty is happy with the idea of having his daughter on board Vagabond once in a while, she has the same age than Léonie!

While we wait for a new pump for our generator, and for some scientific equipment, we have to get some more food and munitions, as well as a seal hunting licence, to send a hard drive with all the video rushes we did during the summer...

Jeffrey Qaunaq is leaving four of his dogs to us for the winter, as well as a sledge and a net to catch seals which are their main food. Marly, Bella, Elvis and a puppy with no name yet.

We are planning to be at our winter anchorage early October, before packice. We have been invited to haul Vagabond up onto the village's beach, but the bay we selected so far is at 45km West of Grise Fiord, at the entrance of a beautiful fjord. We give priority to the boat's safety, the scenery, possibilities for scientific work, and access to the village. We'll confirm our winter location in two or three weeks!

In our search for the ideal site, we dropped anchor in Harbour Fiord, below the cross erected by Otto Sverdrup and his companions, when they wintered on board Fram, in 1899-1900. Magnificent place.

Premières neiges

  • Mouillage fjord Grise

At about one hour sailing from Grise Fiord, Vagabond dropped anchor away from the swell that keeps us from going ashore to the village. Summits are drifted with new snow, and the stove has been relighted for the first time yesterday. Before, a chimney sweep's brush was improvised with an old cable found on a beach!

When leaving Bay of Woe, we saw another polar bear, on a rock; he was like waiting for pack ice to form, for easier seal hunting. Front winds and up to six knots contrary current hindered the CTD casts planned in Cardigan Strait, we headed East at almost thirteen knots. First fjord on the left, Walrus Fiord, has the right name: we sailed close to about twenty walruses on the beach, exceptional encounter. But a little further, the small bay we spotted on the map was very shallow and with strong tidal currents: all engine power was needed to avoid being pushed on shoals.

In Hourglass Bay, we visited the hut set up by the crew of yacht Northanger, in 1999. Seven people, including a two and half years old girl, spent the winter here in 1999-2000, a century after Otto Sverdrup's expedition (four winters on board Fram). The place is nice, but quite far from the village (140km). We are in touch with our predecessors, who are sharing experience and advices.

Arctic hares are gambolling on the nearby tundra, many narwhals and seals are going up and down the fjord, it is time to feed as much as possible, before the cold. No more permanent day light. In the middle of the night, half-light is intensifying every day. In less than two months, sun will disappear totally, until February!

Science et exploration dans le détroit de Jones

  • Recuperation bouee derivante

Every Friday, weather permitting, except during polar night, the school is inviting parents to join the children for a picnic or a walk. A great time to get to know Grise Fiord inhabitants better!

Weather forecast are good for three days. Friday evening, Vagabond set sail to the West. The following evening, at the end of Eidsbotn Fiord (Devon Island), we reach the latest known coordinates of the drifting buoy that was deployed north of Ellesmere Island by Christian Haas in April 2010. The buoy is there! After a long trip, it has not been moving for two weeks, it was probably pushed on shore by some big waves. Antennas are damaged, this is why no more position are sent.

Once the buoy is on board, and after few hours of rest and some preparation, we sail to Fram Sound for a CTD section, for Institute of Ocean Sciences. Despite wind and current, the CTD is storing requested data. France is steering the boat to keep the position at each station, I'm winching the CTD down to the seabed and up, while our two young daughters are watching a cartoon! Then, all happy, we find an shelter, the best for weeks, in the little Bay of Woe. Time to explore the region, before choosing our winter anchorage... A polar bear is lying down on the closest beach, as if to watch us better.

Coup de vent

  • France seule a bord pour reprendre mouillage

After five attempts, anchor is holding fine! Last night, Vagabond started drifting, pushed offshore by strong winds. We woke up with a start! For lack of shelter in front of the village, we are exploring Grise Fiord, and looking for a good anchorage without going too far... Later, while I was on land with Léonie and Aurore, anchor slipped once more and Vagabond was moving away again. Fortunately, France was on board to put the boat again at anchor!

Départ et rentrée

  • Depart Twin Otter Grise Fiord

A bright interval, tonight, allowed a Twin Otter from Ken Borek company to operate the flight on the Resolute Bay - Grise Fiord route. We were moved to see our colleagues and friends leaving, after an exciting and productive mission, also thinking of the people who died (including the director of Resolute Bay scientific station) in Saturday's plane accident.

More strong emotions today for Léonie, especially, who took part in the start of the new school year. Umimmak School opened her doors after two months of Summer holidays. First Inuktitut lesson for her, very well welcomed in a nine pupils class (three levels). During that time, Aurore was making a new friend at the day-care (day-nursery)!

After school and day-care, more emotions again when meeting with part of the family in France, by Internet.

Grise Fiord

  • Arrivee a Grise Fiord

Between Devon Island and Ellesmere Island, a dozen of CTD casts are done across Jones Sound (some Arctic Ocean water is going this way to the Atlantic Ocean). In the middle of the strait, Vagabond stops and drifts, while we are repairing the capricious winch! Happily, wind and swell are moderate.

Then, it is at the end of South Cape Fiord that we drop anchor for a rest day before the end of the cruise. Weather is perfectly calm, tenths of narwhals are swimming around. In fascination, we watch and listen to them for a long time: their back are shinning in the sun, their powerful blows are echoing in the fiord.

Christian was dreaming about fishing and about a glacier trip. Fishing attempts are quite short, from the boat, but a nice trip allows everyone to step on Sydkap Glacier, and see two arctic hares, and footprints from polar bears, wolves, foxes and muskox.

Friday morning, sea is flat, ideal for the scientists to pack all the equipment, while sailing, and to give us orders: icemeter, CTD, winch, and part of the weather station are staying on board. We will follow given protocols to do measurements all along the winter.

At the exit of South Cape Fiord, hundreds of Greenland seals, in small groups, are swimming and jumping like dolphins. Spectacular, unforgettable. On our way, we find a little bay well protected which could be fine to overwinter...

At the end of the day, we get a very friendly welcome in Grise Fiord. Entry formalities to Canada are done in French, in the local office of Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and by phone with Iqaluit authorities (Nunavut capital).

Great meeting with Jon et Erik, from the US, they also just arrived in Grise Fiord after 104 days expedition around Ellesmere Island: Ellesmere Island Circumnavigation. We passed them a few days ago, less than four mile from each other, but too much ice to gather.

Mary, Lea and Christian are still with us, because their flight was cancelled yesterday. Airspace is closed around Resolute Bay, where was a dramatic plane crash.

Avec une douzaine d'ours en DGV

  • Ours et tariere

High speed drift: Vagabond just covered over 100km at 2km/h average speed (up to more than 3km/h!), trapped in multiyear ice coming from the Arctic Ocean, all carried away by winds and currents. It was more opportunities for ice thickness data and for new ice cores (chlorophyll, pH and salinity measures). Many polar bears are enjoying these thick and dense ice concentrations to hunt. One of them, intrigued, came and knock at the kitchen window! Our noisy reactions got the better of his curiosity.

So, without any detour and without using the engines for two days, we left Smith Sound and entered Jones Sound, where we hope to recover a drifting buoy (Ice Mass Balance), deployed by Christian in April 2010 in Lincoln Sea, 800km further north. For now, we are finishing CTD sections in Lady Ann Strait, south of Coburg Island, and in front of magnificent Belcher Glacier.

Before leaving Smith Sound, we visited five young biologists working at Alexandra Fiord station for the summer. It was build in 1954 by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not far from there, we were happy to watch (at least!) a small group of walruses.