Expedition Around North America
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Leg 4 :
Ilulissat (greenland) - Pond Inlet (Nunavut)
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Leg 4
Ilulissat (Greenland) - Pond Inlet (Nunavut)
(July 24- August 3, 2008 )

August 3, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Pond Inlet (Nunavut - Canada)

23h30 local time

It was a short leg today. It's only 10 NM between Albert Harbor and Pond Inlet. We're arriving in front of the village at the same time as the coast guard ship "Henry Larsen". Pond Inlet is not a real anchorage. We have to be ready anytime to leave if the wind starts to blow from the open direction. We cast anchor next to the beach, everything is quiet. Small waves break on the sand. We go on shore to visit the Canadian Mounted Police and start to clear in. We receive a very warm welcome but papers will wait until Tuesday because tomorrow is a civic day and they have to refer to administrations which are close till then. We can go every where in the meantime of course.

The crew from Ilulissat to Pond Inlet was exclusively French.

On top, from left to right :Laurent Ceresoli, Gabriel Pitras, Emilie Guegan, Patrick Boidin, Daniel Desage, Dominique Dufayard, Delphine Maratier.

Down below, from left to right : Pierre Vanloot, Olivier Pitras.

Crew Ilulissat - Pond Inlet - Patrick Boidin

Crew Ilulissat - Pond Inlet
Photo Patrick Boidin
(Click to enlarge)
August 2, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Albert Harbor (72°45'8N - 077°29'4W)

23h20 local time

We had a comfortable night and a good rest. The lack of sleep from the last leg is behind now. The anchorage is absolutely calm. The sky is clear. The conditions are perfect to go on shore and collect samples. We find in the south of the bay a sandy beach. On shore, plants and arctic flowers are numerous. We walk along side a deep canyon. The landscape is wild but not rough under this beautiful sunshine. Further up, gentle slopes, give us an access to the stream.
The water is cold (4.3°C) but the idea of a good bath convinces half of us to go for it. Afterward, samples of water are taken the in swim suits. It's an unusual view of the Arctic but not an illustration of global warming. Back to the boat, a fresh breeze blows and patches of fog are invading the anchorage, it's getting late, we decide to stay an extra night here. Tomorrow we set sail for Pond Inlet.

Water measurment - Daniel Desage

Anchorage in Pond Inlet
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
August 1st, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 4)
Albert Harbor (72°45'8N - 077°29'4W)

23h15 local time

We have a magic light under the midnight sun. Couple of icebergs are drifting gently on the calm sea. At 5 AM, we can see the first growlers very scattered at the entrance of the channel between Byllot Island and Baffin Island. There, we stop for a special event. An eclipse of the sun should start very soon. This is one which is visible only from the Arctic regions. It starts, we can see the moon entering the circle of the sun but after 15 minutes stripes of clouds cut off the show. What a pity, this was fascinating. We're waiting a bit more and keep sailing. A funny coincidence is that the sound in front of Pond Inlet is the "Eclipse sound". At 2 PM, the anchor is dropped off at Albert Harbor between Beloeil Island and Baffin Island. We're 10 NM away from Pond Inlet. We change our time onboard to match with the local time at UTC - 4. We're in front of the door for the North West passage.

Sun eclipse - Gabriel Pitras

Sun eclipse
Photo Gabriel Pitras
(Click to enlarge)
July 31, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
73°01'N - 74°53'W
23h55 local time

The fog is steady. We adjust our speed to an average of 6 knots because small rounded shaped icebergs are difficult target and give only a poor echo. At 8h00, visibility clears up for a while, just the time to check that the concentration of icebergs is not so dense. We only have 7 of them around. In the afternoon, we are back to an amazing visibility. We discover Baffin Island at 65 NM away. We can see snowy summits, glaciers, steep slopes with details. The coast in sight drives us to discussion about the North-West passage.
The ambiance onboard is light, optimistic and happy. The wind falls and comes back opposite way, very light but enough to go under sail. In the distance, we can see the entrance of Lancaster Sound, our entrance to the passage.

open water- Delphine Martier

Arrival in Nunavut (Canada)
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
July 30, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
74°25'N - 069°13'W
23h15 local time

The clear sky didn't last for long. It's foggy again, even more dense than the first time. The wind is blowing hard. We're guessing about the drift of the pack ice for these past 24 hours. We sail further north than the initial plan which is quite normal with this south wind. At 8 AM, we're at only 42 NM from Cape York in the west of Melville Bay. Our horizon is a very short line of sight, drifting ice one hundred meters away, everything is grey. A cold slush falls on deck. In the end of the morning, we're by 75°12'N. This latitude will be our northernmost point of the whole expedition. We decide to attempt a passage towards the south west. Every time we find a dense pack ice, we push further west but more or less we can follow our planed route. The chart indicates an open area in between two regions of ice. It takes us four hours to reach it and relax a bit before the next one. We're tired.
The navigation in such conditions requires a permanent concentration. Some "doors" are very narrow. It's 10h30 PM when we clear the last pieces of pack. We put
more sail to increase slightly our speed. We're still in the fog but free, "en route" to Pond Inlet.

open water- Delphine Martier

Open water, sun again
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
July 29, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
74°40'N - 063°06'W
23h00 local time

We're approaching a zone where the pack ice is not so dense. We should manage it and sail westward finally. A big refraction gives the impression of a wall of ice. We have to enter it from the windward side, searching for a door. While inside, the waves calm down yet a dense fog cuts off our visibility. It's not very comfortable. We can read a big tension on crewmembers’ faces.
As the hours go by, the situation becomes better, floes are more scattered and doors widen. Suddently, the sky clears up and our greyish world becomes a symphony of colors. We enjoy being in the open water again ready for the next obstruction.

Refraction sur la banquise- Delphine Martier

Refraction on the ice floe
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
July 28, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
73°10'N - 60°50'W
23h55 local time

Around noon, the fog clears up. The density of icebergs gets bigger while we're approaching the Melville Bay. The sky is completely blue, the wind becomes favorable. A light breeze gives us a good speed on the route. Watching for ice is a pleasure now. Faces are relaxed again. With warm clothes, the crewmembers are able to concentrate on watching for icebergs.
In the evening, the wind falls but we keep a good speed. A young ringed seal pays us a visit, swimming around the boat, looking to us with his head up. This polar universe becomes already familiar to us. We give comments for each iceberg we meet, all of them different and majestic.

Jeune phoque annelé /Young ringed seal- Photo Pierre Vanloot

Young Ringed seal
Photo Pierre Vanloot
(Click to enlarge)
July 27, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
71°32'N - 058°40'W
23h55 local time

While off shore, the wind is blowing from the north. We keep going with this tacking business. In the middle of the day, the fog arrives. We're sailing 1/4 NM from icebergs without a single glimpse of it. Sometimes the visibility is better for a while, then we can see briefly the ghosty shape of the iceberg who disappears right away (picture of the day,
iceberg on port side). Watching for ice is a permanent task now. Small ice does not give any echo on the radar.
On deck it's wet and cold. We have for the first time since our departure the feeling to penetrate the far north. We keep sailing slowly because of the ice and poor visibility.

Look after iceberg in the mist-Delphine Maratier

Look after iceberg in the mist
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
July 26, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
70°37'N - 055°30'W
23h55 local time

5 AM, we're sailing out of the fjord Torssukatak toward the Vaigat Strait. The ice is more open here, it's almost ice free excepted scattered icebergs and growlers. Mountains on each side of the strait are 1400 meters high. Summits are very eroded and steep with a crown of clouds around. In the far west, stripes of fog are coming in the passage and crawl at the surface of water next to the coast. The middle of the strait stays sunny.
The breeze is against us, we sail slowly. The exit is 70 NM away. At the end of the day, we're in front of Hareoe island the last piece of land before the the offshore .

The strait of Vaigat -Delphine Maratier

The strait of Vaigat
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
July 25, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
69°56'N - 051°04'W
23h55 local time

We take the advantage of our shelter for collecting samples of sediments and sea water. It's a long process because Pierre wants a whole profile of the bay in salinity, conductivity and dissolved oxygen. Emilie collects from her side, arthropods from a earth sample and put them in ethanol for conservation.
In the beginning of the afternoon, we set sail to go to the cabin of Paul Emile Victor. We don't go on shore there but further north, next to the glacier. The calving icebergs create big waves which break forcefully on the beach. Then, we keep going, the ice is dense yet brittle. Slowly we manage to find our route through this icy uncharted zone toward the strait between Disko island and Greenland.

Arrival of the last members crew - Delphine Maratier

Careful navigation in the brash
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
July 24, 2008 (Onboard time = UTC - 2)
Port Victor (69°45' N - 050°22' W)
23h45 local time

Our next stop will be Pond Inlet where there is no pontoon. Then we fill up the drums we have onboard for that purpose. From now, it will be a hard job to carry water and diesel onboard. It's 2 PM when we leave from Ilulissat.
The weather is calm, the bay is filled with icebergs. Before to set sail to Nunavut we have decided to make a call at "Port Victor". It's the place where the French explorer "Paul Emile Victor" had decided to set his base camp for the crossing of Greenland. The zone is uncharted, we sail slowly and carefully. The ice is everywhere but clear enough. 23h00, the anchor is dropped behind the spit which protects us from the waves from the calving glaciers.

Arrival of the last members crew

Last preparation before the departure
Photo Delphine Maratier
(Click to enlarge)
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