On the way to Arctic Bay

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1 October 2013

After the scientific station that ended in Lancaster Sound early yesterday evening, Tara resumed her voyage Monday night through Tuesday to Arctic Bay, a Canadian Inuit hamlet. Before this new stopover, the research team today will conduct new immersions in the fjord leading to the village of 700 inhabitants.

The well established anti-cyclone in this area is giving us very pleasant weather for the beginning of October, but the nights are cold. Vigilance is therefore required to avoid being trapped by ice in the coming days as we sail through these fjords.

Despite abundant sunshine, the sampling station in the sumptuous Lancaster Sound started badly. First, some pumps froze overnight and the biologists, Céline Dimier-Hugueney and Julie Poulain thawed them out with hot water before proceeding to pump and filter seawater.

Then, during the pulling in of the Regent*, bad luck continued. The boat lurched and the sailor controlling the winch slipped and could not stop the net in its ascent. With a dull and heavy clank, the cable connecting to the Regent broke. The damage assessment of this incident: loss of the net and the Scanmar.**

On the rear deck, faces looked worried. But as always aboard Tara, positive action took over. This is where we recognize the best teams. In this difficult moment fortunately there was only material loss, and everybody gave moral support to the sailor who was at the winch.

By early morning, the incident was already far in the past, after a very windy night where the main highlight was meeting up with a craggy tabular iceberg. All 15 team members were on deck, and Tara’s sailors assured a safe approach to this freshwater giant.

After Lancaster Sound, Admiralty Inlet Bay enraptures us with its landscape of snowy mountains rising up in the form of tables. To either side of the wheelhouse, they appear like the passing scenes of a film.

This evening we’ll be in Arctic Bay, “the pocket” in Inuktitut, the Inuit language. The name ‘Arctic’ came only after 1872, when a whaler with that name one day docked here. This was long after the first Inuits made their way here from Asia via the Bering Strait which  at that time could be crossed on foot.

Vincent Hilaire

*Regent: large plankton.

**Scanmar: oceanographic depth sensor.