Assessment of the Adventure

Published on 01.08.2010 - The Great Drift

The Robinsons-on-Ice have had to face reality: their idea of letting themselves drift on an ice floe long enough to note the melting of the pack ice with their very own eyes was not entirely achievable. Here, to bring the adventure to an end, is a rapid assessment of their experiment.

In situations of this kind (relative failure of an adventure), it is always preferable to analyse the written sources. As these are honest and perfectly objective, we’ve decided to pass them on to you verbatim, translated nevertheless from the expedition’s French blog:

Wednesday, 28 July (mini-assessment of the expedition)

"The Great Drift we dreamed of ? No way! We had based ourselves on our 2009 observations in order to define the most favourable period for our project, but: in terms of freeze-up, the years go by but don’t resemble each other. Since our arrival, the Greenlandic hunters have been warning us: you can’t get through! The only link with the local villages is by helicopter. The strong spring gales from the North-East have plastered the polar pack ice from the North against the coasts, prohibiting any passage from one fjord to another.

We have left nevertheless, obviously. And we’ve been able only to note the facts: the eternal pack ice has remained too tightly packed for us to be able to cut a way through towards the open sea and to find an ice floe there on which we would be able to ride. Several attempts have brought us back to our starting point, and the ice floes on which we set up home have had the annoying tendency to send us round in circles or to take us back towards the interior of the fjords.

The prolonged absence of the wind that would have unblocked the situation by spacing out  the ice was however not the most inconvenient factor for the proper progress of our project. The quality of the pack ice was deplorable. Far from finding the solid ice floes that had existed in 2009, we have found 2010 to be a truly calamitous year. The eternal pack ice has never been so fractured. Innumerable ice floes but small ones, fragile, sometimes really fragile, already eaten into by the waves. An uncrossable slurry and especially, with rare exceptions, an uninhabitable one.

Ice floes of more than eight years of age were particularly rare; one of them was, furthermore, in the middle of July, our last floating home. Ice floes of five to six years of age, usually more numerous and recognizable by their respectable thickness and their relative regularity, failed to live up to expectation. The ice floes of this age are the soundest for camping on; it was on this category that we had set our hearts last year. This year, they’re not at all the same, unfortunately. We discovered a lovely one; right at the beginning of July, and we joyously installed ourselves on it. But we were surprised by the speed with which it was eaten into by the waves. And its surface area was getting smaller by more than ten centimetres per day. It was however a question of the only ice floe worthy of its category that we would be provided for us to approach. The remainder was a chaos of small-scale ice floes that were only three to four years old.  With the same number of metres, approximately, of thickness. Which is a bit borderline for sleeping peacefully in the middle of the sea...

The speed of the break-up and disappearance of the ice has exceeded all our forecasts, even the most pessimistic. On the last day of our trip, when I hauled myself up on to a large chunk of ice in order to look out to sea, my amazement almost made me giggle. And I shouted to Luc, Anne and Gauthier, who had remained in their kayaks: “There’s no longer anything!!! Nothing, I assure you! We’re lost in the middle of the last debris but 200 metres away there’s the open sea! Everything broken up, disappeared, nothing anymore!!!” We’ve just had a week of heatwave, with temperatures often in excess of 10°C. ..."

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