Arrived On-site

Published on 21.06.2010 - The Great Drift

The four "shipwreck volunteers", who want to let themselves drift on a bit of pack ice, have arrived on-site at Tassilaq, East Greenland. But the conditions are far from ideal.

It will be remembered that already last year, Emmanuel Hussenet - who is this adventure's protagonist - had embarked on an ice floe with two of his friends, Luc Dénoyer and Catherine Méta. But after five weeks, the adventure had come to a halt; they were going around in circles, due to the unfavourable currents. (See our cover).

Hussenet is doing it again this year. Apart from Dénoyer, who is still part of the crew, the expedition leader has chosen two other mates, Anne Quéméré and Gauthier Mesnil-White. The objectives remain the same: to make as many people as possible aware of the premature melting of the Arctic ice-barrier.

But once again, the conditions of the pack ice are not ideal for this innovative adventure. This is what Hussenet wrote on 15 June: "The east wind that has blown all night has driven the ice into the interior of Tassilaq Bay. Result: no boats can leave! The town can only be reached by helicopter. And the weather, for three days now, has been ghastly.

"Gauthier and Luc have benefitted from a lull to leave by kayak and to set up camp on other side of Tassilaq Bay. Since then, there's been wind and rain all the time... They should be back from their trial run tomorrow, whereas Catherine and I are readying the boats that we're going to use for a ten-day reconnaissance expedition, in which two "beginners" are taking part: Marine Lefebvre and Ludovic Lachavanne. They have furthermore just arrived, after a spectacular helicopter flight, in view of gusts of wind of more than 60 kilometres per hour.
It is this ten-day expedition that I would suggest that you follow as of this week (followed by satellite), as a prelude to the Great Drift that will be starting at the end of the month.
Why aren't we setting out on the Great Drift right now? Firstly because we can't allow ourselves any mistakes and before committing to it we have to be perfectly ready – both materially and physically. Then, and especially, because it's not yet the season! We have to be deposited by boat and today, no helmsman would agree to do so. In general, you need to wait until mid-July before venturing into the frozen sectors of the north, but we will be trying to do this at the end of June, which is already pretty early.

"When flying over the Tassilaq sector on the day of our arrival, I said to myself "Ouch!". A lot of multiannual ice, yes. But the sheets are small. Their surfaces have been considerably softened - the permanent rain of these last few days hasn't helped - and they don't seem to be all that thick either. We are really going to have to be deposited way up north in order to find a more serious sheet... A sign of global warming? That's what we will be able to show by comparing the data that we will be collecting this year with the data that we will be bringing back in the course of the following years ..."

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