This mission involved a trial wintering aboard the sailing vessel Antarctica as preparation for my “Arctic drift”. The plan here was to drift right across the Arctic Ocean aboard a boat trapped in the sea ice and driven by the Transpolar current running from the Bering Strait towards the east coast of Greenland, via the North Pole.
After sailing around Spitzbergen, Antarctica was immobilised for the winter in a very sheltered bay protected by Van Mijen Fjord, on the western side of the island. The days rapidly grew shorter and the boat became stuck fast in the ice, which soon reached a thickness of 1 metre. As expected, the purpose-designed hull lifted the boat slightly to avoid it being crushed by the ice. We settled down for the three-month long winter’s night. Everyone on board had a clearly-defined role: boat maintenance; plankton samples; measurements and population counts outside; radio contact… In February, when daylight returned, the crew went on ski-hikes across the rugged valleys of ice. In March, the whole crew took part in an oceanographic programme in the nearby fjords. And in May, after being held fast for eight months, the Antarctica finally regained her freedom.
Book : La complainte de l’ours – Ed. JC Lattes
Film : Spitzberg, nuit blanche sur la banquise – by Marc Jampolsky