Ocean Imaging Sail West GreenlandJune 11 2017
We're setting out from Kangerlussauq, Greenland, for a two week journey North via Disko Bay aboard the sailing boat 'Breskell'. We hope to document life in Greenland, and collect new scientific observations of the marine life on Greenland's West Coast. Longer expedition video, coming soon!
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First dive in the Arctic
Today Kingsley and Stefan made their first scuba dive in the Arctic. The site was a shallow rocky reef around 30 miles North of Sisimuit. Since there is a lot of tidal movement in the area, they waited for the peak of high tide and braved the 25 knot winds in the boat’s small tender and one at a time made it to a small island where they entered the 6 degree water.
The site was spectacular. Vibrant, healthy fields of seaweed. Aside from a few curious Greenlandic Cod, fish life was limited but at a closer look within the rocky reef, loads of small shellfish filtered the nutrient rich water and small macro life hid in the gaps of the reef. Some of the most stunning sights of this dive were the mesmerising movements of translucent jellyfish pulsating in the current.
Kiki too jumped in for a ten minute dip in the chilly water. With mask and snorkel (no wetsuit) Kiki free dived down to experience first hand an Arctic temperate reef.
After returning to the boat, everyone was very happy that all went smoothly. Now that the equipment has been successfully tested we are excited to continue on further North towards Disco Bay.
Here are a few photos from the dive.
The longest fjord in Greenland
After a few days of drone training and a long cycle to film the Greenland Ice Cap at Russel's Glacier, we were ready to meet Breskell and start our sail North.
We met Edgar, Vari, Olivier and Malik at the harbour at Kangerlussuaq, and found an anchorage for the night. The next day we did a test sail, practiced launching the drone from the deck of Breskell, and met the last member of our crew, Dominik (a film-maker from the UK - check out his work here ). Finally we were set to go.
What came next was the longest fjord in Greenland, an endlessly beautiful sail to the open sea. I'm not going to write too much about it, except to say that we estimated the peaks to be from 600-1000m in elevation, punctuated by a series of glaciers spilling down the valleys from the ice cap above. Hopefully the images will speak for themselves.
The Greenland Ice Cap
Our first impressions of Greenland were far from what we anticipated. While waiting for Breskell to make it to the Kangerlussuaq harbour, Kiki, Kingsley and I rented some mountain bikes and took the 50km+ round trip on hilly gravel road to the Greenland Ice cap. While the ride was challenging, the sights of this massive chunk of ice was very rewarding and made the perfect location to get some flight practice in with our new drone, the splashpro 3.
Kiki and Stefan have landed in Iceland. Today they will be flying for the first time a new waterproof drone from Swellpro.... The splash pro 3 auto. Kiki will be jumping back into freezing cold water and testing out some diving equipment. They also have some new exciting spots to explore around the stunning Snaefellsnes peninsula. More updates to come soon.
Citizen Sailing Oceanography with Indigo V
In planning this expedition we wanted to make sure that we made the most of the opportunity - including being open to collecting and sharing scientific data where we could.
With this in mind, we just received permits from the Greenland Dept. of Natural Resources to collect genetic material from seawater whilst we're sailing the Greenland coast! Indigo V Expeditions are sequencing samples of the global ocean microbiome - but they don't have any samples from Greenland yet. Most of the data used in Indigo V's Ocean Microbiome Environmental Global Assessment (OMEGA) is collected by 'citizen scientists' on cruising yachts crossing the worlds oceans - like Vari and our 9th Wave friends - and all the data is made open to the public. It truly is a project by the people, for the people (and the oceans). We're excited to be able to contribute to their work.
I'll write some more about this soon - including how and why this information is so valuable - and show you the gear that Federico and Rachelle from Indigo V sent us to sample with. For now though, I've got to work out how to fit it all in my over-stuffed dive bag!
Image: Diatoms seen through a microscope, 1983. Specimens were living between crystals of annual sea ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Prof. Gordon T. Taylor, Stony Brook University (NOAA)
I now realise you need to be careful what you wish for as a few days after I wrote the previous blog complaining we had no wind, we got wind and plenty of it. Also known as a storm!!
I can safely say I have now seen the boat rock in every angle possible!! It was amazing to sit in the cockpit watching the waves lap up over the boat as we tilted side to side and thankfully I now know that I don't suffer from sea sickness!!
The marine life has been a highlight, on our last evening before docking in St Johns, we were only an hour or so from the port and we sat down to have dinner, whilst one of us took turns to steer and manage the boat. We all stopped stunned!! We could see 4 whales very close to us, so close that Edgar had to manoeuvre the boat very quickly to avoid them. But they out smarted us and dived down below our boat and appeared up behind us.
I then took over the steering, it was difficult to keep the boat aligned with the narrow entrance to the port and I was concentrating hard. With the Captain directing me. Then we noticed two whales across the entrance!!! As we got closer they just elegantly moved to the side. They were so close we could almost touch them!! It was such an amazing site!! And I could now breathe again knowing I hadn't hit them and we safely docked at the port!!
This half of the journey has been amazing! And challenging mainly due to weather and elements. And we have became a stronger closer team. We have now re fuelled, re stocked, re charged out batteries.
We leave in the next half an hour and continue our journey to Greenland. Where I know we will encounter more amazing scenery and have more stories.
I look forward to meeting Ocean Imaging and getting involved with their projects. And updating you on our arrival.
Unfortunately I don't have footage of the whales but I have video of the dolphins who wanted to play with us and were following our boat, but can't download it. Hopefully I will be able to do it at a later date. I have attached a few pictures instead.
Hi, I'm Vari - expedition leader with Ninth Wave Global.
Firstly it might help if I tell you a little bit about us: We are a non profit organisation who visit remote villages and places off the beaten track and engage with individuals and families in various communities. This can be through various means, art, music, play, getting involved with cooking, and also learning about their culture and what matters to them and their community. Some of the places we journey to are; the Usumacinta River Mexico, Amazon River Peru, Hudson River, and Guatemala. We have a passion for the environment and nature. Most of the time we enjoy exploring the areas in as natural a way as possible this is normally by traditional wooden canoes and boats depending where in the world we are!
During our expedition in Greenland we have Ocean Imaging joining us for a few weeks. Whom have similar interests and passions as us, and it will be interesting to have their knowledge in scientific research, and explore the marine life and climate change in more depth.
So where at we? What have we been upto so far?... At present myself and the group are making our way to Greenland from Heathsville, Virginia on Breskell an amazing hand crafted sail boat, as Kingsley has informed you in the blogs above. When we set sail it was great to get onto the open water. Shortly afterwards we had to shelter in Deltiville due to a passing storm.
There is always a positive in every negative, as this enabled us to visit an amazing family run farm Sullivans Ponds Farm where we helped feed the goats and enjoyed a lovely dinner with the family and their home grown produce.
One thing I took for granted that we would get whilst at sea was wind! And on a sail boat it is a vital ingredient! For us the wind has been lacking! Our Captain refers to it as the storm of calm! Therefore the journey is taking us a bit longer than previously expected, but we get to enjoy amazing sunsets in calm seas, or as our French Captin Olivier says, the water is petole meaning flat/calm sea like a mirror. It also gives us more time to learn sailing vocab and practice our knots!
We have been fortunate to have had visits from many dolphins, some even putting a display on for us following our boat. we have also seen Orca's, and other types of whales, we are also sure we saw two sharks!
The sail has involved night watches and navigation, which during the night we have done 2hrs stints on and off.
The sailing part of this expedition is more a personal journey and group challenge and also enables us to find our sea legs!
Next stop is New Foundland hopefully in about 4-5 days weather/wind dependant! Where I will hopefully be able to post this and update you about the beauty of the place and our exploits there before we continuing on to Greenland. (Written on 20/07/17)
Day 10 of the sail North.
After 10 days on the track, Olivier has sent through the message 'tout va super bien' - roughly equivalent to 'so far, so good'. It seems like the journey East and North is going very smoothly.
After our last post, Breskell headed North, stopping in at Nantucket (30mi/50km offshore from Cape Cod) perhaps to collect a few supplies. They're making good speed, now past Nova Scotia heading straight for Newfoundland.
Straight as an arrow!
When we spoke over Skype, Breskell skipper Olivier was pretty clear. He said (something like) "I'm planning to take the shortest route possible - straight across to Newfoundland, then up the coast to the shortest point from which to make the crossing to Greenland."
Well, Olivier certainly seems to be sticking to the plan - here's a screengrab of SpotTracker updates from Olivier and the crew on SV Breskell as they've headed more or less East-North-East from Virginia on their course for the past 4 days. It gives you some idea of the direct route they're taking, the good speed with which they're travelling, and (on the main map) how far they have yet to go.
For now the winds look to be behind them - the best place for it - and not too strong. Personally I'm a bit jealous I'm not there watching the big reaching sails do their work, but we're only a few short weeks away from meeting them in Kangerlussuaq.
Sailors are superstitious folk so we'll do our best not to influence any of that - but if you're interested in checking out the weather forecasts, head here: http://www.weather-forecast.com/maps/Newfoundland?over=pressurearrows&symbols=cities.forecast.dots&type=wind
And you might like this cool but not so 'current' ;) map of water movement in the area here (it's updated every 5 days): https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/ocean/surface/currents/orthographic=-59.35,41.55,2301
Breskell hits the water in Virginia
Another quick update from our co-explorers in Virginia!
Breskell has hit the water after about 3 years on the hardstand, being struck by lightning, and a couple of weeks of full on work from the team.
They've given her a big cleanout, repaired the electronics, a fresh coat of paint/antifoul, and are now blowing out the cobwebs in preparation for setting sail from Virginia on Wednesday (12th of July)! The plan is to head north hugging the coast, pass Newfoundland, then cross directly to Greenland before August comes around.
There won't be much mobile signal whilst they're crossing, but we'll do our best to keep you updated when we can.
Update on the vessel we'll be meeting in Greenland:
The idea for this expedition came out of an invitation from Ninth Wave to join them aboard the Yacht 'Breskell' owned, built and skippered by Olivier Huin (https://www.nwswb.edu/instructors/olivier-huin-2/). You can read more about his journey to transport Breskell through the North-West Passage to the West-coast of the US - and help make it happen - here: https://www.gofundme.com/breskell-yahoo-com
You'll read that the boat was struck by lightning in 2015! The lightning strike fried some of the important electronics, so Olivier and some of the crew are now in Virginia, USA busily working on repairs and preparing Breskell for the water after a few years on the hardstand. Olivier and Vari sent through these early photos - with more to come soon.
Ocean Imaging are a group of marine scientists, videographers, and enthusiasts, who work together to communicate marine science and environmental stories. We aim to work with researchers and community groups who might not otherwise have the expertise or resources to get their message out to the world. At this stage this is a 'passion project' for us, but we're trying to build something self-sustaining, and would love you to be a part of it.
We have been offered a unique opportunity to join a sailing boat in Greenland for two weeks this August with a team from Ninth Wave Global. Together we have an open plan to sail Northwards from Kangerlussuaq via Disko Bay, returning on a similar route.
Along the way we will observe and collect stories about the unique environment, local communities, and researchers working here. Greenland is a place of rapid change - social, environmental, and economic - and with change come trade-offs: gains and losses balance out in the end. We look forward to exploring and better-understanding some of the issues in Greenland from the perspective of those who live, work and conduct research there.