I left the little hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk last Thursday under sunny skies and a light breeze. The conditions were perfect for me to get back on my way and I took advantage of them to put some nautical miles behind me. It was both exciting and strange to sail along the Tuktoyaktuk peninsula that I had already kayaked down in 2014 and 2015. Keeping a safe distance from the coast to avoid the treacherous sandbanks that can sneak up on you, I looked through binoculars for hours and hours at the places where I had already made stopovers in the past. I couldn’t help feeling a bit nostalgic in front of Point Atkinson. In 2015, because of bad weather, my teammate Raphaël Domjan and I had to spend quite a bit of time in a hunting cabin there. During those never-ending days, I had listened attentively to Raphaël when he related his Planet Solar expedition and it was then that I started to think about embarking on a solar-powered polar voyage.
I of course had not been back to this cabin since, but while I was looking at it as it disappeared over the horizon, I realised just how much it was more than a mere refuge that had sheltered us during those endless days and nights. The story of this expedition started to take shape within those four walls, which is quite something when you think about it! Despite my desire to stop there, I decided to keep going. Three years ago, Raphaël and I had to pick a path through the sandbanks and mudflats—I didn’t particularly want to relive the experience. So I continued on my way as the batteries were still in good shape.
The next day, after a quick stopover to eat and sleep a bit, I thought the weather was going to be great and that I would be able to travel a few more miles. With a smile on my face and without a care in the world, I set off and got back underway… Blocks of ice appeared but I was able to slalom between them without thinking too much about it. Right up to the moment when I suddenly realised that they had me circled. Out of the blue, without me even realising it, Icade was being squeezed by the ice. Its inescapable trap had snapped shut. We were prisoners.
I fought, cursed and moved about for hours. I headed east—to find myself in front of a wall of ice. I headed west. The same story! I tried heading a little north. It was no better. And out of desperation, a little to the south… Nothing worked. Icade and I are blocked in an immense labyrinth of ice where lanes of water open and close as they see fit. All is calm around us. I can only hear the muffled sound of droplets, a sign that the ice is melting. But at this pace, when will we be freed?
And now another kind of waiting begins, a kind I hadn’t prepared for… So, to make the best of the situation, I took out the drone to capture some amazing images of these immense ice fields. At least something good has come out of it.
Stay tuned for the next episode…