"Imaqa aqagu": maybe, tomorrow.

MXP 2018

"Imaqa aqagu" in Inuit language means "Maybe, tomorrow". An expression well engraved in the spirit of the two French explorers, back in May from their project Sea-Ice Greenland. The expedition, a traveling study about climate change on the northwest coast of Greenland, was immediately a great adventure on the verge of improvisation.

Departure

March 4th

Arrival

May 2nd

Duration

2 months

In an environment such as Greenland, where geographical and climatic conditions are so extreme, you have to be flexible and agile to adapt your project to weather hazards. The game is made even more complex because of climate change, which is violently affecting these regions of the world. But without improvisation, could we really talk about adventure?

Let's start from the beginning: after almost three years of development and preparation, with the decisive support of the MXP exchange, Guilhem and Guillaume left for Greenland on March 4th.

After having landed at Upernavik (1000 inhabitants), the extreme conditions of the climate and those of the logistics appear immediately in all their complexity: the two pulkas, with all the material necessary for the expedition, are stuck at Ilulissat, 400 km south. Guillaume and Guilhem adapt to the circumstances, decide to wait a few days and take the opportunity to take images and sounds, to establish a first contact with people, to do interviews and observe the daily life of fishermen and hunters, as well as scenes of seal, walrus and narwhal hunting. But after two weeks of waiting and hope, frustration is too much and both decide to leave to retrieve the pulkas and try a different route.

"The one-way trip and the on-site arrival was a unique moment, the culmination of years of work. To finally see the project materialized despite many difficulties, was a great satisfaction. We could finally set foot in Greenland. "

Guilhem

FIRST OF ALL, THE UNPREDICTABLE

Once at Ilulissat on March 21st, Guilhem and Guillaume leave for the north with the objective to reach the peninsula of Nussuaq and possibly the Uummannaq fjord. But once again, the two adventurers will have to compose along the way with a major problem: the absence of ice pack requires a passage overland, on a terrain too rugged for the sleds loaded 90 to 100 kg. Add frostbites after continuous exposure to temperatures between -30 ° and -40 °. The accumulation of hardships will put an end to this attempt and force them to retreat two days after departure.

On the one hand, at an educational level, the two explorers were able to achieve their initial goal of creating a link between Belgian, French and Greenlandic children. Before the trip, a program was set up with primary classes in France and Belgium to transmit books, photos, drawings or videos to their counterparts in Greenland. The adverse weather conditions allowed Guilhem and Guillaume to spend time in the schools of Oqaatsut, Aappilattoq, Inarsuit and Kullorsuaq communities and to experience moments of rich exchange.
The third objective was scientific: to dive as deeply as possible into the life of the population, by interviewing hunters and fishermen from various Inuit communities, in order to learn more about current hunting and fishing practices, as well as on climate change effects on Arctic marine ecosystems. The information gathered will enrich a study on the human sciences conducted by the Takuvik laboratory (CNRS International Joint Research Unit - Laval University, Quebec Canada) in Baffin Bay.

If the sporting and exploratory goal of crossing the pack ice in ski and pulkas between Upernavik and Kullorsuaq could not be fully completed, it doesn’t mean that the project was a failure.

AT LAST, ADVENTURE

After the first two weeks of waiting at Upernavik, the two adventurers decide to proceed separately from Ilulissat: Guillaume leaves alone to the north, crossing the ice pack at the limit:

"But how to get out of this trap? Cannot go by boat, there is too much ice, but this ice is unable to carry a sled or a skier ... It remains the helicopter, but there is no free place before 1 month! I cannot stay stuck here for 1 month ... so I have to try to get back to the other side. The locals tell me that I have a small chance if I try within 24 hours. After that it will be too late.
So that's a horrible 10 km crossing, skiing on an ice that breaks down. If at first the fear is intense, I still manage to concentrate and I try to evolve in the safest way, with the dry suit, and detached from my pulkas so that they do not lead me in the water if they sink. I put my leg in the water up to the knees several times, and get my pulka in a hole. The risk is to be directly in the water. I test the ground every meter.
"

In these moments, the universe is restricted to the few meters that surround me. Nothing else matters. Finding where to go for the next 10 meters is everything. Until the end I find a way. 

Guillaume

Meanwhile, Guilhem stops a few weeks in the village of Oqaatsut, where he discovers the typical life of a community in Greenland, marked by arrival and departure of some sleds and fishing boats that animate the small village. It is not easy to integrate into the community, very few people speak English. However, the local teacher will facilitate the presentation of the project and the exchange with Oqaatsut students and hunters. The moments of sharing with the inhabitants will be the strongest and most intense moments of the expedition:

"To be with two hunters, far away on the ice floe north of the last village, in a magical setting of gigantic icebergs, and the uninhabited vastness of Melville Bay. After "proving myself" and showing that I could manage on my own in the cold, they agreed that I accompany them. Make rifle settings with them, discuss the route by observing the ice, drink and eat with them in the tent ... Just for these moments, I knew that all the difficulties overcome were worth it! "

Just for these moments, I knew that all the difficulties overcome were worth it! 

Guillaume

Gallery

THE IMPORTANCE OF EQUIPMENT

In the type of extreme environment, they had to face, the technical equipment is of great importance, from the tent to the batteries, through clothing, to be able to afford the best chances of success of the expedition.

The Arctic environment in winter is by definition difficult or extreme. In this coastal environment the temperatures may not be as low as in more continental areas, but the wind and humidity are nonetheless stingy. A modest -25 ° C can quickly drop the feeling under -30 ° C. It was therefore necessary that the material carried is not only warm but also light and resistant. It is a good compromise that we found with the mountaineering equipment provided by the different partners. Equipment designed for high altitudes is well suited for this type of expedition.” (Guilhem)

I was constantly exposed to the cold. By having to fight most of the time throughout the day, it was essential to have his cocoon for rest: Nemo tent and down, Millet down pants, and the Optimus warmer were the main elements of the camp and of the experience for me. It's not just for a few hours or a few days, but it's over time and weeks that the difference is made. You have to be able to rest well, both physically and mentally, to be able to fully enjoy the days, and to be able to make the right decisions in critical moments. The Goal Zero battery made it possible to better manage the power supply for cameras and cameras. Even at -30 ° C, it was stable and robust, and kept the load without problems. " (Guillaume)

High-performance equipment, physical and mental preparation, but also the desire to get involved: these are the foundations of adventure, which for Guillaume and Guilhem means thinking outside the box to achieve a project, whatever it may be:

"For me adventure is going beyond our comfort zone and reaching new limits. Adventure is a way of questioning me, of accepting the fact that I am unable to control everything, to expose myself to danger and, more generally, to the unexpected. "(Guilhem)

Going on an adventure gives rise to the possibility of staying with oneself and getting to know each other better in depth: to see how much we manage our fear, to see if we are able to make decisions in extreme circumstances. But it is mainly a journey to discover different territories, where many things change, from language to culture, habits to the fundamental concept of space-time. This experience shows that despite all the differences and difficulties to overcome in this unusual environment, it is possible to integrate, to discover and specially to share.

For me adventure is going beyond our comfort zone and reaching new limits

Guilhem

The Team

Guillaume Bertocchi
38, photographer and professor of mathematics, physics and computer science in high school in Brussels
Guilhem Pouxviel
24 years old, agricultural engineer, living in Toulouse