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in Greenland, the kayaker Eric Chazal bears witness to the irremediable deterioration

Aboard his kayak gliding over the waters of Greenland, Eric Chazal tells us what he feels and observes. While France is facing an early heat wave, the photographs of this guide, originally from Creuse, allow us to realize the effects of climate change as close as possible to the ice cap.

A passionate activist of natural spaces and the preservation of their biodiversity, Eric Chazal is a river kayaking, canyoning and rafting guide. Every year he leaves the gorges of the Creuse, which he knows well, for adventures in the ice of Greenland, which he now also knows well over the expeditions he has been practicing since 1990. Having become a polar kayak guide, he accompanies groups in summer and spring, he joins his Eskimo hunter-fisherman friends to share their daily life.

Eric wonders about the place and impact of man on his environment and wants above all to make his groups aware of the beauty and fragility of the Arctic, the true thermostat of the state of the planet.

We have to look differently at the spaces we use. Immersion in an intact and preserved nature, alongside one of the root peoples of Humanity, very respectful of balances, with a philosophy of life which it is important to immerse oneself in “.

This year again, Eric Chazal left for a 3-week expedition in the ice of Greenland, always with the aim of approaching the mythical Kangilerngata glacier front, roaming and autonomous, between the coast and the ice, in the labyrinth of ‘a majestic concentration of icebergs 80m high for the tallest. The experience gained has sharpened Eric Chazal’s eye, he has a precise observation of the state of these icebergs, he knows how to assess the appropriate distance: neither too far, nor above all too close. A stall is sudden, it is better not to be below it when it occurs. The rule is to stand at a distance of three times its height. The slightest block collapse then generates blocks of thousands of cubic meters of ice sheets which then slow the progress of the kayak. Eric Chazal also knows how to listen. A rumbling glacier speaks… you have to know how to hear the message it sends.

It’s an adventure each time, at the heart of which ” life is reduced to its simplest expression, eating, drinking, sleeping, moving around in safety, sharing » he specifies. Navigation requires slowness and precision “The gestures are methodical, applied, ritualizeds”.

The wind can quickly force you to stop navigation when it comes from the cap. The tundra can be a refuge while waiting for a lull, otherwise it’s the bivouac.

Eric Chazal knows how to adapt and improvise. Sometimes it’s hours of sailing, in the mist, the rain, nonstop. ” the Arctic is a lesson in humility » he underlines. The risk is to find yourself also immobilized by the ice that forms.

With the rise in temperatures in the Arctic, the ice of Greenland is changing, it is weakening, cracking, becoming less predictable, more devious. Sometimes the falls cause tsunamis that are felt as far away as the tundra. Year after year, streams and tundra become dehydrated, he notes. The ice sheet is melting faster than in the past 350 years and is causing sea levels to rise around the world. Scientists say it, the air temperature in the Arctic is rising faster than anywhere else on the planet.

Here is an extract from his travel diary – June 19, 2022.

Saqaq 70° North west coast of Greenland

“A little message from the cold during this heat wave. I am taking advantage of a short connection time to send you these few lines and photos.

Waltz of temperatures and climate change on a planetary scale. A very sad reality whose consequences are more and more perceptible.

The day/night duality, which punctuates the life of Arctic and Polar peoples, has modeled a unique culture in a skilful and fragile mix of tradition and modernity.

While Greenland is preparing to celebrate its national day on June 21 and has settled into permanent daylight after its long polar night, summer is far from a reality.

The temperatures of Ilulissat, tourist capital of Greenland – west coast, flirt with 0 degrees Celsius, while the average temperatures given for this period are closer to 10 degrees. Snow, rain and wind play extra time, without worrying the Greenlanders more than that.

In Saqaq, a small community in the north of Disko Bay (70° north), remnants of snow and pack ice cling to the coast and the banks several meters thick and wide. Facing the port, snow and ice are tinged with brown. They bear witness to the hunting and cutting up of marine mammals in the previous months. Hunting and fishing are a subsistence issue here. The ability of populations of small hunter-fisher communities to overcome the rigors of the Arctic is closely linked to the persistence of the species and their stability.

Proven global warming is disturbing large arctic mammals. Their food and reproduction methods are deeply impacted. A few weeks ago, a polar bear ventured into Torssukatak Fjord, which I have been exploring by kayak for several years. Too close to Qeqertaq, another small Inuit village 20 km away, it had to be demolished in view of its potential danger for the indigenous populations.

The locals are wondering about the reasons that could have motivated such a long migration on the outskirts of summer. Absolutely not wasted, without apparent injury, its proximity to humans is more to be put down to a loss of bearings and an easy search for food. It was while swimming, while crossing the fjord towards Qeqertaq, that she was seen. The scents of the villages, the smells of fish, meat and other consumer products increasingly attract bears.

Arctic life is singularly complicated”.

Eric Chazal.

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