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Home → July, 2014

Monthly Archives: July 2014 − News & Stories


The road was a bit bum­py last night. Well, the­se things hap­pen.

The­re is so much on the­se small islands in Ekm­anfjord. Admit­ted­ly, I tend to men­ti­on a few words about geo­lo­gy more or less every day, and sud­den­ly, it is all the­re around you. And the tun­dra is the finest any­whe­re in Spits­ber­gen. Real­ly! The result of thou­sands of years wit­hout dis­tur­ban­ce. An ama­zing car­pet with an end­less ran­ge of colours. Lichens. Mos­ses. A sea of Tuf­ted saxif­ra­ge. Litt­le peat towers that took thou­sands of years to grow one foot high. And so on.

And a Red-necked phalar­ope for tho­se who know to app­re­cia­te it.

In Skans­buk­ta, we could nice­ly obser­ve the dif­fe­rent ways to app­re­cia­te Spits­ber­gen. While we were craw­ling around on shore for almost two hours (not all of us mana­ged that long), Lan­gøy­sund, on a day trip from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, made a cir­cle in the bay at 8 knots and left again. End of sto­ry.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Now we hope that the polar bear that is han­ging around in Pyra­mi­den does not enter the ship while we are along­side tonight.

See you tomor­row.


Some days fall into shape by them­sel­ves, start­ing a bit vague in the mor­ning (or the day befo­re, when I am deve­lo­ping ide­as) and then beco­ming ama­zing days which have their own dyna­mics. Some­ti­mes, things just hap­pen.

I had to con­sider other ships and mixed wea­ther, so I had been thin­king for quite a while about dif­fe­rent opti­ons for the mor­ning, befo­re Mid­ter­huk­ham­na crossed my mind. And it tur­ned out to be the ide­al choice, even wit­hout Grey phalar­opes. Other than that – pure plea­su­re in one of Spitsbergen’s most fri­end­ly are­as.

What was sup­po­sed to be a hike tur­ned out to be the trip’s shor­test landing later. It was all the fault of this lazy polar bear that was slee­ping behind some stones. It was only later that we found out that it was actual­ly a good thing: it saved us from a rai­ny after­noon. Ins­tead, we went to Akseløya, whe­re we enjoy­ed suns­hi­ne for most of the late after­noon, apart from a few rain­drops. Gre­at, warm evening light on the nor­t­hern slo­pes of Mid­ter­huk­fjel­let with its ama­zing folds. This moun­tain is real­ly uni­que among­st all moun­ta­ins in this world. The same holds true for the island.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Dozens of Grey phalar­opes, and it felt like a bil­li­on of Arc­tic terns who didn’t like us at all, for what reason one might only guess. A pair of Arc­tic sku­as, dark morph, both of them. What else? As if all this wasn’t quite enough alre­a­dy. A shame only that the last days star­ted to have an effect on many; not ever­y­bo­dy had enough ener­gy left for this landing.

Polar bear freed from nylon noo­se

A polar bear being obser­ved some weeks ago in Nor­t­hern Spits­ber­gen with a thin nylon rope around its neck was now loca­ted and freed from the noo­se by mem­bers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. The case illus­tra­tes the dan­ger for arc­tic wild­life occur­ring by the incre­asing amount of pla­s­tic was­te floa­ting in the sea and being washed ashore.

It was in the end of June as the polar bear was seen and pho­to­gra­phed for the first time in Wood­fjord by mem­bers of a boat trip on the »Arc­ti­ca II«. The sail­ors infor­med the Sys­sel­mann, who star­ted to look out for the bear and asked for report in case of anyo­ne see­ing it. Pre­su­ma­b­ly the thin rope around the animal’s neck ori­gi­nal­ly was part of a trawl net. It was tied to a solid noo­se and the loo­se end hang about one meter to the ground. For­t­u­na­te­ly the noo­se was not too tight so that the bear was not direct­ly hurt or han­di­cap­ped in breathing. The Sysselmann´s experts saw the grea­test dan­ger for the polar bear in taking much food in a short peri­od of time, when for exam­p­le fin­ding a cada­ver or hun­ting a seal. In this case it could gain weight quick­ly and the noo­se would get tigh­ter and strang­le the bear’s neck and cut into the skin.

The chan­ce to find a sin­gle indi­vi­du­al in such a lar­ge, deser­ted area usual­ly is very low. So it was a lucky inci­dent as on 22nd of July the Sys­sel­mann got the report of the bear being seen clo­se to the trap­per sta­ti­on on Aus­t­fj­ord­nes in inner Wij­defjord. On the same day mem­bers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te arri­ved the­re with a heli­c­op­ter. They could find the bear and anes­the­ti­ze it. After remo­ving the noo­se and exami­ning the bear, the rese­ar­chers made sure that the ani­mal woke up and star­ted moving again.

The polar bear was lucky being found and being a polar bear. Such an exten­si­ve ope­ra­ti­on would not have been star­ted for a reinde­er or for a sin­gle bird. Espe­ci­al­ly some sorts of birds face ano­ther thread from the pla­s­tic was­te: They swal­low small pla­s­tic pie­ces which will not be digested and can lead to the animal’s death. A recent sur­vey among nor­t­hern ful­mars on Spits­ber­gen has shown that 90% of the birds have small pla­s­tic pie­ces in their sto­machs.

Stran­ded pla­s­tic was­te can turn into a trap for wild ani­mals


(On the pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem see also »The Oce­an Cle­a­nup: solu­ti­on for the glo­bal pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem« Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news from June 2014)

Source: Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te


Good luck remain­ed with us (do we have to pay for it?). A day like in para­di­se. Or, bet­ter: a day in para­di­se. One of Spitsbergen’s most impres­si­ve sce­neries under a bright arc­tic sun. A long, love­ly hike in the midd­le of Horn­sund. Horn­sund­tind and Bau­taen ahead, the migh­ty gla­ciers of Bre­pol­len to the left, Gnå­lod­den and the rest of it to the right. You could put the view on paper and sell it wit­hout doing any­thing to it.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

The big gla­ciers in Hornsund’s deepest cor­ners were arc­tic show time. Big time! The­re was so much ice near the gla­cier, you could hard­ly see the water any­mo­re. The gla­cier was in good mood and added even more to it. The icing on the cake was the polar bear, sit­ting on an ice­berg some­ti­mes like on a thro­ne and some­ti­mes han­ging the­re like on a sofa, lying on his back, yaw­ning, stret­ching his arms and legs. A bit too far away, other­wi­se he would for sure have been the cover of the next pho­to book or calen­dar, some­thing like that.


Hoo­r­ay! What a day! South Cape, usual­ly a term for many unp­lea­sant hours in rough seas, cove­ring many pain­ful miles to get around the shal­lows, while too many on board are eating rever­se.

And this time? We star­ted the day con­se­quent­ly doing not­hing. That’s what ever­y­bo­dy had been asking for. Break­fast until noon, no pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, no landings, no wha­les. Well, almost no wha­les.

And then, a calm and even plea­sant pas­sa­ge around Spitsbergen’s sou­thern­most point. You could have play­ed bil­lard on board!

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Of cour­se we took the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a landing later, in Storm­buk­ta. I had not been the­re in 10 years! It was obvious­ly about time again. How often do you get to Sør­kapp Land? A for­bidden coast. Hid­den behind bad wea­ther and many shal­lows. But almost invi­ting today. Spitsbergen’s lar­gest spring, Trol­lo­sen, is in good shape, against rumours say­ing some­thing dif­fe­rent. And the polar foxes, almost tame. Ear­lier „never again“ memo­ries from this often so unp­lea­sant coast are now over­lain by impres­si­ons from a first class landing in Storm­buk­ta. Che­ers!


A dark land­scape, and dark wea­ther. It fits nice­ly tog­e­ther, in a way. A Sun­day mor­ning on Barent­søya. We paid a visit to the local gos­pel choir, which pro­du­ced an arc­tic sym­pho­ny from thousand beaks with a lot of gus­to.

The­re is hard­ly a more lush tun­dra than here in the sou­the­ast, on Barent­søya and Edgeøya. You could pro­ba­b­ly keep sheep here. Someone is alre­a­dy doing it. The sheep have got ant­lers here.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

And if the­se sheep-reinde­er have real­ly got bad luck, then their ant­lers get ent­an­gled in pla­s­tic ropes and nets care­less­ly thrown away from fishing ves­sels. Such as the 3 or 4 reinde­er who­se ant­lers we found as a big knot wound up with green pla­s­tic rope. Parts of the skulls were still atta­ched to the ant­lers. Shame on zivi­li­sa­ti­on! The idea that most likely a polar bear shor­ten­ed the suf­fe­ring from weeks down to days (only … only days! We are tal­king of real­ly ter­ri­ble suf­fe­ring!) does not real­ly make the thought more beara­ble.


Damn tech­no­lo­gy! Right now I start to enjoy wri­ting for the blog, and of cour­se the satel­li­te pho­ne based email stuff is brea­king down. I could not send any­thing for days, and now it looks as if I can at least send text again. No pics, but at least. So I hope it’s worth start­ing to wri­te again.

Heley­sund is one of Spitsbergen’s most fasci­na­ting and beau­tiful places. I am fasci­na­ted by curr­ents, that’s one way natu­re is dis­play­ing her gre­at forces. And the tidal cur­rent in Heley­sund can be ama­zing. Today, it was mode­ra­te, but enough for some nice eddies.

A long, nice hike over tun­dra and hills of basal­tic bed­rock. Some fog adding atmo­sphe­re to the views down to Heley­sund bet­ween colum­ns of rocks, stan­ding out on their own from the cliff. A polar bear having a nap on a litt­le island in the strait, not doing much else.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

It was quite grey and fog­gy as we con­tin­ued going south. Not bad at all. One has to sleep a litt­le bit, every once in a while.


The idea was to find wal­rus­ses. And we had found them, on a flat pen­in­su­la, in the midd­le of the night. Drop­ped the anchor in a safe distance only to find out next mor­ning that almost all of them had left. Only two of them were still the­re. Pro­ba­b­ly 2 out­si­ders. Tho­se guys nobo­dy wants to have any­thing to do with.

Annoy­ing that they just dis­ap­pear! They could well have wai­ted for just ano­ther cou­ple of hours. Well, may­be it was the wind. It was admit­ted­ly bloo­dy cold and unp­lea­sant out the­re.

A few miles away, the next wal­rus pen­in­su­la. And the­re they were. May­be also the guys from the first island? Might well be. I can ima­gi­ne Wal­ly say­ing to his fel­low wal­rus­ses: „damn it, tou­rists! Not for me today. Let’s get out of here. Anyo­ne who wants to join me?“ And then, the tou­rists show up again just a few hours later …

Well, they did obvious­ly not mind. They were, as usu­al, com­ple­te­ly busy with them­sel­ves, with scrat­ching, fight­ing and making inde­cent sounds.

Later, frut­ti di mare from ano­ther time. More than 270 mil­li­on years old. Silent wit­nesses from tro­pi­cal seas of a very distant past. In unbe­lie­va­ble amounts. You could have fil­led trucks. And now, they are just lying here among­st all the the frost shat­te­red rocks: corals, bra­chio­pods, spon­ges … you name it. In the neigh­bour­hood of a gla­cier, more than 8000 squa­re kilo­me­t­res lar­ge. You know which one I mean.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Of cour­se, we paid a visit to its famous gla­cier front later. Again, bloo­dy cold. And bloo­dy impres­si­ve.


Again, a day like a who­le week. Actual­ly far to much to digest it pro­per­ly, that will come later. It star­ted with 2 Fin wha­les fee­ding lazi­ly around the ship at 6 o’clock in the mor­ning, no more than 6 hours after last night’s bear sight­ing. A good night’s sleep is a good fri­end who is rare­ly visi­ting under the mid­night sun.

Some exer­cise helps to for­get that, and we got ple­nty of it in Lom­fjord. Who would mind a few rain­drops if you can have the view over Lom­fjord and across Hin­lo­pen Strait?

Dis­co­ve­ring „new“ places is the salt in the soup for many tra­ve­lers, cer­tain­ly for me, and the oppor­tu­ni­ty came in Lom­fjord. Just some time left befo­re din­ner to jump ashore on a litt­le pen­in­su­la that nobo­dy knows, whe­re nobo­dy ever goes ashore, as far as I know. The water near the shore was so deep that Cap­tain Joa­chim park­ed the Anti­gua in the gra­vel to keep the ship sta­ble for a while, we could have jum­ped down onto the beach from the bow.

The ruin of a trapper’s hut, exact­ly 90 years old now. Built of drift­wood and stones, it must have been nice in its ear­ly days, small, though. Now, the wind is blo­wing through emp­ty win­dow frames.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Seve­ral hundred thou­sands of Brünich’s Guil­l­emots for des­sert, ser­ved on ama­zing ver­ti­cal basalt cliffs, a good smell of gua­no and a lot of fresh sal­ty air. An ama­zing place!

Ice – Murch­ison­fjord

After the colourful tun­dra in nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen, the drift ice in the nor­the­ast is a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent world. Hard and tough, you feel cle­ar­ly, that we are not made for this world, we wouldn’t last too long here wit­hout warm clo­thes and some other useful things. A good ship and a hot cup of tea cer­tain­ly make life bet­ter here. Cold and win­dy, waves are brea­king over the blue edges of ice floes. The wind is pushing the ice tog­e­ther to form a com­pact, end­less field of pack ice with a shar­ply defi­ned edge.

For the wild­life, it is the place to be. Lively Harp seals are swim­ming near the ice edge. Two wal­rus­ses are res­t­ing on an ice floe. A migh­ty bull, the ends of his huge tusks are almost tou­ch­ing each other, and his youn­ger fri­end.

We lea­ve this fasci­na­ting, but quite hosti­le world of the ice. A few hours later, we have ente­red yet ano­ther, again com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent, fasci­na­ting world: the polar desert of Nord­aus­t­land. Bar­ren polar land in the deepest cor­ners of Murch­ison­fjord. Colourful stones, colours from the days befo­re the­re was life on land.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

And then, a fema­le polar bear on a litt­le island, hol­ding a sies­ta on a snow field. Remains of a seal not far away on the shore. She is res­t­ing in the most beau­tiful light of the mid­night sun, wat­ching us occa­sio­nal­ly with a slight­ly tired view, yaw­ning, eating some snow. Making 28 polar tra­vel­lers and some gui­des and crew very hap­py.


Alre­a­dy the first suns­hi­ne day. We are get­ting spoi­led. High sum­mer in the arc­tic! I may have men­tio­ned it befo­re, but: the­re is not­hing more beau­tiful than such a day up here, just under 80 degrees. We have been out for many hours today and hik­ed quite some kilo­me­t­res over bar­ren tun­dra in nor­t­hern Wood­fjord. And some hundred met­res up. A „new“ moun­tain, it work­ed well and the reward came in shape of grand views over Mus­ham­na and Wood­fjord.

Now I know why I always lea­ve the GPS on so it can save a track. This way, I am able to find my sun­glas­ses again quite some time after I have left them some­whe­re on the tun­dra. Very useful.

Coming to the „Rit­ter hut“ at Gråhu­ken is almost like get­ting back home. It just gives me this fee­ling. Not only becau­se I have been the­re quite a few times. Hil­mar Nøis hit the nail on the head when he named the hut „Kapp Hvi­le“ in 1928: Cape of Rest, Cape of inner peace. Some­thing like that. I can’t real­ly trans­la­te it. A place whe­re you find peace of mind, that soot­hes you, that makes you feel at home.

Espe­ci­al­ly after spen­ding hours on the tun­dra to get the­re.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Now we are hea­ding nor­the­ast, towards Ver­le­gen­hu­ken and the drift ice. Still bright suns­hi­ne and calm waters. I am very curious about the ice, whe­re it will stop us, what we will find the­re. But for the moment, to be honest, I’d be quite hap­py about some hours wit­hout wha­les …


The­re are the­se sim­ply unbe­lie­va­ble days, when things just hap­pen. Well, we can’t con­trol natu­re any­way. This mor­ning, I was quite curious what the day would bring, as it was real­ly pret­ty win­dy.

And, what hap­pen­ed? A love­ly hike up a morai­ne ridge and over some rocky hills in Lief­defjord, with the grea­test view you can ima­gi­ne. From Mona­co­b­reen to Reins­dyr­flya. Just long enough, the hike, to make me feel I had been out for a good walk.

Then, an after­noon at Mona­co­b­reen. Blue ice under a warm sun. A pie­ce of ice fal­ling down and into the water with a thun­der every once in a while. A wall of ice, 5 kilo­me­t­res long.

On the way out of the fjord, bet­ween some small islands, sud­den­ly white backs appearing on the water sur­face. Belugas! We couldn’t do much bet­ween the islands, but fur­ther north, Cap­tain Joa­chim pul­led his gre­at Belu­ga trick off again. Get ahead a bit, as clo­se to the shore as pos­si­ble, anchor down, engi­ne, gene­ra­tor and echo­lot off, no noi­se and no tal­king on deck. And then, the came. More than 50 of them, and they took hard­ly any noti­ce of our silent pre­sence. We could hear every noi­se, their breathing, ever­y­thing. The cre­a­my-white bodies com­ple­te­ly visi­ble in the water. The cal­ves dark grey.

A stun­ning expe­ri­ence. Tou­ch­ing, real­ly.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Final­ly, a litt­le polar bear fami­ly on one of the­se small islands in Lief­defjord. They were the icing on the cake. A big, sweet cake.

I wish I could send more and bet­ter pics through this satel­li­te thing.


What a day, what a life! Bright suns­hi­ne and a clear blue sky in Raud­fjord. A day like a post­card. A nice hike, not too much, just enough to make you feel that you have been out for a cou­ple of hours. And this view over Raud­fjord from 325 m height. You don’t need more for a stun­ning pan­ora­ma!

The sai­ling was the only bit that didn’t real­ly work out. So far, at least. As soon as the can­vas was up, the wind tends to die or even turns against you. Typi­cal Spits­ber­gen!

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

P.S. who said it didn’t real­ly work out with the sai­ling? We went up to 9 knots, most sails up … 🙂

The nor­thwest

18th & 19th July, 2014 – Two days from Kongsfjord to Raud­fjord, from the west coast to the north coast. Two days west coast wea­ther (west coast wea­ther …) with a lot of wind and rain. But that got us under sail from Kongsfjord to Mag­da­le­nefjord, with 7-8 knots. Good sai­ling! The­re, it was just as cold and wet yes­ter­day as today in Vir­go­ham­na. So much polar histo­ry ever­y­whe­re around us. From the wha­lers to the trap­pers. They cer­tain­ly fro­ze more than we do today. And nobo­dy pre­pared some warm food for them befo­re they came back to their ice-cold litt­le cab­ins. A tough life.

Here and now, it is still very com­for­ta­ble. Also from a Jan May­en per­spec­ti­ve. No sand, and life on Anti­gua is very good.

Now, we are ancho­red in Hamil­ton­buk­ta in Raud­fjord and enjoy­ing some evening sun, some­thing we have been miss­ing for some days now. Hope for a lon­ger hike again tomor­row, but we’ll see how win­dy it still is then.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Oh yes, it was very nice to sign a book for the Sys­sel­man­nen field poli­ce in Sal­ly­ham­na. It just felt well. And I do think my Spits­ber­gen book belongs into every hut in Spits­ber­gen, and any­whe­re else, for that sake!


The night had been a bit roug­her than expec­ted, but a pie­ce of cake after my trai­ning bet­ween Ice­land and Jan May­en! Pos­si­ble, howe­ver, that some on board may not agree with me on this 😉 but this was all quick­ly for­got­ten after some good hiking over the hills of Blom­strand­hal­vøya, with grand views over the gla­ciers in Kongsfjord. Polar fox, Long-tail­ed skua and their fri­ends, they were all at home.

Ny Åle­sund has been a con­s­truc­tion site more than any­thing else for years and does curr­ent­ly not have the charme it used to have in the past. A shorter stop only. But nice to see my books back in the shop, after years whe­re the manage­ment thought books are no good. (Is this so? Are shot glas­ses and key han­gers pre­fer­red abo­ve good books?)

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

The evening enter­tain­ment was gre­at: the Ny Åle­sund water ski ama­teur club in full action. With a bit of tri­al and error on the way to suc­cess 🙂


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