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HomeArctic blog: Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen → Sou­thwes­tern Nord­aus­t­land

Southwestern Nordaustland

(Thurs­day and Fri­day, 14th and 15th August 2014) – How often do we see gla­ciers from the boat or from the tun­dra? Every day. How often do we view down from gla­ciers to fjord and coast? Exact­ly.

This trip was meant to be an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do things that you don’t nor­mal­ly do on ship-based trips here. Even more so than other­wi­se on the trips that I do. One of the things that you would not nor­mal­ly get to do on a Spits­ber­gen crui­se is a gla­cier hike. The­re is this nice litt­le gla­cier in Augus­t­abuk­ta, they cal­led it Marie­breen in 1868. It is actual­ly part of the ice cap Vega­fon­na, which again is con­nec­ted to Aus­t­fon­na, more than 8400 squa­re kilo­me­t­res lar­ge and Europe’s lar­gest ice cap. Dive into this weird icy world of gla­ciers for a few hours. Mean­de­ring melt­wa­ter rivers with blue water, shi­ning white ice under a hea­vy grey sky that is mer­ging seem­less­ly into the ice cap on the hori­zon. A step out of the world of lea­ving things. The­re is not­hing ali­ve here. Ice and water, some stones, that’s it.

Crossing some­thing has always some­thing fasci­na­ting about it. It does not have to be an inland ice of con­ti­nen­tal sca­le. A pen­in­su­la can be enough. You are drop­ped off and you see your boat sai­ling away. That makes you feel a bit like Nan­sen, who was drop­ped off at the East Green­land coast in 1888. His choice was simp­le: reach the west coast of die. The rest is histo­ry.

Of cour­se, it isn’t quite like that in the 21st cen­tu­ry any­mo­re. In case of any unex­pec­ted real dif­fi­cul­ties, you grab the radio or the sat pho­ne and ask the boat to return. But still, it is an exci­ting thing.

21 kilo­me­t­res of tun­dra and polar desert, rid­ges of basalt rocks and fos­sils older than the hills, frost pat­ter­ned ground and melt­wa­ter rivers. A day long enough to real­ly get lost in this ama­zing coun­try, men­tal­ly, I mean. Lis­tening to the water run­ning in rivers and to the wind (the­re was more than enough of the lat­ter, to be honest. It was free­zing old at times.

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

At the end of the hike, on the shore of Pal­an­der­buk­ta, the­re was an old trap­per hut, whe­re the wind was blo­wing through holes that were doors and win­dows many years ago. Weird sto­ry. The two trap­pers who built the hut pro­ba­b­ly mana­ged to blow them­sel­ves up in Janu­ary 1934. One of them was hit while he was in for serious busi­ness in the out­house. Not a nice place to die. He was found the­re months later, still sit­ting, fro­zen solid. Weird sto­ry. They never found out in details what had real­ly hap­pen­ed.

But for us, the day had a very hap­py end when we came back to the boat and sal­mon was almost rea­dy 🙂



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last modification: 2014-08-18 · copyright: Rolf Stange