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Monthly Archives: September 2014 − News & Stories


Okto­ber­fest in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The famous Okto­ber­fest in Munich, said to be the world’s lar­gest folk fes­ti­val, has its litt­le bro­ther in Spits­ber­gen: On Thurs­day (25th Sep­tem­ber), the local Okto­ber­fest in Lon­gye­ar­by­en was ope­ned with a litt­le pro­ces­si­on. The hard nights of drin­king over­pri­ced beer (but more than 120 kinds of it!) in an over­crow­ded tent, live music and pre­sen­ta­ti­ons about beer were to fol­low until Satur­day, inlcu­ding the choir of the Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske and the “Schnaps­ka­pel­le”, a gathe­ring of local musi­cal talents exclu­si­ve­ly brought tog­e­ther for the occa­si­on.

The pre­sent aut­hor does not know any more about it, as he pre­fer­red the view over some silent val­leys in gor­ge­ous late Sep­tem­ber light at the time in ques­ti­ons.

The Lon­gye­ar­by­en Okto­ber­fest has been a regu­lar event now for several years and it is safe to assu­me that you can join next year if you want to.

The pro­ces­si­on to open the Okto­ber­fest in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Oktoberfest Longyearbyen

Bill­efjord

We ent­e­red Isfjord just in time. Not much later, others were fee­ding the fishes on the same rou­te.

Some suc­cess on the quest for pho­to­gra­phing old stuff at well-known pla­ces in new per­spec­ti­ves. A ship on land, a rail­way track going nowhe­re. Silent sym­bols for the fruit­less efforts of man to ste­al nature’s tre­a­su­res in the arc­tic. Why not just lea­ve it?

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

Admit­ted­ly, we still wan­ted to, well, not to ste­al a tre­a­su­re, but to take some lon­ged-after memo­ries home with us. Today’s peace­ful way to make use of arc­tic natu­re tre­a­su­res. We were lucky, and it worked. A final high­light of a trip that was qui­te dif­fe­rent from what I had in my head befo­re we set off. The wea­ther ruled severely for qui­te some time. But loo­king back, in the sun­ny light of the days that were to fol­low, it all came tog­e­ther to shape a com­ple­te impres­si­on of the late sum­mer arc­tic. A hap­py Anti­gua ent­e­red Advent­fjor­den in the evening.

Van Mijen­fjord

Some­ti­mes, the back of a goo­se is enough for hig­hest arc­tic plea­su­res. Cer­tain­ly if this goo­se back is Gåski­len, the wes­tern out­lier of Mid­ter­hu­ken, this won­der­ful moun­tain bet­ween Van Mijen­fjord and Van Keu­len­fjord, 300 metres high, with ama­zing views over Bellsund.

A gla­cier in the sun for desert, and then ano­t­her back, may­be of a dino­saur, it is big, any­way. Eight kilo­me­tres of hard lime­stone, a few hund­red metres wide only, with frut­ti di mare as old as the hills. Some­ti­mes, even 50 metres are enough for gre­at views.

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

Then it was alrea­dy time to cele­bra­te a trip that tur­ned out to be a gre­at one, des­pi­te a tough start, wea­ther-wise. Incredi­ble how time is fly­ing. But the­re is still a day to come.

Van Keu­len­fjord, Recher­chefjord

Did it ever snow during this trip? You have to think hard to remem­ber how poor the wea­ther had been just days ago. It is so beau­ti­fu­ly without even the tiniest fault that it is hard to ima­gi­ne wind and snow.

Lan­dings without dif­fi­cul­ties or sur­pri­ses make life easy. Fos­sils from old chap­ters of Earth histo­ry, seri­es of uplifted beaches from geo­lo­gi­cal­ly recent times, in com­pa­ri­son, high­ligh­ted by fresh snow. Meltwa­ter streams from holo­ce­ne gla­ciers fal­ling down palaeo­zoic lime­stone lay­ers, free­zing to form ice colum­ns. Rivers get­ting into win­ter mood.

A litt­le fjord crui­se in Van Keu­len­fjord gives us sce­nic beau­ty, but not the wild­life sightin­gs we had secret­ly been hoping for. We get one of the­se during a short walk to a gla­cier lagoon later, making this walk even shor­ter, while ano­t­her group is working its way up steep, snow cove­r­ed slo­pes. Pan­ora­ma view over fjords, val­leys and gla­ciers. The hike against the gra­di­ent, snow and time was worth every calo­ry burnt: the sun is just a few degrees abo­ve the hori­zon, still cas­ting some pink light over the arc­tic land. The days of the mid­ni­ght sun are defi­ni­te­ly over. Now you have to keep an eye on the wrist watch and keep things in good nor­mal sche­du­les.

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

When the mid­ni­ght sun turns into darkness, the nort­hern lights start to paint their mys­te­rious colours into the dark night sky. It was defi­ni­te­ly worth stay­ing at anchor during this clear night. Arc­tic light magic abo­ve the sou­thern hori­zon.

For­landsund

As soon as someo­ne pres­ses the fair­wea­ther but­ton, the world beco­mes a dif­fe­rent one. Blue sky and sun. The low sep­tem­ber sun that we had been lon­ging for, now it is sud­den­ly here and cas­ts an ama­zing light over the who­le sce­ne­ry, the who­le day long, not just for a few minu­tes befo­re sun­set as else­whe­re. Moun­tains, gla­ciers, ice­bergs, ever­ything is sud­den­ly shi­ning, an almost other­world­ly beau­ty.

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

Kongsfjord

The arc­tic isn’t a the­me park, it is still wild, rough, the real thing. Anyo­ne who didn’t belie­ve it was con­vin­ced today. See­min­gly end­less strong winds and snow sho­wers, taking all the views, tur­ning any walk out on the icy deck into a litt­le expe­di­ti­on. Even Krossfjord, rea­son­ab­ly well shel­te­red against wes­ter­ly winds, did not tole­ra­te a lan­ding any­mo­re today. An after­noon at anchor, well shel­te­red from the hea­vy wes­ter­ly seas, the winds how­ling through the rig­ging, it feels almost like a win­te­ring. Now, if the storm never cea­ses…?

But it did. This Octo­ber wea­ther came 4 weeks too ear­ly, but it did not last fore­ver. Blom­strand­hal­vøya pro­vi­ded us with cold feed, a fro­zen water­fall, wind and snow, some lonely rein­de­er, and of cour­se famous Ny Lon­don in drif­ting snow, the old houses cove­r­ed with crusts of ice and snow, a uni­que view!

Kong­s­breen is pro­du­cing Spitsbergen’s bluest ice­bergs, at least today. Do you know this famous pho­to of a very blue, very wea­the­red ice­berg in Ant­arc­ti­ca, with pen­gu­ins? Same colour, just without pen­gu­ins.

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

In the late after­noon, the hea­vy seas at the pier of Ny Åle­sund had cal­med down enough to let us go along­side the­re. So we could help the Kongsfjor­dbu­tik­ken to a late sea­son tur­no­ver peak and then walk in Amundsen’s foots­teps. Ny Åle­sund in win­ter mood.

Krossfjord

(Tues­day-Thurs­day, 16th-18th Sep­tem­ber, 2014) – Once we had final­ly left Advent­fjord on Tues­day, the sun bro­ke through the clouds – one of the­se ama­zing Sep­tem­ber-moments. How many times did we sail past Fugef­jel­let, and every time it is a view not to be mis­sed, but this time it was some­thing spe­cial, inde­ed.

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

Sin­ce then, the wea­ther has also been some­thing spe­cial. It has been espe­cial­ly shit­ty. Two lows pas­sing one after ano­t­her, less than a day bet­ween them (on Mon­day), well, this is not exact­ly what we had been hoping for. But we have mana­ged several lan­dings up north in Krossfjord, and now we are hiding in Kongsfjord, wai­t­ing for bet­ter times. And they will come, that’s for sure.

Pyra­mi­den

A visit to Pyra­mi­den, the old Rus­si­an mining sett­le­ment, is always some­thing spe­cial. Aban­do­ned in 1998, but the pia­no is still ok to play. Well, kind of… the ball is still in the field, wai­t­ing to be kicked. The old houses are the best thing to do at the time being, bet­ter to be insi­de than out­side in this kind of wea­ther.

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

Let’s go north. We expect qui­te a bit of wind the days to come. So we hope we can reach Kongsfjord or Krossfjord befo­re it is get­ting real­ly win­dy. The autumn does not show its­elf from its real­ly gol­den side the­se days. Fin­gers cros­sed for gre­at sun­sets and nort­hern lights in some days!

Polar bear with Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken plastic bag

This snapshot is defi­ni­te­ly amongst this summer’s bet­ter ones: A polar bear was stal­king a camp of stu­dents in Bill­efjord for a while last week, until it was deci­ded to evacua­te the camp and let the bear do wha­te­ver it wan­ted to. On that occa­si­on, Eli­da Lang­stein mana­ged to get this pho­to of the polar bear lea­ving a tent with a Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken plastic bag in his mouth.

It is not known what exact­ly was insi­de the bag.

Polar bear with Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken plastic bag in a camp in Bill­efjord. Pho­to: Eli­da Lang­stein.

Polar bear with Svalbardbutikken bag, Billefjord

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Gru­ve­f­jel­let & Advent­da­len

(13th-15th Sep­tem­ber 2014) – Ear­ly win­ter rather than gol­den autumn – also impres­si­ve in a way, when arc­tic natu­re is showing its for­ces with cold and strong winds. And when it is rai­ning on top of it all, then it is the per­fect day to visit the muse­ums in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, you can always learn a lot in both of them. It is espe­cial­ly the Air­s­hip­mu­se­um that is always ama­zing. Incredi­ble how much Ste­fa­no Poli and Ingunn Løy­ning have collec­ted over the years, all their own initia­ti­ve. You should have a rough over­view of the expe­di­ti­ons of Andrée and Well­man, Amund­sen and Nobi­le befo­re visi­t­ing, other­wi­se the wealth of details may be con­fu­sing. But then it is a place whe­re you can return count­less times to learn and to be ama­zed.

Loo­king back and con­si­de­ring the rough wea­ther, I am almost sur­pri­sed mys­elf how much we have done in the­se 4 days around Lon­gye­ar­by­en also. After the first, exten­si­ve tour over the snow-cove­r­ed Pla­tå­ber­get on Thurs­day, we went up Gru­ve­f­jel­let on Fri­day, enjoy­ing views over the wide pla­teaux around Lon­gye­ar­by­en and down the val­ley, fol­lo­wed by a gla­cier walk across Lars­breen and a stee­pish descent down its morai­ne just befo­re the whir­ling snow tur­ned all views white and grey.

Mean­while, the fos­sil collec­tors were qui­te suc­cess­ful on the neigh­bou­ring morai­ne of Lon­gyear­breen.

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

Suc­cess also on Sunday in Enda­len on the quest for the Dwarf birch. We haven’t seen this tree (yes, it counts as a tree, even if it does not look like it) on our trips befo­re, as we tra­vel most­ly on ships and they don’t grow near the shore. We came just in time for some views over Advent­da­len from the height of mine 7 befo­re the snow drift sett­led in, and some har­dy hikers even went into Bol­terda­len in spi­te of wind and snow.

Now, the sky is blue again and it is time to board Anti­gua in the after­noon.

Pla­taberg

Short­ly we will con­ti­nue with our tra­vel blog. The next tour starts on 15 Sep­tem­ber at which time we will publish dai­ly tra­vel logs again, that is, if the satel­li­te pho­ne plays along regar­ding trans­mis­si­on of text and pic­tures. For now, Rolf has sent a us a pic­tu­re gal­le­ry of a pla­teau-shaped moun­tain (pla­tå­berg). Web­mas­ter Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com

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

Ship of Fran­k­lin-expe­di­ti­on found in Nor­thwest Pas­sa­ge

This is the his­to­ri­cal dis­co­very of the year in the Arc­tic – at least: The Cana­di­an government has announ­ced to have found the wreck of one of the two ships of John Franklin’s expe­di­ti­on.

John Fran­k­lin was out to find the Nor­thwest Pas­sa­ge with 2 ships, HMS Ere­bus and HMS Ter­ror, and 129 men, sai­ling into the pas­sa­ge in 1845. Both ships and all men disap­peared. Many expe­di­ti­ons were sent out to res­cue Fran­k­lin and his men or to find out what had hap­pen­ed. This was a boost for geo­gra­phi­cal explo­ra­ti­on in the Cana­di­an arc­tic, but the fate of Franklin’s expe­di­ti­on was never ful­ly resol­ved. After years, the first traces were found; it beca­me clear that the men had left the ships, try­ing to reach safe­ty, a hopeless effort con­si­de­ring the vast distan­ces and the har­sh cli­ma­te. The­re were signs of can­ni­ba­lism, but most must have died of star­va­ti­on, cold and scur­vy. Lead poi­so­ning may have added to an over­all health decli­ne. Fran­k­lin had alrea­dy died befo­re the ships were deser­ted.

The 2 ships had been equip­ped with ever­ything one could think of at that time, it was one of the lar­gest arc­tic expe­di­ti­ons ever and its loss was a trau­ma for the Bri­tish Roy­al Navy. The dis­co­very of one of the 2 ships 169 years later is a sen­sa­ti­on. It is so far unknown if it is the wreck of the HMS Ere­bus or the HMS Ter­ror.

The Cana­di­an government has put the search for Franklin’s ships on the agen­da some years ago.

Franklin’s ships HMS Ere­bus and HMS Ter­ror in the Nor­thwest Pas­sa­ge (source: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons).

Franklins Schiffe: HMS Erebus and HMS Terror

Source: Spie­gel Online

Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2015

The new Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2015 by Rolf Stan­ge is now here, fresh from the prin­ter and it can be orde­red from now on. 12 impres­si­ons from Spits­ber­gen: around the island and through the sea­sons, encoun­ters with wild­life, sce­ne­ry, light and flowers from the polar night to the mid­ni­ght sun.

As befo­re, the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2015 is avail­ab­le in the han­dy A5 for­mat and lar­ge in A3. Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on, images and orde­ring.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping: sea­son & info, vir­tu­al tour

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not just the che­a­pest accom­mo­da­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but also one of the most popu­lar pla­ces to stay, as you are in the midd­le of natu­re the­re: in good wea­ther, the view across Isfjord is gre­at. Rein­de­er, polar foxes and a ran­ge of dif­fe­rent birds are regu­lar guests, and if you are lucky, you can even see belugas near the shore, that hap­pens several times every sum­mer.

On a nice day in August, I shot a pan­ora­ma tour which is now online, so you can walk across Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping now on the inter­net. The­re is also a pan­ora­ma of the camp­si­te taken in the polar night, when it is obvious­ly clo­sed, but nevertheless a very inte­res­ting place to visit …

It has been a good sum­mer with a lot of fine wea­ther, and Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping has done very well with about 2800 guest nights. As an expe­ri­ence, it is worthwhile to men­ti­on that you need to bring your own slee­ping bag, insu­la­ti­on blan­ket and tent if you want to stay the­re. Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping has limi­ted amounts of ren­tal equip­ment, but the capa­ci­ty may be in full use in peak sea­son. When guests come, as hap­pen­ed several times, without anything and without a reser­va­ti­on for ren­tal equip­ment (or a “reser­va­ti­on” made very short­ly befo­re arri­val), then bad luck may strike and not­hing is avail­ab­le, which trans­la­tes as: you don’t have a place to sleep. Not gre­at. So: just bring your own stuff or get in touch with Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping well in advan­ce to make sure they have got what you need. And then: have a good time the­re 🙂

Screen­shot of the new vir­tu­al tour of Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping, high on the list of Longyearbyen’s most popu­lar pla­ces to stay.

Longyearbyen Campingplatz virtuelle Tour

Polar bear roa­ming near Lon­gye­ar­by­en

A polar bear has been obser­ved roa­ming around near Lon­gye­ar­by­en for more than a week. Sin­ce 21st August, the bear has been seen in Hior­th­hamn, on the north side of Advent­fjord, a few kilo­me­tres away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re more than 2000 peop­le live.

The­re is a num­ber of wee­kend huts in Hior­th­hamn, and some of them have suf­fe­red dama­ge by the polar bear, which is always loo­king for food, bes­i­des gene­ral­ly being a curious ani­mal any­way. It has sin­ce been seen in side val­leys (Mälarda­len, Hanas­kog­da­len), and most recent­ly in Advent­da­len near Jans­son­h­au­gen, whe­re it seems to have found a dead rein­de­er, secu­ring food for some days. It is, howe­ver, not 100 per­cent cer­tain that it is real­ly one and the same polar bar.

The­re is signi­fi­cant traf­fic in all the­se are­as: tou­rists are on tour the­re, and so are stu­dents and locals in their free time. Addi­tio­nal­ly, it is rein­de­er hun­ting sea­son.

Ever­y­bo­dy moving around on his own is remin­ded that poten­ti­al­ly aggres­si­ve polar bears have to be expec­ted any­whe­re and at any time out­side the popu­la­ted sett­le­ments. A sui­ta­ble, hea­vy calibre wea­pon is necessa­ry for tours even clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Addi­tio­nal­ly, a deter­rent such as a signal pis­tol with spe­cial noi­se-making ammu­ni­ti­on to sca­re polar bears away does not only make a lot of sen­se, to sol­ve dan­ge­rous situa­tions without doing harm to a bear, but it is also legal­ly bin­ding now to have a deter­rent. Pep­per spray is, howe­ver, not recom­men­ded by the aut­ho­ri­ties in Spits­ber­gen, alt­hough it can make an important con­tri­bu­ti­on if used, for examp­le, from the rela­ti­ve safe­ty of a hut to get rid of a very curious or even aggres­si­ve bear without doing harm to it. It must, howe­ver, not be reli­ed on as the only means of “safe­ty”.

The polar bear near Lon­gye­ar­by­en has, so far, not been aggres­si­ve. Gene­ral­ly spea­king, polar bears are usual­ly not aggres­si­ve towards man, but the­re are excep­ti­ons to the role, such as a very hungry bear. Also in Pyra­mi­den, a Rus­si­an sett­le­ment lar­ge­ly deser­ted sin­ce 1998, polar bears have been seen several times during the sum­mer, also in cen­tral parts.

This polar bear has been roa­ming for more than a week near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Here at a wee­kend hut in Hior­th­hamn on the other side of the fjord.

Polar bear in Hiorthhamn, near Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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