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Yearly Archives: 2014 − Travelblog


The arc­tic sea­son 2014 in retro­s­pec­ti­ve: Bjørnøya, Jan May­en, Spits­ber­gen …

I can’t deny that the arc­tic sea­son 2014 is histo­ry now. The last ent­ry in my tra­vel blog is alre­a­dy 3 weeks old (ages in times of social media), and in 2 weeks, the polar night will start to shed its dark­ness over our bel­oved Spits­ber­gen. Alre­a­dy now, it is pret­ty uncom­for­ta­ble up the­re, out in the field; the tours in Sep­tem­ber were alre­a­dy bles­sed with free­zing tem­pe­ra­tures and quite a lot of snow and wind. Well. The out­door sea­son is defi­ni­te­ly over north of the arc­tic cir­cle. Full stop.

So the arc­tic expe­ri­ence hap­pens, to a lar­ge degree, on the com­pu­ter screen at the time being. But that isn’t as bad as it may sound. Not only that it invol­ves a far smal­ler risk of frost­bi­te and exhaus­ti­on. But also, even in my 18th Spits­ber­gen sum­mer, all the­se impres­si­ons come down on me as a water­fall. Beau­tiful, migh­ty, but also a bit over­whel­ming, threa­tening to bury the indi­vi­du­al expe­ri­ence under a flood of impres­si­ons, sightin­gs, acti­vi­ties … I can cer­tain­ly recall last summer’s trips day by day, remem­ber pret­ty much all the hikes, landings, sai­lings, wild­life sightin­gs, wea­ther etc., not to men­ti­on the expe­ri­ence of con­stant­ly sha­ring all this with groups, col­le­agues, crew, fri­ends (the­re isn’t neces­s­a­ri­ly a strict distinc­tion bet­ween some of the­se groups) wit­hout refer­ring to any dia­ry or other brain sup­port. But after all this exci­te­ment has been every day life for many months, it is a good thing to sit down for a while, have quite a few cups of tea and revi­ve the expe­ri­ence in my head.

This turns a neces­si­ty into an advan­ta­ge. It is a neces­si­ty to com­ple­te tri­plogs and slide­shows after the sea­son, the­re is sim­ply not enough time to do it all on the road, and I con­sider it an important ser­vice to my guests. So it has to be done after the sea­son, to some degree. So now I have the plea­su­re to recall all tho­se trips again, go through count­less pho­tos, turn them into pho­to gal­le­ries and slide­shows, com­pi­le tri­plogs … unbe­lie­va­ble, the­se months! Hundreds of kilo­me­t­res of hiking over tun­dra and moun­ta­ins, across snow and rocks, bea­ches and gla­ciers, mud­dy soli­fluc­tion soil and san­dy vol­ca­nic ashes, from Bear Island and Jan May­en to Sjuøya­ne, Spitsbergen’s fur­thest north, and a lot of what is in bet­ween.

Join me, if you want to, on the­se retro­s­pec­ti­ves. It does not take any effort bey­ond a mous­eclick, it does not cost any­mo­re than a few minu­tes of time – a pre­cious resour­ce, I know, but I am sure, it will be worth it. So have a look at the pho­to gal­le­ries of the 2014 arc­tic sea­son. The­se pages are lar­ge­ly com­ple­te by know, only one or the other slide­show is still to fol­low, but it won’t take long. And my tip: the polar pan­ora­mas with 360 degree pan­o­r­amic images from all parts of the arc­tic (and Ant­ar­c­tic, for that sake) that I have tra­vel­led recent­ly. It is by far the lar­gest coll­ec­tion of its kind, and it is gro­wing. It is almost like being the­re, as you rota­te a polar sce­n­ery 360 degrees. Make a vir­tu­al trip to the arc­tic every day, explo­re a beau­tiful place you didn’t even know exis­ted, be in such a won­derful place, vir­tual­ly, for a moment. It will give you a moment of peace and beau­ty, almost as being the­re in rea­li­ty. Espe­ci­al­ly the pan­o­r­amic tours, which play almost like a litt­le film, illus­t­ra­ting a place and tel­ling some kind of sto­ry about it. For exam­p­le: the famous trap­per hut Fred­heim in Tem­pel­fjord, the remo­te, small islands of Ryke Yse­øya­ne or, of cour­se, Jan May­en.

The­re won’t be any new tra­vel blogs here for a while. May­be I will have one or the other blog here, but no reports from “out the­re” in the new future. But I will feed the Spits­ber­gen news a bit more fre­quent­ly, so mean­while, check them.

View over Lil­lie­höök­breen in August. One of many pri­ce­l­ess moments of the last sum­mer.

Lilliehöökbreen

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!

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.

Hiorth­fjel­let

My ori­gi­nal plan was to be lazy. Spen­ding the day with the news­pa­per, fri­ends, and han­ging out in Frue­ne – the best Café in town. And pret­ty much the only one. No mat­ter how beau­tiful and exci­ting it is to sail around Lon­gye­ar­by­en, it is also quite ener­gy-deman­ding. Espe­ci­al­ly on such a small boat, wit­hout a col­le­ague who could occa­sio­nal­ly take over. Well, no com­plains, but a day to relax sound­ed like a gre­at thing.

But the time of the mid­night sun ends in such a grand way that doing not­hing was sim­ply not an opti­on. To start with, the camp­si­te pan­ora­ma pro­ject was num­ber one on the to-do-list. Direct­ly fol­lo­wed by Hiorth­fjel­let. The pro­blem with this moun­tain is that you need a boat to get the­re in sum­mer, some­thing that is not always at hand, but available today. Ano­ther good reason to do that today. Get­ting up to the pla­teau on top, vie­w­ing across Advent­fjord to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The other way around is an ever­y­day thing. 900 met­res up over loo­se scree, yee­ha! Two steps up, one down. But the view is worth every sin­gle step. You have Advent­fjord to your feet, from Advent­da­len in the east, Lon­gye­ar­by­en with the well-known moun­ta­ins and gla­ciers around it, Pla­tå­berg and Hotell­ne­set with the air­port and camp­si­te and final­ly the wes­tern half of Isfjord.

And a good part of Nor­dens­ki­öld Land is stret­ching far, far into most direc­tions. Count­less brown pla­teau-shaped moun­ta­ins, rid­ges and peaks, small gla­ciers and val­leys. This is the part of Spits­ber­gen that I got to know first, at times when Edgeøya was a far dream, as easy to get to as the moon.

Visi­ting the old coal mine of Hior­th­hamn on the way back added a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent, but com­pa­ra­b­ly inte­res­t­ing aspect to the excur­si­on. The mine is more than 600 met­res high on a rather steep slo­pe. Not far from it, the­re was Ørne­re­det, the eagle nest, whe­re 40-50 workers had accom­mo­da­ti­on, and they had to stay the­re during the polar night, as the steep slo­pe down was dee­med too dan­ge­rous in the dark time. Dark­ness insi­de the moun­tain, dark­ness out­side.

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

Dark­ness is loo­ming just around the cor­ner here the­se days, too. Today will be the first sun­set this sum­mer. A day of four months is coming to an end.

Advent­fjord

Fri­day, 22nd August (still) – High­lights until the last minu­te. After it had been blo­wing quite a bit off the west coast, it was nice to be back in Isfjord whe­re the water was flat calm and the sun was shi­ning again. We met a wha­le brief­ly in Advent­fjord, just off the cam­ping site. And on the shore under Hiorth­fjel­let, just oppo­si­te Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the­re was even ano­ther polar bear wal­king around, would you belie­ve it? That doesn’t hap­pen every day. Hein­rich wasn’t too hap­py as he has got a hut in that area, one of the win­dows was dama­ged so the bear may have been insi­de and in that case, it might need more than just a litt­le bit of clea­ning to make it a cosy place again.

We finish the day and the trip with a nice last evening and a good meal on board. More than 1100 nau­tic­la miles around Spits­ber­gen are behind us now, with about 26 landings in many pos­si­ble and some impos­si­ble places. Not to men­ti­on all the land­scapes and the wild­life we have seen from the boat. The pho­tos will tell the sto­ry, soon the­re will be a gal­lery online tog­e­ther with the trip report.

e-a9m_Adventfjord_21Aug14_24

The­re is more to Spits­ber­gen than „just“ polar bears and wild land­scapes, the­re are also good peo­p­le living here. See­ing some of them will be among­st my next tasks.

Eidem­buk­ta

Last night we sai­led down For­lands­und, hea­ding for Prins Karls For­land, but the wind was so strong that the anchor didn’t real­ly hold, so we deci­ded to go for Eidem­buk­ta ins­tead, hoping for bet­ter shel­ter the­re. Which work­ed well. After all the­se miles and maneou­vres, I went to sleep after 5 am. It may have to do with that if I am a bit tired now. Almost a bit sad, or melan­cho­lic. West Coast Blues. The trip is coming to an end, the­re is no way around it. Ever­y­bo­dy has grown into a tight group now, kno­wing each other, the rou­ti­nes are all working well, we could so easi­ly con­ti­nue for ano­ther week or two. But zivi­li­sa­ti­on is not far any­mo­re. Dates, flights, busi­ness, fami­ly … are all deman­ding their rights.

But we are not the­re yet. First, we spend a pre­cious cou­ple of hours on the west coast tun­dra again. After all the ice and cold of the far north, the rocky land­scapes of the nor­thwest and the migh­ty gla­ciers of Kross­fjord, you might almost feel at home here. This land­scape is not so harsh, not so inhos­pi­ta­ble, almost invi­ting. Well, in com­pa­ri­son.

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

I have been in Eidem­buk­ta just a few weeks ago, in ear­ly June. It feels like ages ago! Back then, we had snow down to sea level. Almost the who­le, wide-open coas­tal tun­dra plain was white, whe­re autumn colours are stret­ching now bet­ween the sea and the moun­ta­ins and gla­ciers. No trace of snow any­mo­re today. Back then, almost every snow-free tun­dra patch was occu­p­ied by geese, now the­re is just a group of fema­le com­mon eiders paddling in the bay, the stress of the bree­ding sea­son is alre­a­dy histo­ry for them. The world has chan­ged incre­di­bly quick­ly, within less than 7 weeks! The arc­tic sum­mer is coming and going so quick­ly.

Kross­fjord

I don’t mind repea­ting this again: A day taken direct­ly from an arc­tic fairy tale. The sun remain­ed with us, and with this kind of wea­ther, Kross­fjord is unbeat­a­b­ly beau­tiful. Blue­green water, migh­ty gla­ciers, dark, wild moun­ta­ins, green slo­pes. I know, I have alre­a­dy writ­ten simi­lar sen­ten­ces simi­lar else­whe­re. I can’t help it, I am sim­ply not a gre­at wri­ter, I have never pre­ten­ded any­thing dif­fe­rent. But natu­re can ever­y­thing up here, and it’s that what counts.

The gla­cier hike today has best chan­ces to be very high on the list of the grea­test hikes this sum­mer. The pho­tos will tell it all, I hope, as soon as they are online in a cou­ple of days from now.

To add icing on the cake, we were wel­co­med with a BBQ on the beach. How good can life be!

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

We could hap­pi­ly have cal­led it a gre­at day, but the­re is always some­thing exci­ting going on here as long as you can keep your eyes open. Ano­ther fjord ano­ther gla­cier, ano­ther world. Per­fect mir­ror images on the water. A polar bear on the shore, with the sun from behind, sur­roun­ded by pie­ces of gla­cier ice shi­ning like dia­monds. An arc­tic won­der­land.

Dan­s­køya & The Seven Ice­bergs

A day taken direct­ly from an arc­tic fairy tale. Well, it was about time to get to see the sun again, and we got a lot of it today. Who would then mind the end­less rocks over which we stumb­led while hiking across Dan­s­køya, when you can enjoy this ama­zing view over the moun­ta­ins and gla­ciers of nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen at the same time? The dra­ma sto­ries from past times from Dan­s­køya can’t dimi­nish our plea­su­re, they just add some fla­vour.

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

Almost hard to grasp on such a day that the wha­lers had such a respect for that wild coast which the cal­led „The Seven Ice­bergs“, refer­ring to seven lar­ge gla­ciers, of cour­se. The coast is still just as wild, but the wea­ther is sim­ply love­ly today and it seems to be a pure plea­su­re place, an arc­tic Rivie­ra. Ama­zing colours, dark green slo­pes near bird cliffs bet­ween shi­ning white gla­ciers with blue crev­as­ses, and all this under a blue sky. Pure plea­su­re, wit­hout any hard­ships. Extre­me­ly enjoya­ble.

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