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Home → April, 2015

Monthly Archives: April 2015 − News & Stories

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Pyramiden

This year’s winter season will not be long anymore, Langøysund is already sailing again, the good, old day trip boat that will take tourists to Barentsburg and Pyramiden from now on throughout the summer. Well, Pyramiden is not yet accessible by boat, there is is still ice in inner Billefjord – and that’s how it should be. Hopefully it lasts for another while.

We have to make use of that. Once again enjoying the view from upper Nordenskiöldbreen across inner Billefjord to Pyramiden … a long trip, if done in one day, but we can’t afford a night in Pyramiden now, time-wise.

The ice in Tempelfjord has broken up at Fredheim, there is only a narrow rim of ice attached to the shore where it is actually still possible to pass, but we decide to opt for a steep slope down from a mountain deeper in the fjord, where the ice is safer. Noorderlicht is still there in the ice and will probably stay there for another couple of weekd, but for how long will it be possible to visit her?

The trip through scenic Bünsow Land is always a highlight, especially in weather like today. And then we have got it, this view from Nordenskiöldbreen, where you stand 500 m above the fjord, under Urmstonfjellet, to enjoy the view described above.

If you have been to Pyramiden last year, then you will know the local guide Sascha. He is back again this year, a pleasant meeting. And same for an equally pleasant, but much more surprising meeting with a friend from the sailing boat Antigua. Ismail is here now with another boat, the Bør, which is alongside at the ice edge, not too far from Pyramiden so they could walk here. So snow mobile expeditionists and sailors meet in one and the same place.

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

There are even more remarkable meetings on this beautiful day. As we have a rest on the ice on our way back to Nordenskiöldbreen, a polar bear family is walking not too far from us. The arctic cannot be more beautiful than this. They walk past us, and as they have left, we start again and continue our long trip back to Longyearbyen. This was the last winter trip for us for this year. It won’t be long anymore and then we will continue under sail.

East coast

25th-26th April 2015 – I can repeat the text of the last blog entry here with just some minor adaptions without feeling bad about it. Sometimes it is so easy. Life does not have to be complicated up here, it does not have to be different every day. The arctic is beautiful. Enjoying it is the main point. That’s it.

Of course it is nevertheless nice to discover new places. Such as Moskusdalen on the eastern side of Sassendalen. Many drive past Moskusdalen on the way to the east coast, few bother to have a look. But it is a beautiful place. Not big and spectacular. Small, silent, beautiful. It has even got an old hut, another secondary hut built by the famous Hilmar Nøis, probably in the 1920s or 1930s.

And now, as promised, the slightly adapted repetition of the last blog’s text ☺

The scenic beauty of Sassendalen and Mohnbukta cannot be praised too often. The better if you have the opportunity to enjoy this arctic paradise not just for a few hours, but for some days. You don’t have to do a lot, the polar cinema is playing an endless film of sheer beauty. Just watch nature through the window of a cousy cabin for a while. You will constantly discover new details and be amazed by the changing light and atmosphere. Great midnight sunsets.

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

Russian Vice premier Rogozin in Spitsbergen

The sudden surfacing of the powerful Russian politician Dmitry Rogozin, vice premier and leader of the Russian government’s new Arctic Commission, stirred Norwegian officials up. Rogozin is on an EU sanction list and not welcome in Norway, as was subsequently made clear by the Norwegian government.

Rogozin provoked the Norwegian government by mentioning that the Norwegian sovereignty is limited in Svalbard (the Spitsbergen Treaty makes undisputably clear that Norway has full sovereignty over the Spitsbergen archipelago, but it does indeed put some limits to the execution of the sovereignty). According to Rogozin, nobody could be kept from visiting Svalbard.

It is not known how Rogozin, who made his arrival known via twitter, arrived at the airport at Longyearbyen, but it is safe to assume that he did not travel trough mainland Norway. Rogozin soon continued to the Russian drift ice station Barneo near the north pole, where he made further provocative comments in an interview to Russian state TV: “Last year, we had the historical reunification of Sevastopol and the Crimea. This year, we present a new view and new powerful stress on the development of the Arctic. Basically, its is all about the same …” and he continued: Russia is now “starting to get more conscious about territory, its interests and borders”. Russia is known as nationalist and expansionist.

Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende did not leave any doubts that “people on the sanctions list, people that have been central in breaching international law in Ukraine, are not welcome to the mainland or to Svalbard”.

It is, however, unlikely that this will make of an impression on the Russian vice premier.

Russian vice premier Dmitriy Rogozin at the Russian drift ice station Barneo near the north pole (twitter photo)..

Rogozin

Source: Barentsobserver

Vindodden

20th-22nd April 2015 – Vindodden – The scenic beauty of Sassenfjord and Tempelfjord – both are one continuous fjord system – cannot be praised too often. The better if you have the opportunity to enjoy this arctic paradise not just for a few hours, but for some days. You don’t have to do a lot, the polar cinema is playing an endless film of sheer beauty. Just watch nature through the window of a cousy cabin for a while. You will constantly discover new details and be amazed by the changing light and atmosphere. Sometimes a fox will visit the hut. Great midnight sunsets, the last ones of the spring. In a few days, there won’t be any sunsets anymore until late August.

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

Arctic voyages 2015: Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen

Two tickets have become available again on the expedition to Jan Mayen 2015 (15th-27th June) due to a cancellation. Demand is high, the Jan Mayen expedition in 2016 is already fully booked.

In June 2015 we are sailing to Jan Mayen

Jan Mayen: Beerenberg

There is also still the opportunity to join us on the voyage in Spitsbergen (15th-25th September) 2015 with SV Antigua, with focusses on glacier hikes and photography, next to the “more usual” landings and walk, which we will certainly also do. This voyage will be German speaking.

Antarctic panorama: Cape Adare

There is a new panorama tour (virtual tour) from Antarctica, namely from Cape Adare in the Ross Sea. Cape Adare is one of the most famous, but rarely visited places in Antarctica: in 1895, it was the site of the first well-documented landing on the continent, and in 1899 it was the site of the very first wintering on the continent, by an expedition led by Karsten Borchgrevink. These stories are shortly summarized in the new panorama tour, and so is the visit of the northern party under Campbell during Robert F. Scott’s final expedition with Terra Nova.

The panorama tour documents the historic huts at Cape Adare and gives impressions of the amazing scenery of the place at the northernmost end of Victoria Land, being part of the famous Transantarctic Mountains. Cape Adare is also home to the largest colony of Adélie penguins in Antarctica, which means in the world.

In early February, I was lucky to spend a rare good weather day at Cape Adare. On this occasion, I shot the panoramas which are now assembled to this new panorama / virtual tour (click here to get to the tour). Enjoy a virtual trip to Cape Adare!

Virtual tour of Cape Adare, site of the first landing and wintering in Antarctica and home to the largest colony of Adélie penguins.

Kap Adare Panorama-Tour

The arctic blog continued

The arctic blog is now continued! Since mid March, I am back in Spitsbergen and frequently out on tour. Camera, an open eye and eagerness to see and experience arctic scenery, wildlife and history are always with me, and this results in photo galleries and little stories from travels out in the arctic wilderness, published in my arctic blog, which will be continued for most of the year. A trip to Tempelfjord makes the beginning, followed by the event of the year in Spitsbergen, the solar eclipse. Enjoy some virtual high latitude traveling!

Click here for the overview of the blog.

The arctic blog is continued: photos and stories from travels in Spitsbergen, Jan Mayen and Greenland.

arctic blog

Almost doubling of snow mobile accidents

Emergency services and hospital have got a record-high number of missions and patients from snow mobile accidents this year. Until late March, the hospital had 38 patients in treatment with injuries related to accidents from snow mobile driving. In 2014, the equivalent number was 21. Injuries often include fractures.

The data base is not sufficient to analyze reasons, but this season’s instable weather may have contributed with bad visibility at times and icy surfaces.

The proportions of locals and tourists is also not known. Several serious accidents included local drivers, such as the young man who died in an avalanche in January and the extensive search and rescue mission on the east coast. In late March, a young man from Longyearbyen fell into a 6 m deep snow whole with his snow mobile and received heavy head injuries. He is still in hospital in Tromsø, not in a life-threatening condition anymore but he his being kept in an artificial coma.

The numbers of participants on organized tours have not reached the levels of the record years of 2007 and 2008 again, but the numbers of individual snow mobile rentals have increased, indicating a larger number of tourists individually in the field. Those who are out on individual trips with limited experienced and without local knowledge have to remember that they are traveling with a strong vehicle that can quickly reach high speed in terrain that has all the potential traps and dangerous that the winter arctic may have. Uneven terrain, windholes in the snow etc. can be difficult to see in bad weather or poor light conditions, which may quickly result in dangerous accidents.

Enjoyable evening on tour with snow mobiles. But the weather is not always as nice as here.

Snow mobile, sunset

Source: Svalbardposten (14, 2015)

Larsbreen

Larsbreen is close to Longyearbyen, kind of a city park in a wider sense, a popular area for skiing. As soon as you start to climb up, not far from Nybyen, you have the arctic silence all around you, as Larsbreen is a snow mobile free area.

As most glaciers, Larsbreen is also changing. The ascent is different than it used to be. We climbed up through the central meltwater channel, something that provided a very interesting landscape experience. A little canyon cut into the glacier, with various moraine deposits nicely visible in the glacier ice. A cross section within an active glacier, how often do you get that?

Higher up, the glacier is getting wider, and next to it, there is Trollsteinen, offering a lovely view over central Nordenskiöld Land. With a nicely developed Halo as a crown, kind of a rainbow, but based on ice crystals rather than water droplets.

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

Good downhill skiing, followed finally by a visit to Coal Miners’s Grill, the new feeding place in Nybyen. What else could you ask for from a good day in the Arctic ☺

Tempelfjord

It is such a thing with Tempelfjord this year. Not too long ago, it was clear and easy: the transition from solid ground in Sassendalen to fjord ice in Tempelfjord at Fredheim was convenient and as safe as fjord ice can ever be. This had been the case until 2013. In 2014, waves were lapping against the beach at Fredheim for the whole winter! This year, it was, well, not perfect, but better. At least. It was possible to get onto the ice at Fredheim, although the ice edge was not far and the ice itself was not always as solid as one might have wished. But it worked. Of course, we did not miss the opportunity to pay the glaciers in inner Tempelfjord a visit.

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

Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com Easter brainteaser: the mystery solved

The Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com Easter brainteaser – what does the photo at the bottom show? – has got a lot of nice replies. A selection of answers (my own translation of those that were sent in German):

  • Close-up of Humpback whale skin
  • Close-up of Walrus skin in black & white
  • Ice surface. It looks like something has ground it (like the surface at a curling court (Sweden become world champs yesterday!)). So that has to be my guess. Not a curling court, but a ice covered surface that been grounded in some way. Maybe from dog sledge skids?
  • Ice structures
  • Is it frozen water from below with trapped air bubbles?
  • A warm item (e.g. a warm kettle) put on frozen water.
  • An aerial photo of frozen mud flats at low tide.
  • I thought frozen water at first, but I don’t think that’s right.
  • Not polished concrete?
  • Iced-over stromatolithes that got a glaciological haircut
  • Negative imprint of a fossil fern
  • think it is water over some frozen soil or something….
    actually i have no clue even after staring for 30 minutes at the picture!
    in any case: it is beautiful! 🙂
  • A true conch in shallow water?
  • Maybe a shoe sole
  • A rather rare iron structure on a geode (or part of it)
  • Profile of a snow mobile belt
  • Close-up of ice structure
  • A dog in a river bed / ice surface

A number of interesting and surprisingly varied answers! It seems to have been more difficult than I had thought, and this shows how much camera and lens may help to see things that otherwise are hidden or that we see, if at all, in a different way. All those who have seen glacier ice have had this phenomenon near them (but not necessarily seen it and paid attention to it).

This is how the picture was taken:

What is this? Glacier ice!

Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com Easter brainteaser: What is this? Glacier ice!

A macro photo of glacier ice in an ice cave in a glacier, with tripod and macro lens, to make smallest details visible. The brainteaser photo shows very small air bubbles in glacier ice. The individual bubbles and channels are smaller than 1 mm. The area shown on the photo is, in reality, an estimated 4×6 mm large, or rather: small. This network of air bubbles was oriented in a plain parallel to the very clear ice surface, about 2-3 cm deep in the ice, which altogether made it possible to photograph it. Please don’t ask me how exactly this pattern of air channels comes into existence, I don’t know. Please tell me if you know.

The first price for “Close-up of ice structure” goes to Stephanie in Scotland! Stephanie, the choice is yours!

The second price goes to Leipzig and the third one to Sweden. Congratulations to all winners and a big thanks to all who sent their answers! It was fun, and that was the whole purpose of it.

What is this? Very small bubbles and channels of air trapped in glacier ice

Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com Easter brainteaser

Bjørndalen

As mentioned, we just had to return to Bjørndalen. The photos show why ☺

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

Mohnbukta

The spell that the east coast has on some is strong. Magnetic. For many, coast is coast. East, west, who cares. Buth for others, the east coast is something special. A manifestation of remoteness. It may help when the first visit there took place on a trekking tour and not by snow mobile. Then, the distance has a totally different meaning. Shorter legs of the whole trip require days and not hours or just minutes. Where the landscape appears as a convenient highway in the winter, you have got endless tundra in the summer, swampy wetlands, torrential meltwater rivers, morains, glaciers, … the whole lot. Just read Martin Conway’s „First crossing of Spitsbergen“. Recommended!

And when the east coast is quite easily accessible, it does not necessarily loose that charme. Quite the opposite. It is a great pleasure not to resist the temptation as often as possible. Ice, wideness, silence …

Enough written for today. The photos will do the rest.

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

Adventtoppen

Adventtoppen had been on the wishlist for quite some time already. The problem: it is on the northern side of Adventfjord. A few kilometres only from Longyearbyen, just on the other side of the fjord – on the other side of the fjord. That is exactly the problem.

But as so often in the Arctic, the winter is making life easier. Lower Adventdalen, near the fjord, is pretty much impossible to cross in the summer. The river there is huge. But in winter? A highway. Flat and dry.

A bit of apprenticeship due had to be paid on the first attempt. The upper slope of Adventtoppen is quite steep and the snow surface was hard as concrete. So the boots, nicely warm but too soft, turned out to be not good enough for this purpose. The risk of slipping and sliding down a steep 200 m slope was just too big, so it was not to happen that day.

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

Another attempt. Equipped with harder boots and light walking crampons, it suddenly was an easy thing. So Adventtoppen was definitely due that Tuesday. With 786 m, it is obviously not the highest mountain in Longyearbyen’s neighbourhood, but that is not the point. The point is that the top is a point. Not a plateaux, as is so often the case in this area. No, on Adventtoppen, there is one point that has got a splendid 360 degree view ☺ guess what happened there. Of course I had to capture it with 360 degree panorama technique. And as I am a bit behind with this blog, the result is already online: Click here for PanoTour.

spitsbergen-svalbard.com Easter brainteaser

Update: I haven’t got an answer so far that really hits the nail on the head. The question will remain open and entries can be filed until the answer appears as a new spitsbergen-svalbard.com news entry.

An Easter brainteaser on spitsbergen-svalbard.com? Yes, why not. I took the photo recently here in Spitsbergen. And the first one who can tell me what it shows will receive any item (your choice) of the books, postcards or calendar on this website (see right side or click here). The second and third incoming answers – being correct – have the choice within postcards or calendar. Entries by email (contact).

Not difficult, is it?

The answer has to be correct and concrete. Everything that is not wrong is correct, unless it is wrong. I (Rolf Stange) decide if it is concrete (someone has to do it). It is not enough to write that it is a bit of Spitsbergen. This would be correct, but not concrete.

To make it easier, you can download a larger file of the same photo by clicking here.

Good luck – and happy Easter!

What is this?

spitsbergen-svalbard.com Easter brainteaser: what is this?

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