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Home → July, 2015

Monthly Archives: July 2015 − News & Stories


Horn­sund – 13th Juli 2015

Horn­sund can be nas­ty, and it can be friend­ly and beau­ti­ful. Today, it was won­der­ful. Silent, clear wea­ther, calm water with mir­ror images of the sur­roun­ding moun­tains. And the­re are some beau­ti­ful moun­tains arran­ged at the shores of this fjord. Cha­rac­ter­ful peaks that are uni­que, you will always reco­gni­ze them on a pho­to once you have seen them. Hyrn­ef­jel­let with its beau­ti­ful­ly cur­ved and colour­ful sedi­men­ta­ry lay­ers. The rug­ged dou­ble peak of Horn­sund­tind. The jag­ged ridge of Lucia­kam­men. Bau­ta­en which can appe­ar sharp as a need­le.

The tour along the ridge of the Tres­ke­len pen­in­su­la rewar­ded us with gre­at pan­or­amic views of this sce­nic specta­cle and inte­res­ting insights into the events of Earth histo­ry that had crea­ted it. Devo­ni­an Old Red, Per­mo­car­bo­ni­fe­rous car­bo­na­tes and the dark, petre­fied wad­den sea from the Tri­as­sic. In this order from bot­tom to top, ele­gant­ly cur­ved as a huge fold bent upwards. Our lan­ding site was clear­ly mar­ked as the fold axis by some dis­tinct coas­tal rocks. Ever­y­bo­dy had the over­view at the end of the hike. And tho­se who stay­ed a bit fur­ther down in the ter­rain, enjoy­ed rein­de­er and a fami­ly of Bar­na­cle geese which was atta­cked by an Arc­tic skua wit­hin short ran­ge.

Pho­to Tres­ke­len – 13th Juli 2015

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The gla­cier-sur­roun­ded bay Bre­pol­len deligh­ted us not only with its long gla­cier fronts, but also with the sigh­t­ing of a polar bear mother with a first-year cub, which had found a warm and com­for­ta­ble place on the back of its mother.

Pho­to Stor­breen – 13th Juli 2015

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And later in Bur­ger­buk­ta, the­re was so much gla­cier ice drif­ting in the bay that we could not resist the tempt­ati­on of a late-after­noon Zodiac crui­se in ice­berg alley. The final high­light was the sigh­t­ing of a Bear­ded seal on a grow­ler (a small pie­ce of gla­cier ice).

Sou­thern west coast – 12rd Juli 2015

The day star­ted exact­ly in the same way as yes­ter­day: calm, almost mir­ror-like water, but den­se fog. Apart from the poor visi­bi­li­ty, con­di­ti­ons were again ide­al for lan­dings at unusu­al pla­ces, expo­sed, dif­fi­cult to reach, usual­ly igno­red. But as calm as it was today, the­re should be oppor­tu­nities.

Initi­al­ly, the visi­bi­li­ty threa­tened to make lan­dings in polar bear coun­try impos­si­ble, but after some care­ful explo­ra­ti­on, the fog lifted at Kapp Bort­hen, so soon ever­y­bo­dy was ashore in a wide, flat coas­tal area, an allu­vi­al meltwa­ter plain cove­r­ed with wet tun­dra domi­na­ted by algae in many colours. And in the midd­le of this stran­ge land­s­cape, an even stran­ger arte­fact: the wreck of a Ger­man figh­ter pla­ne, a Ju 88, that was for­ced to land near Kapp Bort­hen after having recei­ved dama­ge during attacks on an allied con­voi in Sep­tem­ber 1942. A very stran­ge impres­si­on, this desct­ruc­tion machi­ne with a bleached-out swas­ti­ka in the midd­le of the peace­ful arc­tic tun­dra.

Pho­to Kapp Bort­hen – 12rd Juli 2015

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Our wea­ther luck func­tion­ed equal­ly well later a bit fur­ther south in Hyt­tevi­ka, at Wan­ny Woldstad’s famous old hut, which is so nice­ly hid­den bet­ween some big rocks. The sun was shi­ning on a tun­dra that is so green that it seems almost unre­al. And ten thousands of Litt­le auks just a few metres fur­ther up the slo­pes. An immense specta­cle, on the rocks, in the air.

Pho­to Hyt­tevi­ka – 12rd Juli 2015

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The fog has disap­peared com­ple­te­ly as we are now ent­e­ring Horn­sund. The bright evening sun is shi­ning on beau­ti­ful, famous moun­tains such as Horn­sund­tind, Lucia­kam­men, Hyrn­ef­jel­let. Small and medi­um-sized ice­bergs ever­y­whe­re in the water. Soon the anchor will fall in Adria­buk­ta.

For­landsund & Wha­les – 11th Juli 2015

The water was calm as a mir­ror, the wind some­whe­re else on the pla­net, but not here. A good oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit expo­sed pla­ces, which are usual­ly hard to reach and well off the trod­den path. Such as the west coast of Spits­ber­gen just north of the Isfjord ent­ran­ce.
 
 

Pho­to Daud­man­nen – 11th Juli 2015

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The fog was covering huge are­as and we had to search for sui­ta­ble con­di­ti­ons. The first bay wasn’t any good, all we found was an unchar­ted rock next to the anchor posi­ti­on (we found it by Zodiac, no pro­blems). But around the cor­ner, the­re was a lovely litt­le bay, nar­row and deeply cut­ting into the other­wi­se very rocky coast­li­ne. And behind it, the­re was a wide coas­tal plain with tun­dra and some rocky hills and quiet hid­den lakes.

Pho­to Wha­le­watching – 11th Juli 2015

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Later, we tried to escape from the fog by going south and then out to open sea, as the coast was com­ple­te­ly hid­den in a grey cover. So we had time to have a look at the con­ti­nen­tal shelf area, whe­re the depth con­tours on the chart indi­ca­te waters 500 metres deep and more. And qui­te right, soon backs of White-bea­ked dol­phins, Fin and Hump­back wha­les were brea­king through the calm water sur­face. It tur­ned out to be an unf­or­gett­able evening with Hump­back wha­les fee­ding near the ship.

Sai­ling along the north coast & Virgo­ham­na – 9th/10th Juli 2015

Admit­ted­ly, it wasn’t real­ly high per­for­mance sai­ling yes­ter­day evening. But at least, we were moving under sail, even into the right direc­tion, rough­ly. That chan­ged today in the ear­ly morning. We were still slow, but then going towards north Green­land. Also an inte­res­ting place, but not in our plan for the time being. But then the wind came, and we were hea­ding with up to 10 knots into Smee­ren­burgfjord.

Pho­to Ver­le­gen­hu­ken – 09th Juli 2015

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Ama­zin­gly, the wind died down at the right time, as we wan­ted to make a lan­ding in the after­noon. Virgo­ham­na, the arc­tic ver­si­on of Cape Cana­veral, open air muse­um of aero­nau­ti­cal north pole expe­di­ti­ons.

Pho­to Virgo­ham­na – 10th Juli 2015

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Har­bour seals are not exact­ly ani­mals one would asso­cia­te with the high arc­tic. The ones here kind of got stuck here. Lef­tovers from a time, several thousand years ago, when the cli­ma­te was a bit war­mer. They thri­ved and got well estab­lis­hed. Then it coo­led down again, but they stay­ed. Pro­bab­ly not living the grea­test har­bour seal life any­mo­re, but they at least. An unusu­al sight in Spits­ber­gen. Often, they don’t like peop­le get­ting near them on shore, but they don’t mind small boats too much, and so we could make a nice visit. Fun­ny how they are res­ting on stones. Doesn’t look too com­for­ta­ble …

UN Secreta­ry-Gene­ral Ban Ki-moon is visi­t­ing Sval­bard

United Nati­ons Secreta­ry-Gene­ral Ban Ki-moon is cur­r­ent­ly on an offi­cial trip in Sval­bard. The visit is part of the UN´s cam­pain in pre­pe­ra­ti­on of the upco­m­ing UN Cli­ma­te Chan­ge Con­ven­ti­on in Decem­ber 2015. Ban intends to get an over­view over the local effects of glo­bal war­ming in the Arc­tic and to use the publi­ci­ty of his visit to pri­ma­ri­ly inform about the alar­ming extend of gla­cial mel­ting.

On Tues­day Ban arri­ved at the air­port in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, accom­pa­nied by the Nor­we­gi­an For­eign Minis­ter Bør­ge Bre­de. The guests were direct­ly taken to the Nor­we­gi­an rese­arch ves­sel ‘Lan­ce’, which had recent­ly retur­ned from a rese­arch ope­ra­ti­on in the ice, north of Sval­bard. Onboard the ‘Lan­ce’ they were brought to Ny-Åle­sund whe­re sci­en­tists of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te infor­med Ban about the situa­ti­on in Sval­bard. After­wards they took a boat trip to the edge of the gla­cier Blom­strand­breen, which had mel­ted signi­fi­cant­ly sin­ce Ban’s last visit in 2009. The next stop on the tour is again Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Ban Ki-moon,
CC BY-SA 2.0 by
Minis­te­rie van Bui­ten­land­se Zaken

Ban-Ki-moon-CC-BY-SA-2_0

Source: United Nati­ons

Sorgfjord – 9th Juli 2015

The fjord of worries was a place of plea­su­re today, under the bright arc­tic sun at 80 degrees north. Here, whe­re 40 Dut­ch wha­ling ships were sunk, burnt or cap­tu­red by three Eng­lish batt­le­ships in 1693, we enjoy­ed rela­xed walks and long hikes. The moun­tain goa­ts went into back coun­try and up a moun­tain to enjoy gre­at sce­nic views. The friends of more rela­xed arc­tic walks obser­ved Red-throated divers in remar­kab­le num­bers, burnt in the sun next to a decaying trappers’s hut, exami­ned a wha­lers’ gra­vey­ard, exami­ned the remains of a Swe­dish polar sta­ti­on which made an important con­tri­bu­ti­on when they figu­red out the shape of our pla­net in some detail and lis­tened to dra­ma­tic sto­ries of fai­led arc­tic expe­di­ti­ons from more than a cen­tu­ry ago.

Foto Eolus­ne­set – 9. Juli 2015

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Hin­lo­pen – 07th Juli 2015

The sou­thern Hin­lo­pen Strait is full with ice, no thought of get­ting through. Ice, ice, ice! Inclu­ding ple­nty of ice­bergs. The sou­thern part of Aus­t­fon­na, the lar­ge ice cap on Nord­aus­t­land, has been sur­ging in recent years, pushing a lot of gla­cier ice into the sea.
 
 

Hin­lo­pen – 07th Juli 2015 – Pho­to Vibe­buk­ta – 1/2

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Almost 80 wal­rus­ses are lying on 3 ice floes, most of them young ani­mals, some just bey­ond the baby sta­ge. The lar­gest group alo­ne is near 50 wal­rus­ses on one qui­te over­crow­ded ice floe, hard to belie­ve that it did not alrea­dy break under tho­se many tons of huge seals. The wal­rus­ses are very busy with them­sel­ves, figh­t­ing play­ful­ly, very acti­ve, some going into the water just to get out onto the ice floe again. We watch the magni­ficent dis­play for a while from a care­ful distance and disap­pe­ar again.

The long gla­cier front of the ice cap Aus­t­fon­na is in den­se drift ice, out of reach. Cap­tain Joa­chim mane­ouvres the Anti­gua as far into the drift ice as pos­si­ble and then stops the engi­ne for a while. Ice, ice, ice any­whe­re. Drift ice, ice­bergs, gla­ciers. High arc­tic.

Hin­lo­pen – 07th Juli 2015 – Pho­to Vibe­buk­ta – 2/2

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An evening visit to a group of wal­rus­ses res­ting on the beach rounds a won­der­ful Hin­lo­pen day off.

Lomfjord – 07th Juli 2015

After a long evening yes­ter­day with Fin wha­les and count­less Brünich’s guil­lemots, we star­ted a bit later into the day today. The famous erra­tic boul­der in Lomfjord, a gigan­tic spe­ci­men pla­ced with admi­ra­ble pre­cisi­on by ice age gla­ciers on a nar­row ridge a good 330 metres abo­ve sea level, only came out of the fog when we had actual­ly reached it. But the wind kind­ly blew a hole into the fog, so we could enjoy the views on Hin­lo­pen Strait, Lomfjord and the lar­ge gla­ciers and wide morai­nes in the neigh­bou­ring val­leys, which set us mental­ly back into the plei­sto­ce­ne.

Lomfjord – 07th Juli 2015 – Pho­to Faks­eva­gen

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Alkef­jel­let – 06th July 2015

Several hund­red thousand Brünich’s guil­lemots, ser­ved on basaltic cliffs, roun­ded the day off.
 
 
 

Pho­to Alkef­jel­let – 06th July 2015

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Nord­aus­t­land – 6th July 2015

Nord­aus­t­land: bar­ren polar desert, sto­ny tun­dra with rich details in a big sce­nic vacu­um. Lonely litt­le flowers
 
 

Nord­aus­t­land – 6th July 2015 – Pho­to Sore Rus­seoya

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Woodfjord – 5th July 2015

The lagoon in Mus­ham­na is a pie­ce of art by natu­re. A beau­ti­ful­ly cur­ved, nar­row gra­vel bar is sepa­ra­ting the lagoon from the fjord. The ent­ran­ce is 10 metres deep and hard­ly much wider. Ide­al to spend a shel­te­red night at anchor.

And to land in almost all kinds of wea­ther. Today it is com­ple­te­ly calm, not a pro­blem any­way. Still a lot of snow, but the land is invi­t­ing to walk around and explo­re.

But the lan­ding came to an end after alrea­dy a few minu­tes. The place was alrea­dy occu­p­ied. This polar bear, which appeared out of nowhe­re just a few hund­red metres from us, it clear­ly had the right of way.

What fol­lo­wed was qui­te incredi­ble. We spent most of the day on board Anti­gua insi­de the lagoon, moving just a few hund­red metres here and the­re. The polar bear – a lady, equip­ped with a satel­li­te sen­der from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te – wal­ked around and then laid down on the ice. A second bear came along and went over the ice to the fjord one, sca­ring it to death so it ran away so the water was spla­shing on the rot­ten ice.

Woodfjord – 5th July 2015 – Pho­to Mus­ham­na

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Later, a third bear came around the moun­tain in the south, an impres­si­ve male. He wal­ked past bear num­ber 2 on the ice of the lagoon, but they did not pay much atten­ti­on to each other. Mean­while, bear no 1 had disap­peared to the south. Bears 2 and 3 wal­ked here and the­re over the ice and along the shore, much to our gre­at plea­su­re on board. So the sun­ny hours went quick­ly, one after the other.

Vel­komstpyn­ten – 4th July 2016

How often do you have the chan­ce to go ashore on the north coast of Spits­ber­gen? Not in a well shel­te­red bay or fjord, but on a shore which is neigh­bou­ring the North Pole? Not too often. And when you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty, you have to use it.

The wha­lers did so alrea­dy, loo­king out for wha­les and ice from the­se hills. Bro­ken pie­ces of clay pipes near an old, lar­ge cairn may well date back into the 17th cen­tu­ry. The land is still lar­ge­ly snow-cove­r­ed. Big snow­fiel­ds, wet, hea­vy snow. Best to make some detours to walk around them. So the kilo­me­tres are adding up quick­ly.

Pho­to Vel­komstpyn­ten – 4th July 2016

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The coas­tal rocks sepa­ra­ting small bays, the hills, the who­le coun­try – ever­ything is red. Desert sand, more than 350 mil­li­on years old. Ero­ded debris of a moun­tain ran­ge was­hed into the sea ages ago.

Raudfjord – 03rd Juli 2015

Raudfjord: Fog lec­tu­re polar bear bird cliff polar fox trap­per hut snow rein­de­er gra­ves sun beach silence cho­co­la­te polar bear ice fog
 
 

Raudfjord – 03rd Juli 2015 – Pho­to Alice­ham­na

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The Nor­thwest: polar bear coun­try – 2nd July 2015

As yes­ter­day, I am sit­ting to wri­te my litt­le blog late in the evening. The­se days are so full, the land­s­cape in nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen is so den­se­ly packed with so many things. So many islands whe­re one could go to have a look to see what is the­re. And you are glued to your bino­cu­lars here. Behind every point, on every slo­pe the­re might be a polar bear. And on one slo­pe, the­re was a polar bear, slee­ping on a snow field. On many beaches, the­re could be wal­rus­ses. And on a litt­le sker­ry, the­re were two wal­rus­ses. Which is qui­te unusual­ly. Nor­mal­ly, they are lying on beaches or ice floes, not on rocks. Someo­ne said the­se ones were pro­bab­ly rai­sed by Har­bour seals. They like to lie on rocks.

It was a bit of wha­lers’ wea­ther in the­se old wha­ling waters. Grey, a bit win­dy, the occa­sio­nal bit of snow and rain in the air. In the late after­noon, the sun came almost out, cas­ting light on the litt­le pen­in­su­la whe­re Wal­de­mar and Sal­ly lift a long, long time ago in their lonely hut, which they had once built on a whaler’s gra­ve.

The Nor­thwest: polar bear coun­try – 2nd July 2015

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

We saw two more polar bears during the later evening, both making their way on steep, rocky slo­pes. The first one, equip­ped with a col­lar with satel­li­te tra­cker from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and thus obvious­ly a lady bear, was busy making herself unpo­pu­lar amongst the owners of various birds’ nests on an island. The second one was stal­king a rein­de­er for almost a kilo­met­re in Raudfjord, befo­re it gave up.

Kongsfjord – 1st July 2015

It is late in the evening after a long day, so it won’t be a long blog ent­ry, alt­hough books could be writ­ten about the day. Alt­hough it is just the first full day, after a smooth start yes­ter­day, with a sun­ny, calm pas­sa­ge out of Isfjord.

Ny Åle­sund made the start, with the who­le lot from older and more recent sto­ries, the nume­rous Bar­na­cle goo­se fami­lies with their litt­le chicks fee­ding on the tun­dra in the midd­le of the small sett­le­ment, a morning full of varied impres­si­ons. In the after­noon, a first but deep dive into Spitsbergen’s arc­tic natu­re away from any civi­li­sa­ti­on or even traces of it. Brünich’s guil­lemots and kit­ty­wa­kes at their bree­ding colo­ny at clo­se ran­ge, sur­roun­ded by colour­ful flowers. The fami­lies cin­que­foil, dra­ba, saxif­ra­ga, but­ter­cup and others are all pre­sent with aunts and uncles, nie­ces and nephews.

The Kong­s­ve­gen gla­cier had obvious­ly been busy recent­ly, deco­ra­ting the fjord with lots of ber­gy bits and some lar­ge ice­bergs, inclu­ding some very impres­si­ve spe­ci­mens. And a very impres­si­ve spe­ci­men of a wha­le is roun­ding the day of in grand style not far from Ny Åle­sund. A Blue wha­le cir­cling around, diving very regu­lar­ly – you could set the clock by it – for four to five minu­tes, then breat­hing three or four times, finis­hing the last breath by showing its migh­ty flu­ke. The­re must be ple­nty of food in the water, the depth meter shows a very colour­ful array of colours in the free water column.

Gal­le­ry – Kongsfjord – 1st July 2015

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

A lot f food for polar tra­vel­lers with a good appe­ti­te for arc­tic impres­si­ons.

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