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Home → August, 2015

Monthly Archives: August 2015 − News & Stories

Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016 available

The Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016 is available from now on in two sizes (A3 and A5). Twel­ve beau­tiful pho­tos bring Spitsbergen’s sce­n­ery and wild­life throug­hout the arc­tic sea­sons onto your wall. Click here for fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on about the new Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016.

Der Spitz­ber­gen-Kalen­der 2016 ist ab sofort wie gewohnt in den For­ma­ten A3 und A5 erhält­lich. Zwölf schö­ne Fotos brin­gen Spitz­ber­gens Land­schaf­ten und Tie­re durch die Jah­res­zei­ten auf die Wand. Der Spitz­ber­gen-Kalen­der 2016 ist hier bestell­bar.

The new Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016.

Spitsbergen calendar 2016

Mild sum­mer in Spits­ber­gen

Accor­ding to wea­ther data of the Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te, the cur­rent sum­mer month August is the war­mest of its kind sin­ce the begin­ning of mea­su­re­ments in the 1970s at the air­port near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The nor­mal avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re in August is 4.8°C. The cor­re­spon­ding value for 2015 will be bet­ween 6.6 and 6.8°C (the final value is not yet available).

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has not had sum­mer tem­pe­ra­tures on this avera­ge level at least sin­ce the 1970s. And inde­ed, parts of August were real sum­mer in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, with tem­pe­ra­tures up to around 16°C in cases. Peo­p­le were enjoy­ing the out­side tables of the cafés and restau­rants and their own homes.

Some­ti­mes, the warm tem­pe­ra­tures were more of a local cha­rac­ter: while it was more than 16°C in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, it was plea­sant­ly cool (4-5°C) at Kapp Lee on Edgeøya. Altog­e­ther, howe­ver, wea­ther data from other sta­ti­ons (Ny Åle­sund, Isfjord Radio, Barents­burg) indi­ca­te a very mild sum­mer also else­whe­re in the regi­on.

Locals are more worried about war­mer win­ters than war­mer sum­mers. The win­ter cold is important for the fjord ice. Also shrin­king gla­ciers alre­a­dy make for very obvious chan­ges in the land­scape.

Sum­mer wea­ther in Isfjord.

Summer in Isfjord

Source: NRK

Smol­de­ring fire at cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge in Coles­buk­ta

Almost two weeks ago a team of the Sys­sel­man­nen star­ted extin­gu­is­hing a sub­ter­ra­ne­an fire in Coles­buk­ta cau­sed by a camp fire. The fire was igni­ted at the foun­da­ti­on of a his­to­ri­cal buil­ding which is pro­tec­ted as a lis­ted monu­ment. In Coles­buk­ta seve­ral buil­dings from the time bet­ween 1913 and 1962 are pre­ser­ved. They ser­ved as a har­bor whe­re coal from the near­by Rus­si­an mining sett­le­ment Gru­mant­by­en was loa­ded. Both sett­le­ments are cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ges.

On Tues­day 13th of August the Sys­sel­man­nen was infor­med by tou­rists about the fire in Coles­buk­ta and a team was sent by heli­c­op­ter. The ori­gi­nal camp fire was alre­a­dy extin­gu­is­hed but it had initia­ted a smol­de­ring fire under the ground which was about to spread. First the Sysselmannen´s team pre­ven­ted the fire from spre­a­ding by dig­ging a trench and the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge could be saved.

As now, almost two weeks later on Tues­day 25th of August the Sys­sel­man­nen and the fire depart­ment exami­ned the place again, they noti­ced that the fire was still smol­de­ring. The fire figh­ters tried to extin­gu­ish it with foam and now they think about using a seve­ral meters long hose for pum­ping water from the coast to the fire area.

As it is pro­hi­bi­ted in Sval­bard to make a fire clo­se to cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ges, the Sys­sel­man­nen is inves­ti­ga­ting in this case. So far it is not known who made the camp fire. The Sys­sel­man­nen asks for infor­ma­ti­on, pre­fer­a­b­ly from the respon­si­ble per­sons them­sel­ves.

The old mining/harbour sett­le­ment Coles­buk­ta in win­ter.


Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Nord­aus­t­land cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ted by sea kay­a­kers

The main island of Spits­ber­gen has been cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ted by sea kay­a­kers alre­a­dy in 1990. But the second-lar­gest island, Nord­aus­t­land, has so far withs­tood all attempts. Not that the­re have been a lot, but the­re were a few, which never real­ly took off due to hea­vy ice con­di­ti­ons.

Next to dif­fi­cult ice and wea­ther con­di­ti­ons, it is the long ice cliff of the ice cap Aus­t­fon­na on the east and south coast of Nord­aus­t­land, which makes any attempt to kay­ak this coast a very deman­ding ven­ture. The cal­ving gla­cier front is about 160 kilo­me­t­res long and does not afford any oppor­tu­ni­ty to land for a rest or to sit out bad wea­ther.

This sum­mer, two groups have been suc­cessful with their attempts to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te Nord­aus­t­land. The Nor­we­gi­an group “Nord­aus­t­land” rea­ched Kinn­vi­ka on August 14, whe­re they had star­ted their kay­a­king expe­di­ti­on. A crui­se ship pro­vi­ded safe and com­for­ta­ble trans­por­ta­ti­on from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Kinn­vi­ka and back, the goal of the expe­di­ti­on was kay­a­king around Nord­aus­t­land and this has been achie­ved. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons!

But “Nord­aus­t­land 2015” were not the first group. Just about one day befo­re, a group of three kay­a­kers, two from New Zea­land and one from Nor­way, had com­ple­ted their kay­ak-cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Nord­aus­t­land suc­cessful­ly. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons also to this group! But they have not yet com­ple­ted their expe­di­ti­on, as it is their ambi­tious plan to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te the who­le archi­pe­la­go, from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. But they have done the lar­gest step, Nord­aus­t­land, with impres­si­ve suc­cess.

Both groups met on the way, kept good cont­act and sup­port­ed each other with infor­ma­ti­on. “Nord­aus­t­land 2015” wro­te in their blog “If we reck­on that Nord­aus­t­lan­det is 800 mil­li­on years old, 24 hours dif­fe­rence is insi­gni­fi­cant.” Only a quib­b­ler would chall­enge this 🙂

Both groups have made an ama­zing achie­ve­ment with years of pre­pa­ra­ti­on and trai­ning. The New Zea­land-Nor­we­gi­an group com­ple­ted the 160 kilo­me­ter ice cliff coast within 40 hours wit­hout any major rests. Cam­ping on Isisøya­ne (ear­lier cal­led Isis­pyn­ten) was not pos­si­ble becau­se of the pre­sence of a num­ber of polar bears. Vibe­buk­ta was the next place whe­re put­ting up a tent was an opti­on. Drift ice and fog slo­wed the trip down. Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen, who in 1895 and 1896 made an incre­di­ble kajak adven­ture north of and within Franz Josef Land tog­e­ther with Hjal­mar Johan­sen during his Fram Expe­di­ti­on, would be impres­sed.

Gla­cier front on the south coast of Nord­aus­t­land behind den­se drift ice, July 2015.

Glacier front Nordaustland

Sources: Nord­aus­t­land 2015 (Face­book), Ice bears and Islands

Sys­sel­man­nen remo­ves gar­ba­ge from Svalbard´s bea­ches

This year an amount of 101 cubic meters of gar­ba­ge was coll­ec­ted on the Sysselmannen´s annu­al cle­a­nup crui­se to remo­te bea­ches in Sval­bard. The Sysselmannen´s ship ‘Polar­sys­sel’ was ope­ra­ting for eight days, approa­ching three places at the west- and the north coast of the main island Spits­ber­gen and two places in the nor­thwest of the island Nord­aus­t­lan­det. 24 vol­un­teers sup­port­ed the Sysselmannen´s crew in clea­ning the sin­gle coast­li­nes from gar­ba­ge that was washed ashore.

It is most of all pla­s­tic gar­ba­ge of dif­fe­rent kind and size from all over the world which floats on the ocean´s sur­face, some­ti­mes for years, and final­ly finds its way to the coast. And the big­ger part deri­ves from the fishing indus­try: fish­nets, fish­net floats, ropes and so on. For ani­mals the gar­ba­ge can turn into a lethal trap, in the water as well as ashore. Sea­birds for exam­p­le swal­low small pie­ces of pla­s­tic which they are not able to digest. They final­ly die by the accu­mu­la­ti­on of pla­s­tic pie­ces in their sto­machs. Birds and other ani­mals get ent­an­gled in ropes and fish­nets. On this year´s cam­paign the Sysselmannen´s crew found a reinde­er ske­le­ton com­ple­te­ly wrap­ped in a fish­net and in 2014 a polar bear was trai­ling a huge fish­net with its ear. The net got stuck at an ear­mark pla­ced by sci­en­tists (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Again polar bear caught in fishing net from August 2014).

With 101 cubic meters the­re was more gar­ba­ge coll­ec­ted than last year (88 cubic meters). Yet, the Sysselmannen´s cle­a­nup crui­se was not as suc­cessful as expec­ted. In the begin­ning the work was two times dis­tur­bed by polar bears show­ing up and later bad wea­ther pre­ven­ted the approach to high­ly pol­lu­ted bea­ches. Spe­cial thanks go to the local popu­la­ti­on with its wil­ling­ness to sup­port the cam­paign. More than 200 locals vol­un­tee­red for the cle­a­nup and final­ly 24 were cho­sen to accom­pa­ny the Sysselmannen´s crew.

Gene­ral­ly, the Sys­sel­man­nen can only cover a very small part of Svalbard´s coasts with this annu­al cam­paign, as for exam­p­le this year the­re were only five bea­ches clea­ned. The­r­e­fo­re smal­ler pri­va­te expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships are a signi­fi­cant help in this case, as most of them con­stant­ly arran­ge simi­lar cle­a­nups with their pas­sen­gers (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news The Oce­an Cle­a­nup: solu­ti­on for the glo­bal pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem from June 2014).

Fish­net washed ashore
© Chris­ti­an Nico­lai Bjør­ke


Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Four polar bears, one wal­rus – 11th August 2015

New trip, new luck. Old polar fri­ends with their fri­ends and rela­ti­ves, a very fami­li­ar set­ting right from the begin­ning. Very plea­sant.

A litt­le bit of swell in the Isfjord ent­rance. Christ­mas-tree Wil­li finds out that the sea is some­thing dif­fe­rent than a forest. The shaking of a boat is less plea­sant than the shaking of the trees.

Mir­ror images on the water in For­lands­und. Moun­ta­ins and gla­ciers seem to rise both upwards into the sky and down­wards on the water.

Pho­to Kongsfjord – 11th August 2015 – 1/2


Ny Åle­sund is a good start, a gent­le tran­si­ti­on from zivi­li­sa­ti­on to the arc­tic wil­der­ness. And mee­ting Mar­ten Loo­nen, the head of the Dutch arc­tic sta­ti­on, is always a very plea­sant affair, whe­re you will always learn a lot. Geese and foxes chan­ge in having good and bad years, rough­ly simi­lar­ly to lem­mings. The cycles don’t have three years, but seven or eight. The grass, the reinde­er, rain or snow, it is all part of the sys­tem. It is com­plex.

Pho­to Kongsfjord – 11th August 2015 – 2/2


A dead wal­rus on the shore as attrac­ted two polar bear fami­lies. Two mothers, each with one cub of the year. One fami­ly is stay­ing a bit away while the other one is fee­ding. The mother is pay­ing full atten­ti­on to the wal­rus car­cass, while the cub is busy with a pie­ce of drift­wood. The small boat with the visi­tors off the beach is, howe­ver, com­ple­te­ly irrele­vant to them. A reach meal, a feast for bears and tou­rists. A wild bit of arc­tic natu­re. A gre­at expe­ri­ence. Unless you are the wal­rus.

Erd­mann­flya – 05th August 2015

A calm night, a calm pas­sa­ge nor­thwards to Isfjord, inter­rupt­ed only by a short stop when cod appeared on the depth sound­er – din­ner was secu­red. Time to show some pho­tos, for the very first time, from our Bee­ren­berg ascent on Jan May­en in July.
Then we reach Bore­buk­ta, one of tho­se bays in the rather civi­li­sed Isfjord area whe­re the­re is not too much traf­fic. Once again, we ven­ture into the arc­tic wil­der­ness, wit­hout see­ing anyo­ne. Once again into the silent tun­dra, flat coas­tal plains, which seem bor­ing from the distance but are actual­ly full of details. An old, small seal­ing ship on the shore looks as if it was left behind by its crew with the inten­ti­on to con­ti­nue the voya­ge soon, but they never retur­ned. What hap­pen­ed? No idea. (Amend­ment: the boat was left the­re by a well-known inha­bi­tant of Lon­gye­ar­by­en usual­ly known as „Hamarøy­en“ – he came from the island Hamarøy – to ser­ve as accom­mo­da­ti­on. The near­by lake has always been popu­lar for fishing among­st the locals).

Bea­ches, inter­rupt­ed by small capes and cliff coasts, incis­ed rivers. Rock land­scapes with fox dens, and very appro­pria­te­ly, two young polar foxes, one of them reason­ab­ly curious. A litt­le herd of six reinde­er making a curious semi-cir­cle around us. A nice fare­well from Spitsbergen’s tun­dra.

The surf had picked up and did not lea­ve all boots dry. Good we had been able to avo­id that during the trips so far.

Gal­lery Erd­mann­flya – 05th August 2015

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

A last, calm night at anchor in Coles­buk­ta, then some final miles to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Then the voya­ge is over. My very own par­ty is based on fresh arc­tic char from the north coast, a pre­sent from Pål. It is enough for me for two days.

Bell­sund – 04th August 2015

Bell­sund – sounds almost like home, a peaceful place J far away from all that ice, back in the green tun­dra under the noi­sy birdcliffs, the colourful flowers, the reinde­er, the ele­gant­ly cur­ved bays. After a day on the ship yes­ter­day, it was nice to stretch legs a litt­le bit, a good 300 met­res up to get a pan­ora­ma view of Bell­sund. Akseløya with its ama­zing struc­tures in the north, Fri­dt­jov­breen, the lar­ge val­leys Ber­ze­li­us­da­len and Reind­a­len. The lush tun­dra with count­less flowers on Mid­ter­huks­let­ta, inter­rupt­ed by deep­ly incis­ed ice wed­ges. The litt­le rocky capes on the sou­thern side, and some jag­ged moun­ta­ins and wide gla­ciers in the distance. An ama­zin­gly beau­tiful coun­try, on a good day.

Gal­lery Bell­sund – 04th August 2015

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

A calm evening at anchor with a view to Fri­dt­jov­breen rounds the day off.

Ice … with a litt­le help from my fri­ends – 03rd August 2015

Yes, the ice keeps on kee­ping us busy for some time. The next den­se belt of drift ice is just ahead of us. Sør­kapp Land seems so clo­se. Given the­se con­di­ti­ons, the­re are not many other ships in the area, but we are not the only ones now. The Hur­tig­ru­ten ship MS Fram is north of us, steam­ing south, a fast, strong ves­sel with a fri­end­ly Cap­tain. We con­ti­nue behind Fram, the ship is wide enough to crea­te a nice chan­nel in the ice. Their pas­sen­gers are enjoy­ing the ope­ra­ti­on, and so do we. Not an ever­y­day thing, defi­ni­te­ly.

Pho­to Sør­kapp – 03rd August 2015 – 1/3


After a first, den­se sec­tion, the ice is get­ting more open. Kit­ty­wa­kes are fishing in Fram’s wake, and the wild sce­n­ery of Sør­kapp Land pro­vi­des a sple­ndid back­ground. And as a final high­light, a polar bear is show­ing up. A big, strong, proud male, batt­le-scar­red with many scars on its face and nose.

Pho­to Sør­kapp – 03rd August 2015 – 2/3


The wide pas­sa­ge around the south cape takes most of the night, and the­re are drift ice fields bet­ween us and the coast all of the time. Same now, in the ear­ly mor­ning. Horn­sund is in view, but behind wide ice fields. We are crui­sing bet­ween the ice floes, Pål is enjoy­ing his time on the stee­ring wheel, while I am wat­ching for polar bears and wri­ting this blog in bet­ween.

Pho­to Sør­kapp – 03rd August 2015 – 3/3


We will keep a distance to Horn­sund, let’s see whe­re we end up today, pro­ba­b­ly Bell­sund. A good, safe ancho­ra­ge is the next thing we need, some rest for the skip­per, a landing for ever­y­bo­dy else.

Ice – 03rd August 2015

Ice … we’ve had a simi­lar head­line befo­re, didn’t we? Pos­si­bly. Now we are off Isbuk­ta, sou­thern east coast of Spits­ber­gen. At least, we have not been this far south befo­re, recent­ly, the south cape seems so clo­se.

Ear­lier today, we thought once again that we were through, the ice stay­ed behind, open water ahead … but a few miles later, more ice, the next den­se belt of drift ice. Accor­ding to today’s ice chart, it should have been an iso­la­ted field of „open drift ice“, well, we have heard that befo­re.

Pho­to Ice – 03rd August 2015


Habe­nicht­buk­ta – 01st + 02nd August 2015

Let’s for­get yes­ter­day. Too many tough hours were spent criss-crossing Storfjord, back and forth, in strong wind and high seas, try­ing to find an ope­ning in the ice and a pas­sa­ge south. What loo­ked like a pas­sa­ge tur­ned out to be a dead-end road. The east coast of Spits­ber­gen loo­ked so clo­se, Horn­sund­tind was cle­ar­ly visi­ble, but as out-of-reach as the moon.

Habe­nicht­buk­ta – 01st + 02nd August 2015


Final­ly we declared the case as hope­l­ess for the time being and stea­m­ed off towards Edgeøya, some more hours against the waves, but then we found a good ancho­ra­ge in Habe­nicht­buk­ta, shel­te­red from the sea and thus reason­ab­ly calm. Soon, life came back on our good, litt­le Arc­ti­ca II, peo­p­le appeared again and cha­os was tur­ned back into a cosy home.

The idea to sit the wea­ther out in this rather com­for­ta­ble posi­ti­on was quick­ly wel­co­med by ever­yo­ne. We could also expect that the ice, which accor­ding to all available infor­ma­ti­on couldn’t be more than a rela­tively thin stri­pe, should be spread by the strong wind, so a pas­sa­ge to the south cape should be pos­si­ble in the near future. So the next thing to do was a good din­ner, an enjoya­ble social evening and a good, long night’s sleep J

Pho­to Has­sen­stein­buk­ta – 02. August 2015


The wide tun­dra of sou­thwes­tern Edgeøya is an arc­tic dream, so of cour­se we went out this mor­ning to explo­re a bit, and our litt­le sun­day mor­ning walk tur­ned out to last a good cou­ple of hours. The tun­dra has an ama­zing dis­play of colours, it covers a low­land of rol­ling hills on basalt rock. Altog­e­ther, this attracts the eye and the atten­ti­on wit­hout any limi­ta­ti­on. The wide flat-top­ped moun­ta­ins in the distance give the sce­n­ery the cha­rac­ter that is so typi­cal for sou­the­as­tern Spits­ber­gen. A wild, beau­tiful arc­tic coun­try. Colourful flowers, the polar wil­low is show­ing the first hints of autumn. A mul­ti-chan­ne­led arc­tic river, a reinde­er, old fox traps from times of hun­ting which are histo­ry now sin­ce long. A long, silent rest to enjoy the impres­si­ons and let the eye wan­der and the spi­rit won­der.

Pho­to Habe­nicht­buk­ta – 02. August 2015


A second landing in the late after­noon tur­ned out to be a short-lived affair. After a short walk only, we saw a polar bear wal­king a bit fur­ther south. We went back to the ship and left him alo­ne in his king­dom.

More wal­rus­ses, more wind, more ice – 07/31 + 08/01/2015

(31st July – 01st August 2015) – The day star­ted nice and sun­ny, but soon it tur­ned out to be quite win­dy, which is not par­ti­cu­lar­ly hel­pful on the rather unpro­tec­ted shores of Storfjord. Against expec­ta­ti­on, we mana­ged a landing on Edgeøya, enjoy­ed the love­ly tun­dra, the wide land­scape, a group of wal­rus­ses sun­bathing near an old trap­per hut, not far from a wal­rus gra­vey­ard whe­re hundreds of their grand­grand­par­ents were slaugh­te­red by wha­lers and hun­ters for their ivo­ry, blub­ber and skin. Now, wal­rus­ses are again enjoy­ing their life near the old, blea­ching bones. Natu­re is taking her space again, even if it takes time.

More wal­rus­ses, more wind, more ice – 07/31 + 08/01/2015


Assum­ing that com­ple­ting a cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Spits­ber­gen would only be a mat­ter of sai­ling down Storfjord and around the south cape, we set cour­se that way. But the ice field that was shown on the latest ice chart as a rather thin belt of open drift bet­ween sou­thern Edgeøya and the east coast of Spits­ber­gen tur­ned out to be solid, den­se pack ice, pushed tog­e­ther by the strong nor­t­her­ly wind. Now we have been try­ing for more than 12 hours to find a gap in that ice field, and if we don’t find it soon, then we have to turn around and head nor­thwards again, back through Heley­sund and Hin­lo­pen Strait … not a very plea­sant thought at all, but natu­re rules. A king­dom for an accu­ra­te, up-to-date ice chart and a good wea­ther fore­cast!


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