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Monthly Archives: September 2015 − News & Stories

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From Raudfjord to Krossfjord – 29th September 2015

Finally with Zodiacs into inner Hamiltonbukta, haven’t been there for a while! And things there have changed, meaning the glaciers have retreated considerably. I have to find some old photos to compare. A lot of rocks now where there used to be glaciers 10 years ago.

Hamiltonbukta 29th September 2015 – 1/2

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This doesn’t mean that it is not nice anymore. Quite the opposite, the glaciers are still stunningly beautiful. A lot of ice drifting in the bay. And on these small islands, you can still enjoy life in general and the beauty of the scenery. Very nice.

The next low pressure was already on the way. We had decided to make a quick jump down to Kongsfjord, escaping before desaster would strike. A swift cruise through Nordvestøyane and Smeerenburgfjord. Watching the barometer was interesting. In 3 days, it had dropped by 54 hPa. A similar drop on the financial markets would send shockwaves around the globes. But this was only the barometer.

Hamiltonbukta 29th September 2015 – 2/2

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There was quite a bit of swell off the coast, swell from hell, that was not so great, and some were not seen for a couple of hours. But at least, finally the northern wind came and up went the sails, making the movement more stable and comfortable. In the late evening, we reached Krossfjord and a reasonably well sheltered anchorage.

The northwest shows off, part II – 28th September 2015

As mentioned, this was not all this day should bring. We were thinking about a little late afternoon landing, hoping to find a reasonably sheltered spot. We forgot about that quickly. The wind was one aspect. Admittedly, when I saw the wind blowing out of the bay and on to the shore of our envisaged landing site, I was already thinking how to get out of it again. But that was not even necessary. Suddenly a polar bear was seen walking on the slope not far from the place and that attracted of course everybodies attention. It walked along the coast, we indeed a lonesome walrus was lying, passing it within a few metres initially without paying attention (is it really possible that he was not aware of it to begin with?). Then he recognized it, made some steps towards it, probably hoping for a big meal, but the walrus demonstrated with a quick movement of its mighty tusks that this might be a bad idea.

Photo Flathuken 28th September 2015

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The bear continued and it was kind enough to do so in an area where Joachim could maneouvre the Antigua reasonably close to the shore. It was certainly close enough for me, otherwise I would have had to remove the tele converter … the final highlight of the day was a stunning set of sunset colours above an amazing scenery. So now the day is over. The second day of the trip, and it could not have been better!

Photo Raudfjord 28th September 2015

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Now we are curious about tomorrow. Even more wind is expected – we shall see.

The northwest shows off, part I – 28th September 2015

As mentioned before, we were curious what the day would bring. Essentially, we were prepared for a lot of wind. Which we got. And a lot more.

We had done the whole stretch from southern Forlandsund to the northwest during the night under sails, nicely with the squares, calm and no strong listing, very pleasant.

Photo Virgohamna 28th September 2015 – 1/2

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Considering the strong southerly wind, Virgohamna was a natural choice. Starting with telling the relevant stories there in some details, otherwise all you see there is a pile of rubbish. With the stories of the expeditions of Andrée and Wellman on your mind, it is suddenly a Mekka of polar history. Also some harbour seals were present.

Opposite in Smeerenburg, a group of walrusses were hauled out on the beach, but the wind did not leave a chance for a landing. We had to make do with a reasonably close passage by ship, which turned out to be fine.

Photo Virgohamna 28th September 2015 – 2/2

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Then, we continued into Fuglefjord. Grand panorama, mountains, glaciers. Spitsbergen has got its name for a reason, this became clear again here.

Svitjodbreen has retreated strongly in recent years. A rock that came out under the glacier some years ago is now an island. First mate Moritz was so kind to put me ashore for a moment to take a 360 degree panorama photo – maybe I am the first one to have set foot on the island? You should never say or even think that you are the first one to have done something in Spitsbergen. There has always been someone who was earlier out, it won’t be any different here. But the possibility as such is a nice thought.

Photo Fuglefjord 28th September 2015

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But that was not the point. Taking the 360 degree panorama was the thing for me. To the delight of everybody on board, as they had me for scale on the island in front of the glacier. Meanwhile, Moritz was biding his time in the Zodiac by reading my Spitsbergen book! That is hard to see in the panorama, but I loved the idea. The result can soon be seen on this website. I am pretty sure it is the first 360 degree panorama taken there. Not a bad thing. Click here to see the result.

There was more to come today. More about that later.

Forlandsund – 27th September 2015

A day in Longyearbyen, which can at least partially be spent with doing nothing, is always a good thing. So yesterday we could start again with fresh motivation and energy.

A calm day in Forlandsund, with light snowfall we walk over the coastal plain between Isfjord and St. Jonsfjord. Lovely coastal scenery, reindeer antlers, everything covered with a thin fresh white layer.

Photo Eidembukta 27th September 2015

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The Poolepynten Swimming Club is somewhere else, but Dahlbreen presents itself with colours that somehow display an amazing combination of softness and intensity. Beautiful, clear light.

Photo Dahlbreen 27th September 2015

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Spitsbergen seems to switch from autumn to winter now. We will probably get quite a bit of wind for some days, starting tonight. Could be good sailing wind. We are quite curious what the upcoming days will bring.

Isfjord – 24th September 2015

The last day of this trip with landings, incredible. For a while, you think you still have got the whole voyage ahead of you, and then the days are suddenly flying.

Today, first thing is to find a good playground for the glacier group. Ideally some crevasses in easy terrain, so Falk can install some ice screws and ropes and people can rope down. We find a good spot on Esmarkbreen and it works well, everybody is later coming back with a smile on their face.

The tundra group is taking a more silent approach, hiking 6-7 kilometres over moraines, wetlands and tundra on Erdmannflya, enjoying the panorama, some reindeer encounters, the soft colours of the autumn tundra and thinking a bit about the immense time scale of earth history. A 46 m long rope makes it easy to get a good idea of it.

We cross Isfjord under full sail. What a beautiful view! Compared to that, some other ships look like floating greenhouses …

For our last landing in Colesbukta, nature has turned the light on again, full power, turning the old, long-abandoned Russian settlement into an arctic red light quarter. Too beautiful for a lot of talking. I wanted to talk about the history of the Russian settlements in Spitsbergen and the Spitsbergen treaty, but that does not really work. Colours and light are just too breathtaking.

Gallery Isfjord – 24th September 2015

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

In the later evening, we go alongside in Longyearbyen.

Kongsfjord – 23rd September 2015

I was curious what the day would bring. The first view through the porthole, just before 6 a.m., was not too promising. Little but low clouds.
But what the day brought can easily live up to the series of memorable days that we have had. The wild ice landscape of one of few advancing glaciers in the area; crevassed ice and a young moraine landscape.

At the same time, a polar bear was roaming around on Blomstrand; not an everday event. Later, it went into the water, circling around and obviously looking for seals – a polar bear hunting in the water is not an everyday sight either, although it did not get anything. Later, it went ashore again, so we could see it in all its powerful beauty from a good distance. A male bear in good shape, without any marks from scientists, which is quite a treat.

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

A visit to one of the small islands in Kongsfjord was to round the day up. A landing there is something special in itself; the islands are a bird sanctuary and closed during the summer. A silent firework of calm colours and details and an astonishingly beautiful view on the surrounding panorama of mountains and glaciers in evening light.

Krossfjord – 22nd September 2015

The bad weather day that we had been anticipating the whole time turned out to be not too bad. Time for some lectures to start with. Later, we got both a landing – not the season’s longest one, but a nice little walk – and even some good whale watching. A fin whale, feeding in Krossfjord. I can imagine a worse bad weather day!

Photo Fjortende Julibukta – 22nd September 2015

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Photo Krossfjord – 22nd September 2015

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Krossfjord – 21st September 2015

The long trip from Woodfjord to Krossfjord went quicker and smoother than expected, we were mentally prepared for some wind and sea, which did not happen, but who would mind? Although, the weather did change. The clouds were low above Lilliehöökbreen, with some fresh snow on the surrounding mountains. A completely different atmosphere.

Photo Lilliehookbreen 21. September 2015 – 1/2

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There was also fresh snow on the carpet of lichens and mosses in Signehamna. A reindeer skull with big antlers was lying on the tundra, the former owner probably now spread over a wide area. The remains of the war weather stations Knospe and Nussbaum almost in twilight under fog-like clouds and light snowfall, which is quite appropriate, considering this dark chapter of the regional history, and quite aesthetical at the same time.

Photo Lilliehookbreen 21. September 2015 – 2/2

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Also the many bergy bits in Fjortende Julibukta have their aesthetical value. We are curious what tomorrow will bring. According to the weather forecast, it might be a cosy day on the ship.

Photo Signehamna 21. September 2015

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Monacobreen – 20th September 2015

The shared glacier front of Monacobreen and Seligerbreen does not exist anymore. It has retreated so much that the mountain Stortingspresidenten reaches the shore and separates the formerly shared glacier front into two separate ones. Which does not make the whole scenery less impressive. High ice walls, thundering calvings, countless icebergs with shapes and colours no human being could invent. Young kittiwakes confuse novice birdwatchers. Meanwhile, the glacier hikers are playing in the crevasse fields of Monacobreen.

Photo Hornbaekpollen 20. September 2015

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A polar bear in Lernerøyane makes a promising appearance just to disappear behind a rocky ridge as we get closer. So now we are calmly sailing – yes, under sail – up Woodfjord in beautiful evening light.

Photo Monacobreen – 20th September 2015

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Photo Woodfjord – 20th September 2015 – 1/2

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Photo Woodfjord – 20th September 2015 – 2/2

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Walrus-madness on Moffen – 19th September 2015

Moffen is this small, forbidden island north of Spitsbergen. Not much more than a gravel bank, a beach atoll around a lagoon where whalers used to anchor in their days. The entrance to the lagoon does not exist anymore today.

Moffen is known and protected because of its walrus colony, each summer it is forbidden to land there until mid september. Good for those last mohicans who are still around in the late season. Especially when the weather is as cooperative as today. Calm air, calm water, the landing on the exposed island is a piece of cake. Soon, we get a visit from some curious walrusses, and that is how a good part of the morning goes. A group of them is swimming up and down the beach close to us, sometimes busy with themselves, sometimes focussing their attention on us, curiously coming out of the water and approaching us to an amazingly close distance. Another big group, surely around a hundred animals, is resting on shore near the southern tip of the island. Nearby, there is a walrus graveyard, where they were slaughtered in huge numbers in earlier centuries for their ivory tusks, the blubber and the strong skin.

Photo Walrus-madness on Moffen – 19th September 2015 – 1/2

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As we leave Moffen, there are several big bags of plastic garbage less on the island than before. Amongst others, we have found an electrical cooling box, maybe from the English yacht that went on rocks north of Ytre Norskøya (maybe it was nearby Fuglesangen, doesn’t matter) and went down? The two sailors survived, but it was quite close. And unnecessary, the shallows there are well charted.

Photo Walrus-madness on Moffen – 19th September 2015 – 2/2

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Some hours later, we have reached Liefdefjord. To our great pleasure, we find a polar bear that is resting on the tundra on a small island, just occasionally lifting its head, standing up once just to lay down again soon. Captain Joachim maneouvres the Antigua amazingly close to the shore. A beautiful encounter, and as we leave, the bear is lying and resting the very same way as when we came.

Photo Andoyane – 19th September 2015

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We take the time for a little late afternoon stroll on one of the neighbouring islands, and then we sail to a nice, protected bay to anchor for the night.

Walrusses and Harbour seals – 18th September 2015

It would be nice to see some wildlife today. Spitsbergen is not a zoo, but it is allowed to have some hopes. And sometimes one is lucky. So were we today. The walrusses on Amsterdamøya were there just as we had been hoping for. The fox there was even better. It had been hiding and sleeping under a big old whalebone, and I had been standing next to it for a while without seeing it – and suddenly it was there and went its way.

Photo Smeerenburg – 18th September 2015

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Also the harbour seals were at home just as we had been hoping for. Spitsbergen can be a friendly place.

Photo Virgohamna – 18th September 2015

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Ytre Norskøya can also be friendly, but usually it isn’t. Usually, there is a strong wind blowing, low clouds, a polar bear on the beach, or something like that.

Photo Ytre Norskoya – 18th September 2015 – 1/2

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Not that we would mind seeing a polar bear, but there was none today. So we went up Zeeussche Uytkyk, the old whalers’ lookout point with a free view to the north pole.

Photo Ytre Norskoya – 18th September 2015 – 2/2

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Magdalenefjord – 17th September 2015

The day begins as beautifully as the last one ends. Magdalenejord in morning light, belts of drifting glacier ice in the sun, you have to have seen that. Did I write something like that before recently? Doesn’t matter, it is just right. Sunbeams coming like spotlights through the gaps between mountains, painting dots of light on mountain slopes, glaciers and the peninsula Gravneset, lovely.

Photo Gravneset – 17th September 2015

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Later it is time to get the crampons out. There is this nice glacier in Smeerenburgfjord, gentle and without crevasses, easily accessible, surrounded by jagged mountains, good stuff.

Photo Scheibukta – 17th September 2015 – 1/2

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And it is just as good to stay at anchor, silent and calm, a frosty night, evening red glowing above Danskøya in the north, the glacier rising to the south. Now we are curious if we get a northern light tonight.

Photo Scheibukta – 17th September 2015 – 2/2

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Kongsfjord – 16th September 2015

The day begins as beautifully as the last one ends. Kongsfjord in morning light, belts of drifting glacier ice in the sun, you have to have seen that. Kings Bay has got its name for good reason.
We are welcomed by a big reindeer on the shore. Tundra and big erratic boulders, glacier-polished marble, views over wide glaciers and ice caps, crowned by the Tre Kroner. A royal scenery.

Photo Kongsfjord – 16th September 2015 – 1/2

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A short walk through Ny Ålesund, stories from mining, science and expeditions, Amundsen in the sun, the airship mast is coming out of the shadow exactly in the right moment.

Photo Ny Ålesund – 16th September 2015

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We leave the pier under sail, hear the complete version of the history of arctic exploration from Rolf outside on deck, in the sun, under sails, nice and quiet. Once we have left the fjord, the sea is picking up a bit, and the demand for dinner is reduced, while we are making 6-7 knots under sail northwards.

Photo Kongsfjord – 16th September 2015 – 2/2

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Unter Segeln verließ die Antigua die Pier, noch im Fjord gab es von Rolf die ausführliche Fassung der Nordpolentdeckergeschichten, in der Sonne an Deck, still unter Segeln. Vor der Küste mehr Dünung, die Nachfrage beim Abendessen ist reduziert, während es mit 6-7 Knoten es nach Norden geht.

Longyearbyen – 15th September 2015

Reykjavik, Oslo, Longyearbyen, some warm days in civilisation between Greenland and Spitsbergen. Swimming pools with natural hot water. Museums with relics from famous polar expeditions. Back to the arctic comfort zone. Back home. Impressive amounts of equipment need to be sorted (too much, as always). Meanwhile, SV Antigua is already in port.

Photo Isfjord – 15th September 2015 – 1/3

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A trip into the unknown begins with well-known routines. (Well, not really into the unknown, of course. But we don’t exactly know what the next days will bring, that is the nature of this way of traveling).

Photo Isfjord – 15th September 2015 – 2/3

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People have to get used to each other and to the ship, and then we are off. Course west and then north. Meanwhile, arctic autumn is showing off. A beautiful sunset behind the west coast.

Photo Isfjord – 15th September 2015 – 3/3

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Haudegen station under repair

The famous Haudegen-station in the remote Rijpfjord on the north coast of Nordaustland was a German military weather station from the Second World War. The soldiers who manned the Haudegen station were not picked up before September 1945 and they were the last unit of the Wehrmacht (German military during the war) which surrendered officially (and very happily) on this occasion. Rumors that they had simply been forgotten are wrong: they had constantly been in touch with Norway after the end of the war, both about their pickup and for sending weather data to the meteorological network.

Since then, the building of the Haudegen-station has been decaying. It is the only war weather station in the arctic that still has a standing building, but the so-called “hard paper hut” has suffered strongly from 70 years of arctic weather. Meltwater seeping through the roof was a menace already in spring 1945, and the moisture has not done the building any good since. As a reaction, access to the hut and its nearest surroundings was closed in 2010. Per Kyrre Reimert, then archeologist at the Sysselmannen, said that due to a lack of resources to repair the house, closing it was the only alternative.

In August 2015, major repair work was done on Haudegen station for the first time since 1945. A team of craftsmen from the Sysselmannen was there to start the project. A small temporary hut was established for accommodation. The Haudegen station has got a new roof which is supposed to protect the building from moisture. Further work remains to be done, but no more details are known at the time of writing.

The Haudegen-station in August 2015 with a new roof.

Haudegen-station 2015

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