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Home → May, 2015

Monthly Archives: May 2015 − Travelblog


Ice

It is late in the evening, the sun is shi­ning on coast and moun­tains south of Bellsund – not a good time to spend ages with the com­pu­ter, wri­ting a lot of text. I rather spend the time watching the sce­ne­ry and loo­king for a poten­ti­al polar bear some­whe­re on shore.

A lot of ice blo­cking Horn­sund today, unex­pec­ted­ly – but beau­ti­ful. And hund­reds – no: thousands! – of Harp seals ☺ an ear­ly sea­son spe­cial­ty.

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

Wha­ling

The fur­ther we came north, the bet­ter the wea­ther. The stiff bree­ze eased out until the water sur­face beca­me oily, just moved by the gent­le swell, shi­ning in the evening sun. Best con­di­ti­ons to find some wha­les!

We were not the only ones in the area loo­king for wha­les, but litt­le did we know that the inten­ti­ons of the other boat that came into sight were far less peace­ful. The see­min­gly inno­cent boat Rei­ne­bru­en from Svol­vær (Lofo­ten, Nor­way) tur­ned out to be a wha­le cat­cher, with a crow’s nest and a har­poon gun on the bow, and while we were watching a young Hump­back wha­le, we heard the first shot being fired in the distance. Several more shots fol­lo­wed over the next cou­p­le of minu­tes, and we saw a smal­ler wha­le spla­shing under the bow of the wha­ler. It fought the pain of the steel har­poon in its bel­ly for 5-6 minu­tes until it died.

It is not a secret that Nor­way issu­es well bey­ond 1000 licen­ses for Min­ke wha­les to its wha­ling fleet every year, and some­ti­mes we see wha­ling ships in Nor­we­gi­an ports inclu­ding Lon­gye­ar­by­en. But see­ing a wha­ler in dead­ly action is some­thing dif­fe­rent. I had never seen that befo­re and I did not have an idea of the impres­si­on it would make on me to see how a wha­le is shot, dies and is pul­led up on deck.

The crew of the Rei­ne­bu­en tur­ned the ship several times quick­ly, obvious­ly try­ing to move the stron­gly blee­ding wha­le out of our sight. They know what the world things about this.

Final­ly they went their way and we went ours. I had a bad fee­ling in my sto­mach and weak kne­es, as if I had just beco­me wit­ness to a mur­der. Well, this was pret­ty much the case, in a wider sen­se.

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

Soon, two more Hump­back wha­les appeared under the mid­ni­ght sun, hap­py and ali­ve, not knowing that a slight­ly remo­ter rela­ti­ve had just died in a very bloo­dy and pain­ful way. Spi­rits on board were rising noti­ce­ab­ly. Admit­ted­ly, I was not yet up for it. The emo­tio­nal chan­ge from slaugh­ter to obser­va­ti­on of almost the same won­der­ful ani­mal was just a bit too fast for me, so I wat­ched it slight­ly mecha­ni­cal­ly, took my pho­tos and was then hap­py to finish the day.

Bear Island

29th/30th May 2015 – The­re is not­hing much to say about the cros­sing. Wind and waves made it an expe­ri­ence of limi­ted plea­su­re, and pre­sence during meals was visi­b­ly redu­ced. Well, it was not dra­ma­tic, but not real­ly popu­lar eit­her. No sightin­gs of wha­les, only small groups of dol­phins every now and then. The bet­ter that we made good speed, so we reached Bear Island alrea­dy mid-day of the 29th. We kept on the sou­the­as­tern side, as this side offe­red the best shel­ter avail­ab­le from wind and waves, and soon we had found a sui­ta­ble lan­ding site.

From the distance, Bear Island may seem a grey, empty rock in the oce­an, but a clo­ser look reve­als all the tre­a­su­res of natu­re you can ima­gi­ne of a remo­te, small island in the Arc­tic. An impres­si­ve coas­tal land­s­cape with bird cliffs, various geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal phe­no­me­na inclu­ding frost-pat­ter­ned ground and karst springs and so on. The fee­ling of remo­teness and expo­sure is amongst the best parts of the Bear Island expe­ri­ence, espe­cial­ly in quiet moments when all you hear is the wind. We spend a rather long after­noon on the island, roa­ming around from the river mouth in Ærfuglvi­ka to the sea­b­ird colo­ny at Kapp Ruth, pas­sing some small, most­ly still fro­zen lakes in flat tun­dra towards the river Jor­dbru­el­va, which we fol­lo­wed bet­ween steep snow-cove­r­ed river banks, until we retur­ned to Kapp Maria with its impres­si­ve rock cave Kvalk­jef­ten (wha­le jaw) and a huge hole in the rocky ground, through which you see the surf 15 m lower down.

A calm night at anchor in the shel­ter of the island was cer­tain­ly amongst the high­lights of the day for many.

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

Next morning, we crui­sed around the sou­thern end of Bear Island, whe­re natu­re has crea­ted some of the most impres­si­ve cliffs in the north Atlan­tic. The seas and winds being too high for any Zodiac ope­ra­ti­ons, we enjoy­ed the views from the ship, in the pre­sence of count­less Nort­hern ful­mars, befo­re we con­ti­nued nor­thwards, cour­se for Spits­ber­gen.

Trom­sø

Trom­sø, Paris of the north, tra­di­tio­nal gate­way to the Arc­tic and our step­ping stone towards Bear Island and Spits­ber­gen, pres­ents its­elf in the best of wea­ther. Visits to the muse­ums dedi­ca­ted to the Arc­tic, excur­si­ons to the view­point on Fløya and some time to relax in zivi­li­sa­ti­on, befo­re we con­ti­nue towards the Bar­ents Sea.

a3v_Tromsoe_26Mai15_104

Tin­den

Two years ago, we „dis­co­ve­r­ed“ Tin­den, an old tra­ding post on the outer coast of the Ves­terå­len islands, beau­ti­ful­ly situa­ted in a bay under a steep moun­tain, hid­den behind some small islands. We did not have any idea back then what to expect, we had just been told that it should be a nice place. Which was qui­te an under­state­ment. The old tra­ding post was aban­do­ned long time ago, but has been beau­ti­ful­ly revi­ved as a muse­um, in a simi­lar way as Port Lock­roy in Ant­arc­ti­ca. Tin­den is a small, but lovely ensem­ble of white woo­den houses, shel­ves squee­zed with ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry items, the­re is even a flower gar­den with old spe­ci­es which they had to re-gather on church­y­ards. The mana­ger of the place, Kjell, is a gre­at cha­rac­ter and a very valu­able part of the expe­ri­ence.

So this is what we could enjoy today, and to make things even bet­ter, the sun was shi­ning on the who­le set­ting, so a litt­le walk up the steep slo­pe behind the buil­dings was defi­ni­te­ly a good thing to do.

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

Hard to ima­gi­ne that the­re had been a storm here some mon­ths ago, strong enough to des­troy several houses here that had sur­vi­ved count­less storms during many deca­des. An irre­pla­ca­ble loss, as nobo­dy can tax or even replace all the his­to­ri­cal arte­facts lost. And I don’t real­ly want to know how strong the winds were that flat­te­ned tho­se stur­dy buil­dings. How nice is today’s light bree­ze.

By the way, some 360 degree impres­si­ons from Tin­den are alrea­dy avail­ab­le. I should make an updated ver­si­on now, as I got a sun­ny adden­dum today.

Raft­sund & Ves­terå­len

We watch the sou­thern Ves­terå­len islands pas­sing by while we are making miles to the north. Sce­nic coast­li­nes and moun­tains, sea eagles and even orcas make the after­noon a very plea­sant and inte­res­ting expe­ri­ence.

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

Diger­mu­len

We are cer­tain­ly not the first tou­rists in this area. The Ger­man emperor Wil­helm II. was here in 1889. If he had only spent more time tra­ve­ling and less with poli­tics, it might have saved the world a lot of trou­ble, who knows.

Des­pi­te all the trou­bles that he had with his job – his own fault! – he mana­ged to tra­vel to Nor­way qui­te a lot. And twice he made it to Diger­mu­len, a litt­le vil­la­ge – about 300 inha­bi­tants – at the sou­thern end of Raft­sund. That is the strait that sepa­ra­tes Aus­t­vå­gøya (Lofo­ten) from Hin­nøya (Ves­terå­len). The­re is a moun­tain next to Diger­mu­len that is cal­led Diger­kol­len. It is not so ter­ri­b­ly diger (big), actual­ly not at all with an alti­tu­de of 384 m, that is some­thing we can do. And nobo­dy has to car­ry up pla­tes of gra­ni­te with our names incar­ved after us. We are more than hap­py with our signa­tures in the Gip­fel­buch (what is that in Eng­lish?).

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

The way up, across stones, mud and snow, takes about 1 ½ hours, with an inte­res­ting mix­tu­re of rain, sun, snow and sun again. Luck­i­ly, it remains sun­ny as we reach the top, so we can enjoy sple­ndid views of Raft­sund, Hin­nøya, Aus­t­vå­gøya and and a num­ber of smal­ler islands. An impe­ri­al view, inde­ed!

Hei­møya

It is part of the fun to dis­co­ver new pla­ces. If you haven’t been to a place, then it may be a good rea­son to go the­re one day. After an inte­res­ting after­noon – some­ti­mes the wind needs about a minu­te up here to turn 180 degrees, which is inte­res­ting for a ship under sail – we came to Hei­møya. A litt­le island, sepa­ra­ted from its litt­le neigh­bou­ring island by a litt­le chan­nel. The Nor­we­gi­ans have obvious­ly dis­co­ve­r­ed Hei­møya as a good place to build wee­kend houses, so the­re is qui­te a few of them the­re. Is that the rea­son for the name, or was it the other way around?

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

We still have a real sun­set and, accord­in­gly, a real evening with real evening light.

Nusfjord

Nusfjord is the first port of call for us, so the rest of the night is calm, apart from the slight­ly dis­har­mo­nic music of sin­ging fen­ders. A very plea­sant sur­pri­se for most on board to wake up on the­se lovely sur­roun­dings. Nusfjord is kind of a muse­um vil­la­ge, a time cap­su­le that moves the visi­tor back to the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, as you are wal­king into the old „Land­han­del“ or around the litt­le natu­ral har­bour with its tra­di­tio­nal ror­buer, simp­le woo­den buil­dings whe­re fishe­ry workers were accom­mo­da­ted perio­di­cal­ly in the old days. Kit­ti­wa­key are making the same noi­se today as they did 100 years ago. And the rain sho­wers make you as wet as they did 100 years ago, Gore Tex or not.

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

As a final high­light, Cap­tain Joa­chim is navi­ga­ting Anti­gua around the litt­le island of Bratt­hol­men, through a sce­nic natu­ral chan­nel. A minia­tu­re ver­si­on of Troll­fjord, kind of a warm-up exer­cise. Per­fect­ly enjoy­ed from the best place, up on the mast ☺

Bodø

Yeeha – today I am star­ting my nort­hern sai­ling sea­son! The 3 mast bar­ken­ti­ne Anti­gua is wai­t­ing in the har­bour of Bodø in north Nor­way. She has taken 2 weeks to sail up here from Ham­burg. I am covering the same distance a bit hig­her and fas­ter.

A day later, the inter­na­tio­nal group comes on board. Some lan­guage mathe­ma­tics: Ger­man + Dut­ch = Eng­lish.

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

A gent­le sou­thwes­ter­ly bree­ze is blowing, while we are lea­ving the har­bour of Bodø, stea­ming into Ves­t­fjord. 50 nau­ti­cal miles of open water bet­ween here and Rei­ne on Mos­ken­esøya, one of the sou­thern Lofo­ten islands. Soon, the sails are up. The sea is mode­ra­te, but enough for some on the first evening. Others enjoy sai­ling into the evening sun, while the famous Lofo­ten wall („Lofot­ve­g­gen“) is slow­ly appearing out of a cloud.

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