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Yearly Archives: 2015 − News & Stories


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?

Eas­ter wee­kend in Bjørn­da­len

(4th/5th April 2015) After some calm ear­ly April days, it is time to get out again when the Eas­ter wee­kend is approa­ching. Ever­y­bo­dy here who has some means of trans­por­ta­ti­on and pos­si­b­ly even access to one of the nowa­days much sought-after huts is abs­con­ding from zivi­li­sa­ti­on, and I am hap­py to be part of that. It does not have to be far and adven­tur­ous. That is one of Longyearbyen’s nice aspects: the arc­tic wil­der­ness starts as soon as you have pas­sed the last house.

For many here, Bjørn­da­len is some­thing like a city park in a wider sen­se. It is easy to get the­re by car or snow mobi­le, and the­re is a num­ber of huts in local owners­hip near the Isfjord coast. This is whe­re I spend this lovely wee­kend. All inclu­si­ve! Sce­nic views of the wide Isfjord, good food in good com­pa­ny, and small things are sear­ched for by tho­se who still belie­ve in the Eas­ter bun­ny, hid­den by tho­se who know bet­ter. At least in this case.

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

The­re is no Eas­ter bun­ny in Bjørn­da­len, but Arc­tic fox and ptar­mi­gan are at home the­re. I will have to spend some more time here, soon.

Per­ma­cul­tu­re: vege­ta­bles, fresh and tas­ty from the arc­tic

Modern life in the arc­tic is deman­ding con­si­derable resour­ces. Food stuffs are impor­ted over long distan­ces, which is cos­t­ly and burns a lot of fuel. Many visi­tors get a bit ner­vous when they see the pri­ces for food in the high north, and so-cal­led fresh vege­ta­bles are not always as fresh as you might want.

Food was­te is shred­ded and was­hed strai­ght into the fjord tog­e­ther with was­te water, altog­e­ther a gre­at was­te. Ano­t­her solu­ti­on would be high­ly desi­ra­ble, both from an envi­ron­men­tal and an eco­no­mic per­spec­ti­ve.

Thin­king local food in the arc­tic, most peop­le would pro­bab­ly have rein­de­er steaks on their mind, which is obvious­ly not the solu­ti­on. Local vege­ta­bles? Nega­ti­ve. Even the Rus­si­an (Sov­jet, back then) sett­le­ments Bar­ents­burg and Pyra­mi­den were, in a way, more advan­ced, with con­si­derable local pro­duc­tion in green­houses and sta­bles for cows, pigs etc., most of which have been aban­do­ned years ago.

But crea­ti­ve peop­le are working on solu­ti­ons to grow vege­ta­bles local­ly, fresh and envi­ron­ment­al­ly friend­ly. A start up pro­ject cal­led Polar Per­ma­cul­tu­re Solu­ti­ons is deve­lo­ping tech­ni­ques in Lon­gye­ar­by­en for advan­ced green­houses to grow vege­ta­bles in per­ma­frost are­as without high ener­gy and water con­sump­ti­on. First tests are pro­mi­sing: accord­ing to Polar Per­ma­frost Solu­ti­ons, pars­ley, cori­an­der, basil, papri­ka, sum­mer squash, mini corn, oni­ons, let­tuce, tomatoes, egg­plant, red chi­li pep­pers and more have alrea­dy been grown suc­cess­ful­ly. Food was­te is used to pro­du­ce soil and fer­ti­li­zer with bio­lo­gi­cal tech­ni­ques (sounds bet­ter than worms, but that’s what it is)

Fresh, tas­ty, local pro­duc­tion and envi­ron­ment­al­ly friend­ly – we are loo­king for­ward to see the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment!

Fresh vege­ta­bles of local pro­duc­tion in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: so far an uto­pia, hope­ful­ly soon a rea­li­ty that makes a lot of sen­se for the envi­ron­ment and eco­no­my.

Polar Permaculture

Source: Polar Per­ma­cul­tu­re

Lower extent of win­ter sea ice in the Arc­tic

During this win­ter sea­son 2014/2015 the sea ice in the Arc­tic has exten­ded much less than it usual­ly did.

As the U.S. Natio­nal Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Colo­ra­do reports, this win­ter the ice likely reached its maxi­mum extend as soon as Febru­a­ry 25th. This is 15 days ear­lier than the average of the years 1981 to 2010 which ser­ves as the refe­rence peri­od.

More alar­ming is the fact that the extent of sea ice on this date had not pro­cee­ded very far yet. Inde­ed, sin­ce the begin­ning of the satel­li­te record the maxi­mum extent of Arc­tic sea ice has never been as low as in this win­ter. On Febru­a­ry 25th the ice cove­r­ed an area of 14.54 mil­li­on squa­re kilo­me­ters. This is 1.1 mil­li­on squa­re kilo­me­ters less than the long term average and 130.000 squa­re kilo­me­ters less than the for­mer nega­ti­ve record of 2011. All are­as were affec­ted except for the Labra­dor Sea and the Davis Strait bet­ween Green­land and Cana­da. The­re was a remar­kab­ly low extent of ice on the Paci­fic side of the Arc­tic and in the Bar­ents Sea west of Nova­ya Sem­lya and sou­thwest of Spits­ber­gen.

After reaching its low maxi­mum on Febru­a­ry 25th the sea ice extent initi­al­ly decre­a­sed signi­fi­cant­ly (with regio­nal varia­ti­ons) and then incre­a­sed again in the second half of March. Howe­ver, a new maxi­mum could not be reached. Cur­r­ent­ly the ice is retrea­ting again, accord­ing to the time of the year.

It can be expec­ted that the low extent of sea ice in win­ter will also lead to less ice in the sum­mer sea­son. This sce­n­a­rio is sup­por­ted by the effect that open water sur­faces are absor­bing more solar ener­gy and are war­ming up fas­ter than ice sur­faces which reflect most of the sun­light (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news: Retre­at of Arc­tic sea ice acce­le­ra­tes glo­bal war­ming from Febru­a­ry 2014).

Sea ice in nort­hern Spits­ber­gen.

Sea ice in Spitsbergen

Source: Natio­nal Snow and Ice Data Cen­ter

Joy­ous news from the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject in South Geor­gia

Good news from the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject in South Geor­gia in the news sec­tion of the ant­arc­tic coun­ter­part of this web­site (click here).

Sea­b­irds near South Geor­gia: thanks to the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject, popu­la­ti­ons espe­cial­ly of smal­ler spe­ci­es can be expec­ted to incre­a­se signi­fi­cant­ly in years to come.

Seabirds near South Georgia

Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The stiff bree­ze from last night has evol­ved into a solid storm by now. The wea­ther has been rather ins­ta­ble recent­ly, fluc­tua­ting from clear, cold, calm win­ter days through snow storms to warm air inva­si­ons with tem­pe­ra­tures even abo­ve zero and back, all wit­hin a week, more than once. Godt inne­vær, as the Nor­we­gi­ans say: good insi­de wea­ther, good to be at home. Which is also nice. And I have to get some work done, some books need to be writ­ten (yes, I am still doing that). And when you get a visi­tor as lovely as this, it can’t be boring any­way 🙂

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

Bar­ents­burg, Cole­s­buk­ta

The trip to Bar­ents­burg takes about 3 hours. We make use of the fine wea­ther by doing a bit of pho­to shoo­ting.

The times, they are a chan­gin’ … clear­ly and visi­b­ly also here in Bar­ents­burg, whe­re coal is still being mined, but the past has brought dif­fi­cul­ties and acci­dents in the mines and the future may be some­whe­re more sun­ny. Many of the houses have got new fronts, ruins have been remo­ved. The­re is a new bre­we­ry with a restau­rant, and new, nice rooms in the hotel. A new hotel and a guest­house have been announ­ced. Bar­ents­burg is attrac­ting curious visi­tors in num­bers alrea­dy the­se days. Not only tou­rists who come with gui­ded tours, but also locals from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, who appre­cia­te the oppor­tu­ni­ty of a short holi­day over the wee­kend. Food, rooms and ser­vice recei­ve regu­lar prai­se. The mining com­pa­ny Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol has alrea­dy been cal­led Turist Ark­ti­ku­gol by the local Nor­we­gi­an news­pa­per Sval­bard­pos­ten …

We are also enjoy­ing lunch in Bar­ents­burg. The­re is not too much time to look around today. We have a pho­to­gra­phic mis­si­on tog­e­ther with the group we are tra­ve­ling with, so we have to stick with their time sche­du­le. Some­thing that we usual­ly don’t have.

But then we are done with that mis­si­on and we can spend a long evening in Cole­s­buk­ta. Weird buil­dings of a Rus­si­an mining sett­le­ment aban­do­ned more than half a cen­tu­ry ago. To be pre­cise, this was the har­bour whe­re the coal was ship­ped that was mined in Grum­ant­by­en, ano­t­her aban­do­ned place at the foot of a steep cliff fur­ther east, so they could not build a har­bour the­re. Inte­res­ting impres­si­ons in nice evening light. We stroll around, curious­ly inves­ti­ga­ting old buil­dings, mar­vel­ling at old, hea­vy machine­ry, geo­lo­gi­cal sam­ples and silent wit­nes­ses of dai­ly life that was vibrant here until 1962. Pure pho­to­gra­phic plea­su­re! Glau­cous gulls are our com­pa­ny as we enjoy an end­less sun­set over Isfjord.

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

Mean­while, the wind has star­ted to pick up and it is time for the last leg of today’s trip, back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Visi­bi­li­ty is qui­te poor on the pass abo­ve the gla­cier Lon­gyear­breen, a good 700 m high, and alt­hough we are only fol­lowing well-known and fre­quent­ly tra­vel­led rou­tes, we are qui­te hap­py to be back in town soon. On the same evening, as we hear later, a young local snow mobi­le dri­ver recei­ves serious inju­ries as he dri­ves into a deep wind hole in the snow. It is so bad that, once he is found, he is immedia­te­ly evacua­ted to the uni­ver­si­ty hos­pi­tal in Trom­sø with the ambu­lan­ce place, whe­re the doc­tors have to put him into arti­fi­cial coma …

Hiorthfjel­let

The­re are still sun­sets, still are a „nor­mal“ time, name­ly in the evening. The sun­sets are now incredi­b­ly quick­ly moving towards mid­ni­ght, noti­ce­ab­ly later every day, until they join the sun­ri­se to crea­te the mid­ni­ght sun.

The­re are just 2 mon­ths bet­ween polar night and mid­ni­ght sun. The polar day will chan­ge life com­ple­te­ly here, ani­mals and peop­le will sleep less, be more acti­ve, chan­ge their rhythm.

And of cour­se the light will chan­ge. For a few weeks, April will still bring blue and red colours during the night, but the­se will give way to the sun in May, which will then be well abo­ve the hori­zon 24 hours a day.

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

And this is why we are here now, in late March, some hund­red metres abo­ve Hior­th­hamn, at one of the most beau­ti­ful view points, enjoy­ing the views over Advent­fjord and Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the light of an evening sun­set. The­re won’t be many more until Sep­tem­ber.

Sas­senda­len

Sas­senda­len is one of Spitsbergen’s big­gest val­leys: 30 km long from Rabot­breen to Tem­pel­fjord and 5 km wide, it is making a strong impres­si­on of a very wide land­s­cape when you stand in the midd­le of it, whe­re a big meltwa­ter river is run­ning in the sum­mer.

But it is espe­cial­ly some of the smal­ler tri­bu­ta­ry val­leys that have sce­nic aspects which catch the eye of the obser­ver and the atten­ti­on of the pho­to­gra­pher. The fro­zen water­fall in Eskerda­len and the can­yon-like gor­ge in Bratt­li­da­len, whe­re you can touch the steep rock­walls on both sides at the same time in some pla­ces.

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

Fred­heim, the famous hut of the legen­da­ry hun­ter Hil­mar Nøis, is rea­dy to move. The three old buil­dings, inclu­ding the uni­que main buil­ding with two floo­rs, initi­al­ly built by Hil­mar Nøis in 1924 and regu­lar­ly used by him and his fami­ly until 1963, are threa­tened by coas­tal ero­si­on and would not have sur­vi­ved the next cou­p­le of years in their pre­sent posi­ti­on. Now they are stan­ding on hea­vy struc­tu­ral steel work, sta­bi­li­zed with woo­den beams and rea­dy to be pul­led up one ter­race on to safe ter­rain (this has been done suc­cess­ful­ly mean­while).

De Geerda­len

Ano­t­her day in Nor­dens­kiöld Land, a bit fur­ther east this time, again tra­v­eled few kilo­me­tres only, again spent a lot of time try­ing to dis­co­ver some­thing new in the land­s­cape and pho­to­graph it. One of the­se pho­tos led to the spon­ta­ne­ous idea of the eas­ter brain­tea­ser, and I thought that this show­ed very nice­ly how a mate­ri­al belie­ved to be rather fami­li­ar – gla­cier ice – sud­den­ly reve­als some­thing com­ple­te­ly new as soon as you take a new, care­ful approach to look at it, even for someo­ne who has spent a good part of his life near gla­ciers.

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

Pho­to­gra­phi­cal­ly, a bit of a chal­len­ge. Mil­li­met­re work in free­zing degrees. I don’t know if the result jus­ti­fies the effort, but who cares? One thing is sure: the plea­su­re of doing it was rea­son good enough for doing it. See­ing some­thing new and try­ing to figu­re out how to pho­to­graph it. (or not … ☺)

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