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Yearly Archives: 2015 − Travelblog

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


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


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


Alkef­jel­let – 06th July 2015

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

Pho­to Alkef­jel­let – 06th July 2015


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


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


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


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


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.

Cros­sing to Ice­land – 25th-27th June 2015

(25th-27th June 2015) – Three days dif­fe­rent from tho­se on the way up. Of cour­se still a long time for other­wi­se non-oce­an-going peop­le who just want to get from A to B. The sailors amongst us have, howe­ver, a good num­ber of enjoya­ble miles under sai­les. Star­ting with moto­ring from Jan May­en, as it is initi­al­ly calm and the wind which is then com­ing up is blowing against us (as always … but not too hard). But then the wind turns east, the sails go up and we don’t need the engi­ne for good parts of the remai­ning way. The oce­an-going souls seem to be glued to the stee­ring wheel while we are making good speed of up to around 10 knots on the way sou­thwest. Under a blue, sun­ny sky! Two times, dol­phins come to visit the boat.

And we are fas­ter on the way up, going along­side in Ísaf­jörður on Satur­day mid day alrea­dy. The end of an inten­se, suc­cess­ful, good voya­ge. Thanks to all who were part of it, and good fur­ther tra­vels, home or onwards!

Gal­le­ry – Cros­sing to Ice­land – 25th-27th June 2015

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

For me, the next two days are the usu­al sequence of packing, flights, air­ports … a boring neces­si­ty, but soon life is going on in Spits­ber­gen, on board SV Anti­gua ☺

Fare­well Jan May­en – 24th June 2015

Packing tog­e­ther is never gre­at, but at least it all went smooth­ly, thanks to wind and waves or rather the absence of both. So we had time to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te the island, pas­sing the gla­ciers on the north coast and final­ly Jan May­en offe­red a friend­ly fare­well with some glim­p­ses of the top of Bee­ren­berg.

Gal­le­ry – Fare­well Jan May­en – 24th June 2015

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

Jan May­en tri­ath­lon – 23rd June 2015 – St. Hans

Today we took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­ple­te the Jan May­en tri­ath­lon. This inclu­des ascen­ding Bee­ren­berg, the famous Jan May­en naked swim­ming and the Kval­ross run.

We had done Bee­ren­berg the days befo­re, other­wi­se it might actual­ly have been a bit tight today, time-wise. So we star­ted the hap­py event with the naked swim­ming in Kval­ross­buk­ta. The rules are simp­le: without any clothes com­ple­te­ly under water, offi­cial­ly super­vi­sed by the sta­ti­on com­man­der, who had brought a life ring and the nur­se. You never know. The exer­cise was com­ple­ted by all par­ti­ci­pants to satis­fac­tion.

The Kval­ross run is not to be unde­re­sti­ma­ted: nine kilo­me­tres along the road, with several hills, from Kval­ross­buk­ta to the sta­ti­on, that can be qui­te a bit after the events of the pre­vious days. As I had done this for my part alrea­dy last year, I focus­sed on the pho­to­gra­phic docu­men­ta­ti­on of the event. I was qui­te hap­py with that.

A gre­at coin­ci­dence (or good plan­ning on Siggi’s behalf?) brought our last evening on the island tog­e­ther with the Scan­di­na­vi­an mid­sum­mer par­ty St. Hans. We had hard­ly finis­hed our spor­ti­ve pro­gram­me, when the Jan May­en sum­mer games were ope­ned in Båt­vi­ka near the sta­ti­on. Guests and hosts for­med teams to com­pe­te in various disci­pli­nes inclu­ding rope pul­ling, net­ball thro­wing and so on. The pile of drift­wood pre­pa­red for the fire show­ed that things were taken very serious­ly on this island. It was defi­ni­te­ly the big­gest fire wit­hin hund­reds of miles, and any pas­sing ship or air­pla­ne would have repor­ted a vol­ca­nic erup­ti­on.

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

Enjoy­ing various goo­dies from the buf­fet and a com­ple­te pig from the grill, visi­tors and sta­ti­on crew enjoy­ed a lovely evening and have various chats about life on Jan May­en and in gene­ral, some­thing that was enjoy­ed by ever­y­bo­dy as the impres­si­on was. Many thanks to the com­man­der and crew of the Jan May­en sta­ti­on for a gre­at fare­well evening!

Slett­fjel­let, Kval­ross­buk­ta, Kval­ros­sen – 22nd/23rd June 2015

(22nd/23rd June 2015) – After the events of the pre­vious days we clear­ly deser­ved a cal­mer start into the day. Only our Aus­tri­an Pas­cal went off for a long hike, a pil­grimage to the remains of the Aus­tri­an sta­ti­on im Maria Musch­buk­ta, from the first Inter­na­tio­nal Polar Year (1882/83). Pro­bab­ly to fly the Aus­tri­an colours once again.

The others opt for smal­ler walk in the sur­roun­dings of Kval­ross­buk­ta or for a medi­um-sized walk towards some cra­ters and smal­ler moun­tains, which do, howe­ver, not pro­tru­de through the clouds, though.

Gal­le­ry – Slett­fjel­let, Kval­ross­buk­ta, Kval­ros­sen – 22nd/23rd June 2015

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

The evening is sur­pri­sin­gly cosy, much more than usu­al for Jan May­en stan­dards, with a fire on the beach and good Ice­lan­dic cui­sine chez Hau­kur.

Bee­ren­berg – 20th-21st June 2015

(20th-21st June 2015) – Bee­ren­berg – this famous, infa­mous moun­tain, towe­ring 2277 metres abo­ve the sea in the midd­le of the north Atlan­tic, with its gla­cier-crow­ned cra­ter sum­mit, is a peak that one should be care­ful to hope for. Too much has to fit, too many fac­tors that you just can’t con­trol, main­ly the wea­ther, of cour­se. How many times did I wri­te emails to peop­le who were thin­king about this trip empha­si­zing they shouldn’t be focus­sed on Bee­ren­berg too much. And qui­te right so. This would main­ly incre­a­se the risk for frus­tra­ti­on. Nevertheless, be pre­pa­red. The­re might sud­den­ly be an open door.

But of cour­se, most of us here have got this desi­re. And for me, it was this ima­gi­na­ti­on of this peak that made me search for opti­ons some years ago, which resul­tet in the trips with Sig­gi and his boat Auro­ra. So, yes: I want to get up the­re, too.
Today might be the day. Ever­ything is loo­king good, star­ting with the wea­ther fore­cast. It is sup­po­sed to be most­ly calm for several days, and the low cloud lay­er that is covering Jan May­en should give way to the blue sky as soon as one has reached an alti­tu­de of some hund­red metres, accord­ing to the Nor­we­gi­an meteo­ro­lo­gists. This could be our win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty, our gol­den moment.

And ever­y­bo­dy in this group who wants to join the climb is fit and expe­ri­en­ced. There’s eight of us who dream of the Bee­ren­berg sum­mit. All of us have got simi­lar expe­ri­ence from arc­tic or alpi­ne envi­ron­ments. You should not unde­re­sti­ma­te Bee­ren­berg. The distan­ces, the alti­tu­de, the ter­rain … it is easy to think, it can’t be much of a pro­blem, I have been to 3000 metres in the Alps. No, Bee­ren­berg is more deman­ding, alt­hough 2277 metres don’t sound like much.

We have got yet ano­t­her advan­ta­ge: sta­ti­on com­man­der Vig­go, who would love to join us if duty was not cal­ling else­whe­re, offers us a very wel­co­me ride to the north lagoon, which saves us from a hike of 13 kilo­me­tres with full lug­ga­ge, saving important ener­gy reser­ves that we will need later. Not a big deal for Vig­go, but a huge advan­ta­ge for us, that we could never have asked or hoped for – such are the rules here.


Jan May­en

Admit­ted­ly, a cros­sing 3.5 days is a new nega­ti­ve record. Three days would have been nor­mal, and even less with a bit of luck.

But for the moment ever­y­bo­dy seems to be hap­py to have solid ground under their feet again. Soon ever­ything is on shore and car­ri­ed up the black sand beach, tents are put up and slee­ping bags rol­led out. We have cho­sen the per­fect moment for our lan­ding, as it turns out: as soon as the tents are more or less stan­ding, strong gusts are fal­ling from the lava-black, moss-green, fog-grey moun­tains, so we hur­ry up to car­ry tons of stones and drift­wood beams tog­e­ther to secu­re ever­ything.

Then the wind is cal­ming down again, and after some refresh­ments ever­y­bo­dy is going for some explo­ra­ti­on, some first litt­le excur­si­ons into this new envi­ron­ment. Actual­ly, Jan May­en can make a rather inhos­pi­ta­ble first impres­si­on, with low clouds as today. With Kval­ros­sen, we have got a nice moun­tain right next door, with some impres­si­ve coas­tal rock stacks, and this migh­ty beach Hau­gen­stran­da with its end­less amounts of drift­wood. More than enough stuff to wan­der and drift around with feet, eyes, thoughts and came­ra for a while.

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

Later, the Nor­we­gi­an sta­ti­on com­man­der shows up. He also brings their nur­se, just in case, pro­bab­ly. Vig­go is air for­ce office and sur­pri­ses us plea­s­ant­ly with his ener­ge­tic cha­rac­ter. Not too long befo­re he gets a chain­saw out to cut some fire­wood for us, and he has also brought got some goo­dies to eat and to drink – a pro­mi­sing start for a very fine neigh­bour­hood!


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