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Yearly Archives: 2015 − News & Stories

Prins Karls For­land – 20. Juli 2015

Small ships and boats nor­mal­ly stay bet­ween Spits­ber­gen and Prins Karls For­land, kee­ping to the bet­ter shel­te­red waters of For­lands­und rather than the expo­sed west coast of Prins Karls For­land, whe­re the sea can be roug­her. So tho­se who can stay insi­de, and tho­se who stay out­side usual­ly do so becau­se they don’t have any other choice. That is the big­ger ships with too much draft for the shal­low part in the nor­t­hern For­lands­und.

Con­side­ring the good wea­ther and calm seas that we had, we deci­ded, howe­ver, to head for the west coast of Prins Karls For­land any­way, taking the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty of a clo­ser inspec­tion of the outer side of the island. First of all, it was time to catch some sleep when the anchor went down near Ait­kenod­den last night, befo­re we went ashore the­re today. Untouch­ed natu­re, almost nobo­dy is going the­re. Most ships don’t have time to stop at a place like this, and if you have time, you will usual­ly stay in For­lands­und. Bet­ter shel­ter. But today it was sim­ply an oppor­tu­ni­ty too good to be missed. Advan­ced Spits­ber­gen. Stay­ing away from the trod­den path.

The­re is an old trap­per hut at Ait­kenod­den, near a lake cal­led Nesun­gen. The hut was built in 1909, now it is just a ruin, but in scenic sur­roun­dings, a wide coas­tal plain with small bays and rocky out­crops along the shore­li­ne.

Pho­to Ves­t­flya – 20th Juli 2015


After a bit of sight­see­ing near the hut, we ven­tu­red across the flat tun­dra away from the coast. Dry moss and lichen tun­dra ever­y­whe­re, and flat rid­ges of expo­sed shist. A reinde­er mother and her calf kept a careful distance while working their way in a cir­cle around us. After a rest, we clim­bed up Per­sis­kam­men which rea­ches an ele­va­ti­on of 334 met­res abo­ve the sea. High enough for gre­at views over the tun­dra and the coas­tal land­scape, both very rich in detail and struc­tu­re despi­te of being flat. We took a long rest at a cairn mar­king the hig­hest point, rela­xing in the sun which was shi­ning from the blue arc­tic sky with an ama­zing strength, befo­re des­cen­ding to the eas­tern side of the island. Mean­while, Pål had lifted anchor and gone around the sou­thern point of Prins Karls For­land to meet us here in Sand­buk­ta, so we all met the­re again after a love­ly long hike, inclu­ding the rare oppor­tu­ni­ties to climb the iso­la­ted sou­thern moun­tain on Prins Karls For­land and crossing the island at the same time.

Pho­to Per­sis­kam­men – 20th Juli 2015


After a quick jump into the water to get fresh again, we con­tin­ued nor­thwards. We saw about 10 wal­rus­ses lazi­ly lying in the sun while pas­sing Poo­le­pyn­ten and enjoy­ed sun­ny views of the moun­ta­ins and gla­ciers to both sides of For­lands­und while hea­ding towards Kongsfjord.

Advan­ced Spits­ber­gen: Arc­ti­ca II – 19th Juli 2015

So far, it has been a gre­at sea­son, and we are about to con­ti­nue on a high level. A few hours ago we left Lon­gye­ar­by­en with Arc­ti­ca II. Twel­ve peo­p­le inclu­ding skip­per Pål from Lon­gye­ar­by­en and me on a robust 60 foot sai­ling boat to expe­ri­ence Spits­ber­gen in-depth, inclu­ding remo­te places off the trod­den path. All are very eager and curious what the next 18 days will bring. It will be inten­se, that is for sure. With a light eas­ter­ly bree­ze, we are now steam­ing through Isfjord towards the west coast to find an ancho­ra­ge for the first night.

Pho­to Advent­fjord – 19th Juli 2015


Pyra­mi­den – 16th Juli 2015

No Spits­ber­gen-trip would be com­ple­te wit­hout a visit to one of the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments, so we were in Pyra­mi­den today. Again, luck with the wea­ther: last night, we engi­ned against strong wind into Bil­lefjord, rain and sleet around mid­night, and as we star­ted our excur­si­on today – suns­hi­ne! Someone here seems to have excel­lent con­nec­tions to the hig­hest places.

So we could spend some very plea­sant hours with various, con­trast-rich impres­si­ons in the old ghost town. And as it tur­ned grey and wet again around noon, it just made the tea and other goo­dies in the bar in hotel Tuli­pan tas­te even bet­ter.

The wind in Bil­lefjord was not as strong any­mo­re as yes­ter­day, but enough to let us sail all the way to the ent­rance of Advent­fjord wit­hout the engi­ne. A nice, calm roun­dup for a very rich, inten­se Spits­ber­gen-trip, which was an impres­si­ve exam­p­le for a trip that was gre­at wit­hout having gone around the island alt­hough this had been the initi­al idea. It is the expe­ri­ence that counts, and that lea­ves not­hing to be desi­red. Add good atmo­sphe­re among­st pas­sen­gers and crew, and you have got all ingre­di­ents for the per­fect trip.

At the time of wri­ting, Anti­gua has alre­a­dy left Lon­gye­ar­by­en again – and again, under sail. And we are pre­pa­ring to board the local sai­ling yacht Arc­ti­ca II today: advan­ced Spits­ber­gen 2015. This will pro­vi­de ple­nty of stuff for this blog, so keep coming back!

Gal­lery Pyra­mi­den – 16th Juli 2015

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

Final­ly, a big thanks to all par­ti­ci­pan­ts of the Anti­gua-voya­ge and the crew of Cap­tain Joa­chim for a gre­at trip and good spi­rits!

Ekm­anfjord – 15th Juli 2015

Isfjord is Spitsberge’s big­gest fjord. I’d quite like to do a trip once that is just focus­sing on Isfjord. It would be easy to spend a week the­re. The­re is almost ever­y­thing that you might want to see in Spits­ber­gen: a very diver­se land­scape and vege­ta­ti­on, flat tun­dra, nice moun­ta­ins, gla­ciers, wild­life, some very inte­res­t­ing his­to­ri­cal sites …

Our desti­na­ti­on for today was Ekm­anfjord. A wide tun­dra area offe­red as much space for various hikes as anyo­ne might have wan­ted, so we split up into three groups ven­ture out for a rela­xed walk, a hike and a long hike. The tun­dra? A sea of flowers: Pur­ple saxif­ra­ge, Moun­tain avens, Moss cam­pi­on on wide are­as, to men­ti­on just the main eye cat­chers. The moun­ta­ins? Deep pur­ple, gent­ly cur­ved slo­pes of Old Red in the north. Migh­ty steep slo­pes cut into ama­zin­gly regu­lar ero­sio­nal towers in the vici­ni­ty. The sun made the colours shi­ne and the fresh wind was not just a delight, but it also blew the mos­qui­tos away that you might other­wi­se actual­ly have in this tun­dra of the „inner fjord zone“ on a warm sum­mer day.

Gal­lery Ekm­anfjord – 15th Juli 2015

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

A late after­noon visit in Skans­buk­ta brought more bota­ni­cal high­lights inclu­ding the beau­tiful Nor­t­hern Jacob’s lad­der in full flower, a group pho­to and some indi­vi­du­al had been bit­ten by the polar bug so bad­ly that they couldn’t resist the tempt­a­ti­on of a bath in the cold waters of the bay. In the end, the ser­vice crew, chef Sascha, Jana, Nadia and Cla­ra, show­ed what they can actual­ly do and crea­ted a love­ly din­ner and evening to cele­bra­te a gre­at trip that is now coming to an end.

Recher­chefjord – 14th Juli 2015

You can dis­co­ver so much if you just take the time for it. With a small group, we went on a Zodiac trip to explo­re Recher­chefjord in some detail. Start­ing in Calyp­so­by­en, a litt­le aggre­ga­ti­on of old huts whe­re coal occur­ren­ces were inves­ti­ga­ted in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, we met some very fri­end­ly Polish sci­en­tists. Their lea­der Piotr Zagór­ski invi­ted us for some tea and cof­fee and explai­ned their work. Geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal fieldwork with some long-term data sets. The gla­ciers in the area are curr­ent­ly shrin­king at a rate of 10 met­res per year, which is a lot for gla­ciers that ter­mi­na­te on land, but are buil­ding up ice in their hig­her rea­ches. May­be pre­pa­ring a sur­ge? Inte­res­t­ing. The acti­ve lay­er is now 1.40 met­res thick, in con­trast to 1.20 met­res as in recent years in avera­ge. The sum­mer has been very warm so far in Bell­sund. At least, it has brought a lot of colourful flowers to the tun­dra.

Pho­to Recher­che­breen – 14th Juli 2015


After a rela­xed pic­nic on a morai­ne hill near Renard­breen (Fox gla­cier), whe­re colourful til­li­tes are silent wit­nesses of a more or less glo­bal gla­cia­ti­on about 600 mil­li­on years ago (snow­ball earth theo­ry), the lagoon at Recher­che­breen was the next tempt­a­ti­on. The oppor­tu­ni­ty was good, the tide high, making the pas­sa­ge into the lagoon easy, while ice­bergs were taking the same chan­nel out at an ama­zing speed with the cur­rent. Once insi­de, we enjoy­ed the views of the ice­bergs and the ice cliff of Recher­che­breen sil­ent­ly for a while. The other group, which came hiking to this lagoon a litt­le while later, even saw Belugas the­re.

Pho­to Calyp­so­by­en – 14th Juli 2015


A very wind-bat­te­red hut on the eas­tern shore of Recher­chefjord is the only lef­to­ver from the attempts of Ernest Mansfield’s Nor­t­hern Explo­ra­ti­on Com­pa­ny to turn the „moun­tain of iron“ into cash. As it tur­ned out, the moun­ta­ins is of rock and not iron. Bad for Mans­field and his Nor­t­hern Explo­ra­ti­on com­pa­ny, which lost a lot of money the­re in 1918-19. Good for the tun­dra, which is flowe­ring near the hut in the most beau­tiful colours.

Horn­sund – 13th Juli 2015

Horn­sund can be nasty, and it can be fri­end­ly and beau­tiful. Today, it was won­derful. Silent, clear wea­ther, calm water with mir­ror images of the sur­roun­ding moun­ta­ins. And the­re are some beau­tiful moun­ta­ins arran­ged at the shores of this fjord. Cha­rac­terful peaks that are uni­que, you will always reco­gni­ze them on a pho­to once you have seen them. Hyr­nef­jel­let with its beau­tiful­ly cur­ved and colourful sedi­men­ta­ry lay­ers. The rug­ged dou­ble peak of Horn­sund­tind. The jag­ged ridge of Lucia­kam­men. Bau­taen which can appear sharp as a need­le.

The tour along the ridge of the Tres­kelen pen­in­su­la reward­ed us with gre­at pan­o­r­amic views of this scenic spec­ta­cle and inte­res­t­ing insights into the events of Earth histo­ry that had crea­ted it. Devo­ni­an Old Red, Per­mo­car­bo­ni­fe­rous car­bo­na­tes and the dark, petre­fied wad­den sea from the Tri­as­sic. In this order from bot­tom to top, ele­gant­ly cur­ved as a huge fold bent upwards. Our landing site was cle­ar­ly mark­ed as the fold axis by some distinct coas­tal rocks. Ever­y­bo­dy had the over­view at the end of the hike. And tho­se who stay­ed a bit fur­ther down in the ter­rain, enjoy­ed reinde­er and a fami­ly of Bar­na­cle geese which was atta­cked by an Arc­tic skua within short ran­ge.

Pho­to Tres­kelen – 13th Juli 2015


The gla­cier-sur­roun­ded bay Bre­pol­len deligh­ted us not only with its long gla­cier fronts, but also with the sight­ing of a polar bear mother with a first-year cub, which had found a warm and com­for­ta­ble place on the back of its mother.

Pho­to Stor­breen – 13th Juli 2015


And later in Bur­ger­buk­ta, the­re was so much gla­cier ice drif­ting in the bay that we could not resist the tempt­a­ti­on of a late-after­noon Zodiac crui­se in ice­berg alley. The final high­light was the sight­ing of a Beard­ed seal on a grow­ler (a small pie­ce of gla­cier ice).

Sou­thern west coast – 12rd Juli 2015

The day star­ted exact­ly in the same way as yes­ter­day: calm, almost mir­ror-like water, but den­se fog. Apart from the poor visi­bi­li­ty, con­di­ti­ons were again ide­al for landings at unu­su­al places, expo­sed, dif­fi­cult to reach, usual­ly igno­red. But as calm as it was today, the­re should be oppor­tu­ni­ties.

Initi­al­ly, the visi­bi­li­ty threa­ten­ed to make landings in polar bear coun­try impos­si­ble, but after some careful explo­ra­ti­on, the fog lifted at Kapp Bor­then, so soon ever­y­bo­dy was ashore in a wide, flat coas­tal area, an allu­vi­al melt­wa­ter plain cover­ed with wet tun­dra domi­na­ted by algae in many colours. And in the midd­le of this stran­ge land­scape, an even stran­ger arte­fact: the wreck of a Ger­man figh­ter pla­ne, a Ju 88, that was forced to land near Kapp Bor­then after having recei­ved dama­ge during attacks on an allied con­voi in Sep­tem­ber 1942. A very stran­ge impres­si­on, this desc­truc­tion machi­ne with a blea­ched-out swas­tika in the midd­le of the peaceful arc­tic tun­dra.

Pho­to Kapp Bor­then – 12rd Juli 2015


Our wea­ther luck func­tion­ed equal­ly well later a bit fur­ther south in Hyt­te­vi­ka, at Wan­ny Woldstad’s famous old hut, which is so nice­ly hid­den bet­ween some big rocks. The sun was shi­ning on a tun­dra that is so green that it seems almost unre­al. And ten thou­sands of Litt­le auks just a few met­res fur­ther up the slo­pes. An immense spec­ta­cle, on the rocks, in the air.

Pho­to Hyt­te­vi­ka – 12rd Juli 2015


The fog has dis­ap­peared com­ple­te­ly as we are now ente­ring Horn­sund. The bright evening sun is shi­ning on beau­tiful, famous moun­ta­ins such as Horn­sund­tind, Lucia­kam­men, Hyr­nef­jel­let. Small and medi­um-sized ice­bergs ever­y­whe­re in the water. Soon the anchor will fall in Adria­buk­ta.

For­lands­und & Wha­les – 11th Juli 2015

The water was calm as a mir­ror, the wind some­whe­re else on the pla­net, but not here. A good oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit expo­sed places, which are usual­ly hard to reach and well off the trod­den path. Such as the west coast of Spits­ber­gen just north of the Isfjord ent­rance.

Pho­to Daud­man­nen – 11th Juli 2015


The fog was cove­ring huge are­as and we had to search for sui­ta­ble con­di­ti­ons. The first bay wasn’t any good, all we found was an unchar­ted rock next to the anchor posi­ti­on (we found it by Zodiac, no pro­blems). But around the cor­ner, the­re was a love­ly litt­le bay, nar­row and deep­ly cut­ting into the other­wi­se very rocky coast­li­ne. And behind it, the­re was a wide coas­tal plain with tun­dra and some rocky hills and quiet hid­den lakes.

Pho­to Wha­le­wat­ching – 11th Juli 2015


Later, we tried to escape from the fog by going south and then out to open sea, as the coast was com­ple­te­ly hid­den in a grey cover. So we had time to have a look at the con­ti­nen­tal shelf area, whe­re the depth con­tours on the chart indi­ca­te waters 500 met­res deep and more. And quite right, soon backs of White-bea­k­ed dol­phins, Fin and Hump­back wha­les were brea­king through the calm water sur­face. It tur­ned out to be an unfor­gettable evening with Hump­back wha­les fee­ding near the ship.

Sai­ling along the north coast & Vir­go­ham­na – 9th/10th Juli 2015

Admit­ted­ly, it wasn’t real­ly high per­for­mance sai­ling yes­ter­day evening. But at least, we were moving under sail, even into the right direc­tion, rough­ly. That chan­ged today in the ear­ly mor­ning. We were still slow, but then going towards north Green­land. Also an inte­res­t­ing place, but not in our plan for the time being. But then the wind came, and we were hea­ding with up to 10 knots into Smee­ren­burg­fjord.

Pho­to Ver­le­gen­hu­ken – 09th Juli 2015


Ama­zin­gly, the wind died down at the right time, as we wan­ted to make a landing in the after­noon. Vir­go­ham­na, the arc­tic ver­si­on of Cape Cana­ve­ral, open air muse­um of aero­nau­ti­cal north pole expe­di­ti­ons.

Pho­to Vir­go­ham­na – 10th Juli 2015


Har­bour seals are not exact­ly ani­mals one would asso­cia­te with the high arc­tic. The ones here kind of got stuck here. Lef­to­vers from a time, seve­ral thousand years ago, when the cli­ma­te was a bit war­mer. They thri­ved and got well estab­lished. Then it coo­led down again, but they stay­ed. Pro­ba­b­ly not living the grea­test har­bour seal life any­mo­re, but they at least. An unu­su­al sight in Spits­ber­gen. Often, they don’t like peo­p­le get­ting near them on shore, but they don’t mind small boats too much, and so we could make a nice visit. Fun­ny how they are res­t­ing on stones. Doesn’t look too com­for­ta­ble …

UN Secre­ta­ry-Gene­ral Ban Ki-moon is visi­ting Sval­bard

United Nati­ons Secre­ta­ry-Gene­ral Ban Ki-moon is curr­ent­ly on an offi­ci­al trip in Sval­bard. The visit is part of the UN´s cam­pain in pre­pe­ra­ti­on of the upco­ming UN Cli­ma­te Chan­ge Con­ven­ti­on in Decem­ber 2015. Ban intends to get an over­view over the local effects of glo­bal warm­ing in the Arc­tic and to use the publi­ci­ty of his visit to pri­ma­ri­ly inform about the alar­ming extend of gla­cial mel­ting.

On Tues­day Ban arri­ved at the air­port in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, accom­pa­nied by the Nor­we­gi­an For­eign Minis­ter Bør­ge Bre­de. The guests were direct­ly taken to the Nor­we­gi­an rese­arch ves­sel ‘Lan­ce’, which had recent­ly retur­ned from a rese­arch ope­ra­ti­on in the ice, north of Sval­bard. Onboard the ‘Lan­ce’ they were brought to Ny-Åle­sund whe­re sci­en­tists of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te infor­med Ban about the situa­ti­on in Sval­bard. After­wards they took a boat trip to the edge of the gla­cier Blom­strand­breen, which had mel­ted signi­fi­cant­ly sin­ce Ban’s last visit in 2009. The next stop on the tour is again Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Ban Ki-moon,
CC BY-SA 2.0 by
Minis­te­rie van Bui­ten­land­se Zaken


Source: United Nati­ons

Sorg­fjord – 9th Juli 2015

The fjord of worries was a place of plea­su­re today, under the bright arc­tic sun at 80 degrees north. Here, whe­re 40 Dutch wha­ling ships were sunk, burnt or cap­tu­red by three Eng­lish batt­le­ships in 1693, we enjoy­ed rela­xed walks and long hikes. The moun­tain goats went into back coun­try and up a moun­tain to enjoy gre­at scenic views. The fri­ends of more rela­xed arc­tic walks obser­ved Red-throa­ted divers in remar­kab­le num­bers, burnt in the sun next to a decaying trappers’s hut, exami­ned a wha­lers’ gra­vey­ard, exami­ned the remains of a Swe­dish polar sta­ti­on which made an important con­tri­bu­ti­on when they figu­red out the shape of our pla­net in some detail and lis­ten­ed to dra­ma­tic sto­ries of fai­led arc­tic expe­di­ti­ons from more than a cen­tu­ry ago.

Foto Eolus­ne­set – 9. Juli 2015


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


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