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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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