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Yearly Archives: 2015 − News & Stories


Noor­der­licht: last sea­son as “ship in the ice”

SV Noor­der­licht, the two mast sai­ling ship ori­gi­nal­ly built in Ger­ma­ny as fire­ship Kalk­grund and in Dutch owner­ship a regu­lar and beau­tiful sight in Spits­ber­gen waters for many years now, is known to many as the “ship in the ice”.

When the ice sett­led in Tem­pel­fjord, Noor­der­licht was park­ed the­re and fro­zen in inten­tio­nal­ly. As soon as the ice was strong enough, the ship could be visi­ted and tou­rists could spend a night on a ship in the ice, to enjoy an atmo­sphe­re that remin­ded one of Nansen’s ship Fram during her gre­at ice drift across the arc­tic oce­an in 1893-1896. A bit shorter and less dan­ge­rous, but the fee­ling was the­re. Noor­der­licht‘s first sea­son as ship in the ice was in 2002, and sin­ce then, near 7000 over­night guests have enjoy­ed this uni­que expe­ri­ence. Due to per­mit rest­ric­tions, the ship was not open for indi­vi­du­al tou­rists, but only tho­se who came as orga­ni­zed groups with gui­des. It was often visi­ted by groups who came by dog sledge.

The Noor­der­licht crew has the desi­re to explo­re some­thing new and has sche­du­led sai­ling in north Nor­way in the spring 2016, so the ship will not be back in Tem­pel­fjord.

The tour ope­ra­tor behind the ship in the ice con­cept, Base­camp Spits­ber­gen, is now loo­king of an alter­na­ti­ve, so the sto­ry of the ship in the ice may con­ti­nue with ano­ther ves­sel. It will, howe­ver, be dif­fi­cult to replace Noor­der­licht.

Click here for some 360 degree pan­ora­mas from Noor­der­licht as “ship in the ice”.

Noor­der­licht as “ship in the ice” in Tem­pel­fjord.

Noorderlicht in Tempelfjord: ship in the ice

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (22/2015)

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: run­ning out of fuel

The air­port at Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Sval­bard luft­havn, is run­ning out of fuel. New kero­si­ne is orde­red and coming up by ship, but this takes some time. Mean­while, fuel is ratio­ned. Poli­ce and res­cue ser­vices have got prio­ri­ty, while air­lines are asked to refuel in main­land Nor­way as much as pos­si­ble.

As a result, direct flights from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Oslo may be forced to make an extra stop in Trom­sø for refuel­ling, which results in delay­ed arri­vals, as this aut­hor pain­ful­ly expe­ri­en­ced last week.

The sup­p­ly ship is to come next week, and then all pla­nes can refuel again in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

A king­dom for a jer­rycan! Sval­bard luft­havn is run­ning out of fuel.

Longyearbyen airport

Quel­le: NRK

New Sys­sel­man­nen: Kjers­tin Askholt

Kjers­tin Askholt will be the new Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard from 01 Octo­ber. The Sys­sel­man­nen is the hig­hest repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment in Sval­bard and is appoin­ted (not elec­ted) for 3 years. This time, the­re were 7 appli­cants, as usu­al most­ly high-ran­king poli­ce offi­cers or the juri­di­cal admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

Kjers­tin Askholt has been invol­ved with the admi­nis­tra­ti­on of the Nor­we­gi­an polar are­as within the Minis­try of Jus­ti­ce sin­ce 2003 and is accor­din­gly expe­ri­en­ced in rele­vant mat­ters. She has announ­ced to empha­si­ze gene­ral con­ti­nui­ty and a con­ti­nuous­ly good rela­ti­onship with the Rus­si­an neigh­bours in Barents­burg. The­re are chal­lenges in both, as the dif­fi­cult situa­ti­on of the coal indus­try, gro­wing tou­rism and the rela­ti­onship with the Rus­si­ans is usual­ly good in Spits­ber­gen but inter­na­tio­nal­ly curr­ent­ly obvious­ly dif­fi­cult, which may reflect on the local dia­lo­gue as well.

Kjers­tin Askholt will be the second woman in the posi­ti­on of the Sys­sel­man­nen. The first one was Ann-Kris­tin Olsen, who was the boss on Skjæringa from 1995 to 1998. Skjæringa is the part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en whe­re the Sysselmannen’s office is loca­ted and a com­mon­ly used local term.

Sys­sel­man­nen from Octo­ber: Kjers­tin Askholt. © Pho­to: Sys­sel­man­nen.

Sysselmannen ab Oktober: Kjerstin Askholt

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Isfjord, Lon­gye­ar­by­en

This final day show­ed that win­ter still had the land in Isfjord in its firm grip, more so than fur­ther south. In Bell­sund, we had enjoy­ed easy walks over snow-free tun­dra and even the views of some first, ear­ly flowers (Pur­ple saxif­ra­ge). Here in Isfjord, the land is lar­ge­ly under deep snow down to sea level. And whe­re the tun­dra is snow-free, the­re are most­ly birds sit­ting – good reasons to keep excur­si­ons short at the time being. Nevert­hel­ess, very plea­sant stays on the arc­tic tun­dra and good round views over outer Isfjord.

It was not exact­ly a com­ple­te sur­pri­se that the­re was still a lot of ice in the bays, so we had to make do with views of a con­sidera­ble distance of the gla­cier front in Bore­buk­ta. But who cared after ever­y­thing that the last days had given us?

After a final, short crossing of Isfjord, we went along­side in the port of Lon­gye­ar­by­en and thus finis­hed the trip. Well, not yet – the swell was quite unp­lea­sant, so soon we moved out again and drop­ped the anchor once more. Then it was time for a warm fare­well with ever­y­bo­dy.

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

To my gre­at plea­su­re, a lar­ge deli­very of books also finis­hed its trip on this day when it was moved onto dry arc­tic ground in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Always a gre­at and important event! I’d like to thank ever­y­bo­dy who has given a hand with the books on their way from nor­the­as­tern Ger­ma­ny to Lon­gye­ar­by­en!

Prins Karls For­land, Barents­burg

Today it was time to make fri­ends with some of Spitsbergen’s inha­bi­tants. We did so on Prins Karls For­land and in Barents­burg.

The For­lands­und was at home. Quite lazy, but one impres­si­ve wal­rus came slow­ly rol­ling out of the water, fee­ding the eyes and len­ses of hap­py tou­rists.

Barents­burg tur­ned out to be not just a strong visu­al con­trast, but also a very infor­ma­ti­ve les­son about Spits­ber­gen histo­ry and poli­tics. And a chan­ce to tas­te the local beer. To a good trip – na sda­rowje!

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

Bell­sund

The pho­tos may speak for them­sel­ves. We did not have so many impres­si­ons of the diver­si­ty of this high arc­tic land so far, so it was time to catch up with some landings. A gla­cier, a lagoon with ice floes dri­ven by tidal curr­ents, tun­dra, sun abo­ve the blue sea.

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

But it was a slow start into this part of the day, after the polar bear visit in the ear­ly mor­ning.

Van Keu­len­fjord

Van Keu­len­fjord tur­ned out to be a tre­asu­re cham­ber of arc­tic impres­si­ons. Of cour­se, it was good to step out on solid ground again. Real arc­tic soil, per­ma­frost-based tun­dra. But what fol­lo­wed later will defi­ni­te­ly remain a tre­asu­red memo­ry well bey­ond this sum­mer.

Fur­ther in, the fjord was still fro­zen solid. Four polar beas were visi­ble in the distance, a mother with two cubs and a sin­gle bear, all res­t­ing at times and moving at others, even mee­ting occa­sio­nal­ly. All in a distance that redu­ced them to litt­le yel­low dots for us. Mean­while, a group of Belugas came into sight, with an excep­tio­nal high pro­por­ti­on of young ani­mals, distin­gu­is­ha­ble by their dark grey colour.

We had the good idea to moor the Anti­gua at the fast ice edge during the night. That is one of the beau­ties of tra­vel­ling with a sai­ling ship: you are not always in a rush. Some­ti­mes you have time, the most important thing during tra­vel­ling (and other­wi­se in life). We do not fol­low sche­du­les, we take oppor­tu­ni­ties. The wea­ther was fine, wild­life within view. So we did not save any cost or effort but went out to find a sui­ta­ble pie­ce of drift­wood, which was then put through a hole in the ice with gre­at enthu­si­asm by Cap­tain Joa­chim and some hel­ping hands. A rope bet­ween the drift­wood log and Anti­gua would keep the ship in posi­ti­on for some hours wit­hout wind. The self­ma­de port was rea­dy, and we could enjoy the evening.

The night was short. Around 4 a.m., the polar bear fami­ly deci­ded to visit this stran­ge ice­berg which had appeared at the ice edge. The two second year cubs, 1.5 years old, were as curious as polar bears can be. The wal­ked on the ice around the bow of the ship and stood up on their hind legs to get bet­ter views of us. They were biting into the ropes, which may have smel­led from many sail­ors’ hands which have hand­led them over years and many ports whe­re they have fixed Anti­gua to the pier.

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

No need to men­ti­on that this was an unfor­gettable expe­ri­ence ☺

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.

May 17th: Nor­we­gi­an Con­sti­tu­ti­on Day is also cele­bra­ted in the Arc­tic

May 17th is the Natio­nal Day of Nor­way. On this day Nor­we­gi­ans cele­bra­te the Nor­we­gi­an Con­sti­tu­ti­on which was adopted on May 17th in 1814 by the recent­ly estab­lished Con­sti­tu­ent Assem­bly at the small place of Eids­voll in sou­thern Nor­way. A con­sidera­ble act for the coun­try and cou­ra­ge­ous as well, as Nor­way befo­re was gover­ned by the Danish crown for almost 300 years. Offi­ci­al­ly Nor­way was part of the Danish king­dom, the important posi­ti­ons were held by Danes and by the impact of cul­tu­re- and school-poli­tics Nor­we­gi­ans should beco­me Danish.

In 1814, at the end of the Napo­leo­nic Wars, as the ter­ri­to­ri­al reor­ga­niza­ti­on of the Scan­di­na­vi­an count­ries was nego­tia­ted in the Trea­ty of Kiel, the Nor­we­gi­ans took the oppor­tu­ni­ty: They estab­lished a natio­nal assem­bly, gave them­sel­ves a con­sti­tu­ti­on and elec­ted an own king. Yet, it did not work that easy. Nor­way was pres­sed into a uni­on with Swe­den ins­tead and the Swe­dish king also beca­me king of Nor­way in per­so­nal uni­on. But at least Nor­way was a sepa­ra­te king­dom again, the natio­nal assem­bly was trans­for­med into a par­lia­ment (Stort­ing) and the con­sti­tu­ti­on, cele­bra­ted on May 17th, was main­tai­ned. Nor­way beca­me com­ple­te­ly inde­pen­dent in 1905 when the uni­on with Swe­den was sus­pen­ded.

Tra­di­tio­nal­ly the Natio­nal Day is cele­bra­ted with a para­de inclu­ding music, lots of Nor­we­gi­an flags and a diver­si­ty of tra­di­tio­nal cos­tu­mes from the dif­fe­rent parts of the coun­try. In the capi­tal Oslo the para­de moves along Karl Johans Gate and pas­ses the Roy­al Palace. All over the coun­try peo­p­le rai­se the Nor­we­gi­an flag.

In the Nor­we­gi­an Arc­tic May 17th was cele­bra­ted as well, not only on Spits­ber­gen, in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, among the rese­ar­chers in Ny Åle­sund and in the mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va, but also at the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­ons on the remo­te islands of Bjørnøya, Jan May­en and Hopen. Even the crew of the rese­arch ves­sel RV ´Lan­ce´, fro­zen in the ice north of Spits­ber­gen, orga­ni­zed a para­de: across the ice, once around the ship. After­wards the­re was a par­ty onboard. The sta­ti­on on Bjørnøya was visi­ted by the crew of the coast­guard ves­sel KV ´Har­stad´, incre­asing the num­ber of par­ti­ci­pan­ts at the para­de signi­fi­cant­ly. It is also said, that they could win some new mem­bers for the Bjørnøya Nude-Bathing-Asso­cia­ti­on. The smal­lest May 17th cele­bra­ti­on was held on Hopen. At least with 4 per­sons (and the 4 sta­ti­on dogs) all inha­bi­tants were pre­sent.

The para­de in Lon­gye­ar­by­en stops at the war memo­ri­al.
Pho­to: © RS

nationalfeiertag-4

In Lon­gye­ar­by­en the para­de moved from the church to the city cen­ter and fur­ther to the war memo­ri­al whe­re flowers were laid down and spee­ches were held. The spea­k­ers were Robert Her­man­sen, for­mer CEO of the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni and the Rus­si­an Con­sul Gene­ral in Barents­burg, Jurij Grib­kov, who con­gra­tu­la­ted the Nor­we­gi­ans to the cele­bra­ti­on of their Con­sti­tu­ti­on. After­wards the para­de moved to the Sval­bard­hall whe­re a meal was ser­ved and the cele­bra­ti­on con­tin­ued with seve­ral events, espe­ci­al­ly for the child­ren. In his speech the Sys­sel­man­nen Odd Olsen Ingerø empha­si­zed Norway´s sove­reig­n­ty over Sval­bard and con­firm­ed the vali­di­ty of the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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!

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