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Yearly Archives: 2015 − Travelblog

Polar night – mid Novem­ber

By now, the polar night has come to the high arc­tic, the sun remains below the hori­zon 24 hours a day. Even mid day the­re is just a bit of twi­light, far from sun­ny bright­ness.

As so often at this time, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is a bit uncom­fy: it has been quite warm recent­ly and the snow had been tha­wing. As a result, it is slip­pery, and not just a litt­le bit. You could ice-skate to the super­mar­ket, and a walk to the café wit­hout spikes is a bit of an expe­di­ti­on.

This is obvious­ly not the time for long trips out in the field, but that is not neces­sa­ry. It is about the light, about dark­ness, which is so much more than just dark­ness.

And about the quiet­ness and the peace of the arc­tic at this time of year. Spring and sum­mer are always hec­ti­cal, the­re is always so much to do, all the days seem to have 30 hours. During the polar night, peo­p­le are not so much under stress, ever­y­bo­dy is more rela­xed, they have time, they meet.

Gal­lery – Polar night – mid Novem­ber

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

Many peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en say that the polar night is their favo­ri­te sea­son. The­re is some­thing about it.

Skro­va, the Polar Light Cent­re in Lauk­vik and Svol­vær – 05th Novem­ber 2015

Today was the day! We star­ted by hiking over the island of Skro­va in the most beau­tiful wea­ther, many went up on top of Skro­vaf­jel­let, 285 m abo­ve Ves­t­fjord, with a view that is just gre­at.

The same appli­ed to the pas­sa­ge into the port of Svol­vær in the ear­ly after­noon. Sun­set at 3 p.m. Liquid gold over boats, hou­ses and moun­ta­ins.

The Nor­t­hern Light Cent­re in Lauk­vik on the nor­t­hern side of the island Aus­t­vå­gøy (which has Svol­vær on the sou­thern side) was next on our plan. Rob and The­re­se from the Net­her­lands have cho­sen this love­ly, silent spot for their own pri­va­te nor­t­hern light insti­tu­te, with litt­le light pol­lu­ti­on and a free view to all direc­tions, espe­ci­al­ly to the north. Their pas­si­on for the auro­ra pola­ris (a coll­ec­ti­ve term for the polar light in north and south, does that term actual­ly exist or have I just made it up? I don’t know) is impres­si­ve, and so is Rob’s coll­ec­tion of tech­ni­cal instru­ments, which he is using con­stant­ly to make „direct cont­act with the sun“, as he puts it. And inde­ed, his short mes­sa­ge info ser­vice has been very useful over the last cou­ple of days, kee­ping us updated about solar and magne­tic acti­vi­ty and our chan­ces to see nor­t­hern lights.

Inde­ed, Rob’s con­nec­tion to the sun is good and direct enough to prompt a nor­t­hern light the­re and then. But may­be he has for­got­ten to pass the mes­sa­ge on also to the wea­ther God, who is prompt­ly pushing some clouds bet­ween us and the bel­oved auro­ra. But a bit later, during the bus back to Svol­vær, we get a sple­ndid nor­t­hern light show abo­ve nice moun­tain rid­ges; I guess more than one was thin­king about hijack­ing the bus, stop­ping instant­ly and jum­ping out onto the road with came­ra and tri­pod.

Gal­lery Skro­va

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

But that was inde­ed not neces­sa­ry. Later that night, we got an impres­si­ve and beau­tiful dis­play of the nor­t­hern light which could be per­fect­ly seen from Svol­vær.

By the way, for tho­se inte­res­ted in the mat­ter, have a look at the­se links to sites within my web­site:

And of cour­se you should visit the Polar Light Cent­re in Lauk­vik on the inter­net or – much bet­ter – in real life, in Lauk­vik.

All in all: the day today was our day, it was important and gre­at! ☺

Troll­fjord and Skro­va – 04th Novem­ber 2015

The wea­ther nee­ded still some time to get a bit more fri­end­ly, Raft­sund was still a rather wet affair. But the famous Troll­fjord is always impres­si­ve, and so was the Sea eagle show. Three of the­se maje­s­tic birds were cir­cling in the sky! Well, next time I have to bring a lon­ger len­se also for the trip to the nor­t­hern lights 😉

Gal­lery – Troll­fjord and Skro­va – 04th Novem­ber 2015

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

But then it cle­ared up. After a love­ly sun­set at the best ear­ly to mid after­noon time, we ente­red the har­bour of Skro­va, which was quite exci­ting in twi­light, with rocks sti­cking out of the water to all sides of the ship. And it was to beco­me even more exci­ting in the evening. Our first nor­t­hern lights! What a delight, what a reli­ef 🙂

Har­stad and Tron­de­nes – 03rd Novem­ber 2015

It tur­ned out that we mana­ged to escape quite well from the storm. Fur­ther south, har­bours had been clo­sed and fer­ries were can­cel­led. In com­pa­ri­son, it was quite all­right fur­ther north.

Gal­lery – Har­stad and Tron­de­nes – 03rd Novem­ber 2015

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

At least it is dry enough today for a walk through Har­stad. The his­to­ri­cal-tou­ristic high­lights are, howe­ver, not in Har­stad, but a few kilo­me­t­res fur­ther east in Tron­de­nes. Next to a his­to­ri­cal muse­um and north Norway’s oldest stone church, the­re is a WWII gun bat­tery which is inde­ed known by the bizar­re name Adolf Gun. It was part of Hitler’s for­ti­fi­ca­ti­on of the Atlan­tic coast. The Adolf Gun was a migh­ty thing, with a calib­re of 40.6 cm and the capa­ci­ty to shoot shells that were more than 1000 kg hea­vy over more than 40 km. And they would even have been able to hit a ship, as the Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry found out later. Lucki­ly, the bat­tery never fired in anger, that is the only posi­ti­ve aspect of this histo­ry. But we must not for­get the ter­ri­ble fate of tho­se Rus­si­an pri­soners-of-war who had to build the fort­ress. Hundreds of them died during this slavery work.

Lyn­gen­fjord – 02nd Novem­ber 2015

Nice light on the sur­roun­ding island, at least for some time, while we are wai­ting for the wind to calm down a bit. As soon as we are sai­ling again, we are con­fron­ted with an unex­pec­ted nau­ti­cal high­light: The crossing of the 70th degree of lati­tu­de is not the crossing of 70°N, but of 69°60’N. Real­ly! At least accor­ding to the GPS screen on the bridge, at least for a moment. A dime for the GPS’s thoughts that moment!

Ano­ther nau­ti­cal-astro­no­mic­al chall­enge are the celes­ti­al mecha­nics behind polar night and day. No pro­blem with the aid of a tro­pi­cal fruit and a torch. And just in case anyo­ne wants to read again why polar night respec­tively polar day are not equal­ly long in the nor­t­hern and sou­thern hemi­sphe­re, the arc­tic­le polar night – polar day on this web­site is recom­men­ded.

Gal­lery – Lyn­gen­fjord – 02. Novem­ber 2015

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

Not much else to say about this day, other­wi­se. Rain, rain, rain.

Mann­da­len – 01st Novem­ber 2015

Ins­tead of sai­ling sou­thwest, towards Lofo­ten, we hea­ded nor­the­ast, try­ing to escape from the wea­ther. Who needs force 9 winds? So off into the fjords, behind the moun­ta­ins, away from the coast. Deep in Kåfjord, the­re is Mann­da­len in the area that was tra­di­tio­nal­ly inha­bi­ted by the Sea Sami peo­p­le. As we lear­nt in the cul­tu­re and han­di­craft cent­re, the­re is not much left from the tra­di­tio­nal Sami cul­tu­re due to forced Nor­we­gia­ni­sa­ti­on in the ear­lier 20th cen­tu­ry. Few peo­p­le speak the Sami lan­guage still today, but even young peo­p­le are inte­res­ted in lear­ning the lan­guage of their grand­par­ents in cour­ses that are offe­red by the cent­re. Han­di­crafts are also enjoy­ing incre­asing popu­la­ri­ty.

A litt­le trail leads along places of Sami oppo­si­ti­on against sup­pres­si­on from out­side. Incre­di­ble what the peo­p­le here had to endu­re. Not just that they could not speak their own lan­guage in public. Tho­se who could not pay their debts were depri­ved from their last belon­gings which were to be auc­tion­ed away then. No sur­pri­se that at some stage the locals gave the Nor­we­gi­an lens­mann a good bea­ting with fence poles and cha­sed him away. At the end of the war, the Ger­man army burnt the place down as the last one in north Nor­way – as men­tio­ned befo­re, the­se peo­p­le had to endu­re all hard­ships of a mino­ri­ty in the 20th cen­tu­ry.

The­re is still a small hut. Its owner was sup­po­sed to pay dues on the buil­ding mate­ri­als after rebuil­ding it after the war, as was com­mon. He refu­sed this with a let­ter which can be sum­ma­ri­zed brief­ly, but cor­rect­ly, with the words „go to hell“. He was left in peace after that.

We were also not saved from some hard­ships when tho­se who were still with us on the 8 km trail in rain and dark­ness found that the last part of the small road had given way to a steep, slip­pery, mud­dy slo­pe at a road con­s­truc­tion site. But the moti­va­ti­on to find a way after more than 6 km is con­sidera­ble, in con­trast to the wil­ling­ness to turn around and go the same way back.

Gal­lery – Mann­da­len – 01st Novem­ber 2015

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

The­re was not much to see for the rest of the day, just rain and dark­ness. No chan­ce for the nor­t­hern lights that ever­y­bo­dy came for, which is espe­ci­al­ly tough as the sun acti­vi­ty is curr­ent­ly said to be con­sidera­ble. Wit­hout coulds, we would pro­ba­b­ly see nor­t­hern lights all over the sky!

Trom­sø – 31st Octo­ber 2015

The final trip with Anti­gua is taking us to the nor­t­hern lights. In theo­ry, any­way. Soon more about real life. Any­way, we are start­ing in Trom­sø, about to sail to the beau­tiful Lofo­ten islands. One week of scenic islands, love­ly small fishing vil­la­ges, and of cour­se nor­t­hern lights, that’s what we are hoping for.


The wea­ther fore­cast, shown in the first pic­tu­re, is deter­mi­ning real life, that’s how it is in the far north. You don’t have to be a meteo­ro­lo­gist to under­stand that this fore­cast pre­dicts shit wea­ther. Yes, I wro­te „shit“ wea­ther. Some­ti­mes you have to be direct and honest, the­re is no way around it.

Gal­lery Trom­sø – 31. Okto­ber 2015

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 04th Okto­ber 2015

Har­bour days are not the most exci­ting days. The­re is a lot to do to finish a trip and to get the ship rea­dy again, even though I won’t be on board when Anti­gua takes off again.

In the evening, I went back to Jan May­en in my mind. The Sval­bard­mu­se­um had invi­ted me to do a pre­sen­ta­ti­on about the island and my tra­vels the­re. For an hour and ten minu­tes, we went through the geo­gra­phy and the histo­ry of the island, over lava fields and moss car­pets, from the impres­si­ve coast­li­ne to the sum­mit cra­ter of Bee­ren­berg. Nice to go through all that again men­tal­ly, it was defi­ni­te­ly a high­light among­st my polar tra­vels, and the­se are not few. And in a place like Lon­gye­ar­by­en, peo­p­le are cer­tain­ly inte­res­ted in their remo­te neigh­bour island, 1000 km to the sou­thwest. Nice also that some of the Anti­gua crew are pre­sent in the audi­ence, as well as some well-known faces from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 04th Okto­ber 2015

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

What an iro­ny: the first thing that we saw as we step­ped out of the muse­um was a nice nor­t­hern light. And this after having hoped for it for a week tog­e­ther with the group that left Anti­gua and lar­ge­ly flew home today! The hap­pier were tho­se few Anti­gua-guests who had not yet left. The evening was to be a long one, the nor­t­hern lights came and went. Bet­ween the various chap­ters of a culina­ry trip to Ita­ly, enjoy­ing and pho­to­gra­phing the auro­ra was one of the main plea­su­res of the evening.

By the way, a while ago I wro­te an artic­le on this site about the nor­t­hern lights: Gene­ral info and pho­to­gra­phy tips (click here).

Isfjord II – 03rd Octo­ber 2015

The­re were no nor­t­hern lights last night, but apart from that, it was a very nice evening in Pyra­mi­den, nice and calm.

We spent a nice, long mor­ning the­re, the­re is so much to see and to do in Pyra­mi­den, and the pho­to­graph­ers can never have enough time.

Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen was to be this trip’s final high­light. I could almost get a bit sen­ti­men­tal now. Also becau­se this gla­cier has shrunk so dra­ma­ti­cal­ly sin­ce I have seen in for the first time in 1997.

And now we are motoring the last miles back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, into ano­ther colourful sun­set. The final miles of this trip, the last miles of a long arc­tic sea­son. I should cal­cu­la­te how many miles we have done, altog­e­ther. Four trips on Anti­gua, then the­re was Arc­ti­ca II, and of cour­se Jan May­en and East Green­land. In a few hours, when we are along­side, this season’s polar ship-based trips are histo­ry, as far as I am con­cer­ned (and almost ever­y­bo­dy else has alre­a­dy left a good while ago). Of cour­se, the­re is still the Lofo­ten trip on Anti­gua in late Octo­ber, but that is not the high Arc­tic. No polar bears, no wal­rus­ses, no tun­dra, no rif­les, no Zodiacs (well, may­be occa­sio­nal­ly).

Gal­lery Isfjord II – 03rd Octo­ber 2015

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

No reason to be sad, still. This year’s Spits­ber­gen time is not over yet, I still have some time here, shore-based. Calm time in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Nice light, nice peo­p­le, and hop­eful­ly some pro­duc­ti­ve crea­ti­vi­ty.

Isfjord – 02nd Okto­ber 2015

Back in Isfjord, and the lights are going on. A sun­set, that is moving more and more towards noon, is thro­wing a soft pin­ki­sh-red light onto the snow-cover­ed moun­tain tops. The tun­dra is fro­zen, the moss beds, soft and wet just a short while ago, are hard as con­cre­te. A few small rivu­lets are still run­ning under an icy cover, just a few spots of run­ning water are still expo­sed. Soon, they will also turn into ice, and not­hing will move here until well into the next spring.

Only some reinde­er are moving here and the­re, and a group of ptar­mi­gan high up on the slo­pe.

Eit­her the­re are no wha­les in Isfjord any­mo­re, or they have alre­a­dy left for the Azo­res or whe­re­ver they spend their win­ter. Ins­tead, we have time for a short late after­noon landing. Our choice is Skans­buk­ta, a clas­sic. The glo­wing evening light on Gips­hu­ken, a moun­tain on the oppo­si­te shore, is the undis­pu­ted high­light.

Gal­lery Isfjord – 02nd Okto­ber 2015

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

A cosy evening along­side the pier in Pyra­mi­den. We are won­de­ring if we will get nor­t­hern light. The sky is lar­ge­ly clear, and the moon is shi­ning on Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen. The poten­ti­al is not bad at all.

Kongsfjord – 01st Okto­ber 2015

Last night it loo­ked pret­ty awful out­side. Well, not awful, it was actual­ly quite exci­ting. Strong winds and den­se snow drift. Arc­tic in win­ter mode. The­re was even a snow­ball fight on deck.

Towards the mor­ning, the wea­ther cal­med down and we could easi­ly go ashore on Blom­strand. While we were hiking, the Anti­gua could even be moved to Ny Lon­don, to Mansfield’s old marb­le mine, to pick us up the­re. Very nice. And the light, while we were out, you should have seen that! Light snow drift while the sun was going up abo­ve the Tre Kro­ner … gigan­tic.

Gal­lery Kongsfjord – 01st Okto­ber 2015

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

The har­bour in Ny Åle­sund is small, and so is Anti­gua, so we mana­ged to sneak in to the inner side of the pier, which can be very useful. A calm win­ter after­noon in Spitsbergen’s nor­t­hern­most sett­le­ment, a calm evening in port, and then we went off, towards For­lands­und, towards Isfjord. The­re is curr­ent­ly still a bit of swell in outer Kongsfjord, but not so bad any­mo­re, and it will be calm again soon, in For­lands­und.

From Raud­fjord to Kross­fjord – 29th Sep­tem­ber 2015

Final­ly with Zodiacs into inner Hamil­ton­buk­ta, haven’t been the­re for a while! And things the­re have chan­ged, mea­ning the gla­ciers have retrea­ted con­sider­a­b­ly. I have to find some old pho­tos to compa­re. A lot of rocks now whe­re the­re used to be gla­ciers 10 years ago.

Hamil­ton­buk­ta 29th Sep­tem­ber 2015 – 1/2


This doesn’t mean that it is not nice any­mo­re. Quite the oppo­si­te, the gla­ciers are still stun­nin­gly beau­tiful. A lot of ice drif­ting in the bay. And on the­se small islands, you can still enjoy life in gene­ral and the beau­ty of the sce­n­ery. Very nice.

The next low pres­su­re was alre­a­dy on the way. We had deci­ded to make a quick jump down to Kongsfjord, esca­ping befo­re desas­ter would strike. A swift crui­se through Nord­ves­tøya­ne and Smee­ren­burg­fjord. Wat­ching the baro­me­ter was inte­res­t­ing. In 3 days, it had drop­ped by 54 hPa. A simi­lar drop on the finan­cial mar­kets would send shock­wa­ves around the glo­bes. But this was only the baro­me­ter.

Hamil­ton­buk­ta 29th Sep­tem­ber 2015 – 2/2


The­re was quite a bit of swell off the coast, swell from hell, that was not so gre­at, and some were not seen for a cou­ple of hours. But at least, final­ly the nor­t­hern wind came and up went the sails, making the move­ment more sta­ble and com­for­ta­ble. In the late evening, we rea­ched Kross­fjord and a reason­ab­ly well shel­te­red ancho­ra­ge.

The nor­thwest shows off, part II – 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015

As men­tio­ned, this was not all this day should bring. We were thin­king about a litt­le late after­noon landing, hoping to find a reason­ab­ly shel­te­red spot. We for­got about that quick­ly. The wind was one aspect. Admit­ted­ly, when I saw the wind blo­wing out of the bay and on to the shore of our envi­sa­ged landing site, I was alre­a­dy thin­king how to get out of it again. But that was not even neces­sa­ry. Sud­den­ly a polar bear was seen wal­king on the slo­pe not far from the place and that attrac­ted of cour­se ever­y­bo­dies atten­ti­on. It wal­ked along the coast, we inde­ed a lone­so­me wal­rus was lying, pas­sing it within a few met­res initi­al­ly wit­hout pay­ing atten­ti­on (is it real­ly pos­si­ble that he was not awa­re of it to begin with?). Then he reco­gni­zed it, made some steps towards it, pro­ba­b­ly hoping for a big meal, but the wal­rus demons­tra­ted with a quick move­ment of its migh­ty tusks that this might be a bad idea.

Pho­to Fla­t­hu­ken 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015


The bear con­tin­ued and it was kind enough to do so in an area whe­re Joa­chim could maneou­vre the Anti­gua reason­ab­ly clo­se to the shore. It was cer­tain­ly clo­se enough for me, other­wi­se I would have had to remo­ve the tele con­ver­ter … the final high­light of the day was a stun­ning set of sun­set colours abo­ve an ama­zing sce­n­ery. So now the day is over. The second day of the trip, and it could not have been bet­ter!

Pho­to Raud­fjord 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015


Now we are curious about tomor­row. Even more wind is expec­ted – we shall see.

The nor­thwest shows off, part I – 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015

As men­tio­ned befo­re, we were curious what the day would bring. Essen­ti­al­ly, we were pre­pared for a lot of wind. Which we got. And a lot more.

We had done the who­le stretch from sou­thern For­lands­und to the nor­thwest during the night under sails, nice­ly with the squa­res, calm and no strong lis­ting, very plea­sant.

Pho­to Vir­go­ham­na 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015 – 1/2


Con­side­ring the strong sou­t­her­ly wind, Vir­go­ham­na was a natu­ral choice. Start­ing with tel­ling the rele­vant sto­ries the­re in some details, other­wi­se all you see the­re is a pile of rub­bish. With the sto­ries of the expe­di­ti­ons of Andrée and Well­man on your mind, it is sud­den­ly a Mek­ka of polar histo­ry. Also some har­bour seals were pre­sent.

Oppo­si­te in Smee­ren­burg, a group of wal­rus­ses were hau­led out on the beach, but the wind did not lea­ve a chan­ce for a landing. We had to make do with a reason­ab­ly clo­se pas­sa­ge by ship, which tur­ned out to be fine.

Pho­to Vir­go­ham­na 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015 – 2/2


Then, we con­tin­ued into Fuglefjord. Grand pan­ora­ma, moun­ta­ins, gla­ciers. Spits­ber­gen has got its name for a reason, this beca­me clear again here.

Svitjod­breen has retrea­ted stron­gly in recent years. A rock that came out under the gla­cier some years ago is now an island. First mate Moritz was so kind to put me ashore for a moment to take a 360 degree pan­ora­ma pho­to – may­be I am the first one to have set foot on the island? You should never say or even think that you are the first one to have done some­thing in Spits­ber­gen. The­re has always been someone who was ear­lier out, it won’t be any dif­fe­rent here. But the pos­si­bi­li­ty as such is a nice thought.

Pho­to Fuglefjord 28th Sep­tem­ber 2015


But that was not the point. Taking the 360 degree pan­ora­ma was the thing for me. To the delight of ever­y­bo­dy on board, as they had me for sca­le on the island in front of the gla­cier. Mean­while, Moritz was biding his time in the Zodiac by rea­ding my Spits­ber­gen book! That is hard to see in the pan­ora­ma, but I loved the idea. The result can soon be seen on this web­site. I am pret­ty sure it is the first 360 degree pan­ora­ma taken the­re. Not a bad thing. Click here to see the result.

The­re was more to come today. More about that later.

For­lands­und – 27th Sep­tem­ber 2015

A day in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which can at least par­ti­al­ly be spent with doing not­hing, is always a good thing. So yes­ter­day we could start again with fresh moti­va­ti­on and ener­gy.

A calm day in For­lands­und, with light snow­fall we walk over the coas­tal plain bet­ween Isfjord and St. Jons­fjord. Love­ly coas­tal sce­n­ery, reinde­er ant­lers, ever­y­thing cover­ed with a thin fresh white lay­er.

Pho­to Eidem­buk­ta 27th Sep­tem­ber 2015


The Poo­le­pyn­ten Swim­ming Club is some­whe­re else, but Dah­l­breen pres­ents its­elf with colours that somehow dis­play an ama­zing com­bi­na­ti­on of soft­ness and inten­si­ty. Beau­tiful, clear light.

Pho­to Dah­l­breen 27th Sep­tem­ber 2015


Spits­ber­gen seems to switch from autumn to win­ter now. We will pro­ba­b­ly get quite a bit of wind for some days, start­ing tonight. Could be good sai­ling wind. We are quite curious what the upco­ming days will bring.


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