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Monthly Archives: September 2016 − News & Stories


Isfjord – 22nd September 2016

The start into the day was, admittedly, not really great. Rumours had it that a dead whale was recently seen beached somewhere in southern Forlandsund. It turned out to be impossible to find, maybe due to the very strong surf on the shores, which would anyway have made it completely impossible to get anywhere near it.

Later, the swell turned breakfast into something of a sportive exercise, good to improve personal balance. Unfortunately buffet and dinnerware are not really too adaptive.

It became calmer as we went into Grønfjord. The first glimpse outside there: maybe rather stay in bed ..?
But no, that’s not what we came for. And the more time we spent ashore in inner Grønfjord, the better it became. Maybe not for our mountain hiking group, who were rewarded for their physical efforts by some inside views of arctic clouds, any risk of outer dehydration being made a very remote one given current meteorological conditions.

The rain that kept the hikers wet brought a lovely rainbow over tundra and fjord for the rest of us. Wide tundra, lush and green, beach ridges, a moraine to look for fossils. As if Spitsbergen had just realized that the last impression out there in the arctic nature should be a nice one, preferably. It worked well!

In addition, some of us got a little exercise in river crossing, something that turned out to be almost satirical as some others had difficulties during similar activities in the area, while we were just doing it for the fun of it. As soon as we got back on board, a group of guides in training somewhere in inner Grønfjord called us over the radio as their were stuck between rivers with increased runoff due to recent rainfall. Well, I know those rivers from personal experience and I know that they may indeed have some entertaining value. Being nice and helpful people, we sent Uta and Timon off with two zodiacs. They returned later with the news that everybody had been transferred safely, but the approach had been a bit tricky because … it was almost too shallow even for the Zodiacs. Lol!

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

Meanwhile, we rounded our trip off with visit to Barentsburg, an important and contrast-rich impression, making our Spitsbergen-experience as complete as possible in 10 days. I think we did well! Not too long before we then entered the port of Longyearbyen again.

Kongsfjord – 21st September 2016

The day started in an interesting way. The strong wind made us seek shelter in the protected bay of Peirssonhamna, where a landing was easy. According to the weather forecast, the wind was to decrease and to turn into an even more favourable direction, giving us the full shelter of the bay. Sounded good to us. After a while on shore, finally with the golden September light we had been longing for, the opposite happened: the wind picked up and turned south, hitting our landing beach with full force. So we went back and did some nice Zodiac maneouvres South Georgia style: stern landing on a surf beach. Easy for anyone who has done that at Salisbury Plain in South Georgia’s Bay of Isles a couple of times, so I think we all enjoyed some wet fun on the beach

After a long stop near the calving glacier front of Kongsvegen, we went to the little islands of Lovénøyane. Sigridholmen was closest, and as I had not been on that one before, it was an obvious choice a visit to these little islands is a rare opportunity, as they are a bird sanctuary and visits are not allowed during the breeding season, which is most of the season. Only the late birds have a chance to get near them anyway.

So what to expect? 600 metres of guano, and that’s it? Not at all. Just as the neighbouring islands, which I knew from before, Sigridholmen is a pocket full of arctic beauty. Starting with the very scenic surroundings in mellow yet contrast-rich light, the coastline rich in little structures and details, the extremely rich mossy tundra to the glacier ice that filled some of the small bays on the southern end of the island. The sadness of a lonesome Barnacle goose that somehow stayed behind when its fellows went south, seeking to make friends with us. It is a sad though that it will still be there now, picking soft roots out of the mosses, longing for company but awaiting nothing but certain death. The arctic winter is not far.

Gallery Kongsfjord – 21st September 2016

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Amazing how much time you can spend on an island of 600 m length. You could spend several days preparing for a landing on such a place, reading Alexander Koenig’s Avifauna Spitzbergensis (if anyone has got an extra copy of that, please let me know) and then really appreciate Sigridholmen and its little neighbours. That would be more than worth a trip alone.

Krossfjord – 20th September 2016

Weaking up with the Fjortende Juli glacier right in front of us was a grand way to start the day. We then went ashore in Signehamna, visiting the remains of a German weather station from the dark days of the Second World War and then turning our attention back to nature with reindeer, polar fox and views over fjord and glacier.

Gallery Krossfjord – 20th September 2016

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After a visit to the steep glacier Tinayrebreen, from which mighty ice avalanches frequently fell down to the water with a roaring thunder, another landing did initially not want to work because of a polar bear in the area. But we found a hidden, „unknown“ valley instead, a lovely place and now we know where all the reindeer in the region are hiding J the density of reindeer was indeed quite impressive.

Virgohamna – 19th September 2016

The air pressure dynamics have been quite spectacular in recent days. A pressure loss of more than 30 hectopascal within 48 hours is not bad at all. The same goes for the increase of 16 hPa in the last 12 hours.

Virgohamna is a good place on such a day. It does not matter if you can’t see far. Everything (well, most of) what you want to see is close. Both the rusty remains of Andrée’s and Wellman’s expeditions and the harbour seals, which were in great shape on this grey Monday morning.

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

The dead sperm whale that we had recently seen was gone, unfortunately. Too bad, it would have been too nice. On the other hand, we wouldn’t have been able to see a lot in the snowy weather anyway.

80 degrees north – 18th September 2016

After a nice morning with various hikes at Mushamna in Woodfjord we passed northern Andrée Land with the famous Ritter hut near Gråhuken, while an easterly breeze was blowing up. Crossing 80 degrees north was quite unforgettable, handling sails near Moffen and paying tribute to the famous line and to King Neptune, hoping he might bless us with fine weather the next days.

Gallery 80 degrees north – 18th September 2016

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Liefdefjord – 17th September 2016

After nice hikes in Liefdefjord and a windy visit to Monacobreen, which has by now completely lost contact to its icy neighbour, it was time to put up sails again. Sailing become more interesting near Roosfjella, with a steady force 8 and gusts up to force 10. In Woodfjord, we had the wind at least from a favourable direction. Soon we had the sails above us and some dramatic evening light ahead of us, before the anchor later fell in the well-sheltered bay of Mushamna.

Photo Liefdefjord – 17th September 2016

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Smeerenburgfjord – 16th September 2016

It was a promising start to the day, with a very nice sunrise above the mountains and the big glacier, with mirror images on the water.

It is always worth keeping an eye open for wildlife here in the northwest. So we did. And we found it. Not just a bit of it. A whole sperm whale was lying dead on the shore. Impossible to tell how, where and when it died, but now he was there, on this rocky coast. And he was not alone. There were two polar bears hanging around, they had obviously eaten a lot, being lazy and without much motivation for sportive movements. They were lying around, slowly standing up, slowly making a few steps, lying down again, then the other one repeating the same exercise … we spent a good part of the day observing them. At some point, they went back to the dead whale, but without much motivation to eat anything really.

Gallery Smeerenburgfjord – 16th September 2016

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Later we left the polar bears to themselves and made some miles north to Smeerenburg to set foot on solid ground. Some whaling history, and … not yet enough regarding big animals for today. There was a large group of almost 40 walrusses on shore. What a day!

Magdalenefjord – 15th September 2016

Some days later and already back on Antigua, already far north again. The days in Longyearbyen are always far too short, much too much to do, not enough time to get things done, to see friends, to relax. The north is calling.

The first day of this trip – well, let’s say it was dramaturgically well positioned, meaning it could only improve from here. Ny Ålesund in pouring rain, nothing else to say. Well, at least we made the next leg north from there under sail. Have I ever before not taken a single photo during the first two days of a trip?

But … then! We awoke in Magdalenefjord. Still cloudy, but the cloud cover higher than the rugged mountain peaks, covered with fresh snow. First impressions of the rough beauty of the arctic scenery. Mountains, glaciers, whalers’ graves, colourful stones.
The first wildlife sighting directly a rather rare species (a wheatear), a polar fox was not far, but could be seen just for seconds.

Gallery Magdalenefjord – 15th September 2016

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After a visit to Waggonwaybreen and a landing at the trappers’ hut in Bjørnhamna, we dropped anchor for the night near Smeerenburgbreen. A majestic scenic setting and great evening light! That is how you dream of a September evening up here.

Pyramiden – 10th September 2016

The weather was and remained beautiful, almost painfully beautiful. Blue sky, warm sun. We enjoyed ourselves outside in underwear while the ground was frozen in the shadow behind the buildings.

The old mining installations don’t lose anything of their fascination, the more time you spend there the more you find. Not to mention the fascination of the view on Pyramiden from an elevation of 500 m. Then it was time to get out of our lovely Soviet Style rooms in Hotel Tulipan, as we had to go back to Longyearbyen.

Gallery Pyramiden – 10th September 2016

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Mount Pyramiden – 9th September 2016

The weather was and remained great throughout these golden September days. Pure pleasure under a blue sky and a warming sun! Today it was time to get out of Pyramiden and venture into the surroundings. Some of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful mountains are situated around northern Billefjorden. Unique charakters!

What can I say, it was marvellous. Pure pleasure. Ascending slowly and enjoying stunning views during long rests.

Gallery Mount Pyramiden – 9th September 2016

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Pyramiden – 06th/7th September 2016

Pyramiden had been a bit of the centerpiece of this voyage for us, so we were all looking forward to this day that should bring us there. On the way, we even saw a polar bear near Nordenskiöldbreen, although quite distant and just laying on the tundra. But anyway – it is not an everyday thing to see a polar bear on a trip to Pyramiden!

The landing itself was done by Zodiac, as the pier was occupied. The Zodiac maneouvre was a masterpiece in the art of ruining a propeller, but we made it all well ashore, before we joined Sascha’s guided walk through Pyramiden, which was another masterpiece and a good warmup exercise for us. The little difference was that it was just the start for us and the end for everybody else.

We made a little stroll around to have a look at less frequently visited parts of Pyramiden, leaving cameras behind for the time being, focussing on the experience and on making plans for the next days. In the evening, we went for a little low light photography session, followed by a closer look at some of the old mining installations at the foot of mount Pyramiden the next day.

Gallery Pyramiden – 06th/7th September 2016

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Sarkofagen – 04th September 2016

The weather continued to be fine, so we used the opportunity to make a nice tour near Longyearbyen. We started from the group’s acommodation in Nybyen and over the stony river bed of Longyearelva towards the moraine of Longyearbreen. At the glacier rim, we found a nice little ice cave, easily accessible, before we put the crampons on and ventured up onto the glacier. The mountain Sarkofagen has got one of the finest views on Longyeardalen and Longyearbyen!

Gallery Sarkofagen – 04th September 2016

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Over Larsbreen and Gruvefjellet with further lovely views in warm September sun, we continued around Longyearbyen and then down the narrow, stony Vannledningsdalen back to zivilisation.

Bolterdalen – 03rd September 2016

The weather forecast was very promising, so we went off on a nice hike into Bolterdalen. Lovely autumn colours in the tundra under a blue sky. The sun was shining through Arctic cotton grass and dry remains of Mountain avens. We continued over moraine hills, getting higher up where the snow gave the landscape an early bit of winter appearance.

Gallery Bolterdalen – 03rd September 2016

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Longyearbyen – 02nd September 2016

The days have been far too long to write much of a blog. Even in the year 2016, real life is more important than being online. The blog has to wait.

You can travel Spitsbergen without a boat, I almost forgot that. That’s what we have done recently. We started in early September in Longyearbyen (where else). A little stroll down Longyeardalen, first impressions of the place, the landscape, the fresh air (no comparison to the burning heat in central Europe these days!) and of the 9 people that were going to spend the next couple of days together.

It doesn’t always have to be calving glaciers or polar bears. You can just have a look into the church to find something unusual. How many churches in the world greet their visitors with slippers for loan, a gun safe, a Trip Advisor recommendation and a hint that credit cards are accepted?

Gallery Longyearbyen – 02nd September 2016

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Others surprised with the idiotic idea to decorate public buildings with the names of their favourite football club (much to my annoyance, it was a German). Unfortunately, it was not just a few small auxiliary buildings that were sprayed, but also the historical buildings of mine 2b, a damage that will be hard to remove, if not impossible. All of it along the road up to Nybyen. So it was at least known where the guy was from and where he stayed. Hunting idiots does not require a Sherlock Holmes. The police has got a name and a Norwegian judge will soon send a nice letter to Germany. Norwegian authorities claim to have good relationships to German law enforcement authorities.

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