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Monthly Archives: October 2016 − News & Stories


Sen­ja – 31th Okto­ber 2016

I just have to add 2 pho­tos from yes­ter­day. Later in the evening, the nort­hern light real­ly came out nice­ly. The situa­ti­on was far from ide­al for pho­to­gra­phy, as the ship was moving on the outer side of Sen­ja, whe­re the­re will always be some swell. Mode­ra­te last night, but any move­ment is dead­ly for qua­li­ty shots of nort­hern lights. So I was hap­py to have a good prime len­se (24 mm f1.4) and a full frame came­ra, pul­ling the ISO value up to a rather extre­me 12800. Well, I guess that’s what you have such a came­ra for, isn’t it? So you can get some­thing even with a shut­ter speed of 1/10 of a second, the slo­west that this kind of move­ment could tole­ra­te, more or less.

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

So this is what I got. As men­tio­ned, no qua­li­ty pix, but … nice, or not 🙂

Kvalsund – 30th Okto­ber 2016

Some­ti­mes you can fit a trip into a day. Peop­le often say at the end of a good day that they might go home tomor­row. That is obvious­ly just a joke and not meant serious­ly.

Today, howe­ver, you might say that and actual­ly almost even mean it (almost). It was just 24 hours ago that ever­y­bo­dy came on board in Trom­sø, we left from the­re just 12 hours ago. Sin­ce then, we spent a good part of the day watching orcas. Not just a few, not just 2 or 3 dozens, but in lar­ge num­bers. The­re may easi­ly have been 200 of them, they were all over the place.

And we were at the right place at the right time 

8 a.m. sun­ri­se, 3 p.m. sun­set. And we alrea­dy had our first nort­hern lights in the after­noon. Not too strong, hard to pho­to­graph as the ship was moving, but beau­ti­ful to see.

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

Now it feels as mid­ni­ght. But it is just about din­ner­ti­me …

It almost does not mat­ter any­mo­re what the next days will bring: in the end, it will have been a good trip.

Stutt­gart, Frank­furt, Trom­sø – 28th Octo­ber 2016

Musical beginning of a trip to the north

After the sum­mer and autumn trips in Spits­ber­gen, it was time to spend some weeks fur­ther south. Not­hing of exci­te­ment con­cer­ning this blog, arc­tic acti­vi­ties were limi­ted to post-pro­ces­sing of recent trips and pre­pa­ra­ti­on of upco­m­ing ones, down to adre­na­lin-kicking neces­si­ties like book kee­ping and the like. Also working on new polar books was on the agen­da, but how exci­ting is it to fol­low how that is being done?

Then it was time to move nor­thwards again. Not direct­ly. Logisti­cal­ly skill­ful­ly incor­po­ra­ted into the jour­ney north, I had and took the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet mas­ter gui­ta­rist Jeff Beck in south Ger­ma­ny – in a sports hall! Thanks to the 25th anni­ver­s­a­ry of a local rock music club and their spon­sors, I guess Beck and his band would other­wi­se hard­ly have got lost in Win­ter­bach, half an hour by local train from Stutt­gart into the darkness. And well, what can I say, mas­ter Beck was in bril­li­ant shape and mood, his gui­tar, sound and play­ing, sharp as a kni­fe and of dead­ly pre­cisi­on. Tas­ty bits and pie­ces from almost half a cen­tu­ry of musi­cal histo­ry. A guitarist’s gui­ta­rist, play­ing in a league on his own with a sound and style total­ly uni­que and immedia­te­ly reco­gnis­able after just a few notes. Gui­tar play­ing from outer space. At an age of 72 years. Ama­zing!

The train ride next ear­ly morning to Frank­furt air­port was also qui­te ama­zing. It should have taken an hour, it took three. That inclu­ded lea­ving a total­ly over­crow­ded train which did not con­ti­nue the jour­ney for safe­ty rea­sons. Secu­ri­ty was alrea­dy on stand-by to part­ly evacua­te the next one which was equal­ly over­crow­ded. While being mental­ly alrea­dy pre­pa­red for a lon­gish and very expen­si­ve taxi ride to the air­port, it tur­ned out that the third and, as far as I was con­cer­ned, last con­nec­tion had enough space to stand in a cor­ner for half an hour to Frank­furt. Well … I got the flight, that’s what counts.

Life is so much more rela­xed in the far north. Good to get back to Anti­gua, good to see the peop­le here, the crew, loo­king for­ward to the season’s final trip which is star­ting today (Sunday). We are hoping for wha­les and nort­hern lights the next days. Fin­gers cros­sed!

Pho­to © Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

jeff_beck_enmoretheatre-a

North pole expe­di­ti­on of French Ark­ti­ka ter­mi­na­ted in Duve­fjord

A French north pole expe­di­ti­on was ter­mi­na­ted by the Sys­sel­man­nen in Duve­fjord on Nord­aus­t­land. The adven­tu­rers Gil­les and Ale­xia Elkaim had plan­ned a voya­ge simi­lar to that of Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen and his ship Fram in 1893-96 with their sai­ling boat Ark­ti­ka. Their plan was to sail into the Nor­the­ast Pas­sa­ge and to let the boat free­ze in the ice near the New Sibe­ri­an Islands to then drift with the ice across the Arc­tic Oce­an. A sledge jour­ney to the pole its­elf was part of the plan of the expe­di­ti­on, which was sche­du­led to last for several years.

Now the expe­di­ti­on has come to a pre­ma­tu­re end in Spits­ber­gen. Bad wea­ther, ice and engi­ne pro­blems had for­ced the Ark­ti­ka to return to Nord­aus­t­land, after they had left alrea­dy Kvi­tøya, hea­ding fur­ther east. The ship was brought into Duve­fjord on the north coast of Nord­aus­t­land to seek shel­ter from the wea­ther. Accord­ing to the expedition’s own blog, the situa­ti­on was dif­fi­cult at times due to the wea­ther. Due to the late sea­son and the need for fur­ther repairs, it was then deci­ded to win­ter in Duve­fjord.

Per­mis­si­on for a win­te­ring had, howe­ver, not been obtai­ned and such per­mis­si­ons are not issued on a short warning. Cap­tain Elkaim app­lied for per­mis­si­on from the Sys­sel­man­nen on Octo­ber 08. The result was a heli­co­p­ter visit with offi­cials who con­fis­ca­ted crew pass­ports and papers. During the fol­lowing days the Ark­ti­ka was towed to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Aut­ho­ri­ties sta­te tech­ni­cal and legal rea­sons for this. The expe­di­ti­on mem­bers, howe­ver, wri­te on their Face­book site that the situa­ti­on in Duve­fjord had been under con­trol, that the­re was no neces­si­ty for being towed and that the strong winds made this ope­ra­ti­on actual­ly rather dan­ge­rous. On the other hand, they thank the crew on Polar­sys­sel for their friend­ly and pro­fes­sio­nal hand­ling of the situa­ti­on. At the same time, Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties are accu­sed, amongst others for cru­el­ty to ani­mals becau­se the 7 expe­di­ti­on dogs have not been allo­wed on shore in Lon­gye­ar­by­en for 10 days, alt­hough the local vet has repor­ted good health and vac­ci­na­ti­ons as nee­ded. The expe­di­ti­on claims to have app­lied for per­mis­si­on to take dogs to Sval­bard alrea­dy in July without get­ting a reply from the aut­ho­ri­ties.

The legal situa­ti­on and fol­low-up may keep lawy­ers on both sides busy for a while. Mean­while, the expe­di­ti­on has come to an ear­ly and unin­ten­ded end, be it preli­mi­na­ry or final.

The French boat Ark­ti­ka does not have anything to do with the boats Arc­ti­ca I and Arc­ti­ca II from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The French expe­di­ti­on boat Ark­ti­ka in Advent­fjord, after towing by Polar­sys­sel. Image © Bjørn Fran­zen.

Arktika in Adventfjord

Sources: Web­sei­te and Face­book­sei­te of the Ark­ti­ka-Expe­di­ti­on, The Inde­pen­dent Bar­ents Obser­ver.

Ano­t­her tem­pe­ra­tu­re record in Spits­ber­gen

Tem­pe­ra­tu­re record from the wea­ther any­whe­re in the world, espe­cial­ly from the arc­tic, are get­ting more and more com­mon the­se days. On Fri­day (Octo­ber 07), the wea­ther sta­ti­on at the air­port near Lon­gye­ar­by­en recor­ded 10.1 degrees (C). This was the first time a value hig­her than 10 degrees was reached in any Octo­ber sin­ce tem­pe­ra­tu­re record­ing star­ted. The hig­hest Octo­ber tem­pe­ra­tu­re so far had been 8.9 degrees, mea­su­red in 1984. In 1961, 9.9 degrees were recor­ded. Back then, the wea­ther sta­ti­on was in Lon­gye­ar­by­en its­elf and not near the air­port (which did not exist back then) and dif­fe­rent mea­su­ring devices were used. The values can, accord­in­gly, not be com­pa­red direct­ly. Espe­cial­ly the dif­fe­rent loca­ti­on, though only a few kilo­me­tres apart, may make a signi­fi­cant dif­fe­rent. The loca­ti­ons, near the shore of the lar­ge, open Isfjord or in Lon­gye­ar­by­en which is situa­ted in a val­ley, are meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal­ly qui­te dif­fe­rent.

Very impres­si­ve is ano­t­her bit of infor­ma­ti­on, which is easi­ly get­ting over­loo­ked and lost in a sub-clau­se: the cur­r­ent­ly last time that a mon­th was col­der than the mon­th­ly long-term average was in Novem­ber 2010, sad 6 years ago.

The ice situa­ti­on around Spits­ber­gen is cur­r­ent­ly also rather sad. It has been sug­gested that last year’s poor sea ice con­di­ti­ons were lin­ked to the El Nino phe­no­me­non, which was strong then in the south Paci­fic, with glo­bal con­se­quen­ces for wea­ther and sea cur­r­ents. The­re has, so far, not been any impro­ve­ment regar­ding the sea ice near Spits­ber­gen.

Octo­ber brings the polar night to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. That does usual­ly not invol­ve tem­pe­ra­tures around 10 degrees abo­ve free­zing.

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

Source: Nord­lys

New book: Ice Bear. The Cul­tu­ral Histo­ry of an Arc­tic Icon by Micha­el Engel­hard

Micha­el Engelhard’s new book Ice Bear. The Cul­tu­ral Histo­ry of an Arc­tic Icon is about to be released in Novem­ber. It throws light on the king of the arc­tic seen from a cul­tu­ral histo­ry per­spec­ti­ve and surely deser­ves to be announ­ced here with this descrip­ti­on with is writ­ten and com­pi­led by its aut­hor.

Ice Bear
The Cul­tu­ral Histo­ry of an Arc­tic Icon

By MICHA­EL ENGEL­HARD

NATU­RAL HISTO­RY
288 pp., 170 illus., 145 in color, 8 x 10 in. $29.95 paper­back, Novem­ber 2016

Prime Arc­tic pre­d­a­tor and nomad of the sea ice and tun­dra, the polar bear endu­res as a source of won­der, ter­ror, and fasci­na­ti­on. Humans have seen it
as spi­rit gui­de and fan­ged enemy, as tra­de good and moral meta­phor, as food source and sym­bol of eco­lo­gi­cal cri­sis. Eight thousand years of arti­facts attest to its cha­ris­ma, and to the frau­ght rela­ti­ons­hips bet­ween our two spe­ci­es. In the White Bear, we ack­now­ledge the magic of wild­ness: it is both genui­nely its­elf and a screen for our ima­gi­na­ti­on.

Ice Bear traces and illu­mi­na­tes this intert­wi­ned histo­ry. From Inu­it shamans to Jean Har­low loun­ging on a bears­kin rug, from the cubs trai­ned to pull sleds toward the North Pole to cuddly super­star Knut, it all comes to life in the­se pages. With meti­cu­lous rese­arch and more than 160 illus­tra­ti­ons, the aut­hor brings into focus this power­ful and elu­si­ve ani­mal. Doing so, he del­ves into the sto­ries we tell about Nature—and about ourselves—hoping for a future in which such tales still mat­ter.

MICHA­EL ENGEL­HARD works as a wil­der­ness gui­de in Arc­tic Alas­ka and holds an MA in cul­tu­ral anthro­po­lo­gy from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka Fair­banks. His books inclu­de a recent essay collec­tion, Ame­ri­can Wild: Explo­ra­ti­ons from the Grand Can­yon to the Arc­tic Oce­an. His wri­ting has also appeared in Sier­ra, Out­side, Audu­bon, Natio­nal Wild­life, Natio­nal Parks, High Coun­try News, and the San Fran­cis­co Chro­ni­cle.

“Engelhard’s thought-pro­vo­king ico­no­gra­phy explo­res in depth the mul­ti­tu­de of cul­tu­ral roles play­ed by the polar bear.”
David Fox, Ancho­ra­ge Press

“Engel­hard wea­ves tog­e­ther the dis­pa­ra­te pie­ces of our eclec­tic social and cul­tu­ral fasci­na­ti­on with polar bears. A tapes­try of images reve­als our com­plex attach­ment to this Arc­tic icon.”
Andrew Dero­cher, aut­hor of Polar Bears: A Com­ple­te Gui­de to their Bio­lo­gy and Beha­vi­or

Ice Bear. The Cul­tu­ral Histo­ry of an Arc­tic Icon by Micha­el Engel­hard.

Cover image: Ice Bear. The Cultural History of an Arctic Icon by Michael Engelhard

Source: Micha­el Engel­hard

Old coal mines clo­sed

Coal mining has always been an important part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, though of decre­a­sing impor­t­ance today. The signi­fi­can­ce of coal mining is immedia­te­ly visi­ble for every visi­tor to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, as old coal mines can be seen in many pla­ces near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Some of the­se old mines, such as mine 2B abo­ve Nyby­en, local­ly known as julenis­se­gruve (San­ta Claus mine), are popu­lar sites for walks both for locals and visi­tors. The old mining instal­la­ti­ons are inte­res­ting, often with sce­nic views, and fasci­na­ting for pho­to­graph­ers.

The oppor­tu­nities have recent­ly been great­ly redu­ced. Parts of the roof of a con­veyor belt of mine 6 in Advent­da­len have col­lap­sed and the who­le mining faci­li­ty at mine 6 has been clo­sed to the public.
It is said that it will be made acces­si­ble again after dan­ge­rous parts have been remo­ved or secu­red. Lar­ge parts are still inta­ct. But the­re is cur­r­ent­ly no time plan and nobo­dy can say when the mine will be ope­ned again for visi­tors. The dif­fi­cult eco­no­mic situa­ti­on of the mining com­pa­ny, Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni, does not make it easier. At least ever­y­bo­dy invol­ved is awa­re of the high his­to­ri­cal and tou­ris­tic value of the old mining instal­la­ti­ons, which are part­ly pro­tec­ted as part of the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge. This means that several aut­ho­ri­ties have to be invol­ved in any work to clean up or secu­re the mines, some­thing that is unli­kely to speed up the pro­cess.

Cur­r­ent­ly, mine 1A (“Ame­ri­can mine”, abo­ve the church), 2B (“San­ta Claus mine”, abo­ve Nyby­en), 5 (Enda­len) and 6 (bet­ween Toda­len and Bol­terda­len) are clo­sed until fur­ther noti­ce.

At least, mine 3 is cur­r­ent­ly acces­si­ble as a muse­um for gui­ded groups.

Mine 2B (“San­ta Claus mine”) near Lon­gye­ar­by­en is amongst the old mines which are now clo­sed for visi­tors.

Mine 2B, Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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