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Monthly Archives: July 2016 − Travelblog


Bellsund – 28th/29th July 2016

28th/29th July 2016 – The thin lay­er of fog that had cast such magi­cal light effects over Horn­sund yes­ter­day had grown over night into a solid, low lying cloud cover, making the world appe­ar much more grey than it had been yes­ter­day. But both the litt­le impres­si­ons of the colour­ful tun­dra as the views from ele­va­tions are as beau­ti­ful as we had been hoping for.

We go sepa­ra­te ways at least for a while in the after­noon. While one group is visi­t­ing a bird cliff, making friends with litt­le auks, polar foxes and rein­de­er with huge ant­lers, ano­t­her group is cros­sing Nathorst Land from north to south. Yel­low and red frag­ments of clay­stone are lying on the black and soft ground, while we are working our way up the hill, enjoy­ing wide views over Van Mijen­fjor­den with Akseløya, Fri­dt­jov­breen and Reinda­len. Small, but deeply incis­ed tri­bu­ta­ry val­leys requi­re extra effort and sweat, until we have reached the hig­hest part. Down a steep slo­pe, and soon the tents are stan­ding on a bit of tun­dra, exact­ly whe­re each and every rain­drop has to make his decisi­on: north to Van Mijen­fjord or south to Van Keu­len­fjord. We enjoy a nice evening in beau­ti­ful sur­roun­dings and with good atmo­s­phe­re while the coo­kers are hum­ming.

We awa­ke to the sound of rain­drops on the can­vas. The rain is not strong, but enough to make the world around as grey and wet. We fol­low a litt­le val­ley, fre­quent­ly chan­ging from one side of the litt­le stream to the other, while it is get­ting big­ger with every tri­bu­ta­ry wea­ther.

Gal­le­ry Bellsund – 28th-29th July 2016

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

A litt­le gla­cier on the side has a huge sur­pri­se for us. A litt­le hole of a small meltwa­ter river turns out to be a huge cave insi­de. Ice is glit­te­ring far abo­ve us and to our sides, a won­der­ful world. We go 20 metres, 30 metres, the end is in darkness. An impres­si­ve place.

Out­side, it remains wet and grey. We find some waters­falls along our way and final­ly we are hap­py as Antigua’s masts appe­ar from the fog.

Horn­sund – 27th July 2016

The famous fema­le trap­per Wan­ny Wold­stad wro­te about Horn­sund that it is too beau­ti­ful to descri­be, you have to expe­ri­ence it yourself. This is cer­tain­ly true on a day like this.There are no words for this, I lea­ve it up to the pic­tures.
 

Gal­le­ry Horn­sund – 27th July 2016

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

Storfjord – 26th July 2016

The wide-open Storfjord, often a very unplea­sant stretch of water, is lying like a mir­ror around us. After a late bre­ak­fast – the polar bear show kept us busy for a good part of the night – we reached Spitsbergen’s east coast and drop­ped the anchor. When you have the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to step ashore on this expo­sed coast­li­ne, you just have to use it! The rocky coast­li­ne is a land­s­cape very much on its own, it loo­ks as if someo­ne had built a wall, but it is all natu­re. Some of the huge blocks show tracks of dino­saurs that were roa­ming here when this was still a wide, wet del­ta area in the lower Cret­ace­ous. Other rocks have been tur­ned to mushrooms and colum­ns by ero­si­on.

Gal­le­ry Storfjord – 26th July 2016

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

We con­ti­nue over flatcalm sea, the water appears oily, ful­mars are mir­ro­red, wha­le blows are going up, long backs are brea­king through the sur­face. Spitsbergen’s east coast is stret­ching all over the wes­tern hori­zon, moun­tains and gla­ciers, gla­ciers and moun­tains. The clouds are backing out, and the sun is cal­ming warm evening light over the who­le sce­ne­ry. What a night!

Heley­sund & Free­man­sund – 25th July 2016

Com­pa­red to the bar­ren polar desert of Nord­aus­t­land, the lush-green tun­dra around Heley­sund is a dif­fe­rent world. The rock colum­ns of basalt remind of wild west coun­try. Inland, flower car­pets with saxif­ra­ges and Sval­bard pop­py are stret­ching bet­ween the rocky hills, while strong tidal cur­r­ents are rus­hing though the chan­nels. We hike around Straum­s­land and then we crui­se through Orm­ho­let; at slack tide, it is just calm enough.

Some hours later, we reach Free­man­sund. A polar fox is ste­aling eggs and chicks from nests in a bird colo­ny. The coun­try around it turns out to be a polar bear hot spot: more than 14 bears are lying or wal­king around on slo­pes, most of them on one sin­gle moun­tain side. A true polar bear para­de!

Gal­le­ry Heley­sund & Free­man­sund – 25th July 2016

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

The­se Free­man­sund-polar bears are a phe­no­me­non and a mys­te­ri­um. Sam­ples of their drop­pings may help to ans­wer the ques­ti­on what makes this area so unusual­ly attrac­ti­ve for them. My claim for fame in polar sci­ence.

Brås­vell­breen, Vibe­buk­ta – 24th July 2016

A big advan­ta­ge of cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ting Nord­aus­t­land clock­wi­se is that you have to sail along the long gla­cier front, the lon­gest one of the nort­hern hemi­s­phe­re. This ice cliff is a phe­no­me­non even if you just fol­low it for just a few miles. But for more than half a day, that is a dif­fe­rent kind of expe­ri­ence, some­thing very uni­que. It just doesn’t stop, it is just going on and on and on. Part of the ice cap has sur­ged in recent years, the­re are still lar­ge num­bers of ice­bergs drif­ting in the­se waters.

Gal­le­ry Brås­vell­breen, Vibe­buk­ta – 24th July 2016

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

We found ide­al con­di­ti­ons for a lan­ding in Vibe­buk­ta, which was espe­cial­ly nice as we have several peop­le on board who had been with us befo­re, for examp­le in 2011 when we had to can­cel a lan­ding the­re becau­se of a polar bear on shore or in 2015 when the who­le area was blo­cked by ice. Nice to get the­re now, for a short walk and a bit of a hike, on lower and hig­her hills, enjoy­ing views over the coas­tal plain, the ice cap and some insight into earth histo­ry.

Storøya & Kvi­tøya – 23rd July 2016

We were alrea­dy far north and the wea­ther was on our side. So we set cour­se around Nord­aus­t­land and to Spitsbergen’s remo­test are­as. It tur­ned out a day not to be for­got­ten. It star­ted with calm seas, no wind and sunshi­ne. The wide ice­cap of Nord­aus­t­land was glit­te­ring in the sun on star­boardsi­de, the smal­ler Storøya, also lar­ge­ly cove­r­ed by an ice cap with a typi­cal hourg­lass pro­fi­le. North of it, some squa­re kilo­me­tres of ice-free, bar­ren land.

But it was not unin­ha­bi­ted. It did not take long until we found the first polar bear. It was not to be the last one for today. To be honest, I lost the over­view in the end, we saw some­thing like 13 or 14 polar bears on Storøya. Some were just slee­ping, others wal­king around on the shore, some chewing on bones of a wha­le that must have stran­ded here some time ago. An ama­zing specta­cle, which I can’t descri­be in all detail now, it would take a lot of time. But we spent an unf­or­gett­able morning in their near neigh­bour­hood, watching them from the Zodiacs, how they were res­ting near the shore, wal­king around, play­ing with each other, occa­sio­nal­ly curious­ly com­ing towards us, even swim­ming into our direc­tion … stun­ning, unf­or­gett­able.

Final­ly, the bears went for a sies­ta and so did we, all tho­se impres­si­ons nee­ded to sett­le down, be pro­ces­sed and stored. Mean­while, we set cour­se on Kvi­tøya, Spitsbergen’s remo­test island. A good 30 miles, calm hours, a chan­ce to relax a bit.

Gal­le­ry Storøya & Kvi­tøya – 23rd July 2016

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

In the evening, the anchor went down near Andrée­ne­set, whe­re Andrée, Fræn­kel and Strind­berg made their final land­fall on 05th Octo­ber 1897 after their famous bal­loon flight and the long jour­ney across the ice. Step­ping on solid ground was a plea­su­re that was not meant for us tonight, the­re was one polar bear just too clo­se for that, and it even came a bit clo­ser. So we went out into the Zodiacs to have a good look at the memo­ri­al from a litt­le distance, a simp­le con­cre­te block mar­king the site of the Andrée-expedition’s final camp. And of cour­se to have a look at the polar bear that was wal­king around on the near­by beach not far away, loo­king qui­te meag­re and chewing some sea­weed. A bit fur­ther north, ano­t­her polar bear sca­red a lar­ge herd of wal­ru­ses into the water.

Sjuøya­ne – 22nd July 2016

We made it up to Sjuøya­ne, the Seven Islands, the nort­hern­most part of Spits­ber­gen! That is just around the cor­ner from the north pole. We could almost see it from a litt­le hill on Phipp­søya, it was just hid­den behind a cloud. But we could see that bar­ren, very cha­rac­te­ris­tic high arc­tic land­s­cape all around us.

Gal­le­ry Sjuøya­ne – 22nd July 2016

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

Some­thing else that we could see was the ter­ri­ble plastic was­te, which is drif­ting into the remo­test cor­ners of the pla­net with sea cur­r­ents. At least, the­re are now two cubic-met­re bags less of it on Phipp­søya.

Wahlen­bergfjord – 22nd July 2016

We did get wind, today in Wahlen­bergfjord. This did not keep us from making a nice litt­le lan­ding in a hid­den cor­ner some­whe­re in Palan­der­buk­ta.

In the after­noon, things got inte­res­ting. Nice sai­ling wind to move under sails into Wahlen­bergfjord, until the incre­a­sing den­si­ty of ice­bergs and ber­gy bits from Bod­ley­breen for­ced us to mane­ouvre more and more. We did nevertheless mana­ge to get into the inner­most bay, just to find a beau­ti­ful spe­ci­men of a strong polar bear wal­king around in a morai­ne the­re.

Not just one, a fema­le with a first-year cub ran up on the gla­cier and away from the strong one, most likely a male. Three polar bears are three good rea­sons for not going ashore, much to the reg­ret of the hiking group who were rea­dy to go ashore and start the hike across Nord­aus­t­land to Rijpfjord. It was not meant to hap­pen today.

The wind deli­ve­r­ed an impres­si­ve dis­play of for­ce. To begin with, it cal­med com­ple­te­ly down, giving way to beau­ti­ful reflec­tions of the migh­ty gla­cier Bod­ley­breen and the ice­bergs on the water. But this was liter­al­ly just the eye of the storm. Soon, the wind retur­ned with incre­a­sed for­ce from the oppo­si­te direc­tion. The ancho­red drag­ged hopel­ess­ly and had to be lifted soo­nest.

Gal­le­ry Wahlen­bergfjord – 22nd July 2016

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

Mane­ou­v­ring the ship out of the way while the anchor was still in the water gave Cap­tain Joa­chim gre­at fun on the bridge. Altog­e­ther it was a very impres­si­ve dis­play of both the beau­ty and the powers of natu­re in the arc­tic.

Hin­lo­pen – 21st July, 2016

Mira­cles of Hin­lo­pen Strait. Important part of today’s plea­su­res: the wea­ther, in terms of no wind. Not­hing you should take for gran­ted in the­se waters, as we were to find out a day later. The pho­tos will do the tal­king for today 🙂
 
 

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

Mos­sel­hal­vøya – 18th/19th July, 2016

A tent night just under the 80th par­al­lel, sounds like a dream, doesn’t it 🙂 and that was exact­ly our plan, at least for a part of the group. While lan­ding, the thought of spen­ding the night in a camp was a slight­ly mixed one, as we had a stiff bree­ze and the occa­sio­nal litt­le rain com­ing from low clouds strai­ght into our faces.

At least the­se clouds were qui­te impres­si­ve, real storm clouds. Several steams for­ced most of us to chan­ge to some kind of sui­ta­ble foot­we­ar for the occa­si­on. A strong wind kept blowing out of Mos­sel­da­len, and I sen­sed it wouldn’t be a good place to put up a camp, so we used the first and last nice oppor­tu­ni­ty befo­re we got that far.

After a while, the tents were stan­ding, rea­son­ab­ly well shel­te­red from the wind, a litt­le stream with crys­tal clear water just a few metres away. Lovely place! After a simp­le but good din­ner, the wind fell asleep and so did we, apart from the polar bear watch who stay­ed out­side, wal­king around and kee­ping a watch­ful eye open for any traf­fic, while enjoy­ing some beau­ti­ful light and the occa­sio­nal bird or rein­de­er.

Next day, the wea­ther was slow­ly impro­ving. Mos­sel­da­len tur­ned out to be a very arc­tic rou­te with scree slo­pes and a river plain with several chan­nels. Very sce­nic and impres­si­ve.

The next exci­te­ment was the ques­ti­on if the­re was a good way over to Sorgfjord. Accord­ing to the map, which isn’t exact­ly very detail­ed, this should be the case, but in rea­li­ty ..? Steep rocky slo­pes to both sides of the val­ley, a nice gla­cier, Tåbreen, on the sou­thern side, but that was not our way.

Behind the final bend, howe­ver, as expec­ted and hoped for, a nice snow field and then a slo­pe that we could nego­tia­te rather easi­ly. Gre­at views over upper Mos­sel­da­len and Tåbreen, then some low hills and snow fiel­ds and soon a litt­le val­ley lea­ding down to Sorgfjord.

An easy snow field, fee­ding a tor­ren­ti­al meltwa­ter river com­ing out of a snow cave at the lower end, a walk through the lower val­ley and then it was just a few final kilo­me­tres across the low-lying tun­dra to reach the shore, whe­re good old Anti­gua was at anchor, wai­t­ing for us. Calm atmo­s­phe­re an board, ever­y­bo­dy had com­ple­ted their various lan­dings and we just in time for din­ner 🙂

Gal­le­ry Mos­sel­hal­vøya – 18th/19th July, 2016

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

It is still impos­si­ble to say if this is the rou­te used by various mem­bers of the Schrö­der-Stranz-expe­di­ti­on in 1912 and 1913, as they tra­vel­led bet­ween Sorgfjord, whe­re their ship was trap­ped in ice, and Wij­defjord, try­ing to get through to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It may as well have been a bit fur­ther north, which is also pos­si­ble, as I could try a cou­p­le of years ago.

I guess it will never be pos­si­ble to iden­ti­fy their exact rou­te, just as their lea­der and 3 more com­ra­des got lost on Nord­aus­t­land, most likely fore­ver.

West coast – 16th and 17th July 2016

16th and 17th July 2016 – Feels like ages ago that we were on the west coast – less than a week, actual­ly, but it feels like a mon­th, and inde­ed the time was so ful­ly packed with end­less acti­vi­ties and impres­si­ons that I did not mana­ge to wri­te anything. After the won­der­ful day in the sou­thern For­landsund, we worked our way step by step to the north.

Ny Åle­sund is obvious­ly a must, and we went to Virgo­ham­na (who knows, may­be we get to Kvi­tøya on this trip, as ever­ything is ice free up the­re, then having been to Virgo­ham­na is a good start, thin­king of the Andrée expe­di­ti­on).

Gal­le­ry West coast – 16th and 17th July 2016

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

For­landsund – 15th July 2016

Some­ti­mes being a bit late is good thing. It is easy to keep the rou­ti­ne, fal­ling asleep in Isfjord and waking up in Kongsfjord. This time, we had a cou­p­le of important things to do befo­re we could take off from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

As men­tio­ned, the­re were some advan­ta­ges in that. Nor­mal­ly, ever­y­bo­dy is just pas­sing by Daud­manns­od­den, but it is such a beau­ti­ful place. This time, we just drop­ped anchor the­re. The sea flatcalm around this expo­sed shore, whe­re it can get pret­ty wild in wes­ter­ly or sou­ther­ly winds. They say this does hap­pen here some­ti­mes.

Lovely coas­tal land­s­cape and wide tun­dra. Huge beaches, lots of drift­wood, wide seri­es of old beach rid­ges, litt­le bays hid­den behind coas­tal rocks.

It went on like that. Ins­tead of hea­ding strai­ght north, we went loo­king for wha­les in sou­thern For­landsund. And – we were lucky. A Blue wha­le was slow­ly swim­ming around, fee­ding. Fol­lowing him care­ful­ly for a while, we hap­pen­ed to get clo­ser to the sou­thern tip of Prins Karls For­land, we we just took the oppor­tu­ni­ty and went ashore. We had sai­led past it 1000 times, and admi­red the stron­gly struc­tu­re coast­li­ne just as many times on the map. Now it was time to see it in rea­li­ty, which tur­ned out to be even nicer than on the map, which was no sur­pri­se.

Gal­le­ry For­landsund – 15th July 2016

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

After lea­ving Prins Karls For­land, we saw even more wha­les, ano­t­her Blue and one or two Hump­back wha­les. Yet ano­t­her Blue wha­le was seen qui­te clo­se to the ship around mid­ni­ght, but the long day had alrea­dy taken its toll and most peop­le did not see it any­mo­re.

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