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Yearly Archives: 2016 − Travelblog


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

160917d_woodfjord_15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Bell­sund, Isfjord – 17th-19th August, 2016

17th-19th August, 2016 – We made lar­ge steps back towards Isfjord, but not wit­hout an exten­si­ve stop in Bell­sund. The­re, we star­ted with a rela­xed after­noon in the pan­ora­ma lounge of the Arc­ti­ca II, wat­ching how wind, low clouds and rain tur­ned the arc­tic into some­thing very grey. Later that day, it cle­ared up a bit and we went out for a walk in Recher­chefjord.

Things got bet­ter next day when we went for a lon­ger hike in Van Keu­len­fjord. After a few hundred met­res over fos­sil beach rid­ges we were gree­ted by a lar­ge male reinde­er. Having as much time as we would need or want is so good. Not having to keep an eye on the watch, just taking things as they come. It does not yet get dark here at night­ti­me … it took some time, but then the reinde­er had real­ly come clo­se to us, just being curious and fri­end­ly befo­re it went its way again.

We fol­lo­wed a small river with love­ly litt­le water­falls to that gla­cier cave that we hap­pen­ed to find in July. When you are lucky enough to find some­thing like that, then you have to make use of it! So we did, we went into the won­derful insi­de world of that gla­cier and enjoy­ed (you can do this now also online, with a 360 degree pan­o­r­amic view, just by cli­cking this link).

Final­ly it was time for the last open sea pas­sa­ge to Isfjord. It tur­ned out to be a bit of a pas­sa­ge due to a stiff bree­ze which was fil­ling the sail, so we went up north with excel­lent speed. The fri­ends of sai­ling cer­tain­ly had a gre­at evening! This was noti­ced also insi­de the ship, as some gusts made the ship lean over quite stron­gly befo­re we ente­red Grønfjord to find a shel­te­red ancho­ra­ge.

Gal­lery – Bell­sund, Isfjord – 17th-19th August, 2016

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

As the wind kept blo­wing in Isfjord the next day, we deci­ded to spend the last day of the trip in Grønfjord, which was com­pa­ra­tively shel­te­red. Anyo­ne who thought Grønfjord does not have nice natu­re and sce­n­ery was posi­tively dis­ap­poin­ted during a litt­le moun­tain hike respec­tively tun­dra walk. Final­ly, we had our first mee­ting with civi­li­sa­ti­on again in Barents­burg, befo­re we enjoy­ed Heinrich’s gre­at final din­ner and then made the last miles (of 1192 in total) back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Horn­sund – 16th August 2016

Due to the night shift on the wheel, I miss the first landing in Horn­sund, but later I hear of a litt­le hike, reinde­er, arc­tic sku­as and a gla­cier as I join group life again around mid day.

Hard­ly anyo­ne has real­ly slept well last night becau­se of the move­ments of the boat, so a rela­xed litt­le walk at Gnå­lod­den is the per­fect choice for the after­noon. It is pure plea­su­re to lie on dry tun­dra near the bird cliff – the kit­ti­wa­kes are still the­re, making a lot of noi­se – and let the eye wan­der over the arc­tic land­scape.

What a life, what a land!

We also have a look at Wan­ny Woldstad’s home in Horn­sund, name­ly in Hyt­te­vi­ka. She is the one who wro­te the pre­vious sen­tence in her book about her adven­tur­ous life as a fema­le hun­ter here in the 1930s. The hut in Hyt­te­vi­ka, built in 1907, got some serious main­tainan­ce ear­lier this som­mer. Good job. Now she is rea­dy for ano­ther 100 years. (the­re is a pan­ora­ma tour of this hut on this web­site).

Gal­lery – Horn­sund – 16th August 2016

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

Then we are loo­king for­ward to a calm night at anchor. But some of the swell is still rol­ling in here, so it is not as calm as we had been hoping for. As also the wind is picking up and the anchor alarm is going for the third time, Hein­rich lifts the anchor in the ear­ly mor­ning hours and we start steam­ing north.

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