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Yearly Archives: 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

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.

Polar bear shot on Prins Karls For­land

The series of sad news about dead­ly encoun­ters bet­ween polar bears and humans in Spits­ber­gen does not stop: on August 09, a polar bear was shot in the bay Sel­vå­gen on Prins Karls For­land on Spitsbergen’s west coast.

The polar bear was a young fema­le, 2 years old, weig­hing 155 kg.

Sin­ce August 01, 6 Rus­si­an sci­en­tists were based in a camp in Sel­vå­gen. As far as known, the polar bear was for the first time in the vici­ni­ty of the camp on August 09. As she was in a distance of 130 met­res (yes: one hundred and thir­ty met­res!), one of the sci­en­tists fired a war­ning shot from a fla­re gun. Imme­dia­te­ly the­re­af­ter, ano­ther fired two sharp shots from a rif­le. At least one of the­se shots must have hit the polar bear on a distance of 130 m.

The woun­ded ani­mal went into the water whe­re she died soon. The Rus­si­ans towed her to the shore with a rope.

This hap­pen­ed around 10 p.m. The Sys­sel­man­nen was infor­med about 12 hours later. The law requi­res to inform the aut­ho­ri­ties as soon as pos­si­ble in such a case.

Once local inves­ti­ga­ti­ons are com­ple­ted, the case will be for­ward­ed the the fede­ral pro­se­cu­tor in Troms og Finn­mark (north Nor­way).

Fur­ther details have not yet been published, but the distance of 130 m and the short time bet­ween the war­ning shot and the sharp shots may indi­ca­te that no serious attempt was made to sca­re the bear away and save her life.

The bay Sel­vå­gen a few days befo­re the polar bear was shot on August 09.

Spitsbergen: Selvågen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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