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Yearly Archives: 2016 − Travelblog


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.

Around Jan May­en – 22nd June 2016

We can’t igno­re it any­mo­re, today is the day to put Base­camp down and to say good­bye to Jan May­en. At least, we have got good wea­ther, which makes ever­y­thing much simp­ler and more plea­sant. Wea­ther rules ever­y­thing here!

And we still have got time to sail around Jan May­en. The migh­ty Bee­ren­berg is gree­ting us seve­ral times by show­ing its white crown through holes in the clouds, then we pass Wey­precht­breen and the other gla­ciers which are rea­ching the shore on the nor­t­hern side. Quite impres­si­ve, as they come kree­ping down the slo­pes of Bee­ren­berg, wild­ly crev­as­sed, fro­zen rivers of bro­ken blocks of ice.

Gal­lery 1 – Around Jan May­en – 22nd June 2016

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

At the nor­t­hern tip, we pass by the youn­gest part of Jan May­en, which came into exis­tance during a vol­ca­nic erup­ti­on in 1970. On the east coast, more gla­ciers reach the sea, and steep coas­tal cliffs allow rare views of the insi­de of a vol­ca­no. Then Eggøya is coming into view, and over the next cou­ple of hours, Mid and Sør Jan are pas­sing by, whe­re we could make so many memo­rable expe­ri­en­ces in recent days, the sta­ti­on, Kapp Wien …

Gal­lery 2 – Around Jan May­en – 22nd June 2016

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

Then we are back at sea. Three days sai­ling back to Ice­land.

Sou­thwards to Kapp Wien – 21st June 2016

A sta­ti­on visit is almost man­da­to­ry when you are on Jan May­en, but strict­ly by invi­ta­ti­on only. We have got our invi­ta­ti­on for today 1300 Nor­we­gi­an time (1100 Ice­lan­dic time = our time). So break­fast on time and we head off with disci­pli­ne as sche­du­led. We need two hours to walk along the road, 8 km long, to the sta­ti­on.

On the way, we are pas­sing various important bits and pie­ces of the local infra­struc­tu­re: Jan May­en Inter­na­tio­nal Air­port (just a simp­le run­way), the wea­ther sta­ti­on (1-2 km north of the actu­al sta­ti­on) and, of cour­se, various spe­ci­mens of the local forest of traf­fic signs, which are most­ly reflec­ting the spe­ci­fic sen­se of humour on such a place rather than regu­la­to­ry needs of den­se traf­fic.

On the sta­ti­on, we are allo­wed to enjoy the hos­pi­ta­li­ty with its various, typi­cal aspects for some hours: plea­sant stay in a rather zivi­li­sed venue, curious looks and pho­tos in public are­as as are made acces­si­ble to us and – the high­light – an inten­se shop­ping ses­si­on in the sou­ve­nir shop. Our curious ques­ti­ons are also ans­we­red.

Gal­lery 1

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

As it is time to take off again, the sun is shi­ning and the day is still long. When, if not now, do I have the chan­ce to explo­re the ter­rain south of the sta­ti­on? This part of Jan May­en does have a lot to offer: start­ing in Borg­da­len, which I came down quite recent­ly but wit­hout see­ing any­thing due to the den­se fog, so I saw not­hing of the sharp moun­tain ridge Schiert­zeg­ga.

Green, wide are­as, almost like mea­dows, are stret­ching in lower Blind­da­len, befo­re some hef­ty ascents lead up to Fly­kol­len abo­ve Kapp Wien. The­re, a Ger­man wea­ther recon­nois­sance pla­ne cra­s­hed into a steep slo­pe in July 1942. All four crew mem­bers died. The wreck is still the­re, as one out of two WWII air­craft wrecks on Jan May­en. The other one, at Dani­el­sen­kra­ter­et near the nor­t­hern lagoon, is quite easi­ly acces­si­ble, in com­pa­ri­son at least.

You can’t say that this one is easy to get to. For a while alre­a­dy, I have been clim­bing up a steep slo­pe, asking mys­elf per­ma­nent­ly how far I was actual­ly wil­ling to go. Behind a litt­le ridge, the view is ope­ning into a steep ravi­ne, and the­re it is, the pla­ne wreck, in seve­ral parts. A wing here, the main body the­re. The ter­rain is too steep for me, I don’t want to go down here, being on my own and wit­hout any rope or other safe­ty. I have seen enough, after a cou­ple of pho­tos I turn back.

Ins­tead, I rather enjoy the grand coas­tal sce­n­ery at Bran­der­pyn­ten for a while. Jag­ged coas­tal rock stacks and caves, bird cliffs and the asso­cia­ted den­se, colourful vege­ta­ti­on. All this makes this part of Jan May­en a par­ti­cu­lar­ly beau­tiful one. I would have to spend more time here …

Gal­lery 2

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

As so often, the tour finis­hes with some long, tough kilo­me­t­res on the road back to Kval­ross­buk­ta, amoun­ting to a total of 30 kilo­me­t­res in the end for today. As I come back to the base­camp, I find the others gathe­red around a cosy camp fire. Spi­rits are excel­lent, ever­y­bo­dy has sto­ries about the day to tell.

Gal­lery 3

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

Hau­gen­st­ran­da – 20th June 2016

The return to base­camp last night was gre­at, ever­y­bo­dy had sto­ries to tell around a big cas­se­ro­le of Ice­lan­dic lamb stew. Anne­li and Mar­tin have rea­ched the peak of Bee­ren­berg tog­e­ther with moun­tain gui­de Magnus. Well done, con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons!

Bey­ond this, ever­y­bo­dy has explo­red the north exten­si­ve­ly with most of the sites of inte­rest over the­re. And as I came now stumb­ling back into the mess tent as the last mohi­can, ever­y­bo­dy wan­ted to know what I had seen and expe­ri­en­ced in the south.

After the many kilo­me­t­res of the last days, my lower half deman­ded a cal­mer day. Initi­al­ly I took the luxu­ry of just being lazy for a cou­ple of hours, befo­re I put a litt­le day­pack tog­e­ther for a good beach walk. Wal­king along Hau­gen­st­ran­da to its end had been on my wish­list for a long time. It is stret­ching for 3 kilo­me­t­res nor­the­ast from Kval­ros­sen, initi­al­ly being very wide, get­ting nar­rower fur­ther north. It is cover­ed with immense amounts of drift­wood, some­thing that is always inte­res­t­ing.

Slow­ly I walk bet­ween the various bits and pie­ces, won­de­ring whe­re they may have come from. As in Spits­ber­gen, most of the logs are cut, only a few have roots. Also the Jan May­en drift­wood has most­ly made the long drift from Sibe­ria across the Arc­tic Oce­an. Only in a few cases, lar­ger holes of bore­worms indi­ca­te an ori­gin in more tem­pe­ra­te waters.

Unfort­u­na­te­ly, the unavo­ida­ble pla­s­tic trash is to be found also here in volu­mes. Lar­ge­ly items from the fishing indus­try, but a lot of weird stuff as well, from hygie­ne artic­les over shoes to objects that I can not iden­ti­fy. A shame that tou­rists are not allo­wed any­mo­re to make landings in places like this. They like to clean a beach, as ever­y­bo­dy knows who has been fol­lo­wing this blog for a while. As it is, the pla­s­tics just remain here on the arc­tic bea­ches. Well done, Oslo.

At the end of the beach, the­re is a lone­so­me gra­ve on a litt­le ele­va­ti­on. The metal pla­te on the woo­den cross says Sive­rt Eide 1909. Sive­rt was mem­ber of the second group of Nor­we­gi­an trap­pers who had come to Jan May­en to over­win­ter and hunt polar foxes. They had main­ly used the Aus­tri­an sta­ti­on in Maria Musch­buk­ta, but addi­tio­nal­ly built a hut here at Hau­gen­st­ran­da. Sive­rt died here at Hau­gen­st­ran­da of scur­vy in Febru­ary 1909. The storms have not left any­thing of the hut, just some rus­ty remains of the sto­ve and some woo­den planks tell the careful obser­ver whe­re a wall once may have been.

Gal­lery 1 – Hau­gen­st­ran­da – 20th June 2016

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

The way back leads me over a ridge of low hills cal­led Låg­heia, which is sepa­ra­ting the coasts to eit­her side of Mid Jan. Just a few met­res of ele­va­ti­on chan­ge the per­spec­ti­ve great­ly and allow scenic views over Hau­gen­st­ran­da, while saxif­ra­ges and moss cam­pi­on delight the eye with colour patches on the ground. Aggres­si­ve glau­cous gulls attack the wan­de­rer fier­ce­ly. More than the birds, a light rain­show­er makes him set cour­se back to Kval­ross­buk­ta. Neu­may­er­kra­ter, a vol­ca­nic cra­ter that might have been a nice extra walk in this area, is shrou­ded in deep, grey clouds this time.

Various soil and vege­ta­ti­on struc­tures tell a clear sto­ry about the fero­cious winds Jan May­en is so renow­ned for. Today, the­re is just a light, ste­ady bree­ze blo­wing over the vol­ca­nic hills.

Gal­lery 2 – Hau­gen­st­ran­da – 20th June 2016

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

The wind, light and con­stant as it was up on the ridge, is fal­ling down in strong gusts into Kval­ross­buk­ta, quick­ly cal­ming down again just to take a rest to gather strength for the next attack. During the night, we all have to get out of our slee­ping bags to secu­re the mess tent with more stones and drift­wood befo­re it starts to take of for a flight over Jan May­en.

The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

The sun is shi­ning and the wind is blo­wing some­whe­re else today. So we do not was­te much time but get rea­dy for some lon­ger hikes. Most of us aim for the north, to Bee­ren­berg and its sur­roun­dings, the nor­t­hern lagoon, Maria Musch­buk­ta, Eggøya and so on.
I opt for a dif­fe­rent way and take the rou­te to the south. I know Nord Jan quite well, have seen a lot the­re alre­a­dy, while in the south, my men­tal map still has a lot of white gaps and my pho­to archi­ve needs some serious com­ple­ting. So some­thing has to be done over the­re, for sure! The oppor­tu­ni­ty is good.

So while the majo­ri­ty is hea­ding nor­thwards – three of them will make an effi­ci­ent, suc­cessful dash to the top of Bee­ren­berg – I am going to the south. The view over the back­bone of Mid Jan to Bee­ren­berg, which is more and more get­ting out of the clouds, show­ing its ama­zing sple­ndor in full sun, could not be more over­whel­ming. To the south, Sør Jan is stret­ching out with its con­fu­sing arran­ge­ment of hills and cra­ters.

Gal­lery 1 – The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

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

The deep, soft mos­ses, which are gro­wing on lar­ge are­as here, the unpre­cise map, the vol­ca­nic ter­rain which is often lack­ing geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal logic, all this con­tri­bu­tes to the deman­ding expe­di­ti­on cha­rak­ter that any lon­ger hiking on Jan May­en will quick­ly have. Ano­ther fac­tor con­tri­bu­ting to this is the almost con­stant, latent lack of water: soon after the snow melt, the few litt­le streams are fal­ling dry. The­re are only a few litt­le lakes. So you have to rely lar­ge­ly on snow fields, which means: no water wit­hout a sto­ve to melt snow. During the day, the­re is usual­ly no more drink than what you car­ry with you. On this trip, as on pre­vious, simi­lar ones, I quick­ly greet thirst as hunger’s big, evil brot­her. While stumb­ling over dry lava fields for kilo­me­t­res, I was thin­king of novels that I could wri­te about thirst. Thirst soon domi­na­tes not only my mouth, but also my brain. The idea of a lively spring is para­di­se, a beer worth its own weight in gold.

All this cer­tain­ly far from any real dan­ger, but the­re is this omni­pre­sent, at times rather uncom­for­ta­ble lack of liquid. At any time I have the next snow field in view, my plan­ning is accor­ding to kilo­me­t­res in the ter­rain and lit­res of water in my ruck­sack.

Yet ano­ther fac­tor making life more dif­fi­cult than neces­sa­ry are the legal regu­la­ti­ons in force sin­ce 2010. Making life dif­fi­cult for tho­se few still pas­sio­na­ted (and stub­born) enough to tra­vel here is the pur­po­se of the­se rules, I guess. Cam­ping in the field is for­bidden as is any landing (or pick­up) out­side of Kval­ross­buk­ta or the sta­ti­on area. Despi­te sea con­di­ti­ons being as calm as they might ever get, a quick lift or pick­up by boat, tech­ni­cal­ly very easy, logi­sti­cal­ly con­ve­ni­ent and very safe, is not an opti­on. Ins­tead, the­re are all the­se kilo­me­t­res on the long and bor­ing road to the north or south from Kval­ross­buk­ta, to the places we are lon­ging for. Well, a lot has been said about the sen­se (or, rather, non­sen­se) of this legis­la­ti­on. Enough for now.

So the­se are the frame con­di­ti­ons which you have to be pre­pared for when hiking on Jan May­en. Quite exact­ly as the trip to the top of Bee­ren­berg, my tour amounts to a good 60 km over land and quite a lot of alti­tu­de, alt­hough the ver­ti­cal met­res are not con­cen­tra­ted on one pro­mi­nent peak, but hap­pen on many smal­ler hills and slo­pes. The­re are dozens of them.

The short crossing of the island from upper Troll­d­a­len takes me to Sju­hol­lend­ar­buk­ta. This was the site of the famous win­tering of the seven Dutch wha­lers in 1633-34, not Kval­ross­buk­ta, at least accor­ding to the Aus­tri­an expe­di­ti­on from 1882-83 (First Inter­na­tio­nal Polar Year). The name of the bay, which trans­la­tes as Seven Dutch­men Bay, is ano­ther refe­rence to the win­te­rers who made it through the dark time just to die from scur­vy weeks befo­re the reli­ef ships came.

We will pro­ba­b­ly never now for sure whe­re exact­ly this tra­gic adven­ture took place. Today, Sju­hol­lend­ar­buk­ta is a love­ly, beau­tiful bay with a wide beach of black vol­ca­nic sand, framed in by the odd-shaped rocks of wide-stret­ching, moss cover­ed lava fields.

Some­thing simi­lar can be said about Titeltbuk­ta, which was ano­ther important place for the Dutch wha­lers. Again, not­hing is left of their „10 hou­ses“ (ten tents = ti telt). All that reminds of lon­ger-las­ting human pre­sence is a small, but charmful trap­pers’ hut which has withs­tood the wind now for more than a cen­tu­ry.

Oyster­plant, rare in Spits­ber­gen, is colou­ring the black sand in many places, and the rich colours of the mos­ses and lichens in the lava fields are ama­zing.

And yes, the lava fields. If Jan May­en does not have her own legends and myths about elves and trolls, then it is just becau­se the island has not been inha­bi­ted for more than a 1000 years such as neigh­bou­ring Ice­land. Of cour­se, the­re are goblins and dwar­ves living here, and count­less other crea­tures that pre­fer the dark­ness abo­ve the sun! Just as the well-known giants with the strong sun aller­gy, which react to direct sun­light by imme­dia­te­ly and com­ple­te­ly tur­ning to stone. One of the­se trolls just wan­ted to show me the way, as it hit him.

Unbe­lie­va­ble what else was around here: turt­les, war­ri­ors, cast­les and towers, giant worms and knights … ever­y­thing you could think of and more than that. Today, the­re are all silent sta­tu­es of sharp-edged lava rock, secret­ly wat­ching the lonely wan­de­rer who might occa­sio­nal­ly cross their realm.

Gal­lery 2 – The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

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

But even so, I am not on my own. Myriads of Litt­le auks are bree­ding in the lava fields. Num­bers and den­si­ties over lar­ge are­as that can cer­tain­ly com­pe­te with the bet­ter-known, big colo­nies in Spits­ber­gen. Con­stant screa­ming and cra­zy laugh­ter, ever­las­ting hec­tic acti­vi­ty in the air while big swarms are hea­ding to and fro. In more flat ter­rain, sku­as and arc­tic sku­as defend their ter­ri­to­ries with aggres­si­ve pas­si­on against any intru­der. In Gui­neabuk­ta, Com­mon eiders are cal­ling from a coas­tal lagoon. They have their nests hid­den in the lava fields.

At Jan Mayen’s sou­thwes­tern end, the­re is some low­land cal­led Kra­ter­flya. The name is descrip­ti­ve: seve­ral nice cra­ters and cin­der cones are spread over the low­land, inclu­ding Rich­ter­kra­ter, which is bet­ter known than many of his rela­ti­ves, for reasons that are not obvious. Not that he would look any dif­fe­rent than many other smal­ler kra­ters on Jan May­en. Neither can it have to do with the ice wed­ges that deco­ra­te the steep, moss-cover­ed slo­pes with geo­me­tri­cal pat­terns. Even though they are less com­mon than, say, in Spits­ber­gen, this is not the only place on Jan May­en whe­re you can find them. May­be it is just becau­se it is so nice­ly loca­ted clo­se to the shore, making tho­se who pass by on a ship think: what a nice cra­ter, I just have to visit you one day! Well, at least I have thought this more than once, and now the door has ope­ned a bit, time and wea­ther are on my side.

So now I am here.

Someone has cal­led the low­land bet­ween Gui­neabuk­ta and Rich­ter­kra­ter Hel­hei­men, home of hell. It is not quite that bad, but not wit­hout reason, as yet ano­ther espe­ci­al­ly mean lava field is loca­ted here, giving hiking shoes and wal­king mus­cles a hard time. Be careful! No fal­se step is allo­wed, a bro­ken leg would be so much worse here than most other places in the world.

Then I am stan­ding on the rim of Rich­ter­kra­ter, enjoy­ing the views over bizar­re lava flows and seve­ral cra­ters in the sur­roun­dings and the fact that I have now come to ano­ther place that had been on my wish­list for a long time. My feet remind me that this plea­su­re comes at a pri­ce, but befo­re I start retur­ning to the north, I walk up to the steep cliffs at the sou­thern point of Jan May­en. Ver­ti­cal, rug­ged cliffs, whe­re count­less Glau­cous gulls and Ful­mars are screa­ming, while kee­ping a watchful eye on me. Sharp rocks stick like kni­ves out of the cliffs and the coast, for­mer vol­ca­nic intru­si­ons. Fog is rol­ling in from the east, as if to tell me: this is whe­re you wan­ted to come, this is whe­re I allo­wed you to come, but no fur­ther. This is it.

I agree and turn back. The way to Kval­ross­buk­ta is still more than long enough.

Gal­lery 3 – The tour to Sør Jan – 17th-19th June 2016

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

Crossing to Jan May­en – 14th-16th June 2016

The crossing is ama­zin­gly calm and life is rela­xed, even for con­firm­ed land rats on a small sai­ling boat like this. I can even do my litt­le pre­sen­ta­ti­on of Jan May­en out­side, whe­re the­re is less noi­se from the engi­ne. Other than that, the crossing is only inter­rupt­ed by the sight­ing of a rare Blue wha­le and some occa­sio­nal Bea­k­ed wha­les.

Gal­lery Crossing to Jan May­en – 14th-16th June 2016

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

Jan May­en is coming up on the hori­zon on the third day of our crossing. We fol­low the sou­thern north coast for some hours until we reach Kval­ross­buk­ta. The anchor goes down after 440 nau­ti­cal miles, and soon, we have estab­lished our base camp on shore.

Island – 13th June 2016

Let’s not talk too much about yes­ter­day. A hasty good­bye to Anti­gua and her good peo­p­le, re-orga­niza­ti­on of lug­ga­ge and equip­ment late at night, then a day spent being tired in air­ports and on flights. Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Oslo, Kefla­vik, Reykja­vik. Who wants that? I don’t, but the­re is no way around it. The­re is no train and no bus to Jan May­en.

24 hours after lea­ving Anti­gua in Lon­gye­ar­by­en I am alre­a­dy in a simp­le guest house in Reykja­vik, slow­ly reco­ve­ring from the voya­ge.

I con­ti­nue ear­ly next mor­ning with a small, but powerful pro­pel­ler-dri­ven air­craft to Ísaf­jörður, the metro­po­lis of Iceland’s remo­te nor­thwest fjords.

Don’t expect too much from this metro­po­lis. You have seen most of it after an hour or two. But Ísaf­jörður is not only our gate­way to Jan May­en, it is also extre­me­ly fri­end­ly today: the sun is bur­ning from a cloud­less sky. The­re is still time for a litt­le excur­si­on. A ren­tal bike is quick­ly found, and after a litt­le ride I start ascen­ding the moun­tain Kub­bi. Just a bike and hiking boots. Not­hing that flies or burns fuel. Won­derful! That is fun, that is how it should be. Get­ting a bit out of breath, fresh, unfil­te­red air in the lungs, sit­ting on arc­tic hea­ther tun­dra a few met­res high with bare feet, enjoy­ing stun­ning views on moun­ta­ins, water­falls and fjords – a lot of my ide­as of good life are in this. More, plea­se! Well, the­re may be a lot of it in a few days’ time on Jan May­en.

Soon some final shop­ping is done, the last pre­pa­ra­ti­on befo­re depar­tu­re invol­ves a big pla­te of local fried cod. Then, a litt­le group of 11 gathers around the table on Sigurdur’s Auro­ra. Next to the skip­per hims­elf, mate Vidar and moun­tain gui­de Magnus, all from Ice­land, and me, the­re are Anne­li from Esto­nia, who is attrac­ted by remo­te places that are dif­fi­cult to get to („you can’t get the­re? Gre­at, let’s go the­re!“), Domi­ni­que from Eng­land, a fri­end of remo­te islands, Erling from Nor­way, who had felt a desi­re to go to Jan May­en alre­a­dy in child­hood days, Fred from Ame­ri­ca, who has recent­ly made an impres­si­ve expe­di­ti­on to Heard Island, Karl, who had been with Sig­gi to Green­land, Mar­cus, who is fasci­na­ted by polar histo­ry, and Mar­tin, who has a strong pas­si­on for the vol­ca­noes of the world.

Gal­lery Island – 13th June 2016

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

Next to Auro­ra, Sigurdur’s new ship is along­side, the old Bør, now bea­ring her new name Ark­ti­ka. That would be a good ship for Green­land … well, now we are on Auro­ra, hea­ding for Jan May­en. The adven­ture beg­ins.

We have a love­ly start in the nicest evening light. Some­ti­mes the fjord lies calm and clear around us, some­ti­mes a bree­ze from the table moun­ta­ins fur­ther north pushes small waves up. The ship is stom­ping into a strong wind as we sur­round the last capes, but it should not last too long, the fore­cast is fine and we should have a reason­ab­ly calm crossing.

Isfjord – 11th June 2016

As unp­lea­sant as the wea­ther had been yes­ter­day after­noon near Mag­da­le­nefjord, the­re was only one thing to do: put the foot down and lea­ve the area, steam­ing south and towards new places, far away from the dark, low clouds. Nice sce­n­ery under a blue sky, that would be good now, for the last day of this voya­ge. A pre­sen­ta­ti­on, a film and Captain’s din­ner make the after­noon go past quick­ly.

So we awo­ke today deep in Isjord. It had work­ed well, the impres­si­ve moun­ta­ins around Bil­lefjor­den are enligh­ten­ed by bright suns­hi­ne. We take a walk under the fort­ress-like cliffs of mount Skan­sen, having a look at the remains of an old gypsym mine and at the remains of lagoons from the days when Spits­ber­gen was still part of a lar­ge land­mass near the equa­tor. A litt­le group of reinde­er is roa­ming the tun­dra clo­se to us. We enjoy the impres­si­ons and the sur­roun­dings in arc­tic silence.

Gal­lery Isfjord – 11th June 2016

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

Pyra­mi­den is also lar­ge­ly a silent place, but other­wi­se so com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent from the other places we had seen so far. A strong visu­al con­trast to ever­y­thing the arc­tic had given us so far, a last place that rounds our Spits­ber­gen expe­ri­ence off to make it as com­ple­te as can be.

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