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Yearly Archives: 2016 − Travelblog

Lon­gyear­breen – 20th Novem­ber 2016

I may have men­tio­ned it befo­re: the polar night is not exact­ly the time for fre­quent long field trips. You can easi­ly enjoy the nice light and atmo­s­phe­re wit­hin Lon­gye­ar­by­en. And if the­re is a nort­hern light the­re are good pla­ces direct­ly next to town. If you want some exer­cise, then the sports­hall or run­ning shoes are good opti­ons. At least as long as the­re is not enough snow for ski or snow shoes.

And when you do ven­ture on a hike in the darkness, then the ter­rain does cur­r­ent­ly not make it easy. Lar­ge parts of the sur­face in the val­leys are iced over and very slip­pe­ry. Which is hard to see in darkness. So you have to walk slow­ly and care­ful­ly.

All this makes it even more inte­res­ting to ima­gi­ne how it was when Alfred Rit­scher came on foot down from Wij­defjord to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which was cal­led Lon­gye­ar City back then. In Decem­ber 1912, Rit­scher made an unbe­liev­a­ble hike under the grea­test dif­fi­cul­ties and dan­gers you can ima­gi­ne. He did not have a detail­ed map, he did not know the ter­rain, he did not have a head­lamp which he could switch on whenever nee­ded …

Gal­le­ry – Lon­gyear­breen – 20th Novem­ber 2016

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

Well, we did not want to go that far. We were hap­py with a walk up to Lon­gyear­breen. That is a short and (rela­tively) easy walk when you have light and nor­mal con­di­ti­ons, I have done it with friends tog­e­ther with their litt­le child­ren. But in the polar night, it is inte­res­ting. And beau­ti­ful!

Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 16th Novem­ber, 2016

Again, the blog had to wait for a wile. Busy times, even in the polar night. You have to be rea­dy to get out, to look for, enjoy and pho­to­graph nort­hern lights at any time. Hard life. The­re is no snow, unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly. Hard to belie­ve, here in Spits­ber­gen in mid Novem­ber! But the auro­ra is beau­ti­ful, even without snow. And lady auro­ra has a lot of ardent wor­s­hip­pers. They meet out the­re when she is dan­cing on the sky and later on the inter­net, sharing and enjoy­ing the results.

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

And of cour­se peop­le are set­ting their minds for Christ­mas up here as well. The second half of Novem­ber is the time for the tra­di­tio­nal jule­mes­se, the Christ­mas mar­ket. Without hot spi­ced wine – we are in Nor­way, and the Nor­we­gi­ans would never touch alco­hol, would they? Well … right … But the­re is an ama­zin­gly high pro­por­ti­on of local­ly made pro­ducts, from self-made stol­len („bes­temors tyske jule­brød“, mea­ning „grandma’s Ger­man Christ­mas bread“ 🙂 ) through pho­tos and various knit­ted mate­ri­als to Wolfi’s lovely cut­ting boards, made by mas­ter craft­s­man Wolf­gang Zach in his work­shop bet­ween the fjord and Sys­sel­man­nen. The arc­tic under your bre­ak­fast bread, repre­sen­ted by polar bear, wha­le, wal­rus or Spits­ber­gen. May­be I have to export a box and make it avail­ab­le, what do you think?

Ves­t­pyn­ten – 11th Novem­ber, 2016

The polar night – a beau­ti­ful time in the high north. The sea­son of the blue light. Nort­hern lights, cold, snow, silence, time for yourself, for friends, for ever­ything you want.

That’s what you might think.

Rea­li­ty is dif­fe­rent. Tem­pe­ra­tures around zero and hard­ly much below. No snow, but a lot of wind and rain, recent­ly. The wind was tur­ning Isfjord’s calm waters into some­thing rather wild and furious, for a while, and the surf was sma­shing against the shore­li­ne.

Not good for the unf­ro­zen land. The­re is fjord now whe­re the­re used to be the shore, and the­re is shore now whe­re the­re used to be tun­dra. You don’t sleep in peace any­mo­re whe­re you could live a good life in a cosy hut just last week.

The cold coast isn’t that cold any­mo­re, and it is an ongo­ing pro­cess. Tho­se days now when an arti­fi­cial­ly uphea­ted and sti­mu­la­ted natu­re got clo­ser to man were the time when in the US – no, let’s not talk about it. It is just no fun at the time being, loo­king at the lar­ge events around the glo­be.

Rather than dis­cus­sing poli­tics, action was requi­red. A hut nee­ded to be emp­tied from ever­ything that had been nee­ded for a family’s life, bed and books, fur­ni­tu­re and fire­wood had to be moved away from the coast. Next to ever­ything else that was going on, the arc­tic book­wri­ting work­shop was qui­te busy at the same time and so on and so forth.

Gal­le­ry – Ves­t­pyn­ten – 11th Novem­ber, 2016

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

It would have been a nice job if it had not been a bit sad. Phy­si­cal work next to the fjord. The­re is still a bit of light around noon, you can just about ima­gi­ne the moun­tains on the nort­hern side of Isfjord. And the moun­tains on the other side of Advent­fjord are shi­ning through the darkness with all their beau­ty and cha­rac­ter.

Trom­sø, Kvaløya – 05th, 06th Novem­ber, 2016

(05th, 06th Novem­ber, 2016) – Whe­re were we … yes, Lofo­ten. It has been a while sin­ce. A lot has hap­pen­ed in the mean­ti­me, more about that later. Let’s get on with the blog, with the jour­ney, which took us back north, to Trom­sø and sur­roun­dings. A natu­ral sto­po­ver on the trip up to Spits­ber­gen.

And defi­ni­te­ly worth to spend more time the­re than just an hour bet­ween flights at the air­port. „Paris of the north“ may be a bit exa­g­ge­ra­ted, but it is a nice place, it has life, it is a good place to be. The old polar muse­um and the modern arc­tic show cent­re Pola­ria are natu­ral pla­ces to visit for any high lati­tu­de enthu­si­ast.

The waters near Trom­sø are now regu­lar­ly visi­ted by Orcas during their sea­son, as we saw so beau­ti­ful­ly just recent­ly. An orca safa­ri from Trom­sø has good chan­ces to make for a gre­at day, as it is cur­r­ent­ly.

And then the­re are the nort­hern lights. Of cour­se you need a bit of luck. You just won’t see anything without a clear sky and some elec­tro­ma­gne­tic acti­vi­ty in the magne­to­s­phe­re. But chan­ces are good, at least if you have a few days.

We had just two days in Trom­sø, but the timing was good. No com­p­lains about the nort­hern lights it is defi­ni­te­ly a good thing to be able to get around quick­ly and to keep a good eye on the local wea­ther. Whe­re is the sky clear, whe­re do you have good sce­ne­ry tog­e­ther with the auro­ra? And not too much arti­fi­cial light? That is actual­ly not that easy at all. It is good to know the pla­ces or at least to have a tho­rough look at the map. And the­re is also the opti­on to join a gui­ded nort­hern light cha­se by bus, which they offer regu­lar­ly in Trom­sø. That is not a bad opti­on at all, they know their busi­ness and they allow for sur­pri­sin­gly much time for obser­va­ti­on and pho­to­gra­phy when Lady Auro­ra is dan­cing.

Gal­le­ry – Trom­sø, Kvaløya – 05th, 06th Novem­ber, 2016

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

Wit­hin the few hours of day­light, we even got a litt­le extra by sur­pri­se. On the out­side of the lar­ge island of Kvaløya, to the west of Trom­sø, the­re is the litt­le island Som­marøy. Red light of the low sun over the who­le sce­ne­ry with the sea, fjords, lots of small islets and stun­ning coast­li­nes. I was thin­king … Som­marøy, Som­marøy, I have heard that befo­re, and not too long ago. And yes: this is whe­re Wan­ny Wold­stad was born in 1895. The woman who later refer­red to herself as the „first woman as fangst­mann in Sval­bard“. Fangst­mann is Nor­we­gi­an for trap­per. She expli­ci­te­ly used the male ver­si­on of the word. And nobo­dy in the very male arc­tic sce­ne of the 1930s or later would ever mind. Ever­y­bo­dy knew her about her adven­tures as a polar bear hun­ter in Spits­ber­gen. Recent­ly, we had a chan­ce to visit the hut in Hyt­tevi­ka that she used during five long arc­tic win­ters. And now we saw the house whe­re she was born on Som­marøy.

Ves­t­fjord – 05th Novem­ber 2016

The rising sun saw us lea­ving the har­bour of Svol­vær. Out­side, we rea­li­zed that the wind was just about enough to set sails. So we quick­ly for­got about the idea to visit the litt­le vil­la­ge of Hen­nings­vær, we were all keen on see­ing Anti­gua under sails one more time. So up went the can­vas, and so did the spi­rits – it was just gre­at. Silence. No big waves, no swell. Warm light over sea and moun­tains. What a life! Just have a look at the pho­tos.

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

We will be back in Bodø in a few hours, the last har­bour of this trip. The last har­bour of this year’s arc­tic ship­ping sea­son. Tomor­row we will say good­bye, to SV Anti­gua, to her good peop­le. Well, we’ll meet again next year, so no tears. And for me, it is direct­ly up to Trom­sø and Lon­gye­ar­by­en 🙂

Svol­vær, Lauk­vik – 04th Novem­ber 2016

Svol­vær is a good place to relax a bit. It is not the cent­re of the world. A nice har­bour, some art gal­le­ries, a bar made out of ice, sce­nic sur­roun­dings.

For us, it was the star­ting point for our visit to the nort­hern light cent­re in Lauk­vik. Situa­ted on the nort­hern side of Aus­t­vå­gøy, the­re is a free view to most direc­tions and not too much arti­fi­cial light. This is whe­re Rob and The­res from the Nether­lands have estab­lis­hed their pri­va­te nort­hern light cent­re. They are obvious­ly living their pas­si­on, ever­ything is cen­te­red around nort­hern lights. Rob has got a room full of tech­no­lo­gy, which he built all by hims­elf, to make „direct con­ta­ct with the sun“ and the nort­hern lights, as he uses to say.

And they do have good con­ta­cts to hig­her levels. As soon as the pre­sen­ta­ti­on was finis­hed, we saw some nice nort­hern lights 🙂

Kabel­våg-Svol­vær – 04th Novem­ber 2016

The wea­ther is and remains beau­ti­ful. Clear sky, gent­le free­zing tem­pe­ra­tures during the night, low sun, beau­ti­ful colours. The sun is cur­r­ent­ly going up after 8 a.m. and down again near 3 p.m. Of cour­se, we have a long pha­se of twi­light. Altog­e­ther still qui­te a bit of light. Cer­tain­ly enough to go out­side and do nice things. We made a nice walk from Kabel­våg to Svol­vær today. That is not too far, in theo­ry you could do that in one hour. Of cour­se we took more time, enjoy­ing the land­s­cape. Rug­ged moun­tains, a silent lake, open wood­land, litt­le wet­lands here and the­re. Some of us took the more spor­ti­ve rou­te over Tjeld­berg­tin­den, 367 m high. I didn’t, it wouldn’t be a good idea with a cold, but I know the gre­at view from up the­re 🙂

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

Skro­va, Kabel­våg – 03rd Novem­ber 2016

A beau­ti­ful long day, star­ting with walk across the island of Skro­va. White beaches in small, hid­den bays with light-blue water and Sea eagles cir­cling abo­ve us in the air.

We con­ti­nued under sails and sun to Kabel­våg. The­re, we got a true high­light in the evening – no, I am not tal­king about Sascha’s din­ner, which is a cer­tain high­light every day 🙂 no, the nort­hern light show. This was real­ly extra­or­di­na­ry!

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

P.S. of cour­se we also tal­ked about nort­hern light pho­to­gra­phy and put that know­ledge into good prac­ti­ce. I wro­te else­whe­re on this site about nort­hern lights and pho­to­gra­phy, click here if you are inte­res­ted in more info about that.

Skro­va – 02nd Novem­ber 2016

Yes, the­re were more nort­hern lights 🙂

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

Troll­fjord, Skro­va – 02nd Novem­ber 2016

Natu­re has set herself a monu­ment in Troll­fjord. The place is obvious­ly famous for its impres­si­ve sce­ne­ry. Which does not suf­fer from fine wea­ther sur­roun­ded by rock­walls, several hund­red metres high, cir­cling with the Zodiac around Anti­gua, while Sea eagles are cir­cling on the sky … good life in the far north!

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

The pas­sa­ge into the har­bour of Skro­va, bet­ween many rocks and sker­ries, is very plea­sant. And so are the nort­hern lights. We had some nice ones in the late after­noon. Cer­tain­ly not the stron­gest ones ever, but nice. We could well do with some more acti­vi­ty, but they are having a break right now. Let’s see what hap­pens later. Fin­gers cros­sed.

Skrol­s­vik, Har­stad – 01st Novem­ber 2016

We came to Skrol­s­vik on our way south, a litt­le vil­la­ge on the sou­thern end of Sen­ja. Skrol­s­vik used to be a fishing vil­la­ge in the past, as most small pla­ces here. Nice­ly loca­ted bet­ween moun­tains, enligh­ted by the morning sund – north Nor­way can be so beau­ti­ful!

The old shop (Gam­mel­bu­tik­ken), nowa­days a muse­um, was ope­ned by the owners, Kris­tin and Gun­nar, espe­cial­ly for us. A litt­le time machi­ne, put­ting us 90 year back in histo­ry, into tho­se days, when fisher­men from the outer islands came in with their rowing boats every now and then to deli­ver their catch and to buy flour. Their wives would stay for 3 days to bake bread, as the­re was an ovn in the shop, which the fishers did not have at their homes. And if the wea­ther was bad, 3 days could quick­ly turn into a week or even more. Dif­fe­rent times … life is cer­tain­ly easier today.

Of cour­se, the­re is ple­nty of natu­re around Skrol­s­vik, skog og fjell (wood­lands and moun­tains) and you can do dif­fe­rent hikes. If we only had more time!

But we had plans for the after­noon. The pas­sa­ge to Har­stad went under the most beau­ti­ful noon sun­light. Else­whe­re you would pro­bab­ly call it morning light or evening atmo­s­phe­re or wha­te­ver, it does not mat­ter, it means all the same here and now. It was almost dark as we ent­e­red the har­bour of Har­stad clo­se to 4 p.m.

Some of us went to explo­re the aspects of zivi­li­sa­ti­on that Har­stad has to offer, like shops and cafés. Others ven­tu­red on a litt­le bus tour to visit some muse­ums on the near­by Tron­de­nes pen­in­su­la. We learnt that Har­stad used to be the cent­re of poli­ti­cal and eco­no­mi­c­al power in north Nor­way over many cen­tu­ries until it was qui­te recent­ly out­do­ne by Trom­sø. The famous viking chiefs who kil­led the chris­ti­an king of Nor­way St. Olav lived here. Later, they built a beau­ti­ful church here, the lar­gest one in Nor­way north of Trond­heim for a long time. And during the war, the Nazis built some migh­ty guns as part of their coas­tal for­ti­fi­ca­ti­on.

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

After a cosy evening in port in Har­stad, we con­ti­nued sou­thwards to get to Raft­sund and Troll­fjord during day­light. The wea­ther is sup­po­sed to remain nice! Yeah! 🙂

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


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.


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