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Yearly Archives: 2017 − News & Stories


2017: my year in review – Febru­a­ry and March: the Ant­arc­tic Odys­sey

After finis­hing the big pro­ject with my new Nor­we­gi­an gui­de­book Sval­bard – Nor­ge nær­mest Nord­po­len, it was time to get some fresh air. And I got lots of it during a trip around the world in Febru­a­ry in March. The heart of this huge voya­ge was a semi-cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Ant­arc­ti­ca, which I refer to as the “Ant­arc­tic Odys­sey”. Star­ting in New Zea­land, we went to Camp­bell Island, into the Ross Sea and then via Peter I Island to the Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la befo­re we finis­hed in Ushua­ia. Tru­ly an Odys­sey!

The high­light of this gre­at jour­ney? Hard to say. The­re was not only one high­light. Just the dimen­si­ons of this trip are epic, many thousand nau­ti­cal miles in more than 30 days. Being Expe­di­ti­on Lea­der on such a trip on the Orte­li­us was cer­tain­ly a con­tri­bu­ti­on towards making it inte­res­ting for me. Nor­mal­ly, “my” ships are much smal­ler the­se days, and they do not car­ry 3 heli­co­p­ters!

Thin­king about which impres­si­on still means a lot to me and will stay for a long time, then Camp­bell Island is quick­ly com­ing to my mind. This island, which belongs to the New Zea­land sub­ant­arc­tic islands, was very high on my per­so­nal wish­list – sim­ply as I had not been the­re befo­re. Well, I had been very clo­se 2 years ear­lier, but then, the­re was no chan­ce of making a lan­ding becau­se of very strong winds. This time, we had just the por­ti­on of luck that you need in a place like that.

Albatrosses, Campbell Island

Alba­tros­ses on Camp­bell Island.

Of cour­se, fly­ing into Tay­lor Val­ley, one of the famous McMur­do Dry Val­leys, and to McMur­do Base, whe­re we almost stay­ed qui­te a bit lon­ger than we actual­ly wan­ted to, are expe­ri­en­ces never to be for­got­ten. And that is gene­ral­ly true for all impres­si­ons of Ant­arc­ti­ca from a bird’s per­spec­ti­ve.

Waterboat Point, Antarctica

Water­boat Point (Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la) from the air.

But in the end, it is the direct encoun­ters with the wild­life and the sce­ne­ry that is always get­ting very clo­se to my heart and soul. That is what stays! The Alba­tros­ses on Camp­bell Island, the Emperor pen­gu­ins in the Ross Sea, the Hump­back wha­les and pen­gu­ins in the Ant­arc­tic pen­in­su­la, to men­ti­on a few of the­se encoun­ters. Memo­ries that will stay fore­ver!

Emperor and Adelie penguin at Cape Hallet, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Emperor and Ade­lie pen­gu­in at Cape Hal­let in the Ross Sea.

2017: my year in review

It is almost frigh­tening how time is fly­ing. Again, a year almost gone! It was an inten­se, rich year. What did the last 12 mon­ths bring, for Spits­ber­gen, for spitsbergen-svalbard.com and for me? I’ll review the year with a cou­p­le of blogs over the next days.

Janu­a­ry is polar night in the far north. A good time for wri­ting table adven­tures. Wri­ting arc­tic books is not boring, but the actu­al pro­cess is often not ter­ri­b­ly exci­ting. In prac­ti­ce, it means to spend an awful lot of time on the com­pu­ter. Rese­ar­ching, wri­ting, edi­t­ing, loo­king for images, pro­ces­sing images, making illus­tra­ti­ons and so on and so forth.

In Janu­a­ry 2017, my big­gest pro­ject in many years was about to be finis­hed. I can tell you that it was not boring! For a long time alrea­dy, I had had dreams of a Nor­we­gi­an trans­la­ti­on of my Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book. And in 2015, I was bra­ve or cra­zy enough to go ahead with it. Inten­se work on every oppor­tu­ni­ty for a good year, invol­ving a num­ber of nati­ve spea­kers who hel­ped me in trans­la­ting and “språk­vask” (proofrea­ding lan­guage). I am still almost fee­ling dizzy when I bring the­se weeks and mon­ths, which were very inten­se, back to my inner eye. I don’t want to bother you with the details of the pro­cess, but it was without exa­g­ge­ra­ti­on cer­tain­ly my big­gest pro­ject sin­ce the very first ver­si­on of the Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book came out in 2007 (that was the first Ger­man edi­ti­on, that very hea­vy book, if anyo­ne remem­bers). And at the same time, I had a litt­le seri­es of pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, while public atten­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en was tur­ned on a polar bear fami­ly who had sett­led down for a while in the neigh­bour­hood of town. A polar bear fami­ly, mother with 2 cubs, even wal­ked through way 238 (the neigh­bour­hood clo­se to Advent­da­len, lower­most road – that’s whe­re we also have our litt­le home).

And I did mana­ge to fina­li­ze the files with the Nor­we­gi­an book for prin­ting befo­re I went down to Ant­arc­tic in Febru­a­ry. Hal­le­lu­ja!

Svalbard guidebok

My arc­tic adven­ture in ear­ly 2017: Sval­bard – Nor­ge nær­mest Nord­po­len.

More evacua­tions on the anni­ver­s­a­ry of the 2015 avalan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Update (21 Decem­ber): The wea­ther has cal­med down again and after che­cking rele­vant avalan­che-pro­ne slo­pes, the aut­ho­ri­ties have deci­ded to lift the traf­fic ban that was imple­men­ted on Mon­day.
The evacua­tions from last week, con­cer­ning the upper row of houses in Lia, remains in for­ce until fur­ther noti­ce (end of update).

It seems almost stran­ge: exact­ly 2 years after the fatal avalan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the wea­ther fore­cast for today (19 Decem­ber) seems almost exact­ly the same as it was just befo­re snow mas­ses kil­led two peop­le in their homes on 19 Decem­ber, 2015. Winds up to 20 m/s from sou­the­as­ter­ly direc­tions and strong pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on are expec­ted during the evening.

For tonight, a com­me­mo­ra­ti­on cere­mo­ny was sche­du­led for the vic­tims of the fatal 2015 avalan­che. But it seems as if many people’s atten­ti­on will rather be deman­ded by today’s situa­ti­on and events. Some days ago, the Sys­sel­man­nen had alrea­dy issued an order to evacua­te parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This was to be in for­ce on 22 Decem­ber and based on the gene­ral avalan­che risk, rather than the actu­al wea­ther and avalan­che situa­ti­on. After new wea­ther fore­casts were released, this mea­su­re came into for­ce alrea­dy yes­ter­day (18 Decem­ber) at 22 p.m.

At the same time, the evacua­ti­on zone was exten­ded to inclu­de more houses in Lia, the part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en that was hit in 2015 (“Spiss­hu­se­ne”, the colou­red woo­den houses bet­ween the cent­re and the moun­tain Suk­ker­top­pen) and parts of Nyby­en (all houses on the east side of the road).

The evacua­tions are in for­ce until fur­ther noti­ce. Some addres­ses may not be acces­si­ble for mon­ths.

Evacuations Longyearbyen 2017 avalanche risk

Lar­ge parts of Nyby­en and Lia in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are now evacua­ted becau­se of the cur­rent and gene­ral avalan­che risk.

Houses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en evacua­ted: resi­du­al risk of avalan­ches too high des­pi­te local warning sys­tem

Soon it will be two years ago that the avalan­che came down from the moun­tain Suk­ker­top­pen that des­troy­ed ele­ven houses and took two lives. The­re will be a memo­ri­al cere­mo­ny in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on the day, 19 Decem­ber.

The avalan­che area in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Decem­ber 2015. Two peop­le were kil­led and ele­ven houses des­troy­ed. One was moved as much as 80 metres. Pho­to © Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Longyearbyen avalanche

The­re has been – and still is – a lot of tal­king about the avalan­che risk in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on all levels. It seems obvious that the­re have been neglects on various public levels, but it was said offi­cial­ly that the­re is no insti­tu­ti­on or indi­vi­du­al that may legal­ly be held respon­si­ble.

And the­re is, of cour­se, the ques­ti­on of how to deal with the avalan­che risk in future. An offi­cial report about the avalan­che situa­ti­on has deter­mi­ned that a lar­ge num­ber of houses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is expo­sed to various levels of avalan­che risk. A local warning sys­tem has been estab­lis­hed, which has pro­du­ced mixed results so far; on one occa­si­on, the sys­tem pro­du­ced a fal­se secu­ri­ty state­ment that was spec­ta­cu­lar­ly wrong. Two houses were des­troy­ed on that occa­si­on, and it was a mat­ter of luck that the­re was no loss of human life. Instru­ments to mea­su­re the thic­kness of the snow lay­er have been instal­led on various slo­pes clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­se instru­ments are sup­po­sed to pro­vi­de real-time data about snow accu­mu­la­ti­on in loca­ti­ons whe­re peop­le had to mea­su­re manu­al­ly in the past, some­thing that is often dif­fi­cult or even impos­si­ble in situa­tions of seve­re wea­ther when an incre­a­sed risk has to be assu­med. But that is obvious­ly exact­ly when you need that kind of data, so the­se new deci­ves are expect to make a signi­fi­cant impro­ve­ment to the avalan­che warning sys­tem.

Avalan­che bar­ri­ers are ano­t­her mea­su­re expec­ted in the future, but they are not the­re yet, almost two years after the big, tra­gic 2015 event. Evacua­ting parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, on a situa­ti­ve or per­ma­nent basis, is also one of the opti­ons which are dis­cus­sed. The finan­cial aspects of all that is yet ano­t­her issue.

It does, howe­ver, not cost the public much to evacua­te cer­tain addres­ses on a pre­ven­ti­ve basis. Evacua­ting parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en has beco­me a stan­dard pro­ce­du­re during win­ters sin­ce late 2015. Yes­ter­day (14 Decem­ber), the Sys­sel­man­nen has issued an order that cer­tain addres­ses have to be left until 22 Decem­ber until fur­ther noti­ce. This mea­su­re is expec­ted to be in for­ce until the snow is gone, which means, the houses will not be avail­ab­le for mon­ths.

Sperrung Longyearbyen 2017 Lawinengefahr

The­se parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en (mar­ked red) will be evacua­ted from 22 Decem­ber until fur­ther noti­ce. The com­ple­te map is avail­ab­le from the Sys­sel­man­nen.

So far, evacua­tions were made in or befo­re an actu­al risk situa­ti­on, based on snow con­di­ti­ons, wea­ther fore­casts etc. This time, howe­ver, the­re is no such base for the evacua­ti­on, some­thing that beco­mes clear from the time span of 8 days bet­ween the issue of the evacua­ti­on order and the date (22 Dec) when it actual­ly enters for­ce. Sys­sel­man­nen Kjers­tin Askholt says “The ban on traf­fic is based on the risk eva­lua­ti­on for indi­vi­du­als and public safe­ty, becau­se this area is espe­cial­ly expo­sed to avalan­ches. The cur­rent prac­ti­ce with a local avalan­che warning sys­tem and pos­si­ble evacua­tions, based on tech­ni­cal advice from avalan­che experts, does not exclu­de a high resi­du­al risk and remai­ning uncer­tain­ties, so the houses in ques­ti­on can not be used while the­re are no mea­su­res for avalan­che safe­ty in place” (Sys­sel­man­nen, auhtor’s trans­la­ti­on).

Are­as con­cer­ned are addres­ses in way 222 and 226, which are loca­ted direct­ly next to the moun­tain Suk­ker­top­pen, but may be exten­ded to other are­as at any time as deemed necessa­ry by aut­ho­ri­ties.

Evacua­ting a num­ber of houses for a lon­ger peri­od of time based on gene­ral pre­cau­tio­na­ry rea­sons rather than an actu­al risk situa­ti­on appears to be a drastic step, com­pa­red to the impact that this has on the lives of tho­se who have to lea­ve their homes for mon­ths. The­re are tho­se who have, next to their home in the area con­cer­ned, ren­ted a place else­whe­re in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on a per­ma­nent basis, some­thing that obvious­ly invol­ves high cos­ts and this is not a con­tri­bu­ti­on to the alrea­dy dif­fi­cult housing mar­ket in Lon­gye­ar­by­en eit­her. Tho­se who own a place in the area that is affec­ted, are also faced with a sub­stan­ti­al­ly dif­fi­cult situa­ti­on.

Not a glo­rious chap­ter for poli­tics, con­si­de­ring the cur­rent deve­lo­p­ment star­ted with the avalan­ce in Decem­ber 2015 – two years ago.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

The hut in Fox­da­len – 21st Novem­ber 2017

As men­tio­ned befo­re, Novem­ber is not exact­ly the time for long trips out in the arc­tic wil­der­ness. But that does not mean that you can’t go out on tour. Even a few kilo­me­tres can be inte­res­ting and even chal­len­ging in darkness, wind and drif­ting snow. Under clouds and snow­fall, darkness is darkness is darkness. As long as you have got the wind in your face from the left side, the direc­tion will be rough­ly ok. Fin­tu­ning is done later with help of the GPS. How did Nøis, Rit­scher and all the­se guys do it in the old days? No idea. Well, they were not wimps as we are today. The just went for it and kept sear­ching for the hut for some hours, if necessa­ry. And if they did not find it at all, they were son food for the foxes. Good the­se days are over! It is still chal­le­ning enough. The hea­vy pulk is pul­ling behind me, a strong sledge dog is pul­ling in front of me and under me, the skis are gli­ding over young snow.

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

Final­ly, we have reached the hut in Fox­da­len. Just in time, the sky is clea­ring up and the courtain is lif­ting for a nort­hern light of the more impres­si­ve sort, to put it mild­ly. I did not have the came­ra rea­dy to cap­tu­re the most ama­zing moment, some­ti­mes the­re are more important things to do. But we did enjoy it, not just a litt­le bit! And soon, the fire was going in the ovn …

San­ta Claus’ Let­ter­box – 20th Novem­ber 2017

If you have been to Lon­gye­ar­by­en sin­ce Decem­ber 2013, then you have seen the huge, red let­ter­box just upon ent­e­ring town, as you came from the air­port. This was the San­ta Claus Mail­box, and here you could post your let­ters to San­ta Claus.

The let­ter­box was an idea from Po Lin Lee from Hon­kong, but she did not just send an idea and money from far away. She was and is in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and puts a lot of effort into hear pos­tal pro­ject. But – the per­mis­si­on to have it stan­ding the­re was only tem­pora­ry. It ran out on Decem­ber 2015, and then, the let­ter­box was to be remo­ved again, or a new per­mis­si­on had to be obtai­ned.

Neit­her of this hap­pen­ed, until Mon­day. What hap­pen­ed, was a fight that took a lot of time and ener­gy. Let­ters, admo­ni­ti­ons and warnings were writ­ten, bureau­crats and lawy­ers did what bureau­crats and lawy­ers do. Neigh­bours would have to be con­ta­c­ted to give their con­sent to a rene­wed per­mis­si­on for the let­ter­box to remain in place, but is is said that this never hap­pen­ed. Lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties seem to have play­ed a role.

Then, the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re, LL) set a dead­line: the let­ter­box was to disap­pe­ar on Mon­day, Novem­ber 20, 2017. The order to remo­ve it had alrea­dy been given by LL to a local con­struc­tion firm. The invoice about the sub­stan­ti­al amount of 129,000 NOK (about 13,300 Euro) was in the end to be paid by Po Lin Lee.

Who reac­ted by orde­ring a com­pa­ny from the main­land to take the let­ter­box down in a more care­fu­ly way, so it could be re-built again later some­whe­re else. Befo­re that hap­pen­ed, Po Lin Lee gave visi­tors a last chan­ce to visit the let­ter­box, only to find out that the door had been firm­ly locked with big screws – without her, the owner, knowing about it. Also, the­re were traces of fore­cul break-in on the door, pos­si­b­ly from a local com­pa­ny who had alrea­dy remo­ved the electri­cal sys­tem on behalf of the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

Gal­le­ry – San­ta Claus’ Let­ter­box – 20th Novem­ber 2017

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

Mean­while, the dis­cus­sion in local social media group had gai­ned some momen­tum. Some were hap­py that local demo­cra­cy had won a vic­to­ry and the let­ter­box was now about to disap­pe­ar, while others expres­sed sad­ness. The­re are dif­fe­rent opi­ni­ons regar­ding the ques­ti­on if Lon­gye­ar­by­en should be pre­sen­ted to the glo­bal public as a San­ta Claus Town. The local legend actual­ly says that San­ta Claus lives in Mine 7b, abo­ve Nyby­en. During the Christ­mas peri­od, the­re is light up the­re, and the­re is a let­ter­box (of more con­ven­tio­nal dimen­si­ons) next to the road below it, whe­re child­ren can send their let­ters to San­ta Claus as part of the local christ­mas hap­pe­nings.

The big San­ta Claus let­ter­box was now remo­ved by a com­pa­ny on behalf of Po Lin Lee. Accord­ing to her, the­re are several inte­res­ted par­ties that might step in and take over the let­ter­box to put it up again else­whe­re in Scan­di­na­via. And Po Lin Lee has not given up hopes that she might actual­ly be able again to put it up some­whe­re else in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Hap­py Christ­mas time to ever­y­bo­dy!

More arc­tic Christ­mas sto­ries? – Click here to check out my (Ger­man) book with his­to­ri­cal Christ­mas sto­ries from high lati­tu­des.

His­to­ri­cal
Christ­mas sto­ries
(Ger­man)

Arktische Weihnachten - Rolf Stange

Pic­tu­re frames made of Spits­ber­gen-drift­wood avail­ab­le for the first time in limi­ted edi­ti­on

During a walk on any of Spitsbergen’s beau­ti­ful beaches, you can’t help it but be ama­zed about the impres­si­ve amounts of drift­wood. Not only does it add a aes­the­ti­cal aspect to the other­wi­se rather ste­ri­le shore­li­ne, but it does also have a fasci­na­ting histo­ry: Just as Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen did with his famous ship the Fram, did the wood drift all the way from Sibe­ria with the pack ice across the Arc­tic Oce­an and all the way to the north Atlan­tic, whe­re it was thrown onto an arc­tic beach in Sval­bard, Green­land, Ice­land, Jan May­en or Frans Josef Land.

Treibholz bei Wigdehlpynten - Spitzbergen

Drift­wood at Wig­dehl­pyn­ten – Woodfjord, Spits­ber­gen

And the­re we have it. If you are a trap­per, you can use it to build a hut (that was rare­ly done, too much effort) or as fire­wood (that was very com­mon). I am not a trap­per, but a pho­to­gra­pher, so it was an obvious idea to use the drift­wood to make pic­tu­re frames. Can you ima­gi­ne a more appro­pria­te pic­tu­re frame for arc­tic pic­tures than one made of drift­wood from Spits­ber­gen?

Tur­ning drif­tood into pic­tu­re frames requi­red more effort than we expec­ted to begin with. We made the first serious attempts several years ago, when mas­ter car­pen­ter Wolf­gang Zach ope­ned his carpenter’s work­shop in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. He cal­led his litt­le com­pa­ny “Alt i 3”, which is a play of words: “3” is “tre” in Nor­we­gi­an, which also means “tree” or “wood” at the same time. So it trans­la­tes to “Ever­ything out of wood”. We found also out that you do actual­ly need a licen­se to export drift­wood from Spits­ber­gen, so that was ano­t­her thing we had to take care of.

So I star­ted collec­ting drift­wood in small amounts. The first pro­ject was a books­helf for our flat in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and at the same time we star­ted making the first pro­to­ty­pes of pic­tu­re frames. We just had to find out what works well with this very spe­cial mate­ri­al. One of the dis­co­ve­ries that we made was that if you cut and sand it, it loo­ks as fresh and new as a woo­den board that you just bought in the buil­ding sup­ply store. Which is of cour­se not the idea with pic­tu­re frames made from arc­tic drift­wood. So I star­ted loo­king for pie­ces of wood that had a good shape to start with. Most pie­ces of drift­wood are not natu­ral, but rather trees cut in fores­try in Sibe­ria or even rea­dy-made boards. Com­ple­te­ly natu­ral drift­wood – trees with roots – are actual­ly qui­te rare.

Treibholz Hiorthhamn - Spitzbergen

Rolf Stan­ge trans­por­ting drift­wood to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

I took this drift­wood in small amounts to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, were it had to be stored and slow­ly dried over lon­ger peri­ods of time. Then, Wolf­gang and I could start making the first pic­tu­re frames in his carpenter’s work­shop. After some expe­ri­men­ting, we had a pro­to­ty­pe that we both lik­ed, so the mas­ter car­pen­ter could start to pro­du­ce the first set of 16 pic­tu­re frames – all of them were made by Wolf­gang Zach in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Spitsbergen driftwood picture frame

Now, the­se had to get to Ger­ma­ny. If you know me, then it won’t sur­pri­se you to read that they tra­vel­led from Spits­ber­gen to Fran­eker in the Nether­lands on the good sai­ling ship Anti­gua and from the­re via Müns­ter and Dres­den to my ship­ping depart­ment in nor­the­as­tern Ger­ma­ny.

After this long jour­ney from Sibe­ria, down a river, with the ice across the Arc­tic Oce­an to a beach in Spits­ber­gen, from the­re to Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Wolfang’s carpenter’s work­shop, from the­re on a sai­ling ship to Euro­pe. And the­re they are now, the very first seri­es of 16 pic­tu­re frames from Spits­ber­gen drift­wood, avail­ab­le for the first time sin­ce Novem­ber 2017.

Every sin­gle pic­tu­re frame is a uni­que spe­ci­men. This has to do with the histo­ry of the wood, the natu­ral cha­rac­ter of the mate­ri­al, the manu­al pro­duc­tion. So I took pho­to­graphs of all frames, which you can see on this page (click here), which also has all the tech­ni­cal infor­ma­ti­on (dimen­si­ons, pri­ce etc.)

Picture frame of Spitsbergen driftwood

Ugle­da­len – 16th Novem­ber 2017

A small val­ley, not too far from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. But not too clo­se eit­her. Com­pa­red to the polar night far away from any arti­fi­cial light, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is still bright as day – well, almost.

With the­se 3 images, I try to give a more or less rea­listic impres­si­on of what the polar night actual­ly loo­ks like. I guess that is hard­ly pos­si­ble, with a pho­to on a screen. The pho­tos are still too bright, but when I make them even dar­ker, then you will pro­bab­ly think that I have pho­to­gra­phed black squa­res … when you are out in this land­s­cape for a while, then your eyes are get­ting used to it to some degree and you can still see a lot! Cer­tain­ly enough for gene­ral ori­en­ta­ti­on.

Gal­le­ry – Ugle­da­len – 16th Novem­ber 2017

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

Things are dif­fe­rent when it is clou­dy and win­dy, with drif­ting snow. Then: darkness is darkness is darkness.

Polar night – 14th Novem­ber 2017

Back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Spits­ber­gen in mid-Novem­ber may not be your place if you love sunshi­ne. You have to appre­cia­te the polar night to enjoy being here now. The last time the sun made it abo­ve the hori­zon was in late Octo­ber, but today, Novem­ber 14, the sun remains at least 4 degrees below the hori­zon even at noon. That is the begin­ning of the polar night, offi­cial­ly. The­re is some twi­light around mid-day, so-cal­led „nau­ti­cal twi­light“ for a cou­p­le of hours. Not even „civil twi­light“, which most peop­le would descri­be as „not com­ple­te­ly dark“, but we don’t even have that any­mo­re. The­re is not much to be seen of the moon eit­her. It is going up in the midd­le of the night and down again in the after­noon, but it stays so low that you don’t real­ly reco­gni­ze that it is actual­ly the­re.

Still, it is ful­ly pos­si­ble to have ori­en­ta­ti­on while out on tour mid-day. The stars give some light, so that works well at least when the­re is snow. The­re is not much snow, but the­re is some, at least.

Gal­le­ry – Polar night – 14th Novem­ber 2017

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

The­se pho­tos give some impres­si­ons from a litt­le hike during the „brigh­test“ hours. They are actual­ly too bright, more so than in rea­li­ty. No pho­to­gra­phy any­mo­re without a tri­pod! It is still fun to be out­side, but this is obvious­ly not the time for very long trips out in the natu­re. You do a walk, and you get your work done in town, you spend time mee­ting friends …

The­re is, by the way, an info-page on this web­site dedi­ca­ted to the polar night and mid­ni­ght sun.

New 360° pan­ora­ma: Ball­stad, Lofo­ten

A new pan­ora­ma on this site gives a 360 degree view of Ball­stad on Ves­t­vå­gøy, one of the Lofo­ten islands in north Nor­way. I shot it free­hand and the wea­ther was qui­te typi­cal Novem­ber.

Spits­ber­gen-calen­der 2018: the east coast

In Febru­a­ry, the Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018 takes us to the east coast. In the win­ter sea­son, this is a popu­lar desti­na­ti­on for snow­mo­bi­le day-trips, enab­ling rela­tively many peop­le to see this grand win­ter sce­ne­ry. Storfjor­den is fro­zen to fast ice here in Mohn­buk­ta, and some smal­ler bits and pie­ces of gla­cier ice are stuck in the ice. They bro­ke off last sum­mer from the com­bi­ned gla­cier fronts of Königsbergbreen/Hayesbreen/Heuglinbreen, of which we can see a small part in the back­ground.

It is qui­te com­mon that polar bears are roa­ming through this icy land­s­cape. We will see if we are lucky enough to spot them some­whe­re later …

The sun is just star­ting to rise abo­ve the hori­zon in Spits­ber­gen in mid-Febru­a­ry, and the days are still short. It is still too ear­ly for lon­ger trips. But the light can be breath­ta­kin­gly beau­ti­ful!

Spitsbergen-Calendar 2018: February. Ice-landscape on the east coast

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­dar 2018: Febru­a­ry. Ice-land­s­cape on the east coast.

Ves­t­vå­gøy – 08th Novem­ber 2017

Today, we explo­re the lar­ge Lofo­ten island of Ves­t­vå­gøy. The sun is abo­ve the hori­zon from 8 to 15 hours, but it remains hid­den behind a thick cloud cover, so the­re is not too much light. That does not ham­per the beau­ty of the sce­ne­ry, actual­ly it fits this rough land­s­cape pret­ty well. But we limit our hiking acti­vi­ties to a litt­le ascent of a slo­pe next to Ball­stad for a gre­at view over the sett­le­ment and the coas­tal land­s­cape (have a look at the 360 degree pan­ora­ma of Ball­stad that I shot on this occa­si­on. Then, we fol­low a small road to explo­re the stun­ning coast­li­ne. We also have time for a short visit to the famous viking muse­um Borg. The muse­um is qui­te impres­si­ve. The­re is the 1:1 recon­struc­tion of the huge long house of a viking chief. The muse­um was ope­ned in 1995, and I hap­pen­ed to be the­re on the day of the ope­ning. I was impres­sed back then, and I am still impres­sed today. The modern exhi­bi­ti­on house with cine­ma and sou­ve­nir shop and ever­ything that is part of a muse­um today did not exist, but the long house was the­re, and that was and is gre­at fun. You can dress and feel like a viking. But to spend the polar night here, which is several weeks long, without any light source that we found find accep­ta­ble, from our 2017 per­spec­ti­ve? The­re are no win­dows. Glass was as expen­si­ve as its weight in gold, and that was too much even for the power­ful viking chief of Borg. And it was dark any­way out­side during lar­ge parts of the win­ter. So they spent the win­ter in darkness.

Gal­le­ry – Ves­t­vå­gøy – 08th Novem­ber 2017

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

Kval­vi­ka – 07th Novem­ber 2017

Once again we cho­se the rou­te sou­thwards, to Flak­sta­døy and Mos­ken­esøy. The sce­ne­ry on the­se sou­thern islands is just too impres­si­ve. Even on such a rather grey and not com­ple­te­ly dry Novem­ber day.

The outer side of the Lofo­ten islands is con­stant­ly bea­ten by wea­ther, wind and waves of the north Atlan­tic, but it is famous for some beau­ti­full white sand beaches. The­re is one in Ram­ber direct­ly next to the road (and just on the other side of the same road, the­re is a very recom­mend­a­ble café, as we learn later the same day on the way back).

Gal­le­ry – Kval­vi­ka – 07th Novem­ber 2017

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

And the­re is ano­t­her, real­ly stun­ning beach, in a dra­ma­tic sce­nic set­ting, fur­ther south on Mos­ken­esøy, in Kval­vi­ka. The­re, you have to do some­thing befo­re you can enjoy the beach, it is qui­te a walk up the moun­tain and down on the other side. A lovely hike! And in Novem­ber, you can even have the fee­ling to be the only per­son in the world in this ama­zing place, for a short while, and watch the waves washing up the white sand.

From Ball­stad to Å – 06th Novem­ber 2017

After a lot of good­byes and fare­wells, ever­y­bo­dy was going his or her way after lea­ving from or with Anti­gua in Bodø. For most, the voya­ge went sou­thwards. For us, it went nor­thwards. Back to Lofo­ten. It is actual­ly pos­si­ble to tra­vel the­re without a ship 🙂

Ball­stad on Ves­t­vå­gøy was to be our Base­camp for a cou­p­le of day to dis­co­ver Lofo­ten from ano­t­her per­spec­ti­ve. We want to see a lot of pla­ces that are qui­te easi­ly reached over land, rather than with a ship. We want to take time to let the sub-arc­tic wea­ther (it con­ti­nues to be qui­te sub-arc­tic, Novem­ber-style) and the nor­dic light touch the eye, soul and memo­ry card without any rush. We want to enjoy the rug­ged Lofo­ten land­s­cape without a tight sche­du­le. A land­s­cape of steep slo­pes and alpi­ne peaks rising strai­ght up from the shore­li­nes. I try to ima­gi­ne what it might have been like here may­be 12000 years ago, during the last ice age. It is a men­tal jour­ney to nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen. That’s how it must have been like here back then! Today, Lofo­ten is an open air muse­um of pre­vious­ly gla­cia­ted land­s­capes, like a pic­tu­re book.

Gal­le­ry – From Ball­stad to Å – 06th Novem­ber 2017

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

For a first over­view, we tra­vel down to Å, all the way south on Mos­ken­esøy. It is a men­tal jour­ney not only back to the ice age, but also 22 years back for me, when a stay of several mon­ths on the­se islands gave my own con­nec­tion to the far north a strong boost. I find it easy to under­stand why, loo­king at this land­s­cape today.

Ves­t­fjord & Bodø – 04th Novem­ber 2017

The wind had cal­med down a bit, but it was still strong enough, com­ing from the south, so we deci­ded to set sails and cour­se to the west, rather than moto­ring against wind and waves sou­thwards. So we waved good­bye to Lofo­ten when we left the pier in Svol­vær after bre­ak­fast (bet­ter to be on the safe side!). The islands gave us a lovely fare­well, with some sun, a rain­bow abo­ve the famous „Lofo­ten wall“ (of moun­tains, rising strai­ght up from the sea) and fair winds.

We spent the next cou­p­le of hours sai­ling in good style across Ves­t­fjord, strai­ght towards the main­land, befo­re we reached the sker­ries at the Nor­we­gi­an coast. A stun­ning coast­li­ne inde­ed! It is always gre­at to see new land.

The last after­noon of such a voya­ge goes always quick­ly by. The­re is some­thing to see as long as the­re is light. The sun is cur­r­ent­ly going down here clo­se to 3 p.m. The final pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, the triplogs needs to be finis­hed, some pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for depar­tu­re tomor­row. The usu­al logistics. Still, dif­fe­rent this time. It is the last time for this nort­hern sea­son.

A big cir­cle clo­sed when we went along­side in Bodø in the evening. We left from here on May 19 to sail via Lofo­ten and Bear Island up to Spits­ber­gen. It was the same place whe­re we left, but it feels like a gala­xy away. Back then, it was 24 hours of day­light. We had a long arc­tic sum­mer ahead of us. Now, the sun is hard­ly making it abo­ve the hori­zon. And we have got a long arc­tic sum­mer behind us. So many adven­tures with all the good crew of the Anti­gua and all the polar tra­vel­lers who joi­ned us on the various jour­neys.

Gal­le­ry – Ves­t­fjord & Bodø – 04th Novem­ber 2017

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

A big „thank you“ to ever­y­bo­dy who was part of it for a gre­at time, full of ama­zing adven­tures, impres­si­ons … you have never seen ever­ything in the Arc­tic, you keep lear­ning fore­ver. The way the­re, to have seen and to know ever­ything, is infi­ni­te. Yet, we got a good bit fur­ther. It is the pur­po­se never real­ly to get the­re, rather to spend as much time as pos­si­ble on the way. It would be a shame to have seen it all, you have to have some dreams left … the­re will alway be ple­nty of it. The jour­ney will never end.

Tho­se thoughts asi­de – the spi­rits were high on this last evening. The last week had not given us any wha­le sightin­gs or nort­hern lights real­ly worth men­tio­ning, but other than that, actual­ly qui­te a lot. Many impres­si­ons as they are typi­cal for this land­s­cape of coasts and islands in north Nor­way at this sea­son. Good atmo­s­phe­re on board. Good to have been part of it!

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