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Home → May, 2017

Monthly Archives: May 2017 − News & Stories


Isfjord – 31st May, 2017

The Rus­si­an beau­ty of Bar­ents­burg was very evi­dent right next to our ship sin­ce last evening, and a visit the­re is always inte­res­ting, even though not ever­y­bo­dy falls instant­ly in love with the visu­al good qua­li­ties of the place. Even in sunshi­ne! And we do not miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk, next to the local histo­ry, about the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty, hot and cold war, poli­tics and peop­le and wha­te­ver else.

In Ymer­buk­ta, the land is still com­ple­te­ly snow cove­r­ed. It is sun­ny and warm, but the visu­al impres­si­on is that of win­ter, white and pure. Same in Borebuk­ta and Yol­dia­buk­ta. Whe­re­ver you look, it is beau­ti­ful.

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

Equal­ly beau­ti­ful is din­ner in the evening. Thanks a lot, Sascha, Jana, Chris­ti­na and Alex!

Eidem­buk­ta-Alk­hor­net – 30th May, 2017

We were yes­ter­day blown into Eidem­buk­ta, the best place to stay as things were. It was a nice pas­sa­ge under sails. And today? The day starts with bright sunshi­ne. And almost no ripp­le on the water! Let’s go ashore!

Wide-open west coast tun­dra land, a lot of snow in the low­lands, some rocky hills. And rein­de­er. And rein­de­er. And, in case I have not yet men­tio­ned it, rein­de­er. They were almost stal­king us.

Later in Isfjord, we were bles­sed with a very rare encoun­ter. A blue wha­le! The lar­gest ani­mal ever crea­ted by evo­lu­ti­on. Brought to the edge of exc­tinc­tion by man­kind. And one of a few thousand of them which are still around in the world’s oce­ans is now and here swim­ming around Anti­gua. How gre­at is that!

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

We are hap­py to spend some time with the big blue wha­le, making our after­noon lan­ding a bit shor­ter. Still, it turns out to be a very fine tour at Alk­hor­net.

For­landsund – 29th May, 2017

You need calm wea­ther for a lan­ding on the coas­tal flats on the west coast. The wea­ther is calm during the morning, so the rocky shal­lows near the coast are no pro­blem and we take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go ashore in one of the bays in For­landsund, north of Isfjord. The wide-open coas­tal plains with their varied shore­li­ens and gent­ly rol­ling hills are amongst my abso­lu­te favou­rites of Spitsbergen’s many dif­fe­rent land­s­cape types!

In the after­noon, the focus is not the beau­ty of the land­s­cape, but the beau­ty of the wild­life. „Beau­ty“ is, of cour­se, a rela­ti­ve term. A good encoun­ter with wal­rus­ses is one of the most ama­zing wild­life expe­ri­en­ces that you can have in the arc­tic!

Gal­le­ry – For­landsund – 29th May, 2017

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

Horn­sund – 28th May, 2017

We are get­ting to Horn­sund in the late evening. A calm night at anchor near a gla­cier which is shi­ning in the sun – what a place, what a life! The­se are words by Wan­ny Wold­stad, who spent some years in Horn­sund in the 1930s. She must have known!

We have also got a good life here, not for several years, but for one day, at least. We start with a walk at Gnå­lod­den. Snow and ice, rocks and tun­dra, sea­b­irds on the cliff, views of gla­ciers and moun­tains.

Gal­le­ry – Horn­sund – 28th May, 2017

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

Later, we see even more ice and more gla­ciers in inner­most Horn­sund. Now we are lea­ving the fjord, silent­ly under sail, as they have done it here for cen­tu­ries.

Sør­kapp: ice – 27th May, 2017

We reach the open drift ice that is drif­ting south from Storfjor­den after a slight­ly bum­py, but fast pas­sa­ge alrea­dy during the mor­nign. Back to the world of the ice! Ever­y­bo­dy is fasci­na­ted by the ice floes that are slow­ly drif­ting by.

And ever­y­bo­dy is even more fasci­na­ted by the attempt to go along­side a nice and solid ice floe with Anti­gua, but it does not work in the end – too much swell. But what do we have the Zodiacs for? Ever­y­bo­dy gets a chan­ce to step out onto the ice. The reac­tions vary from noi­sy enthu­si­asm and a lot of sel­fies to silent fasci­na­ti­on for the impres­si­ons and the sound of ice, water and air.

Gal­le­ry – Sør­kapp: ice – 27th May, 2017

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

Bear Island (II) – 26th May, 2017

After yet ano­t­her, lon­gish Zodiac crui­se into the troll sce­ne­ry king­dom at the sou­thern tip of Bear Island, it is nice to get a calm night’s sleep at anchor in Sør­ham­na. Fal­ling asleep with the sight of the cliffs and the sound of the sea­b­irds. And waking up again with exact­ly the same impres­si­ons.

Espe­cial­ly as the wea­ther is still nice. Ano­t­her lan­ding, this time in Kval­ross­buk­ta, turns out to be easy, just a litt­le bit of swell and surf on the beach. The­re was a wha­ling sta­ti­on from the peri­od of indus­tri­al wha­ling here more than a hund­red years ago, one out of two from tho­se days in Spits­ber­gen. And it was here that the Ger­man jour­na­list Theo­dor Ler­ner star­ted to take parts of Bear Island into pos­ses­si­on in 1899. Fur­ther occup­a­ti­ons fol­lo­wed, as well as bizar­re mee­tings with his Ger­man (!) com­pe­ti­tors who were the­re in order of emperor Wil­helm II, and a Rus­si­an batt­le­ship (if you read Ger­man, then you can find all the­se sto­ries in my book „Die Bären­in­sel“).

Also a Ger­man wea­ther sta­ti­on from the war and an attempt to mine lead ore have left some scar­ce traces in the vicini­ty. Nevertheless, all in all the land­s­cape appears to be untouched. Human influ­ence is most­ly com­ing from far away. Envi­ron­men­tal toxins, the fishing indus­try and cli­ma­te chan­ge all have their influ­ence on Bear Island, but traces of local human acti­vi­ty are very limi­ted and natu­re is clai­ming her ter­ri­to­ry back.

Gal­le­ry – Bear Island (II) – 26th May, 2017

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

Final­ly it is time to say good­bye to Bear Island, we are expec­ting nort­her­ly winds in the after­noon and no fur­ther lan­dings. A luxu­ry to sit on deck and enjoy the view of cliffs and sea stacks pas­sing by. Final­ly we are drif­ting not far from the wea­ther sta­ti­on Bjørnøya Meteo and I say hel­lo over the radio. Turns out that we are invi­ted to visit! To my own sur­pri­se, they know my name here, thanks to my Bear Island book and even my hike around the island is not yet for­got­ten, alt­hough it is a cou­p­le of years ago by now. Of cour­se we take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit the Nor­we­gi­ans on their wea­ther sta­ti­on. A fine finish to a fine visit to Bear Island. I am loo­king for­ward to the next time!

Bear Island – 25th May, 2017

Bear Island can be a tough place, as expo­sed as its rocky cliff coasts are lying in the midd­le of the wild nort­hern sea. But the nort­hern sea is not always wild, and it does have its advan­ta­ges to know some good pla­ces. It feels good to get solid Bear Island ground under the rub­ber boots again! To stand on top of the cliffs, watching down on guil­lemots, ful­mars and puf­fins. Fur­ther inland, most of the ground is still snow cove­r­ed, the soil lar­ge­ly fro­zen.

Gal­le­ry – Bear Island – 25th May, 2017

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

The wea­ther is on our side, and we make good use of that. It is a rare and gre­at oppor­tu­ni­ty to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te the who­le sou­thern tip of Bear Island in Zodiacs. Bird cliff after bird cliff, ten thousands of Brünich’s and com­mon guil­lemots, kit­ty­wa­kes and ful­mars. Steep cliffs more than 400 metres high, off­shore stacks, coas­tal caves and nar­row pas­sa­ges, one mira­cle of natu­re after the other, some of them being small, others qui­te lar­ge. All of them beau­ti­ful and impres­si­ve. The Nor­we­gi­ans have a good word to descri­be this kind of land­s­cape, they call it „trollsk“. A mys­te­ry land­s­cape, with hid­den tre­a­su­res, with some kind of magic about it. I don’t know of a fit­ting Eng­lish word. Trollsk, that’s it, that descri­bes the sou­thern tip of Bear Island per­fect­ly well, with Glu­pen and Sylen, Stap­pen and Per­le­por­ten.

Bar­ents Sea – 24th May, 2017

The day starts with a lively swell, which is decre­a­sing later tog­e­ther with the wind. Several groups of dol­phins appe­ar tog­e­ther with one or the other wha­le, making time pas­sing by quick­ly. 250 miles from Fug­løya on the edge of the Nor­we­gi­an main­land to Bear Island, and the expec­ta­ti­ons are rising!

Pho­to – Bar­ents Sea – 24th May, 2017

Barents Sea - 24th May, 2017

The Hin­lo­pen gla­cier retre­ats

This is shown by satel­li­te images, that the Ame­ri­can Geo­phy­si­cal Uni­on has publis­hed. Bet­ween 1990 and 2016 the gla­cier has retrea­ted seven kilo­me­ters.

Hin­lo­pen­breen 1990 und 2016. Red arrow shows 1990 ter­mi­nus, yel­low arrow shows 2016 ter­mi­nus – Images: AGU, Land­sat

Landsat imagery of Hinlopenbreen

The Hin­lo­pen gla­cier in the north-east of Spits­ber­gen is a so-cal­led sur­ge-gla­cier. That means, that lon­ger peri­ods with nor­mal flow speed alter­na­te with shor­ter peri­ods, in which the gla­cier flows 10 to 1.000 times fas­ter. The last sur­ge hap­pen­ed from 1970-1971, when the gla­cier pushed 2.5 km into the fjord in one year. It moved up to 12 meters a day then.

The decre­a­se in ice, that has now been obser­ved, has pro­bab­ly not­hing to do with the­se nor­mal fluc­tua­tions which are con­nec­ted to the glacier’s inter­nal mecha­nics. If a sur­ge-gla­cier retre­ats, the ice usual­ly accu­mu­la­tes in the accu­mu­la­ti­on area: it is thi­c­ke­n­ing. At the Hin­lo­pen gla­cier it was obser­ved, that the ice on the upper gla­cier is also thin­ning. This sug­gests that it is not the ear­ly sta­ge of a sur­ge pro­cess, but cli­ma­te chan­ge that is respon­si­ble for the retre­at of the Hin­lo­pen gla­cier.

Other gla­ciers on Spits­ber­gen are also under­go­ing a simi­lar deve­lo­p­ment, such as the Pai­er­breen, Horn­breen, Bes­sel­breen and Svit­jod­breen.

Source: AGU

Trom­sø – 23rd May, 2017

Trom­sø, the metro­po­lis of nort­hern Nor­way, with her lanes and the har­bour, an invi­ta­ti­on for a lovely litt­le stroll. The muse­ums are a gre­at men­tal warm-up for the Arc­tic, and the moun­tain Fløy­en offers a spor­ti­ve exer­cise which is nice befo­re we start the cros­sing of the Bar­ents Sea, up to Bear Island and Spits­ber­gen. It is a bit cold and clou­dy, just right to set the mind for the Arc­tic!

Gal­le­ry – Trom­sø – 23rd May, 2017

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

Stok­marknes & Wha­le­watching – 22nd May, 2017

We are pas­sing Stok­marknes on the way north and we make a litt­le stop the­re. This is whe­re the famous Hur­tig­ru­ten was inven­ted, the coas­tal stea­mer line that con­nec­ted north Nor­way to the rest of the coun­try and thus to the world. They have dedi­ca­ted a muse­um to the Hur­tig­ru­ten in Stok­marknes. And if you come with a ship, then you are wel­co­med by a who­le Hur­tig­ru­ten ship on the shore!

They are cur­r­ent­ly doing a lot of work on the muse­um, but it is alrea­dy defi­ni­te­ly well worth a visit.

Gal­le­ry – Stok­marknes & Wha­le­watching – 22nd May, 2017

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

And so is the con­ti­nen­tal shelf edge off the outer coast. That area is famous for wha­les, and we mana­ge inde­ed to find a group of pilot wha­les after a while.

From Kabel­våg to Troll­fjord – 21st May, 2017

Not having the nort­hern lights at this time of year does have advan­ta­ges – you can get some hours of sleep befo­re star­ting to hike from Kabel­våg to Svol­vær. It seems to have been a long win­ter here in Lofo­ten, just as in Spits­ber­gen fur­ther north. The­re is still a lot of snow in the ter­rain, it is wet, and lakes are still lar­ge­ly fro­zen.

The white beaches on Skro­va bring a strong con­trast to that, having a tro­pi­cal appearan­ce. And sai­ling nor­thwards in Ves­t­fjord gives us later the fee­ling of being some­whe­re in the Car­ri­be­an. A good life under a wide, open sky!

Gal­le­ry – From Kabel­våg to Troll­fjord – 21st May, 2017

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

In Troll­fjord, the sce­ne­ry does, howe­ver, not lea­ve any doubt that we are in north Nor­way. Also here, the­re is still a lot of snow.

Rei­ne & Nusfjord – 20 May, 2017

We went along­side in Rei­ne in the ear­liest morning hours. Not that I took much noti­ce, initi­al­ly. I was not far away, phy­si­cal­ly. But you have to get a litt­le bit of sleep at some sta­ge. Even though it is not yet mid­ni­ght sun time here. Ofi­cial­ly, the sun is still going down for 3 hours or so. But the­re is no darkness, of cour­se.

It is a bit over­cast, but calm and dry, so we take the Zodiacs to crui­se deep into Rei­n­efjord for a good hike. We fol­low a shal­low bay and climb up a ridge that sepa­ra­tes the inner bran­ches of Rei­n­efjord from the outer coast. The­re, we have one of the­se wide, white sand beaches that the outer side of the Lofo­ten islands is famous for. Beau­ti­ful! If it was just 20 degrees war­mer, we could spend a lazy day on the beach … but it is qui­te fresh, and we are hap­py about that. We rather enjoy the views of the steep gra­ni­te walls around the bay. Stun­ning sce­ne­ry! A high-alpi­ne moun­tain chain at sea level.

Gal­le­ry – Rei­ne & Nusfjord – 20 May, 2017

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

A visit to the lovely litt­le old fishing vil­la­ge of Nusfjord in the after­noon makes the day com­ple­te, befo­re we set cour­se for Kabel­våg for a calm night along­side in the har­bour.

Bodø & Saltstrau­men – 19 May, 2017

Here we go! Today we start the arc­tic sum­mer sea­son. Boar­ding SV Anti­gua in Bodø, we set cour­se nor­thwards, final desti­na­ti­on Spits­ber­gen, stop­ping in Lofo­ten and Bear Island on the way. Yes, let’s get going! Arc­tic, we are com­ing! 🙂

As we get going rea­son­ab­ly quick­ly, we don’t want to miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to crui­se in the famous Saltstrau­men with its impres­si­ve tidal cur­r­ents.

Gal­le­ry – Bodø & Saltstrau­men – 19 May, 2017

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

Tem­pel­fjord acci­dent: gui­de dead

On April 27, a gui­ded group bro­ke through the ice in Tem­pel­fjord (see spitsbergen-svalbard.com news from April). Four per­sons spent up to 48 minu­tes in ice cold water until they were res­cued by SAR for­ces with heli­co­p­ters. Most vic­tims could soon be released from tre­at­ment. One gui­de, howe­ver, was was kept in inten­si­ve care in the Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal Nordnor­ge in Trom­sø (UNN).

The hos­pi­tal infor­med the public today that the man died during the night from Sunday to Mon­day.

He was a Rus­si­an citi­zen, bet­ween 30 and 40 years old.

As far as is known, he was the first gui­de who died due to an acci­dent that hap­pen­ed during a tour with guests in Sval­bard.

The acci­dent is still inves­ti­ga­ted by Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties. So far, no fur­ther details have been released bey­ond tho­se descri­bed in the arti­cle in April.

Tem­pel­fjord with poor ice con­di­ti­ons in spring 2014.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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