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Home → September, 2017

Monthly Archives: September 2017 − News & Stories


Lon­gye­ar­breen – 29th Sep­tem­ber 2017

We pay ano­ther litt­le visit to Lon­gye­ar­breen. How gre­at is it to have this kind of play­ground so clo­se to town? Melt­wa­ter is rus­hing down the chan­nels, it is well worth to look for fos­sils in the morai­ne, and then the­re is ice, ice, ice. Also on the gla­cier, the­re are melt­wa­ter streams in deep­ly incis­ed chan­nels, which some­ti­mes dis­ap­pear down into black holes. The polished sur­face of the ice shows beau­tiful­ly alter­na­ting pat­terns of clear, blue ice and dark lay­ers with stones and (natu­ral) dirt.

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­breen – 29th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

A love­ly way to finish the time that we can still, at least in a wider sen­se, call the arc­tic sum­mer. Now, this arc­tic tra­vel­ler will return to the office. Also the­re, moun­tain ran­ges have piled up on the rather recent geo­lo­gi­cal histo­ry 🙂

End­a­len – 27th Sep­tem­ber 2017

The fol­lo­wing days in and around Lon­gye­ar­by­en show how much luck we have had on the last trip with Anti­gua. Now, we don’t see the smal­lest bit of blue sky for days on end, and usual­ly only the lower half of the moun­ta­ins sur­roun­ding us. The sun does not rise high any­mo­re, and as it is con­stant­ly hid­den behind the cloud cover, it seems pret­ty dark even at day­ti­me. It is just over 4 weeks ago that the sun was shi­ning bright for 24 hours a day, and in just about 4 weeks from now we won’t see any of it at all for some time!

Good days altog­e­ther to get things done insi­de. And the­re is of cour­se more than enough to do after months out in the field 🙂 but still, we just have to get out, the tun­dra is cal­ling, the lonely val­leys … you don’t have to ven­ture far from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to find natu­ral beau­ty, silence and soli­tu­de. You don’t always have to go as far as Hin­lo­pen Strait. End­a­len and Fard­a­len have got their own charm.

It is pret­ty mild, with tem­pe­ra­tures well abov the free­zing point, so the rivers still have a lot of water. In other years, you could cross even lar­ger rivers in hiking boots wit­hout get­ting wet feet when the frost was strong enough alre­a­dy at this time of year, but not this time. So we have to find our way, cross some melt­wa­ter streams and find a way around the water­fall in upper End­a­len by clim­bing up the morai­ne of Boger­breen. A huge land­scape of stones, mud and ice, a real ice age world. You could spend a lot of time here, dis­co­ve­ring ama­zing stuff, enjoy­ing the ice, loo­king for fos­sils, but the days are get­ting shorter while the way does not. It is more than 20 km for today.

Gal­lery – End­a­len – 27th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

Most peo­p­le will know Lon­gye­ar­pass with its steep slo­pe that is lea­ding from upper Lon­gye­ar­breen down to Fard­a­len from the win­ter sea­son. Many snow mobi­le groups take this rou­te then, for exam­p­le on the way to or from Barents­burg. The slo­pe can be chal­len­ging, espe­ci­al­ly when the­re is soft snow and poor visi­bi­li­ty, and it has brought snow mobi­le dri­vers regu­lar­ly into trou­bles. Pie­ces of torn V-belts and other debris are silent wit­nesses of tho­se events. It may not seem much of a pro­blem when you dri­ve past it at speed, but in the sum­mer, the pla­s­tic seems – well, it is! – very much out of place and quite dis­gus­ting. Well, not too many peo­p­le come here in sum­mer­ti­me, alt­hough it is just about 6 km from Nyby­en, the nea­rest part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The­re is still Lon­gye­ar­breen bet­ween Fard­a­len and Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Its icy sur­face is blank as a mir­ror now after the rain that we have had the last days, so we are more than hap­py that we car­ri­ed the cram­pons all the way. Wit­hout them, it would be very dan­ge­rous to attempt the hike down the gla­cier now, but with them, it is actual­ly gre­at fun. During the last part of it, the clouds are coming down, tog­e­ther with the dark­ness that is set­ting in, so it is hard to see the way and the morai­ne with its melt­wa­ter streams actual­ly looks a bit threa­tening. Good to know whe­re to go. The last melt­wa­ter river, coming down from Lars­breen, is almost big enough now to give us a foot­bath in our hiking boots, but who cares, we have rea­ched the road and soon, the fry­ing pan is get­ting hot on the coo­ker …

Seve­ral polar bears obser­ved near sett­le­ments

Seve­ral polar bears have been seen near Lon­gye­ar­by­en and other sett­le­ments in the past few weeks.

Polar bears look cute, but can be nasty when they are loo­king for food

Polar bears Longyearbyen

One of the bears – a 17-year-old male – had to be anes­the­ti­zed and trans­por­ted by heli­c­op­ter to Nord­aus­t­lan­det in the north-east of Spits­ber­gen, after devas­ta­ting seve­ral huts at Kap Lai­la River bet­ween Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Barents­burg on 15 Sep­tem­ber. Polar bear expert Jon Aars from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te con­firm­ed, that this was alre­a­dy the bears second flight with a heli­c­op­ter. The polar bear was mark­ed as a cub and alre­a­dy regis­tered in 2001, when he des­troy­ed a hut tog­e­ther with his brot­her and mother. The mother was also obser­ved later in simi­lar burgla­ries.

This is not an unu­su­al beha­vi­or for a polar bear, says Jon Aars. Some polar bears even seem to have spe­cia­li­zed in hut burgla­ries. But to stun the polar bears and fly them out can just be a short-term solu­ti­on. Last year in April a polar bear from Lon­gye­ar­by­en was flown to the island of Nord­aus­t­land seve­ral hundred kilo­me­ters away. Only one year later he was back at the Isfjor­den.

At the begin­ning of Sep­tem­ber, a fema­le polar bear with two cubs was obser­ved at Rev­ne­set – a few kilo­me­ters north of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Three attempts have alre­a­dy been made to hunt them away by means of a heli­c­op­ter. The three bears retur­ned twice after a few days and reap­peared near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. After the third attempt, the bears have not yet been seen again.

Ano­ther polar bear with two cubs was obser­ved near Svea and seve­ral bears were seen near Isfjord radio at Kapp Lin­né the last month.

The fact that so many polar bears appear in the vici­ni­ty of human sett­le­ments in such a short time does not occur too often, but is pro­ba­b­ly coin­ci­dence. Jon Aars belie­ves that such visits could occur more often in the future, as polar bears have been pro­tec­ted for many years. Gene­tic rese­arch shows that polar bears tend to visit the same are­as for seve­ral gene­ra­ti­ons. Peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will pro­ba­b­ly have to get used to fre­quent visits of polar bears. Or the other way around.

Polar bear mum with cub

Polar bear Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Ita­li­an lost and found

After the search after a sai­ling boat last week, SAR (search and res­cue) forces from Sys­sel­man­nen and Red Cross were, only a few days later, again out on a major mis­si­on. On Satur­day after­noon at 16.20 hours, the local hos­pi­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en recei­ved a call from an Ita­li­an per­son who was stuck on a steep slo­pe and not able to move. The man said that he could see the air­port, wit­hout giving fur­ther details about his posi­ti­on. Next to lack of local know­ledge, lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties may have come in here. He finis­hed the con­ver­sa­ti­on wit­hout lea­ving his name or cont­act details, so it was not pos­si­ble to cont­act him again later.

Hence, SAR forces had to move out in dark­ness and strong winds. The Red Cross sear­ched Pla­tå­ber­get, which is situa­ted near the air­port, with about 30 peo­p­le. Final­ly, a light signal was seen on a steep slo­pe abo­ve the sea on Fuglef­jel­la, bet­ween Bjørn­da­len and Lit­le Bjørn­da­len. Strong winds pre­ven­ted SAR forces from rea­ching the area by heli­c­op­ter, so the Red Cross had to walk a lon­ger distance to get to the site. Short­ly after 5 a.m. the man was final­ly res­cued; he had spent at least about 13 hours in his posi­ti­on. All invol­ved got back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en the­re­af­ter in good con­di­ti­on.

The inci­dent shows how important it is to have at least basic local know­ledge and means of ori­en­ta­ti­on as well as the abili­ty to make a pro­per emer­gen­cy call if worst comes to worst. Next to some know­ledge of a lan­guage used local­ly, or at least a cont­act who can pro­vi­de that, this invol­ves the cor­rect local emer­gen­cy cont­acts (the Sys­sel­man­nen), name and pho­ne num­ber. The man was in very steep ter­rain, in dark­ness, strong wind and wit­hout local know­ledge and ori­en­ta­ti­on. The inci­dent pro­vi­des a nega­ti­ve exam­p­le in seve­ral ways.

The steep slo­pe of Fuglef­jel­la bet­ween Bjørn­da­len and Lit­le Gru­mant­da­len on a nice sum­mer day, whe­re an Ita­li­an tou­rist was res­cued ear­ly Sun­day mor­ning in dark­ness and wind.

Italian Fuglefjella

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Isfjord – 21st Sep­tem­ber 2017

This days comes as a con­trast, show­ing us how it could have been much more often: grey and wet. We have been very lucky with many good days with gre­at light!

The rather dark light and wea­ther fits the deso­la­te atmo­sphe­re of Barents­burg, whe­re we spend the mor­ning. The rus­si­an sett­le­ments have been part of Spits­ber­gen for the best part of a cen­tu­ry!

Later, we try our luck fin­ding orcas and polar bears that have recent­ly been seen in Isfjord. No luck with the wild­life, so we make a short, quiet final landing not far from Kapp Wijk in Dick­son Land, to say good­bye to the arc­tic tun­dra.

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

A few hours later, we are along­side in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and a gre­at trip comes to an end.

Kross­fjord – 20th Sep­tem­ber 2017

Kross­fjord is such a huge area with many side bays! As we do only have one day here, we have plan­ned the day accor­ding to a rather strict sche­du­le, just for the con­trast, against our usu­al habits. We mana­ge to have a look at the migh­ty Lil­lie­höök­breen and then to visit a Ger­man war wea­ther sta­ti­on, all during the mor­ning. The after­noon starts in a bay fur­ther east, with rug­ged alpi­ne moun­tain sce­n­ery and a wild gla­cier that is cas­ca­ding down over steep rock­walls. Later, we find a polar bear res­t­ing on the tun­dra. It seems to be quite tired, but it is sit­ting up occa­sio­nal­ly, so ever­y­bo­dy can get some good views. We spend some time with this obser­va­ti­on, so we skip a final landing of this days. We rather enjoy the fan­ta­stic BBQ buf­fet that Sascha and his team have crea­ted for us, and the ama­zing evening light that the sun, which is alre­a­dy under the hori­zon at this time, paints on the clouds.

Later, we lift anchor and set cour­se for Isfjord.

Gal­lery – Kross­fjord – 20th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

A mor­ning full of worries, an after­noon full of joy – 19th Sep­tem­ber 2017

The mor­ning star­ted with a mes­sa­ge that cau­sed gre­at con­cern. The Nor­we­gi­an search and res­cue ser­vice had recei­ved an emer­gen­cy signal from a sai­ling boat that had came into trou­ble yes­ter­day during the storm. Heli­c­op­ters had sear­ched the area alre­a­dy last night, a coast­guard ves­sel was approa­ching. Nobo­dy had heard any­thing from the sai­ling boat so far, so the worst had to be feared. All ves­sels in the area – not that it were that many – were asked to assist, and so we did wit­hout any hesi­ta­ti­on. The coast­guard asked us to search Fuglefjord and Hol­miabuk­ta, and so we did with fee­lings of fear.

Then came the infor­ma­ti­on from the coast­guard that the boat had been found »in good con­di­ti­on«, the SAR mis­si­on was over. No fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on. All souls well! Very plea­sed to hear that!

We turn around and head for Raud­fjord, whe­re we spend a love­ly hour in the late mor­ning in Hamil­ton­buk­ta. In the after­noon, Sep­tem­ber shows what it can do on a good day. Deep sun over rug­ged moun­ta­ins, warm light on red­dish-brown rocks. An ama­zing after­noon!

Gal­lery – Raud­fjord – 19th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

Sai­ling boat lost and found

The­re have been strong winds up to storm force in nor­t­hern Spits­ber­gen yes­ter­day (Mon­day). Two smal­ler boats seem to have got­ten into poten­ti­al­ly serious dif­fi­cul­ties. Emer­gen­cy signals have been trig­ge­red and search and res­cue forces are in the area with heli­c­op­ters and coast guard ships.

SV Anti­gua (whe­re the pre­sent aut­hor is on board) is also in the area, but we did not have more pro­blems than some cases of sea­sick­ness during our sai­ling pas­sa­ge yes­ter­day. So SV Anti­gua is NOT affec­ted by any serious pro­blems.

Update: after seve­ral hours sear­ching in the nor­thwest of Spits­ber­gen, whe­re also seve­ral tou­rist ships inclu­ding SV Anti­gua assis­ted, the boat was on Tues­day found „in good con­di­ti­on“. The SAR mis­si­on was offi­ci­al­ly aban­do­ned by the coast guard. It was later sta­ted that it was a local boat from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The emer­gen­cy signal posi­ti­on was from Mag­da­le­nefjord, while the boat was found in Wij­defjord, almost 100 km away as the ivo­ry gull flies. The emer­gen­cy signal had been trig­ger auto­ma­ti­cal­ly wit­hout the crew being awa­re of it; pro­ba­b­ly, the emer­gen­cy bea­con was lost in hea­vy seas and trig­ge­red its­elf.

Wind force 8 on Mon­day at the north coast of Spits­ber­gen. Pho­to © Alex­an­der Lembke.

Storm Spitsbergen

Strong wind up to storm force in North Spits­ber­gen

The­re have been strong winds up to storm force in nor­t­hern Spits­ber­gen yes­ter­day (Mon­day – 2017/09/18). Two smal­ler boats seem to have got­ten into poten­ti­al­ly serious dif­fi­cul­ties. Emer­gen­cy signals have been trig­ge­red and search and res­cue forces are in the area with heli­c­op­ters and coast guard ships.

SV Anti­gua (whe­re the pre­sent aut­hor is on board) is also in the area, but we did not have more pro­blems than some cases of sea­sick­ness during our sai­ling pas­sa­ge yes­ter­day. So SV Anti­gua is NOT affec­ted by any serious pro­blems.

Update: after seve­ral hours sear­ching in the nor­thwest of Spits­ber­gen, whe­re SV Anti­gua also assis­ted, the boat was found »in good con­di­ti­on«. The SAR mis­si­on was offi­ci­al­ly aban­do­ned by the coast guard. At the moment, no fur­ther details regar­ding the iden­ti­ty of the boat or other are available.

Update: Accor­ding to Sval­bard­pos­ten, it was a local sai­ling boat from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The emer­gen­cy bea­con was lost and auto­ma­ti­cal­ly acti­va­ted during hea­vy wea­ther. The crew was not awa­re of that.

Source: Rolf Stan­ge via OnS­at-Mail direct­ly from SV Anti­gua

A lot of wind – 18th Sep­tem­ber 2017

Accor­ding to the wea­ther fore­cast, today should have been our day for a landing on Mof­fen. Litt­le wind and hop­eful­ly calm seas. So we left Mus­ham­na in the mor­ning with high spi­rits and soon we set sails – this in its­elf should have made us sus­pi­cious, and actual­ly, it did – and cour­se for Mof­fen. Soon, the wind and sea picked up, and quick­ly it beca­me clear that Mof­fen was not a place to be today. So we tur­ned to the west, Raud­fjord or so. Mean­while, the wind had picked up, force 7 to 8, 9 in gusts, and the waves were quite impres­si­ve. Real sai­ling, which many enjoy­ed on deck, but it has to be said that not ever­y­bo­dy enjoy­ed it.

Pho­to – A lot of wind – 18th Sep­tem­ber 2017

The sea was boi­ling white in Brei­bo­gen, no chan­ce for a shel­te­red ancho­ra­ge. We found shel­ter later in the after­noon in Svens­ke­gat­tet. The wind con­tin­ued to blow, with hea­vy gusts, so we enjoy­ed a rela­xed day on board, with pre­sen­ta­ti­ons and a film and of cour­se the cine­ma out­side, with the impres­si­ve dis­play of nature’s powers.

Wood­fjord – 17th Sep­tem­ber 2017

The day starts with quite a bit of wind as we enter inner Wood­fjord – but pro­mi­sing at the same time, with a lot of holes in the clouds, and the sun is brea­king through. It is cas­ting its light over an ama­zing dis­play of colours: a blue fjord, framed by deep-red moun­ta­ins and green tun­dra. Colours!

We enjoy the sce­n­ery, while we are sai­ling fur­ther into the fjord, always kee­ping an eye open for polar bears that often roam along the­se shore. Later, we roam a bit along the­se shores during a landing, making some pre­cise obser­va­tions of the amounts of pla­s­tic lit­ter that you find bet­ween all the drift­wood logs and in the sand. The data will be used by the Ger­man Alfred Wege­ner Insti­tu­te for a rese­arch pro­ject about pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on in the mari­ne envi­ron­ment. May it help to sol­ve the pro­blem!

Gal­lery – Wood­fjord – 17th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

Later, we see a polar bear on a slo­pe, but far away. In Mus­ham­na, we sei­ze the oppor­tu­ni­ty of some nice hiking, befo­re we round the day off with a very atmo­sphe­ric fire on the beach.

Lief­defjord – 16th Sep­tem­ber 2017

We wake up to a gol­den sun­ri­se in Lief­defjord and we enjoy the stun­ning sce­n­ery during some good hikes during the mor­ning. The clouds are coming down later and the­re is even a litt­le bit of rain as we drift near Mona­co­b­reen later, but this does not mat­ter as far as the deep blue colour of the gla­cier and some ice­bergs is con­cer­ned.

Gal­lery – Lief­defjord – 16th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

Late after­noon on a litt­le island within Ler­nerøya­ne, we get the fee­ling of being (almost) the first peo­p­le to walk around here, in this untouch­ed natu­re.

Nor­thwest-Spits­ber­gen – 15th Sep­tem­ber 2017

A gol­den day in a clas­si­cal area. Here in Smee­ren­burg­fjord, whe­re the wha­lers were suf­fe­ring from harsh wea­ther in their thin woo­len clo­thes 400 years ago, we enjoy a bril­li­ant day in calm, clear and even sun­ny wea­ther. In Vir­go­ham­na, we visit the place whe­re Andrée and Well­man star­ted their famous north pole expe­di­ti­ons. Har­bour seals are res­t­ing on rocks in a shal­low bay.

Gal­lery – Nor­thwest-Spits­ber­gen – 15th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

Much lar­ger seals are res­t­ing on the beach a bit fur­ther north, on Ams­ter­damøya. A who­le group of wal­rus­ses is sun­bathing the­re, wit­hout any respect for the his­to­ri­cal blub­ber ovns of Smee­ren­burg.

Kongsfjord – 14th Sep­tem­ber 2017

The ear­ly mor­ning view may have sur­pri­sed some of us: civi­li­sa­ti­on! Ny-Åle­sund, Spitsbergen’s nor­t­hern­most sett­le­ment, with her various sights and exci­te­ments. Under the most beau­tiful sep­tem­ber sun.

Later, it is time to enjoy some first impres­si­ons of real arc­tic tun­dra. The reinde­er bulls are fat and in gre­at shape, rea­dy for the mating sea­son and for the polar win­ter. We enjoy coas­tal caves and impres­si­ve pan­o­r­amic views, both from land and later during a visit to the gla­ciers in inner­most Kongsfjord.

Gal­lery – Kongsfjord – 14th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

Trygg­ham­na – 13th Sep­tem­ber 2017

It is still quite win­dy, so we seek shel­ter in the inner­most part of Trygg­ham­na for our first landing. Still win­dy, but pret­ty calm water – and sun­ny! A love­ly start in impres­si­ve­ly scenic sur­roun­dings.

Later, we see a polar bear lying on the tun­dra near Alk­hor­net. It does not do any­thing, and it is far away and dif­fi­cult to see. Let’s hope for more.

Gal­lery – Trygg­ham­na – 13th Sep­tem­ber 2017

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

We con­ti­nue under sail into For­lands­und, whe­re we round the day off with an evening visit to a gla­cier in stun­ning light.

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