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Home → September, 2017

Monthly Archives: September 2017 − News & Stories


Isfjord – 12th September 2017

Today, we are starting with SV Antigua again! We are gathering on board for the first time in the afternoon, and after the usual welcome procedures and mandatory safety instructions, we leave the pier – under sails. The easterly breeze that we have had for some time comes in very handy now. We sail silently into Isfjord and into a magnificent sunset. After a couple of hours, the anchor is going down in Trygghamna, well sheltered – the name translates as »Safe harbour« – by rugged mountains.

Gallery – Isfjord – 12th September 2017

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

1600 liters of diesel lost in Mimerdalen

1600 litres of diesel were lost on Friday during a helicopter flight in Mimerdalen near Pyramiden. The fuel was hanging under the helicopter to be transported to a station on a mountain west of Pyramiden operated by Longyearbyen airport for aerial navigation.

A rope broke during the flight, so the diesel fell down and crashed on the gravel plain of the river bed. It could not be retrieved and was lost in the environment: in the river gravel, one of the many small rivers or finally in the fjord.

The helicopter was operated by Lufttransport, a company that is also responsible for the helicopter logistics of the Sysselmannen, including Search and Rescue operations. The incident is currently under investigation.

Mimerdalen near Pyramiden, where 1600 litres of Diesel were lost from a helicopter on Friday.

Mimerdalen

Quelle: Svalbardposten

Summer hiking route up to Larsbreen destroyed by landslide

The mountains and glaciers around Longyearbyen have a lot of great hiking opportunities. Right now it looks like there is one less: the western part of the moraine of Larsbreen, which is part of the popular summer route ascending Larsbreen towards the glacier itself or the near-by mountains (Trollsteinen, Sarkofagen) has been strongly affected by landslides this summer. This is generally a natural process in a moraine area that consists of a thing layer of sediment resting on steep slopes of clear glacier ice. The area had already been affected by minor landslides in recent years.

This summer’s landslides took the area with the hiking route from Longyeardalen up to Larsbreen. Now, there is a steep slope of mostly exposed glacier ice covered with a thin layer of sediment (mud and stones). The “way” below the slope is exposed to further landslides and rockfalls and hence currently not a safe alternative.

It remains to be seen if the winter route can still be used. Winter and summer routes are slightly different and frost and snow change the terrain significantly. Meanwhile, Longyearbreen and Vannledningsdalen remain generally available as hiking routes up to Larsbreen, Sarkofagen and Trollsteinen.

View from Gruvefjellet to the moraine of Larsbreen. The area recently affected by landslides is roughly marked by the red circle (the photo was taken before these landslides happened).

Larsbreen moraine landslide

Pyramiden – 08th September 2017

It does not matter how much time you spend in Pyramiden, there are always some more hidden corners that you have not been to before. There is always something new to discover. Areas that had industrial functions during the days of active mining. It is not always easy to find out what the function may have been. There is a building where oxygen was produced for use in the mine, and a radio station. There are old mine entrances. How old they are? Good question. Maybe there is some stuff still from the Swedish days? Anyway, there are a lot of interesting details, and photography is great fun here.

Gallery – Pyramiden – 08th September 2017

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

The graveyard of Pyramiden – 07th September 2017

I have to admit that I had never been to the graveyard of Pyramiden before. So it was definitely time for a visit. It is a bit outside of the settlement, in the middle of the river plain in Mimerdalen.  

Graveyards can be silent storytellers. They do not give us living people any details, but you can spend a lot of time with your own thoughts about what may have happened to those who came here to stay. It can be quite impressive, in a way.

At a closer look, you will find 43 graves. 31 epitaphs have got names. All of them but one have got the year of birth and death, respectively. These people here died between 1950 and 1988. There are five children amongst them, who died in the year they were born or in the year thereafter, in one case. All of them were born in the 1950s, just to leave the world again immediately. The others did not get very old either, most of them died between 20 and 40 years old. The average is 26.6 years.

Gallery – The graveyard of Pyramiden – 07th September 2017

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

Four girls and women were laid to rest amongst all the men. Two of them are amongst those poor children who never got a chance to leave Pyramiden. One young woman died at the age of 18. What brought her to Pyramiden at that age? Why did she die? This place does not provide answers, just questions. Grim questions.

Yggdrasilkampen – 06th September 2017

Every time when in Pyramiden, I am impressed by the mountain on the other side of the valley. It bears the slightly strange name Yggdrasilkampen, derived from a term used in Norse mythology. Old viking stuff, has got something to do with a tree. There are no trees here these days.

Anyway, Yggdrasilkampen is impressive. A mighty mountain, vertical rock cliffs with huge protruding shoulders in a good 500 m altitudes, towering high above big scree slopes. Beautiful colours and an interesting geological structure. Devonian Old Red forms the bulk of the mountain, being separated from the Carboniferous carbonate layers on the top by the Svalbardian unconformity. Uppermost upper Devonian. I am sure you know what I am talking about.

But that was not actually the point today. The point was not to have „only“ the view from Pyramiden to Yggdrasilkampen, as always, but the opposite perspective, from Yggdrasilkampen to Pyramiden. Hoping to discover a good route for future trips, I ventured out on my own. In case the route would not be feasible, something I was not sure about before I actually went, being on my own would make it easier to turn around if necessary. The group was hiking up mount Pyramiden with Alex and Daniel, so everything was in best order there.

The way across Mimerdalen was easy and enjoyable, thanks to an old Russian earth road and even a bridge. But ascending the mountain was a different thing! There was actually no ascent visible from sea level, so I put all my hopes on a corner which I could not see from down below. Rocks, rocks, rocks and a little bit of easy climbing in the end – everything fine as long as the frost-shattered rock would stay where it was – and I was up on top. Yeah!

The view? Amazing. And I enjoyed the whole thing, hiking along the whole edge of Yggdrasilkampen. From the northeastern corner, you have got a stunning view over Billefjord, from Petuniabukta in the north through Nordenskiöldbreen in the east to Sassenfjorden in the south. Just amazing!

Gallery – Yggdrasilkampen – 06th September 2017

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

The hike along the edge of the plateau did take some time. Two little glaciers had carved their respective cirques into the slopes, which both required some detours. But the better were the views from the ridges protruding towards Mimerdalen between these cirques. The most stunning view comes probably at the eastern point of Yggdrasilkampen. Counter-clockwise, you look out from Nordenskiöldbreen over Pyramiden (mountain and settlement), Munindalen and the inner reaches of Mimerdalen. Just amazing! I may have used that phrase before, but it is simply appropriate. Of course I took a 360 degree panorama. It had been a bit of work to drag the equipment up the mountain, but it was more than worth it!

Descending from the mountain was yet another interesting question. I was mentally prepared to return the same route I had come, just in case. The ascent on the eastern side had not actually been a comfortable route, and I was hoping to find another, better way. But the first view down from the eastern side of Yggdrasilkampen was not exactly encouraging: nothing but steep, high rock cliffs. No way to get down there! So I went on to the south and finally I found a slope that I could use. Still pretty steep, with endless fields of loose stones, but it worked. And I was indeed quite happy not to walk the whole way back. But I have to admit that it is not a great way for everyday use.

After a long descent, I finally got to a Russian hut at a little lake in Mimerdalen. Perfect to rest again for a little while and to eat the last biscuits before taking the last few kilometres back to Pyramiden. It amounted to almost 20 kilometres in total. I have to admit that I could have done without that annoying cold. But it was the perfect day for this kind of hike, and the opportunity was just too good to be missed!

Billefjord – 05th September 2017

The last blog entry was from Billefjord a few weeks ago, and now I start again in Billefjord. After all, it is one of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful fjords!

The idea was to spend a couple of days in Pyramiden. Not just the usual 2 hours, which leave you with 8 minutes here and 12 minutes there. There are those who say that you will not find the essence of Spitsbergen’s beauty in a deserted Russian coal mining settlement, and yes, there is something about that. Pyramiden is something different. What you find there is the slightly bizarre fascination of … well … a deserted Russian coal mining settlement in the Arctic. And that is more than enough for a couple of days

So we moved there with a few little things that we needed for some days. A fresh pair of socks, some chocolate, some camera gear. After all, we wanted to have some fun. The trip to Pyramiden went quickly, thanks to the weather, the scenery and the traditional procedures on board. Something with whisky and glacier ice.

Pyramiden gave us a very friendly welcome, starting from a weather perspective. First impressions in stunning evening light, as it comes on a fine September evening. Something July simply cannot provide in these latitudes! It is great to find new perspectives on well-known impressions and to find new details. You will always find something new in Pyramiden, it is just a matter of keeping one’s eyes open.

Gallery – Billefjord – 05th September 2017

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

By the way, you may almost come to Pyramiden for a wellness holiday these days! They have done a lot to make the hotel a pleasant place to be. The „Sovjet style“ rooms have kept the atmosphere of the old days, but it is nice to stay there. And the stuff that comes out from the kitchen … not bad, not bad at all!

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