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Yearly Archives: 2017 − Travelblog


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!

Bil­lefjord – 14th August 2017

On the last day of such a long, inten­se trip, it is allo­wed to be a litt­le bit wistful. 18 days are still too short!

The­re was a choice in the mor­ning, a tour through the sett­le­ment of Pyra­mi­den or a hike on the moun­tain Pyra­mi­den. Most went for the old Rus­si­an mining sett­le­ment.

Then it was time for our final landing. We went to Skans­buk­ta, a clas­sic for good reasons. We enjoy­ed it.

The­re was some suc­cessful fishing befo­re we came back to Advent­fjord, so we had some fresh fish to enjoy for later. Then, we were soon along­side in the har­bour in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Same place as 18 days ago, but still ever­y­thing is dif­fe­rent. It is a big dif­fe­rence if you have such a big voya­ge ahead of you or behind you.

Gal­lery – Bil­lefjord – 14th August 2017

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

We enjoy­ed a lot of beau­tiful, inten­se days tog­e­ther, most­ly with a lot of wea­ther luck, we had the wild­life, the who­le lot … thanks to all of you who were the­re, it was gre­at!

Barents­burg & Grønfjord­fjel­let – 13th August 2017

The pas­sa­ge last night up to Isfjord was almost sur­pri­sin­gly calm. It was defi­ni­te­ly a good idea to wait the wea­ther out in Fri­dt­jov­ham­na for a cou­ple of hours. Which is not a bad thing any­way, con­side­ring the sce­n­ery the­re.

In Barents­burg, we spent the mor­ning with some sight­see­ing and lear­ning about Spits­ber­gen 20th cen­tu­ry histo­ry and poli­tics. We also got used to the usu­al dan­gers of civi­li­sa­ti­on again, car traf­fic and things like that. So most of us deci­ded to spend the after­noon in the arc­tic natu­re again, doing a bit of a spor­ti­ve hike up the moun­ta­ins to gain a gre­at scenic view over Grønfjord.

Gal­lery – Barents­burg & Grønfjord­fjel­let – 13th August 2017

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

Recher­chefjord – 12th August 2017

As expec­ted, Recher­chefjord did not let us down. We got some late, but calm hours of sleep and a love­ly hike.
It is still very win­dy all over the place, and we wait it out during the evening, hoping for the wind to calm at least a litt­le bit down for our pas­sa­ge up to Isfjord.

Gal­lery – Recher­chefjord – 12th August 2017

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

Sør­kapp & Rak­sod­den – 11th August 2017

The south cape lived up to its bad repu­ta­ti­on, with wind force 7-8. At least it was coming from a useful direc­tion, pushing us under sails up to a good 11 knots. Not bad for this 40 ton steel mons­ter that they call a sai­ling boat.

We were all more than hap­py when we rea­ched a reason­ab­ly shel­te­red ancho­ra­ge south of Horn­sund. It was gre­at to stretch legs a litt­le bit in the wide-open west coast tun­dra. The most unfor­gettable part of this landing was pro­ba­b­ly Heinrich’s spe­cial maneou­vre when picking us up. It resul­ted in a wet skip­per, some­thing he and we will sur­vi­ve. But we do reg­ret the loss of the engi­ne. Well, only three more full days to go. We will make do wit­hout.

Gal­lery – Sør­kapp & Rak­sod­den – 11th August 2017

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

All we need now is a well-shel­te­red ancho­ra­ge and some hours of sleep. Horn­sund was not­hing but a wind fun­nel and fur­ther north, the sea was raging white. Well, we should reach a calm place in Recher­chefjord just after 5 a.m. …

Negri­b­reen & Free­man­sund – 10th August 2017

Negri­b­reen, the lar­gest gla­cier of the main island of Spits­ber­gen, was a bit fog­gy, but nevert­hel­ess very impres­si­ve. But the clear high­light of the day, if not of the trip, was defi­ni­te­ly the young polar bear that was che­wing on a rather rot­ten wal­rus in Free­man­sund. The­re are no words to descri­be that expe­ri­ence. None of us will for­get that, that’s for sure!

Gal­lery – Negri­b­reen & Free­man­sund – 10th August 2017

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

Eas­tern­most Spits­ber­gen – 09th August 2017

We had seve­ral polar bear sightin­gs on the way towards Heley­sund, but all of them distant in the ter­rain. The­re is a litt­le cliff coast south of Kapp Pay­er, Spitsbergen’s eas­tern­most point, which was not hel­pful in this case.

The curr­ents in Heley­sund tur­ned initi­al­ly out to be so strong that we deci­ded to make a litt­le walk in Buch­holz­buk­ta. Spitsbergen’s eas­tern­most land (I am obvious­ly tal­king about the main island here). With a ruin of an old trap­per hut, 4 wal­ru­ses, high arc­tic sce­n­ery, a litt­le river, the who­le lot.

Later, we found 2 polar bears on Barent­søya under a bird cliff. Well-fed and good in shape. This area has now been ice-free for a while. It is ama­zing that the­se polar bears that hang out near bird cliffs and don’t seem to feed on any­thing but vege­ta­ti­on and chicks and eggs that are in reach are so often in real­ly good shape.

Gal­lery – Eas­tern­most Spits­ber­gen – 09th August 2017

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

Orm­ho­let tur­ned out to be a peaceful place, con­side­ring the curr­ents, as we made ano­ther approach to tho­se pas­sa­ges in the later after­noon. So it was a silent scenic plea­su­re to sail through it. Just as this tiny litt­le island near Barent­søya whe­re we made an evening walk to round the day off. Com­ple­te­ly untouch­ed natu­re, whe­re few peo­p­le have ever set their foot on. Many arc­tic terns, but not too agres­si­ve as their brea­ding sea­son is lar­ge­ly finis­hed, but they are always exci­ted and make a lot of noi­se which suits the other­wi­se silent tun­dra well. Coar­se stones here, thick car­pets of tun­dra the­re. The lat­ter have deve­lo­ped through mil­le­nia of fer­ti­liza­ti­on by the birds. The sun is cas­ting a beau­tiful light on Spitsbergen’s gla­ciers in the back­ground, a pan­ora­ma that we enjoy in the late evening back on board Arc­ti­ca II.

Hin­lo­pen (2) – 08th August 2017

The anchor fell com­pa­ra­tively ear­ly last night, it was inde­ed still yes­ter­day and not alre­a­dy today, at Wahl­ber­gøya. That was a good thing, after all tho­se long days. So we could start the day today with a nice walk across Wahl­ber­gøya, the famous „two peaks hike“, which nobo­dy had done befo­re.

And of cour­se Wahl­ber­gøya does not „only“ have gre­at sce­n­ery …

Gal­lery – Hin­lo­pen (2) – 08th August 2017

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

Hin­lo­pen – 07th August 2017

Some low clouds and fog don’t keep us from hiking up a mythi­cal moun­tain in Lom­fjord, and as the fog cle­ars, the reward comes in shape of ama­zing views of the sur­roun­ding sce­n­ery. And a love­ly, long hike any­way. It is just gre­at to spend a lot of time out­side in this kind of natu­re!

Seve­ral hundred thousand Brünich’s guil­l­emots round the day off big style.

Gal­lery – Hin­lo­pen – 07th August 2017

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

Cherm­si­deøya-Lang­grun­nod­den – 06th August 2017

Ice and fog got den­ser and den­ser as we sai­led into Rijpfjord last night, so in the end we had to turn around. One poten­ti­al ancho­ra­ge after the other was blo­cked by ice, so we just had to con­ti­nue until we final­ly found a calm place at Cherm­si­deøya. That is the place with the famous geo­glyphs, whe­re ever­y­bo­dy put the name of their ship onto the ground with rocks: the Jäde­rin (Arc-de-Meri­di­an expe­di­ti­on, 1898), the Kras­sin (res­cued Nobi­le in 1928, the Ger­man sub­ma­ri­ne that brought the crew of the war wea­ther sta­ti­on out to Hau­de­gen in inner Rijpfjord in 1944.
We met some more ice with wild­life on the way to the west. No polar bears on ice, whe­re­ver they are.

Gal­lery – Cherm­si­deøya-Lang­grun­nod­den – 06th August 2017

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

We mana­ged to do ano­ther landing on Nord­aus­t­land, on Lang­grun­nod­den. Ano­ther place whe­re you don’t get every day now we are moving sou­thwards in Hin­lo­pen Strait. For the first time in this trip, we have got some noti­ceable wind and sea. Of cour­se, it is head­wind. Well, just for a cou­ple of hours.

Ros­søya – 05th August 2017

The fog came down during the night, and the world was grey when we awo­ke today. Good that we went ashore last night, when the light was so beau­tiful! And now let’s see if we can still make it a bit fur­ther north.

We could. Who would have thought that we would reach Ros­søya a few hours later? Svalbard’s nor­t­hern­most island, or rather a rock or a sker­ry. From the distance, it has the shape of a turtle’s back. Just to the south of it, Ves­le Taveløya is towe­ring in the fog, like a threa­tening shadow. It is home to Svalbard’s nor­t­hern­most sea­bird colo­ny, inclu­ding a sur­pri­sin­gly lar­ge num­ber of puf­fins.

Ros­søya is not more than a sker­ry, but it is Svalbard’s nor­t­hern­most bit of land and as such cer­tain­ly a signi­fi­cant place. It is inte­res­t­ing to see Ros­søya, but it is much bet­ter to go ashore and have a clo­se look – that is some­thing dif­fe­rent. But not exact­ly easy. Ice and fog were a bit mar­gi­nal, but the visi­bi­li­ty was good enough and Hein­rich ancho­red the Arc­ti­ca II so beau­tiful­ly clo­se to the island that were were well shel­te­red from drif­ting ice floes.

Timon and I che­cked out two rou­tes befo­re we found a useable ascent. Ros­søya is actual­ly pret­ty steep. But after a while, ever­y­bo­dy who was hap­py to ven­ture on this one had made it to the top of the island. High up on Svalbard’s nor­t­hern­most bit of land! Yeah! The­re is some lone­so­me scur­vy grass, a lot of lichens and three cairns. The big­gest one is pre­suk­ma­b­ly the nor­t­hern­most one built by the Rus­si­an-Swe­dish Arc-de-Meri­di­an expe­di­ti­on. And a pair of arc­tic sku­as. Svalbard’s nor­t­hern­most bree­ding birds are arc­tic sku­as, who would have thought that?

Gal­lery – Ros­søya – 05th August 2017

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

Back on board, the fog was coming down again and the ice was drif­ting in. So we made our nor­t­hern­most turn at 80°50’N and stea­m­ed sou­thwards, to Nord­aus­t­land.

Frank­lind­a­len-Phippsøya – 04th August 2017

The infi­ni­te spaces, the emp­ty­ness and lonely­ness of Nord­aus­t­land can be quite strong, espe­ci­al­ly if you expo­se yours­elf to it for a bit lon­ger. A good 9 kilo­me­t­res are not the world, but a good hike across the end­less stone desert. Silent lakes, the sad call of the red-throa­ted diver and gent­ly rol­ling, rocky hills.

Gal­lery – Frank­lind­a­len-Phippsøya – 04th August 2017

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

And then: let’s see how far to the north we may get. We got pret­ty far. The ice did try to stop us, but it had not expec­ted the capa­bi­li­ties of Arc­ti­ca II and Hein­rich Eggen­fell­ner to push through it. So we got as far as Phippsøya and of cour­se we made use of the beau­tiful evening light by a walk across the island, one of the nor­t­hern­most ones of the who­le Sval­bard archi­pe­la­go, to a view­point from whe­re we had a clear view all the way to the north pole.

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