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Yearly Archives: 2017 − Travelblog

Kongsfjord – 07th July 2017

We con­tin­ued into Kongsfjord – last night, as we went into the fjord, we made a litt­le evening landing at Kva­de­hu­ken. We had sai­led past it 1000 times (well, almost), but had never gone ashore. Inte­res­t­ing place! Not just becau­se of the remains of the geo­phy­si­cal obser­va­to­ry from the ear­ly 1920s, but it is also an inte­res­t­ing bit of land­scape.

We star­ted the next day in Ny-Åle­sund, with a gui­ded town walk, a shop­ping ses­si­on in the famous Kongsfjord­bu­tik­ken and the man­da­to­ry pil­grimage to the anchor mast of the 1926 and 1928 air­ship expe­di­ti­ons of Roald Amund­sen and Umber­to Nobi­le.

Later, we went to Blom­strand. Start­ing from Ny Lon­don, we went for a moun­tain hike to the top of the island, a coas­tal walk that went as far as to one of the caves and an excur­si­on dedi­ca­ted to the flo­ra.

Gal­lery – Kongsfjord – 07th July 2017

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

Final­ly, we spent a long evening near the gla­cier front of Blom­strand­breen, which was making a lot of inte­res­t­ing noi­ses.
Oh yes – not to for­get the blue wha­le short­ly befo­re lea­ving the fjord again 🙂

For­lands­und – 06th July 2017

Enjoy­ing life in For­lands­und! First during a visit to the Prins Karls For­land swim­ming club, which was rela­xing on the beach. Later while we were sai­ling and get­ting out into the small boat to enjoy the magni­fi­cent view of Anti­gua under full sails. Boat dri­ver Alwin and pas­sen­gers obvious­ly enjoy the trip.

Gal­lery – For­lands­und – 06th July 2017

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

Bell­sund – 05th July 2017

We made almost 260 miles in 36 hours, a lar­ge part of it under sails. From Barent­søya to Bell­sund. In Recher­chefjord, we made a love­ly litt­le moun­tain hike, enjoy­ing insi­de impres­si­ons from a real arc­tic cloud, and a walk over the tun­dra and along the beach to a gla­cier lagoon. Later in Van Keu­len­fjord, it was quite grey and win­dy, but with ple­nty of reinde­er on the tun­dra and grey phalar­opes on the beach.

Gal­lery – Bell­sund – 05th July 2017

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

Barent­søya – 03rd July 2017

To our own sur­pri­se, we sai­led around Barent­søya last night and ente­red Free­man­sund from the east. We spent a cold, but impres­si­ve mor­ning in a litt­le can­yon with a kit­ty­wa­ke colo­ny and a very rela­xed polar fox. Later, the wind blew us out of Free­man­sund, but we found a suf­fi­ci­ent­ly shel­te­red landing site on the wes­tern side of Barent­søya. A strong con­trast bet­ween the tun­dra that grew during thou­sands of years on basal­tic bed­rock and the moon­like morai­ne that was crea­ted by an advan­cing gla­cier exact­ly 100 years ago. Not enough time to crea­te a lot of vege­ta­ti­on bey­ond some flowers here and the­re.

Now we are under sail, with a plea­sant nor­the­as­ter­ly wind, hea­ding for the south cape and the west coast of Spits­ber­gen.

Gal­lery – Barent­søya – 03rd July 2017

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

Negri­b­reen-Heley­sund – 02nd July 2017

A see­mingly lar­ge part of Negri­b­reen, Spitsbergen’s lar­gest gla­cier, came towards us alre­a­dy in nor­t­hern Storfjord, in shape of an end­less, den­se stri­pe of ice­bergs. Many, many miles of ice­bergs, small and lar­ge ones, the who­le evening.

We spent sun­day mor­ning at Negri­b­reen, with Zodiacs and crui­sing with Anti­gua. A see­mingly end­less ice cliff, which is very acti­ve in parts. A sec­tion of the gla­cier front is so crev­as­sed that the gla­cier is actual­ly fal­len apart. The ice cliff is up to 70 met­res high! Mea­su­red with radar and sex­tant.

Gal­lery – Negri­b­reen-Heley­sund – 02nd July 2017

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

We con­ti­nue through Heley­sund, which is sur­pri­sin­gly open, hence no pro­blem. The cur­rent is impres­si­ve. Tog­e­ther with the stun­ning sce­n­ery, this makes for an ama­zing pas­sa­ge. It is so beau­tiful that we take it three times, through Heley­sund and both chan­nels of Orm­ho­let. So final­ly we end up on the eas­tern side and enjoy the open drift ice the­re in the evening.

Kval­vå­gen – 01st July 2017

We make good use of the calm wea­ther and con­ti­nue our series of unli­kely landings with a walk on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen. We explo­re fasci­na­ting coas­tal land­scapes with bizar­re rock for­ma­ti­ons of stron­gly wea­the­red sand­stone. Dino­saurs were wal­king around here a good 100 mil­li­on years ago when the sand­stone was still soft sand. Their tracks are still well visi­ble in a cou­ple of places. Today, a polar fox fami­ly is play­ing here, enjoy­ing a mild arc­tic sum­mer day.

We con­ti­nue under sails nor­thwards in Storfjord, awai­ting the next days’ events with gre­at curiou­si­ty.

Gal­lery – Kval­vå­gen – 01st July 2017

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

Sør­kapp Land – 30th June 2017

Spitsbergen’s south cape is always good for trou­ble. Even nicer to round it in calm con­di­ti­ons, against expec­ta­ti­ons. And to find the sea so calm next mor­ning that it brings the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to land at the south cape! A few miles east of the actu­al sou­thern­most point, Anti­gua is able to get clo­se enough to go ashore. It is still more than far enough from the shore. But a gre­at land­scape, high arc­tic tun­dra, with a rug­ged moun­tain in the back­ground. A rocky shore­li­ne with inte­res­t­ing struc­tures, old wha­le­bo­nes … ever­y­thing. And it is a rare­ly seen land­scape. How often is someone get­ting here?

Gal­lery – Sør­kapp Land – 30th June 2017

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

The wea­ther gets even more beau­tiful in the after­noon. We are bles­sed to see Isbuk­ta in its full scenic sple­ndor, under a bright sun and a blue sky. Unfor­gett­ab­ly beau­tiful!

Horn­sund – 29th June 2017

We reach Hyt­te­vi­ka north of Horn­sund after break­fast. A won­derful pie­ce of Spits­ber­gen! Very idyl­lic. Wan­ny Wold­sta­ds love­ly hut, green tun­dra, reinde­er, litt­le auks in gre­at num­bers, a rocky shore­li­ne with small hid­den bea­ches.

Later, we sail into Horn­sund – and I mean, we SAIL into Horn­sund. Beau­tiful. Ano­ther stun­ning part of Spits­ber­gen, which pres­ents its­elf to us lar­ge­ly under a blue sky and with bright suns­hi­ne.

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

Wahl­enberg­breen & Erd­mann­flya – 28th June 2017

We stay in Isfjord for the first day, in Yol­dia­buk­ta, to be more pre­cise. The gla­cier the­re, Wahl­enberg­breen, has made a strong advan­ce in the recent past, a so-cal­led sur­ge. And it turns out that Yol­dia­buk­ta is not com­ple­te­ly ice-fil­led this time, as it usual­ly is. So we are able to anchor not too far from the gla­cier for a while. Actual­ly, the ancho­ring posi­ti­on that we were initi­al­ly aiming for is now under the advan­cing gla­cier!

Gal­lery – 22nd Wahl­enberg­fjord & Erd­mann­flya – 28th June 2017

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

It tur­ned out that the gla­cier is easy to reach. The ice is com­ple­te­ly bro­ken and hea­vi­ly crev­as­sed. Very impres­si­ve!

In the after­noon, we make some first impres­si­ons in the tun­dra in Bore­buk­ta, on Erd­mann­flya.

Isfjord – 27th June 2017

We are sai­ling! 18 days Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua. The­re is still a lot of ice on the north coast, so we will pro­ba­b­ly not sail around Spits­ber­gen. But that does not mat­ter. See what hap­pens in a week or so, we have got ple­nty of time.

Gal­lery – Isfjord – 27th June 2017

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

So now we are sai­ling! We left Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the after­noon. And it was not long until we saw four Fin wha­les and even a Blue wha­le! Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Jan May­en – Kval­ross­buk­ta – 20th June 2017

Clouds have been han­ging low most of the time around Kval­ross­buk­ta recent­ly. It is clea­ring up a bit towards the after­noon, and the moun­tain Kval­ros­sen is invi­ting for a litt­le hike. The lar­ge coas­tal stack Bri­el­le­tår­net is sup­po­sed to be simi­lar to a tower in the Dutch town of Bri­el­le. I am not sure about that, but I know that Bri­el­le­tår­net is a stun­ning land­scape gad­get on the outer side of Kval­ros­sen. We climb and play around the­re for a while. I also do not want to miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a climb up Kval­ros­sen its­elf, with nice views and the chan­ce to see puf­fins and ful­mars on their nests.

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

Time has been fly­ing. We have to think about depar­tu­re tomor­row. This last day on the island is nice­ly roun­ded off in good atmo­sphe­re with a bon­fi­re on the beach.

Jan May­en – Elds­te Met­ten – Schmelck­da­len – 19th June 2017

I spend a day wat­ching the camp to make sure no tent is fly­ing away as the wea­ther has chan­ged a bit. This is not quite unneces­sa­ry, as it turns out. The­re is a chan­ce for a litt­le walk in Kval­ross­buk­ta while wind and rain are taking a break. Mean­while, the others make a visit to the sta­ti­on, whe­re they get a very fri­end­ly wel­co­me.

On the next day, the Bee­ren­berg-clim­bers start their long trip. Mat­thi­as, Wolf­gang and Magnus will mana­ge to climb up and back down again within 18 hours. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons! Well done! Inclu­ding the three of them, a good 60 peo­p­le have come over the years with SY Auro­ra to Jan May­en and clim­bed Bee­ren­berg. Sin­ce 2010 (new laws with a ban on landing and cam­ping near Bee­ren­berg), three groups have mana­ged to reach the top, the first of them in 2015. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the­re are more or less annu­al ascents by mem­bers of the Nor­we­gi­an sta­ti­on.

Mean­while, skip­per Vidar, who took care of the boat during the win­dy wea­ther yes­ter­day, and I have a chan­ce to say hel­lo on the sta­ti­on and to make some short, but fine walks, befo­re I ven­ture on a second, lon­ger trip. This time, I want to explo­re the area around Elds­te Met­ten, near Bee­ren­berg, but on the south side of Jan May­en (the shape and ori­en­ta­ti­on of the island can make the­se terms a bit con­fu­sing).

While the north side of Mid Jan and the area around the nor­t­hern lagoon, just a few kilo­me­t­res away from this area here, around Eggøya and Elds­te Met­ten, are hills and plains green of mos­ses and lichens, here it is very bar­ren. A lava desert, sand and rocks, like the high inte­riour of Ice­land. Almost not­hing is gro­wing here. The soil has fasci­na­ting, rough­ly cir­cu­lar, struc­tures and bizar­re sink­ho­les. The lat­ter are slight­ly spoo­ky, just deep holes that can open any­whe­re here, pro­ba­b­ly abo­ve col­lapsing lava caves.

I want to have a look at the rug­ged coast­li­ne, whe­re this bizar­re land­scape meets the sea. The hea­vy surf has crea­ted a wild coast­li­ne with many litt­le bays and capes, caves and rocks. Guil­l­emots and puf­fins are bree­ding in many places on small cliffs, and some glau­cous gulls have their homes on small ele­va­tions.

Only some scat­te­red remains are left of „Elds­te Met­ten“, the first wea­ther sta­ti­on on Jan May­en. The Nor­we­gi­ans had inde­ed cho­sen a hosti­le place! At least, they could get radio cont­act with Nor­way from the­re, and that was important. I take some time to look around. Wind and sand have car­ved fasci­na­ting sur­faces and struc­tures in glass and wood over almost a cen­tu­ry.

South of Elds­te Met­ten, the­re is Jame­son­buk­ta, a wide, black sand beach, whe­re the surf is always going high. On the way the­re, I hap­pen to find a litt­le memo­ri­al on a rock for the wha­ling cap­ta­ins Wil­liam Score­s­by, seni­or and juni­or. They did not only hunt wha­les, but they made a lot of sci­en­ti­fic obser­va­tions and dis­co­very during their jour­ney in the first half of the 19th cen­tu­ry. When he was on Jan May­en, Score­s­by juni­or found out that Eggøya was an island, hence the name („egg island“). Today, Eggøya is firm­ly con­nec­ted to the rest of Jan May­en.

The­re are still ruins of one or two loo­kout posts from the war on Eggøya, and soon, the­re is also a lot of wind. I eat quite a bit of dust while I make my way across the san­dy plain from Eggøya to Bee­ren­berg, get­ting away from that expo­sed and inhos­pi­ta­ble area befo­re the wind is get­ting even stron­ger.

My next desti­na­ti­on is Schmelck­da­len on the foot of Bee­ren­berg. Schmelck­da­len is actual­ly not a val­ley, but a lava flow that soli­di­fied when it rea­ched the lowest slo­pes. It comes out of a val­ley hig­her up, but that is hard to see now in the clouds. The­re are some lava caves sup­po­sed to be in that area, and I am quite curious about them. Lava caves are remains of lava flows whe­re the outer lay­er coo­led down and beca­me solid, while the inner part kept moving. If it all flew out, then a cave was the result. They can come in all shapes and sizes.

The­re are seve­ral of them in Schmelck­da­len. Some are very small, you have to bend down and watch out for rocks both around your head and your feet. Others are lar­ge enough to stand in them or even big­ger. The­re are fasci­na­ting struc­tures left by the flowing move­ment of the liquid lava ever­y­whe­re!

It is not easy to pho­to­graph this ali­en world pro­per­ly. Wind and fog do not make i easie eit­her. On top of it all comes the bizar­re fee­ling to be insi­de Bee­ren­berg! But this is not a place whe­re I would want to spend more time then neces­sa­ry. Ear­th­qua­kes are rare, but they may occur. The last stron­ger on was this spring. An ear­th­qua­ke would not be a gre­at thing while you are in a lava cave, or in any other cave, for that sake. It is a fasci­na­ting place, but I do not intend to beco­me a cave­man.

The fog is coming down to sea level now in the midd­le part of the island (Mid Jan), and this does not make the long way back to Kval­ross­buk­ta more inte­res­t­ing. The long and bor­ing road. It may be about 12-13 km from Schmelck­da­len to Kval­ross­buk­ta. My feet love it! It will take them a cou­ple of years to get rid of some smal­ler sou­ve­nirs from all the­se hikes. But the impres­si­ons and memo­ries will last much, much lon­ger, and they are worth every sin­gle step!

Gal­lery – Jan May­en – Elds­te Met­ten – Schmelck­da­len – 19th June 2017

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

Jan May­en – Nord­la­gu­ne – 16th June 2017

Ever­y­bo­dy wants to go out to explo­re the next day. The first hike takes us to the north, along the „road“ to the nor­t­hern lagoon. The­re is a num­ber of inte­res­t­ing places in that area. Ever­y­bo­dy is, to some degree, fol­lo­wing his own pace and inte­rest. The­re have not been any polar bears on Jan May­en for more than 25 years, so we can take a slight­ly more libe­ral approach than in high-arc­tic Spits­ber­gen.

One of the first places on my list is Maria Musch­buk­ta. This is whe­re the Aus­tri­ans built the­re sta­ti­on in 1882 for the First Inter­na­tio­nal Polar Year, this gre­at idea of Karl Wey­precht, who did not live long enough to see it being rea­li­zed, unfort­u­na­te­ly. Other­wi­se he would cer­tain­ly have been the lea­der of the Aus­tri­an sta­ti­on here. Nevert­hel­ess, they lived and work­ed altog­e­ther well here, the Aus­tri­ans. One sail­or from the ship died from tuber­cu­lo­sis during unloa­ding, his gra­ve is on a slo­pe behind the sta­ti­on. Ever­y­bo­dy else retur­ned home in good health the fol­lo­wing year.

The­re is, unfort­u­na­te­ly, not much left to be seen from the sta­ti­on. The buil­ding mate­ri­als have been used free­ly else­whe­re during the 20th cen­tu­ry. But you can still see whe­re it was, espe­ci­al­ly if you know the old pho­tos.

In con­trast to ear­lier visits, I have got ple­nty of time now and pret­ty good wea­ther and I enjoy the place and taking pho­tos.
The­re is a short val­ley, Wilc­z­ek­da­len, lea­ding from Maria Musch­buk­ta to Nord­la­gu­ne (the nor­t­hern lagoon). This val­ley plays a role in some nice sto­ries from the Aus­tri­an win­tering. It is just a few hundred met­res long, but it could take half a day in seve­re con­di­ti­ons to get water from the lagoon.

The nor­t­hern lagoon is sepa­ra­ted from the sea by a wide beach ridge. A nice pie­ce of natu­ral land­scape archi­tec­tu­re! The­re are still some remains of old huts on this beach ridge: remains of trap­pers’ huts and from various Nor­we­gi­an and Ame­ri­can sta­ti­ons that whe­re built in this area during the second world war.

A bit hig­her up, the­re is Gam­le Met­ten, nice­ly loca­ted on a moss-green pla­teau. The „old wea­ther sta­ti­on“ was built and used for some time after the war. For Jan May­en veterans, it stands for the best peri­od in the histo­ry of the island: the sta­ti­on was well built, quite com­for­ta­ble, and nice­ly loca­ted bet­ween the sea, the nor­t­hern lagoon and Bee­ren­berg. Storms could be extre­me, though: a simp­le memo­ri­al marks the place, just 35 met­res from the nea­rest house, whe­re sta­ti­on lea­der Aksel Liberg was blown by an extre­me gust during a hea­vy storm. He did not mana­ge to return against the wind. Just 35 met­res! They found him two days later, fro­zen solid.

Gal­lery – Jan May­en – Nord­la­gu­ne – 16th June 2017

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

Today, the wea­ther is far from extre­me. I can make good use of my time to enjoy the place and its sur­roun­dings, befo­re I start the long way back. In Jøs­sing­da­len, I see a Whooper’s swan, a rare dis­co­very on Jan May­en and some­thing I had real­ly not exepc­ted at all. Whooper’s swans live for exam­p­le in Ice­land. The­re are almost annu­al sightin­gs of non-bree­ding indi­vi­du­als here on Jan May­en, but they do not belong here and have to be con­side­red a local rari­ty. Let’s hope he makes it back to his fel­lows.

Jan May­en – Kval­ross­buk­ta – 15th June 2017

Natu­re has pla­ced a lot of open sea bet­ween Ice­land and Jan May­en. It is about 460 miles from Isaf­jör­dur to Kval­ross­buk­ta, and a sai­ling boat is not a race hor­se. Expect the crossing to take three days, and that is exact­ly what it was for us. Three days in a 60 foot boat on high sea are not everybody’s cup of tea. Peo­p­le can grow their sea legs or find out that they do not have any, and it does take some pati­ence, espe­ci­al­ly if you find out that rea­ding a book does not make you feel bet­ter while the boat is moving. Occa­sio­nal­ly, we see some dol­phins or a wha­le. The con­stant head­winds are not too strong, but still, they do not make the boat fas­ter or our life on board bet­ter.

Ever­y­bo­dy sur­faces again after three days, as Jan May­en appears from the clouds. Not more than a shadow to begin with, the shadows turn into slo­pes and cliffs, and final­ly we have Kval­ross­buk­ta ahead of us, the desti­na­ti­on of our dreams, or rather: whe­re our dreams are to start.

Peo­p­le and mate­ri­als are soon brought ashore and tents are put up – as men­tio­ned, solid archi­tec­tu­re is important, and quite a few lava rocks and drift­wood logs are moved to anchor the tents safe­ly.

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

It hap­pens that we are not alo­ne, at least for a cou­ple of hours: the sup­p­ly ship of the Nor­we­gi­an sta­ti­on is in the bay, the bow park­ed on the beach which is sur­pri­sin­gly calm. Pal­let after pal­let of sup­pli­es and mate­ri­als of all kinds are taken to the shore and trans­por­ted to the sta­ti­on, which is on the other side of the island. In the evening, the ship lea­ves and we are on our own in our litt­le base­camp.

Ice­land – Jan May­en – 12th June, 2017

After the recent trip to the arc­tic islands in the north Atlan­tic, Lofo­ten-Bear Island-Spits­ber­gen, now fol­lows ano­ther trip to an arc­tic island in the north Atlan­tic, name­ly Jan May­en, this wild, litt­le vol­ca­nic island nor­the­ast of Ice­land. Jan May­en has been a con­stant high­light of my arc­tic sum­mer for seve­ral years now: wild, beau­tyful, remo­te, with lots of places to dis­co­ver and end­less hiking. But it is also a tough and deman­ding place.

Accom­mo­da­ti­on is not on a com­for­ta­ble ship, but in a simp­le base­camp in tents on vol­ca­nic sand which is blown around by the wind. Tons of stones and drift­wood logs have to be moved to anchor the tents safe­ly in case of strong winds, which is not at all unu­su­al on Jan May­en.

I have made my litt­le, high-qua­li­ty Swe­dish tent extra storm-pro­of. Jan May­en in a tent can be pret­ty uncom­for­ta­ble; wit­hout a tent, it will not be bet­ter.

Gal­lery – Ice­land – Jan May­en – 12th June, 2017

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

The expe­di­ti­on to Jan May­en beg­ins with the trip to Isaf­jör­dur, the capi­tal of Icelands’s beau­tiful fjords in the nor­thwest. I use the suns­hi­ne and the remai­ning hours befo­re depar­tu­re for a litt­le hike in the sur­roun­dings befo­re ever­y­bo­dy is get­ting rea­dy on board SY Auro­ra.

It is nice to see fami­li­ar faces: Skip­per Vidar was the Aurora’s mate last year, and gla­cier­man Magnus „Mag­gi“ had also deci­ded that one ascent of Bee­ren­berg was not enough for him. Mate Sand­ri­ne makes the team com­ple­te. The who­le group comes from Ger­ma­ny this time, all six of them.


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