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Yearly Archives: 2017 − News & Stories


Raud­fjord-Gråhu­ken – 01st August 2017

Raud­fjord is one of Spitsbergen’s most beau­tiful fjords, and we enjoy­ed the stun­ning sce­n­ery during a litt­le moun­tain hike. The wea­ther remain­ed good and the sea calm, so we could later make a visit to Chris­tia­ne Ritter’s famous hut at Gråhu­ken and a love­ly evening walk on the north coast of Spits­ber­gen.

Gal­lery – Raud­fjord-Gråhu­ken – 01st August 2017

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

Dei Sju Isfjel­la – 31st July 2017

The­re is not­hing you could call wind and wea­ther here at the time being, fjord and sea are calm as a litt­le lake. So we could anchor clo­se to Kapp Mitra in outer Kross­fjord, clo­se to the open west coast. The famous polar bear hun­ter Hen­ry Rudi built a hut here in 1910 which was later also used by sci­en­tists. Lots of sto­ries in this love­ly land­scape, which has almost a medi­ter­ra­ne­an appearance, with its gre­at bea­ches and litt­le rocky capes. You might have thought we had taken a wrong turn last night if it had not been for the wal­rus skull on the beach …

Gal­lery – Dei Sju Isfjel­la – 31st July 2017

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

The pas­sa­ge fur­ther north along the outer coast is often a rough ride. But today, „the seven ice­bergs“ (Dei Sju Isfjel­la) is a love­ly trip under blue sun and a sea so calm that we take the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit a bird cliff or two and we even make a landing in one of the few places the­re the ter­rain gives us the chan­ce on this other­wi­se rather hosti­le coast­li­ne.

Kongsfjord – 30th July 2017

We want to take things as they come, and that is real­ly the way to do it. It couldn’t be any bet­ter. It remains calm in nor­t­hern For­lands­und, so we make a litt­le mor­ning walk on Prins Karls For­land, enjoy­ing some gre­at views on the wild moun­tain and gla­cier sce­n­ery from a morai­ne ridge.

Later, we make a stop in Ny-Åle­sund, for some sight­see­ing, shop­ping and to fill up the die­sel tanks. Now we are rea­dy for wha­te­ver is wai­ting for us!

Gal­lery – Kongsfjord – 30th July 2017

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

The day is not yet old enough to call it a day, so we make ano­ther landing, the third one today, to climb up to a bird cliff in Kongsfjord. Admit­ted­ly, it is a bit hard after din­ner to climb up, but it is all worth it, as we have seve­ral hundred Brünich’s guil­l­emots and kit­ty­wa­kes clo­se to us in the end. Not to men­ti­on the polar fox fami­ly who are enjoy­ing their good sum­mer life just in front of us!

For­lands­und – 30th July 2017

The wea­ther could not have been bet­ter as we stea­m­ed into For­lands­und. And while we were fol­lo­wing the coast­li­ne, kee­ping a look out for a place for a poten­ti­al after­noon walk, we saw a polar bear wal­king over the tun­dra bet­ween some reinde­er! The first polar bear sight­ing of this trip, alre­a­dy on the second day! It was actual­ly not a very foto­ge­nic polar bear, quite distant and most­ly hiding behind a beach ridge, but ful­ly and cle­ar­ly visi­ble for ever­y­bo­dy for some love­ly moments. Good stuff!

Gal­lery – For­lands­und – 30th July 2017

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

And while we were alre­a­dy at it regar­ding the big ani­mals, we visi­ted a litt­le group of wal­rus­ses in the evening. What a day! The hike across Erd­mann­flya (see pre­vious blog), that was also today …

Erd­mann­flya – 29th July 2017

We had spent a some­what late, but beau­tiful­ly calm night in Bore­buk­ta, whe­re we star­ted a hike across Erd­mann­flya in the mor­ning. Low-lying, wide tun­dra, whe­re reinde­er are gra­zing. A beau­tiful, peaceful land! It is hard to descri­be the impres­si­ons with words. How do you descri­be wide-open spaces and tim­e­l­ess beau­ty?

Gal­lery – Erd­mann­flya – 29th July 2017

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

After a cou­ple of hours, we rea­ched Ymer­buk­ta, whe­re Hein­rich was alre­a­dy wai­ting for us with Arc­ti­ca II. The remains of yesterday’s din­ner were very popu­lar upon arri­val!

Now we are lea­ving Isfjord and we are eager to see what the next days will bring.

Bohem­an­flya – 28th July 2017

Today is the day to start the next tour, „advan­ced Spits­ber­gen“ with Arc­ti­ca II. Ano­ther high­light of the ongo­ing arc­tic sum­mer sea­son!

The sun is smi­ling as we gather on bord, skip­per Hein­rich, my col­le­ague Timon and 9 bra­ve tra­vel­lers. We have got 18 exci­ting days ahead of us to explo­re Spits­ber­gen tog­e­ther.

The water is flat as a mir­ror as we move out into Isfjord, so we do not want to miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a landing at Bohe­man­nes­et. This wide, flat pen­in­su­la is so expo­sed in the midd­le of Isfjord, sur­roun­ded by shal­low waters, that it takes some luck with the wea­ther to get here. And of cour­se we do take the oppor­tu­ni­ty as we have it today! So we make our first landing just about 2 hours after depar­tu­re from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and it turns out to be quite a long excur­si­on of seve­ral hours. It is as if natu­re had crea­ted a bota­ni­cal gar­den here, a the­me park „flo­ra of the tun­dra“. So many spe­ci­es, inclu­ding some unu­su­al ones. What a colourful abun­dance!

We walk to the huts of Rijps­burg, whe­re the time of com­mer­cial coal mining in Spits­ber­gen was star­ted in 1899. Some years later, Hjal­mar Johan­sen win­tered here, Fri­dt­jof Nansen’s famous com­ra­de and slee­ping bag mate from the Fram expe­di­ti­on, tog­e­ther with the Ger­man jour­na­list Theo­dor Ler­ner. Hil­mar Nøis, who beca­me a local legend as a trap­per, fol­lo­wed in later years. So gre­at to be here, whe­re all this hap­pen­ed – I have told some of tho­se stores in my new book about arc­tic christ­mas sto­ries, which I sent to the prin­ter today! How gre­at is that? How appro­pria­te to get to the sce­ne of the­se adven­tures a cou­ple of hours later?

Gal­lery – Bohem­an­flya – 28th July 2017

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en – mid July 2017

Bet­ween the trip with Anti­gua and the upco­ming one with Arc­ti­ca II, I have got a cou­ple of days to get some wri­ting done. Soon, the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018 and my new book about „Arc­tic christ­mas sto­ries“ will be rea­dy to print!

Of cour­se, the­re is still time for a litt­le tour every now and then. You don’t always have to go far to see a lot. To be pre­cise, I don’t even have to lea­ve the sofa (but I still do, occa­sio­nal­ly) to see arc­tic sku­as and Bar­na­cle geese on the tun­dra. The chicks of both are also around. The­re are at least two leu­ci­stic (most­ly white) Bar­na­cle geese around, an adult and a chick.

If you are a com­mon eider, then this is a dan­ge­rous area to be. The arc­tic sku­as feed on eider duck eggs, and their con­tents were cer­tain­ly almost rea­dy for hat­ching by now, just to be torn to pie­ces by fero­cious birds, who resem­ble T-rex’s during that pro­cess, just a bit smal­ler. Well, also the arc­tic sku­as and their chicks need to feedn on some­thing, but not being a com­mon eider is a good thing.

A bit fur­ther into Advent­da­len, the­re is a red-throa­ted diver with chicks on the nest. I have never befo­re taken a fami­ly foto of a red-throa­ted diver! And in this gre­at light!

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­by­en – mid July 2017

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

The­re are flowers ever­y­whe­re now in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The Sval­bard but­ter­cup, quite rare in the past, is spre­a­ding now in some places in town; it is actual­ly quit abun­dant now in some loca­ti­ons. And the famous cot­ton grass is rea­dy again for its role as a popu­lar, post­card-pro­of pho­to object.

Polar row: In a row­boat to Spits­ber­gen

If you want to tra­vel to Spits­ber­gen in an envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly way, per­haps you should join the­se five men: the Nor­we­gi­an Tor Wigum, the Welsh­man Jeff Wil­lis, the Ame­ri­can Car­lo Fac­chi­no, the Indi­an Roy Tat­ha­ga­ta and the Ice­lan­dic Fiann Paul want to row from Trom­sø to Spits­ber­gen today!

Fiann Paul is the lea­der of this expe­di­ti­on named “Polar Row”. The­re is no doubt about his qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on. He has alre­a­dy crossed the Atlan­tic Oce­an, the Paci­fic Oce­an and the Indi­an Oce­an in record time in a rowing boat. Fiann Paul has pre­pared the expe­di­ti­on for one year. Sin­ce the oars­men can not expect any help from sea curr­ents, they will have to row con­ti­nuous­ly 24 hours a day. In doing so, the team chan­ges with the tasks: Some will row for two hours. During this time, the others may eat, sleep or inspect the boats or their own inju­ries.

It is plan­ned to tra­vel the almost 1000 kilo­me­ters long rou­te in 9 to 13 days. The expe­di­ti­on will arri­ve in Lon­gye­ar­by­en at the latest in the begin­ning of August.

Ple­nty of equip­ment and strong ner­ves

Expe­di­ti­on lea­der Fiann Paul doesn’t worry too much about the phy­si­cal effort or the cold. All par­ti­ci­pan­ts are phy­si­cal­ly and men­tal­ly very strong, he told the news­pa­per Sval­bard­pos­ten. An accom­pany­ing boat is not included, but safe­ty equip­ment such as sur­vi­val suits, res­cue ves­ts, a res­cue boat and a satel­li­te pho­ne. Only if the equip­ment fails or the­re are pro­blems with the boat, it could be dif­fi­cult.

If the expe­di­ti­on suc­ceeds, it should be the first regis­tered rowing tour of this kind. Howe­ver, the­re are sto­ries of peo­p­le who have tra­ve­led the rou­te bet­ween Trom­sø and Spits­ber­gen (or a part of it) in a rowing boat due to a ship­w­reck.

The Barents Sea, also cal­led the devil’s dance flo­or, on a sai­ling ship – that is one thing. It is ano­ther thing on a rowing boat.

Barents Sea

Rowing for a good cau­se

The expe­di­ti­on also pur­sues two fur­ther goals: the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge will inves­ti­ga­te how the extre­me tour affects the par­ti­ci­pan­ts psy­che. In addi­ti­on, 20,000 Bri­tish pounds (around € 22,600) are to be coll­ec­ted via a crowd­fun­ding plat­form. With this money a school will be built in the Hima­la­yan regi­on in 2018.

And Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not yet the end of the expe­di­ti­on. After a few days break, they will con­ti­nue to the nor­t­hern­most city of Ice­land Sig­luf­jörður – about 2000 km, also in the rowing boat.

To the expe­di­ti­ons home­page.

Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Polar­row-Home­page

Sval­bard reinde­er is doing well

The Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te coun­ted 1374 Sval­bard reinde­er in the Advent­da­len around Lon­gye­ar­by­en this year. Many cal­ves were obser­ved and only a few dead reinde­er found. This is a trend that has been obser­ved for years: The reinde­er popu­la­ti­on has been gro­wing slight­ly in this regi­on for years.

Well-fed Sval­bard reinde­er, an ende­mic sub­spe­ci­es of the reinde­er

Svalbard reindeer

The reinde­er have been coun­ted sin­ce 1979 on Spits­ber­gen by the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and the Sys­sel­man­nen – the Gover­nor of Spits­ber­gen. At that time only 457 reinde­er were coun­ted in Advent­da­len. It is esti­ma­ted that a total of 10.000 to 11.000 reinde­er live on Spits­ber­gen.

Cli­ma­te chan­ge has variu­os effects

Up to now, it has been assu­med that reinde­er suf­fer from the incre­asing rain. In win­ter, the rain forms a lay­er of ice on the ground and the reinde­er have more dif­fi­cul­ties approa­ching the lichens and gras­ses. Hig­her tem­pe­ra­tures in the autumn seem to com­pen­sa­te for the dete­rio­ra­ti­on in the living con­di­ti­ons for reinde­er. Last year, high tem­pe­ra­tures in Octo­ber and Novem­ber made it pos­si­ble for the reinde­er to build fat reser­ves so they could sur­vi­ve the cold win­ter.

The situa­ti­on is a bit dif­fe­rent for reinde­er north of Spits­ber­gen: on the Brøg­ger­hal­vøya peninsula/ Kongsfjor­den, the stock remains sta­ble. Here, the fjords have remain­ed free of ice in recent years, so that the Reinde­er can hard­ly migra­te to avo­id bad fee­ding con­di­ti­ons.
Glo­bal warm­ing could the­r­e­fo­re have dif­fe­rent effects in the dif­fe­rent cli­ma­te zones on Spits­ber­gen.

Less dead reinde­er in the Advent­da­len could mean bad news for ano­ther spe­ci­es: The polar fox feeds from reinde­er car­cas­ses. Less dead reinde­er means, he must switch to other food sources.

Some­ti­mes curious: Sval­bard reinde­er

Svalbard reindeer

More artic­les about the Sval­bard reinde­er

Source: Nord­lys, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Isfjord – 12th July 2017

The last day of this gre­at, beau­tiful voya­ge. We woke up along­side in Pyra­mi­den, the Rus­si­an ghost-town. A strong and fasci­na­ting con­trast after so much natu­re during the last days, and of cour­se we can not igno­re all the histo­ry that came with the 20th cen­tu­ry, the Spits­ber­gen-trea­ty and so on.

As a rela­tively recent deve­lo­p­ment, the school buil­ding is open for us. Ama­zing impres­si­ons! Alex and I are loo­king for­ward to a more exten­si­ve visit to Pyra­mi­den in Sep­tem­ber.

But the last expe­ri­ence during this trip should again be in the arc­tic natu­re and not in bizar­re remains of mining and poli­ti­cal histo­ry. It cle­ared up a bit, and we great­ly enjoy­ed a long, quiet landing in Skans­buk­ta, inclu­ding many love­ly flowers. Among­st them was a nor­t­hern Jacob’s lad­der (?) (Pole­mo­ni­um borea­le?) with white flowers – have you seen or heard of that befo­re?

Gal­lery – Isfjord – 12th July 2017

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

Some hours later, we went along­side in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, after 1313 nau­ti­cal miles, inclu­ding about 24 landings (inclu­ding an ice floe) and all tho­se wha­les, polar bears, sai­ling … big thanks and warm regards to all invol­ved! It was gre­at!

For­lands­und-Isfjord – 12th July 2017

The best days are often tho­se ones whe­re you don’t fol­low plans, but things just hap­pen. One more good reason just to fol­low the wind some­ti­mes!

To begin with, we were a bit late, as we had spent quite a bit of time last night with the bird cliff and the blue fox in Kross­fjord. So we were not in Isfjord when we woke up, but still in For­lands­und. Which was not bad, it is a beau­tiful area, and we set cour­se for a landing site after break­fast, ente­ring a love­ly, litt­le natu­ral har­bour with the Zodiacs. We enjoy­ed the beau­ties of the west coast tun­dra for a while, the colourful flowers, the wide-open tun­dra, views from litt­le hills, the rug­ged coast­li­ne, until we spot­ted a polar bear in the distance. It tur­ned out to be a mother bear with two cubs!

Gal­lery – For­lands­und-Isfjord – 12th July 2017

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

We moved out, but later we mana­ged to get some stun­ning views of the polar bear fami­ly from the Zodiacs. The three were fee­ding from the car­cass of a wal­rus. An unfor­gettable moment and an unex­pec­ted high­light of this voya­ge, which is slow­ly coming towards its end! It was – still is – a gre­at trip, some­thing that we cele­bra­ted in the evening, after ano­ther, litt­le landing on Erd­mann­flya, wit­hout polar bears this time, with our tra­di­tio­nal Captain’s Din­ner. Che­ers!

Kross­fjord – 11th July 2017

It was a long night yes­ter­day, on the way out of Wood­fjord with all that ice and stun­ning evening light. And a long way to Kross­fjord. So we could enjoy a rela­xed mor­ning today, and I think ever­y­bo­dy quite lik­ed that after the inten­se days that we had had.

Mid-day, we ente­red Kross­fjord and bit later, we went ashore in Sig­ne­ham­na. Lichens and mos­ses, frost-pat­ter­ned ground and frost-shat­te­red shale. Remains of an old Ger­man war wea­ther sta­ti­on from the mad days of the second world war.

We made a hike to a moun­tain ridge with a gre­at view to the west coast and a walk along the lake Haje­ren. The lake was in a remar­kab­le sta­te of tha­wing: the win­ter ice con­sis­ted of need­le-shaped crys­tals, but the ice cover had lar­ge­ly dis­in­te­gra­ted and fal­len apart to release tho­se crys­tals or to form smal­ler blocks of such crys­tals. Which fit per­fect­ly tog­e­ther, so it was impos­si­ble to pull them apart, you could only slide them along­side each other, like a three-dimen­sio­nal puz­zle. And the sound that was crea­ted with the­se ice crys­tals by the wind was even more uni­que!

Gal­lery – Kross­fjord – 11th July 2017

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

Even more than the blue fox that we saw later in the evening on the top of a sea­bird colo­ny.

Lief­defjord – 10th July 2017

It was one of the­se magi­cal arc­tic nights. Unfor­gettable. Drift ice glit­te­ring under the mid­night sun, warm colours, rug­ged moun­ta­ins ever­y­whe­re around the fjords.

We woke up in Lief­defjord to be gree­ted by per­fect mir­ror images on the water and ven­tu­red on a long, love­ly hike to enjoy grand vis­tas of the who­le area, from Reins­dyr­flya to Mona­co­b­reen all in one gre­at pan­ora­ma.

Gal­lery – Lief­defjord – 10th July 2017

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

Later, we had a good look at Mona­co­b­reen from a clo­ser distance, befo­re we crui­sed through the drift ice in Wood­fjord again. We went clo­ser to the shore near Gråhu­ken to see Chris­tia­ne Ritter’s hut („A woman in the polar night“), whe­re we also fished a huge bit of gar­ba­ge out of the water. A flo­ta­ti­on device from a buoy which bro­ke lose some­whe­re. Good to get it out of natu­re.

80 degrees north – 09th July 2017

Who would have thought a week ago that we would make it up to 80 degrees north? Back then, we were still some­whe­re in the far sou­the­ast, facing a long pas­sa­ge around the south cape. And now, we are sud­den­ly on the north coast 🙂

Even on 80 degrees north. Mof­fen is not far. It is not allo­wed to make landings the­re until mid Sep­tem­ber. Con­di­ti­ons would be per­fect today. Flat-calm waters, open drift ice. We cele­bra­ted the 80th par­al­lel duly and enjoy­ed the magic of the ice. We just escaped a win­tering on an ice floe 😉

We made good use of the calm con­di­ti­ons on the north coast by making a rela­tively rare landing at Vel­komst­pyn­ten, on the north coast of Reins­dyr­flya. A nice hike over the tun­dra took us to Vel­komst­var­den, just 95 met­res high, but that is hig­her than any­thing near­by, hence pro­vi­ding an ama­zing view over Reins­dyr­flya, Wood­fjord and Lief­defjord.

Gal­lery – 80 degrees north – 09th July 2017

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

After our landing, the­re was a lot less pla­s­tic on the beach east of Vel­komst­var­den. Enough to fill seve­ral lar­ge bags. Good thing! So the gre­at polar BBQ that Sascha, Jana & Co had pre­pared for us on deck was well deser­ved and great­ly enjoy­ed, while Anti­gua was making her way south through the drift ice, deeper into Wood­fjord.

Smee­ren­burg­fjord – 08th July 2017

Today was our day. We have been tra­ve­ling for a while now and we have been to a lot of good places, and it is almost a bit stran­ge that we have not yet seen any polar bears. I want to empha­si­ze again that we do not run a polar bear safa­ri here, but of cour­se a sight­ing would make ever­y­bo­dy hap­py, no doubt about that. The wea­ther: polar bear like. Not bad, not unp­lea­sant, but arc­tic.

Admit­ted­ly, it is not a secret any­mo­re that the car­cass of a wha­le has been washed ashore in Smee­ren­burg­fjord. So it was not only coin­ci­dence that we had a very good look around here. And inde­ed, the­re it was. And we were at the right time at the right place! A fema­le bear with a first-year cub went down to the wha­le for a hear­ty break­fast. We were clo­se enough with Anti­gua to watch it per­fect­ly well and far enough to lea­ve them undis­tur­bed. Per­fect! Ano­ther bear was also around, we saw it brief­ly befo­re it dis­ap­peared again behind some rocks.

And yet ano­ther bear sight­ing later. Cap­tain Joa­chim ancho­red the Anti­gua in a per­fect posi­ti­on to give us a gre­at vie­w­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty. This bear was not exact­ly super-acti­ve, but it stret­ched like a cat. Sweet!

Gal­lery – Smee­ren­burg­fjord – 08th July 2017

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

A visit to Vir­go­ham­na, the arc­tic Cape Cana­ve­ral, roun­ded the day nice­ly off.

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