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Yearly Archives: 2017 − News & Stories

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.

On the way to Jan May­en

Let’s go to Jan May­en! That is the mot­to of the day. After the trip to Bear Island and some days of warm­ing up in com­pa­ra­tively sou­thern lati­tu­des (“Elbe­da­len” ins­tead of Advent­da­len), I am now on the way to Ice­land to join SY Auro­ra for an exci­ting trip to the wild, vol­ca­nic island in the far north. Three days of sai­ling over the open oce­an from Ice­land, and then an exci­ting week on Jan May­en.

Keep your fin­gers crossed for good wea­ther! We take care of the rest.

Next desti­na­ti­on: Jan May­en

Jan Mayen

Old ammu­ni­ti­on found in polar bears bodies

An auto­psy reve­a­led shot­gun ammu­ni­ti­on in the fat tis­sue of the bodies of two polar bears. One, a fema­le with a cub, was shot in June 2016 in Aus­t­fj­ord­nes. Only two months later a Rus­si­an rese­ar­cher shot ano­ther fema­le polar bear in For­lan­det.

Polar­bear with cub

Polarbear with cub

The shot was encap­su­la­ted in the fat and fle­sh of the bears in both ani­mals, which means it must have hit them well befo­re they were kil­led in 2016. Ammu­ni­ti­on was found in seve­ral places of the bodies. Knut Fos­sum, envi­ron­men­tal direc­tor for the Sys­sel­man­nen (Gover­nor of Spits­ber­gen), pre­su­mes that the shots were fired from a rela­tively short distance. Pro­ba­b­ly someone wan­ted to sca­re away the polar bears with pel­lets, but hit them. Shot is unli­kely to hurt a polar bear serious­ly, but serious inju­ry may occur if, for exam­p­le, a joint or an eye is hit. Vete­ri­na­ri­ans refer to the case of a reinde­er that was kil­led with an air­gun. Addi­tio­nal­ly, even smal­ler inju­ries may lead to pain and inflamm­a­ti­on.

Polar bears are strict­ly pro­tec­ted on Spits­ber­gen, inju­ring them or kil­ling them will be punis­hed. Shoo­ting at a bear with shot­guns to sca­re it away is both unsui­ta­ble and ille­gal.

How long the polar bears alre­a­dy car­ri­ed the ammu­nii­on in their bodies and whe­ther they suf­fe­r­ed from pain, is not cer­tain.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Floo­ding of Glo­bal Seed Vault attracts inter­na­tio­nal media – eight month after!

Inter­na­tio­nal media repor­ted for seve­ral weeks about a lecka­ge in the Glo­bal Seed Vault, whe­re seeds of all count­ries are stored for thou­sands of years.

Glo­bal Seed Vault – Seeds for gene­ra­ti­ons?

Global Seed Vault

The floo­ding actual­ly hap­pen­ed – but alre­a­dy in Octo­ber 2016! An artic­le in the Nor­we­gi­an news­pa­per Dag­bla­det in May 2017 men­tio­ned the leaka­ge with cor­rect date. But on 19th May 2017 an inat­ten­ti­ve jour­na­list of “The Guar­di­an” made a cur­rent mes­sa­ge out of that artic­le. High tem­pe­ra­tures in com­bi­na­ti­on with weeks of rai­ny wea­ther were men­tio­ned, which final­ly led to a flood in the ent­rance area of the Glo­bal Seed Vault. Ever­y­thing cor­rect, just more than half a year ago.

A mes­sa­ge, but no news

Even the big media hou­ses Reu­ters and Vox jum­ped on the band­wagon, appar­ent­ly wit­hout che­cking the source. A pho­ne call to Hege Njaa Aschim would have been enough to cla­ri­fy the misun­derstan­ding. Aschim is press offi­cer of Stats­bygg, a sta­te-run com­pa­ny who mana­ges and main­ta­ins the Glo­bal Seed Vault. But after all, num­e­rous other news­pa­pers, radio and TV sta­ti­ons wan­ted to know more pre­cis­e­ly: Hundreds of press requests rea­ched Aschim in one week! She could cor­rect, that it was a real mes­sa­ge, but not real­ly news.

Decep­ti­ve secu­ri­ty?

The fact that the Glo­bal Seed Vault, which has actual­ly been con­s­truc­ted for eter­ni­ty, must alre­a­dy be repai­red after less than ten years, seems almost less important now. The actu­al camp, which now con­ta­ins near­ly one mil­li­on seed packets from 73 insti­tu­tes and gene banks, was not affec­ted by the water. Howe­ver, a trans­for­mer was des­troy­ed and the fire bri­ga­de had to pump the tun­nel, which leads 100 meters down to the actu­al camp.

Deep­ly locked in in the per­ma­frost, the Glo­bal Seed Vault was belie­ved to be safe from floo­ding. Now inves­ti­ga­ti­ons are to be made as to how the camp can be secu­red against warm peri­ods. 37 mil­li­on crowns (ca. 3,8 mil­li­on Euros) will be pro­vi­ded for that.

Source: Dagens Nærings­liv

Bil­lefjord – 1st May, 2017

In the mor­ning, the wind turns direct­ly into Skans­buk­ta, which does not hap­pen too often. But the eas­tern side of Bil­lefjord is per­fect­ly shel­te­red. And per­fect­ly sun­ny. A good oppor­tu­ni­ty for a final landing of this trip. Beach rid­ges and mari­ne ter­as­ses, drift­wood and the Bil­lefjor­den fault zone, we spend time with all of this as well as with the beau­tiful views and the silence.

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

We have not yet given up hope for a polar bear sight­ing. We are pret­ty sure that one or two polar bears will be around in the area. The­re is still ice in Adolf­buk­ta in front of Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen and in Petu­ni­abuk­ta, with ple­nty of seals. We keep wat­ching until the eyes start bur­ning. Not­hing in terms of polar bears. Well, you can’t have it all within a few days. A polar bear sight­ing would have been the icing on the cake, but this cake has been a gre­at one even wit­hout icing on it. It is a gre­at trip that is coming to an end now as we approach Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Isfjord – 31st May, 2017

The Rus­si­an beau­ty of Barents­burg was very evi­dent right next to our ship sin­ce last evening, and a visit the­re is always inte­res­t­ing, even though not ever­y­bo­dy falls instant­ly in love with the visu­al good qua­li­ties of the place. Even in suns­hi­ne! And we do not miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk, next to the local histo­ry, about the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty, hot and cold war, poli­tics and peo­p­le and wha­te­ver else.

In Ymer­buk­ta, the land is still com­ple­te­ly snow cover­ed. It is sun­ny and warm, but the visu­al impres­si­on is that of win­ter, white and pure. Same in Bore­buk­ta and Yol­dia­buk­ta. Whe­re­ver you look, it is beau­tiful.

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

Equal­ly beau­tiful is din­ner in the evening. Thanks a lot, Sascha, Jana, Chris­ti­na and Alex!

Eidem­buk­ta-Alk­hor­net – 30th May, 2017

We were yes­ter­day blown into Eidem­buk­ta, the best place to stay as things were. It was a nice pas­sa­ge under sails. And today? The day starts with bright suns­hi­ne. And almost no ripp­le on the water! Let’s go ashore!

Wide-open west coast tun­dra land, a lot of snow in the low­lands, some rocky hills. And reinde­er. And reinde­er. And, in case I have not yet men­tio­ned it, reinde­er. They were almost stal­king us.

Later in Isfjord, we were bles­sed with a very rare encoun­ter. A blue wha­le! The lar­gest ani­mal ever crea­ted by evo­lu­ti­on. Brought to the edge of exc­tinc­tion by man­kind. And one of a few thousand of them which are still around in the world’s oce­ans is now and here swim­ming around Anti­gua. How gre­at is that!

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

We are hap­py to spend some time with the big blue wha­le, making our after­noon landing a bit shorter. Still, it turns out to be a very fine tour at Alk­hor­net.

For­lands­und – 29th May, 2017

You need calm wea­ther for a landing on the coas­tal flats on the west coast. The wea­ther is calm during the mor­ning, so the rocky shal­lows near the coast are no pro­blem and we take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go ashore in one of the bays in For­lands­und, north of Isfjord. The wide-open coas­tal plains with their varied shore­li­ens and gent­ly rol­ling hills are among­st my abso­lu­te favou­ri­tes of Spitsbergen’s many dif­fe­rent land­scape types!

In the after­noon, the focus is not the beau­ty of the land­scape, but the beau­ty of the wild­life. „Beau­ty“ is, of cour­se, a rela­ti­ve term. A good encoun­ter with wal­rus­ses is one of the most ama­zing wild­life expe­ri­en­ces that you can have in the arc­tic!

Gal­lery – For­lands­und – 29th May, 2017

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

Horn­sund – 28th May, 2017

We are get­ting to Horn­sund in the late evening. A calm night at anchor near a gla­cier which is shi­ning in the sun – what a place, what a life! The­se are words by Wan­ny Wold­stad, who spent some years in Horn­sund in the 1930s. She must have known!

We have also got a good life here, not for seve­ral years, but for one day, at least. We start with a walk at Gnå­lod­den. Snow and ice, rocks and tun­dra, sea­birds on the cliff, views of gla­ciers and moun­ta­ins.

Gal­lery – Horn­sund – 28th May, 2017

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

Later, we see even more ice and more gla­ciers in inner­most Horn­sund. Now we are lea­ving the fjord, sil­ent­ly under sail, as they have done it here for cen­tu­ries.

Sør­kapp: ice – 27th May, 2017

We reach the open drift ice that is drif­ting south from Storfjor­den after a slight­ly bum­py, but fast pas­sa­ge alre­a­dy during the mor­nign. Back to the world of the ice! Ever­y­bo­dy is fasci­na­ted by the ice floes that are slow­ly drif­ting by.

And ever­y­bo­dy is even more fasci­na­ted by the attempt to go along­side a nice and solid ice floe with Anti­gua, but it does not work in the end – too much swell. But what do we have the Zodiacs for? Ever­y­bo­dy gets a chan­ce to step out onto the ice. The reac­tions vary from noi­sy enthu­si­asm and a lot of sel­fies to silent fasci­na­ti­on for the impres­si­ons and the sound of ice, water and air.

Gal­lery – Sør­kapp: ice – 27th May, 2017

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

Bear Island (II) – 26th May, 2017

After yet ano­ther, lon­gish Zodiac crui­se into the troll sce­n­ery king­dom at the sou­thern tip of Bear Island, it is nice to get a calm night’s sleep at anchor in Sør­ham­na. Fal­ling asleep with the sight of the cliffs and the sound of the sea­birds. And waking up again with exact­ly the same impres­si­ons.

Espe­ci­al­ly as the wea­ther is still nice. Ano­ther landing, this time in Kval­ross­buk­ta, turns out to be easy, just a litt­le bit of swell and surf on the beach. The­re was a wha­ling sta­ti­on from the peri­od of indus­tri­al wha­ling here more than a hundred years ago, one out of two from tho­se days in Spits­ber­gen. And it was here that the Ger­man jour­na­list Theo­dor Ler­ner star­ted to take parts of Bear Island into pos­ses­si­on in 1899. Fur­ther occu­pa­ti­ons fol­lo­wed, as well as bizar­re mee­tings with his Ger­man (!) com­pe­ti­tors who were the­re in order of emper­or Wil­helm II, and a Rus­si­an batt­le­ship (if you read Ger­man, then you can find all the­se sto­ries in my book „Die Bären­in­sel“).

Also a Ger­man wea­ther sta­ti­on from the war and an attempt to mine lead ore have left some scar­ce traces in the vici­ni­ty. Nevert­hel­ess, all in all the land­scape appears to be untouch­ed. Human influence is most­ly coming from far away. Envi­ron­men­tal toxins, the fishing indus­try and cli­ma­te chan­ge all have their influence on Bear Island, but traces of local human acti­vi­ty are very limi­t­ed and natu­re is clai­ming her ter­ri­to­ry back.

Gal­lery – Bear Island (II) – 26th May, 2017

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

Final­ly it is time to say good­bye to Bear Island, we are expec­ting nor­t­her­ly winds in the after­noon and no fur­ther landings. A luxu­ry to sit on deck and enjoy the view of cliffs and sea stacks pas­sing by. Final­ly we are drif­ting not far from the wea­ther sta­ti­on Bjørnøya Meteo and I say hel­lo over the radio. Turns out that we are invi­ted to visit! To my own sur­pri­se, they know my name here, thanks to my Bear Island book and even my hike around the island is not yet for­got­ten, alt­hough it is a cou­ple of years ago by now. Of cour­se we take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit the Nor­we­gi­ans on their wea­ther sta­ti­on. A fine finish to a fine visit to Bear Island. I am loo­king for­ward to the next time!

Bear Island – 25th May, 2017

Bear Island can be a tough place, as expo­sed as its rocky cliff coasts are lying in the midd­le of the wild nor­t­hern sea. But the nor­t­hern sea is not always wild, and it does have its advan­ta­ges to know some good places. It feels good to get solid Bear Island ground under the rub­ber boots again! To stand on top of the cliffs, wat­ching down on guil­l­emots, ful­mars and puf­fins. Fur­ther inland, most of the ground is still snow cover­ed, the soil lar­ge­ly fro­zen.

Gal­lery – Bear Island – 25th May, 2017

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

The wea­ther is on our side, and we make good use of that. It is a rare and gre­at oppor­tu­ni­ty to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te the who­le sou­thern tip of Bear Island in Zodiacs. Bird cliff after bird cliff, ten thou­sands of Brünich’s and com­mon guil­l­emots, kit­ty­wa­kes and ful­mars. Steep cliffs more than 400 met­res high, off­shore stacks, coas­tal caves and nar­row pas­sa­ges, one mira­cle of natu­re after the other, some of them being small, others quite lar­ge. All of them beau­tiful and impres­si­ve. The Nor­we­gi­ans have a good word to descri­be this kind of land­scape, they call it „trollsk“. A mys­tery land­scape, with hid­den tre­asu­res, with some kind of magic about it. I don’t know of a fit­ting Eng­lish word. Trollsk, that’s it, that descri­bes the sou­thern tip of Bear Island per­fect­ly well, with Glu­pen and Sylen, Stap­pen and Per­le­por­ten.

Barents Sea – 24th May, 2017

The day starts with a lively swell, which is decre­asing later tog­e­ther with the wind. Seve­ral groups of dol­phins appear tog­e­ther with one or the other wha­le, making time pas­sing by quick­ly. 250 miles from Fugløya on the edge of the Nor­we­gi­an main­land to Bear Island, and the expec­ta­ti­ons are rising!

Pho­to – Barents Sea – 24th May, 2017

Barents Sea - 24th May, 2017

The Hin­lo­pen gla­cier retre­ats

This is shown by satel­li­te images, that the Ame­ri­can Geo­phy­si­cal Uni­on has published. Bet­ween 1990 and 2016 the gla­cier has retrea­ted seven kilo­me­ters.

Hin­lo­pen­breen 1990 und 2016. Red arrow shows 1990 ter­mi­nus, yel­low arrow shows 2016 ter­mi­nus – Images: AGU, Land­sat

Landsat imagery of Hinlopenbreen

The Hin­lo­pen gla­cier in the north-east of Spits­ber­gen is a so-cal­led sur­ge-gla­cier. That means, that lon­ger peri­ods with nor­mal flow speed alter­na­te with shorter peri­ods, in which the gla­cier flows 10 to 1.000 times fas­ter. The last sur­ge hap­pen­ed from 1970-1971, when the gla­cier pushed 2.5 km into the fjord in one year. It moved up to 12 meters a day then.

The decrease in ice, that has now been obser­ved, has pro­ba­b­ly not­hing to do with the­se nor­mal fluc­tua­tions which are con­nec­ted to the glacier’s inter­nal mecha­nics. If a sur­ge-gla­cier retre­ats, the ice usual­ly accu­mu­la­tes in the accu­mu­la­ti­on area: it is thi­c­ke­ning. At the Hin­lo­pen gla­cier it was obser­ved, that the ice on the upper gla­cier is also thin­ning. This sug­gests that it is not the ear­ly stage of a sur­ge pro­cess, but cli­ma­te chan­ge that is respon­si­ble for the retre­at of the Hin­lo­pen gla­cier.

Other gla­ciers on Spits­ber­gen are also under­go­ing a simi­lar deve­lo­p­ment, such as the Pai­er­breen, Horn­breen, Bes­sel­breen and Svitjod­breen.

Source: AGU


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