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Yearly Archives: 2017 − Travelblog

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Lady Franklinfjord – 03rd August 2017

The day was very promising already from a geographical viewpoint, even if it had not been for anything else. Who has been in Lady Franklinfjord? Exactly. And we want to go to places where not everybody else is going. Lady Franklinfjord is pretty high on this hitlist.

Just have a look at the sea chart. No surprise that larger ships don’t come in here. It brings a lot of fun and a bit of adrenaline to sail through the shallow waters of Lady Franklinfjord, south of Lågøya.

This little island in Lady Franklinfjord was not supposed to be much more than the site for a little morning walk. It turned out to be another little adrenaline kick, as suddenly we saw a polar bear walking around not too far away. We moved away without much drama and back on Arctica II, we got some nice views of the beautiful animal.

We had some stunning views of the grand scenery in inner Lady Franklinfjord from a little hill, viewing over the barren coastal landscape to the north and the majestic glaciers (Franklinbreane) to the south and east. In contrast to most of Svalbard’s glaciers, they have even advanced a little bit in recent years. Later, we had a good look at the glacier fronts and some of the many icebergs as we were cruising through that magnificient bit of scenery with Arctica II. Amazing how Heinrich maneouvres his boat in these icy waters! The scenery is indeed of Greenlandic quality, and that means something.

Gallery – Lady Franklinfjord – 03rd August 2017

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We made a nice evening walk in Jäderinfjord, a side bay of Lady Franklinfjord and another rather remote place. Fog was moving in a bit, but given we had seen the whole scenery in splendid weather during the day, we just enjoyed the atmosphere and the light.

What a day!

Mosselbukta-Sorgfjord – 02nd August 2017

It is great how Heinrich is maneouvring Arctica II to hidden anchoring positions in shallow, uncharted bays. That brings us sheltered anchorages and landing opportunities where things are otherwise getting more challenging. This night, it was a beautifully calm anchor site in innermost Mosselbukta. And a lovely morning walk at Nordenskiöld’s old expedition base Polhem from 1872-73.

Gallery – Mosselbukta-Sorgfjord – 02nd August 2017

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We spend the afternoon doing a mountain hike in Sorgfjord. Stunning views over wide-open arctic landscapes under a blue sky!

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

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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

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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

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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!

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