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Yearly Archives: 2017 − Travelblog

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Isfjord – 21st September 2017

This days comes as a contrast, showing us how it could have been much more often: grey and wet. We have been very lucky with many good days with great light!

The rather dark light and weather fits the desolate atmosphere of Barentsburg, where we spend the morning. The russian settlements have been part of Spitsbergen for the best part of a century!

Later, we try our luck finding orcas and polar bears that have recently been seen in Isfjord. No luck with the wildlife, so we make a short, quiet final landing not far from Kapp Wijk in Dickson Land, to say goodbye to the arctic tundra.

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

A few hours later, we are alongside in Longyearbyen, and a great trip comes to an end.

Krossfjord – 20th September 2017

Krossfjord is such a huge area with many side bays! As we do only have one day here, we have planned the day according to a rather strict schedule, just for the contrast, against our usual habits. We manage to have a look at the mighty Lilliehöökbreen and then to visit a German war weather station, all during the morning. The afternoon starts in a bay further east, with rugged alpine mountain scenery and a wild glacier that is cascading down over steep rockwalls. Later, we find a polar bear resting on the tundra. It seems to be quite tired, but it is sitting up occasionally, so everybody can get some good views. We spend some time with this observation, so we skip a final landing of this days. We rather enjoy the fantastic BBQ buffet that Sascha and his team have created for us, and the amazing evening light that the sun, which is already under the horizon at this time, paints on the clouds.

Later, we lift anchor and set course for Isfjord.

Gallery – Krossfjord – 20th September 2017

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

A morning full of worries, an afternoon full of joy – 19th September 2017

The morning started with a message that caused great concern. The Norwegian search and rescue service had received an emergency signal from a sailing boat that had came into trouble yesterday during the storm. Helicopters had searched the area already last night, a coastguard vessel was approaching. Nobody had heard anything from the sailing boat so far, so the worst had to be feared. All vessels in the area – not that it were that many – were asked to assist, and so we did without any hesitation. The coastguard asked us to search Fuglefjord and Holmiabukta, and so we did with feelings of fear.

Then came the information from the coastguard that the boat had been found »in good condition«, the SAR mission was over. No further information. All souls well! Very pleased to hear that!

We turn around and head for Raudfjord, where we spend a lovely hour in the late morning in Hamiltonbukta. In the afternoon, September shows what it can do on a good day. Deep sun over rugged mountains, warm light on reddish-brown rocks. An amazing afternoon!

Gallery – Raudfjord – 19th September 2017

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A lot of wind – 18th September 2017

According to the weather forecast, today should have been our day for a landing on Moffen. Little wind and hopefully calm seas. So we left Mushamna in the morning with high spirits and soon we set sails – this in itself should have made us suspicious, and actually, it did – and course for Moffen. Soon, the wind and sea picked up, and quickly it became clear that Moffen was not a place to be today. So we turned to the west, Raudfjord or so. Meanwhile, the wind had picked up, force 7 to 8, 9 in gusts, and the waves were quite impressive. Real sailing, which many enjoyed on deck, but it has to be said that not everybody enjoyed it.

Photo – A lot of wind – 18th September 2017

The sea was boiling white in Breibogen, no chance for a sheltered anchorage. We found shelter later in the afternoon in Svenskegattet. The wind continued to blow, with heavy gusts, so we enjoyed a relaxed day on board, with presentations and a film and of course the cinema outside, with the impressive display of nature’s powers.

Woodfjord – 17th September 2017

The day starts with quite a bit of wind as we enter inner Woodfjord – but promising at the same time, with a lot of holes in the clouds, and the sun is breaking through. It is casting its light over an amazing display of colours: a blue fjord, framed by deep-red mountains and green tundra. Colours!

We enjoy the scenery, while we are sailing further into the fjord, always keeping an eye open for polar bears that often roam along these shore. Later, we roam a bit along these shores during a landing, making some precise observations of the amounts of plastic litter that you find between all the driftwood logs and in the sand. The data will be used by the German Alfred Wegener Institute for a research project about plastic pollution in the marine environment. May it help to solve the problem!

Gallery – Woodfjord – 17th September 2017

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Later, we see a polar bear on a slope, but far away. In Mushamna, we seize the opportunity of some nice hiking, before we round the day off with a very atmospheric fire on the beach.

Liefdefjord – 16th September 2017

We wake up to a golden sunrise in Liefdefjord and we enjoy the stunning scenery during some good hikes during the morning. The clouds are coming down later and there is even a little bit of rain as we drift near Monacobreen later, but this does not matter as far as the deep blue colour of the glacier and some icebergs is concerned.

Gallery – Liefdefjord – 16th September 2017

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Late afternoon on a little island within Lernerøyane, we get the feeling of being (almost) the first people to walk around here, in this untouched nature.

Northwest-Spitsbergen – 15th September 2017

A golden day in a classical area. Here in Smeerenburgfjord, where the whalers were suffering from harsh weather in their thin woolen clothes 400 years ago, we enjoy a brilliant day in calm, clear and even sunny weather. In Virgohamna, we visit the place where Andrée and Wellman started their famous north pole expeditions. Harbour seals are resting on rocks in a shallow bay.

Gallery – Northwest-Spitsbergen – 15th September 2017

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Much larger seals are resting on the beach a bit further north, on Amsterdamøya. A whole group of walrusses is sunbathing there, without any respect for the historical blubber ovns of Smeerenburg.

Kongsfjord – 14th September 2017

The early morning view may have surprised some of us: civilisation! Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen’s northernmost settlement, with her various sights and excitements. Under the most beautiful september sun.

Later, it is time to enjoy some first impressions of real arctic tundra. The reindeer bulls are fat and in great shape, ready for the mating season and for the polar winter. We enjoy coastal caves and impressive panoramic views, both from land and later during a visit to the glaciers in innermost Kongsfjord.

Gallery – Kongsfjord – 14th September 2017

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Trygghamna – 13th September 2017

It is still quite windy, so we seek shelter in the innermost part of Trygghamna for our first landing. Still windy, but pretty calm water – and sunny! A lovely start in impressively scenic surroundings.

Later, we see a polar bear lying on the tundra near Alkhornet. It does not do anything, and it is far away and difficult to see. Let’s hope for more.

Gallery – Trygghamna – 13th September 2017

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We continue under sail into Forlandsund, where we round the day off with an evening visit to a glacier in stunning light.

Isfjord – 12th September 2017

Today, we are starting with SV Antigua again! We are gathering on board for the first time in the afternoon, and after the usual welcome procedures and mandatory safety instructions, we leave the pier – under sails. The easterly breeze that we have had for some time comes in very handy now. We sail silently into Isfjord and into a magnificent sunset. After a couple of hours, the anchor is going down in Trygghamna, well sheltered – the name translates as »Safe harbour« – by rugged mountains.

Gallery – Isfjord – 12th September 2017

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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