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Yearly Archives: 2017 − Travelblog

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Tromsø – 23rd May, 2017

Tromsø, the metropolis of northern Norway, with her lanes and the harbour, an invitation for a lovely little stroll. The museums are a great mental warm-up for the Arctic, and the mountain Fløyen offers a sportive exercise which is nice before we start the crossing of the Barents Sea, up to Bear Island and Spitsbergen. It is a bit cold and cloudy, just right to set the mind for the Arctic!

Gallery – Tromsø – 23rd May, 2017

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

Stokmarknes & Whalewatching – 22nd May, 2017

We are passing Stokmarknes on the way north and we make a little stop there. This is where the famous Hurtigruten was invented, the coastal steamer line that connected north Norway to the rest of the country and thus to the world. They have dedicated a museum to the Hurtigruten in Stokmarknes. And if you come with a ship, then you are welcomed by a whole Hurtigruten ship on the shore!

They are currently doing a lot of work on the museum, but it is already definitely well worth a visit.

Gallery – Stokmarknes & Whalewatching – 22nd May, 2017

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And so is the continental shelf edge off the outer coast. That area is famous for whales, and we manage indeed to find a group of pilot whales after a while.

From Kabelvåg to Trollfjord – 21st May, 2017

Not having the northern lights at this time of year does have advantages – you can get some hours of sleep before starting to hike from Kabelvåg to Svolvær. It seems to have been a long winter here in Lofoten, just as in Spitsbergen further north. There is still a lot of snow in the terrain, it is wet, and lakes are still largely frozen.

The white beaches on Skrova bring a strong contrast to that, having a tropical appearance. And sailing northwards in Vestfjord gives us later the feeling of being somewhere in the Carribean. A good life under a wide, open sky!

Gallery – From Kabelvåg to Trollfjord – 21st May, 2017

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In Trollfjord, the scenery does, however, not leave any doubt that we are in north Norway. Also here, there is still a lot of snow.

Reine & Nusfjord – 20 May, 2017

We went alongside in Reine in the earliest morning hours. Not that I took much notice, initially. I was not far away, physically. But you have to get a little bit of sleep at some stage. Even though it is not yet midnight sun time here. Oficially, the sun is still going down for 3 hours or so. But there is no darkness, of course.

It is a bit overcast, but calm and dry, so we take the Zodiacs to cruise deep into Reinefjord for a good hike. We follow a shallow bay and climb up a ridge that separates the inner branches of Reinefjord from the outer coast. There, we have one of these wide, white sand beaches that the outer side of the Lofoten islands is famous for. Beautiful! If it was just 20 degrees warmer, we could spend a lazy day on the beach … but it is quite fresh, and we are happy about that. We rather enjoy the views of the steep granite walls around the bay. Stunning scenery! A high-alpine mountain chain at sea level.

Gallery – Reine & Nusfjord – 20 May, 2017

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A visit to the lovely little old fishing village of Nusfjord in the afternoon makes the day complete, before we set course for Kabelvåg for a calm night alongside in the harbour.

Bodø & Saltstraumen – 19 May, 2017

Here we go! Today we start the arctic summer season. Boarding SV Antigua in Bodø, we set course northwards, final destination Spitsbergen, stopping in Lofoten and Bear Island on the way. Yes, let’s get going! Arctic, we are coming! 🙂

As we get going reasonably quickly, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to cruise in the famous Saltstraumen with its impressive tidal currents.

Gallery – Bodø & Saltstraumen – 19 May, 2017

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