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Monthly Archives: May 2018 − News & Stories


Billefjord

One night’s sailing had taken us far into the inner branches of Isfjord and we woke up to a fantastic panorama in Billefjord. Mirror images on the water and dozens of seals lying on the ice! No landing to start with, as the bay was still frozen and the shores blocked by ice, but we thoroughly enjoyed.

Billefjord

Scenery in Billefjord.

It was locigal to continue just around the corner to the mighty Nordenskiöldbreen. One of Isfjord’s biggest glaciers and more or less our last chance for a polar bear sighting.

Nordenskiöldbreen, Billefjord

Scenery in Billefjord, Nordenskiöldbreen.

Stunning scenery and a lovely encounter with a Bearded seal, but no polar bear …

Bearded seal, Nordenskiöldbreen

Bearded seal at Nordenskiöldbreen.

Then it was time for a landing. Chosing a beautiful spot in Billefjord not far from Nordenskiöldbreen, I went back to old “hunting grounds” (not literally) which brought back many fond memories. That was just me personally, but everybody enjoyed the walk, the scenery and the silence.

Landing at Brucebyen

Landing near Brucebyen. Always these terribly long Zodiac rides from ship to shore! 😉

Brucebyen was the site where a Scottish company investigated coal occurrences around 1920. A short-lived adventure.

Brucebyen

Brucebyen.

Then, finally … we were almost on the way out of Billefjord, then we got our polar bear! Distant, yes, thus certainly not allowing for world-class photography. But it was our polar bear! Clearly visible with binoculars, it brought a smile on everybodies face.

Polar bear, Nordenskiöldbreen

Polar bear at Nordenskiöldbreen, if you can see it. It was a bit distant, but it was our polar bear, and it was real! 🙂

So it was a happy ship that set course for Longyearbyen in the late afternoon.

Isfjord: Alkhornet, Barentsburg

It is really fully winter still here in Isfjord. Snow, snow, snow. Add to that some sun, the sound of a birdcliff in the background and a wide panorama of fjord and coast, mountains and glaciers, reindeer and geese on the first bits of open tundra. Does it get more beautiful than this? Hardly.

Schnee, Trygghamna

Late winter in Trygghamna.

Harbour seal

Harbour seal.

Snow buntings, Alkhornet

Snow buntings at Alkhornet.

Alkhornet

Some golden moments at Alkhornet.

We also made a visit to the Ymerbukta swimming club. Always nice to meet the locals 🙂

Ymerbukta

Ymerbukta swimming club.

Many will probably agree that Barentsburg is not more beautiful, not in a classical sense. But different. Very different! It is historical and political. We did have a close look at all of this. If you have missed this, than you have not fully understood what Spitsbergen is all about today. Lenin would agree.

Lenin in Barentsburg

Lenin in Barentsburg.

Looking back at the last couple of days, we had plenty of good reasons to raise the glasses to a wonderful trip. So we did in the evening. A skål to Captain Mario and chef Piet! And of course to the whole crew, but captain and chef are key positions as everybody knows who has travelled on a ship. A word for all of you who have travelled on Antigua in recent years and who are curious how things are going here now: of course I was also curious how it would be after our former Captain Joachim and chef Sascha had set course for new adventures. Big shoes to fill, as all of our fellow travellers will confirm. So I am more than happy to tell you know that I am looking forward to many more trips to come with Antigua! We have had a great journey now (and still not finished yet)!

Piet

Thumbs up for the Antigua-chef Piet!

Kongsfjord

We could spend the whole day in Kongsfjord. This postcard-level-beautiful fjord consists, next to mountains, of many large glacier, and we had a very good and close look at several ones of them, both from a landbased perspective and from the sea. This already describes most of today’s activities sufficiently.

Blomstrandbreen

At Blomstrandbreen.

Humpback whale, Kongsfjord

Humpback whale in Kongsfjord.

We were at the right time at the right place to meet a Humpback whale who waved us a friendly farewell with his mighty fluke. And to round the day off, we went for some inside insights of Blomstrandhalvøya.

Iceberg, Kongsfjord

Iceberg in Kongsfjord.

Coastal cave, Blomstrandhalvøya

Coastal cave, Blomstrandhalvøya.

Another beautiful day in the Arctic!

Forlandsund, Ny-Ålesund

The wind that had bothered us yesterday evening served us well later during the night and carried us far north, so we woke up with walrusses just around the corner and of course we made good use of the opportunity ☺

Ny-Ålesund

Walrusses in Forlandsund.

Ny-Ålesund is of course a classic on most Spitsbergen voyages, but on this particular trip, it is a rather unexpected geographical highlight in the truest sense of the world. Who would have thought just a few days ago that we would make it this far north? But here we were, and we could even enjoy brilliant sunshine – a rare thing on the west coast of Spitsbergen – and then, finally, a calm night in the harbour. Something we had well deserved, as we all agreed!

Ny-Ålesund

The airship mast at Ny-Ålesund.

Bellsund

The passage during the night from Hornsund up to Bellsund could have been a bit smoother, but it was all forgotten when we were greeted by some very curious reindeer in Bellsund, with a glacier in the background! So we did later, standing on a little hill, enjoying an amazing view over the fast ice in Van Mijenfjord.

Svalbard Reindeer, Bellsund

Svalbard Reindeer are smaller than their relatives on the mainland.

Later we saw some walrusses, also with a great scenic backdrop. Bellsund is one of Spitsbergen’s most beautiful places. It is easy to get lost here, mentally!

Bellsund

View over Bellsund

And now there are some kilos of plastic less on the beaches in Bellsund. We also removed a fishing net. There was a smaller piece of fishing net where 2 reindeer had got entangled. At least one of them had died with the net in the antlers. The other one may have escaped. Awful! This whole plastic issue will stay with us for a long time, I am afraid. There is still a looooot of work to do. Most of it far south of Spitsbergen, by the way.

Other than that: another beautiful day in the Arctic!

Bellsund

Remains of fishing nets and other plastic waste have often travelled thousands of miles before they end up on Spitsbergen.

Hornsund

The passage from Bear Island to Hornsund was fast and good. The timing could not have been better: shortly before we entered Hornsund, the wind turned to the north and picked up to gale force. This would not have been great at all at open sea, but as it was, it did not matter much and some hours later we were firmly anchored in a sheltered bay deeply inside Hornsund. Nothing was to be seen of the landscape as everything was hidden behind dense snow showers. We have obviously arrived in the high arctic!

Hornbreen

The glacier Hornbreen, South-Spitsbergen

Today, however, it cleared up and we even got some blue sky and bright sunshine. Lovely! It was good to get some solid ground under our boots again, so we hiked across an island and enjoyed great views of the scenery. Later we went out for a stunning zodiac cruise between many small icebergs which were shining in the sun, and finally to a mighty glacier front in Brepollen in innermost Hornsund. Our first day in Spitsbergen, and Hornsund has shown us some of his best sides!

Brepollen

Antigua well sheltered in the bay of Brepollen, Hornsund

Beluga-Whales

Beluga whales swimming through Hornsund/ Vestre Burgerbukta

Bear Island (Bjørnøya)

Considering the weather forecast, I had been rather optimistic regarding today’s visit to Bear Island, but less so when I saw how the wind and waves came from the southwest, rolling around the southern tip of the island and making the supposedly sheltered eastern side an uncomfortable place to be. So I was rather uncertain if we could make it ashore today.

 Stappen, Bear Island

Which way to Bear Island, please?

Sørhamna was clearly not an option, and a quick look into the bays further north did not give us much in terms of useful options either. To get at least a bit of shelter, we ended up dropping the anchor in Røedvika close to Miseryfjellet. No chance to get ashore here, but anyway it was good to have Antigua reasonably calm for a while.

After having observed the wind and weather for a while, Mario, Sarah and I took a Zodiac to see if there was really no chance to get ashore anywhere. The wind seemed to have calmed down at least a bit. This is our 8th visit to Bear Island with SV Antigua, and we can’t possibly make this the first one without a landing? Of course it is up to mother nature in the end, but we wanted to give it a try at least … the key to success turned out to be that Mario took the Antigua close to the coast in a drift position where islets and rocks took most of the power out of the swell, so we could board the Zodiacs safely and go ashore on a lovely beach which itself was perfectly calm. Heia Bear Island! This area, on the southeastern coast of the island, is amongst the most beautiful spots. A small, but good impression of the beauty of the nature on this remote island which is still rather rarely visited, being off the usual tourist trails.

It was with a big smile that everybody got back later on board. In the evening, we set course for Spitsbergen.

Bear Island

Made it! View over Bear Island

Barents Sea

Always keeping a good eye on the weather forecast, we decided in Stokmarknes to make this our departure point from the mainland of Norway and to set course directly for the Barents Sea and Bear Island. There is a lot of wind in the north Atlantic, and if we are too late, we will get more of it than we will like, and we will get it on the nose. So, better to be out early to avoid that! Taking off here and now, we have a good chance for very fair sailing winds on our way north.

 Barents Sea

Setting course for the Barents Sea and Bear Island

So we said goodbye and farewell to mainland Norway in Stokmarknes and a few hours later we were already at sea. Sails up and course for Bear Island (Bjørnøya)! That was our motto for the next roundabout 44 hours. Sun, sailing with 9-10 knots, those were the themes of the day on Wednesday. The same, just without sun, on Thursday morning, but now we have got Bear Island 20 miles ahead of us and we will drop anchor in a very few hours!

Vesterålen: Stokmarknes

This bridge last night turned out to be an interesting thing. A 30 metre high bridge and a 31 metre high ship. Well, but the 30 metres of the bridge are the guaranteed minimum hight above the highest high water ever. To be sure, we sent mate Nick up the Besan to see if the main mast would fit.

Bridge at Stokmarknes, Vesterålen

Bridge at Stokmarknes, Vesterålen.

It did. There were still several metres of space.

Soon thereafter we had reached Stokmarknes in the late evening hours. Next to us, the old Hurtigruten ship Finnmarken is beached, now serving as a museum.

Hurtigruten ship Finnmarken in Stokmarknes, Vesterålen

Old Hurtigruten ship Finnmarken, now a museum, in Stokmarknes, Vesterålen.

After a lovely sunset (the last one of the voyage!) and a calm night in the harbour, we woke up to found the day to be grey and rainy. Nevertheless, we went off for a nice hike up the hills behind Stokmarknes.

Snow fields, Stokmarknes, Vesterålen

Snow fields in the mountains behind Stokmarknes, Vesterålen.

Nevertheless, it was a good hike with some nice views under the clouds, and it is always good to get some exercise. Especially if you have got some days at sea ahead. And we will soon set sail for Bear Island (Bjørnøya)!

View of Stokmarknes, Vesterålen

Grey view of Stokmarknes, Vesterålen.

Lofoten: Skrova & Trollfjord

The weather was much more agreeable today: still cloudy, but no rain and very little wind. So we went to the lovely island and harbour of Skrova, which we reached after a short passage from Kabelvåg during breakfast. Skrova has very nice opportunities for various hikes. The top of the mountain Skrovafjellet was still hidden in clouds, but the lower mountain Stappen was free and provided some great panoramic views.

Skrova, Lofoten

View over Skrova, Lofoten.

On the way further north we had nice, gentle sailing wind without too big waves. Perfect conditions to enjoy the view of SV Antigua under sail from the dingy. A great and impressive view! Then the swell went up again and the wind down and so did the sails, consequently.

Antigua under sail, Vestfjord

SV Antigua under sail in northern Vestfjord, close to Litlmolla.

Later during the afternoon, we reached the famous Trollfjord. A place where nature had put a lot of effort into creating a stunning testimony to her own, great powers. Cheers to the ice-age glaciers that have made this amazing bit of landscape!

Antigua in Trollfjord

SV Antigua in Trollfjord.

In the end, even a Sea eagle turned up and circled around the ship. A great, rich day!

Sea eagle in Trollfjord

Sea eagle in Trollfjord.

Kabelvåg

Last night, we had a great sunset at sea, behind the mountains of the island of Austvågøy, while we were gently sailing northeastwards … very nice! A beautiful passage with lovely visual impressions, that’s how we like it!

Sunset over Austvågøy, Lofoten

Sunset over Austvågøy, Lofoten.

And it was just as nice that we still found space in the little harbour of Kabelvåg, although there was already a ship alongside. But we could go alongside that one and thus had a peaceful place to stay for tomorrow. Which is good, because it is supposed to be rather uncomfortable in the area tomorrow.

Storm clouds over Austvågøy, Lofoten

Storm clouds over Austvågøy, Lofoten.

Which was not exaggerated. During the morning, it was still quite ok, but the clouds spoke a clear language. It started raining towards mid-day. But we had a good time in the museum and in the marine aquarium of Kabelvåg. Warm and dry and lots of interesting stufff to see.

Fishermen's accommodation (Rorbu), museum Kabelvåg, Lofoten

This is where the fishermen lived. 8 men in one room with 4 bunks. In this room, they slept, lived, wworked, cooked, ate and dried their wet fishing gear …

Owner's villa, museum Kabelvåg, Lofoten

… and this is where the owner of the “Fiskevær” lived, probably best translated as “fishing harbour”.

The afternoon went with lots of rain. Some eiderducks are sitting on the shore, the waves are breaking on the rocks outside the harbour. Some brave people went for a hike, but many prefer to visit the Antigua-cinema and to enjoy a cup of coffee and a book.

King Øystein, Kabelvåg

King Wikingerkönig Øystein keeps a watchful eye over Kabelvåg.

Even a Jazz concert that was scheduled for tonight in the church is cancelled. Too bad, that would have been perfect for a day like this. But the more cosy it is inside, while the rain is falling outside and the waves are going high at sea.

Sky over Kabelvåg

Sky over Austvågøy.

Tomorrow will be a new day with new weather!

Nusfjord

We were a bit curious how it would be to get Antigua into the small harbour of Nusfjord in the strong winds that we had, but they just calmed down and it turned out to be fine. And so did the afternoon. The weather cleared up and it got really nice and pleasant. And then, Nusfjord is such a lovely place!

Nusfjord: Trockenfisch

Old friends in Nusfjord.

Probably the most famous of the traditional Lofoten fishing villages, Nusfjord is a beautiful setting of old buildings around a small, well-sheltered natural harbour. The old shop was open and very popular, and we went hiking over some rocky hills near the sea, enjoying the views over mountains, the coast and Vestfjord. An extremely enjoyable afternoon!

Nusfjord

The harbour of. And, actually, the whole rest of it.

Now we are sailing north (or east, rather) in the evening sun, heading for Kabelvåg.

Lofoten: Reine

Some hours sailing (without engine!) took us across Vestfjord to Moskenesøya, the southernmost island of the main chain of the Lofoten islands (there are some outliers, Værøy and Røst, far out in the sea). Most people enjoyed the passage, although it was the first day on the ship. Collateral damage related to the motion of the ship was not unheard of, but rather limited. Good to get some training! We will see some more open water later on this trip.

SV Antigua with Captain Mario

Leaving Bodø: Captain Mario gives steam.

SV Antigua under sail across Vestfjord

Sailing across Vestfjord to the Lofoten islands.

But for the moment we are in Reine, one of the southernmost fishing villages in Lofoten. Admittedly, the weather could have been better. But we are on Lofoten. And it is actually really beautiful as soon as some sun is breaking through the clouds!

Rainbow over Reine, Lofoten

Rainbow over Reine, Lofoten.

This year’s catch of cod is still hanging on the drying racks, soon it will be taken down for export.

Dry fish, Reine, Lofoten

Drying racks with cod in Reine, Lofoten.

Kittiwakes are everyday birds in the north. They are breeding in many places on steep cliffs. But a kittiwake on a nest on a tree in a garden? Never seen that before! 🙂

Kittiwake, Reine, Lofoten

Kittiwake on a nest on a tree! Quite unusual for these cliff-breeders.

There is always something to discover in these Lofoten fishing villages. Even in grey and wet weather, there are the colours of the wooden houses and the flowers. But it was indeed a good thing that the Café opened at 11 a.m., and almost everybody found the way there soon. No surprise!

Colours of flowers and houses, Reine, Lofoten

Colours of flowers and houses in Reine.

Now we are heading for Nusfjord and curious what the afternoon will bring there.

Arctic under sail 2018: starting with SV Antigua in Bodø

Bodø! This is where the arctic circle is closing. Not the arctic circle that marks the southernmost appearance of the midnight sun, that is at 66°33’N, about 44 miles south of Bodø. But the circle of the arctic sailing adventures of the summer. The first sailing trip of the arctic starts here in Bodø now in late May and the last one will end here in early November, closing a very large circle of thousands of miles sailing arctic waters, many kilometers in Zodiacs in the fjords, hiking on the tundra, on mountains, lots of adventures, wind and weather, encountering wildlife of all sorts, meeting people … and there will be lots of great photos and many entries here in the arctic blog 2018.

SV Antigua, Bodø

SV Antigua ready to set sail in Bodø.

We will be complete in a few hours, with about 30 travellers from the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and then we will sail across Vestfjord to spend the next days in Lofoten. Later, we will sail northwards to Tromsø and then the Spitsbergen adventure will start. If you want to join us digitally, then just come back and visit this blog!

SV Antigua, Bodø

About to start in a few hours! 🙂

12,000 microplastic parts in one litre of sea ice …

The Arctic ice is significantly more contaminated with microplastics than previously assumed. This was the result of a study of researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven which was published in April.

Samples from three expeditions in 2014 and 2015 were examined, and thanks to an improved examination method using infrared light, more and significantly smaller parts could be identified than in previous investigations.

Presumably, the microplastic originates from the great garbage patches in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and North America. But local sources of pollution have also been identified, for example paint particles from ships or nylon particles from fishing nets.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that are smaller than five millimeters in size. It is produced during the decay of larger plastic parts, during the washing of synthetic fibres, but is also contained in many cleaning and cosmetic products.

Little is known about the consequences of microplastic contamination for the environment and humans. In laboratory studies, however, mussels showed inflammatory reactions and fish behavioural changes.

Also plastic waste from central European countries including Germany ends up in the Arctic. For example, the investigation of plastic waste collected on Spitsbergen’s beaches, revealed that seven percent came from Germany!

Every year tourists collect tons of plastic garbage from the beaches in Spitsbergen encouraged by private and public initiatives, by the way also on the Spitsbergen sailing trips with SV Antigua :-).

Plastic waste on Spitsbergen

Plastic waste collected on the beach of the Hinlopen Strait, Northeast of Spitsbergen.

Reference to two projects worthy of support should not be missing here either:
The Ocean Cleanup develops technical systems with the aim of reducing a huge plastic vortex in the Pacific by 50% in five years and ultimately supplying the filtered plastic to recycling systems.

Ocean Care carries out protection and research projects, organises campaigns and educational projects and is involved in international bodies, for example as a UN special adviser on marine protection issues.

Source: Nature Communications

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