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Monthly Archives: August 2018 − News & Stories


Guidebook “Spitzbergen-Svalbard”: next edition soon available

The first edition of my guidebook Spitzbergen-Svalbard came out in German in 2007, followed by the first Englisch edition Spitsbergen-Svalbard in 2008 and the first Norwegian edition Svalbard – Norge nærmest Nordpolen in 2017. The German version soon became popular amongst Spitsbergen-travellers and enthusiasts, so I could develop the book through several editions. The 5th German edition came out in 2015 and it is now out of print, the new (6th) edition of the German version is currently in print and expected to be available in September 2018. I have updated the book comprehensively, both the text and the index have been improved and enlarged so the new edition will have 580 pages (the old edition has 560 pages). Maps and fonts have been improved. My knowledge and experience keep growing also after more than 20 years of learning and living the Arctic in theory and real life and all this becomes part of updated editions, and so does new relevant legislation, recent developments in Longyearbyen and so on and so forth.

Guidebook (German) Spitzbergen-Svalbard, 6th edition, September 2018

The newest German edition of the guidebook Spitzbergen-Svalbard is in print and due to be released in September 2018.

Many professional guide colleagues use this book (including its English and Norwegian versions) on a daily basis in their arctic lives, referring to it as the “Svalbard bible” (or Spitsbergen bible, whatever you prefer)! A compliment that I as the author am happy to accept.

The English version Spitsbergen-Svalbard has been updated thoroughly in early 2018, and the same goes for the Norwegian version Svalbard – Norge nærmest Nordpolen which came out in 2017.

All three versions of the guidebook can be ordered on this website including the German version. If you order the German version, you will get the new, 6th edition as soon as it is available (expected in September 2018).

Bed available in ladies cabin on Antigua (11-21 September 2018)

Spitsbergen under sail with SV Antigua, 11 intense days – a dream journey for friends of the Arctic at a time when sunsets have started to bring amazing colours to these high latitudes again. Now there is the opportunity to join on a short notice – there is a vacancy in a ladies cabin. Click here to read more about this trip. This trip will be German speaking, so the description is also in German.

Spitsbergen under sail with SV Antigua, September 2018

Spitsbergen under sail with SV Antigua in September 2018: Space available in a ladies cabin.

So – go ahead and welcome on board!

Just get in touch with Rolf Stange (contact) for any questions regarding the trip, the ship, Spitsbergen … or get in touch directly with the Geographische Reisegesellschaft for reservations and booking.

Again, negative records from the arctic: ice cover low, temperatures high

It comes hardly as a surprise: once again, there are negative records of the current sea ice situations. As the Norwegian Ice Service released on Twitter, there has never been as little ice around Svalbard as currently since beginning of the recordings in 1967. As the latest ice chart shows, both Svalbard and neighbouring Frans Josef Land are completely free of sea ice:

ice chart 22 August 2018

Ice chart of 22 August 2018 (by MET Norway).

According to the Norwegian Ice Service, the sea ice cover in the Svalbard area was 123,065 square kilometres, which is 105,139 square kilometres less compared to the long-term average (1981-2010), a loss of almost 50 %!

But scientists are even more worried about the loss of ice north of Greenland, which is also visible in the ice chart above. Northernmost Greenland is an area where ice is pushed against the coast by currents, so it is – was – building up a very solid ice cover averaging 4 m in thickness and reaching more than 20 m thickness in places! This ice cover was, however, weakened by warm air incursions such as the extreme event in February. The weakened ice could be moved around by wind much more easily, and this is exactly what happened now in a large area north of Greenland. Even if the water surface freezes again soon, the damage is now done and it is hardly reversible: as the term multi-year ice suggests, it takes many years to replace a lost area of such ice, but it is hardly expected that this will happen at all given current climate developments.

Rossøya, Vesle Taveløya ice-free

Svalbard furthest north: Rossøya (left) and Vesle Tavleøya completely ice-free, mid-July 2018.

It fits into this picture that Longyearbyen has now got an unbroken series of 90 (!) months with temperatures above the long-term average. A dramatic development, but hardly a surprise.

Isøyane & Kapp Borthen – 16 August 2018

Sørkapp turned out to be a piece of cake this time 🙂 hardly any sea worth mentioning. We still went up the west coast a good couple of miles last night, to place us a bit further north, so we can make it up to Isfjord without troubles when the time comes. Soon. As it remained calm, we dropped the anchor late night or, rather, early morning near Isøyane off Torellbreane. Amazing scenery!

Isoyane

Isoyane

All the way back since I started thinking, I wanted to go to Isøyane, and today was the day. A little walk on an island less than one kilometre in diameter, without any real elevations, was exactly the right thing for us today. The near-shore waters are very shallow and rocky, making landing a bit challening, but we found the one and only right spot. What can I say – a wonderful little island! This green, lush tundra gives you an idea of the countless generations of Common eider ducks, geese, Arctic terns, various skuas and other feathered creatures have fertilised the tundra here year after year. The fresh green was a pleasure for the eye, after so many days in the polar desert and glacier environments further east and north! The coastal landscape was stunning, with its many little bays and extensive marine platforms cut by wave action into solid rock.

Isoyane

Isoyane

Kapp Borthen is not far from Isøyane. Another place from which you will usually keep a good distance. Only on a really good day, when the weather is fine and stable and the sea is calm, it is a place where you may land. There is a wide plain between the coast and the mountains, so flat that you could almost land an aeroplane here. And this is exactly what the crew of a German fighter plane did in September 1942 after their plane had been damaged during an attack on a convoi.

Kapp-Borthen

Kapp-Borthen

We are now cruising north towards Isfjord. Calm seas and sunny at times. Soon our track will be a circle.

Kapp-Borthen

Kapp-Borthen

Isbukta – 15 August 2018

We anchored in Isbukta to get at least a few hours of sleep before it would be time to round Sørkapp (the south cape, Spitsbergen’s little version of Cape Hoorn). As the sun was shining and conditions were ideal in the morning, of course we took the opportunity to to out for a hike. A dead Beluga washed up on shore made us a bit suspicious – who knew what might be sleeping behind a hill, considering to defend this titbit in forward gear if necessary? But as it turned out on careful inspection, there had not yet been anything with big teeth working on the carcass, which had obviously been there for a while already. A carefull check of the area including aerial reconnaissance indicated that the area was safe at the time being. You can never be 100 % certain, but we could certainly venture out with good conscience. Isbukta is stunningly beautiful with its large glaciers and many rugged mountains, like a smaller version of Hornsund. And that under a blue, sunny sky from an elevated position!

Isbukta

Isbukta

It was actually quite windy up there, so we were a bit curious what rounding Sørkapp would bring. The forecast was not bad at all, and we are at our southernmost position now at the time of writing, getting up to the west coast of Spitsbergen soon. So far it is really quite ok.

Isbukta

Isbukta

The east coast – 14 August 2018

Spitsbergen’s east coast has, for good (or bad) reasons, a reputation of a certain inaccessibility, if you exclude Sabine Land with Agardhbukta, Dunérbukta and Mohnbukta, which can be reached relatively easily from Longyearbyen, especially in winter. But elsewhere it is difficult. Over land, it would require a long and very demanding, expedition-style trip, and from the sea, this rugged, uncharted coastline is not exactly inviting either.

Crollbreen

Crollbreen

Some wind had come up in Agardhbukta over night, no thought of any landing here now. Also further south, it did not really look promising, initially. It was not until we had almost reached Hambergbukta that we had ideal conditions to approach one of the many glaciers in that area. As it turned out, it had retreated a bit and exposed a shoreline composed of former moraine that now forms several lagoons, where a landing was easily possible, at least on a perfectly calm day like this! Completely young, fresh land, very virgin. I was wondering if anyone had ever set foot on this place before, which not too many years ago was still glacier-covered? Of course I don’t really know and one should be rather careful before actually claiming to be the first one anywhere in Spitsbergen. But at least the fact that the thought seems possible and actually quite reasonable is pretty amazing and rather attractive!

Crollbreen

Crollbreen

The glacier must actually have advanced a bit again quite recently, as it has pushed up a steep little moraine ridge, which had some pieces of young driftwood built in. Some of us got their crampons out to venture on a little glacier hike, exploring crevasses and whatever else one can find on a glacier. Some others went for a silent, little beach walk, going to one lagoon and then to the other and enjoying all the little and big things that you can find in nature in a plce like this. Discovering a new place, somewhere wild and remote, especially on the east coast of Spitsbergen, how good can life be? 🙂

Hedgehogfjellet

Hedgehogfjellet

Later, the sun delighted us with another beautiful, very red nearby-sunset.

Agardhbukta – 13 August 2018

Agardhbukta on the east coast of Spitsbergen, a bit further south than Longyearbyen, was exactly in the right position for us to drop the anchor late night. The atmosphere was almost melancholic, the light approaching twilight, the sun practicing sunsets again, if only behind the mountains and not behind the horizon. But it is deeply red around midnight and reminds us that the summer is not long anymore and darkness will be coming.

Agardhbukta

Agardhbukta

Fond memories are coming to mind here in Agardhbukta. I have been here a couple of times in the past, but always over land, never by boat. This bay is largely uncharted and does not have a good reputation amongst seamen, they used to call it Foul Bay in the past. My first time here was in 1999, 20 years ago! Unbelievable … a long time. That was a hiking tour with my friend Sven. We followed the classic Conway route, starting in Longyearbyen and then following the large inland valleys for 4 long days. Later I was once again in the area on foot and then several times in the winter. That is much faster and certainly less exhausting.

Agardhbukta

Agardhbukta

For us this time, Agardhbukta was mainly an overnight anchorage, even after making use of the depth finder as much as possible and responsible, the coast was still pretty far away. But when tomorrow became today, we suddenly had a birthday child on board and I thought a little, quiet midnight walk in the light of the very low midnight sun might be a nice birthday present. Which was indeed the case. A silent walk in beautiful surroundings, enjoying the lovely atmosphere and immersing in treasured memories.

Heleysund – 13 August 2018

A dream day in one of the most beautiful corners of Spitsbergen, in the easternmost part of the main island. There is this lovely bay in Heleysund where you can anchor perfectly well even if it is blowing a bit, like last night.

Straumsland

Straumsland

Today morning it was calm again, and sunny. We prepared some thermos bottles and a bit of food and took off, for a long hike on the tundra. Sometimes wet, sometimes dry, sometimey rocky, always rich in details, varied, beautiful. Great views of Heleysund and Straumsland, Storfjord and Barentsøya. Curious reindeer and a rare Sabine’s gull. A stunning coastline with huge rock columns, below them green, lush tundra with well-developed ice wedges. Long rests in the sun, enjoying the views. What else could you ask for?

Straumsland

Straumsland

Now we are steaming south in Storfjord. The sun is shining, and we have got great views of Barentsøya and Spitsbergen.

Straumsland

Straumsland

Straumsland

Straumsland

Hinlopen – 12 August 2018

We are still in Hinlopen Strait, having spent the night anchored close to one of the islands there. Rocky, barren polar desert. Nothing but stones. That’s what it looks like, at least from a distance. On closer inspection, it turns out to be a landscape surprisingly rich in detail. Of course we had a good look around 🙂

Von-Otteroya

Von-Otteroya

It seems to be sunny further east, so we set course for Bråsvellbreen. That is also one of these wonders of the natural world, a unique bit of the Arctic. The wind is getting fresh as we get closer, and the ice is pretty dense, but Pål is navigating us safely towards the huge glacier, where the wind is also calming down as we get into even denser ice. A polar bear swims curiously towards us and circles around the ship at close distance!

Brasvellbreen

Brasvellbreen

The view of the seemingly endless ice cliff of Bråsvellbreen in the sun, with waterfalls and many icebergs drifting nearby, is just stunning.

Brasvellbreen

Brasvellbreen

Hinlopen – 11 August 2018

After many hours sailing we dropped the anchor in Murchisonfjord in the early morning hours. We visited the old Swedish station of Kinnvika and went for a long hike in the wide-open polar-desert-like landscape, reaching hills with stunning views and finding fossils as expected and, to our surprise, an ice cave.

Kinnvika

Kinnvika

Kinnvika

Kinnvika

Alkefjellet, being one of the great wonders of the arctic world, rounds the day off. With a bit of effort and some Zodiac support from Monika, I managed to get a 360 panorama of Alkefjellet. I am curious how it will turn out 🙂

Alkefjellet

Alkefjellet

Rijpdalen – 10 August 2018

It is so good to spend a calm night at anchor in a hidden bay at the end of the world, deep in Rijpfjord on the north side of Nordaustland! Good prospects for tomorrow, as some of us were planning a pretty serious hike in Rijpdalen.

Himmelbukta

Himmelbukta

As tomorrow had become today, the clouds where, however, hanging rather low, unfortunately. Hiking for hours on end in fog in unknown terrain and polar bear country was clearly not an option, so we went on a good and still pretty solid hike of 5 hours in lower Rijpdalen. What a beautiful country at the end of the world! Very wide-open, surprisingly rich tundra, a wild river … the huge ice caps were looming behind the clouds, but visible here and there, Austfonna in the east and Vestfonna in the west.

Nordenskioldbukta

Nordenskioldbukta

We found something that may have been a grave of unknown origin and the site where Henry Rudi, who later became famous as the „polar bear king“, wintered in the 1930s. They removed the hut the following year and took the materials down to Halvmåneøya, so nothing is left of it on site.

The days are flying by and we have to move west again, so now we are steaming towards Hinlopen Strait, not without saying hello again to yesterday’s Blue whales.

Nordenskiöldbukta-Rijpfjord – 09 August 2018

Today and tomorrow we want to try to find out about some of Nordaustlandet’s secrets, which are hidden deep in the huge fjords. Some of theses surprises happen just to be on our way. Suddenly we have at least 2 Blue whale close to the boat, possibly 3. Huge animals! One is really big, even to Blue whale standards. Who said recently that it was a bad whale year in Spitsbergen’s waters? Well, we can’t complain.

Nordenskioldbukta

Nordenskioldbukta

Later we venture to explore Scoresbyøya, in the middle of the wide-open Nordenskiöldbukta. We don’t stay long, especially as we find out that we are not alone on the island. There is something lying behind a rock, and it is yellowish-white and it has fur and ears. Just sleeping and far away, but we prefer to move away and leave the island before any unpleasant situation can develop.

Scoresbyoya

Scoresbyoya

A bit later, we happen to find to walrusses on a little iceberg. A mother with a little calf! Well, „little“ is a relative term when it comes to walrusses. But it is really a very young one, still living on its mother’s milk rather than mussels.

Rijpfjord

Rijpfjord

We drop the anchor in Wordiebukta in the late afternoon. This is where the German Kriegsmarine had their war weather station called Haudegen. The men were picked up in September 1945, being the very last German military unit of the Second World War to surrender. Something that they were very happy to do. The hut is still there. A bizarre bit of history and a bizarre place.

Haudegen

Haudegen

Chermsideøya – 08 August 2018

After many hours of sailing time, we had reached some of the northernmost islands of Spitsbergen. Not the very northernmost one, Sjuøyane are still further north, but there is indeed a Nordkapp (North Cape) on this island!

Chermsideoya

Chermsideoya

A little evening hike takes us across the island, over perfectly developed ancient beach terraces, across hills of glacier-polished crystalline basement rocks, though a little valley. A beautiful, remote, silent and very arctic place!

Chermsideoya

Chermsideoya

But unbelievable how much plastic are washed up here on these beaches. Nobody is ever getting here who could clean up. We have to go here with Antigua one day …

P.S. Five minutes after writing these lines, we pulled a huge fishing net out of the water. There was already a number of dead birds entangled in it, Brünich’s and Black guillemots. No idea where we are going to store it until Longyearbyen, but the main thing is, it is not floating around in the water anymore!

On the way up to Nordaustland – 08 August 2018

The wind out there at sea has finally calmed down and it is time for us to get on. We want to sail up to the northern side of Nordaustland and later around Spitsbergen, so there are still a lot of miles waiting for us. We take some of them today.

During the very first mile, we get a very pleasant surprise, a little sensation even, as we see a Bearded seal lying on the beach! Have you ever seen a Bearded seal lying on the beach? No? Exactly. That does hardly ever happen. Bearded seals lie in the water or on ice and not on the shore. But this one does not seem to know that.

Mushamna

Mushamna

North of Wijdefjord, we meet a similarly unusual Minke whale. Normally, Minke whales do not care much about boats and people and they do not show much more than a short glimpse of their back and fin. But this one does not seem to know that (am I repetitive?). This whale is really curious, it is swimming towards us again and again and diving through under the boat, playing with us!

Wijdefjord

Wijdefjord

We plough our way to the northeast now, there is some gently swell, calming further down, and the hours and the miles are going by. Not long anymore before we can anchor and go for a walk, somewhere remote.

Mushamna – 07 August 2018

A pretty grey and over large parts also wet day, but we made a lot out of it. A lovely over the tundra, enjoying great views of the inland valleys around Mushamna, a visit to the famous trapper station and a beach walk back to the lagoon where Arctica II was anchored.

Mushamna

Mushamna

Later, we made another walk in the opposite direction. I have been told that canyoning is in, so we went for it. Some deep insight into the Devonian layers, impressive layers with interesting details and structures, plus a lot of water. Torrential around the feet and dripping from above.

Mushamna

Mushamna

In the evening, Pål showed his talents as a chef, making perfect use of his freshly and very locally caught arctic char. Delicious!

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