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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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