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Home → June, 2019

Monthly Archives: June 2019 − News & Stories

Drift ice edge – 30th June 2019

We have got good sailing wind to bring us northwards to Magdalenefjord, where we anchor late in the night and then wake up with sunshine and two polar bears in view. Then we continue northwards, to the ice edge. It is not far, north Spitsbergen is still completely in ice. We meet the drift ice edge in Smeerenburgfjord. Rugged mountains make the background scenery, and the sun is shining. Stunning!

Gallery – Drift ice edge – 30th June 2019

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Passing Smeerenburg and Virgohamna, we sail westwards to the open sea and then turn north. See how far we get. Well, not far at all. We don’t make it to 80 degrees. Ice, wind and poor visibility as soon as there is ice.

We don’t stay long, then we set sail and course to the south.

Kongsfjord – 29th June 2019

Another beautiful day – something you should not take for granted here in Spitsbergen these days, considering the weather forecast. There are some strong low pressures around in the north Atlantic. But Kongsfjord was the right place at the right time. We spent the morning sitting high up at a bird cliff, enjoying stunning views and a lively concert of Brünich’s guillemots and kittiwakes.

Gallery – Kongsfjord – 29th June 2019

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Also Ny-Ålesund was quite lively, especially in and around Kongsfjordbutikken, with a large group of tourists from eastern Asia. Very lively. A slightly different kind of arctic tourism. It seems to be in their nature to be … efficient. In other words: soon it was calm again, so we could turn our attention to the airship mast and the history of the north pole expeditions.

Engelskbukta, Fjortende Julibukta – 28th June 2019

A fair breeze has brought us up north again. A few years ago in Engelskbukta, a glacier had advanced strongly and turned its surroundings into an impressive ice age landscape. Geomorphology live! And a chance for an easy, little glacier hike.

A couple of hours later are we in Krossfjord. Wind, sun, blue sky, blue water, rugged mountains, wild glaciers, guillemots, puffins, green slopes with colourful flowers. A paradise of arctic nature!

Gallery – Engelskbukta, Fjortende Julibukta – 28th June 2019

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But a windy one. After a stunning passage near Blomtrandbreen, we drop the anchor behind Blomstrandhalvøya for a calm night.

Bellsund – 27th June 2019

Southwards – that was to be Hornsund for us. After checking the updated weather forecast, we had changed our plan and went to Bellsund. The weather does not seem to be too promising further south.

So Bellsund is the place for today. It is a bit grey, but calm and silent as the anchor goes down after breakfast.

Recherchefjord is a place full of history from several centuries. Like the first winterers on Spitsbergen, Tsjitsjagov’s badly planned expedition, the rather successful Recherche-expedition, the unlucky voyage of the Monte Cervantes and the mystery of Gjæver’s Villa.

Other stories reach further back. Such as the fossilised moraine that dates to the snowball earth era. Almost 600 million years back.

Later, we enjoy a good tundra walk in Van Keulenfjord. Plenty of curious reindeer everywhere. We reach some beautiful viewpoints and stunning scenery, before we get back to the ship, a bit late for dinner.

Gallery – Bellsund – 27th June 2019

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I almost can’t believe it when Captain Robert shows me the latest weather forecast. Southeastern Spitsbergen, until recently the place where we wanted to go, will soon turn into a very unpleasant weather hole. We prefer to change our plans and stay somewhere nice, so we set course northwards again. It may look a bit strange later on the map, but cares?

Forlandsund – 26th June 2019

The last two weeks in Longyearbyen went by very quickly … and now we are already off again, with 2 ½ weeks of sailing in Spitsbergen with SV Antigua ahead of us.

The north coast is still in dense ice, so we will probably spend some time in the south and southeast. But to start with, we go at least a little bit northwards. Recent sightings have confirmed good chances to see walruses in Forlandsund, and the weather forecast seems perfect: a calm day for excursions and then a fair northerly breeze to fill the sails on the way south.

So here we go. On the first morning of the trip, we wake up at anchor near a little peninsula in Forlandsund. There is a group of walrus hauled out on shore, maybe 40-50 animals. And … two polar bears! A mother and her second year cub are making their way towards the walruses.

It was to be a stunning morning. With the Zodiacs we managed to get into a good position to be a fly on the wall. The bears tried to make the walrus panic, but without much success. Finally they moved away again a bit, walked up and down the beach and finally laid down for a rest. A beautiful series of events and behaviours, which we are blessed to have witnessed!

Gallery – Forlandsund – 26th June 2019

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Later we go for a little tundra walk at Murraypynten on Prins Karls Forland to earth ourselvs again (quite literally, the tundra is still quite wet and a bit boggy …)

Once all are back on board, we prepare the sails. The engine can take a break, the wind is doing the work for us now. Let’s go south!

Isfjord – 08th June 2019

It is unbelievable how time flies – not the trip was short, actually! But the days were full and exciting. Today, we are back in Isfjord, and now the sun comes finally out behind the clouds. We have deserved that, we have not seen much from the sun recently.

Everybody is excited, and there is a great motivation to see more wildlife. Not that we haven’t seen any so far, but still. So we move on with Antigua, cruising various bays. And the guys are there. Walruses in Borebukta. And there is even a polar bear near Sveabreen. The bear is having breakfast with a seal. Well, in a way. Being the seal would be rather unfortunate.

It is a wonderful afternoon to round a great trip off. We enjoy the whole scenery with a lot of time, silence and peace. There is a lot of ice around us, drifting bits and pieces of glacier ice, fast ice towards the glacier, and the mountains are still largely snow-covered. Finally we step into the Zodiacs once again to enjoy the ice.

Gallery – Isfjord – 08th June 2019

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Then it is time to set course for Longyearbyen.

Forlandsund – 07th June 2019

It is lovely to return to the tundra after so much snow and ice further north. There is, of course, still a lot of snow also at sea level here at the central west coast, but the snow-free patches of vegetation are getting larger and larger, to the delight of geese and reindeer, which are here in numbers. We have even found some early flowers of the purple saxifrage!

We are in Eidembukta and venture out in three groups for a little walk, following the beautiful coastline and hiking to some low hills for the views. As always, Ingolf manages to find some interesting birds, such as the first grey phalaropes of the trip, and even some common scoters. And there are geese, mainly barnacle geese, and of course plenty of reindeer. In some places the snow is still deep enough to make walking a bit challenging, but it is good fun at the same time and of course it is good to burn some calories …

Later we move up to St. Jonsfjord, where we have a look at the fast ice edge and then drop the anchor near Gaffelbreen. Also here, we go for a walk. Some enjoy the views of the glacier from the moraine ridge, while others visit a little hut, built from driftwood logs.

Gallery – Forlandsund – 07th June 2019

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Back on Antigua, it is time to celebrate. It was – and still is – a great trip. Annika, Christin and Jana have prepared a little party for everybody, and Sascha is making sure that the BBQ is on and red-hot, with plenty of goodies. A big thanks to all of you – it is a great evening in good company and stunning surroundings!

Drift ice – 05th and 06th June 2019

It is amazing how quickly things change here: just yesterday, Danskegattet was completely ice free, and now there are floes of loose drift ice, so we stay away from this partly shallow passage and keep to the outer side of Amsterdamøya.

Drift ice around the northwest corner of Spitsbergen. That is how it used to be – just that it used to be well into July in the old days and not just in the beginning of June, as it is now.

We pass one field of drift ice after the other, and some of the offlying islands: Fuglesongen, where we hear the crazy laughter of the thousands of little auks, and Klovningen. Later, we reach the entrance to Raudfjord. Dense drift ice everywhere, and the whole map is still frozen solid, at least according to the ice chart. After a little Zodiac excursion, we take off and move out, as we don’t want to spend a couple of weeks here.

Meanwhile, the drift ice around Amsterdamøya has become so dense that the passage back to open water takes more time than planned. This is great – nature is in control! We spend one more night, just drifting in an area of open drift ice, and then it takes about half a day to navigate through Smeerenburgfjord and Sørgattet.

Gallery – Drift ice – 05th and 06th June 2019

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From there, we follow the west coast to the south. Everything here is grey today. In the evening, we reach Prins Karls Forland, where we visit a group of pretty active walruses to round the day off.

Gallery – Drift ice – 05th and 06th June 2019 – 2

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Danskøya – 04th June 2019

We had reached the northwestern corner of Spitsbergen over night. Here, in the high north, the land was still covered with a thick layer of snow, so we got the snow shoes out and went for a lovely walk.

On the way to Smeerenburgbreen (-glacier), we found two walruses. One of them was quite curious and swam towards the ship. The wildlife encounters that involve the curiousity of the animals as much as ours are always the best ones!

Finally we took the opportunity to revive an old and almost forgotten tradition. We went to the „postbox“ in Kobbefjord on Danskøya, a cairn where northgoing ships used to leave mail. This was often their last opportunity for weeks or even months to make contact with the outside world! Southbound ships went and took the mail with them if the opportunity occured and delivered the letters to a post office in Norway. Let’s see when our postcards arrive at their destination …?

Gallery – Danskøya – 04th June 2019

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Some harbour seals have already occupied their summer position on rocks on shallow waters just off the shore.

Forlandsund & Krossfjord – 03rd June 2019

The weather in Forlandsund was not quite like what the forecast had promised: a stiff northerly breeze made things a bit difficult and life unfomfortable until we had reached sheltered waters again in Krossfjord. There, we were happy to walk on solid ground again. We had a look at the remains of the geophysical observatory that was operated in Ebeltofthamna from 1912 to 1914 and later we visited a seabird colony further north in Krossfjord.

Gallery – Forlandsund & Krossfjord – 03rd June 2019

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Billefjord – 02nd June 2019

We were very curious what the day might bring – there had been plenty of polar bear sightings recently in Billefjord. Just yesterday, no less than 3 bears had been observed here! So soon under breakfast we were under steam again. Just a few miles to the ice edge in inner Billefjord.

It did not take much time until we had seen the bears on the fast ice near Nordenskiöldbreen, but far away, too far for good photography. One of the bears was eating a seal, the other one was walking back and forth in the same area, waiting for his chance to get a share of the meal. We followed the whole scene with our binoculars and secured good views with Ingolf’s telescope, but it was too far to obtain reasonable photos. But the whole landscape setting was stunning, with the ice cliff of the glacier in the background and the ice edge where some seals were resting on ice or playing in the water.

Gallery – Billefjord – 02nd June 2019

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Later, we ventured for our first landing in Skansbukta, where we saw reindeer in amazing numbers and we enjoyed the sunny views of the impressive scenery – well deserved after ascending the slope through deep snow.

Longyearbyen – Skansbukta, 01st June 2019

Brave Marathon-runners do their work in and near Longyearbyen, while we get ready for action on Antigua. In the afternoon, we are ready to set sail on Antigua, and that is exactly what we actually do as soon as Captain Robert has said hello to everybody. A brief introduction turns us all into real sailers, and soon the canvas goes up into the breeze, and the reasonably warm sun sees us sailing out of Adventfjord and northwards, across Sassenfjord.

We have set course for Skansbukta, where we drop the anchor for the night. It is a wonderful northern evening in good company, many here on board have been on Antigua more often than some of the crew!

Gallery – Longyearbyen – Skansbukta, 01st June 2019

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Ingolf has got a lot of work with his telescope, there are plenty of reindeer and several arctic foxes on the tundra and hundreds of common eiders with an amazing number of king eiders amongst them.


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