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Home → January, 2019

Monthly Archives: January 2019 − Travelblog


Nor­t­hern lights, nor­t­hern lights, nor­t­hern lights …

My dear fri­ends, let me tell you, it is tough. For weeks we have been try­ing to get some sleep at nor­mal times. But it just doesn’t work. This nor­t­hern light is real­ly too bad. Real­ly, it can be annoy­ing! You always have to go out, watch Lady Auro­ra dancing, take pho­tos … yes, life in the Arc­tic can be hard … 🙂

Northern light

Nor­t­hern light aureo­la, near-ver­ti­cal­ly abo­ve the photographer’s posi­ti­on.

It was almost warm today, just about -6°C in Advent­da­len. In com­pa­ri­son to the last days, it felt real­ly mild. Only the wind was a bit chil­ly.

Northern lights, Endalen

Ring of nor­t­hern lights over End­a­len.

I can’t pro­mi­se that the­re won’t be any more auro­ra borea­lis pics in this blog during the next weeks. This is how the polar night is. On the other hand, Lady Auro­ra can be very moo­dy. Some­ti­mes she is just slee­ping some­whe­re far away or she is just dancing for the clouds. When she is in good mood then you just have have to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty. You never know when the next one comes – may­be this is her fare­well for the moment and she deci­des to move on to ano­ther pla­net or whe­re­ver.

Northern light and polar bear warning sign

The famous polar bear war­ning sign.

Blue lights and nor­t­hern lights

The days are just fly­ing, or rather this end­less night. It will still take a while until you can talk of “days” again in Spits­ber­gen. But the light is coming back! The­re is cle­ar­ly some faint dawn on the sou­thern hori­zon around noon. The sun is not far any­mo­re.

Dawn, Longyearbyen

First daw­ning in late Janu­ary, mid-day in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Still, the polar night is obvious­ly a good time to do things insi­de. And the­re is no lack of good oppor­tu­ni­ties. Next to all the work that never takes an end, the­re is, just to give one exam­p­le, the alre­a­dy men­tio­ned Sval­barse­mi­nar. And for Per Kyr­re Rey­mert, the “cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge ora­cle”, the same is true as for Maar­ten Loo­nen (see pre­vious blog): you are gua­ran­teed to get a solid por­ti­on of inte­res­t­ing arc­tic know­ledge, and it is fun to lis­ten to! A very enter­tai­ning hour whe­re you can only try to memo­ri­se as much as you pos­si­bly can. Today, it was about the French Recher­che-expe­di­ti­on (1838, 1839). Yes, that was the one with Leo­nie D’Aunet, the first woman who visi­ted Spits­ber­gen. As far as we know, that is.

Svalbardseminar, UNIS: Per Kyrre Reymert

Per Kyr­re Rey­mert spea­king in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS about the Recher­che-expe­di­ti­on (in Spits­ber­gen 1838 and 1839).

And it is cer­tain­ly good to know what the guys from the Sys­sel­man­nen (govern­ment repre­sen­ta­ti­ve, poli­ce and other sove­reign duties) are kee­ping them­sel­ves busy with. Fly­ing dro­nes, for exam­p­le. Of cour­se they are only doing sen­si­ble things with the­se dro­nes! Who would thing of any­thing dif­fe­rent … Poli­ce inves­ti­ga­ti­ons, search and res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons, docu­men­ting ero­si­on and wear and tear on cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge sites … the list is long.

Svalbardseminar, UNIS: die Drohnenabteilung des Sysselmannen

The “dro­ne-squa­dron” of the Sys­sel­man­nen pre­sen­ting their work in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS.

It is and remains stun­nin­gly beau­tiful out­side. The light of the moon is now less bright than last week, but the retur­ning sun – still well below the hori­zon – brings seve­ral hours of blue light into the dark­ness during day­ti­me.

Blue light: Helvetiafjellet, Adventdalen

The blue light hours are coming back to Spits­ber­gen during day­ti­me.

A litt­le trip into Advent­da­len, far enough to escape the “big city” light pol­lu­ti­on. The silence and the blue light are ama­zing! And the view into Advent­da­len wet­tens the appe­ti­te for more. That is the way to Sas­send­a­len, to Tem­pel­fjord, to the east coast, … soon will the days be lon­ger and the same goes for the trips out into natu­re!

Blaues Licht: Blick ins Adventdalen

View into Advent­da­len during the blue light hour(s).

Soon, howe­ver, the blue light gives way to dark­ness again, the “days” are still short. But the night does always have some­thing to offer. In recent days, nor­t­hern light acti­vi­ty was a bit limi­t­ed. Not that the­re weren’t any at all, but limi­t­ed, and some­ti­mes you do also have to sleep, so it is ine­vi­ta­ble to miss out some­ti­mes. It is all about being in the right time at the right place, and that litt­le bit of luck!

Northern light, Adventdalen

Nor­t­hern light over Advent­da­len (I).
The lights of mine 7 and some huts in the lower right cor­ner.

Today, we were – once again – at the right time in the right place. We just had that bit of luck. Kind of on the way to go shop­ping. Never lea­ve the house wit­hout the came­ra 🙂

Northern light, Adventdalen

Nor­t­hern light over Advent­da­len (II).

Lunar eclip­se over Spits­ber­gen

Today (21 Janu­ary 2019) was the day (well, it is not real­ly a day, the sun does not rise at all here curr­ent­ly) of a major astro­no­mic­al event, the next one after the solar eclip­se in 2015. The lunar eclip­se that was visi­ble in Spits­ber­gen from appro­xi­m­ate­ly 6 a.m. was cer­tain­ly worth set­ting the alarm clock for.

Lunar eclipse over Longyearbyen

Today’s lunar eclip­se: the “blood moon” over Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

After a short obser­va­ti­on of the initi­al lunar eclip­se over Lon­gye­ar­by­en, we went out into Advent­da­len to get fur­ther away from the big city lights and to get a natu­ral back­ground for the impres­si­ve celes­ti­al event.

Lunar eclipse over Adventdalen

Lunar eclip­se over Advent­da­len: the “blood mmoon” over Spits­ber­gen (I).

The dura­ti­on of the lunar eclip­se was much more agreeable than that of the abo­ve-men­tio­ned solar eclip­se, the total pha­se of which did not last lon­ger than 2 minu­tes and a few seconds. This could make the astro-pho­to­graph­ers sweat despi­te of the tem­pe­ra­tures around minus 20 degrees (C) back then.

Mondfinsternis im Adventdalen

Mond­fins­ter­nis im Advent­da­len: der “Blut­mond” über Spitz­ber­gen (II).

Not that it was any war­mer today, but we could take it with time: the total pha­se of today’s lunar eclip­se was near­ly an hour long, so next to taking pho­tos, we could just enjoy the event and a sip of hot cho­co­la­te – a very good thing con­side­ring the tem­pe­ra­tu­re. The stars were ama­zing, they came out bright and strong due to the redu­ced moon­light. Very impres­si­ve!

Starry sky during lunar eclipse, Adventdalen

Stars during the lunar eclip­se in Advent­da­len.

Final­ly, my cur­rent ceter­um cen­seo: I have made a new pho­to book, focus­sing on aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy and thus show­ing the Arc­tic from a very unsu­al per­spec­ti­ve. In theo­ry, the book is in Ger­man, but in prac­ti­ce, it does hard­ly have text. 134 out of 137 pages do just have stun­ning pho­tos, pla­cen­a­mes and a litt­le map. Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Sval­bard from the air.

Norwegens arktischer Norden (2) - Aerial Arctic

Rolf’s new pho­to book Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen from a new and stun­ning per­spec­ti­ve.

Vin­kelstas­jon, neigh­bour reinde­er and Sci­ence Slam

Time is fly­ing, the­re is always some­thing to do. Most­ly stuff that isn’t worth men­tio­ning, but it is real­ly fil­ling the days. Ever­y­day life. Pro­jects. Work.

Yes, and life. Fri­ends. Being out­side.

Being out­side is obvious­ly one main reason for living in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It will soon be full moon and the sky is most­ly clear. The light is pure magic. The Nor­we­gi­ans have a beau­tiful word for that: “trol­sk”. May­be you can use “trol­lish” to trans­la­te it? It is “magi­cal”, but that does not real­ly hit the nail on the head. With “trol­sk”, we don’t asso­cia­te Har­ry Pot­ter but rather some kind of fairy­ta­le magic with a slight under­to­ne of dan­ger and gloo­mi­ness. Just like the arc­tic: of breath­ta­king beau­ty, but with a touch of dan­ger lur­king some­whe­re hid­den, often not being visi­ble. Trol­sk.

Most tours do curr­ent­ly not go any­whe­re remo­te. That is not the point now. You will find the who­le beau­ty of the polar night in Longyearbyen’s vici­ni­ty. It is of cour­se always an idea to go some­whe­re wit­hout arti­fi­ci­al light.

Adventdalen in the polar night

Advent­da­len in the polar night.

The­re is, of cour­se, a lot of arti­fi­ci­al light in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. When­ever the­re is a nor­t­hern light you have to go to a sui­ta­ble place for undis­tur­bed obser­va­ti­on and pho­to­gra­phy. A bit of arti­fi­ci­al light does, of cour­se, not hurt, often it has a charme of its own. Like the Vin­kelstas­jon in End­a­len, which used to be a part of the old coal cable­way. Today, it is illu­mi­na­ted during the polar night, pro­vi­ding a love­ly eye­cat­cher in the dark land­scape.

Vinkelstation Endalen

The Vin­kelstas­jon in End­a­len used to be a part of the coal cable­way in the past.
Today, it is part of the local histo­ry and, in the dark time, a light instal­la­ti­on.

It is part of the prac­ti­cal aspects of moving around in the dark that high-vis jackets and reflec­tors are stron­gly advi­sed. Other­wi­se, the risk of being hit by a car is signi­fi­cant and one day it will crash.

The reinde­er don’t know that. They tend to stand just next to the road. And the don’t look left or right befo­re they start crossing it.

When you lea­ve the house in the mor­ning and the­re is a reinde­er next to the ent­rance in the dark, then it can give you a bit of a sud­den weak-up. As soon as you rea­li­se that the big fur­ry ani­mal just in front of you is actual­ly a reinde­er, it is a bit of a reli­ef which feels quite good.

Reindeer, Longyearbyen

Reinde­er in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The­re is a lot going on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in terms of cul­tu­re, edu­ca­ti­on and sci­ence. In Janu­ary, the­re is the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar. Experts of various fields offer pre­sen­ta­ti­ons to tell the public about their field of know­ledge. The­se pre­sen­ta­ti­ons are usual­ly in Nor­we­gi­an, hence not an attrac­tion for inter­na­tio­nal visi­tors, but if you under­stand Nor­we­gi­an, then they are usual­ly very inte­res­t­ing.

This week, the­re was a “Sci­ence Slam” sche­du­led. Seve­ral sci­en­tists tal­ked about their work and rese­arch results in short lec­tures which were sup­po­sed to be as enter­tai­ning as edu­ca­ti­ve. Ever­y­thing was allo­wed as long as it is not gene­ral­ly for­bidden and nobo­dy is har­med. This work­ed altog­e­ther quite well.

SIOS Svalbard, Svalbardseminar, UNIS

SIOS Sval­bard intro­du­cing them­sel­ves in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS.

In the pho­to abo­ve, SIOS Sval­bard (“Sval­bard inte­gra­ted arc­tic earth obser­ving sys­tem”) staff are intro­du­cing their orga­ni­sa­ti­on, the design and pur­po­se of which is hard to grasp in just a few words. SIOS is kind of a meta-sci­en­ti­fic orga­ni­sa­ti­on, try­ing to ensu­re that effi­ci­ent coll­ec­ting and exch­an­ge of all sorts of data is working smooth­ly in prac­ti­ce, bey­ond bor­ders of dif­fe­rent natio­na­li­ties, pro­jects and fields of sci­ence.

And then, the­re is of cour­se Maar­ten Loo­nen, the Dutch spe­cia­list for bird migra­ti­on, arc­tic geese and tun­dra. We meet him quite regu­lar­ly in Ny-Åle­sund in the sum­mer, whe­re he has been part of the regu­lar out­fit as long as even the oldest ones can remem­ber. In a way that you just can’t imi­ta­te, Maar­ten mana­ges to squeeze a lot of know­ledge into a few minu­tes that is hard to remem­ber – unfort­u­na­te­ly, becau­se it is fasci­na­ting stuff. Just an exam­p­le: geese have a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent diges­ti­on sys­tem than reinde­er. Wha­te­ver a geese puts into hers­elf at the front end will lea­ve her again at the rear end after 1-2 hours. Reinde­er need much more time for the same pro­cess, but they make use of a much hig­her pro­por­ti­on of the ener­gy and nut­ri­ents stored in the plant mate­ri­al that they take up. Which means that what lea­ves a goose’s butt (my wor­ding, not Maarten’s) is still per­fect­ly good food for a reinde­er. But not always, that depends again on what the goo­se has eaten. And you can actual­ly see it on the colour of the drop­pings. And so on and so forth. I just can’t recall all of it, unfort­u­na­te­ly. If you ever have a chan­ce to lis­ten to Maar­ten Loo­nen: go for it!

Maarten Loonen, Svalbardseminar bei UNIS

Maar­ten Loo­nen tal­king about arc­tic migra­ting birds, main­ly geese and their importance for the arc­tic tun­dra, in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS.

Final­ly, my cur­rent ceter­um cen­seo: I have made a new pho­to book, focus­sing on aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy and thus show­ing the Arc­tic from a very unsu­al per­spec­ti­ve. In theo­ry, the book is in Ger­man, but in prac­ti­ce, it does hard­ly have text. 134 out of 137 pages do just have stun­ning pho­tos, pla­cen­a­mes and a litt­le map. Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Sval­bard from the air.

Norwegens arktischer Norden (2) - Aerial Arctic

Rolf’s new pho­to book Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen from a new and stun­ning per­spec­ti­ve.

The arc­tic blog con­tin­ued: back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en!

After a win­ter- and christ­mas peri­od in our sou­thern home, we return to our nor­t­hern home: back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en! We spend a few days in Nor­way on the way up, visi­ting good fri­ends, befo­re we board the pla­ne in Oslo.

The flight lea­ves from Oslo Gar­de­r­moen in the mor­ning and arri­ves in Lon­gye­ar­by­en mid-day. We fly away from the sun­light and into the dark­ness. While clim­bing up the lad­der to the pla­ne, we enjoy a few last moments of sun­light. They will be the last ones for seve­ral week.

Gal­lery flight to Lon­gye­ar­by­en

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

The magic of the polar night is wai­ting for us!

The moon is waxing – that is not a secret, that is the same ever­y­whe­re on Earth at the same time. But here, it is more important than else­whe­re. Not only becau­se far abo­ve the polar cir­cle the moon is hard­ly seen during the sum­mer, becau­se then it remains lar­ge­ly below the hori­zon unless it is new moon, when you don’t see it any­way. But now, in win­ter, the moon is stun­ning. And it is a very important light source, much more than in lati­tu­des whe­re the sun is more relia­ble in win­ter­ti­me.

Polar night and moonshine in Adventdalen close to Longyearbyen

Advent­da­len in the polar night (I): the moon is shi­ning over Ope­raf­jel­let.

The appearance of the coun­try is magi­cal. The moon is cas­ting sil­ver-blue light over the land­scape which is cover­ed with a thin lay­er of snow and ice. On pho­tos, the moon appears very bright so you might even think it is the sun.

Pho­to­gra­phing this kind of beau­ty is a chall­enge. Most pho­to­graphs are are far too bright. Of cour­se you can expo­se your pho­to until they look as if taken on a sun­ny day. The results will be beau­tiful but they don’t have much to do with rea­li­ty. Rea­li­ty IS haun­tingly beau­tiful, and it is, well … rea­li­ty! It doesn’t get much bet­ter than that, but it is hard to cap­tu­re in an image. The beau­ty that the eye which is accus­to­med to dark­ness per­cei­ves may just appear as dark­ness on a reason­ab­ly rea­li­stic image. And that can also be rea­li­stic, but may­be not quite the rea­li­ty, if that makes sen­se.

Polar night and moonshine in Adventdalen close to Longyearbyen

Advent­da­len in the polar night (II): a bit dar­ker, a bit more rea­li­stic
(? depen­ding on how well your eyes are accus­to­med to dark­ness when you are out in the field).

I am try­ing to find a com­pro­mi­se which is clo­se to rea­li­ty and deli­vers the real beau­ty of the polar night at the same time.

Last but not least for this first ent­ry of my arc­tic blog 2019 an impres­si­on from Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the polar night. A per­spec­ti­ve that, I am sure, many of you will know, but pos­si­bly in very dif­fe­rent light con­di­ti­ons.

Longyearbyen in the polar night

High noon in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in polar night. The sun­di­al does curr­ent­ly have some tech­ni­cal pro­blems 😉

Final­ly, let me men­ti­on that I have made a new pho­to book, focus­sing on aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy and thus show­ing the Arc­tic from a very unsu­al per­spec­ti­ve. In theo­ry, the book is in Ger­man, but in prac­ti­ce, it does hard­ly have text. 134 out of 137 pages do just have stun­ning pho­tos, pla­cen­a­mes and a litt­le map.
Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Sval­bard from the air.

Norwegens arktischer Norden (2) - Aerial Arctic

Rolf’s new pho­to book Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen from a new and stun­ning per­spec­ti­ve.

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