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Home → May, 2019

Monthly Archives: May 2019 − Travelblog


Spits­ber­gen under sail 2019 and Rolf’s arc­tic blog start­ing now

The arc­tic sum­mer sea­son “Spits­ber­gen under sail” is start­ing tomor­row (Satur­day) with sV Anti­gua: we are start­ing our first depar­tu­re in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – arc­tic spring/early sum­mer. Explo­ring stun­ning land­scapes, ice and snow and the arc­tic wild­life under sail!

SV Antigua: Spitsbergen under sail

Spits­ber­gen under sail: with SV Anti­gua to the ice.

And this means of cour­se that my arc­tic blog on exact­ly this page will be updated again regu­lar­ly, and it is abso­lut­e­ly worth coming back and che­cking for new pho­tos and short sto­ries. Join us online when we explo­re remo­te arc­tic fjords and islands and meet the wild­life! We will explo­re Spits­ber­gen seve­ral times under sail with SV Anti­gua, but also with the smal­ler SY Arc­ti­ca II and we will also ven­ture to Green­land with the good SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha.

And if you want to join us in real life – the voya­ge descrip­ti­ons for 2020 are now online! (Ger­man only, sor­ry, but that is the board lan­guage on the­se trips).

Geese arri­ved in Spits­ber­gen after spring migra­ti­on

Spring has also arri­ved in arc­tic Spits­ber­gen. Ear­ly migra­ting birds such as the snow bun­ting and Litt­le auk came alre­a­dy more than a month ago in April, fil­ling the tun­dra in and around Lon­gye­ar­by­en respec­tively the moun­tain slo­pes with their sin­ging (snow bun­ting) and cra­zy laugh­ter (snow bun­ting).

Tem­pe­ra­tures are still cold, mild frost, but the snow-free tun­dra patches are gro­wing every day and the rivers show signs of brea­king up.

Adventdalen

Tun­dra is coming through the snow in Advent­da­len.

By now, most migra­ting birds have retur­ned to their sum­mer ter­ri­to­ries. A good week ago, the first Pink-foo­ted geese were sud­den­ly sit­ting, well camou­fla­ged, on the tun­dra next to the roads in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and the first Bar­na­cle geese fol­lo­wed soon.

Brent geese, Adventfjord

Brent geese on the shore of Advent­fjord (a Bar­na­cle goo­se in the back­ground).

Once the first geese had arri­ved, dozens and hundreds fol­lo­wed during the next cou­ple of days to sett­le down on snow-free tun­dra are­as in Advent­da­len and even within Lon­gye­ar­by­en. In this area, the snow melt starts regu­lar­ly a cou­ple of weeks ear­ly than else­whe­re in Spits­ber­gen, making the tun­dra are­as here an important res­t­ing area for many birds, which feed on tun­dra vege­ta­ti­on, after their spring migra­ti­on. Later they will disper­se to their various bree­ding are­as within the regi­on.

Brent geese

Brent geese on the shore of Advent­fjord (Pink-foo­ted geese in the fore­ground).

Curr­ent­ly, it is very easy to obser­ve all geese spe­ci­es that breed in Spits­ber­gen as well as Com­mon eider ducks, King eider and many otehr spe­ci­es very clo­se to or even within Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Soon they will move to more inac­ces­si­ble are­as and then most of them will also be very shy. Then, it will be much more dif­fi­cult, if not impos­si­ble, to secu­re good obser­va­tions and pho­tos, even with good equip­ment.

Espe­ci­al­ly the Brent goo­se is a dif­fi­cult spe­ci­es to obser­ve. It is not an ever­y­day sight during the sum­mer and obser­va­tions are usual­ly from a grea­ter distance. So it is a spe­cial plea­su­re to see this spe­ci­es on a short distance on the shore of Advent­fjord just next to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. As long as you stay a bit hid­den or within a car, the risk of dis­tur­ban­ce is low.

Pink footed goose, Barnacle goose and Brent goose, Adventfjord

All three spe­ci­es of geese that breed in Spits­ber­gen in one pho­to:
Pink foo­ted goo­se, Bar­na­cle goo­se and Brent goo­se, Advent­fjord.

I am almost a bit proud of this last pho­to that has all three spe­ci­es of geese that breed in Spits­ber­gen in one frame: Pink foo­ted goo­se (upper left, not sharp), Bar­na­cle goo­se (lower left) and Brent goo­se (lower right).

Spits­ber­gen web­site in Nor­we­gi­an

This Spits­ber­gen web­site is now also online in Nor­we­gi­an under the domain name www.spitsbergen-svalbard.no.

It is by far the lar­gest and most com­pre­hen­si­ve web­site dedi­ca­ted exclu­si­ve­ly to Spits­ber­gen – or rather: to Sval­bard, becau­se it covers the who­le archi­pe­la­go inclu­ding the most remo­te cor­ners. That is reflec­ted by a lar­ge num­ber of sub-sites cove­ring all aspects of the geo­gra­phy, wild­life, and flo­ra as well as the vast and still gro­wing coll­ec­tion of polar pan­ora­mas whe­re you can vir­tual­ly tra­vel all over Sval­bard. News of inter­na­tio­nal inte­rest are included as well as a tra­vel blog that covers all sea­sons and some insights into life in Lon­gye­ar­by­en … it’s all in the­re, in one web­site, with about 800 sub-pages and more than 1100 blog ent­ries (per lan­guage!). I star­ted working on the ori­gi­nal Ger­man web­site www.spitzbergen.de in 2006 and the Eng­lish ver­si­on www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com fol­lo­wed soon.

Spitzbergen.de now also in Norwegian

This Spits­ber­gen web­site is now also online in Nor­we­gi­an.

After Sval­bard – Nor­ge nær­mest Nord­po­len came out, it soon beca­me clear that the web­site had to go the same way. This hap­pend now after seve­ral months of inten­se work – now www.spitsbergen-svalbard.no is online. The­re are some Eng­lish pages still hid­den in the­re in a few places, their trans­la­ti­on is still going on. Lucky if you find one 🙂

Big thanks to all who have hel­ped to make this hap­pen! This includes

Ida Eli­sa­beth Aar­vaag
Ceci­lie Berg­heim
Marie Brekkhus
Mari Buck
Jan­ni­cke Høy­em
Jes­per Kirk­hus
Tina Otten­heym
Aina Rog­stad
Eli­sa­beth Scho­ch
Vero­ni­ka Sund
Ida Eli­sa­beth Veld­man
Ivar Våge

Tusen takk skal dere ha!

So for all Nor­we­gi­an-spea­king visi­tors to this web­site: enjoy rea­ding and tra­vel­ling Spits­ber­gen online in Nor­we­gi­an on www.spitsbergen-svalbard.no!

Tun­dra swan near Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The swan song of the win­ter? Just in time for the “orni­tho­lo­gi­cal spring”, a rare tun­dra swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii) show­ed up near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Swans are not on the list of bree­ding birds in Spits­ber­gen, they come just occa­sio­nal­ly as vagrants.

Tundra swan in Adventdalen

Tun­dra swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii) in Advent­da­len.

The­re are just five sightin­gs of tun­dra swans regis­tered on artsobservasjoner.no, a web­site to regis­ter spe­ci­es sightin­gs in Nor­way. The oldest one of the­se obser­va­tions is from 1987.

Tundra swan with pink-footed geese

Tun­dra swan with pink-foo­ted geese.

The­re are also sightin­gs of the who­o­per swan (Cyg­nus cyg­nus) in Spits­ber­gen, 24 sin­ce 1992, inclu­ding 7 obser­va­tions from Bear Island (Bjørnøya). And regar­ding the tun­dra swan, things can actual­ly be a bit con­fu­sing: accor­ding to Wiki­pe­dia, “The two taxa within it are usual­ly regard­ed as con­spe­ci­fic, but are also some­ti­mes … split into two spe­ci­es: Bewick’s swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii) of the Palae­arc­tic and the whist­ling swan (C. colum­bia­nus) pro­per of the Nearc­tic.”

Tundra swan with pink-footed geese

Tun­dra swan with pink-foo­ted geese.

But in this case, local bird enthu­si­asts seem to have sett­led on a tun­dra swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii). The bird seems curr­ent­ly quite hap­py among­st seve­ral dozens of pink-foo­ted geese who came up during the last days after their spring migra­ti­on.

Tundra swan with pink-footed geese

Tun­dra swan with pink-foo­ted geese.

The­se pho­tos were taken wit­hout dis­tur­ban­ce with a focal length of 1200 mm and a high reso­lu­ti­on came­ra.

Also the­se repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the local sub­spe­ci­es of reinde­er seem to be hap­py that the­re are more and more patches of tun­dra coming through the snow now. The snow mobi­les are stored away for this sea­son, beast and man are loo­king for­ward to the sum­mer now!

Spitsbergen-reindeer

Reinde­er on ear­ly snow-free tun­dra are­as.

New­ton­top­pen

The win­ter sea­son is now, in ear­ly May or actual­ly soon mid May, about to come to an end, but we are curr­ent­ly having beau­tiful days, after an April that was part­ly quite, well, mixed. Now we having tem­pe­ra­tures below zero again – but not much, it is not too cold – and it is nice and sun­ny at times. Good reasons to get out the­re and enjoy the ama­zing ice- and snow land­scape, once again in win­ter mode.

Reindeer and ptarmigan

Spring is not far away any­mo­re in Spits­ber­gen: Ptar­mi­gan and reinde­er are hap­py about spots of snow-free tun­dra.

We move rather effi­ci­ent­ly trough the val­leys to the east. Advent­da­len, Eskerd­a­len and Sas­send­a­len, one by one, like perls on a neck­lace. We lea­ve them quick­ly behind, as we want to tra­vel far this time.

At Rabot­breen we enter the wide gla­cier land­scapes of east Spits­ber­gen. The huge morai­ne of Rabot­breen also shows signs of the approa­ching spring, ici­c­les are han­ging in small ice holes and caves. The sun is strong enough to make some ice melt even when tem­pe­ra­tures are actual­ly still below the free­zing point.

Ice cave Rabotbreen

Litt­le ice cave in the morai­ne of Rabot­breen.

Iciclces in ice cave, Rabotbreen

Ici­c­les in an ice hole at Rabot­breen.

We lea­ve also this inte­res­t­ing landc­sape quick­ly behind us, and soon we turn north, devia­ting from the popu­lar and bel­oved rou­te across Nord­manns­fon­na towards Mohn­buk­ta on the east coast. This time, we want to go fur­ther north.

Fimbulisen

Hea­ding north across Fim­bu­li­sen.

All we have around us is snow, ice and moun­ta­ins. The land­scape appears infi­ni­te­ly wide. Coas­tal and tun­dra land­scapes have dis­ap­peared far behind us. Ins­tead, the­re is one gla­cier after the other, one small ice cap neigh­bou­ring the next one. Well, they are not exact­ly small. Of cour­se they can’t com­pe­te with tho­se in Green­land and even Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, but still, we are tal­king hundreds of squa­re kilo­me­t­res. Fim­bu­li­sen, Filch­ner­fon­na, Lomo­no­sov­fon­na … the lat­ter one is the source to the migh­ty gla­ciers Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen and Mit­tag-Leff­ler­breen. Lomo­no­sov­fon­na is 600 squa­re kilo­me­t­res lar­ge!

Lomonosovfonna

Infi­ni­te spaces: the ice cap Lomo­no­sov­fon­na.

Our desti­na­ti­on: New­ton­top­pen. This is Spitsbergen’s hig­hest moun­tain, 1713 met­res high. Or to be clear: the hig­hest moun­tain of Sval­bard, the who­le archi­pe­la­go. 1713 met­res are, of cour­se, not very impres­si­ve, com­pared to the lar­ge moun­tain ran­ges of this world. But it is far away … get­ting the­re is the first thing, and even on a love­ly spring day like this, it is pret­ty cold.

Newtontoppen

New­ton­top­pen comes into our view.

For me, it is the second tour to New­ton­top­pen. The first time was in 2010. Back then, the two of us used ski, pulk and tent, some­thing that took us almost 4 weeks through this vast land­scape. Today, we are fas­ter.

Newtontoppen

New­ton­top­pen with a deco­ra­ti­ve cloud.

Back then, we were a bit more lucky with the wea­ther on New­ton­top­pen: today, the top remains in a thin cloud, alt­hough it is lar­ge­ly fine and clear other­wi­se.

New­ton­top­pen is not a dif­fi­cult moun­tain to ascend, it is “only” far away – and cold.

Newtontoppen peak

The top of New­ton­top­pen with clouds and stor­my wind.

The wind on top of New­ton­top­pen is strong and it is ice cold, near -20 degrees of cen­ti­gra­de – plus wind­chill. So it is not exact­ly pic­nic time up here, but we enjoy being here, hig­her than any­whe­re else on Spits­ber­gen, for some moments.

And the view is clea­ring up just a few met­res fur­ther down. The­re is a should­er in about 1500 met­res whe­re the gra­ni­te is coming to the sur­face. From here, we have got an impres­si­ve view over the sur­roun­ding moun­ta­ins and ice fields.

View from Newtontoppen

View from New­ton­top­pen to the south.

The way back home is a long one … more than 300 kilo­me­t­res in total, from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to New­ton­top­pen and back.

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