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Yearly Archives: 2019 − News & Stories

Passenger ship Malmö stuck in ice

Malmö in the ice There are 35 % less ice in the whole Arctic Ocean than usual (a term that will most likely have to be re-defined soon), but in Svalbard, ice conditions are more as they used to be in earlier years. This means that northeastern parts of Nordaustland did not become ice-free at all this summer, and there is drift ice in southern Hinlopen Strait and south of Nordaustland.

The small passenger ship Malmö got stuck in drift ice in southern Hinlopen Strait. The ship is strongly built and can tolerate some ice, but the situation became potentially dangerous when currents moved the ice field towards shallow waters in the area of Rønnbeckøyane, a group of small islands in southern Hinlopen. There were 23 persons on board, including 16 passengers. The Sysselmannen decided to evacuate the passengers by helicoper. The crew could remain on board to take care of the vessel as there was no immediate danger. It is expected that the crew can navigate the ship out of the ice with the shifting tides, something that usually involves openings in the ice. The Norwegian coast guard is in the area to assist as needed.

drift ice in the arctic summer of 2019 – Photo on the subject of Malmö in the ice

drift ice in the arctic

Hall Bredning – 5th September 2019

It is an early start into the day. Well, actually it was even earlier than that. The northern light. And then, a few hours later, the alarm went. We have a lot of miles ahead of us. Soon we are on our way. And get a stunning sunrise above the rugged islands of Bjørneøerne. And a very atmospheric morning mist.

The idea was to make the distance to Ittoqqortoormiit (Scoresbysund village) today to make a visit to this northern one of only two communities in east Greenland tomorrow. But after a look at the latest weather forecast we decided to set course for the open sea and Iceland straightaway. It will be good to get into a harbour there before the next storm hits the area of our open sea passage. We do still have a chance to make it in time and we don’t want to miss it. Fingers crossed.

Gallery – Hall Bredning – 5th September 2019

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The passage through Hall Bredning, as the large, wide-open central part of Scoresbysund is called, is stunning. Mirror-flat water, sun, blue sky and icebergs. We put the Zodiac on the water once again to circle around an especially beautiful one. A lovely way to say goodbye to Greenland. For this time.

It is still lovely and cosy. I am curious what the next two days bring. It might not be this calm all the way through.

Øfjord – Bjørneøerne – 4th September 2019

The Øfjord („Island fjord“) connects the innermost branches of the Scoresbyund such as Harefjord with the large, more open part in the middle known as Hall Bredning. It is, out of the three fjords around Milne Land, the one with the grandest scenery: five to seven kilometres from shore to shore, the waters in many places more than 1000 metres deep, surrounded by steep mountains up to more than 2000 metres high. One vertical tower of gneiss and granite next to the other one, wild, uncounted and most certainly unclimbed, most of them, with high, vertical walls. And just by the way, the landscape where we are happily moving through under sun and sail was once the deep-seated root of a mountain range of the distant geological past.

Gallery – Øfjord – Bjørneøerne – 4th September 2019

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We find a lovely anchorage in Jyttes Havn in the islands of Bjørneøerne. Soon we are on our way, hiking up one of the rocky hills to enjoy a stunning panorama view.

The night is not as calm as we had anticipated, but we are happy to accept the interruption caused by a lovely display of northern lights.

Harefjord – 3rd September 2019

As mentioned, there are not too many good anchorages in many parts of Greenland, aber there are some. We spent a calm night in a small bay in Harefjord, one of Scoresbysund’s inner branches.

The inland ice is not far from here, so we wanted to get as close as we could. It does not have to be a crossing of the inland ice. If that is really what you want is a question that everyone has his or her own answer for. Personally, I appreciate the variety and the beauty of the fjord landscapes. Such as here, in Harefjord. Musk oxen here and there on the slopes. We climb a ridge and a moraine to find ourselves sitting above a crevassed glacier. Stunning views of an amazing landscape. This is as close to the inland ice as we can get here and now. We are more than happy with this.

Gallery – Harefjord – 3rd September 2019

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There are beautiful hills and mountains everywhere here, and you can walk or climb as far and as high as you wish, can and have time. Time is not unlimited for us, but we have enough for absolutely stunning views of Harefjord and suroundings.

Rødefjord – 2nd September 2019

Well, last night’s anchorage in innermost Fønfjord was not exactly great. The sea bottom was sloping steeply to great depth near the shore. No surprise the anchor was sliding down after a few hours. A typical Greenland phenomenon that finished this night’s sleep for us.

Which turned out to be a good thing. The day started with a beautiful sunrise, which most would have missed otherwise. A stunning start into a golden Greenland late summer day! And we got several hours extra. We had made our first walk on the bright yellow and red tundra in Rødefjord already before breakfast.

The icebergs that are grounded near Røde Ø are world class. Scenery-wise, Greenland is second to nothing.

Gallery – Rødefjord – 2nd September 2019

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We continued northwards in the amazingly scenic Rødefjord with its intense reddish colours on the west side and steep islands like Sorte Ø and Store Ø on the east side. Large icebergs are drifting everywhere in the mirror-calm water, occasionally one rolls over or falls apart. A stunning panorama. We spend hours sitting silently on deck, just enjoying. Speechlessly.

Finally we reach one of few good anchorages in this area in Harefjord. Soon two shorelines are out, so it should be a calm night – unless northern lights would interrupt our sleep, which would be quite ok we enjoy the beautiful evening light on a little hill just above the anchor bay and call it a day.

Danmark Ø – 01st September 2019

We reached Hekla Havn last night, a beautiful natural harbour on Danmark Ø, where we secured Anne-Margaretha with a sophisticated arrangement of shorelines perfectly well so we did not even need to keep anchor watch. Not a bad thing, a full night of sleep, just for a change, as we could all easily agree on.

Next morning, we went out by Zodiac. On an inconspicuous terrace above the shore, we found remains of an inuit settlement. A whole row of winter houses indicating a large settlement for pre-Danish Greenlandic standards. Almost a big city. With excellent views over the fjord.

You can find some of Scoresbysund’s most beautiful gneisses around Hekla Havn. Stunning colours and structures that nobody could think of, this is something just nature can create.

Gallery – Danmark Ø – 01st September 2019

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If you look closely, you can still see where Ryder’s expedition had their wintering base in 1891-92. They were the first Europeans who discovered and mapped Scoresbysund’s inner reaches. Without Ryder, maybe we wouldn’t know today that all these beautiful places exist, Fønfjord, Rødefjord, Øfjord and so on …

So we enjoyed a perfectly good Greenlandic morning on Danmark Ø and then we continued our voyage into Fønfjord, aiming for the innermost branches of the huge Scoresbysund.

Vikingebugt – 31st August 2019

Last night the anchor fell in Vikingebugt. Quite deep in the Scoresbysund – we had sailed more than 60 miles since turning around Kap Brewster – but there are not many sheltered anchorages on this rugged coastline. It was a nice moment when the enginge was turned off for the first time since we had left Grimsey four days ago. Silence. Everybody having dinner at the same time. Nice.

After a calm night, we wanted to go ahead with our first landing. It was time to feel Greenland under our feet. It took a while to get the boats ready after the open ocean crossing – they were safely stowed away and secured at open sea, normal procedure – and then … a polar bear on shore! Who would have expected that – polar bear sightings are not an everyday thing in Greenland! We had been talking about polar bears just a bit earlier today, the usual safe side of landings in the Arctic, but then actually seeing one, here in the Scoresbysund … well, as mentioned before, this is a pretty rare event in this area.

The bear followed a rocky slope, then rested for a while on a snow field and finally entered a moraine area. It was not exactly an opportunity for stunning photography, but a fine observation.

Gallery – Vikingebugt – 31st August 2019

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Obviously, we adjusted the plans for our landing and moved to a small island. It is always great how such small islands, that seem to be just barren rocks from a distance, turn out to be treasure boxes of nature. Basalt columns as made by hand, and these stunning colours of the late summer tundra, that Spitsbergen just does not have, at least not at this level. Bright yellow and red, even on a rather grey day like today.

And, of course, the stunning surroundings. Bits and pieces of glacier ice everywhere, large glaciers in the background, mighty mountains surrounding the fjord.

Now we are continuouing our way into the Scoresbysund.

Kap Brewster – 29th/30th August 2019

Yesterday (Thursday) morning the Greenland coast came into view, the mountains south of Scoresbysund, called the Blosseville Coast. What looked like individual mountains – or icebergs, as some initially thought – then turned out to be a long, continuous chain of rugged mountains and glaciers. Some large icebergs were drifting off this wild coast, the wind had calmed down, the sun came out. A group of humpback whales blew in the distance, one of them even breached, and later, dolphins were jumping next to us a couple of times. Probably white-beaked dolphins.

Gallery – Kap Brewster – 29th/30th August 2019

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Welcome to Greenland!

But we were not quite there yet, it is still a bit to go to the north until we can turn into Scoresbysund. We skip the thought of visiting the Blosseville Coast and anchoring there somewhere sheltered. The next wind is not far away, and it is better to get into the Scoresbysund before it is coming too close. So we keep moving again through the night, shifting every 30 minutes on the wheel. The wind is picking up again, things are getting more lively on board, the speed is going down to a mere 3-4 knots, increasing again later … and finally, late morning on Friday, we can turn west, around Kap Brewster and into Scoresbysund!

Denmark Strait – 28th August 2019

According to the forecast, this should be a good day to start the crossing towards Greenland. So we had an early breakfast and started moving around 8 a.m. Soon, the little island of Grimsey disappeared in the low clouds behind us.

Gallery – Denmark Strait – 28th August 2019

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We kept the course as high on the wind as possible, towards the Blosseville Kyst, south of Scoresbysund, mostly making good speed of 7-8 knots. There was a northerly breeze, 4-5 Beaufort, occasionally maybe 6. Nothing really wild, but nevertheless, enough to make life difficult for those on board who were not used to it, so some retreated to the relative peace and silence of their bunks. The others went on their shifts, kept the ship on course and their nose in the fresh air, which always helps to make time go past quickly. So went the hours, one horizon followed upon the other one and Greenland would soon rise up behind one of them!

Grimsey – 27th August 2019

We stay for a day on Grimsey to give the storm between Iceland and Greenland some time to ease out. And you can obviously spend a lovely day here! The little island of Grimsey is the northernmost inhabited part of Iceland – only Kolbeinsey is further north, but that is merely a rock – and it is situated right on the arctic circle. There is a monument to mark the cirle. Unfortunately the tilt of the axis of the earth has changed since. Hence, the arctic circle has moved northwards. So they had to build a new monument, this time in shape of a concrete ball that can be moved further to the north as needed. Until the northern end of the island is reached. There are still a few hundred metres of land.

Gallery – Grimsey – 27th August 2019

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Thousands of arctic terns rest on the runway of the little airfield. They have to be scared away before the small plane can land that connects Grimsey to mainland Iceland. Out of coincidence, we happen to watch this funny event.

Northern fulmars and some kittiwakes are still sitting on the cliffs. The puffins and guillemots have already left.

Fresh local fish in the restaurant near the harbour for lunch. Lovely.

Fresh local fish on board for dinner. Lovely.

By now, we have explored all hiking trails around Grimsey. So tomorrow we can take off for Greenland 🙂

Eyafjordur – 26th August 2019

You don’t have to be a professional meteorologist to see where you do currently not want to be with a 20 meter sailing boat. Given the choice to sit in a hot pool in Akureyri’s fabulous public swimming pool instead. I would call this an easy choice our weather window will open up, it is not far away anymore. But not now.

Wetterkarte - 25-08-2019

Weather map from 2019/08/25

Gallery – Eyafjordur – 26th August 2019

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We are leaving at noon, sailing northwards through the long Eyafjordur. Light rain showers are alternating with blue skies and hot sunshine, producing a wide mix of temperature variations and light impressions, including some lovely rainbows. Humpback whales show their blows and flukes a couple of times, while we are passing small islands and harbours, mountains and watersfalls on our way to the north coast. Our destination for today is Grimsey, the northernmost inhabited part of Iceland, an island situated directly on the arctic circle. There, we want to wait a day or so until the storm between Iceland and Greenland has calmed down.

Akureyri – 24th August 2019

Time is flying – I just said goodbye to SY Arctica II and her good people in Longyearbyen, and now I am already in Akureyri, north Iceland, on board the sailing ship Anne-Margaretha (german only). That is the beautiful ship that carried us safely through the wild waters of Antarctica and Patagonia in early 2018.

Akureyri - 24th August 2019

Great times … and now we are about to set off for Greenland! In a couple of hours, our small lot will have assembled on board, and tomorrow we will set sail. Better then today, we rather let this little wind in Denmark Strait pass through first … who needs a force 8 on the nose? 🙂

Recherchefjord – Barentsburg – Longyearbyen – 20th/21th August 2019

After a late arrival in Recherchefjord and a couple of hours resting time, we move out to explore the scenic landscape. A group of hikers grabs the crampons and walk up the glacier Renardbreen. The friends of the tundra make a walk along the coast and to the green tundra area, rounded off with a Zodiac tour into the lagoon of Recherchebreen, where small icebergs are drifting with the tidal current.

In the afternoon, we sail north along the west coast, to Isfjord. Soon the circle is about to close.

We reach Grønfjord and Barentsburg after a couple of bumpy miles in the entrance of Isfjord and celebrate our first meeting with civilisation with a beer in the Red Bear, the bar of the brewery. We save the comprehensive town walk for the next day, when we are accompanied by the sun again :-;

Gallery – Recherchefjord – Barentsburg – Longyearbyen – 20th/21th August 2019

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The final miles, calm and sunny, of this amazing voyage take us along Colesbukta, Grumantbyen and Fuglefjella, before we go alongside in Longyearbyen. An unforgettable voyage is coming to an end. We round it off with a guided history walk in Longyearbyen and a nice evening on board.

Big thanks to all of you who were on board Arctica II on this tour for a great and interesting trip with good spirits all the way through!

Hyttevika – 19th August 2019

Stormbukta didn’t want to have us today. The combination of strong low water and wind was no good.

Hyttevika turned out to be the place for us today. And what a place! Stunningly beautiful west coast landscape with sharp rocks, lush tundra and Wanny Woldstad’s great hut.

And polar foxes. A whole family. Playful, curious and happy.

Gallery – Hyttevika – 19th August 2019

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Good that the young foxes do not yet know anything about the upcoming winter.

We are now sailing into the midnightly sunset that isn’t yet really a sunset, heading for Bellsund.

Storfjord-Sørkappøya – 18th August 2019

Today we are heading across Storfjord to the south cape and the west coast. The weather should be ideal, according for the forecast. And it was ideal. It does not get any better. Sun and flatcalm water. The skipper can relax (see photo). Fin whales showed up a couple of times.

The south cape (Sørkapp), usually good for many miles in rough waters around the shallow and dangerous coastlines, opens a door for us today. The weather is so good that we can dare to go ashore on Sørkappøya. This island („South cape island“) is the southernmost part of Spitsbergen (save for Bear Island/Bjørnøya, far to the south in the Barents Sea).

Sørkappøya looks like a flat and boring island from the distance, but it isn’t when you get closer. The structures are amazing. Geometrical patterns of raised beach ridges, many lagoons, walls of steeply dipping, hard layers of sediments full of fossils. The low sun casts red evening light over the whole beauty of this exciting place, it almost touches the horizon – actually, the first sunset after the midnight sun period will happen here tomorrow (and a couple of days later in Longyearbyen, further north).

Gallery – Storfjord-Sørkappøya – 18th August 2019

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Late at night, skipper Peter impresses everybody as he takes Arctica II safely through Mesund, a narrow and shallow passage north of Sørkappøya. That saves us many miles and it gives us a stunning passage between many small islands and rocks, while the red sun is touching the mountains of Sørkapp Land.


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