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Yearly Archives: 2020 − Travelblog


Walk in the forest near Pyra­mi­den

Back to Spitsbergen’s beau­tiful aspects, which seem even remo­ter this year. It took seve­ral attempts to get to Pyra­mi­den this time. In Spits­ber­gen, ever­y­thing – well, almost – depends on the wea­ther. The trip to Pyra­mi­den by boat is more than 50 kilo­me­t­res, and our boat wasn’t exact­ly Anti­gua or any­thing big­ger. So, the wea­ther should be ok. But we got our chan­ce and arri­ved in Bil­lefjord after a lunch break in Skans­buk­ta.

Pyra­mi­den

In Pyra­mi­den, we could rely on a fri­end­ly wel­co­me at Hotel Tuli­pan. A lot has hap­pen­ed the­re in recent years, the stan­dard is impro­ved – the bar is love­ly and the food is good. The old, Soviet-style rooms are not available any­mo­re, to my per­so­nal reg­ret, but I guess that’s the walk of time. Some life has also retur­ned to the Cul­tu­re House. And they keep working here and the­re.

Pyramiden: Canteen

Things are hap­pe­ning in Pyra­mi­den. Here, the old can­teen is being reno­va­ted.

The devo­ni­an forest in Mun­ind­a­len

But we wan­ted a walk in the forest. Well, in the Pyra­mi­den area, you can not walk in a forest, but you can actual­ly walk to a forest. In Mun­ind­a­len, to be more accu­ra­te. This forest grew in the Devo­ni­an, more than 350 mil­li­on years ago, pro­ba­b­ly in a river plain. Then, the trees were buried by sand and mud during a flood … and they beca­me fos­si­li­sed. Just as they were, in a ver­ti­cal posi­ti­on, or “in situ”, as geo­lo­gists say. One of the oldest forests in the world.

Tree fossil, Devonian, Munindalen

Imprint of a fos­si­li­sed tree in Devo­ni­an rocks, Mun­ind­a­len.

The­re were no trees befo­re the Devo­ni­an. (And if you hap­pen to find simi­lar fos­sils in Pyra­mi­den its­elf: they date to the Car­bo­ni­fe­rous, just as the coal, so they are a good bit youn­ger than the Devo­ni­an trees in Mun­ind­a­len). So it is worth get­ting wet and very cold feet as you have to step into the icy melt­wa­ter river becau­se the out­crop is a litt­le rock­wall right next to it (or just bring your rub­ber boots, which we for­got …).

Pyramiden: Mimerdalen, horses

Even the reinde­er were big­ger than else­whe­re in Pyra­mi­den back then 😉
Serious­ly: they had hor­ses.

Then, the fog came and sett­led in for seve­ral days, cut­ting Spits­ber­gen phy­si­call off from the out­side world (pla­nes don’t land in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in den­se fog). I spent most of the time on the return trip to Lon­gye­ar­by­en hol­ding on to the GPS 🙂

If you would like to take a vir­tu­al trip to Pyra­mi­den while it is hard to get the­re in real life – check the Pyra­mi­den pan­ora­ma pages, the­re is ple­nty of stuff the­re!

Gal­lery: Pyra­mi­den and Mun­ind­a­len

Some impres­si­ons from the trip from Lon­gye­ar­by­en via Skans­buk­ta to Pyra­mi­den and Mun­ind­a­len.

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

Blog: trip to Svenske­hu­set at Kapp Thord­sen

After all the bad and even ter­ri­ble news of the last cou­ple of weeks, regar­ding a poten­ti­al­ly dead­ly virus that keeps making ever­y­bo­dies lives dif­fi­cult and a very dead­ly polar bear attack, it is easy to for­get that Spits­ber­gen is still a beau­tiful place. It is time for a few pho­tos to bring that back to mind.

It is a cou­ple of weeks ago now, but that doesn’t mat­ter. Isfjord was flat as a mir­ror, so we took the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a Zodiac tour from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Svenske­hu­set at Kapp Thord­sen.

Gal­lery: Svenske­hu­set

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

I am not going to repeat the dra­ma­tic histo­ry of the “Swe­dish house” (Svenske­hu­set) at Kapp Thord­sen here, as I have recent­ly com­pi­led a spe­cial side dedi­ca­ted to Svenske­hu­set – inclu­ding pan­ora­ma images, as you may alre­a­dy have gues­sed. Have a look the­re if you are inte­res­ted. I do recom­mend it. Final­ly get­ting the­se images was a strong moti­va­ti­on to take this trip.

And other than that, spen­ding a long day in fine wea­ther in a place like this, with fine views over Isfjord and all the big and small impres­si­ons of the sce­n­ery and the tun­dra, is an expe­ri­ence of the kind of which you (or, at least, I) just can’t get enough in life.

Regar­ding the small impres­si­onf of the tun­dra: I have always expe­ri­en­ced it as slight­ly dis­ap­poin­ting to pho­to­graph the flowers. Becau­se of the limi­t­ed depth of field with macro pho­to­gra­phy, only a small part of the flower appears in focus. But today, pho­to tech­no­lo­cy enables us to take it a good step fur­ther. “Focus stack­ing” is the key. It requi­res some effort regar­ding pre­pa­ra­ti­ons, equip­ment, pho­to­gra­phy and editing, but I think it is worth it in the end:

Arctic bell-heather, Svenskehuset

Arc­tic bell-hea­ther near Svenske­hu­set.
Fokus-stack­ing makes it pos­si­ble to have almost the who­le flower in focus.

Spits­ber­gen blog 2020: Sas­senfjord

The Arc­tic sea­son 2020, at least as we know it, went com­ple­te­ly to the bin. But I don’t want to moan about that now, I rather app­re­cia­te that the sum­mer nevert­hel­ess gave us quite a bit of arc­tic beau­ty. Just in a dif­fe­rent way. The boat was a bit smal­ler than what we usual­ly use, so we went to a cou­ple of beau­tiful places in Isfjord, rather than ven­tu­ring to Nord­aus­t­land or Edgeøya.

Over a while, I will share a cou­ple of pho­tos of our recent excur­si­ons in Spits­ber­gen. A bit dif­fe­rent from what we usual­ly have, in “nor­mal” years … we start with a Zodiac trip to Sas­senfjord. Beau­tiful land­scape, arc­tic silence, fri­end­ly reinde­er, love­ly flowers – inclu­ding some of the more rare ones such as Mer­ten­sia mari­ti­ma and the Nor­t­hern Jacobslad­der – and fos­sils (shells and ammo­ni­tes from the Juras­sic. Fla­vou­red with fine wea­ther and ple­nty of time. Life in the Arc­tic 🙂

Gal­le­ri: Sas­senfjord – Del­ta­ne­set

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

Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua in Sep­tem­ber also can­cel­led becau­se of Coro­na

Unfort­u­na­te­ly, but not real­ly sur­pri­sing, we also have to can­cel our last Spits­ber­gen-voya­ge this year with SV Anti­gua (08-18 Sep­tem­ber 2020). Even though Nor­way will start to allow most Euro­pean tou­rists into the coun­try again, cur­rent health safe­ty regu­la­ti­ons in place to con­trol the Corona/Covid 19 risk make it impos­si­ble to ope­ra­te this voya­ge and other ones. A small ship in remo­te are­as is not a good situa­ti­on the­se days.

The par­ti­ci­pan­ts will now be cont­ac­ted by the Geo­gra­phi­schen Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft.

Corona-Virus, Spitsbergen

With Anti­gua in Spits­ber­gen: won’t hap­pen in 2020 becau­se of the Coro­na virus.

This appli­es also to our hiking and pho­to­gra­phy trip in and around Pyra­mi­den (31 August – 07 Sep­tem­ber 2020). This will also be can­cel­led, the par­ti­ci­pan­ts will be cont­ac­ted soon.

Spits­ber­gen with Anti­gua – some thoughts

Nor­mal­ly, on this site I wri­te and publish artic­les and blog posts about things that have actual­ly hap­pen­ed, and I try to keep it most­ly in unemo­tio­nal style. But the world isn’t nor­mal the­se days, so this article/blog/whatever is a bit dif­fe­rent.

It is about some­thing that does not hap­pen and it is latent­ly emo­tio­nal.

Yes­ter­day, on 09 July, we would have board­ed good old SV Anti­gua in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. About 30 pas­sen­gers, pro­ba­b­ly quite exci­ted, in good spi­rits and with high hopes and expec­ta­ti­ons. Ten crew: the Cap­tain (pro­ba­b­ly Robert), mates, deck­hand, gal­ley and ser­vice, three gui­des – Alex, Kris­ti­na and me. Ever­y­bo­dy had been loo­king for­ward to this trip for quite some time alre­a­dy, until the who­le thing fell vic­tim to the coro­na virus, as so much this weird year. 19 beau­tiful days in Spits­ber­gen – gone. Not just any kind of days. Spits­ber­gen under sail, that is always spe­cial, inten­se and rich with all sorts of expe­ri­en­ces. On every trip, we see and expe­ri­ence stuff whe­re I think “wow, how ama­zing is that …” and that is after almost 25 years of tra­vel­ling Spits­ber­gen.

Antigua, Spitzbergen

Spits­ber­gen with Anti­gua: would have star­ted yes­ter­day (9 July).

Nobo­dy will ever know what we will actual­ly have missed this sum­mer on this trip and others that don’t hap­pen now. But of cour­se it is pos­si­ble to dream and guess a bit. Let’s try to take it a litt­le step up onto an infor­med level. As always, it starts with a look at wea­ther fore­cast and ice­chart:

Marine weather forecast Spitsbergen

Mari­ne wea­ther fore­cast for Satur­day (12 July).

Today (Fri­day), the­re would still have been a fair bit of wind on the west coast. May­be not gre­at for a first day on a ship, but it should be calm in Isfjord, albeit pos­si­bly a bit wet, at least during Fri­day night and Satur­day ear­ly mor­ning. I think we might have well spent our first day in the­re. The­re are so many fjords with an end­less num­ber of beau­tiful places the­re. Tem­pel­fjord, Bil­lefjord, Nord­fjord with Ekm­anfjord, Cora­hol­men and so on, Bohem­an­flya, … just to men­ti­on a few (click on the links for a bit of online tra­vel­ling). The list is end­less.

On Satur­day, the wind on the west coast is sup­po­sed to turn south. I guess then we might have left Isfjord to set sail and a nor­t­her­ly cour­se with fine sai­ling wind. The fore­cast indi­ca­tes calm wea­ther for a cou­ple of days next week in the north, and then it is just a won­derful world to explo­re.

Marine weather forecast Spitsbergen

Mari­ne wea­ther fore­cast for Sun­day (12 July).

And now a quick look at the ice chart, which is real­ly an inte­res­t­ing one now. The­re is still a lot of drift ice in the east and nor­the­ast and many of the fjords, espe­ci­al­ly on Nord­aus­t­land, are still fro­zen solid. As it looks now, this trip would not have been a cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on. This is, in times of cli­ma­te chan­ge, not com­mon for a trip that starts near mid July, but obvious­ly not impos­si­ble. Of cour­se it would have been exci­ting just to go and check it out, but it is also inte­res­t­ing to keep che­cking the ice chart every once in a while during the next cou­ple of weeks and see what hap­pens.

Eiskarte Spitzbergen

Ice chart Spits­ber­gen as of 09 July (© Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te).

But then, have a good look at, say, Lief­defjord and Wood­fjord! Open – pro­ba­b­ly most­ly navigab­le, in other words – drift ice, with some lar­ger ice fields, such as the yel­low dot clo­se to Reins­dyr­flya, and solid (“fast”) ice in inner Wood­fjord! We could cer­tain­ly have spent a cou­ple of gre­at days the­re. And then on to Nord­aus­t­land and Hin­lo­pen. The com­bi­na­ti­on of drift ice, stun­ning sce­n­ery and a lot of wild­life, from guil­l­emots to wal­rus, polar bears and pro­ba­b­ly wha­les would most likely have made for some unfor­gettable expe­ri­en­ces.

Isfjord

Who knows what we might have done and seen the first day(s) in Isfjord? Just a few impres­si­ons from pre­vious years. Could have been some­thing like this. Or some­thing com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent.

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

For­lands­und

We spent quite a bit of time in For­lands­und last year, as tho­se who were the­re will remem­ber with no reg­rets 😉 all the For­lands­und pic­tures are from 2019.

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

Wood­fjord and Lief­defjord

Just a few pos­si­ble impres­si­ons as we might have met them now in Wood­fjord and Lief­defjord. And Spitsbergen’s north coast is, of cour­se, much more than “just” that. The­re is also the Raud­fjord, Wij­defjord, Sorg­fjord … oh, well …

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

A lot of “might have” and “would” and so on. It is curr­ent­ly not­hing but ima­gi­na­ti­on and dreams. Unseen, not expe­ri­en­ced, not lived. The 40 polar enthu­si­asts that should have met on a sai­ling ship to explo­re the far north, to share the excit­ment and fasci­na­ti­on, will never meet in this com­bi­na­ti­on. Sad.

So, fin­gers crossed that we will meet next year or in 2022 in Spits­ber­gen, or else­whe­re bet­ween the north pole and the south pole!

Spits­ber­gen with Anti­gua in July can­cel­led

It is real­ly not a sur­pri­se, but now it is offi­ci­al: our Spits­ber­gen voya­ge with Anti­gua in July is can­cel­led for reasons that will hard­ly requi­re an expl­ana­ti­on. The par­ti­ci­pan­ts who are boo­ked on this voya­ge will be cont­ac­ted soo­nest by the Geo­gra­phi­schen Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft.

Corona-Virus, Spitsbergen

With Anti­gua in Spits­ber­gen: won’t hap­pen in July 2020.

I have to admit that this is a bit emo­tio­nal. The thought of all the arc­tic soul­food that is lost this year can bring more than just a bit of water to one’s eyes. Cer­tain­ly to mine, at least. This sum­mers’ first, ear­ly sea­son trip in Spits­ber­gen on Anti­gua would be hap­pe­ning right now. Still a lot of snow and ice up north. But in real life, Anti­gua is about as far away from Spits­ber­gen as most of you rea­ders will be. A few weeks ago, on the trip up from main­land Nor­way to Spits­ber­gen, we might have seen Bear Island as we haven’t seen it at all in recent years: with den­se ice packed all round the shores! We can only ima­gi­ne how good that might have been. Sad. I am sure that I can honest­ly think and wri­te that on behalf of all pas­sen­gers and crew.

Ice chart, Spitsbergen, early May

Ice chart of south Spits­ber­gen, ear­ly May: ice around the south cape, Bear Island and on the east coast, Bell­sund fro­zen solid. How good would that have been …
Ice chart © Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te.

Bey­ond all the good expe­ri­ence that is now lost, you may ima­gi­ne that this is also a bit of a tough blow eco­no­mic­al­ly. In this con­text, I may men­ti­on that my Spits­ber­gen online shop has never been clo­sed and it will remain open and acces­si­ble at any time and you can find a lot of good stuff the­re to tra­vel the Arc­tic wit­hout lea­ving the sofa! Next to the famous Spits­ber­gen bible, the­re is the less famous, but may­be even more beau­tiful pho­to book with the aeri­al pho­tos or, with the drift­wood pic­tu­re frames and the kit­chen slats, a real pie­ce of Spits­ber­gen on the wall or the kit­chen table, respec­tively, to men­ti­on just a few.

Gene­ral­ly, tou­rism is start­ing up slow­ly again in Spits­ber­gen. Empha­si­ze “slow­ly”. But this, again, will hard­ly come as a sur­pri­se: so far, only tou­rists from main­land Nor­way can visit Spits­ber­gen. Danish tou­rists will be the next ones who will be allo­wed in from 15 June. The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has announ­ced to make a state­ment regar­ding visi­tors from “near-by Euro­pean count­ries” until 20 July. So, stay tun­ed.

Any­way, ship-based tra­vel­ling over seve­ral days is so far excluded and it is announ­ced that it will take “more time” (wit­hout fur­ther spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­on) until this kind of tra­vel­ling can take place again.

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