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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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