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Yearly Archives: 2023 − News & Stories


July tem­pe­ra­tures in Spits­ber­gen war­mer than “arc­tic”

The­re are seve­ral defi­ni­ti­ons for the Arc­tic, depen­ding on con­text. When it is a bout cli­ma­te, then the sou­thern boun­da­ry is usual­ly the 10 degree july iso­therm. Sounds tech­ni­cal? May­be. But it makes sen­se: when the avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re of the war­mest month – July – is war­mer than 10 degrees, then the­re will be shrubs or even trees. More than tun­dra, which is the typi­cal vege­ta­ti­on for the ice-free land are­as of the Arc­tic.

The­re are no shrubs or even trees in Spits­ber­gen (don’t get foo­led with the polar wil­low and the dwarf birch, they are not real­ly trees), but for the first time in histo­ry, local meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­ons have now in July recor­ded a mean tem­pe­ra­tu­re that doesn’t real­ly qua­li­fy as „high arc­tic“ any­mo­re. 10.1 degrees cen­ti­gra­de were mea­su­red at the air­port and 10 degrees in Pyra­mi­den. At the air­port, the month­ly avera­ge in July was as much as 3.1 degrees abo­ve the long-term avera­ge, accor­ding to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te as quo­ted by Barents­ob­ser­ver.

Sun and temperature, Spitsbergen

In July, tou­rists and locals could enjoy real sum­mer wea­ther in Spits­ber­gen, with tem­pe­ra­tures far bey­ond expec­ta­ti­on. For the regio­nal cli­ma­te, this is not good news, howe­ver: warm­ing is con­ti­nuing rapidly, with tem­pe­ra­tu­re records being bro­ken on a regu­lar basis.

It will not hap­pen real­ly soon that you can make a walk in the forest in Spits­ber­gen, but the warm­ing trend as such is clear: during the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal peri­od from 1991-2020, the avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re for the sum­mer months from June to August was, at the air­port, 5.5°C, but loo­king just at the last deca­de gives a value of 6.4 degrees, accor­ding to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. Warm­ing is fas­ter in the Arc­tic than almost any­whe­re else on the pla­net, due to regio­nal effects such as the loss of sea ice.

This leads to worry­ing effects that may well even fur­ther ampli­fy the warm­ing pro­cess: sci­en­tists have recent­ly found metha­ne springs in are­as pre­vious­ly cover­ed by now retrea­ting gla­ciers. Through the­se springs, lar­ge volu­mes of gases, main­ly metha­ne, can escape into the atmo­sphe­re, while they were stored in the under­ground as long as it was gla­cier cover­ed. As a green­house gas, metha­ne is much stron­ger than car­bon dioxi­de. The amount of metha­ne curr­ent­ly emit­ted this way in Spits­ber­gen is esti­ma­ted near 2000 tons our about one tenth of the metha­ne emis­si­ons of Norway’s oil and gas indus­try. But this value may see a signi­fi­cant increase in the near future as gla­ciers keep retrea­ting, accor­ding to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cam­bridge auf ihren Sei­ten.

Isfjord: Ymer­buk­ta & Coles­buk­ta

Time is fly­ing, this is alre­a­dy the last full day of a very long voya­ge. We are back in Isfjord, ancho­red in Ymer­buk­ta sin­ce the very ear­ly mor­ning. It was blo­wing quite stron­gly in the mor­ning, but we moved a bit fur­ther into the bay whe­re the moun­ta­ins gave us some shel­ter and went ashore. Ymer­buk­ta is not as far from zivi­li­sa­ti­on as many of the places we had recent­ly been to; the­re is boat traf­fic and mobi­le pho­nes work in the­re. Still, it is a beau­tiful place, and natu­re has a lot to fasci­na­te us with, from 300 mil­li­on year old fos­sils to the gla­cier Esmark­breen.

The final landing took place in Coles­buk­ta. An impres­si­on of the Rus­si­an histo­ry of Spits­ber­gen in the 20th cen­tu­ry was fol­lo­wed by a quiet walk into the beau­tiful tun­dra of Coles­da­len.

A beau­tiful fina­le of a beau­tiful voya­ge, which was bles­sed with luck … wea­ther, wild­life … ever­y­thing was the­re. The Arc­tic was fri­end­ly to us. Spi­rits on board were bet­ter than good and ever­y­thing work­ed per­fect­ly well – my app­re­cia­ti­ons for this go to all invol­ved, espe­ci­al­ly to Mario, cap­tain and owner of the good ship Mean­der, and his crew! Gre­at work, and I am loo­king for­ward to joi­ning you again in late August!

Pho­to gal­lery – Isfjord: Ymer­buk­ta & Coles­buk­ta, 17th july 2023

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

Recher­chefjord

It was and remain­ed win­dy ever­y­whe­re whe­re the eas­ter­ly bree­ze could blow through or was even chan­ne­led. So Recher­chefjord was an obvious choice. A litt­le evening tun­dra walk took us through a lot of Spits­ber­gen histo­ry.

Next day, the sun smi­led from the sky. A clear invi­ta­ti­on to go for some good hiking in Cham­ber­lind­a­len and on Obser­va­to­rief­jel­let. A gre­at mor­ning!

A visit to Recher­che­breen was cut short as a thick fog bank came in with ama­zin pace. The world hid­den in grey, we then stea­m­ed north, towards Isfjord.

Pho­to gal­lery – In Recher­chefjord, 15th-16th July 2023

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

The sou­thern west coast

Back on the west coast! It is good to have the south cape behind us; it is always a bit of a mile­stone and a poten­ti­al obs­ta­cle, at least for a sai­ling boat whe­re wea­ther is a major fac­tor espe­ci­al­ly for long open water pas­sa­ges.

With the eas­ter­ly wind still pre­vai­ling, we drop­ped the anchor just off the west coast south of Horn­sund – a coast well of the trod­den path, for good reason: it is a very expo­sed coast with a lot of nasty shal­lows, so stay­ing away from this coast is usual­ly the best thing to do. But on this day this coast was our fri­end, giving us shel­ter from the wind and offe­ring us gre­at hiking oppor­tu­ni­ties in exci­ting are­as.

Later, after a win­dy pas­sa­ge west of Horn­sund, we spent a love­ly evening in gol­den evening light in Hyt­te­vi­ka with arc­tic foxes and thou­sands of litt­le auks.

Pho­to gal­lery – the sou­thern west coast, 14. July 2023

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

Ham­berg­buk­ta & Sør­kapp

Now the thing was to make miles and use the rela­tively good wea­ther win­dow for the long pas­sa­ge around the south cape. Espe­ci­al­ly on a smal­ler, rela­tively slow boat, it is good to be men­tal­ly pre­pared for a day at sea wit­hout any landings on this day. And if it works out to make a landing – all the bet­ter. We got our chan­ce in Ham­berg­buk­ta. That is the bay on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen exact­ly oppo­si­te Horn­sund, whe­re the gla­ciers are mel­ting like cra­zy so the­re may be a pas­sa­ge bet­ween Ham­berg­buk­ta and Horn­sund in some years from now. A fast and sca­ry deve­lo­p­ment due to cli­ma­te chan­ge, which is pro­gres­sing and get­ting fas­ter and more inten­se.

Nevert­hel­ess, we enjoy­ed the mor­ning, with wea­ther con­di­ti­ons that can ade­qua­te­ly be descri­bed as arc­tic. Ter­rain, time and con­di­ti­ons did not per­mit lon­ger hikes, but some fasci­na­ting clo­se-up views of a gla­cier and its sur­roun­dings land­scape.

Then it was time to pro­ceed to and around Sør­kapp, some­thing that took the rest of the day and a good part of the fol­lo­wing night and went with mode­ra­te move­ment of the ship and the use of both engi­ne and sails.

Gal­lery – Ham­berg­buk­ta & Sør­kapp, 13th July 2023

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

Barent­søya

A day in Free­man­sund. A rather grey day, but that was not too bad. It does not real­ly mat­ter when you have seve­ral thousand kit­ty­wa­kes and seve­ral arc­tic foxes around you.

Or when you hike across the lush tun­dra in a wide val­ley. Admi­ring old wha­le­bo­nes and struc­tures such as ice wed­ges and wat­ching reinde­ers doing what they do.

In the evening, we set cour­se towards the south. It was get­ting time to get around the south cape.

Gal­lery – Free­man­sund: Barent­søya, 12. Juli 2023

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

Dro­ne flights: tou­rists fined

Dro­ne pho­to­gra­phy can be fun and it can open a who­le new per­spec­ti­ve on the world. But the­re are rules, a fact that seems to be unknown to many. This includes a no flight zone of 5 km around the air­port of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Most of Lon­gye­ar­by­en is actual­ly loca­ted within this no flight zone, some­thing many seem to be una­wa­re of, or they deci­de to igno­re it. This is for­bidden and it can be expen­si­ve: recent­ly, seve­ral tou­rists got their dro­nes con­fis­ca­ted and fines of 12,000 kro­ner – and it might even be more, depen­ding on the indi­vi­du­al case.

Drone Svalbard

Fly­ing a dro­ne Sval­bard: prin­ci­pal­ly pos­si­ble – but the­re are rules.

If you want to fly a dro­ne in Sval­bard, then you need to make sure you know the regu­la­ti­ons. Check the Sysselmester’s web­site or the Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book, it has all the infor­ma­ti­on you need to know 😉

On orga­nis­ed tours inclu­ding crui­ses, the­re may be rest­ric­tions from the tour operator/ship owner bey­ond the legal regu­la­ti­ons.

Kie­per­tøya & Kapp Zie­hen

Also this day didn’t work out quite as plan­ned. Thick fog all over the place, it just didn’t make sen­se to crui­se towards Brås­vell­breen. We rather made use of the time to make some mile the way we have to sail any­way, to the south. At some stage, we just have to make the­se miles.

I wouldn’t have pla­ced a bet on it, but actual­ly, we still found the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make not only one landing on this day, but two. Not the lon­gest hikes ever, but two inte­res­t­ing landings in place whe­re you cer­tain­ly get to every day. Obvious­ly, you don’t go for long hikes on an island like Kie­per­tøya when the­re is fog in the area and you know the next polar bear isn’t too far away. You rather stay clo­se to the boats that you keep rea­dy on the beach, rea­dy for take-off at any time as nee­ded. And enjoy the beau­ty of a litt­le pen­in­su­la and lagoon on a litt­le, remo­te, wild arc­tic island. The­re is a dra­ma­tic sto­ry con­nec­ted this place (click here for more pic­tures and info about Kie­per­tøya).

Later we even mana­ged to make a rare landing at Kapp Zie­hen, the nor­the­ast cor­ner of Barent­søya. Also defi­ni­te­ly not an ever­y­day place. And it looks and is dif­fe­rent from Barent­søya and Edgeøya else­whe­re. It is more polar desert like, more clo­se­ly rela­ted to the bar­ren land of sou­thern Nord­aus­t­land, for exam­p­le in Vibe­buk­ta. That is no coin­ci­dence, that has to do with the geo­lo­gy.

Gal­lery – Kie­per­tøya & Kapp Zie­hen, 12th July 2023

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

In Wahl­enberg­fjord

What a day! Just ama­zing!

Actual­ly, not­hing went accor­ding to plan.

Things star­ted with a good hike on Idun­nes­et, a litt­le pen­in­su­la in Wahl­enberg­fjord, framed by huge gla­ciers of the ice cap Ves­t­fon­na. A stun­ning pan­ora­ma. Actual­ly, we had a dif­fe­rent idea for the mor­ning, that’s just what hap­pen­ed. Wea­ther, as so often in the­se lati­tu­des.

Later, we hea­ded for Pal­an­der­buk­ta, but we never got the­re. Two polar bears – a mother with her second year cub – lite­ral­ly crossed our way, real­ly kind of approa­ching us and actively blo­cking our cour­se … ama­zing! Obvious­ly, the two had a gre­at time tog­e­ther in the water.

The result were a group of stun­ned, hap­py peo­p­le and some ama­zing pic­tures. Excel­lent mate­ri­al for the new Spits­ber­gen-calen­der 2024 that we will have rea­dy soon or a high-qua­li­ty print framed in Spits­ber­gen-drift­wood 😊

Gal­lery – In Wahl­enberg­fjord, 10th July 2023

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

Nor­t­hern Hin­lo­pen

It was almost good not to see the blue sky in the mor­ning. It was pret­ty grey, with low clouds. Of cour­se, who would mind sun and blue ski­es, but we had had so much of that the last cou­ple of days, and this is still the high arc­tic, with a bad repu­ta­ti­on for unp­lea­sant wea­ther, wind and fog … today we got a bit of that.

Not enough, howe­ver, to keep us from get­ting out and making a good hike in the polar desert land­scape of nor­thwes­tern Nord­aus­t­land. A see­mingly emp­ty land­scape, but very rich with all sorts of inte­res­t­ing details on a clo­ser look.

In the after­noon, the fog real­ly sett­led down on Hin­lo­pen Strait, so we set sails and made some miles to the south. Later, we rea­ched Alkef­jel­let, this ama­zing colo­ny of Brünich’s guil­l­emots. Ano­ther beau­tiful day, even wit­hout get­ting sun­b­urnt.

Gal­lery – Nor­t­hern Hin­lo­pen, 09th July 2023

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

Mean­der in the ice

We gave it an ear­ly start to reach the ice edge north of Hin­lo­pen during the mor­ning. The wea­ther was fan­ta­stic (again …). And so was this day in the ice. Just amau­zing! What can I say … well, have a look at the pic­tures 🙂

Gal­lery – Mean­der in the ice, 08th July 2023

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

Ves­le Raud­fjord and Vel­komst­var­den

It is always love­ly when the ship is at anchor during the night. Very quiet. That was the case that night in Ves­le Raud­fjord, on the north coast of Spits­ber­gen.

After yesterday’s hikes, it was good to start the day with a beach walk. Rela­xed, but full with inte­res­t­ing impres­si­ons.

Later, we had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to stretch legs again and get some stun­ning views over Reins­dyr­flya. A won­derful, wide-open land­scape … by the way, this area was part of the hun­ting grounds of Stock­holm Sven, a Swe­dish (well, obvious­ly) trap­per who was a neigh­bour of Chris­tia­ne Rit­ter who men­tio­ned him in her book. Now, the­re is a books about Stock­holm Sven available: “The Memoirs of Stock­holm Sven”. I have alre­a­dy got it and I am loo­king for­ward to rea­ding it.

Crossing 80 degrees roun­ded the day off.

Gal­lery – Ves­le Raud­fjord and Vel­komst­var­den, 07th July 2023

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

Raud­fjord

The day got an ear­ly start when the crew sigh­ted a polar bear on Ams­ter­damøya at 5 a.m. What a glo­rious sight­ing! In the end, the bear swam towards the ship and pas­sed us in a distance of a few met­res. That is not an ever­y­day thing, not at all.

Later, the day star­ted again 🙂 in Raud­fjord. Again, right place, right time … ama­zing wea­ther! We made some beau­tiful hikes. Tho­se who wan­ted to could ven­ture on a crossing of Bis­ka­yar­hal­vøya.

Gal­lery – Raud­fjord, 06th July 2023

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

Kongsfjord

Once again, we were in the right place at the right time. Not only becau­se the wea­ther was on our side (again!) in Kongsfjord, but also becau­se we had Ny-Åle­sund to our­sel­ves – regar­ding other ships, that is. Gre­at!

Later, it was Ossi­an Sars­fjel­let. What an after­noon! Some beau­tiful and very rare plants, a bird cliff, stun­ning views … it couldn’t be more beau­tiful!

Gal­lery – Kongsfjord, 05th July 2023

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

For­lands­und

The day star­tet with a litt­le hike on a pen­in­su­la with ama­zing views of a huge gla­cier. What a mor­ning!

It was to beco­me even bet­ter. Fur­ther north in For­lands­und we found wal­ru­ses. More than one hundred of them! They were quite slee­py, which could under­stand, con­side­ring the unu­sual­ly warm wea­ther.

A cou­ple of wha­les in the ent­rance to Kongsfjord, inclu­ding seve­ral Fin wha­les and at least one Blue wha­le, roun­ded the day off.

Gal­lery – For­lands­und, 04th July 2023

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

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