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Monthly Archives: June 2024 − News & Stories


Even that …

Public viewing, Longyearbyen

Public vie­w­ing on the big screen. Kul­tur­hus Lon­gye­ar­by­en.
Quite likely the nor­t­hern­most public vie­w­ing.

Pho­to­book “Spits­ber­gen”: the sto­ries behind the pho­tos

The new pho­to book “Spits­ber­gen – cold beau­ty” has 227 images that take you on a com­pre­hen­si­ve jour­ney around Spits­ber­gen, both geo­gra­phi­cal­ly, sea­so­nal­ly and regar­ding wild­life and a bit of histo­ry here and the­re.

I took the pho­tos over a peri­od of almost 20 years, on uncoun­ted tours and jour­ney from 2005 (when I had just bought my first digi­tal came­ra) to 2023. For me, many of them are con­nec­ted to unfor­gettable memo­ries, and the decis­i­on for every sin­gle one came tog­e­ther with indi­vi­du­al decis­i­ons against 1000 other images that might just as well have been in the book now.

In the book, the pho­tos can and do speak for them­sel­ves. The­re is no long text to dis­tract the eye. My own thoughts, sto­ries and memo­ries don’t mat­ter the­re. But I would nevert­hel­ess like to share some of them. The place to do so is here. It might turn out to be a litt­le series over time if you like. We’ll see what hap­pens.

The first image: nor­t­hern light

In the Arc­tic, the year beg­ins in the midd­le of the polar night. Hence, so does the pho­to book. And how to illus­tra­te the beau­ty of the polar night bet­ter than with a nor­t­hern light?

A nor­t­hern light pho­to was thus also the ope­ner of the first ver­si­on of the book in 2011. I remem­ber how proud I was of my very nor­t­hern light pho­tos! But alas, I lacked all requi­re­ments for pro­per nor­t­hern light pho­to­gra­phy. I dare to say that this resul­ted in a rapid deve­lo­p­ment as far as I am con­cer­ned and things did impro­ve. But the 2011 ver­si­on of the book was prin­ted, and every time I took a copy of that ear­ly edi­ti­on up and saw that pho­to, I was kind of put off and I thought “that should be bet­ter”. Well, now it is. Over the years sin­ce then, I have spent count­less cold evenings equip­ped with warm clo­thes, full frame came­ra, high qua­li­ty prime len­se and tri­pod in Advent­da­len, whe­re I took the pho­to of my final choice in 2019.

Photo book Spitsbergen: Cold beauty. Northern light

The first pho­to in my new pho­to book Spits­ber­gen: Cold beau­ty: nor­t­hern light.

If you look at dif­fe­rent polar light pho­tos, on the inter­net, in books or maga­zi­nes, they are often very bright and extre­me­ly colourful. The­re may be the odd excep­ti­on, but in by far most cases this is a mat­ter of exag­ge­ra­ted twis­ting knobs and but­tons during image pro­ces­sing. It is important to resist this tempt­a­ti­on, the­se results are not rea­li­stic.

That one nor­t­hern light pho­to in the old 2011 edi­ti­on would have been reason enough for a new edi­ti­on of the book. Well, here it is, and this time I am hap­py with it 🙂.

The first sun­light

The return of the sun wit­hout seve­ral months of sun­light is always a very spe­cial event, any­whe­re in the Arc­tic. In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is sur­roun­ded by moun­ta­ins, this does not hap­pen befo­re 08 March. If you have a free view to the south, you can enjoy that delightful view con­sider­a­b­ly ear­lier. In Farm­ham­na, a trap­per sta­ti­on on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, we could cele­bra­te the return of the sun as ear­ly as 20 Febru­ary during my time the­re in 2022, and this is when I took this pho­to.

Photo book Spitsbergen: Cold beauty, First sunlight in Farmhamna

First sun­light in Farm­ham­na, 20 Febru­ary 2022.

My time in Farm­ham­na will fore­ver be among­st my tre­asu­red memo­ries. The­re are seve­ral more pho­tos from Farm­ham­na and sur­roun­dings that have made it into the new Spits­ber­gen pho­to book.

Page of the week: Lan­geøya

The Lan­geøya pan­ora­ma is the page of the week. Lan­geøya is a small island in the sou­thern part of Hin­lo­pen Strait. The page as such has exis­ted for a while, but now I have added some more infor­ma­ti­on and pic­tu­re. If you read Ger­man, then I recom­mend to have a look at the Ger­man ver­si­on of the page which includes a quo­ta­ti­on from Carl Kol­dew­ey, an explo­rer who visi­ted Lan­geøya in 1868.

No pre­view here, but Lan­geøya is just one mou­se click away!

Langeøya, ship Grønland

The yacht “Grön­land”, Koldewey’s ship in 1868.

Spits­ber­gen sum­mer: chicks, cham­pa­gne glas­ses, snow bun­tings

Thurs­day was the lon­gest day in the nor­t­hern hemi­sphe­re. This time it was the 20th of June and not the 21st becau­se 2024 is a leap year. It varies any­way, in “nor­mal” years it is some­ti­mes also the 22nd or the 23rd of June, depen­ding on the details of the Earth’s orbit around the sun. Any­way – 24th of June is Sankt Hans, and the night befo­re is Sankt­han­saf­ten (St. Hans’s evening), an event duly cele­bra­ted with huge bon­fi­res and a drink or two.

Common eider duck, Adventdalen

Com­mon eider duck on her nest at the dogyard in Advent­da­len.

Now the sum­mer is here in full bloom. Com­mon eider ducks and geese are busy bree­ding in their colo­nies in lar­ge num­bers, and you can see the first chicks making their first steps in the tun­dra.

It is sum­mer when the cham­pa­gne glass breaks

It is “offi­ci­al­ly” sum­mer in Lon­gye­ar­by­en when the stem of the cham­pa­gne glass is bro­ken. The “cham­pa­gne glass” is a huge snow field with cor­re­spon­ding shape on Ope­raf­jel­let, eight kilo­me­t­res due east and easi­ly seen from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Champagne glass, snow field on Operafjellet

The “cham­pa­gne glass”, a snow field on Ope­raf­jel­let, on Sun­day (16th June) …

With pro­gres­sing snow melt, the stem will break and the food is then sepa­ra­te from the cup, and once that has hap­pen­ed it is sum­mer. That’s how they do it here. It is a popu­lar sport to pre­dict the date of this important event, which this year hap­pen­ed last Tues­day, which is quite ear­ly. In other years this hap­pen­ed in late July, depen­ding on the amount of snow and the timing of the snow mel­ting peri­od.

Champagne glass, snow field on Operafjellet

… and on Fri­day (21st of June).

Mes­sen­gers of spring this year less abun­dant: decli­ne of snow bun­tings

Many peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en had the impres­si­on that the num­bers of snow bun­tings were lower this year than usu­al. The snow bun­ting is Spitsbergen’s only sin­ging bird. It comes around mid April and the beau­tiful voice of the male brings plea­su­re to all who have just had half a year of win­ter.

The impres­si­on that num­bers were and are lower this year were now con­firm­ed by sci­en­tists from NINA (Nor­we­gi­an Insti­tu­te for natu­re rese­arch), as Sval­bard­pos­ten wro­te. The sci­en­tists main­tain a long-term popu­la­ti­on moni­to­ring pro­ject which now com­pri­ses 27 years. The pro­ject includes moni­to­ring 100 nes­t­ing boxes in Advent­da­len. Usual­ly, bet­ween 40 and 60 nests are found in the­se boxes (in all of them tog­e­ther, not in every sin­gle box 😅). This year, howe­ver, the total num­ber was nine.

Snow bunting, Adventdalen

Snow bun­ting in Advent­da­len in ear­ly June: this year in lower num­bers.

The exact reasons are unclear, but just for a chan­ge, cli­ma­te chan­ge is not among­st the pri­ma­ry suspects. Neither the con­di­ti­ons in the bree­ding are­as in Spits­ber­gen. One theo­ry is that a part of the popu­la­ti­on fell vic­tim to extre­me storms in the Barents Sea during the autumn migra­ti­on. The­re were hea­vy storms in the Nova­ya Zem­lya area last Octo­ber, which fits regar­ding space and time. The bird flue and unu­su­al cold tem­pe­ra­tures in the win­tering are­as, the regi­on around the bor­der bet­ween Rus­sia and Kazakh­stan may also have play­ed a role.

A rare extre­me event of this kind lea­ves at least space for hope that the popu­la­ti­on may reco­ver in years to come.

An evening in Advent­da­len

An evening in Advent­da­len in June can be a litt­le jour­ney to para­di­se, espe­ci­al­ly for tho­se inte­res­ted in birds. Start at the com­mon eider colo­ny at the dogyard near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (an easy walk in town and loca­ted in the area that is gene­ral­ly con­side­red polar­bear-safe, cer­tain­ly at the time of year when the ducks are bree­ding the­re). Just sit down some­whe­re and spend a litt­le while quiet­ly and you will see what I mean.

The cur­rent impres­si­on on the wide tun­dra are­as near­by and a bit fur­ther into Advent­da­len is a slight­ly dif­fe­rent one. It is just an impres­si­on, total­ly sel­ec­ti­ve in space and time, but the impres­si­on is that the­re are far fewer geese gra­zing now on the tun­dra in lower Advent­da­len than the­re used to be in pre­vious years.

A com­pa­ri­son. The first pic­tu­re is from July 2022 …

Geese in Adventdalen, 2022

Geese in Advent­da­len, 2022.

… and the second pic­tu­re was taken on Mon­day (10 June 2024).

Geese in Adventdalen, 2024

Geese (or not) in Advent­da­len, June 2024.

Was it the bird flu?

The loca­ti­on of both pho­tos is not exact­ly the same (the­re is a few kilo­me­t­res bet­ween them, but both places used to have ple­nty of geese in the past), June is not July and 2024 is obvious­ly not 2022. So, just to make it clear again – it is just an impres­si­on. No data, no sci­ence. But I found the impres­si­on quite strong and it is that the­re are fewer geese around. May­be they alre­a­dy went for other are­as in the spring of 2024? The­re was litt­le snow in May, that might be a dif­fe­rence. Or was it the bird (avi­an) flu? This dise­a­se may have play­ed a role, as it is repor­ted to have kil­led about 1/3 of the Sval­bard popu­la­ti­on of Bar­na­cle geese, amoun­ting to 13,200 birds as Scotland’s Natu­re Agen­cy im wro­te in Okto­ber 2023. A stag­ge­ring num­ber.

Many spe­ci­es of smal­ler birds

But a clo­ser look reve­als a lot of life, espe­ci­al­ly among­st smal­ler birds, as the fol­lo­wing litt­le sel­ec­tion of pho­tos may show.

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

First row, left: leu­ci­stic Bar­na­cle geese are regu­lar­ly seen, alt­hough very low in num­bers. Midd­le: dun­lin. Right: Red throa­ted diver
Second row, left to right: Eura­si­an teal, reck-necked phalar­ope, snow bun­ting.

The­re were also some king eiders, but we saw them “only” in flight that time.

Espe­ci­al­ly Eura­si­an teal and reck-necked phalar­ope are among­st spe­ci­es that are not seen every day and ever­y­whe­re in Spits­ber­gen. Lower Advent­da­len has an impres­si­ve ran­ge of spe­ci­es, well worth a visit for bird lovers, and natu­re lovers in gene­ral.

From Eidem­buk­ta to Ymer­buk­ta and Lon­gye­ar­by­en

We star­ted the day in the love­ly bay Eidem­buk­ta on the west coast with its wide tun­dra plains. Suns­hi­ne, blue sky, bree­ding geese (keep your distance), reinde­er (don’t move, they might be curious and come pret­ty clo­se), views on gla­ciers, lagoons and morai­nes. A won­derful part of Spits­ber­gen, very dif­fe­rent from the steep, rocky, hea­vi­ly gla­cia­ted are­as fur­ther north which curr­ent­ly still have much more of a win­ter appearance.

Later we con­tin­ued into Ymer­buk­ta, our final stop in Spitsbergen’s beau­tiful natu­re, still with some­thing near 2 kilo­me­t­res of ice bet­ween the gla­cier and open water.

On the way back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, we roun­ded things off with a pas­sa­ge near Gru­mant­by­en, and later we went along­side in the har­bour of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Tho­se who wan­ted to were still ear­ly enough to round the day off in the local bre­wery clo­se the har­bour – the world’s nor­t­hern­most bre­wery.

So a won­derful jour­ney came to its end. The wea­ther had lar­ge­ly been real­ly good, the spi­rits high, the wild­life was the­re … gre­at stuff! Big thanks to all who have con­tri­bu­ted to this, first of cour­se the crew of the good sai­ling ship Anti­gua! And of cour­se ever­y­bo­dy else who was part of this trip and who came with enthu­si­asm and curiou­si­ty and good spi­rits. Save tra­vels back home, and see you again next time! ☺️

Pho­to gal­lery – From Eidem­buk­ta to Ymer­buk­ta and Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 06th June 2024

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

From Ny-Åle­sund to For­lands­und

What a day! Full suns­hi­ne, and sum­mer in the air. The air tem­pe­ra­tu­re was 5 degrees cen­ti­gra­de, but it felt like 20 🙂 the mor­ning in Ny-Åle­sund was pure plea­su­re.

Later we sai­led south into For­lands­und. We still had wal­ru­ses on the wish­list. Well, no pro­blem …

Gal­lery – From Ny-Åle­sund to For­lands­und – 06th June 2024

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

In Kross­fjord

Waking up in Kross­fjord with flat calm water and mir­ror images is a pret­ty good way to start the day 🙂 alt­hough it is pain­ful­ly obvious here how dra­ma­ti­cal­ly the gla­ciers are retrea­ting, both smal­ler ones such as For­bes­breen and the migh­ty Lil­lie­höök­breen. Still, they are huge­ly impres­si­ve. A gre­at place!

Later, we got to see some Brünich’s guil­l­emots and even some puf­fins pret­ty clo­se-up in Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta. Good stuff. Then we finis­hed the day in style in the har­bour of Ny-Åle­sund.

Gal­lery – In Kross­fjord – 05th June 2024

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

Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen

A calm night at anchor is always a good thing, espe­ci­al­ly in beau­tiful Hol­miabuk­ta and accom­pa­nied by the mating call of rin­ged seals, a very spe­cial sound that you can only hear at this time of year when the ship is ancho­red and the engi­ne is off.

Fug­le­son­gen can make get­ting off and on again on the shore a chall­enge, but what you get in return can be stun­ning. You get clo­se to the soul of the Arc­tic – in shape of count­less litt­le auks. The place is so full with life.

Later, the maje­s­tic Fuglefjord pre­sen­ted its­elf in the most beau­tiful suns­hi­ne. What a plea­su­re! A polar bear in Kob­befjord roun­ded the day off.

Gale­rie – Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen – 04th June 2024

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

In Raud­fjord

The days are full and beau­tiful, and the­re is not much time to wri­te. The wea­ther God is cle­ar­ly on our side. A litt­le bit of fog just added to the atmo­sphe­re, and then the sun came out in full sple­ndor in inner Raud­fjord. The ice was brea­king up in Ayerfjord, some­thing that cle­ar­ly bene­fit­ted bio­lo­gi­cal pro­duc­ti­vi­ty, and the table was laid for huge num­bers of Brünich’s guil­l­emots and seve­ral Min­ke wha­les.

Pho­to gal­lery – In Raud­fjord – 03rd June 2024

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

Ice – 02nd June 2024

We had alre­a­dy cover­ed a lot of distance to the north so we were on Spitsbergen’s north coast this mor­ning, rea­dy to sail for the ice. And so we did. We rea­ched the ice edge after a cou­ple of hours at 80°31’N. What a won­derful icy world! That’s were we spent the next cou­ple of hours.

Then we went south again, with a per­fect gent­le sai­ling wind. All sails went up, one by one. Beau­tiful, that’s how we love it!

Gal­lery – Ice – 02nd June 2024

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Smee­ren­burg­fjord – 01 June 2024

Here we go, start­ing with SV Anti­gua in Spits­ber­gen!

Loo­king at the wea­ther fore­cast, we deci­ded to get north quick­ly, even though that meant sai­ling the first night inclu­ding some bum­py stret­ches. Next mor­ning, we wan­ted to go for our first landing in Engelskbuk­ta, only to see a polar bear coming out of the water exact­ly whe­re we wan­ted to go – what an ama­zing start to the day and the trip!

Under sails, we con­tin­ued nor­thwards, alt­hough the swell did not exact­ly make this pas­sa­ge the grea­test bit of sai­ling fun ever. So ever­y­bo­dy quite enjoy­ed tou­ch­ing solid ground later that day in Bjørn­ham­na.

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Smee­ren­burg­fjord – 31st May / 01st June 2024

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

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