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Home* Tri­plogs with pho­to gal­le­riesArc­tic 2013 → Tem­pel­fjord: polar bear fami­ly

Tempelfjord: an afternoon with a polar bear family

This was our day, serious­ly. Actual­ly, our idea was to go to the east coast, but low clouds were han­ging over the gla­ciers east of Sas­send­a­len so we went for Tem­pel­fjord.

We shouldn’t reg­ret this decis­i­on. It had been well known in Lon­gye­ar­by­en for weeks that a polar bear fami­ly was roa­ming around in Tem­pel­fjord. When we saw them, they were quite far away. The wea­ther was nice, so we just sett­led down with our snow mobi­les on the fjord ice and wai­ted. Very, very pati­ent­ly, while the polar bear fami­ly enjoy­ed an after­noon sleep in the sun for hours. What we didn’t know: the­re was a hole in the ice, exact­ly 200 met­res from us (later mea­su­red with GPS, when the who­le thing was over). It was just per­fect, as we were to find out soon.

Even­tual­ly, the trio star­ted to move again, slow­ly coming clo­ser and clo­ser. And final­ly, they sett­led down at this water hole. Abso­lut­e­ly no dan­ger for man or beast and no dis­tur­ban­ce invol­ved, they just car­ri­ed on with their busi­ness and we could, at any time, have jum­ped on our snow mobi­les and raced away at a speed that even polar bears can’t ima­gi­ne.

What fol­lo­wed was one of the most beau­tiful polar bear obser­va­tions I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot. We spent hours and hours wat­ching them play­ing. Mother bear could just never relax! She had con­stant­ly her off­spring, which was still very small, just weeks ago sin­ce they had left the den they were born in, clim­bing on and playful­ly fight­ing with her.

Now it paid off to have inves­ted in some more focal distance recent­ly. The com­bi­na­ti­on of a very long len­se (600 mm), a con­ver­ter (1.4x) and a crop fac­tor came­ra (1.7x. Nor­mal­ly I use a full frame sen­sor, but I just nee­ded as much focal distance as I could get this time) yiel­ded an ama­zing 1428 mm. I wouldn’t have thought this could prac­ti­cal­ly be used with suc­cess, but the com­bi­na­ti­on of high-qua­li­ty gear and excel­lent con­di­ti­ons resul­ted in a lar­ge num­ber of beau­tiful images, with almost none out of focus or other­wi­se screwed. Just the oppo­si­ted … we had water in the eyes when we went through the pho­tos later.

Have a look at some examp­les below. And I will make some more available when the occa­si­on is appro­pria­te. For exam­p­le, the­re will be a Spits­ber­gen calen­dar again for 2014 …

spits­ber­gen tem­pel­fjord (gal­lery)

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


Ever­y­bo­dy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en knows the hut “Inne­rhyt­ta”, situa­ted on a lar­ge Pin­go in Advent­da­len.


Advent­da­len is one of Spitsbergen’s lar­gest ice-free val­leys. In sum­mer, its main river is dif­fi­cult to cross and it takes usual­ly 2 days to hike to its upper rea­ches. In win­ter, it is the main snow mobi­le high­way on the rou­tes to the east coast, Tem­pel­fjor­den or north (Pyra­mi­den etc.) and fre­quen­ted by up to seve­ral hundred snow mobi­les per day on high sea­son weekends.


A small water­fall in lower Eskerd­a­len, on the west side of Sas­send­a­len. In sum­mer, a small river is cas­ca­ding down cliffs that are com­po­sed of hard Per­mi­an lime­s­tone lay­ers known as „Kapp Sta­ros­tin For­ma­ti­on“. It is wort­hwhile memo­ri­zing this term if you tra­vel in Spits­ber­gen, as the­se hard lay­ers form pro­mi­nent land­scape fea­tures in many places from Hin­lo­pen Strait to the west coast.


One more time, becau­se it is so beau­tiful: the ice cliff of Tunab­reen in Tem­pel­fjord. Ear­ly May.

Kapp Schoultz

One of many attempts to mine some see­mingly pre­cious mine­rals in Spits­ber­gen during the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry was made at Kapp Schoultz. Gypsym was the tar­get of the miners, but the attempt tur­ned out to be an eco­no­mic fail­ure. Next to some old remains, the­re are now some huts at Kapp Schoultz, inclu­ding one made of con­cre­te, the only one of its kind in Spits­ber­gen out­side the sett­le­ments that I can think of. The­re is also a small, but very nice, mobi­le sau­na. It is actual­ly locked, and one can only won­der why.



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last modification: 2013-12-27 · copyright: Rolf Stange