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.
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.