Freezing over

Last night temperature was below zero, but not too cold. To my big surprise it was cold enough to let the small duck pond in Skelleftehamn freeze over completely anyway. The yellow-brownish leaves lay on, in and under the thin new ice. The rudtjärnen – a lake perhaps twenty times as big – was completely open by contrast. I had a look at the rocky landscape nearby and most of the puddles were frozen over with 3mm ice, too, but not all of them. I guess, there must be some warmer spots in some places even if the sun is hardly shining.

The first ice on the Baltic sea

After a clear and starry night temperatures dropped to -6 °C. I was quite curious if there would be ice on the Baltic Sea already and drove to the beach of Storgrundet. Of course the sea is still open in the midst of October, but in some protected bays the first thin sea ice starts covering the water. While I looked around the sun rose and instantly changed the colours of the scenery showing a nice contrast between the bluish ice in the shadowy and the warm colours in the sunlit parts.

Even if it’s cold, some bluebells are still blooming. I guess there’re quite tough. They really look nice with the tiny hoar frost crystals on their blue petals. (I guessed I looked quite funny while taking this picture from below with my head lower than my feet …)

The sun rose higher while it was still quite cold. A small outboard motorboat with two people in bright red thermal suits and fur caps went by. I took another photo of the first motif, just ten seconds before the tiny bow waves of the boat reached the thin ice and crushed it into pieces. That was the time when I realised that it’s friday, no weekend yet and I definitely should start working. So I drove home and took the bus at 9:30. Still -5 °C – the first day where a down jacket came quite handy.

Now its a quarter to eight, -5 °C again and I want to go paddling tomorrow morning. But I’m still unsure how to dress. I’m not too experienced in cold weather paddling.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

starry – sternenklar
Baltic Sea – Ostsee
bluebell – Glockenblume
hoar frost – Raureif
petal – Blütenblatt
outboard – Außenborder
bow wave – Bugwelle

Breaking the ice

6:15 rang my iPhone alarm and woke me up, far too early for a Saturday, but I made up a plan yesterday when I took pictures from the ice: I want to see the sunrise. From my kayak! I took a short breakfast, packed my camera, water, a snack and my immersion suit and drove to the small Storgrundet beach again. Half of the sea between the island and land was covered with ice.

immersion-suitSome minutes later I sat in my kayak and started my trip. It was harder to get ahead than expected. Even if ice was just three to five millimetres thick you could easily lay down the paddle without braking it. And so I had to prick the blade through the ice to force me forward. The cracking sounds of the ice smashed by my kayak reminded me on the tour with the “Arctic Explorer”, an ice breaker in Piteå. But I’m not sure if I would break as little as a single centimetre with the blade of my paddle. The immersion suit that I wore for protection in case of flipping over or falling into the icy water is quite alike the survival suits on the Arctic Explorer, too. You can lie in ice water for quite a long time without even freezing. But moving in it is hard because the neoprene is quite thick and stiff and the attached gloves are not very comfortable.

The sky was mostly clear, just some clouds in the east gleamed in warm early pre-sunrise colours. And far afield just over the horizon you could see a big wall of grey clouds. The locals call this clouds vinterväggen (The winter wall), since this is a typical cloud pattern in the winter months. It was awesome to be out, feeling the chilly air in the face, listening to the cracking sounds of the fresh ice and watching the changing sunrise colours reflecting on the icy surface.

But the ice gave me a quite hard time and so I decided after a while not to round another island but to head back to the beach and perhaps take another nap after the short last night. Therefore I turned my kayak and paddled back. I could see the channels of open water that the boat cut into the ice on my way there. I tried to use these channels to make paddling simpler, but it hardly help. Not the boat is the problem but the blade. Finally I went ashore again after one of the shortest kayak trips ever. But it was completely worth it!

November: sun and ice

I love the combination of sun and snow, or sun and ice. Today I got the latter. I woke up 5:45 and after a short breakfast I drove to Långhällan, where I’ve been four weeks ago. First I tested my new lens, but quickly changed to my old wide angel lens, since I don’t have a 52mm filter adapter for the new one. It was quite cold for the first of November: between -8 °C and -9 °C. The sun slowly went up but was hidden behind a wall of clouds. Långhällan is just a big rugged rock but I could take photos again and again, always trying to find new and better motives. Today I tried to catch both the cold ice covered puddles and the sky with its warm daybreak colours.

After a while I turned the car and drove back a bit, but stopped at another shallow beach. In contrast to Långhällan which is quite exposed, this small bay starts to freeze over. The ice is still very thin and even small waves can break it into large, irregular pieces.

All grass and reeds where covered with hoarfrost which gave the landscape a quite wintry mood, even if it’s only first of November. First I was annoyed with myself because I left home the macro lens. But the new wide angle is surprisingly good for near shots, too.

Now it got cloudy and warmer, +1 °C. So I guess I can have a lie-in tomorrow.

Day and night boat

Today we had the first day with 24 hours frost and a maximum temperature of -2.8 °C. When I was out this morning both the sea and most parts of the lake Snesviken where free of ice. When I was out tonight, temperature dropped to – 9 °C, big parts of both sea and lake where covered with ice, the sea with very soft ice, the lake with a surprisingly thick layer where you could even stand on – at least near the shore and if you where really careful.

The first image got blurred because I pressed I stood on the thin ice, as well as the tripod, and pressed it down some centimetres with my weight. Then I continued to make photos of the same motif as in the morning: A frozen boat. I prefer the night shot with the full moon illuminating boat and ice, even if I dislike the blurred stars.

The night showed both an almost full moon and polar light, quite weak again. I made two shots neither focussing on moon light or polar light, but showing them anyway. The pictures are more experiments than good shots. But showing those is part of the blog, too.

What a Diff’rence a Day Makes

Today (6th of November) was probably the coldest day this season by now. When I left the house the thermometer showed -11 °C. I was a bit in a hurry to get the sunrise photo in time. After that I had a bit more time and drove to the lake Snesviken where I made the boat photos yesterday and last night. When I looked at the lake I was stunned! Yesterday only a minor bay was covered with thin ice, today – just 24 hours later – the whole lake.

And we’re not talking about a tiny duck pond, but about a lake one kilometre long and up to 500 meter broad. Amazing, how a single frost day can change the surface from small gurgling waves into a solid ice cover.

The evening before I was a bit angry with myself that I already dragged the kayak home again some days before, but when I came to the little beach Storgrundet I realized, that even this sheltered part of the Baltic Sea was completely covered with ice. Ice you almost could stand on and therefore much too thick to break it with the plastic blades of the paddle without ruining them.

It will get warmer the next days with even some rain, but I guess that kayak season is over, at least as long as I want to set in the kayak at the beach Storgrundet or at the boat harbour Killingören.

Wintry moods round Norsjö

Yesterday I had a meeting in Norsjö, which is round 100 km away. The meeting already started at 9:00 with a breakfast at 8:30 and ended 12:00 with a lunch.

I started quite early to make some fotos on the way to Norsjö, but the trip took longer than expected and I just made an extremely boring photo of a big lake, completely overfrozen and covered with two millimetres snow.

After the meeting I took a detour round Norsjön which was covered with ice, too. It started snowing.

I continued my way with another detour and crossed two rivers. First the minor Malån which was mostly ice covered, than the big river Skellefteälven that enters the Baltic Sea in Skelleftehamn, where I live. The Skellefteälven was completely open. That was the last photo I took yesterday. Even if it was only three o’clock it was already so dark, that I had to expose 3 secs (with f/9 and ISO 200).

By the way: älv means “river”, älven is the definite form meaning “the river”. Å is a minor river and ån is the definite form.

Ice fishes, a deadly meteorite and an almost secret cave

The present day I spent with my friends Lasse and Martine. Well, not the first part because I was awake earlier and went down through the forest to a small bay of the river Skellefteälven. The bay was covered with several thin layers of ice. I fell through with each step and the only reason why I dared to go there, was that I know that the water is quite shallow. The atmosphere is always a bit spooky – decades ago this place was a forest but I was cut down because of the water regulation. In summer you can still see the cut-off trunks standing in the shallow water.

After an extensive breakfast – ok, let’s call it brunch – we made a trip to two special places. Look at the next image which is probably the awfullest photo ever I published. But the history is quite interesting.

Let’s go back to the 20th of May 1900: Ludvig Lundgren just left the house in Kvavisträsk to visit Fredrik, his neighbour. A bad idea, because just this day the place was hit by a meteorite. Ludvig wasn’t hit directly but found unconscious just 50 meters away. He died some days later probably of the consequences of the pressure wave. This is probably the only documented case of a deadly injury connected with a meteorite impact.

The next photo (back and white for technical reasons) is a place hardly known even to the locals. It is hidden in the middle of a forest and probably almost undiscoverable without knowing the GPS coordinates.

This cave is connected to World War II where it was used as a hiding-place for locomotives. Up to eleven engines found place in this hole in the mountain. It was locked for many years but now both the gate in the fence and the big folding doors of the cave are unlocked and you can enter it. We didn’t have any flash lights with us but the three LEDs of our smartphones where bright enough to see floor and walls. It was both fascinating to see this place as terrifying.

It is always great to travel with Lasse since – as a journalist – he knows so many fascinating stories and interesting places. Without him I’ll probably would have continued to make pics of ice and snow. A welcome variation!

On the way back (and what a way with frozen tracks so deep that the car was steering itself and occasionally hit the ground) we saw a lot of reindeers. They don’t pay attention to cars, but as soon as you open a window to make photos or even leave the car they probably will leave the place. But quite often they will stop again and watch you carefully. That’s the chance for photos. (None of the pictures became really good, but I’ll publish them anyway).

Thank you, Martine and Lasse for yesterday evening and for this nice day!

Ice pears and frozen splashes

A starry night was followed by a cloudy and frosty day.

First stop: The bay Kallholmsfjärden. The sea was open but the stems of the reeds were ice coated. The attached ice looked a bit like ice pears.

Next stop: Storgrundet. This sheltered part of the sea started to freeze over again with soft and thin new ice.  Because of the sinking sea level some of the older ice pieces stood erect. One of them looked like a frozen splash!

Last stop before it got dark: The lake Snesviken. Despite the last week with temperatures slightly above zero the lake is not only frozen, but you could see the first tracks of ice skating.

Some of the locals are quite experienced and they know exactly whether the ice will bear their weight or not. I’m not experienced at all. Therefore I’m nervous even if I have 20 cm ice under my feet which means that the ice would easily bear a car. Today I only crawled two meters onto the icy surface of the lake to take the last photo, well knowing that the water isn’t deep near the shore.

Sunrise colours

The sky was partly cloudy this morning but the late rising sun shone on the clouds illuminating them in warm pastel shades that changed every minute. This shot I made on a small swampy lake not far from my house in Skelleftehamn.

Ice und sun from two weekends

Yes, I’ve been partly busy, partly lazy and in addition to that a bit unhappy with my photos the last days. Winter still hasn’t come to Skelleftehamn: Sometimes it’s below zero, sometimes above, sometimes it snows a bit, sometimes it rains (preferably on frozen ground making the streets quite slippery) und quite often it’s cloudy.

For me it’s still a mystery, how lakes, river and even parts of the sea could freeze over if it’s not constantly below zero for a longer period.

When I made the photo Sunrise colours two days ago, I had to wade through hip deep water and swamp to come to my desired place since the ice didn’t bear me. Two days later I saw a photo of the same spot – with a small child ice skating on the frozen surface. But I guess that the locals know the places where it’s save to enter and leave the ice.

A day later I stood at a small rocky beach of the peninsula Kallholmen looking on the bay Sörfjärden. Here you couldn’t sea any ice at all, beside on some stones that are extremely slippery when ice-covered. That’s where I made this photo:

The next saturday – exactly a week later – I was out again to take photos of the sunset. Same bay, different place – this time more upstream. The Sörfjärden is not only a bay but the mouth of the river Skellefteälven, too. The sea is still open but on the sides of the more wind protected river large parts are covered with several layers of ice. The upmost layer was so thin that the ice looked like flakes or feathers.

Today I drove to Kågehamn to take a sauna with two friends. Kågehamn lies beside of the Kågefjärden which seems to be well protected against wind, since the whole sea is ice covered. The ice is thick enough that people skated to the island Bastuholmen, which is one kilometre away from the shore.

Note to myself: Buy ice skates and learn how to skate – next winter.

While my friends did I skating tour, I was on the ice as well and – surprise, surprise – took some photos. This time mostly of ice cracks and embedded bubbles.

By the way: The first sunset photo was made 13:32, the second was made 13:08. Sun goes down quite early in this time of the year. But sun goes down quite slow as well which is nice if you like taking pictures because you don’t have to hurry too much.

Roller coaster weather

This December the weather is like a roller coaster, going up and down, bringing frost, rain, hail, sleet and storm. It’s not at all the winter you imagine when you think on Northern Sweden.

Monday started with sunny weather and temperatures round 1 °C – cold enough to cover the windscreen with a thick layer of window frost. (I prefer the German name “Eisblumen” which means ice flowers.) Then it got colder.

Tuesday it was quite clear and cold with temperatures round -7 °C with a minimum of -9 °C at 22:00. In the next three hours temperatures rose by 10 °C and the next morning we had +3 °C and heavy winds. I left my car at the car service station to get it checked before my winter journey and took some photos on the way back home. I attached spikes to my boots because the wet icy roads where extremely slippery. When I went back some hours later to get the car I was surprised at the high water level. This day the water level climbed 70 cm, that’s a lot for the Baltic Sea and only happened because of the storm pressing the sea water ashore.

The next two days were cloudy, temperatures round + 2 °C with some drizzle that instantly froze on the cold ground. Saturday evening – which was yesterday – it started to get colder and rain started to mix with snow and some soft hail. In the evening it finally started to clear up a bit und got colder.

Today it was quite clear, temperatures round -8 °C and I took a tour to the peninsula Örviken. Örviken has an area of 1 km², 400 people are living here. Even if it is quite near I hardly has being there, which is a pity since it’s a nice place, especially if it’s clear and you’re waiting for the sun rise.

And that’s what I did today. A good activity if you caught a cold and want to take it easy.

On the photos you can see the impacts of the weather: The storm destroyed the ice cover leaving a lot of floating ice floes, but in the cold night the surface started to freeze over again. Do you see the stacked ice in front of the trees? Its laying on land and I guess it was left there after the high water some days before.

After that I drove to another place I already knew and took some photos of the last motif today:

Now it’s half past five and -7.4 °C outside. The weather tomorrow? +2 °C and rain! Probably the whole day! Onto the frozen ground! Sounds familiar?

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

roller coaster – Achterbahn
drizzle – Sprühregen
soft hail – Graupel
peninsula – Halbinsel
Ice floe – Eisscholle

Shortest day in Skelleftehamn

Sunrise 09:40, sundown 13:25 – that’s less than four hours sunlight with the sun hardly rising above the horizon. But you can add at least three hours dusk and dawn, so it’s not pitch-dark 20 hours and the snow that fell two nights before lightens up the scenery, too. The image below shows the river Skellefteälven which is almost completely ice covered, at least in Ursviken where the river is broad and the current is week.

Winter intensifies

Did I write about the “just normal” winter two days before? Well that changed a bit. Right after I wrote the last article the snowfall intensified and brought 10 cm new snow within 16 hours. It got both windier and colder and still snowed a lot.

Today¹ I took a walk round the small lake Rudtjärnen. Snow fell in thick, heavy flakes and made it impossible to look farther than 100 meters. The squalls whirled up the snow morphing the view into a grey-white nothing. And it was even windier on the slope by the lake. The trees on the 2nd photo were hardly 50 metres away!

That was a nice and not so long walk (which was intended since I don’t want to overstrain myself right after the infection), but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to go out again. And so I did. This time with food and drink, (of course) my camera, my new flashlight and my new down clothes for some testing. I already guessed that I couldn’t drive to the small boat harbour because the way wasn’t ploughed and snow was too deep for my car. So I decided to continue to the peninsula Näsgrundet. What a piece of luck!

I dressed up for cold weather, lit my new strong flashlight and went to the rocky beach. Normally the shore descends to the open sea but not tonight where – I couldn’t believe my eyes – the shore was an ice shelf rising up at least one meter before dropping into a black nothing. I could hear the sea behind but I couldn’t see it. Where am I? What happened? Then I heard a rolling wave and – SPLAT! – I could see water and foam rising high up behind the brink and clashing onto the ice shelf! It took a moment or two until I realised what happened: The brisk northern wind presses the waves ashore where they rocket up into the air several meters. I guess that the water and foam first landed on the rocks where it probably froze almost instantly – remember, it’s -15 °C  out there. The rocks became more and more ice covered until they vanished under a growing layer of ice. When I came to this place this evening some parts of the ice were already two meters above sea level! And still some of the waves managed to toss a lot of water onto the ice where it froze and enlarged the ice shelf. What a fantastic experience!

I was both happy to be out there and a bit disappointed that I couldn’t share this moment. If I at least could take a photo, but how to take pictures of waves when it’s so dark. Wait a moment – dark? – My new flashlight was described as extremely bright – Let’s test. I switched the flashlight to the brightest mode, laid it onto my backpack and adjusted the beam to the waves. Then I took tripod and camera and started to experiment. And that’s the result:

I’m impressed. The new Flashlight is really bright. So bright that I can take such pictures at night time. (For the photo freaks: 1/20 sec at f / 4.5, ISO 1600. 35mm)

OK. The flashlight succeeded the test. But what’s with the rest? I was curious how warm the new bought down parka and down pant would be. I just wore a single layer of woollen underwear and my thin but windproof Norrøna-jacket, mostly to test the fur under the down clothes, that was all. (Not mentioning boots and gloves, of course). I’ve been out more than an hour, first taking pictures, then measuring wind and temperature, than taking my frugal evening meal. And yes – the Marmot down combination is as warm, snugly and cozy as it looks like. Almost too warm when sitting although we had an average wind speed of 10 m/s resulting in a wind chill of  -27 C. That’s good to know.

Now I’m longing to sunrise. I want to visit the spot again and take some daylight pictures. That’s perhaps evan a reason to postpone my journey another day. I’m not in a hurry. But tomorrow, when I’ll visit the place again I’ll wear something less water-sensitive than down, because tonight I always expected a huge monster wave would flood half the shelf and soak me completely.

Finally just two selfies from today, one when I walked round the lake, the other when I sat outside after the evening meal.

Foot note:

¹ As a matter of fact: Yesterday. It will already be Monday when I publish this article.

Some vocabularies for my German readers:

squall – Windböe
down – (hier) Daune
foam – (hier) Gischt
flashlight – Taschenlampe
fur – Pelz

For equipment nerds:

Flashlight: Nitecore EA41 Pioneer
Down clothes: Marmot 8000M Parka, Marmot 8000M Pant. Older (or simpler) models.

Just for the archives:

Friday 2015-01-09 21:45 ca. 30 cm -4.6 °C
Saturday 2015-01-10 13:40 ca. 40 cm -7.1 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 09:15 ca. 45 cm -8.6 °C
Sunday 2015-01-09 16:55 ca. 52 cm (47 cm backyard, 57 cm front yard) -15.0 °C

The magic ice world

Today I was in another universe. At least it looked a bit like it.

After my adventure on the “ice shelf” last night I longed to see the place by daylight. Breakfast was late but so was sunrise and right after I’ve eaten I drove to Näsgrundet again. We had -17 °C (more or less the whole day by the way) and some snow crystal fluttered out of the grey stratus clouds. I put on my grödels – simple crampons – to be able to go on the ice slope. Soon I stood at the rim and looked down into the calmed down sea. The view was quite impressive …

… but …

it would be great to see the ice walls with its icicles from the seaside. It’s not, that I didn’t think about it before, that’s why I had both my waterproof camera and my waterproof survival suit with me. I undressed a bit (not the funniest thing when it’s -17 °C outside) and slipped into the red suit. Then I took the camera and glided into the water. And that’s where I entered another universe. But enough words, the photos! Here they are:

I really loved to paddle in the ice water and to look at the ice walls that where decorated so beautifully wich icicles. Since the attached rubber gloves are waterproof, but not warm at all, my right hand index finger didn’t like the adventure as much as I did and got a bit of frostbite (it still hurts a bit but nothing serious, fortunately). And that’s how I looked like today when I took all these photos:

T minus 35 hours

Now I’ve made up my decision: I’ll start my journey on Thursday round 11 o’clock. That’s only 35 hours left! I’ll have to work all day tomorrow to manage my departure in time. Mostly it’s packing the zillion things I’ll want to take with me, but I have to continue and finish the installation of my travelling computer (my old MacBook Pro) and we all know: Working with computers always takes more time than planned and excepted.

Anyway, I managed to take a photo of the cement carrier Sunnanvik that regularly goes ashore in the bay nearby. Look how ice-covered the foredeck is! I would have preferred a wide angle lens shot from a lesser distance, but the whole bay was clear of ice some days ago and the new ice is much too weak to bear me.

That’s probably my last photo made in Skelleftehamn for long. When I’ll write the next blog post, I’m probably in the midst of Swedish Lapland already.

Back to Haukenes

Day nine

Today I drove back from Andenes to my friends in Haukenes where I’ll leave on Sunday or Monday. I didn’t choose the direct way on the eastern side of Andøya (82) but the detour on the western side via Stave and Skogvoll. There where some fantastic views, mostly at places where I couldn’t stop. But anyway, some images of today (and two of yesterday):

Let’s start with some houses in Andenes build on stilts (The greenish colour on the second photo comes from the polar light).

Andenes next morning and Bleik, where I took a long walk on the large sandy beach.

A small graveyard and a real tiny light house.

A man hanging up fish heads for drying (for the african market).

And last not least some landscapes when sun went down again.

That’s today in a nutshell.