The ice did not last long

The morning of 10 January is my the coldest this winter: -20.5 °C. A longer period of frost has frozen over the Baltic Sea earlier than usual. I stand at the shore by our house. Ice as long as I can see.

I follow the coastal line to take photos. Ice fog draws in.

When I return from my pre-work photo trip the temperature has risen to -15 °C and it gets warmer hour by hour. In the evening it’s only -3 °C and it has become stormy.

Two days later I’m out again. It thaws. The effects of the storm are visible: The wind pushed the ice shield ashore where the ice broke into countless pieces.

Movements at the horizon. Large waves roll along the sea and build an ice wall by the rocks south from the island Bredskärssten, 1300 metres from our house. I would love to take photos there but there’s no way for me to get there. It’s too windy for a hovercraft and I don’t own one. So I take mobile phone photos through my spotting scope.

The next day. Similar situation but now with the sun illuminating the splash that the waves throw at the ice walls. The thaw has melted the snow on the ice and made it wet. It twinkles and glistens in the sun. Beautiful to watch.

In the night it is stormy und gusty again.

14 January – the next day. As every day it is too dark in the morning to spot the sea. A small line of red at the horizon signalises the approaching sun. And there it is: 09:03 – sunrise.

Now I can see that beside of some leftovers by the shore all the sea ice has gone. Crushed by the waves and the storm and floated away. Now there’s open water from shore to horizon. Probably it will take some time until the Baltic Sea freezes over again.

And what can you do in open water? Correct – you can kayak!

It was just a very small tour round Lillskär. First it was just a lunch break again and then it was still very windy. Wind came from west and I didn’t want to drift to Finland ;-)

Kayaking however wasn’t dangerous. It’s easy to paddle against the wind – easier than side winds – if the distance is not too big. Probably more dangerous is the large, wet patch of blank ice in front of our house. Slippery as hell! Hopefully it gets colder and snowier soon.

Link to a Swedish article of the SMHI: Bottenviken snabbt avtäckt igen.

Four winter days in and round Obbola

OK guys, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m too lazy to write long texts. I just show some photos of the last days where our German friend Medi joined Annika and me on various excursions with some notes.

Thursday, 6 January – skiing in Västermarks naturreservat

+++ Västermarks naturreservat, 50 km north from Umeå +++ a non-commercial forest made us climb over and under fallen trees that lay across the marked loop trail +++ by the trail a wooden cabin +++ time was too short to fire the oven but lighting candles is cozy, too +++

Friday, 7. January – lunch break skiing

+++ right next to our postbox (500 metres from our house) starts Spåret, a 3600 metre long forest trail +++ we use back-country skis to ski Spåret in my prolonged lunch break +++ we, that’s Dirk – guest for two nights – Medi and I +++ -12 °C, but my Anorak is too warm +++ I tie it round my hip +++ on the photo it looks like a skirt +++

Photo: Dirk Thomas

Me sking “Spåret” – Photo: Dirk Thomas

Saturday, 8 January — cross-country skiing on Olle’s Spår

+++ grey weather, -14 °C +++ the trees are covered with snow +++ black-and-white imagery +++ after some days of back-country skiing it’s nice to use cross-country skis on a real trail +++

Sunday, 9 January – Northern lights and sunrise

+++ 1 o’clock in the night +++ I check for Northern lights +++ we are lucky +++ Medi and Annika watch the aurora beside of the garage +++ I take some photos from our garden +++
+++ 8:20 in the morning +++ the Baltic Sea freezes over more and more +++ sunrise colours by the sea  +++ and then in our garden +++ watching sunrise while taking breakfast +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – Strömbäck-Kont

+++ just a short walk at one of Annika’s and my favourite places: Strömbäck-Kont +++ looking at the ice ridge by the sea +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – halo effects

+++ after lunch we are taking Medi to the airport +++ strong and colourful parhelion or sun dogs halos +++ the photo is taken at the airport +++ I am questioned by the security and show the taken photos to prove I’m not a spy +++

Kayak and ice on the Baltic Sea

Does it work? Can I paddle kayak on the Baltic Sea when it is covered with up to 20 cm thick ice floes?

Well, let’s try …

Looks like it worked, doesn’t it?

Well, to be honest, no it didn’t.

I did not use the paddle at all but just pushed myself forward with my arms and so pushed the kayak over the ice floes. Since this was slow and exhausting and I only had my lunch break I did not come far and did not reach the open sea that always was in view.

And the way back? The same but backwards. I don’t think it would have been possible to turn around the kayak in the ice. while sitting in it. But it was fun anyhow.

Happy New Year 2022

Some photos from New Year’s ski promenade with friends. We were lucky – clear sky and -12 °C gave perfect conditions for some outdoor BBQ at Stora Stenen. And when the wind increased we went inside the wooden cabin of this public recreation area and fired the oven.

Have a Happy New Year 2022 all together!

Sun salutation

While the polar night in Tromsø started in the end of November and continues for two more weeks there is no polar light home in Obbola which is 6 degrees south of Tromsø. So if there is clear sky, then there is sun.

After Christmas in Norway Annika and I arrived in Obbola some days ago. First the weather was cloudy and stormy but today  sky was quite clear. Therefore I could witness the sun today for the first time in more than a month. I only had to go 200 metres to the edge of our little bay Grundviken where I waited for the sunrise.

I love sunrises and sometimes I can stand up quite early to witness it. But today it was really special to watch the sun rise higher and higher up the sky while in Tromsø polar night still continues.

After breakfast we took the car to Byviken in Obbola to join the winter bath. Round 40 cars were parked there and a queue of winter bathers waited at the ice hole. Winter bathing has really become a popular sport within the last years. We decided to avoid the queue and continued to our favourite beach at Vitskärsudden where we had to climb over a wall of ice but then we were the only winter bathers. Air: -10 °C, no wind – perfect conditions. Great!

(Photos: Annika Kramer)

We may take another outdoor bath today, but then in the hot water of our friend’s hot tub. I guess this bath could take slightly longer than the previous one.

Home in Obbola

Yesterday TromsøBjørnfjell by car. Today BjørnfjellAbisko Turiststation by car. -17 °C in Abisko. Then nine hours by train via Boden to Umeå where good friends fetched us by car. Then UmeåObbola in Annika’s car that was parked at the friend’s house.

Here in Obbola it is quite warm, only -1 °C, but it is snowing and storming. You can hear the wind howl and see the snow glued to the seaside windows.

Home!

Cabin days in Christmas time

Christmas eve – Sommarøya and Hillesøy

It’s only 15 km to Sommarøya, a beautiful island reachable by car via a curved bridge. Even in snow fall and twilight you can see the turquoise colour of the sea. Everything is closed, even the hotel.

From there it’s not far to the church Hillesøy kirke, that by the way does not lie on the island Hillesøya but on the mainland. We tried to prebook one of the limited seats for the Christmas service but they where all taken. We are there very early and allowed to have a look in. Eye catcher: the tall wood-burning stove.

We drive back to the cabin – time for lunch while it gets dark outside.

Christmas day – Skitour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet

This day was supposed to be crisp and clear and it was. No clouds, hardly any wind, -10 °C. Perfect conditions for a small ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. In coastal Sweden we just would have started the tour, in the Norwegian mountains you must check the avalanche risk first. We got round 30 cm of powder snow the last days and the risk was level 3 which is quite high. So a real mountain tour would have been too risky but the terrain by the lake is too flat for avalanches.

And in the early evening we are lucky and get some polar lights. We just have to step outside the door and avoid the motion sensor for the outdoor lighting.

Everything would have been accessible from my apartment in Tromsø as well. Anyhow it feels more like a real holiday to be on a Norwegian mountain cabin over Christmas, just Annika and I. Perhaps we are allowed to use it again sometime.

A cabin named Fredly

Let me take you to my favorite place
Just a five hour drive from the city
Just follow the road until it stops
And then keep walking for another forty minutes
Then – out of nowhere – there it is
My cabin!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

I was lucky to get the my employer’s cabin for the Christmas week this year. The cabin of the Norwegian Polar Institute lies on a mountain slope by the fjord Kattfjorden. Two days ago Annika and I packed my car with a a lot of food and winter equipment and drove to the cabin, which is 40 km away from where I live in Tromsø. It lies by the road to Sommarøya (the summer island) which is a funny name when you drive through intense snow fall.

We did not have an address, but a small map and a description and so we found the parking place where the cabin supposed to be. And there it was, up on the hill in seemingly pathless terrain.

But under the snow there was a path up the hill and we found it. It took some efforts to bear everything up.

A Norwegian cabin can be everything from a wooden box to a luxury retreat. Our cabin has running water (cold and hot), electricity, underfloor heating, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, a wood-burning stove, a sauna, internet and more.

We followed the manual and turned the underfloor heating to the maximum, but even after some hours the cabin was as chilly as before. We failed to fire the wood-burning stove because there were only large logs of wood and no axe.

At one o’clock in the night we woke up. Whether it was because of the gusty and stormy wind or of the cold I cannot say. 8 °C in the cabin, the same as hours before.

I put on clothes and went down the hill to look for an axe in the woodshed by the road. I didn’t find one but I found bags with smaller pieces of wood. I hefted one up (exhausting!) and finally was able to make a fire. We were awake for an hour, sitting by the oven, gladly watching the thermometer showing the rising temperature.

Right now it’s icy cold
But in sixteen hours, it’s gonna be hot!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

The next day I slept until 10 o’clock. It was still dark and Annika and I took breakfast. One hour later it was bright enough to see the falling snow. We put on our clothes and went to the fjord Kattfjorden, which is less than 100 metres away from the cabin – and 20 metres in altitude.

We looked at the rocky coast and the seaweed covered stones and decided not to winter bath here today. Soon we trudged uphills through the snow back to the cabin and took it easy for the rest of the day. I can say, that the short days in the time of the polar night can be really relaxing.

At 13:00 the sky started to clear up and the snowy mountain ranges glowed colourfully. Polar night does not mean that it is pitch black 24 hours a day.

How lucky we are, we who may be here and stay for Christmas. In the cabin named Fredly (peaceful shelter).

The middle of the polar night

Today it’s the darkest day of the year, which means, that half of the polar night in Tromsø is over. With the risk of repeating myself, even the darkest day is not dark, especially when it’s a crisp, clear day with a lot of – well no sun – but cloudless sky and warm, colourful light.

No, you couldn’t see the sun, but the direction where it was, because a light pillar created by reflections of ice crystals in the air marked its position.

People where outdoors, not only on land but seaside, too. Two people clad in neoprene doing a long-distance winter swim. Three women paddling and taking a rest at Telegrafbukta. And finally me who after some hesitation took a winter bath. Air temperature -8 °C, water temperature +4 °C, alas no wind. Perfect conditions!

How long it will take until you can see the sun again? Well in Tromsø probably in a month but I’m cheating. In a week Annika and I head to our home in Sweden, where there’ll be at least four hours of sun every day. Beach holiday in the south ;-)