A starry night

Today evening I met with my colleague Marika. We took the car to a road on the mainland looking for a dark place to spot the comet C/2022 E3. And we did, although it was only a weak, soft spot high up in the sky. I was much too impatient to take photos. I know that my equipment is not made for astrophotography.

But I was glad to be outside under the stars, watching the moonlit snowy mountains and the frost covered trees that glittered brightly when a car passed. With -15 °C it was surprisingly cold, almost ten degree colder than in town.

Of course I did take some other photos, just from the surroundings.

Now I hope for more starry nights.

Tromsø – waiting for the sun

This winter polar night in Tromsø was from 26/27 November till 15 January. While the sun has been above the horizon at noon since 16 January it took some additional days until it could rise above the mountains to be seen in Tromsø. That day was last Saturday, the 21 January. It is called soldagen (the sun day). On this day it is tradition to eat “Berliner” doughnuts called solbolle (sun bun). When I went shopping in the afternoon only a few were left in the shop. But I already ate one in the cantina in advance the day before.

Saturday, 21 January

It is soldagen today. I walk to the bay Telegrafbukta at noon. Other people have gathered waiting for the sun. Some of them are barbecuing. But it is too cloudy to see the low sun itself. So: no sun.

Sunday, 22 January

Weather has changed. It has been raining at temperatures up to +7.6 °C. All the ways are icy. A misery!

I take a walk in the afternoon. Sunset has been one hour ago but through the thick rain clouds still comes a purple-violet shade of light. It looks very dramatic. But no sun.

Tuesday, 24 January

While I’m working some heavy snow showers move over the city. The large cruise ship that moored in the centre is almost hidden from my view through the windows of Framsenteret. Definitively no sun today.

Thursday, 26 January

It has become slightly colder and 15-20 cm of snow have fallen since last night. I walk home early, the first time not in darkness. It’s bright, but – no sun.

27 January

Warmer again. And today it really rains a lot. While I’m out at 15:00 it just pours down and large and deep puddles are everywhere. And wet ice. A real misery! And of course: no sun even today.

28 January

I take a long walk by the coast of Kvaløya. Temperature has dropped to +1 °C and it snows a lot. The snow is wet and sticky. Later it clears a bit but still no sun.

29 January – today

Will the sun ever come out? Even today it snows and it is quite cloudy. Since I can see some small blue patches between the clouds and want to get some fresh air anyhow I again walk to Telegrafbukta as eight days ago. There are a lot of clouds and there’s a ship in the distance.

A ship? If I have time I always check which ship it is using the app VesselFinder. OK, let’s see … . What!? I’m really surprised: It is the Kronprins Haakon, the very ship I’ve been on at my polar expedition last year. I didn’t know that it arrives in Tromsø today. I directly get a strong longing to be on that ship cruising to the high Arctic again. (Spoiler alert: I may, later this year.)

But I can see something else. While I take photos of the bright spots between the dark clouds I spot a bright orb through my telephoto lens. The sun, the sun! Can it be true?

I check the photos at home. Although the orb is not visible on the photos (too bright) the altitude fits. So now I’m sure I saw the sun today, at least for some seconds through my camera.

This year will be a bit special. If everything works out Annika and I will see the sun coming back again in five, six weeks. In March work in Longyearbyen on Svalbard for a week and before that Annika and I stay there as tourists for about a week. One of the events I’m looking forward to is the 8 March: A quote from visitsvalbard.com:

[…] Marking the sun’s return is a long-standing traditional for the residents of Svalbard. When the sun returns on 8 March, we gather on the old hospital steps to celebrate the ‘sun’s return’. The saying here goes that ‘the sun is declared back in Longyearbyen when its rays reach the steps’. […]

Coastal walk through the snow

Yesterday it was warm in Tromsø and it rained a lot. Last night it got slightly colder and today it snowed at +1 °C. I decided not to ski but to take a coastal walk by the shore of Kvaløya.

Especially the first half was a wet experience with some heavy snow showers coming from the front. The clouds seemed to start just above my head and I couldn’t see Tromsøya nor any mountains.

Although I have become pretty wet the way back was more comfortable. The wind was in the back, the snowfall decreased and finally I even could see the mountains again.

Round three hours later I arrived at the car. The luv side was plastered with wet snow. And I was glad that a had spare clothes in the car I could change into.

Anticipation is the greatest joy

In Germany this means “Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude”. I never liked this proverb. I’m too impatient! Or is it true? Even for impatient people like me? Perhaps.

Yesterday I asked the map section of the Norwegian Polar Institute if I may have a map of Svalbard. And I got one. Since my part of our shared office does not have any walls I decided to put in on the wall in my Hybel – my small apartment in Tromsø. Here it hangs, just between the two windows.

Last week I got to know, that I may collaborate with L. for a week. He does not work at the Polar Institute, but at UNIS, the university centre in Svalbard.

Today my boss told me – he knows me well – that I may work there. So, If L. and I really find a common time to work together and there is accommodation and payable flights, I’ll be in Longyearbyen within the next months for a week. Plus some extra days when possible.

I have been in Longyearbyen before, but only a couple of hours after last years expedition. It would be so great to travel there again with much more time.

Of course it’s not carved in stone yet, but I’m looking forward to it already very much.

Anticipation is the greatest joy.

Two weekends in Tromsø

No, I will not write about this year’s warm January weather in Tromsø, the sleet showers, the icy roads, the rain today. I will write about the last two weekends.

Saturday, 7 January

My first ski tour this year. And since I’m a lousy downhiller I start again at the parking place at Finnvika on the island Kvaløya where terrain is not steep. At the parking place I meet a group of skiers, each with a dog but we have different directions and soon I’m alone and will be for the rest of the tour. It is not sunny – we still have polar night – but the sky is blue and bright. I ski cross-country, I’m too lazy no navigate. Slowly I gain high, it won’t be more than round 300 metres today.

The forecast is right, it gets windier and gustier by the hour and the snow is drifting over the barren rocks and the snow fields.

Some hours and 9 km later I’m back at the car. Some mountain tops have huge cloud-like objects in the lee. It’s drifting and blowing snow, a clear sign for high wind speeds.

Tomorrow I planned to take a tour to Sommarøya together with Marika who works at the Norwegian Polar Institute as well. We wanted to watch the waves in the storm.

Sunday, 8 January

Already the day before I changed plans. The weather service forecasted wind gusts up to 27 m/s. That’s not the weather where I want to cross wind-exposed bridges with my car. I just walk to the near shore to spot the waves there. Tromsø however is quite sheltered between mainland and the island Kvaløya and the waves are not so huge.

Saturday, 14 January

A lazy day. Nothing more to say.

Sunday, 15 January

I fetch Marika and we take the car to Sommarøya. No storm, no wave watching, just sightseeing and being outside. We stop at the road through the valley Gáhttovuonvággi (Sami) or Kattfjorddalen (Norwegian) to take photos from the mountains that shone brightly in front of the dark, purple clouds. They look harsh and untouchable.

On Sommarøya we walk around and visit some of the sandy beaches. Don’t let the clear, turquoise water fool you – it’s not the tropics and the water is ice cold. From the beaches and hills there are a zillion views to the mountains and islands around. It’s a beautiful spot, just an hour away and I should go there more often.

Next weekend?

Well, the weather forecast does not look too promising, but we’ll see. Maybe the next blog article shows only black-and-white photos.

 

An almost outdoor barbecue on Kvaløya

Some days ago I got a message from Elisabeth. She already had organised several events with friends and acquaintances – always outdoors – and in this message she asked me:

Lyst å bli med på grilling på fredag etter jobb?

(Would you) like to join (us) for a barbecue on Friday after work?”  That sounded like fun and I gladly accepted the invitation.

Friday evening was calm and clear and with -12 °C pretty cold for Tromsø – the coldest day this season. So I put some food and a lot of warm clothes with me. I met Elisabeth and two of her friends at the parking place and we went down to the barbecue hut by the sea. It looked like just a normal wooden house. Only without door, without window panes and without any floor. Instead of this a huge fire place in the middle.

More people dropped by until we were eleven people in total. Some of them had reindeer skins with them but they were hardly used. You know these parties where all people gather in the kitchen? It was a bit alike, all of us stood round the fireplace in the middle of the hut. Some to make stick bread or sausages, some to grill marshmallows or prepare waffles and some just to stay warm.

It’s always great to meet interesting, nice people. It gets however a bit harder when most of them are native speakers, because my Norwegian is still not so well. But it gets better and better. While I couldn’t take photos from the conversations I could take photos from the beautiful surroundings, even from within the hut. Remember, no window panes.

After three hours people started to leave. I was the last one left, just to take some more photos, then I took the car home as well.

Thank you Elisabeth for the organisation and for inviting me. Or more Norwegian: takk for i går – thanks for yesterday!

 

SE—DE—NO

Sweden—Germany—Norway, that’s the short version of my travel route the last two weeks.

Obbola – Sweden

Christmas was less than two weeks ago but it feels much longer. The kayak defrosting in the winter garden on Christmas Eve to prepare for a last paddle tour in 2022 with Annika. The drag marks of her kayak in the snow the day after. Last year. Long ago and far away.

On 25 December we travelled to Germany – a 24-hour train journey from Umeå to Bremen to celebrate the 90th birthday of my mother.

Bremen, Oldenburg, Münster, Heidelberg, Düsseldorf – Germany

After two days of celebration we visited friends in Oldenburg and Münster and then continued to Heidelberg by train to meet my old and loved friends I got to know in Munich many years ago. I love the north but I miss my friends in Germany. Some of them I haven’t met for many years. But that’s another story.

On 30 December we travelled to Heidelberg by train, our southernmost destination in Germany. From Tromsø, Heidelberg is further away than the North Pole though much easier to travel to ;-).

While the weather in Bremen was partially rainy, New Year’s Eve in Heidelberg was warm and sunny. The temperature of  18 °C was much warmer than usual for the season and felt like a warm spring day in Obbola (or like a great summer day in Tromsø).

In the air

On 2 January we took the train to Düsseldorf Airport, from where we flew home the next day. I travelled to Tromsø in Norway with an early direct flight, Annika to Umeå in Sweden some hours later. I could see the sun for many hours while flying on 11000 feet altitude but it didn’t reach the earth. Norway lay in the shadow. In Southern Norway it was too early, in Tromsø the sun won’t rise before 16 January.

Tromsø – Norway

Today has been my 2nd work day in Tromsø this year. With temperatures round -10 °C it’s almost 30 degrees colder than in Heidelberg 5 days ago. I enjoy spring but I embrace winter. I feel home in the North. And when I can watch polar lights from my doorstep with just a parka and warm boots over my pyjamas I realise how privileged I am that I may live here – both in Obbola and Tromsø.

The last two kayak tours 2022

It’s Friday and the day before Christmas Eve. It’s actually my last working day but I worked only short, thanks to flextime. At 11:10 I stopped developing software for this year and went out kayaking.

Two days before the sea was open between our small ice covered bay and the islet Lillskär. Today it is covered with a layer of new ice. I drag the kayak to the end of the bay and start the tour.

Just crossing the 100 metres of ice seems to take ages. The ice is too thick to paddle through, too thin to walk on and too soft to push oneself forward with arms and ice claws. So it’s a lot of back and forth to get a bit of momentum to crash another metre with brute force. The stiff neoprene of my survival suit does not make it easier and I’m so exhausted when I leave the ice behind. I change plans. I won’t visit Obbolstenarna today (farther away) but the island Bredskär again. I turn the kayak and paddle north. Partially to open water, partially through fields of thin feathery ice. Let’s see, how far I’ll come.

I reach Bredskär and start to circle it. Looking at the right I see snow covered islands in the distance and ice fields. It feels and looks quite arctic.

This impression changes directly when I look left and see the forest of Bredskär passing by. Looking straight ahead gives another view: The port of Holmsund with the ferry to Finland. Between that and me: many ice fields.

I pass the small bay with the sandy beach and slowly follow the shore line. When I want to turn left again to enter the sound that leads back I am stopped by another ice field, this one thicker than the others. I remember the first 100 metres today and decide not to break through but to turn. It will make the tour a bit longer but I have holidays and I’m not cold. The outer side of the island is beautiful anyhow in the light of the lowering sun.

Yes, the sun is lowering. The tour took longer than expected. I decide to watch the sunset from the kayak and slow down a bit. My fingers are getting a bit cold, but it’s worth it.

A good two hours later I arrive at the first ice field again. The ice channel that I had created by breaking through has frozen over again but breaks under the weight of my kayak. Shortly before 14 o’clock I stand on the bay ice again. The tour was a bit demanding, but impressive and beautiful. A great start into the Christmas holidays!

I’m however quite sceptical about Annika’s and my idea for tomorrow: Christmas eve paddling together. With temperatures round -10 °C the ice will probably be too thick the next day. A pity!

One day later – Christmas eve. Annika and I peek through the spotting scope to check the ice situation. Looks like the ice has gone. I walk to the ice edge and see our observations confirmed: Yesterday’s ice has gone and beside of some new and thin ice fields the water is open. So let’s take a kayak tour together!

This paddling tour was magic. The sea surface was smooth as silk, the sun felt warm and the new ice was easy to paddle through. The air was so clear that we could spot islands far away and there was almost no wind. Beside of the high frequency noises when crushing the ice with our kayaks and a dog at land barking at us it was completely silent.

It was Annika’s first winter paddling tour and I’m glad and lucky that it was such an exceptionally great one. May many other tours follow in the future! In spring, summer, autumn and winter.

 

 

 

 

Break at work IV – skiing through the forest

It’s Friday, the last day before weekend and the last opportunity this week to take a break at work.

In the morning I participated a workshop via video conference from my home office in Obbola. I just love the view through the window, where I can see the sun rising over the Baltic Sea and the snow covered backyard.

The workshop ended at 12:20. Right after that I took my old backcountry skis and dressed for a ski tour through the forests. Sunny, calm, -12°C. I wanted to go “Spåret”, a local forest trail. I followed the gravel road, crossed a ditch and followed the trail. Some hundred metres I was lost. When the snow is fresh everything looks quite alike. So I just made my own path. The fluffy snow was as deep as on the trail.

Later I found Spåret again and followed it. I walked through the shadows because the sun didn’t rise more than 3.3° above the horizon today. But at the part north of the treeless swamp the sun had a chance to peek into the forest edge.

At the road I decided to walk straight ahead instead of turning right to avoid the asphaltwith my skis. This was when I lost Spåret for good. Mostly I followed animal tracks because optical orientation is hard when it looks like this:

But it was fun because there was always something to see, even in a forest covered with 40 cm of snow. A frozen puddle at the rim of a swamp – a small pine covered with rime – thick animal tracks – the temporary (and abandoned) snow cave of a black grouse.

Sometimes I could see a roof of the house or hear a car. It’s Obbola, no wilderness. And so I came to the road that we use to take to town. I didn’t follow it but took a side road today. Less asphalt, more snow!

I arrived home at 13:55, some minutes after sunset. Again the horizon was coloured orange – and again I had a video meeting.

Break at work III – running to Vitskärsudden

It’s sunny again and significantly warmer than yesterday, but still -12 °C. I do not have time to take a longer break, so today’s plan is just running to Vitskärsudden. I’m a bit faster on the streets that have been cleared of snow and much slower on the snowy parts. I took a short photo break at the beach of Vitskärsudden, but no winter bath. Would have been a challenge between the ice floes. This break took round 30 minutes, including the photo break.