A little expedition to the island Gåsören

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home. Unknown sea ice can be dangerous just as very cold temperatures.

Today I had the plan to cross the ice and go to the island Gåsören which is one of my favourite places nearby. The challenge: Parts of the Baltic Sea were open five days ago due to the low water. How thick would the ice be and would I be able to go to the island?

I started at the little boat harbour Tjuvkistan and planned to go to the island Bredskär where I’ve been with Annika two days ago. This time I chose snow shoes and pulka to transport all clothes and equipment. I changed plans and didn’t head to Bredskär, but followed the ski tracks to the island Klubben instead – a better direction. In the dim light of the daybreak I could see Gåsören ahead.

It was quite cold, round -27 °C and I was glad about my fur rimmed hood, that protects the face against wind and cold air.

I continued to the next island Flottgrundet, which is hardly 300 meters away. A tiny ice rim encircled the island and I took a small break. Normally I take breaks mainly for taking pictures, but this time I had another reason, too:

Beside of the tracks of a lonely hare I couldn’t see any track or trail to Gåsören. Is the ice safe and will it bear me? Since I already expected such, I brought along my survival suit, which is completely waterproof and has attached socks, gloves and hood, so that only the face would be exposed to the ice cold water in case of breaking through the ice. All other equipment such as camera, extra clothes and food was in waterproof bags.

I looked like a Teletubbie, (and probably moved like one too) but I felt safe. Round my head I had my camera bag and so-called isdubbar, that’s ice picks, that would help me to pull myself on land, if I had broken though. I put the snow shoes into the pulka and started crossing the ice.

Round 700 meters later I reached Gåsören. I went ashore and was quite glad that the ice bore me without any problem. I unmounted the pulka but continued wearing the survival suit. I wanted to discover the ice rim on the eastern side of Gåsören and didn’t dare to do that without it. First of all I climbed onto the two meter high ice to get an overview. The risen sun started to light parts of the landscape in warm colours, while the snow in the shadows still looked cold and bluish.

The next two hours I strolled around east from the island to take pictures from the amazing ice formations round the island. Some of them were up to three meters high. It’s interesting to see, how many different colours ice can have, both the ice itself and the sun light as the day progresses. While I walked round I could see the light houses of Gåsören, the new one (the red tower to the left) and the new one (the house to the right).

Meanwhile I protected even my nose that started to get cold. The danger is that you won’t realise, when the nose gets too cold and you really have to be careful to avoid frostbite. The neoprene survival suit is surprisingly warm, but not comfortable at all. Since it’s not breathable I started to sweat and become wet. I longed for warm tea and other clothes. I went back to the pulka, undressed the suit and slipped into the cold boots. Then I took tea, crackers, camera and a huge bin bag that wrapped my down coverall. I went to the other side of the island, this time on land and put on the coverall over the other jacket. Now I really looked like a polar explorer, but was just 5 kilometres away from home. It took a while, until I got warm again and another while to realise, that this suit is almost to warm for temperatures between -26 and -28 °C. But at least I got my hot tea, some cookies and I didn’t freeze at all.

Of course I continued making photos on land. I went round, took images of the big welcome-sign, the red-white light tower and even more ice. But after a while clouds came in and started to cover the sun.

So I undressed my down coverall, went back to the pulka, packed all stuff into it and started my walk back to main land. I chose almost the same way to be sure, that the ice is stable. The sun vanished behind a layer of clouds, only a bright orange light pillar was left.

When I looked left I got reminded, that this fantastic tour was not in the arctic wilderness, but near home. The smelting works on the peninsula Rönnskär was within sight. The chimneys gave off clouds of smoke that racked southwards below the inversion boundary, but northwards above. When I was almost back on the main land I could see the red solar disk setting behind Rönnskär.

When I entered the car, it was still -26 °C below – one of the coldest days that I experienced in Skelleftehamn until now.

Conclusion: a great tour with a touch of expedition due to the coldness and the unsafe ice. Should be repeated when ice is safer and weather is warmer.

Addendum (2016-01-20)

This tour was more dangerous than I suspected. Not because of the weak ice but because the rubber gloves of the survival suit didn’t isolate good enough. Today – two days after – I got small blisters on all fingers but the thumbs, a clear sign for a second degree frostbite. My nose is a bit reddish and itches, probably a first degree frostbite.

I have full tactile sense in all parts of the fingers and the nose, but it probably will take some time until the skin heals completely.

The danger was, that I didn’t feel any pain in the fingers while being out. I just felt the cold when I removed the wool mittens. I never will make such an extended photo tour in the survival suit when it’s so cold.

Take care, photographers. Don’t risk your health for just some nice photos. It’s not worth it.


14 comments to “A little expedition to the island Gåsören”

  1. Sonya 2016-01-20 07:01

    Sounds like a fantastic expedition. Your fotos are awesome, as always. And I like seeing you in funny, furry clothes again. I also wear my winter parca I bought for the Swedish winter a few years ago. We’ve got snow in Munich. However it is not that cold compared to Skelleftehamn. Enjoy the winter!

  2. Neil Crighton 2016-01-20 07:04

    Rather you than me….nice blog

  3. way-up-north 2016-01-20 07:32

    Sonya: Thank you. I guess there’s not a single person in Skellefteå and around, that has so many warm and strange clothes. I mean, who has a down coverall except of high altitude alpinists or a survival suit. But yesterday they both came in handy. I saw, that it’s cold and snowy in Munich, too. Great for all winter lovers. Enjoy the winter, too!

  4. way-up-north 2016-01-20 07:35

    Neil Crighton: Thank you. I felt quite alone yesterday. Who has time to go out, how actually goes out and who crosses the ice to Gåsören? Probably only strange people just like me. I like meeting people, but I like being alone, too. I need both.

  5. Ricarda 2016-01-20 07:55

    Du machst Dich doch ganz gut als Teletubbie !
    Auch wenn kaum einer erkennen kann wer denn unter all den Stoffschichten verborgen ist. Bei einem Gespräch mit anderen wird man wohl erst im Verlauf der Unterhaltung rausfinden mit wem man es denn eigentlich zu tun hat…… ;-)
    Jedenfalls scheint es eine wunderbare Tour gewesen zu sein und die Bilder sprechen ja eh für sich. Einfach schön !

  6. Martin 2016-01-20 08:34

    Phantastische Serie!

    Das Umziehen in kalte Klamotten vor und nach der Tour entlang der Eiswand war sicher nicht ohne. (Verstehe gar nicht, warum Du nicht davon eine Selfieserie geschossen hast?)

    Ich wüsste gerne, ob mit extremem Weitwinkel noch mehr rauszuholen gewesen wäre. Aber dazu müsste ich rauskriegen, mit welcher Brennweite Du z.B. “Icewall 4” aufgenommen hast. War es Dein 35-mm Lieblingsobjektiv? Die Dateiinfos Deiner Bilder kann man im Blog leider nicht mehr sehen. Aber andererseits ist es auch wieder egal, die Ergebnisse sind einfach super, nicht zuletzt wegen des tollen (Streif-)-Lichts!

  7. way-up-north 2016-01-20 08:49

    Ricarda: Es hätte mich doch ziemlich verblüfft, wenn noch jemand anderes auf der Insel gewesen werde. Aber erkannt worden wäre ich wohl nicht gerade am Gesicht. Ja, die Tour war wunderschön. Kaum vorzustellen, dass das gestern war. Ich glaube, ich gehe gleich noch mal raus, dann aber nur ne kleine Skitour ohne Ambitionen.

  8. way-up-north 2016-01-20 08:51

    Martin: Danke.

    Alle Fotos sind mit dem 35mm gemacht. Ich habe mir aber gestern exakt die gleiche Frage gestellt. Ich werde mir jetzt vermutlich das 14-24mm von Nikon kaufen (leider teuer aber sehr, sehr gut) und das möchte dann natürlich ausprobiert werden.

    Ach ja, beim Umziehen in der Kälte denke ich wirklich nicht an Selfies, sondern nur darin, möglichst schnell in die anderen Klamotten zu kommen.

  9. Martin 2016-01-20 09:19

    Ich wollte Dich nur schnell darauf aufmerksam machen, dass ich das Nikkor 18 – 35 verwende (neben dem manuellen 20 mm). Das Objektiv ist wenig bekannt. Ich habe das erste bei Ebay gebraucht gekauft. Dann habe ich es geschafft, in der Fototasche ohne Schutzdeckel die große Frontlinse zu verkratzen. Da habe ich mir dann wieder eins gebraucht gekauft. Und das Objektiv ist schön klein und handlich, 370 g gegen 1000 g. Und wenns Dir nicht gefällt, die Risikoinvestition wäre zu verschmerzen.

  10. way-up-north 2016-01-20 09:21

    Ich weiß, dass es das 18-35mm gibt, kenne es aber nicht. Das Gewicht ist ja der Hammer!

    Ich selber habe das 16-35mm/4.0, bin aber nie so recht damit warm geworden. Da ich viel in der Landschaft unterwegs bin, habe ich mir gerade das 14-24mm bestellt. Ich hoffe, ich bereue den teuren Kauf nicht.

  11. Annika 2016-01-20 15:53

    Wenn Du nicht die Häuser/den Leuchtturm auch noch fotografiert hättest, könnte ich mir kaum vorstellen da in die Sauna zu gehen, so arktisch sieht es aus… Sehr schöne Eisberge!

  12. way-up-north 2016-01-20 16:21

    Annika: Man könnte selber glauben, man sei in der Arktis, doch von fast überall hat man Blick auf andere Inseln mit Hütten oder auf das Rönnskärwerk. Trotzdem schön und auch fein, wenn man schnell wieder zu Hause ist.

  13. Neil Crighton 2016-01-20 16:28

    Its interesting that you say that you like being alone sometimes…I agree with that particularly in this decade its far more difficult to do that. Unfortunately my age now stops me doing the sort of things that you are up to but I can strongly relate to them. Its difficult to work at low temps but its worth it sometimes to get those unusual images….I think you can only really get them when you are totally absorbed by the subject….I’m getting some heat off to South Africa for 2 months….!!

  14. way-up-north 2016-01-20 16:32

    Neil Crighton:

    Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.

    — D.W. Winnicott

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