No paddling in Obbola

Normally when I am in Obbola round Christmas I do some winter paddling. This year I dug out the kayaks from a thick layer of snow on 23 December. On 26 December there was still open water behind the tiny skerry that we use to call Lillskär but I was too lazy to go on a tour. One day later the Baltic Sea looked like this:

Within a single day parts of the Baltic Sea have frozen over – a stripe of 500 metres or more. So much for kayaking …

It took some time until I was allowed to publish the drone photo above. I had ask for permission at Lantmäteriet (The Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority) first.

Ärendenummer LM2023/067684

Farewell Obbola

As almost every day the last weeks I went to the coast yesterday. This place is less than 100 metres away from Annika’s and my house in Obbola. It was partly cloudy but the upcoming sunrise made the clouds and ice extremely colourful. I waited for the sun to rise and then went back to my home office room to continue working.

Today I have other plans. After three weeks of being home – part vacation, part work – it it time to travel back to Tromsø. Normally I do this by train and bus, this time I travel by car. After I’ve found a nice flat in Tromsø I took my Norwegian car here to fetch some more stuff.

Such as a box of books, kitchen stuff, an uplighter, an Ivar bookshelf, my acoustic bass guitar, a bulky winter sleeping bag and more stuff that I want to have in Tromsø. Now my car is full but I still can use the rear-view mirror.

I guess I might need my down parka for if the weather forecast is correct it might be -25 °C on my way back to “work home”. But not today where I only have to drive round about 200 km to Gagsmark to visit friends and stay over. From there its 470 km go drive to Kuttainen (Saturday) and then 300 other km to Tromsø (Sunday).

Farewell, Obbola!

An icy yet colourful art exhibition

While we had temperatures below -30 °C last week the air became much warmer on Sunday afternoon. Yesterday morning the temperature had risen to -3 °C and today to +5 °C.

Yesterday – running on the ice

Yesterday I used the opportunity to something that I rarely have done before: running on the ice of the Baltic Sea. First round the small islet Lillskär and then to the beach Vitskärsudden. All the ice was covered with ice feathers and the running felt a bit fluffy. I had a mobile phone with me and took some photos.

Well – that was fun – and beautiful. The next day it should become warm and the ice feathers probably won’t survive.

Today morning – checking the ice

What a difference a day makes! The dew made all the ice by the coast blank and a lot of melt water covered it. I walked around the island Lillskär and everything looked so different!

You see the gaps between the ice floes in the first image above? It is thick ice as well and you can easily walk on it. The whiter ice is just older and contains more bubbles while the darker, newer one was built in the days of strong frost and is much clearer and more translucent.

Today afternoon – an extraordinary ice exhibition

At one o’clock I decided to go onto the ice again. Since I wanted to go further I used a dry suit and a life vest beside my ice spikes that I always have round my neck on the ice.

I went along Lillskär and headed south. The sun was already low and partially covered behind a thin layer of clouds. As some hours ago the ice looked endless like you could walk to Finland (which you couldn’t).

Ice, water, air, sun – these were the ingredients of the art expedition exhibition that took place on this sea ice today. “A picture is worth a thousand words” – so let the photos speak (although they need some more editing due to the extreme contrasts):

I could have stayed for hours, so beautiful it was going on the ice from object to object being alone on the ice and taking pictures with my small Sony camera that I carried in a waterproof bag. Anyhow the sun was going down and I had to continue working so I headed back to our house.

So, this was my photo studio today. Thank you, sun, thank you, air, thank you, water, thank you, ice!

It gets even colder

After the first days of the new year with temperatures down to -26 °C it got even colder.

4. January

In the morning temperature is between -26 and -27 °C and despite the weather forecast the sky is clear.

At lunch time I take another promenade along the coast. The sea ice Baltic Sea looks extremely cold due to the frost patterns that cover everything.

In the afternoon it gets colder and in the evening the temperature sinks below -30 °C for the first time. I go out and take a photo of our tree in our garden. It’s the very same tree under which Annika and I got married three and a half years ago – barefooted. Now it is covered in frost and Orion and Sirius are in the sky.

Luckily I have a lot of very warm clothes. To go out I only had to slip into my down suit and my Russian rubber boots, put a hat and woollen mittens on and I won’t freeze at all.

5. January

Twice I was awake and outdoors this night to enjoy the cold air and the starry sky. At 3:18 the thermometer shows -33.4 °C, the coldest temperature ever I experienced being at home!

These days a lot of places experience temperatures below -40 °C and less and many people (including us) have trouble with their cars or heating. Near Arjeplog a guy measured -51 °C with a laser thermometer the day before. That’s exceptionally cold even for Northern Sweden.

In the morning it was time for Annika and me to repeat a known experiment in the cold that we never tried out by ourselves: Throwing hot water in the air and seeing it freezing almost instantly into a cloud of ice dust. While my photos are ok-ish, Annika took gorgeous photos with my Nikon showing me doing this experiment. It works best with temperatures below -30 °C, which we had.

While I write this article in the night to the 6. January it is still cold, but “only” -22 °C. You get used to the cold after some days. And yes – I love these cold and crisp winter days a lot! The weekend will still be cold, then it will get warmer. Much warmer! On Tuesday, four days from now, it may be 40 degrees warmer than yesterday morning with day temperatures round +6 °C!

 

 

The year 2024 starts cold

1. January

It’s midnight. Clear sky, -13 °C. Annika and I stand in the snow outside of our house with a drink to toast with and some sparklers to set alight. Farewell 2023, welcome 2024! Happy new year!

The next morning Annika and I stand outdoors again. No sparklers needed, the sun rises over the frozen Baltic Sea and turns the sky orange.

When we start a little cross country ski tour at lunch time the temperatures already have dropped to -18 °C. Before we drive home we take a small detour to our favourite beach Vitskärsudden where we watch the sunset over the sea. Sunrise and sunset on the same day – that was long ago.

2. January (yesterday)

In the night it has become colder. -25 °C shows the thermometer in the morning. I bring Annika to the bus station by car but first I have to scrape ice on the windshield. Yes, I am a bit overdressed in my down suit ;-)

On this day I am outdoors twice. First to catch the colours before sunrise …

… then to take a lunch promenade to Vitskärsudden. Despite the sun it is still round -22, -23 °C. The Baltic Sea is frozen as far as I can see and the low hanging sun is accompanied by colourful parhelions.

I thought the down jacket would be too warm but I gladly put the hood on when it started to get a bit windy.

In the evening it gets colder. -26.9 °C, the coldest temperature I experienced here in our home in Obbola since we moved there in May 2020. While I worked from home Annika took the bicycle back from the bus station. Brrr!

3. January (today)

Another cold day with temperatures between -22 and -26 °C. Although I have to work I go out several times. First shortly after sunrise. The sun is damped by clouds and looks like a very mysterious eye.

Then I take another tour at 11:00, this time with back country skis. What a beautiful day!

I go out a third time to watch the sunset, but clouds cover the horizon. At least I take a photo of the large, wooden barrel of unknown origin that stands in the water – now frozen – of our shallow bay.

… oh I forgot, I was out a fourth time, this time by car to get some things done. Luckily I had camera and tripod on the back seat, because the frosted trees in the cold artificial light looked really special.

I really love this cold weather. Only taking photos can be a bit of a hassle because sometimes you have to take off your gloves and then the fingers can get cold very fast. Beside from that: great!

 

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

Mammals by the sea, snow on the peaks

A colleague, a friend of hers and I went on a car trip to the island Ringvissøya today. My colleague knows a place where you can spot otters and we wanted to give it a try. On the way there it was raining. While I drove the car the others watched the coastal line. Our first stop however was not for an otter but a huge flock of common eiders.

Sometimes the whole flock dove down for food and then – Plop! Plop! Plop! – they appeared again. Click! I got some photos, but only with my large telephoto lens, because the ducks where quite far away.

We continued a bit and then the first otter was spotted. It was swimming in the fjord occasionally diving to hunt for fish. All the next photos are 100% crop of shots made with 600 mm so the photo quality is inferior, but that was the best I got today. Did the otter get fish? Yes, at least twice we could see it eating. Then, at a shallow bay it went on land and went up through the grass where we lost it from view.

The otters were not the only mammals around. We spotted some porpoises, though only for seconds and a seal, that occasionally swam quite near the shore.

Meanwhile the weather has become quite nice.

Since the otters were not to be seen any longer we decided to continue the road and go for a hike. At a parking place between Kårvik and Skarsfjord we took our backpacks and started hiking up the hills. There was hardly any snow at the beginning of our tour. That changed when we gained altitude. Although there was more snow the ground was not frozen yet and partially wet. Sometimes it felt like walking on a sponge.

We came to a frozen lake, that looked pretty wintry but probably the ice was quite thin, at least in the middle. In the background of the first of the next photos you can see the mountain peak of the Gråtinden (586 m).

The snow had hardened and sometimes bore our weight but mostly we broke through the thin ice layer. But still it was possible to go up, the snow was less deep than I had expected.

And then – after round about 4 km we reached the summit of the Gråtinden.

Here you have an awesome view of the sea, the lowlands and snowy mountain chains in all directions.

We took a rest by the cairn marking the peak, then we started going back. I was quite glad to move again, because I wasn’t really prepared for the hike and had started freezing. While we made our way back and down the sun started to set and the mountains become more orange.

At 16:30 we were back at the car, same time as sunset. And since it even started drizzling again I think we had an excellent timing today.

Thanks for the tour, colleague and friend!

P.S.: Here’s a panorama that I took with my iPhone on the way up today:

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

Autumn tour to the glacier Steindalsbreen

After being abroad in Germany, “home home” in Sweden and on vacation in the Netherlands for almost a month I have returned to Tromsø, my “work home” one week ago. Time to work again for the Norwegian Polar Institute but not only that …

Some days ago my colleague Marika asked me if we should go out for a hike to the glacier Steindalsbreen in the weekend. I knew the place from hearsay but never have been there. I gladly accepted – I like hiking with good company. Yesterday on Sunday we met at 7 o’clock and off we went. First by car.

Car trip

Steindalen is on the Lyngen peninsula and round about 100 km away. According to Google it takes 100 minutes but we stopped several times, either to take pictures of the reflections in the fjord or the curious fox beside the road.

Through the forest

After the car was parked we started our tourat 9:25. The birch and alder trees were clad in autumnal colours. The path led westwards through the forest along a small mountain river.

To the cabin

After the path going up and down it led nearer to the river. We passed some moraines – witnessed from the ice age – and spotted a waterfall falling vertically down from a mountain. Then the cabin Steindalshytte came into view. There is a wooden bridge to cross one of the rivers.

Through the U-shaped valley

We followed an inflow of the stream and soon the valley opened more and more. And there it was – still in the distance – the glacier!

It gets rocky

The path went further up and the ground started go get rockier and we left the delta like wetlands behind. But still there were many crouching plants present, many of them in the brightest autumnal colours.

Approaching the glacier

A hill and the glacier Steindalsbreen came in full view, another hill also the glacial lake in the front. Quite depressing were the signs that marked the retreat of the glacier. Oh – so many hundred metres in so few years ;-(

Nearer and nearer …

The first photos Marika and I took from the edge of the glacial lake. Then we followed a path to the right that brought us nearer to the ice. Here we walked on gravel covered ice. I found a hole, perhaps 80 cm in diameter and 150 cm deep.

On the mud flats

As usual I hiked with rubber boots and so I could walk on the sandy mudflats right in front of the glacier. Oh, so beautiful the turquoise blocks of ice!

Mud, ice, and water

I also took some photos of the ground. Was it sand? Hard mud? Ice? Sometimes probably all the three.

Then I looked back to the lake. Hard to imagine that we hiked through autumnal forests some hours ago. This landscape looks eternal somehow although it is the opposite: very fragile and threatened by the global warming.

Heading back

After a meal break by a large rock it was time to head back. The times of midnight sun and bright nights are over and at 7 o’clock in the evening it would be dark. Just some more photos from our way back.

After round eight hours we were back at my car. What I great tour!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Cruise leftovers: a seagull, a map and a tiny planet

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

One week ago I left the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon in Longyearbyen, Svalbard after a three week cruise. On the same day I took the plane back to Tromsø together with a lot of scientists from the same cruise.

The cruise went a little differently than planned. As you can see on the map below we seemed to cruise in a quite chaotic way.

But every loop was there for a reason. The left loop leading north was the attempt to cruise to station 05 at 83°58′ N. You see the line of planned stations in the upper right. But our attempt was in vain, the ice was too thick to get there.

So we decided to do research in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. Since this was never the plan we didn’t have a permit to do research in Greenlandic waters. Therefore we headed south and east to do a first ice station in Norwegian waters and then another one at 80 °N. That’s the right loop.

We were lucky: already after a couple of days we got the permit for Greenland. So we headed south and then west again into Greenlandic waters. Here we still had to zigzag a bit through the ice but there was another effect that made the track a bit special: The ice stations.

The ice floes drifted south with a speed of round about 0.7 knots (as far as I remember). When the ice station lasted 36 hours, that’s a drift of more than 45 kilometres. That’s the small loops to the south at 6.5 °W, 4° W and 2° W.

And since we had some travel time, I could take some photos. For example from the incredibly elegant ivory gull.

And even when I was on the sea ice to make aerial photos with my drone I often had some extra minutes to play around with the panorama function, resulting in so-called “tiny planet” photos.

Oh – I’m longing back to the Arctic. Home in Obbola in Sweden it is really warm and 24 °C inside of our house. A bit too warm for my taste. And rain would be very welcome, our garden is very dry.