The weekend two weeks ago it was fog, that made my morning promenade along the river Umeälven special. Yesterday it was snowfall. As you can see on the three photos, the snowfall weakened more and more and most of the snow thawed away during the day. But it was a another beautiful reminder for the next winter to come.
The first autumn colours on Gåsören
21, 22 September – Annika and I are invited by Solveig and Tommy to their summer cottage on Gåsören. Tommy picks us up by boat and after a short cruise we arrive at the small harbour, where Solveig already waits for us.
We have a wonderful evening with delicious food (hand-picked porcini mushrooms!) and inspiring conversations. And the weather is just great – first a blue and sunny sky, then after sunset a starry night. After a short nightly walk to the lighthouse – built in 1912 and still active – we go to bed.
The next morning I wake up early and take photographs of the splashing waves at the eastern shore. It’s a bit windy and the temperatures are near freezing. A lot of trees still have green leaves but some of the birches and rowan trees have become colourful, especially when illuminated by the low morning sun.
After breakfast we take a stroll round the small island together before we get a lift back to the mainland. Tack så mycket, Solveig and Tommy. We are looking forward to meet again!
Fog by the river
28, 29 September – I’m with Annika in Umeå. On Saturday we make a trip to Strömbäck-Kont, one of our favourite locations by the sea. Again the weather is sunny but due to the frost of last week’s nights a lot of more trees show coloured leaves. Especially the bright yellow birch leaves look wonderful.
On Sunday I wake up early as usual and take a promenade along the Umeåälven, one of Northern Swedens largest rivers. The morning air is damp and chilly and the landscape is fog-shrouded. The fog muffles all sounds and noises and gives me the impression of being completely alone. Half an hour later the fog goes away and the magic is gone.
Yesterday, 2 October – at 3:00 I’m awakened by storm squalls shaking the house. I almost expect that my house is lifted up and lands on the Wicked Witch of the East. But the gale is no tornado and my house resists the squalls.
The weather doesn’t come completely unexpected, both wind and enormous amounts of rain have been forecasted. But as usual the forecast was – ahem – imaginative but at least the wind speeds are quite accurate.
Hail, sleet and snow
Today, 3 October – again I’m awakened at 3 o’clock, this time by a hail squall drumming on the window. It’s round 3 °C and even colder at 7 o’clock on my way to work. Between my home and the town another rain squall buckets down. It is mixed with wet snow. Beside the road I can see white patches. Is it snow or last night’s hail? When I arrived at the office at Solbacken outside of the town of Skellefteå I see, that it’s snow grains – tiny frozen white balls.
At 8:33 I look through the window of my current office room and it’s snowing. The first snow on 3 October – exactly the same date as last year. Now I’m longing for winter even more ❄︎ !
I’m sitting in the bus somewhere in Northern Finland. We just passed the sign “Tornio 410 km”. Are we there, it’s only some more minutes to Haparanda from where a car ride of another 270 km awaits us. Then I’m home.
Home from the incredible interesting and inspiring but also exhausting Barents Press International Media Conference that took place in Tromsø for two days. Great speakers, great talks! Here are some of the topics:
- EU and the struggle against fake news
- How to make your climate change story into a click-blockbuster
- #Barents #Beingyounghere: Official book release
- Norwegian spy scandal in Russia: A close friend’s story
At the same time winter had come back to Northern Scandinavia and so to Tromsø. I used the mornings and evenings to walk round or just visit the roof terrace of our hotel to make some pictures of Tromsø.
Thursday 2 May – the weather is quite nice. I’m glad to walk around after the long bus trip there.
Friday 3 May – the morning is windy. First it’s dry but then snow showers rack over Tromsø for the rest of the day. Some of them are quite intense.
Saturday 4 May – Tromsø is covered with fresh snow. The air is cold but the ground is warm and so the snow is partly melting again. In the evening some very intense snow showers cover Tromsø with more snow.
Sunday 5 May – partly cloudy, partly blue sky that reflects in the sea water. And so do the ships.
Although I enjoyed the conference it was a bit of a pity that I didn’t have more time to take pictures and explore the city. On the other side I’ve been in Tromsø several time and probably will be there again.
I would love to work there for some months but the tax rules of the non-EU-member Norway would make that quite complicated because then I had to declare taxes both in Sweden and in Norway.
Four pairs of looking-through-the-window photos and a bonus proof photo
I’m sitting on my bed of room 223 in the Clarion Hotel “The Edge” in Tromsø. I’m here to join the Barents Press International Media Conference that will take place tomorrow and the day after. We from Skellefteå took a car to Haparanda at the Swedish-Finnish border already yesterday. Today we took the bus to Tromsø.
I took photos through the bus window, all with my Nikon D750 and an old 70-210mm/ƒ4.0 lens.
Pair 1 – along the river Torneälven
The Torneälven is the border river between Sweden and Finland. We drive on the Finnish side of the river. Almost all snow has melted and the river is ice free now. Sometimes large walls of ice floes lie along the riverbank.
Pair 2 – moorlands
We already have crossed the Arctic Circle. The coniferous forests are behind us and large moorland frame the road. It’s windy and temperatures are hardly above zero. From time to time it snows.
Pair 3 – winterland
The more up north we travel the snowier and more wintry the landscape becomes. We pass Kilpisjärvi and are in Norway now.
Pair 4 – fjords and mountains
Fjords and mountains – both are typical for Norway. And both can be seen from the bus. A lot of other participants have never been here before and the Oh-s and Ah-s do not stop. And they are right, the landscape is both beautiful and impressive. (… and quite unphotographable from a driving bus.)
At 7 o’clock we departed in Haparanda, at 17 o’clock we arrive in Tromsø. Later I make some pictures from the roof terrace of our hotel. A Hurtigruten ship with the ishavskatedralen in the background. Take it as a proof, that I’m really in Tromsø.
Two days ago a personal weather record was beaten. It was almost 20 °C in Skelleftehamn. in April! In town 22.1 °C was measured, the warmest April day for at least 15 years. And that’s what my garden looks like: beside of a stubborn patch of snow in the shadow of my neighbour’s garage my garden is completely free of snow.
While the air was warm, the seawater was still very cold and I would not dare to paddle without a drysuit. I didn’t want to be boiled in the drysuit and so I postponed the kayak opening to today, when it was colder again.
When I leave the house at 8:45, it is 4 °C. My favourite starting point is still icebound, so I walk to the peninsula Näsgrundet with the kayak in tow. I use a belt and a rope to drag the kayak behind. When the kayak is balanced on the cart I have the hands free and can walk normally. 25 minutes later I reach the shore where I put on drysuit and life jacket. Soon I sit in the kayak and realise, that even though I miss winter there are fun things to do when it’s warm as well.
It’s colder on the sea and I put on my neoprene gloves and waterproof hood. As I expect some of the paddle routes are still blocked by ice. There is still ice between the island Bredskär and mainland so I cannot circle the island. I have to return. I pass a large ice floe – time to enter the floe for some minutes. It doesn’t move, probably it sits on a large rock.
I kayak along the islands Bredskär, Klubben and Flottgrundet, always along the open outsides. Then I head for the island Nygrundet, where I made a very special snowshow tour a month and a day ago. The ice heaps have vanished, only a long strip of ice follows the coastal line. Time to take a break and to have an early lunch. Crisp bread, cheese, fresh grapes and a bar of chocolate. I feel a bit cold and put on my lightweight down jacket, but I would have preferred my winter anorak. I even make a small fire on the ice but more for having it gemütlich than for additional warmth.
After the break I’m full and warm again. I pack my stuff and continue my kayak tour. I paddle along the outside of the islands Nygrundet and Gråsidan, where I make a short photo stop.
Then I continue to Bredskär, where some quite high ice walls are reminiscent of the winter.
I try to paddle between Flottgrundet and Bredskär but soon come to a large area of old and soft ice. I measure the thickness with the paddle – round 30 cm. I decide to walk over the ice and drag the kayak behind. First it works well …
… but then the ice gets softer and softer. Just some steps next to the island I break through. It is not a sudden movement, the ice just slowly gives way. Paired with the buoyancy of drysuit and life jacket that’s probably the reason why I only break in up to my chest. The hole is small and it’s a matter of seconds to get on the ice again. Carefully I take the last steps until I reach land.
Sea ice and lake ice have a strange way of melting in spring. The solid ice transforms to an array of long vertical ice needles. There is hardly any connection between one needle and the next and it’s not possible to lift larger pieces of ice from the water without breaking them. When you get out a smaller piece and drop it, it will splinter into many parts. The structure shown on the photos below is round 10 cm thick.
I continue walking, partly on ice, partly in shallow water. Then I can paddle again. But not for long. Soon I reach another ice field, this one looking very unstable. So I cross the ice by staying in my kayak and pushing myself forward with the hands. Ouch – the vertical ice needles hurt, even through the neoprene gloves. Alas it’s only 15 meters to cross, then I’m in open water again.
The rest of the tour? Slowly paddling back to the starting point – taking off the dry suit – putting on soft shell and down jacket because I feel cold – put the kayak onto the cart and attach it to the belt – walking home. The tour took 5 hours, 40 minutes. 5 km of walking, round 10 km of paddling. Here’s a sketch:
Legend: on foot | kayak
This was my most daring tour on the sea ice yet. This article may not be for the faint-hearted. Spoiler alert: I kept safe and dry!
After an extremely lazy day yesterday I felt today like I had to go out and get some fresh air. Cross country skiing? No, the tracks are probably extremely icy. Jogging? No, the water puddles from the melting snow are deep and I wanted to keep my feet dry.
What about trying to walk to the island Bredskär? There’s a large patch of old ice that should be easy to cross. But behind the islands there could be weak ice. Didn’t I want to keep dry?
Yes, I definitely wanted to keep dry. So I used a funny combination of equipment today. On the one hand snowshoes for winter walks, on the other hand a drysuit in case of breaking through the ice.
I took the car to the small boat harbour Tjuvkistan, changed into the rubber boots and started my tour from there. The ice was easy to cross even though there were some wet patches. That doesn’t automatically mean that the ice is weak. Mostly it’s freshwater from melted snow or seawater that found a way up through the cracks in the ice. Soon I arrived at the island Bredskär – it’s only 750 m to go. Unfortunately clouds had been approaching covering the sun.
I turned right and walked along the eastern shore. Wind, waves and winter’s coldness had built a ice wall along the shore.
When I reached the eastern tip I had a decision to make. Should I walk around the island and already go back? Or should I dare to cross the sea ice to the next islands Gråsidan and Nygrundet. I chose the latter. I opened the belt of the backpack, checked my ice claws and started carefully crossing the sea ice. Step by step. Step by step. The first half was no problem but then the ice started to look grey. That could be a sign for weak, thin or watery ice. I could see air bubbles moving under the ice with every step. I expected to break through the ice with every step. Perhaps the ice was not weak at all and only covered with water but I was not eager to find out and slowly continued. Step by step.
The ice seemed to get weaker and weaker, thinner and thinner, wetter and wetter. Perhaps it was real, maybe it was only my imagination that gave me this impression. After some more careful steps I finally reached the island Gråsidan. Hooray! Nevertheless only a temporary success because I knew that I would have to go back later on.
I arrived at the northern tip of Gråsidan, turned right and walked along the eastern shore heading south. It was there, where I found the almost secret world of ice. Of course it was not secret by purpose but I guess I was the only one that had managed to approach this special location.
East from the island there was a layer of sea ice and on that there was a huge variety of ice. Large ice floes, heaps of smaller ice discs, round-shaped ice objects and much more was there to see.
It was like an open air art exhibition. An art exhibition of one of my favourite artists: nature. And I had it all for myself. It was not easy to go. Sometimes I had to cross chaotic looking ice fields, sometimes my foot landed in a deep puddle of meltwater. Look at the next photo: This puddle had not only drowned half of my rubber boot but a snowshoe, too.
I was however wrong in one thing. Others visited this world of ice as well: moose. Countless moose tracks covered the sea ice heading seaward. What does a moose want there? There’s only ice and then – already visible in the distance – the open Baltic Sea. The next island in the southeast is more than 11 km away.
Either moose have a very poor sense of orientation or they like ice art just as me. I imagined several moose visiting the various objects and discuss shape, colour and the meaning of the artworks. These visitors however had left, only the tracks were left.
While strolling through the exhibition I already passed another island: Nygrundet, the outermost island of the archipelago. Nygrundet was near the open water. Very near. I approached a huge block of ice and there it was: My personal “Ultima Thule” for today.
After I was sure, that this ice block was connected to the island and no iceberg sailing to Finland I decided to climb the block and make myself comfortable. Although temperatures were slightly above zero it was quite cold due to the strong gale with wind gusts round 22 m/s. That’s round 80 km/h. Brrr! I was glad about my warm anorak that I took with me.
After eating and drinking a bit I decided to go back. I crossed a small patch of sea ice and then went along the island which is connected with Gråsidan by a stripe of land. Unnoticed by me the clouds had moved away and the sun came out. Ice gets a completely new look when sunlit. So I decided to go to the art exhibition once more and turned again.
And turned again to finally return home. On my way back I saw a manmade art object at the shore, but I could not understand its purpose. I preferred the tiny pine trees sticking out of the snow. Then I crossed the island Gråsidan from east to west (less than 200 meter).
The last photo clearly indicates that I hadn’t been in the Arctic. It’s still Skelleftehamn. On all of the mentioned islands there are summer cottages. The cottages on Nygrundet and Gråsidan were empty due to the difficulties to get there.
I started to look for a better place to cross the sea ice back to the island Bredskär. I had felt quite uneasy while crossing the ice to Gråsidan and I hoped for better ice. To make a long story short: I found a longer, but better and easier way.
I was relieved when I arrived Bredskär. Now the ice probably would be thicker and safer. I walked along the island somewhere between sea and land. There where a lot of very wet patches but on safe ice. Now I only had to cross the sea ice once more, then I would arrive on the mainland and at my car.
Here a lot of water, partly frozen, covered the ice. Snowmobiles and ATVs had left deep traces and wheel ruts. I started getting a bit impatient and instead of taking the same way home I turned left a bit earlier. First it went well then I had to plunge through surficially frozen water and slush. With the snowshoes that was quite exhausting but the shore came nearer and nearer.
I could spot my parked car and the snowy slope where I had to go up. 100 metres to go. 50 metres to go. 10 metr… – crash!
My right leg went through the ice to the upper leg. It was not weak ice, I just oversaw a large and broad crack. The rubber boot was soaking wet but not myself. The attached stockings of my drysuit had kept me dry. It’s funny anyway that this happened just seconds before finishing the tour.
Probably I will keep a bruise on my knee for some days as a nice memory of this very special inter-season snowshoe tour on the Baltic Sea. And a fabulous tour it was.
Directly translated from my packing list with some comments.
- smartphone + powerbank + charge cable + waterproof bag (the powerbank to be able to load the smartphone in emergency situations)
- camera + memory card + cleaning tissue + reserve battery (all packed in a waterproof Ortlieb bag that I wore in front of my breast)
- drysuit (to keep me dry in water. Only head and hands would get wet)
- rubber boots (I chose my huuuge Russian rubber boots with thermal inner boots
- snowshoes (flexible enough to work with the rubber boots)
- 2× balaclava (for the head – one comfortable made of fleece, one tight and waterproof)
- 2× gloves (one pair made of Powerstretch fleece, on pair of waterproof neoprene)
- isdubbar – ice claws. (The most important thing! Two handles with spikes that you can use to pull yourself on safe ice after having broken through)
- provisions (A cinnamon bun, chocolate and a coke(!) )
- Cabela’s anorak (the insulated anorak with the fur trimmed hood you can see on my selfie)
- waterproof bags (I stored everything in waterproof bags – from the other pair of gloves to the car keys)
- sunglasses (today even used as wind protection)
I had been inside most of the day. Finally I just had to go out to enjoy the nice blue sky, at least for a short time. I parked my car at Storgrundet, crossed the ice to the island of the same name and went to the seaside of the island. There I spotted moose tracks on the sea ice that went criss-cross and led to another island.
I was walking without snowshoes and it had been exhausting to cross the narrow island. The snow had been more than knee deep, easy to sink in, still pretty firm and hard to get out. It was much easier to go on the snow covered ice on the Baltic Sea although the snow was very wet sometimes. Rubber boots are a good choice in this season.
The Baltic Sea behind the island however looked like winter would be eternal. Just a snowy layer as far as the eye could see.
This article is part of the series “2019-03: Redex Murmansk”.
I was in Murmansk with Barents Press with a project called Redex 2019. The project goal is to establish contacts between sports journalists and exchange experiences.
Saturday, 16 March
While swimmers still compete in 1000 m of ice swimming as part of the 3rd Ice Swimming World Championship in Murmansk I leave the spot and start to go back to our Hotel Park Inn. That’s round 5 km to go.
In Summer I would have to go round the lake Семёновское озеро/Lake Semyonovskoye. Now it’s winter and I can simply go across. The ice is at least 50–60 cm thick as the huge ice cuboids along the way show. In the heap of these ice blocks kids were playing. One of them probably will become next generation’s polar explorer.
On the other side of the lake I can spot grey concrete buildings – as cuboid as the ice blocks – and the Russian orthodox church Спас на водах/Saviour on Waters. They have been the background scenery of the championship, too.
And I see people everywhere. The lake is not crowded, but used of many people for different activities. Some of them are sitting on folding stools and doing ice fishing. Others are going for a walk or doing cross country skiing. The nice thing: some of the skiers are quite athletic and fast, others are do not have any technique and are quite slow. But they ski anyway. And all of them seem to enjoy being outside.
These funny “motor-bananas” probably only exist during the ice swimming: The vehicles consist of three parts. In the middle there’s the “chauffeur” standing in a sledge-like plastic tub. At the rear a banana-shaped inflatable rubber thingy is attached on which people can ride. The whole thing is driven by a small caterpillar attached to the front of the plastic tub and operated by the man in the middle.
I start to cross the lake. I pass a snowman and admire his artful face. He looks however too serious to be my namesake Olaf from the film Frozen.
The lake is not so big and soon I reach the other side. Here’s the winter bathing place I already heard of before. I’m angry with myself that I didn’t take swimming trunks and towel with me because the cold water looks inviting. But no swimwear, no bath.
Here I have to leave the Lake Semyonovskoye and I start following the main road Улица Челюскинцев/Ulitsa Chelyuskintsev back to the hotel. Temperature is above zero and the snow is soft, brown and greasy, but it’s easier to walk on that than on blank ice. At the branch Улица Туристов (“Tourists Street”) a woman comes my way. She bears skis with an old-fashioned binding system. I’m sure she wants to go to the place I just left: the Lake Semyonovskoye.
Today I finally had to work with my it job again.
But before that I just had to take my camera and drive to different places by the sea. I was curious how it would look like after the snowfalls of the last days. This morning between 75 cm and 80 cm of snow in my backyard and we are talking about the average, not the snow drifts.
1. Peninsula Näsgrundet
Normally the coastal line is quite visible here. Either you see stones sticking out of the rocky coast or you can spot the raised ice edge. Today you mainly saw a white plain. Only some of the largest rock and some brown tufts of grass were sticking out of the snow. I really had to look for motives to avoid images with a plain-white bottom half.
I would not dare to enter the ice because you cannot see its thickness. Probably there are weak spots that wouldn’t bear my weight.
2. Boat harbour Kurjoviken
On the roofs protecting the two wooden boats there was hardly any snow. Probably it had been too windy. Parts of the outside furniture of the restaurant Sjökrog were buried deepely in the snow. There was also a completely buried table, but that would have given a very boring photo.
3. Nameless boat bridge, Rönnskär
The boat bridge normally shows nice contrasts between the wooden construction and the water, whether covered with ice or not. Even here the snow made it all the same today: snow everywhere reduced the contrasts radically.
Now I was satisfied enough to start working, but first I had to shovel snow. I had already cleared the garage driveway last Sunday, not I had to dig a bay into the snow so that the postman could approach the mailbox by car. Phew, that was work, round about 1.5 m³ of frozen snow had to be moved and thrown in my front yard.
Snow makes everything beautiful, it’s only a matter of the amount.