“Kayak daytrip to Skarsfjord with beach clean up”

… this was the Facebook event I was invited to some weeks ago. It was an event organised by people from TSI Trulle, the other kayak association, but it was open for non-members, too. The idea was to start a kayak tour in Skarsfjord on the island Ringvassøya, paddle to a beach, clean it, cross the fjord to another beach, clean it, too, relax and paddle back. We were eight people joining the tour from five different countries.

Our tour does not start on the water. It starts with carrying kayaks to a trailer, use lashing straps to fix them there, packing all equipment into two cars  and some driving.

After 50 km – one hour drive – we arrive at the parking place by the sea, where we unstrap the kayaks and get everything ready including testing the sprayskirts and the footboards. Things you can do on land as well as you see.

It always takes some time to put on the drysuit, check that everything is packed and working but then we all sit in our kayaks and are ready to paddle to our first destination: The islet Teistholmen.

We leave the kayaks there, take a huge rubbish bag each and start combing the shore of the island. Most of the rubbish is on the northwest side of the island that is most exposed to the elements. Mostly it is plastic from fishing. Parts of old green nets, buoys from small to football size and then of course all the civilisation garbage as empty (or half-full) bottles, styrofoam and some nasty stuff. But it’s not extremely much.

After collecting I take a stroll over the green island. Hard to imagine, that I did a ski tour the day before.

After a while and some lunch we continue our triangular tour, now crossing the fjord Skarsfjorden to another beach. You can see the rubbish bags on our kayaks. We were very lucky that there is no mentionable wind, because with side winds the huge bags would act as sails and turn the kayaks into the wind. But without any wind and waves it was easy to cross the fjord.

When we reach the beautiful sandy beach it turns out that this is not the beach to be cleaned. The location that the organiser has in mind is a bit further away. So we continue a bit to arrive at a rocky shore that looked much less inviting than the sandy beach and a bit more difficult to land.

But it looks like that we would collect a lot of more trash here, and so we do. There is a lot of plastic trash, scrap metal (that we left alone) and driftwood for making fires for months. Some of us are collecting large amounts of plastic. It is obviously too much to be transported on our kayaks. But we are lucky and get help by two locals living on an island nearby. They load their whole boat full with our filled rubbish bags to take care of it. You can hear the motor of their boat for a while after they departed. Tusen takk – thousand thanks!

While others have collected more rubbing some of us have started a fire. Time to tell stories, eat a second lunch or just relax.

Anyhow, it is a day trip and so we leave this place, some of us with extra rubbish bags that didn’t make it on the motor boat. We pass the ship wreck, that we already spotted on the way there. It was washed ashore this winter while the captain was asleep because the anchor did not hold. He was not harmed but the ship was totally destroyed.

We are so lucky with the weather! Not much sun, but hardly any wind, no rain and much warmer than the weeks before. We paddle back to the parking place, the cars are visible as a small grey and a small white dot. The water is extremely clear and of a turquoise colour that makes the sea look Caribbean – until you put your hands into the water and realise how cold it is. This is, why drysuits are a must on such tours even under perfect conditions. Safety first!

And then we are back. Some of us train rescue manoeuvres, some of us relax, some collect trash (oh my, here you could collect for days :-( ). Then we put all kayaks back on the trailer, drive back to the boat house where we put all kayaks back in the boat houses. Then we are ready to leave.

Thank you guys for inviting me, letting joining me and having a great day together. Hopefully I meet some of you again. Would be a pleasure!

 

 

17 May aboard the ship Hermes II

Today it is 17 May, the Norwegian National Day. People say “Gratulerer med dagen!” (Happy Birthday!) to each other to celebrate Norway’s Birthday in the year 1814. The rest of the history I won’t tell here, you can read it better in the net, for example on Wikipedia.

While I was in Sweden last year I am in Tromsø today and so I was able to join the celebrations. Last week I got an ad for joining the boat parade on the wooden boat Hermes II, build 1917. That sounded fun and I directly bought one of the extraordinary cheap tickets. Would be nice to be outside on the water this day. And so it was, even in snowfall and sleet and temperatures round 1–2 °C.

Hermes II lies in the very center of Tromsø. I’ve passed it many times, today I entered it at 10 o’clock. Slowly the boat filled up. Some women were clad in bunad. These traditional clothes are very beautiful but I doubt that they provide the best weather protection. Check the video linked below. Other people choose more pragmatic clothes to stay warm and dry. At 10:30 we departed, headed north and met other boats there. In a group of fifteen boats – Hermes II, some SAR boats, the rest private ones – we then headed back to the center. Nothing extreme, just a especially nice way to be outside.

Some photos from today:

Also on board was NRK, the Norwegian TV. I can recommend the video, even when you do not speak Norwegian.

Watch it here: 17. mai-feiring på båt i Tromsø (2:44, Norwegian).

April snow in Tromsø

On Monday evening, the 25 April it started to snow.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

On Tuesday it was snowing and temperatures were below zero.

Still some flowers peeked through the snow.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

On Wednesday it was snowing and temperatures were below zero.

Some heavy snow squalls covered everything with snow.

In the evening I took a winter bath at the beach of Telegrafbukta and then took a photo of the snow figure by the stairs.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Yesterday on Thursday it was snowing and temperatures were below zero.

It was fun to kayak through the snow after work.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Today on Friday it has been snowing and temperatures have been (mostly) below zero.

The snowflakes have become thicker.

This afternoon snow depth was 25–30 cm. The snow figure was snowed in to the neck and the stairs have disappeared in the snow.

Thursday, 19 Mai 2022 …

In 20 days there will be the first polar day. Then the sun does not set for more than seven weeks. Midnight sun!

Summer is near but incredibly well hidden.

 

The first Thursday paddling in Tromsø

Today was the first torsdagspadling (Thursday paddling) of the Tromsø havpadleklubb, one of the two large kayak associations in Tromsø. Now we have enough light in the evening that you can take tours after work and it’s not so cold anymore. Well, kind of …

While it is not my first kayak tour this year – I paddled for example four weeks ago in Sweden– it is my first one in Tromsø and most of all the first one with others. We were nine paddlers today, eight experienced kayakers and me, the beginner. Fortunately the tempo was low and wind and waves were not demanding. So I could follow without any problems.

First everything went wrong. I could not book a kayak in the internet. Then I could reserve it but not pay it. Then one zipper of my neoprene boots was jammed. Then I could not close my drysuit zipper. Then I lost a part of my waterproof iPhone bag. Then I could not find my woollen cap. And so on. And so on. But with a lot of help of my fellow paddlers I finally was on the water. And luckily someone remembered me to attach the spray deck. (In Sweden I hardly use it.)

Oh – so nice to paddle again!

It took perhaps 15 minutes until we were right in the first snow shower. Not unexpected, since it had been snowing in Tromsø for three days now and we have subzero temperatures and at least 20 cm of snow on the ground. It was so beautiful with the sun peeking through holes in the clouds while the snow was falling.

But between the showers the sun came out.

Until the next shower. Now we were quite near the bay Telegrafbukta which is in the direct neighbourhood of my apartment. There I had taken a winter bath yesterday (water: 3.5 °C), now we approached it by kayak. We slowed down a bit – time for discussing paddle technique or to go ashore and re-adjust the footrests.

We did not go on land because the weather was not too inviting. So we paddled back against the sun and through a new snow shower. This time the wind increased a bit and we got even some waves on our way back.

Round two hours and eight or nine kilometres later we arrived at the club houses of the Tromsø havpadleklubb. Time to dry the kayaks, put them back and change to more civil clothes.

Takk for turen – thanks for the tour – I’ll be there next Thursday!

Two small winter paddling tours

Two small morning kayak tours I did this week. One two days ago, one today. Weather was just too great to sit inside the whole day: sunny with temperatures between -10 and -6 °C and a calm wind.

Here is a photo of each tour start:

As you can see it had snowed a bit between these two tours.

The day before yesterday I just wanted to circumnavigate the small islet Lillskär, but there was too much ice to cross and crossing ice with a kayak takes time. And since I work full time, time is limited. So I just paddled around a bit and then back.

Due to the frosty temperatures the ice was thicker today though hardly more extended. I started at the same place but then continued to the island Bredskär. From there I wanted to circumnavigate the island Bredskärssten, but the same story as two days before: At the northern shore of the island there was an ice field. Crossing it would have taken too much time so I changed my plans and made a smaller tour. Nice to be outdoors anyhow!

How do you cross ice with a kayak? If the ice is safe, just walk. You wear a drysuit and have your safety equipment with you, don’t you!? If the ice is very thin, just paddle through (use your cheapest paddle). But if the ice is between 1–2 cm, the ice may not bear you and you cannot use the blades of the paddle neither.

Then you can use isdubbar – part of the ice safety equipment. With these ice claws it is possible to pull yourself forward while sitting in the kayak.

If you are lucky the ice is thick enough to let the kayak glide over it quite fast. If you are less lucky the kayak will constantly break though and then it can be pretty exhausting, especially when the ice claws break the ice as well. Then it is sometimes simpler to pull yourself forward by grabbing the ice with your hands. Waterproof gloves or mittens strongly recommended!

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 21: Longyearbyen · time to say farewell

This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise Kronprins Haakon”.

Day 21 · 11 March 2022

It’s the night before 11 March, the last day of the polar expedition JC3 in the program Arven etter Nansen that I have been allowed to take part the last three weeks.

As often before I stand on the helicopter deck of the icebreaking research vessel Kronprins Haakon. It’s dark but I can see pale mountain schemes on both sides of Isfjorden. Mountains and fjords, that feels almost unreal after two and a half weeks with hardly any land in sight.

The first lights, the first other ships, the first mobile connection for weeks – we are definitely approaching civilisation. The airport is already in sight and soon the illuminated settlement Longyearbyen, the largest inhabited area of Svalbard is visible.

At 1:30 in the night we arrive at the harbour of Longyearbyen and the ship is moored. Time to catch some sleep.

After some hours of sleep the alarm clock wakes me up – time for breakfast. We have to leave our cabins at 8:00, the first farewell. Goodbye cabin 385 at the port side of the ship’s bow. After breakfast I stand again on the helicopter deck to welcome the sun and the blue sky.

Some of us leave the ship to visit town. Is it possible to go there without the threat of polar bears? Apparently, although we are at the coast and polar bears can swim. For two hours I stroll through the town, first with others than alone. Many of the others have lived here for a while – a normal place for people who are involved in polar research.

I head to the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS). It’s not only the university that is located there, my employer the Norwegian Polar Institute has offices there as well. Hopefully I may work here for some weeks someday. I want to spend more time in Longyearbyen.

Together with J. who works there we had back to the ship. Here we will meet the taxis to the airport but before that we get lunch – the last meal on board.

Some hours later. Seven of our team sit in the waiting hall of the airport. Others already left with the earlier flight. And then we enter the airplane. It’s surprisingly cold in row 3 near to the open front door and after some minutes I put on my down parka. It may look ridiculous but soon I’m getting warm again. And then the plane starts.

The plane is rapidly gaining altitude and more and more the whole wintry beauty of the island Spitsbergen is revealed. I’m so touched by the view of mountain chains, glaciers and ice covered fjords.

And then we leave Spitsbergen’s southern tip behind and a layer of clouds slide between airplane and sea. A journey far beyond the ordinary comes to its end. Time to say farewell.

On the arctic sea iceFarewell

I stand on the Arctic sea ice
far in the north. The sun hangs low
over the horizon and there lies
an ice ridge lit by the morning glow.

The silence feels as infinite
as the extent of the frozen sea
and with every subsequent minute
my heart grows with boundless glee.

I stood on the Arctic Ocean
It’s past now and I should say good bye.
But an overwhelming sad emotion
shades my soul. And I cry, and I cry.

 

Olaf Schneider – 24 March 2022

My heartfelt thanks to all people that made this journey possible.

 

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 17 and 18: An incredibly beautiful day on the ice

This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise Kronprins Haakon”.

Day 17 and a bit of 18 · 7 and 8 March 2022

7 March

We have arrived at a place somewhere between Svalbard’s second largest island Nordaustlandet (14.443 km²) and the easternmost island Kvitøya (682 km²). No one lives permanently on these islands.

The ice experts have found an ice flow and examined it. The ice near the ship has some holes so the dress code is survival suits for the first time. In opposite to the formerly used Regatta suits they have attached boots and neoprene arm and neck cuffs. They shall keep you warm and dry in case you fall into cold water – or in our case break through the ice.

I am very interested to join and observe ice coring, a missing link on this expedition. I wasamhowever quite doubtful whether I will be allowed to enter the unreliable ice on this station. But I am lucky again, I may follow M. and L. onto the ice.

Earlier I was told that I may join the scientists taking ice cores but won’t get the opportunity to take ice cores by myself. That’s understandable. To my huge surprise – and delight! – plans were changed: L. shows me how to do it once and then it’s up to me to take five more ice cores. Give me snow or ice and something to play with and I’m happy ;-).

No, I’m no experiences ice corer after five cores. But at least I get an idea and a bit of a routine. In measuring snow depths, ice depths, the freeboard and writing down the values with a pencil. In mounting the large ice core attachment onto the electric drill and removing it after coring. In putting the ice core onto the gutter-shaped cutting board without flooding the electric drill or touching the snow (happened once – sorry!). While M. is cutting the core into slices and putting them into wide-necked plastic bottles I continue with my work. And I have to continue, because I’m still slow and M. shall not wait too long. I think, I could do that for weeks. Standing on the ice and drill cores out of the sea ice.

I have asked Pernille to take some photos from me while coring. These are probably the only photos that prove that I actually did something on the expedition beside of taking photos.

Photo credit: Pernille Amdahl, Nansen Legacy –tusen takk!

And the afternoon? I am allowed just to go onto the ice once more as long as I find some team lead to join. I find one and so get my 7th opportunity on this cruise. Two and a half more hours on the ice. I overhear a radio message. No polar bear warning but the information that our ice flow drifts with more than 2 km/h and the water depth is decreasing. This could damage instruments when they are too deep in the water.

Just some more photos:

And later, when we are on the ship again another polar bear approaches. This time it is a curious one that is very interested in the scientist’s equipment. And since it could harm the bear when it eats cables or plastic it is shooed away with a flare gun. **BANG**. It gallops some metres and then walks away. No polar bears were harmed and as far as I know no cables.

By the way – it was a good decision to use the survival suits. One of the scientists went through the ice today. All of a sudden and quite near the ship. It did not take long to pull the scientist out of the water but without the survival suit this would have been a very wet, cold and unpleasant experience.

8 March

The next day some additional measurements are done on the ice and then we leave last ice station of Arven etter Nansen JC3.

Ha det bra, Arctic sea ice. Farewell! It was a great pleasure to meet you and I definitely will miss you!

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 14 – 17: Travelling south

This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise Kronprins Haakon”.

Day 14 – 17 · 4 – 7 March 2022

4 March: after our second polar bear encounter we leave the ice station P7 at the 82th degree of latitude behind and slowly head south.

This journey will take more than two days although its only 250 km to sail. That’s because many scientific activities go on. Not from the ice but from the ship. Just an excerpt from the activity log:

  • CTD with watersample (19×)
  • Box core (4×)
  • Håv-trekk stasjon (2×)
  • Multinet (2×)

I help the benthos people in the lab and learn a lot, I discuss data matters with scientists, I edit photos. At the same time the character of this polar expedition has started to become a bit more leisure-like. A “no-talent show” is organised as well as a table tennis tournament. A quiz evening takes place and J. shows some of his favourite movies. And from time to time I stand on the helicopter deck and take new photos.

7 March: In the morning we arrive at a place between Svalbard’s second largest island Nordaustlandet and the island Kvitøya, that we already passed a week ago. Here we will have a last 24-hour ice station with the adhoc name SIce Kvitøyrenna.

 

 

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 12: ice station on the Arctic Ocean

This article is part of the series “2022-02: Winter cruise Kronprins Haakon”.

Day 12 · 2 March 2022

Yesterday we arrived at P7, the northernmost transect station on this cruise. Here, a bit north of the 82th degree of latitude and round about 3400 metres above the seabed of the Arctic Ocean we will start our second ice station today.

The morning I start with two polar bear watches. It snows and the visibility is not the best but still good enough to watch out for polar bears.

This is my workplace for 2×1 hour this morning:

And this is the workspace for some of the scientists:

After lunch I get another opportunity to join researchers on the sea ice.

I join Z. again and help her erecting the tent over the already existing ice hole. Then A. uses the hole – now in the tent – to test his ROV (short for remotely operated underwater vehicle). After that Z. continues with MMS measurements. I want to help her but J. who joined our team as well will do that. Z. says that I shall take photos, she never has time for that. Well, when I get a carte blanche to take pictures I use it!

Taking photos in the tent however is not easy. It is quite dark and there is a lot of moisture that my Nikon does not like at all. But here it’s not the technical quality but the motives that matter. (Says Olaf, the perfectionist who is still angry with himself that he did not made bigger efforts to get better photos.)

K., our polar bear guide looks quite impressive standing upright on the nearby ice ridge in front of a purple sky. And the sky is purple. In the Arctic winter it is the sun that colorises the landscape and blends purple and orange of clouds and sky with blue and turquoise of the ice to always new colour palettes.

K. gives my clearance to walk around a bit. To the ice ridge and 30 metres on the snowmobile track to the ship. I enjoy my gained freedom and take some photos of the ship, the sun, the ice, of K. driving snowmobile. And it is such a beautiful day!

More than two hours I am on the ice before we return to the ship. But before that I have to bore you with another selfie ;-)

This selfie is for you, my friend Chris. It was Chris that surprised Annika and me with a generous gift a few years ago: A balaclava for each of us knitted by her. One of these balaclavas now has been in the high Arctic. It is one of the garments I definitely will pick again when I should have another opportunity to travel way up north! Thank you, Chris!

Will I be on the sea ice the next day again? Yes, but first there’s another story to tell. Bear that in mind ;-)

Meanwhile in Tromsø

While I am writing a lot of blog articles about my time in the Arctic live in Tromsø goes on.

When I arrived Friday a week ago Tromsø was as un-wintry as possible. It was several degrees plus and it rained.

But to be honest, it didn’t affect me a lot. Mentally I was still in the Arctic.

Despite to the torrential downpours that Yr forecasted for this weekend the weather was ok yesterday and nice today. But as the whole week it was really warm: +7 °C. Time for a morning walk. _(Sunny, but much windier than expected.)_

In the afternoon I wondered if it was possible to take a small promenade on Kvaløya. I headed to the parking place from which I started a ski tour seven weeks ago. A lot of other cars were there and snow and ski tracks. I did not have any skis with me today. I tried to walk on the snow just with boots but the snow was at least knee deep. And then I came to the bridge that crossed a rapid meltwater flow. Maybe nice for experienced skiers but I didn’t have any interest in falling into the water. Time for me to return to the parking place.

The good thing: the parking place is just 200 metres away from the coast. So I took a short afternoon promenade there enjoying the colours, the sun, the fresh air and the wind. Yes it was windy – the display at the bridge to Kvaløya showed 20 m/s.

Back again at my car skiers arrived. My skis where home but then I remembered, that I always have snowshoes in my car. I attached them to my rubber boots and so I could make at least a tiny promenade to the next hill some hundred metres away.

Back in my car. Next stop: Sandnessund Cemetery. Never been there before. Even there a lot of snow.

Next stop was unplanned. I just had to take a photo of the vessel and the mountains of Kvitøya. Luckily the parking place of the Tromsø Havpadleklubb was near.

The Arctic has its own extraordinary beauty and I feel a special connection to it. Tromsø and surroundings however are beautiful too, even when weather has been much too warm for mid-March.

For the records: The first „hestehov“ or Tussilago I (17 March on my way to work).