Summer weather in Tromsø

10:30. I am sitting in my car on my way to Sommarøya – “The summer island”. The sun is shining and it is warm already. Today it is supposed to be 19 °C, much warmer than the last weeks (or months). The first photo stop, a parking place by the sea. Tussilago is blooming everywhere.

The road leaves the sea and leads through the valley Kattfjordeidet. The lake Kattfjordvatnet lies on 149 metres of altitude. Does not sound much, nevertheless it is high enough that most parts of it are still covered with ice. I like the open areas – small waterfalls and beautiful reflections.

The valley is 12 km long. I leave it behind and meet the sea again. And two locals – reindeer that know the traffic rules and walk on the other side of the street (or better said in the ditch).

Just before the tunnel Oterviktunnelen there is a parking place and shortly after a beautiful sandy beach. It looks so warm, but I didn’t measure the water temperature …

I am lucky, I find a nice shell, a “pelican’s foot”. Then I continue my ride and enter the tunnel. It is not long, just 607 m.

Almost wherever you stop there are nice places to explore, for example this tiny beach, less than ten metres wide. It is not far away from the bridge to Sommarøya.

From the bridge you can see a lot of small islands, many of them with sandy beaches. A kayakers paradise, although the weather can be pretty rough. But if you like challenges, take your boat, head west and after 1600 km you are in Greenland. ;-)

The last weeks I have seen three kinds of wild flowers blooming in and around Tromsø. (1) Tussilago – 17 April (always the first). (2) Dandelion – 26 April. (3) Oxlip (or another primula) – 8 May. Today I discovered two others. According to Pl@ntNet, which I use for identification a Goldilocks buttercup (91.2%) and a Purple mountain saxifrage (94.6%).

Would I find one of my favourites flowers as well – the Marsh marigold, which loves wet places and has an incredibly beautiful hue of yellow. Yes? I found some of them beside a small pond.

On Sommarøya I hardly took any picture, on the outer island Hillesøya I took a photo of one of the boat harbours. In my back an open door, a dark room and in there a man cleaning fish.

After taking lunch in the snack restaurant Havfrua (“The mermaid”) it was time to drive back. I chose the way round the south of the island Kvaløya and made some small stops. One at the ponds and puddles in a boggy area, which now are free of ice. Another by the church Hillesøy kirke, which is by the way not on the island Hillesøya.

And then the time came: 20 °C according to the car thermometer! Last time it was so warm here was last August.

I took another stop to take a photo of one of the mighty mountains on the other side of the strait Straumsfjorden. When I looked down into the deep water I spotted a shoal of fish. It was hundreds, probably thousands of fish resting in the shadow. The photo is heavily edited to make the fish more visible.

After a while I came back to more known areas – less than 30 minutes away from my “work flat” in Tromsø. I stopped at a small grave yard. Most tomb stones were free of snow, but those located in the snow drifts will have to wait a bit longer. Anyhow snow in the lowlands has become the exception. Even the bogs that tend to be cold are hardly frozen any more. And so I had to be quite cautious to avoid wet feet, when I looked for a good place to take a picture of that beautiful pine tree other there – the last photo for today.

Those of you that are not so familiar with Norway as a country may ask yourselves: Why did Olaf make an excursion on a Friday? That’s because today it is Constitution Day. On 17 May 1814 the Constitution of Norway was signed and this is the most important day of the year. Even through our street a marching band walked by and all people have their best clothes on – many of them the traditional bunad which shows, from which part of Norway they come from.

And so I shout out: “Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!” – Happy birthday, Norway!

Here is an article from 10 years ago: Syttende mai (German text).

Sol, sol, kom igjen, sola er min beste venn!

This article is part of the series “2023-03: Svalbard”.

It is 8 March 2023, a special day in Longyearbyen. While polar night ended already three weeks ago today is the first opportunity to see the sun in Longyearbyen above the mountains in the south. A special day after the sun disappeared in October last year. And as you can see it is a big celebration!

After some singing the moment has come. All people are shouting: “Sol, sol, kom igjen, sola er min beste venn!” – Sun, sun, come back, the sun is my best friend!

But the chanting was in vain: the sun didn’t appear. Some children are in doubt – was it the clouds or didn’t they shout loud enough.

But now it’s only a matter of waiting. Already in six weeks the time of polar day and midnight sun will begin.

Kudos for the musicians. Must be hard to play guitar or piano when windchill is round -23 °C. Brrr!

A first day in Longyearbyen

This article is part of the series “2023-03: Svalbard”.

Today Annika and I have the first full day in Longyearbyen. There’s a lot to see, even for us, for whom Northern Norway in general is nothing new.

House on mountain slope

We have seen houses, we have seen mountains, we have seen houses by and in mountains. But the mountains in Svalbard are really special and quite recognisable.

Arctic town

It is not only the mountains, that give Longyearbyen a very special character. It is amongst others the traces of the coal mining that is still present although there is no active mining in town any longer.

Avalanche fences

In December 2015 an avalanche buried ten houses in Longyearbyen. Two people died. Today some houses in Longyearbyen are abandoned because they lie in critical areas and the mountain Sukkertoppen (the sugar peak) is covered with avalanche fences.

Snowmobiles

In Northern Sweden snow mobiles are very popular, for work, transportation and for leisure. In Northern Norway there are much more restrictions and you do not see them as often. In Svalbard there are more snow mobiles than people. No wonder in a place with very long winters and hardly any road network.

Chilly temperatures

In Northern Sweden temperatures of -19.7 °C are not seldom in winter, but then it is mostly calm weather. Today in Longyearbyen it was pretty gusty and windy which made the temperature appear significantly lower.

Fjords

Yes, there are fjords in Tromsø. But there are roads and settlements, too. On Svalbard there are not many settlements at all and the fjords do not only look much more icy and arctic, but also untouched. The small dots on the right of the first image however tell another story: There is a lot of snowmobile traffic.

Northernmost church?

There is a church in Longyearbyen lying on a small hill. It looks cosy and if you go in you realise, it is. It is the northernmost Lutheran church in the world, only topped by an Eastern Orthodox church in the Russian Franz Josef Land. (Source: wikipedia)

Mukluks

Of course people in Longyearbyen have warm clothes. When it comes to boots Mukluks are quite popular. The origin of these shoes lies in the Inuit culture of the North American Arctic and there are great for dry and cold weather. You hardly see them in mainland Scandinavia.

Impressive mountains

Did I mention the impressive mountains? I did? Well, anyhow – they are impressive!

Surprises

This solitary house goes by the name Huset – the house. The name is as pragmatic as the architecture. But it contains a surprise. The restaurant Huset does not only have quite high-priced dinner, but also a “Saturday beef” on Saturdays 15-18. By chance we passed the house at 14:45 and it is Saturday today. So we decided to eat there. A good choice because the food was very delicious and costed only 190 crowns – a bargain in Norway!

Polar bears

One of the very special things about Svalbard: there are more polar bears than human beings on this Archipelago. While the town Longyearbyen is protected the surroundings aren’t. If you leave town you have to carry a rifle and a flare gun and must know how to handle incidents with polar bears. Signs warn you when you leave the safe space.

Neither Annika nor I can and may handle a rifle so we stay within town beside of guided tours.

Treacherous weather

When we left the restaurant Huset, weather had changed. It was as windy as before but now it was snowing and the wind gusts blew snow everywhere. Into the face and into the pockets of my parka. It was however less than a kilometre walk until we reached our accommodation Coal Miner’s Cabin.

 

 

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

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

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.

 

Cabin days in Christmas time

Christmas eve – Sommarøya and Hillesøy

It’s only 15 km to Sommarøya, a beautiful island reachable by car via a curved bridge. Even in snow fall and twilight you can see the turquoise colour of the sea. Everything is closed, even the hotel.

From there it’s not far to the church Hillesøy kirke, that by the way does not lie on the island Hillesøya but on the mainland. We tried to prebook one of the limited seats for the Christmas service but they where all taken. We are there very early and allowed to have a look in. Eye catcher: the tall wood-burning stove.

We drive back to the cabin – time for lunch while it gets dark outside.

Christmas day – Skitour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet

This day was supposed to be crisp and clear and it was. No clouds, hardly any wind, -10 °C. Perfect conditions for a small ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. In coastal Sweden we just would have started the tour, in the Norwegian mountains you must check the avalanche risk first. We got round 30 cm of powder snow the last days and the risk was level 3 which is quite high. So a real mountain tour would have been too risky but the terrain by the lake is too flat for avalanches.

And in the early evening we are lucky and get some polar lights. We just have to step outside the door and avoid the motion sensor for the outdoor lighting.

Everything would have been accessible from my apartment in Tromsø as well. Anyhow it feels more like a real holiday to be on a Norwegian mountain cabin over Christmas, just Annika and I. Perhaps we are allowed to use it again sometime.

No whales today

To the left the Brim Explorer, a boat located in Tromsø for amongst other whale watching. To the right the tourists waiting to be boarded. The boat is fully booked, I am not alone.

Before leaving an announcement: The crew will try its best but it’s not granted that we reach the waters where the whales are. Anyone is free to leave and given a full refund. Most people stay and so do I. First of all I’m not surprised, as another tour operator already cancelled today’s tour. And then I just want to be a day on the water. Whales of course would be a nice extra.

To the left Tromsøbrua, the bridge that connects Tromsø with the mainland. To the right the safety on board drill, that everyone had to join.

And then we’re off.

To make it short: What we didn’t get today was whale sightings. What we got today was rough weather in the open parts. The boat was rolling and pitching like a cork in the waves. More than one passenger got sea sick. The unpredictable movements of the boat and the dim light under the grey sky made photographing a bit adventurous. Several times I was forced in and one passage even the doors were locked. The rest I was outside, partly taking photos, partly just looking around and letting the wind blow around my nose.

Conclusion: an awesome tour even without whales. If you want to participate as well: take your warmest clothes with you. And those of you that just want to stay home and look at some whale photos may read my article about Whale watching in Andenes. Enjoy.

Note to myself: TromsøyaRingvassøya/ReinøyaVannøyaNordfugløyaArnøya/LaukøyaSkervøya/KågenLyngenReinøyaTromsøya

Grense Jakobselv

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

This sign marks the only Russian–Norwegian border station. In February 2018 I crossed this border to Russia together with Annika and two friends. This time we stay in Norway and I take just a photo of the sign.

Our destination today (which is 30 August): Grense Jakobselv, a small border village. As the road to Hamningberg the road there is opened only in summertime and we never have been there before.

It starts like a typical car trip. The road goes along the Jarfjorden and a large lake. In Vintervollen the road turns right and we see the barrier that closes the road in winter. It is open. Now the road leads over the mountains. The rocks here are the oldest in Norway with an average age of 2.9 billion years. I’m not a rock expert and so I take a photo of a birch instead of a random rock whose type and age I cannot determine.

We reach the small river Jakobselva. This small and shallow river is special because here it marks the Norwegian–Russian border. The pink salmon (also called humpback salmon) do not care, they are busy to go upstreams and not all fish succeed.

We continue to the village Grense Jakobselv. For me the biggest surprise was the chapel. In my view every northern Norwegian church is made of wood and painted white. Not the King Oscar II Chapel (built 1869) that is made of stone.

While I wasn’t properly prepared about the church I knew something else: There is a sandy beach. It is at the very end of the road. Annika and I take a bath. Water temperature is about 11–12 °C. It feels quite strange to change clothes for a bath while you can hear the Norwegian army practising shooting.

As many minor roads in northern Norway the road to Grense Jakobselv is a dead-end road and so we have to drive the very same road back. After having been back we get something we have missed on the journey so far: an afternoon nap!

Norwegian summer journey I

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

Annika and I have two weeks holiday and are travelling through Northern Norway. Our southernmost point: Lofoten, right now we are in Hammerfest.

Ten images looking back:

10 – We are on the high plateau Sennalandet. There are hardly any trees and the road E6 crosses the plateau in a straight line. I can imagine how rough and lonely this place may be in winter.

9 + 8 – The Øksfjordjøkelen is definitely worth the 16 km detour. The parking place and the small path leading through the sparse birch forest grant impressive views on this glacier. When the weather is clear.

7 – It’s grey on our passage from Andenes, Vesterålen to Gryllefjord, Senja. I stand on the top deck of the ferry and wonder how many tourists may have rung this bell and what had happened then.

6 – We just left Andenes by ferry. The razor sharp mountain line of Bleik will soon transform into a whitish grey scheme slowly vanishing in the drizzle.

5 + 4 – It is grey on our short ferry passage from Fiskebøl, Lofoten to Melbu, Vesterålen, too.

3 – One of the typical features of the Norwegian landscapes is the presence of high summits and fjords. Sometimes the mountains are reflected in the water surface of the sea.

2 – Hauklandstranda is one of these incredible beaches on the Lofoten islands with white sand and turquoise water. The sun is shining – time for a bath. Air temperature 11 °C, water 12 °C. Not as cold as expected.

1 – We pass Sildpollnes kapell on the Lofoten twice. Once on our way south and once when heading back again. There’s a parking place by the road where stairs and ways lead up to some hills that present a view over the landscapes around.

0 – On Saturday I leave Tromsø to fetch Annika from Riksgränsen train station in Sweden. It’s still not possible to travel further to Narvik by train. Our destination today: a room in Tjeldsundbrua.

A wintry weekend in Saxnäs

If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.

While the coastal weather has still much too warm (last night it rained again onto the icy roads) you can still seek winter in the Swedish mountains. Annika and I used the long weekend to visit Saxnäs (and my piano tuner who owns a house there). Some days ago it had rained even there but fortunately it snowed afterwards and everything was white when we arrived there Friday evening.

Seven impressions of Saxnäs

1 – wind and snow

The night and the first day in Saadteskenjuana/Saxnäs was very windy with squalls round 20 m/s. That’s why we chose the car to look around, not the skies. The bay Faepmienloekte/Fatmomakkeviken, part of the large lake Gåaltoe/Kultsjön was partly open. Maybe because of the current of the stream Jeanoe/Ransarån, maybe because of the stormy wind and the warm weather. In the back the wind blew the new snow over the ice and highly into the air. It was not cold, but windproof clothes were necessary to feel comfortable.

A comment on the naming of the locations: The first part is the Sámi name, the second the Swedish name. The headlines and repetitions have only the Swedish names to keep it short.

2 – Fatmomakke

Faepmie/Fatmomakke is an old Sámi meeting point. In 1781 the Swedes erected a first chapel. Both Sámi and Swedish people lived here. Since 2014 it is a “kulturreservat” – an area to protect the culture of that place. I loved the old wooden houses by the lake Gåaltoe/Kultsjön.

3 – lake and mountains

When we drove back we still could see snow blowing over the lake. Above the whirling snow dust the risen sun had started to illuminate the mountains of the Marsfjäll.

Step by step we drove back to Saxnäs and I used every parking place to take pictures.

4 – polar stratospheric clouds

A rare phenomenon had been observed the last days: polar stratospheric clouds. I already could see some the days before on my way from Skelleftehamn to Umeå. Now in Saxnäs they were spread over half the afternoon sky. If they are near the sun the light is diffracted and the clouds are very colourful. I have seen such clouds before but never as intense and colourful as that day.

5 – skiing through the dark

In 2005 I bought my first fjällskidor – backcountry skis with steel edges. I had used them on many tours – from short half-day trips to multi-day winter tours with pulka and tent. They had become quite worn and battered, therefore I bought a new pair some weeks ago, including new boots. Now it was time to test them.

The test went very well, but the ski track around the lake we didn’t find. So we went cross-country and returned after a while. The way back was much faster because we could follow our own tracks and didn’t have to navigate.

6 – cross country skiing

The next day was grey but quite calm. We took the car to the Bagarstugan, starting point of the ski tracks in Saxnäs. The ski tracks weren’t prepared yet but some minutes later we met a man that was about to start the preparation. The classical tracks are prepared by snow mobile, the broader skating tracks by snowcat. So finally we were lucky to have our cross country ski premiere on a freshly cut track. Great!

7 – Saxnäs by night

Annika invited me to dinner and we decided to walk the 2 km from my piano tuner’s house to the hotel. Good to have some motion before and after dinner. We passed the closed village shop and soon approached the hotel. Urgently recommended: reflex vests to be seen by the cars.

Beside of the employees we were completely alone in the large hotel restaurant. It’s still pre-season.

Now I’m back in Skelleftehamn. The road is icy and wet from last night’s rain. The average of the max temperature forecast for the next 9 days: +1.3 °C. Come on, winter, where are you!?

Translation:

EnglishGerman
polar stratospheric cloudPerlmuttwolke