The last Thursday kayaking 2023

No, I haven’t joined many of “torsdagspadlinger” organised by the Tromsø sea kayak association this year. But at least the first one on the 4th of May and the last one this evening.

We were a group of ten heading to the island Grindøya in the west. When I arrived at the boat houses round half past five the sun was already disappearing behind the mountains of Kvaløya. Half an hour later we were on the water. The weather was quite warm and it was very calm –perfect conditions for a relaxed tour.

We headed to a sea mark – resting place for a small flock of cormorants. They flew away, when we gathered there.

While we were continuing to the northern tip of the island it was becoming dusky. We all had lights at our kayaks or our lifejackets. Less to see but to be seen.

After we passed the northern tip of Grindøya we turned left (meaning south) and calmly paddled along the forested island.

When we arrived at the beach at the southern tip it already had become pretty dark. The lights of the mainland illuminated the horizon. The single light at the left top corner of the next photo is the mountain station of the cable car Fjellheisen.

On the way back it was really dark. We paddled in pairs to ensure that no one was left behind and it was too dark to take snapshots. Just before we arrived at the boat houses again I took the iPhone out of its waterproof bag and took a photo. With a bit of help from Lightroom it’s surprisingly sharp.

It’s a pity that this was the last torsdagspadling but understandable, because it gets darker and darker every week. And if the weather forecast is correct it may snow next week.

Takk for turen – thanks for the tour, especially to the tour guides. See you next year.

Travelling from ice to summer

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

This photo was taken three days ago:

These photos were taken three hours ago:

Quite a contrast, isn’t it?

18 June (four days ago)

I stand on the sea ice for the last time as part of the polar research expedition with the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon. It has become quite foggy and we will close the ice station earlier due to bad visibility. If you cannot spot the polar bears it is not safe and we had quite a few of them the last two weeks.

19 June (three days ago)

Today we stop the ship several times for the usual CTD casts to get the salinity and temperature of the sea water in different depths. For science it is always interesting to get comparable measurements. One way is to do a transect, a series of the same type of measurements in different locations, mostly in a line. Today we do CTD casts at 2° W, 1° W, 0°, 1° E, and 2 °E. So today we have crossed the Prime Meridian.

For doing CTD casts the ship must stand still. At 1° E I use this to fly my private drone from the helicopter deck for the first picture above. (Memo to myself: do not fly a drone in fog, it is hard to land.)

20 June (two days ago)

After four days of fog it finally clears up in the evening. And for the first time in 18 days we can see land again, the long and narrow island Prins Karls Forland.

We can get a lot of information about what’s going on on the TV. On channel 9 there is OLEX, a navigation system. I see, that Helmer Hanssen, another research vessel owned by the University of Tromsø is nearby. The ships are getting closer and closer and I go up to the helicopter deck to take some photos. There’s a reason for the ships to meet. Malin, a researcher in the field of arctic and marine biology is transferred from our ship to Helmer Hanssen by boat. She will join another cruise.

21 June (yesterday)

In the morning we have approached Adventfjorden, where the main city Longyearbyen is located. Due to the touristic cruise ships occupying all dock places we will stop in the open water. From there we are transferred to land by boat as well. I’m in the first boat because I want to meet people in Longyearbyen at Forskningsparken. There UNIS, the university of Svalbard is located and a department of the Norwegian Polar Institute, too.

We get a car transport there and I meet Vegard, that helped me with drone flying and Luke, that I have worked with quite a bit. Luke and I have even time to get some outdoor lunch in the summery town. It’s sunny and more than 10 °C. (Too warm for me.) He mentions that it got quite green in Longyearbyen. And I spot the first flowers.

At the airport there are long queues everywhere. It is not build for large groups of slightly disorientated tourists. But we arrived early. Shortly after half past two we lift off. I glue myself to the window to see the fjords, the mountain chains and the glaciers of Svalbard passing by.

Amidst between Svalbard and Tromsø I manage to spot the arctic island Bjørnøya in the haze. For the first time in my life! The photo is heavily processed to make Bjørnøya visible.

And then we land in Tromsø where the vegetation just has exploded in my three weeks of absence. Everything is green and there are flowers everywhere. I am lucky and get a lift home. (Thank you, Tore!)

22 June (today)

I drop by in the office to meet my colleagues. Good to see them in real life. We talk about the cruise and many other things. But after work I take a bath in the sea. So refreshing when it is summer and 25 °C! That’s more than twenty degrees warmer than four days ago when I navigated my small drone to take a photo of Kronprins Haakon in the sea ice somewhere between Greenland and Svalbard.

23 June (tomorrow)

Tromsø is my work home, but Obbola in Sweden is my home home. Tomorrow I will travel there. If everything goes well it “only” takes 18 hours. And then I finally will be united with my wife Annika again in our cosy house by the Baltic Sea.

Arctic Ocean 2023 – prelude

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

When it looks like this on my table …

… then I’m going to travel. I love packing lists and I need them so that I do not forget too much.

At 9 o’clock everything is packed (ca. 50 kilos!). At 10 o’clock the taxi fetches me and takes me to the airport in Tromsø. Two and a half hours we are in the air heading north.

It’s very cloudy but shortly before landing I finally can see something different than sky and clouds: Svalbard’s main island Spitsbergen.

Soon we will land in Longyearbyen, where I landed three month before. But there are some differences.

Last time I travelled with Annika and we went on vacation before I worked in Longyearbyen for a week. Now I’m travelling with some colleagues from the Norwegian Polar Institute. Shortly before we land on the airport I take a snapshot:

There it is: the vessel Kronprins Haakon which is more or less the reason why some colleagues of mine and I travelled north: Tomorrow we will go on board on this ice breaker and start an expedition way up north into the sea ice. For three weeks we will live and work on Kronprins Haakon and I’m so excited that I may be part of this.

Today I had some hours in Longyearbyen. I was quite curious how it would look like in late spring. According to a researcher there is a lot of snow for the season this year. But on sea level the snow has melted away and everything looks soaking wet and muddy. While Svalbard reindeer are probably happy I definitely prefer winter.

If everything goes according plan we will leave Longyearbyen tomorrow at lunch time. I guess it won’t be long until we do not have any regular internet. So probably I will not blog anything about this scientific cruise before I’m back in civilisation.

Bye bye – ha det bra!

P.S.: On Facebook a friend wrote to me: “You must have the best job in the world!”. My answer – short but genuine: “Yes!”

 

Snowy intermezzo

Last week it felt like spring is finally coming. Flowers were blooming in the forest, the snow had melted away rapidly and even the birch trees finally had become green.

Since then it had been raining a lot. Yesterday it got quite cold and the rain turned into wet snow.

There were snow showers the whole night and this morning, too with temperatures round 0–1 °C. Is this what spring looks like? And we’re talking about the end of May.

Alas it was only a short intermezzo and while the mountains still look whiter than before snow has melted away throughout the day.

 

 

Kronprins Haakon in between

Yesterday

Yesterday I took the car to the northern tipp of Tromsøya to get my tyres changes. When I drove back I had my studded “Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9” tyres in the car’s back and brand new summer tyres on the rims. On my way back I passed the port and there lay the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon.

I continued to the shopping mall Jekta to fetch a photo collage printed on a hard foam board. The photo show scenes from the expedition I joined last year with the very same icebreaker Kronprins Haakon (KPH or even KH for the lazy ones). At time it stands on my dresser. With 75×50 cm it’s larger than expected.

Today

Today I took the car to the port, parked it outside, went to kai 25 and went on board of Kronprins Haakon. Not to join a cruise but to meet my colleague M. on the bridge. Nice to be there anyhow. M. already had installed some GIS software plugins on a computer there. I configured another plugin on my computers that can show the ship’s position in realtime together with other map layers.

In three weeks

The ship’s position in realtime however works only when my computer is connected to KPH’s network. No use to have it home. But in three weeks I’ll enter the vessel again, then in Longyearbyen. Then I’ll join my second arctic cruise with the Norwegian Polar Institute that will lead us to the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard. There’s a lot to do and I’m nervous because I have some tasks there that I never did before but I’m looking forward to it very much.

 

 

 

Tar du vårbilder?

What is the difference between these two photos?

Half an hour and round about 60 metres in altitude. The first photo shows – quite visible – a bunch of tussilago flowers, the second one – pretty hidden – a tombstone on the Elverhøy graveyard.

I cannot answer why the differences are so immense on the island Tromsøya. I only can observe that while it looks like spring is coming to the coastal parts the ridge of the island is still wintry. There are old ski tracks and the lake Prestvannet (96 m) is still covered with ice and snow.

I walk round the lake. Some parts of the way are free of snow, most aren’t.

I take a photo from a bench. A woman passes by and asks me: “Tar du vårbilder?” – do you take spring pictures? Well, kind of … .

I have an appointment at 18:00 so I leave the “mountains” of Tromsø and descend into town. While the small slide near Prestvannet is still snowed in the playground lower in town is completely free of snow. And I don’t think, they have underfloor heating. (Not impossible in Tromsø.)

Later, at 22:45 I walk to the bus that brings be home. It’s still quite light outside. No wonder, it’s only 20 days left to the period of the midnight sun.

 

12 more photos of Longyearbyen

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

3 March

It is the first evening of Annika’s and my stay in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard. We already strolled through the settlement after arrival. Now it is dark but the full moon illuminates the end of the road of Nybyen, one of Longyearbyen’s districts. What a special feeling to be in one of the world northernmost settlements on Earth. And a slightly tense one. It’s the edge of town, are there any polar bears around?

8 March

When you are in Svalbard you have to keep distance to animals to protect them. The animals do not follow this rule. This is a Svalbard reindeer, an own species of reindeer living here. It is looking for food in the middle of the city.

9 March

I didn’t expect to see ptarmigans on Svalbard but on our guided minibus tour we get to see a whole flock, again in Longyearbyen. Magnus is so kind to stop so that I could take a photo from the road.

10 March

This day is quite warm for Longyearbyen: Only -8 °C. When I took this photo however it was windy. Average wind wind 16 m/s, gusts 21 m/s and snow is blowing in the streets.

12 March

Annika is on her way home, I’ll stay for another week and today I enjoy the beautiful weather by the coast. The mountains on the other side of the fjord Isfjorden look quite near today – especially through the big telephoto lens.

15 March

I take an after work stroll along the coast and through town. It is cold and even with the modest wind of 6 m/s windchill is below -30 °C. It looks arctic, it smells arctic (the nose hairs freeze together immediately) and it feels arctic. No wonder – I am in the Arctic. Even the petrol prices show, that you are not in mainland Norway any longer. Petrol is cheap because Svalbard has reduced taxes.

18 March

Another walk in town. Up the hill to Taubanesentrale (the central of coal mining cableway), down to the center and up again to the elevated way in the east, part of the avalanche protection.

19 March

Sunday. Tomorrow I’ll fly back to Tromsø, today I’m quite lazy but finally I walk to the coast again because of the wonderful weather. Even with my hood on I can hear something above me. I look up and see the first two seagulls since I have arrived here. It is two glaucous gulls that draw large circles above the coastal line.

I try even to take pictures of the incredibly coloured mountains on the other side of the Isfjorden but the turbulences in the air make clear pictures impossible. I’ll keep it in my memory as I’ll do with my whole stay in Longyearbyen.

 

 

Farewell, Longyearbyen

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

I am sitting in the waiting hall of Longyear Airport, waiting for my plane to Tromsø.

More than two weeks I’ve been here, first on vacation with Annika, then working for the Norwegian Polar Institute at UNIS, the University Centre in Svalbard.

I worked with Luke, data manager for the Nansen Legacy and had a guest office on the other side of his office in the biology section.

While my office may look totally normal, the view definitely wasn’t.

Some days at 9 o’clock I went to other side of the building to the Longyearbyen section of the Norwegian Polar Institute to have coffee break with my colleagues there.

In Longyearbyen you put out your outdoor shoes before you enter a building (with some exceptions as the local COOP grocery shop). And so it is at UNIS. You can clearly see by the shelfs whether people are at home or at UNIS.

Soon I will travel back to Tromsø and I’m looking forward being back. It was a fantastic experience to spend much time in Longyearbyen. Anyhow as a visitor you also realise the limitations as for example not being able to leave the town without valid rifle permit because of the polar bears.

Continental Europe – here I come.

Ta sjansen

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

Funny clad people and strange vehicles on the town’s ski slope in Longyearbyen, what happens?

Today it’s the last day of the sun festival week and one of the items on the agenda is “Ta sjansen” (take the chance) an annual race down the ski hill with self-made vehicles where creativity is as as important than speed.

1 – 2 – 3 – here we go!

And – what do you think? Who won the race?

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!