Almost like a ski tour

When I look at these photos it looks like I’ve been on a multi-day ski tour. Deep snow, packed pulka, white mountains, snowy forests, a snowed in cabin, a cosy fire in the oven. And more snow.

But these photos do not come from a long ski tour but from five different locations nearby. Some are on Tromsøya, some on Kvaløya and the photos were taken within the last two weeks.

1. A short ski tour near Håkøybotn, Kvaløya.

I was tired, I was lazy, I was in a couch potato mood. Anyhow I managed to take the car to the Håkøybotn graveyard to do a little ski promenade up the hills. The snow was fluffy and when I was almost back at the car I realised, that it was quite deep too in some places, when I put off my skis …

2. Sunrise

Last Saturday I could see how the sun slowly started to illuminate the snowy mountains on the island Kvaløya in the morning. What’s special about this is that I took these photos from the balcony of my new flat. Yes, it’s a 600mm telephoto shot and the photos are slightly blurry but that doesn’t reduce the experience standing there and watching the daylight appear.

3. Pulka test tour

The last ski tour I did was with Annika in 2020. In 2021 Covid prevented a tour. In 2022 I was on my first arctic cruise instead. In 2023 I worked on Svalbard for a week and we had vacation there.

But our next ski tour is just a week away. So the question was – does my pulka sledge still work? So I tested it last Sunday and everything seems to be ok. Nice!

4. A cozy fire in the oven

Back home I changed clothes and fired the oven in my cozy new flat. I don’t use it for heating, but for hygge.

5. Today’s ski tour

It has snowed quite a lot and last night the official snow depth exceeded 100 cm for the first time this winter. I put on my skis already on my parking place and skied up to the forest, where I first followed the tracks and then went “off-piste” though the forest. The snow was so fluffy that I couldn’t see my skis anymore. There were somewhere under 30 cm of snow.

Now the days are getting longer and longer and when I’m back from our ski tour I guess I can just do such shorter ski trips right after work.

Bonus

There are three holes in the photo grid shown at the beginning of the article. Time for three more photos. Why I didn’t put them into the grid? Because they do not look like ski tour photos. I made them on different shore locations on the island Kvaløya on my way back from the ski tour two weeks ago. Here they come:

The sun returns in Tromsø

While I got a lot of sun in Obbola (320 km south of the polar circle) between the years, Tromsø (340 km north of the polar circle) had to wait to see the sun again.

Last Sunday was the last day of the mørketid – the polar night. Monday at lunchtime the sun was above the horizon but not above the mountains. Anyhow everything has become much brighter compared to mid-December.

Yesterday I took a promenade from my new apartment. While Tromsø lay in the shadow – at least were I walked – I saw the snowy mountains of Kvaløya having pink tops. There the sun was already visible.

Today I was at Telegrafbukta round noon. I was not alone – round 200 other people waited for the sun, were barbecuing, taking selfies or a winter bath. On the sea a flock of eider ducks occasionally wa diving for food. And then it appeared from behind a mountain – the sun!

Welcome sun! The polar night is over, the winter will continue for at least three months. But every day the sun will rise a bit higher.

Cottage holiday

Last Saturday Annika came from Sweden. On Sunday we took the car to the cottage that the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Institute for Marine Research share. We got it from Sunday till today afternoon (which is Thursday).

Monday

The sun won’t rise again before January and daylight is limited, especially when it is snowing. We took the car to the peninsula Sommarøya, bought some groceries in the local store and took some snowy photos in the small harbour.

The rest of the day – taking a nap, firing the oven and preparing dinner.

Tuesday

The sky was clear and the temperature had dropped. Perfect conditions for taking a ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. The light was beautiful and we were lucky to find some kind of track that we could follow. But who made this track? It was too narrow for a snow mobile and too wide for a pulka sledge. Later we realised that this was a track for a dog sledding. Several times we let the dog sleds pass before we continued to follow the track by ourselves. I was glad about my warm, woollen mittens with temperatures between -10 and -15 °C.

Later at home I let my drone fly to make some photos of the cabin. Look! It is in the middle of nowhere!

Well – not really. The cottage is quite near the road although the way up through the snow is pretty steep.

The time of the polar night is a lot about colours. First the incredible orange and pink colours of sky and mountains and then the polar lights if you are lucky. We were!

Wednesday

We took a small tour to Brensholmen and Hillesøy, places that are quite near by car. It was chilly and windy. A small boat approached, heading to the small harbour of Brensholmen. From here goes the ferry to the island Senja and from here you can see the bridge to Sommarøya with the island Tussøya in the background.

We continued the road, saw some reindeers and the sky that became more and more orange. No drone photos, it was too windy.

When we were home again we spend a part of the evening (and some part of the night) in front of the house, because the polar lights were amazing. They covered more or less the whole sky and were constantly moving in ribbons, garlands and swirls. I took some photos, but mostly Annika and I just watched this celestial spectacle.

So you see that in Northern Norway the time of the polar night (the mørketid) is not as dark as many believe and quite colourful. The days are just pretty short, but this time of the year is so beautiful!

 

 

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!”

 

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.

 

 

 

A day cruise to Finland

A day cruise from Sweden to Finland and back.

HolmsundVaasa: 11:15–16:00. VaasaHolmsund: 16:30—19:00. The ferry is not faster on the way back but the Finnish time is one hour ahead.

Just some photos:

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.

 

 

Guided minibus tour with Magnus

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

Thursday morning Annika and I joined a guided tour by minibus. Magnus, our guide and driver has moved to Svalbard in 1964 and has spent most of his life here. I’ll show you some pictures of the tour, but the real experience were the incredible stories Magnus told us. About the times, when there was no shop in Longyearbyen, when the island could be cut off from the mainland the whole winter, when it was a mining town hardly visited by any tourists. What makes the stories special is that they seem to tell from ancient times but some took place just one generation ago. I could listen to Magnus for ages.

And now some photos. From the road up to Gruve 7, the last active coal mine that will be closed in 2025. From the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, where more than one million seed samples are stored. From the cable car facility that was used to transport coal from the mines to the quay until the 80th and from a special guest, the ice breaker Kronprins Haakon, that I travelled with last year. And of course from the famous polar bear warning sign on the road to Gruve 7.

This tour is strongly recommended if you want to get first hand information about Longyearbyen’s history. Longyearbyen Guiding AS. The web site is only in Norwegian, but the guiding is in English.

 

The last two kayak tours 2022

It’s Friday and the day before Christmas Eve. It’s actually my last working day but I worked only short, thanks to flextime. At 11:10 I stopped developing software for this year and went out kayaking.

Two days before the sea was open between our small ice covered bay and the islet Lillskär. Today it is covered with a layer of new ice. I drag the kayak to the end of the bay and start the tour.

Just crossing the 100 metres of ice seems to take ages. The ice is too thick to paddle through, too thin to walk on and too soft to push oneself forward with arms and ice claws. So it’s a lot of back and forth to get a bit of momentum to crash another metre with brute force. The stiff neoprene of my survival suit does not make it easier and I’m so exhausted when I leave the ice behind. I change plans. I won’t visit Obbolstenarna today (farther away) but the island Bredskär again. I turn the kayak and paddle north. Partially to open water, partially through fields of thin feathery ice. Let’s see, how far I’ll come.

I reach Bredskär and start to circle it. Looking at the right I see snow covered islands in the distance and ice fields. It feels and looks quite arctic.

This impression changes directly when I look left and see the forest of Bredskär passing by. Looking straight ahead gives another view: The port of Holmsund with the ferry to Finland. Between that and me: many ice fields.

I pass the small bay with the sandy beach and slowly follow the shore line. When I want to turn left again to enter the sound that leads back I am stopped by another ice field, this one thicker than the others. I remember the first 100 metres today and decide not to break through but to turn. It will make the tour a bit longer but I have holidays and I’m not cold. The outer side of the island is beautiful anyhow in the light of the lowering sun.

Yes, the sun is lowering. The tour took longer than expected. I decide to watch the sunset from the kayak and slow down a bit. My fingers are getting a bit cold, but it’s worth it.

A good two hours later I arrive at the first ice field again. The ice channel that I had created by breaking through has frozen over again but breaks under the weight of my kayak. Shortly before 14 o’clock I stand on the bay ice again. The tour was a bit demanding, but impressive and beautiful. A great start into the Christmas holidays!

I’m however quite sceptical about Annika’s and my idea for tomorrow: Christmas eve paddling together. With temperatures round -10 °C the ice will probably be too thick the next day. A pity!

One day later – Christmas eve. Annika and I peek through the spotting scope to check the ice situation. Looks like the ice has gone. I walk to the ice edge and see our observations confirmed: Yesterday’s ice has gone and beside of some new and thin ice fields the water is open. So let’s take a kayak tour together!

This paddling tour was magic. The sea surface was smooth as silk, the sun felt warm and the new ice was easy to paddle through. The air was so clear that we could spot islands far away and there was almost no wind. Beside of the high frequency noises when crushing the ice with our kayaks and a dog at land barking at us it was completely silent.

It was Annika’s first winter paddling tour and I’m glad and lucky that it was such an exceptionally great one. May many other tours follow in the future! In spring, summer, autumn and winter.