A new camera

Next week Annika, my sister, brother in law a nephew and I will start a hiking tour in Sweden and Norway. We will not use a tent but hike from cabin to cabin. Last time I had 6 kilo of camera equipment with me. This year I decided to scale down weight and so I bought a point-and-shoot camera this week: the Sony RX100 VII. It has some disadvantages, but a huuuge advantage: It’s small and weights hardly more than 300 grams. That’s why I even can take a smaller backpack (also bought this week) and save another 1300 grams of weight.

Today I tested the camera, first on my way to work and then on random places, from the center to Telegrafbukta. I know, that the camera has its limitations (being not weatherproof for example) but I’m quite glad that I finally bought it. And here come some test shots from today. All photos are edited in Lightroom.

 

Some summer days in Sweden

I was home in Sweden for only three weeks but the time feels long and rich. Annika and I had guests most of the time but some days in between just the two of us.

A short kayak trip in the sun

On 1 July I used my lunch break to paddle to the beach. I took a bath and lunch there and then paddled back to work. Ah, I love this type of lunch breaks!

A day trip to Norrbyskär

On 3 July Annika and I took the car to Norrbyn and from there the ferry to the island Norrbyskär. Always worth visiting, especially when the warm weather invites to a bath.

A wavy kayak trip

On 4 July Annika and I made a kayak trip to and round the island Tarv. Normally this would be a quite relaxing tour of 10–11 km. But due to the windy weather the sea was pretty choppy and we had to focus a lot on the waves and the rocks.

No one of us took any photos there, but in the more sheltered waters beside and behind the island it was possible to take some photos again. And another bath.

Finally rain

On 7 July it finally rained in Obbola. The rain came too late for the dried up lawn but probably saved a lot of flowers and bushes in our garden.

Hiking twice

On 8 July Annika and hiked twice. First round Grössjön together with guests from Germany, then just we two at the Kronören naturreservat. Grössjön is mostly forest and bogs (and a lot of mosquitoes) while Kronören is also open landscape by the sea.

Back to Tromsø

Ten days ago an 10 July I travelled back to Tromsø. Train Departure in Umeå 2:15 in the night, bus arrival in Tromsø was 17:30.

I felt cold and made a Covid test the next day. Bang – positive! Therefore I couldn’t take advantage of the beautiful summer weather in Tromsø but stayed home in bed the week.

I made some short hikes on the weekend but the weather was dull, foggy and rainy.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Arrival in Longyearbyen

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

It is half past two in the night between Thursday and Friday. For almost two hours I had stood on the helicopter deck of the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon to witness our arrival in Longyearbyen on Svalbard.

When I went outside two hours ago clouds had just started to gather and the moon was hidden. I could see dark and pale schemes on both sides of the ship and straight ahead another shade of a mountain, decorated with lights.

Slowly the lights came nearer. And since it was the first time I had mobile Internet for many days I could follow our route on the map of the iPhone. Only occasionally because a cold wind on the bow made the quite mild temperatures of -5 °C feel much colder.

There – the airport! And then, after we started to turn into the Adventfjorden, the city LongyearbyenSvalbard’s largest settlement.

The ship slowed down at the harbour and slowly and carefully started to move sideways. Do we still move? I peek down to the pier. There, the first thick rope connects the vessel with land – the first land after we bunkered fuel round 19 days ago!

We have arrived in Longyearbyen. Almost three weeks I worked, learned, photographed, relaxed, ate and slept on Kronprins Haakon. Tomorrow I’ll disembark and in the early afternoon take an airplane back to Tromsø. Yes, I am sad that this incredible journey has now come to its end. But I am also happy and content and full of stories, experiences and memories.

Do I smile on the photo or am I sad? Most of all I am tired and then a bit tense because it is hard to hold the iPhone as still as possible for some seconds with an outstretched arm.

The scientific winter cruise Arven etter Nansen JC3 took almost three weeks. Three very extraordinary weeks. And it will take at least three other weeks to tell some of the stories and show some of the photos here in the blog. So, please be patient – more to come, but step by step.

Arctic research expedition with the Norwegian Polar Institute

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

Kronprins Haakon is a Norwegian icebreaking polar research vessel. It was build 2018, can cut through one metre of solid ice, has 15 different laboratories on board and place for 35 scientists or other staff in addition to the crew.

Four days ago Kronprins Haakon had arrived in Tromsø. It was travelling 26 days since it left Cape Town, the only stopover on its return trip from Antarctica.

This morning I went on board of Kronsprins Haakon. Not as a visitor to look around but with a suitcase, an enormous bag full of warm clothes, a heavy camera backpack and my Canada Goose down parka. I will stay on board for three weeks to participate the winter cruise “Arven etter Nansen JC3” that will lead us to the Barents Sea east of Svalbard and a bit beyond.

What happened?

Some of you may know that I’ve been working as a data engineer at the Norwegian Polar Institute in Tromsø since autumn 2020. In this position I’m not only a software developer but a data manager of polar research data.

Three and a half weeks ago my colleague M. told me she would join the winter cruise and mentioned that there might still be an available place.

Of course I was very eager to participate. Beside of my private passion for the Arctic I wanted to get a deeper and hands-on understanding of the research data. Where does it come from? How is it measured? And how is it transferred to the digital world? And nothing would teach me better than joining this very winter cruise, where conditions could be quite rough.

I mentioned it to M., another colleague and he introduced me to the expedition leader. There I was told that there was indeed a vacancy on board and that I was welcome to join if my boss would agree.

Since then it had been crazy times with some organisation, a lot of worries and little sleep.

  • 1 Feb: My boss had to check the budget for my participation.
  • 4 Feb: A seafarer’s doctor examined me and gave me my helseerklæring – a medical certificate that proves me “seaworthy”.
  • 16 Feb: I had to take a PCR test and wait for the result for two days. Then I had to take another PCR test, but that’s a whole story in itself.
  • 18 Feb: I had to do a survival suit training in the Tromsøsundet.
  • 18 Feb: I had to pack clothes and equipment I will need on the cruise. Everything beside of two pairs of boots, a helmet, a floating suit and a survival suit. These are provided by the Norwegian Polar Institute.
  • 19 Feb (today): I took a taxi to the port of Tromsø. I was driven directly to Kai 25, took some photos and then went on board.
  • Still today: passport control through the police, a security briefing, lunch and dinner, carrying boxes to the labs, entering the rescue boat and some more …

The next weeks

When Kronprins Haakon will leave Tromsø tomorrow morning we will sail north. First destination is a point referred as P1. It is approx. 500 km east of Svalbard’s southern tip. From there we will continue heading north to the other stations, if weather and sea ice conditions allow it.

The northernmost position is planned to be approx. 82° N, somewhere in the Arctic Ocean. That’s more than 10 degrees of altitude further north than I’ve ever been and less than 900 km to the North Pole.

I’m so excited, that’s really way up north!

We will work both on the sea ice and on the ship using various measurement and sampling methods. Some of them I learned a bit last week but most of them I do not know yet. I’m a newbie. I’m here to learn. And hopefully I’ll learn a lot on this cruise.

After three weeks of tokt (Norwegian for “cruise”) we are supposed to arrive in Longyearbyen on 11 Mars. There I’ll take a flight back to Tromsø the same day.

I will not blog on this cruise because there will be a lot of work and hardly any reliable internet connection. But I’ll definitely take photos, both for the Norwegian Polar Institute and in private for this blog.

So, my dear readers, cross your fingers that I do not get seasick, we can reach our planned destinations and most of all that no one has Covid on board.

You can check the live position of the Kronprins Haakon on the map below. And you are welcome to leave a comment. See you again in mid-March when I’ll answer your comments and start posting articles.

23. Feb, 13:03: Just a short note: This map does not seem to work in polar regions. At time we have internet. Outside temperature -17.4 °C. Position round about 76°29′ N 31°11′ E.


January sun in Tromsø

After ten days with snow and wind, rain and storm and many, many clouds – there it is – the sun. The first time i see the sun in Tromsø since some day in November.

Photo taken with my iPhone through the window pane of the canteen at lunch break.

 

I walk to work

Back in Tromsø I decided to walk to work this week. 2½ km to the Norwegian Polar Institute in the Framsenteret and 2½ km back home. So I get at least a bit of motion each day. And a bit of outdoor feeling, too.

Monday, 17 January

It has snowed quite a bit the night and is still snowing. It’s -4 °C and the wind is calm. It’s fun to trudge through the powder snow.

Lunch time. We get the table by the panoramic window. Some boat owners clear the landing of the marina from snow.

Tuesday, 18 January

-3 °C and snow fall again but now the wind is stronger and squally. Luckily I have it in the back.

It gets warmer the whole day and it starts to rain. Wet ice and deep puddles on my way back.

Wednesday, 19 January

+2 °C, a bit of rain. Rubber boots, slush, ice, water puddles.

Thursday, 20 January

-1 °C and fresh snow.

I don’t trust the snow. I know that ice and slush lurk beneath the surface. Therefore I wear rubber boots again with attached spikes to avoid slipping on the wet ice. The gloves protect against the wind, the reflective wristbands with the blinking LEDs and the high visibility vest against not being seen by car drivers. No cyclists the last days.

Friday, 21 January

-6 °C, almost like winter. The canteen invites to “sun buns” and cacao because it is “soldagen”, the day where the sun is finally visible in Tromsø again after 8 weeks. Unfortunately clouds block the low hanging sun.

This weekend I won’t see the sun neither. We got warm weather and storm and unfortunately a lot of rain. So I’ll probably keep myself mostly inside.

 

A cabin named Fredly

Let me take you to my favorite place
Just a five hour drive from the city
Just follow the road until it stops
And then keep walking for another forty minutes
Then – out of nowhere – there it is
My cabin!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

I was lucky to get the my employer’s cabin for the Christmas week this year. The cabin of the Norwegian Polar Institute lies on a mountain slope by the fjord Kattfjorden. Two days ago Annika and I packed my car with a a lot of food and winter equipment and drove to the cabin, which is 40 km away from where I live in Tromsø. It lies by the road to Sommarøya (the summer island) which is a funny name when you drive through intense snow fall.

We did not have an address, but a small map and a description and so we found the parking place where the cabin supposed to be. And there it was, up on the hill in seemingly pathless terrain.

But under the snow there was a path up the hill and we found it. It took some efforts to bear everything up.

A Norwegian cabin can be everything from a wooden box to a luxury retreat. Our cabin has running water (cold and hot), electricity, underfloor heating, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, a wood-burning stove, a sauna, internet and more.

We followed the manual and turned the underfloor heating to the maximum, but even after some hours the cabin was as chilly as before. We failed to fire the wood-burning stove because there were only large logs of wood and no axe.

At one o’clock in the night we woke up. Whether it was because of the gusty and stormy wind or of the cold I cannot say. 8 °C in the cabin, the same as hours before.

I put on clothes and went down the hill to look for an axe in the woodshed by the road. I didn’t find one but I found bags with smaller pieces of wood. I hefted one up (exhausting!) and finally was able to make a fire. We were awake for an hour, sitting by the oven, gladly watching the thermometer showing the rising temperature.

Right now it’s icy cold
But in sixteen hours, it’s gonna be hot!

(Ylvis, “My cabin”)

The next day I slept until 10 o’clock. It was still dark and Annika and I took breakfast. One hour later it was bright enough to see the falling snow. We put on our clothes and went to the fjord Kattfjorden, which is less than 100 metres away from the cabin – and 20 metres in altitude.

We looked at the rocky coast and the seaweed covered stones and decided not to winter bath here today. Soon we trudged uphills through the snow back to the cabin and took it easy for the rest of the day. I can say, that the short days in the time of the polar night can be really relaxing.

At 13:00 the sky started to clear up and the snowy mountain ranges glowed colourfully. Polar night does not mean that it is pitch black 24 hours a day.

How lucky we are, we who may be here and stay for Christmas. In the cabin named Fredly (peaceful shelter).