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).

A day trip to the island Vannøya

It is 10 o’clock on Sunday, 28 April. Marika, whom I know from work and I are in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya waiting for the ferry. It will take us to the island Vannøya where we want to stay for the day.

I want to take photos, so I am opening the boot of my car and realise that I have forgotten my camera backpack at home. Sh*t! Fortunately I have my Sony camera with me, which does a pretty good job on landscape photography But no time to be grumpy, here comes the ferry.

After a ferry ride of forty minutes we arrive at the island and take the western way to the fishing village Torsvåg. We pass the Polargirl, a passenger ship that uses to make touristic excursions in Svalbard in the summer season.

After seven kilometres we come to our first stop: A small beach. The view is incredible. Snow covered mountains in the back, a cloudless sky above, some islets with white sandy beaches and shallow waters of a turquoise colour so intense that you can see it on satellite images.

We start cleaning the beach, mostly of plastic. A huge amount is plastic nets and ropes from the fishing industry. The plastic is harmful to the environment and is especially dangerous to sea birds. Beach cleaning has become quite popular and it is a good feeling to remove the garbage from nature even when it is only a drop in the ocean. The next photo showing me is taken by Marika.

We stay there for a while, not only because the scenery is to beautiful and the sun shines warmly, but because there are seals out there. Some of them were sitting on rocks until the tide came in, others are swimming in the turquoise water. They are too far away to take good pictures, but I can observe them through my binoculars.

We continue our road trip, occasionally stopping when there is any wildlife. And there is quite a lot. Here at partially frozen puddles we do not only see crows but also a Eurasian curlew.

Minutes later we arrive at Sandsletta, a larger beach. The small sandy dunes are reminiscent of the German North Sea, the mountains aren’t.

There are some more photo stops, either for scenery or for animals. This time a reindeer (we saw some of them) grazing by the road.

Then we arrive at the fishing village Torsvåg. Parts of it are located on Vannøya, others on the small island Kåja. To get there by car you have to cross a dam with a single file concrete road. In the harbour area there is a huge rack full with fish hanging to dry. The dried fish is called stockfish. And there is the Torsvåg lighthouse. If you look north from there, you can see some stony islets and rocks and then there is the open Norwegian sea. Next stop Svalbard.

Is this the end of the island? Well, at least it is the end of this road. But there is more to explore. We turn, drive back 8 km and turn left onto the road to Burøysund in the east. Marika spots an eagle with prey, probably a mountain hare. I do not stop timely and the disturbed eagle flies away to land on a stone nearby. I make a photo through the windscreen, but it is blurred. Anyhow it shows, how big eagles are. You see the crow for size comparison?

Ten minutes later I have stopped the car again, this time for two ptarmigans that first strolled on a meadow by the road and then decided to ignore us and cross the road. Another object with flying abilities was easier to photograph, but what does a propeller plane do on a parking place by the road? Does it use the road for taking off and landing?

We arrive in Burøysund. The whole of Vannøya is a bit “Norway in a nutshell” with its snowy mountains, the blue sea, the rocky shore, the coastal villages. Here anyhow the rocks are special. They are sharp-edged with their “teeth” up into the air and look wild and rough.

Now it is time to head back. On a place we spotted already on our way there we take a late lunch break with the view to the sea (and some ptarmigans and seals in the distance) and the wetlands in our back.

Even if we take the second last ferry we have plenty of time. And we need it, because while driving further I spot something in the water which does not look like seabirds. It is an otter. No, it’s two, wait – three. They meet in the sea and then swim side by side.

Then they go ashore quite near us. One is swimming away soon while the other two stay on land for ten minutes. What an experience so see them so near! I’m sure they have seen us as well but since we are quiet they ignore us. What a pity, that I forgot my Nikon to use the large telephoto lens. The Sony did not manage to take good pictures, also because of the light situation. Anyhow – for the archives – two pictures of the otters:

This day really delivered! Incredible weather and a lot of wildlife. Reindeer, curlews, ptarmigans, geese, eagles, a lot of other birds I do not know, a white mountain hare, the first butterfly of the season (a small tortoiseshell), several seals and now the three otters. Time to catch the ferry with a hasty detour to the south east of the island from which you can see the Nordfugløya (Northern bird island).

Finally we have to hurry a bit but we reach the 19:15-ferry in time. Another forty minutes ferry ride in beautiful light …

… and we are back in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya which is connected to the island Kvaløya with a tunnel which is connected to the island Tromsøya with a bridge, and that’s where I live. There are worse places!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

The first winter day

This week it has become gradually colder. You could see it on the mountains, where the snow line dropped lower and lower. More and more the rain became slush and wet snow and yesterday evening it had become so cold, that the snow didn’t melt away immediately. This morning I had to remove some snow from my car before I could make a car trip.

I took the car to the island Kvaløya where it often is a bit colder than directly in Tromsø. The conditions were quite wintry although not all trees seemed ready for that.

Soon I arrived at the lake Finnvikvatnet where I parked the car. No ice on the lake yet so both the huge mountains and the tiny islets were reflected from the calm water surface.

This lakes lies on 230 metres and here the snow was much deeper, perhaps between 10 and 20 cm. Temperature was -2°C. Some flowers peeked out, while others probably were buried completely in the snow.

I was unsure how far I would come but packed my backpack with camera, water, chocolate and a warm jacket and started walking through the snow. I was the first one today and the snow was untouched beside of some animal tracks.

I spotted a pile of stones on a small mountain summit nearby. Maybe I could hike there? Well, let’s try – and make some photos on my way.

It was an interesting hike, because nothing is frozen yet. I was glad to have chosen rubber boots, otherwise I would have got very wet feet. Since I could not find the way under the snow I decided to choose a quite direct way up. That took a while, because it was steeper than expected and sometimes it was more like crawling through knee deep snow than hiking. But I arrived at the summit where I had a view on the higher mountains around and the sea in the west.

Now the terrain was flatter. Time to take some more photos.

A ruin caught my eye. I went there and tried to make photos but could not find a perspective I liked. But I had another option: I had my drone with me. So I could not only take a photo from a higher perspective but also one looking straight down and even one from within without touching the snow drift inside. A practical tool that I still have to become more familiar with.

Time to descend. This time I checked the map in my mobile phone and found the hiking trail. Much easier! In summer this is an easy hike for families.

The lower parts in the west are wooded and many trees still have colourful leaves. But above them the mountains are snowy although you can see, that the snow cover is not very deep yet.

That tour was not very long but I got my very first winter day and the first snow since 27 May. Yay!

Some photos from my short car trip back:

I want to thank my colleague D from work. It was him who offered himself on changing my tyres. Therefore I have studded winter tyres on my car since yesterday afternoon. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do this tour. Thank you, D. !

Autumn tour to the glacier Steindalsbreen

After being abroad in Germany, “home home” in Sweden and on vacation in the Netherlands for almost a month I have returned to Tromsø, my “work home” one week ago. Time to work again for the Norwegian Polar Institute but not only that …

Some days ago my colleague Marika asked me if we should go out for a hike to the glacier Steindalsbreen in the weekend. I knew the place from hearsay but never have been there. I gladly accepted – I like hiking with good company. Yesterday on Sunday we met at 7 o’clock and off we went. First by car.

Car trip

Steindalen is on the Lyngen peninsula and round about 100 km away. According to Google it takes 100 minutes but we stopped several times, either to take pictures of the reflections in the fjord or the curious fox beside the road.

Through the forest

After the car was parked we started our tourat 9:25. The birch and alder trees were clad in autumnal colours. The path led westwards through the forest along a small mountain river.

To the cabin

After the path going up and down it led nearer to the river. We passed some moraines – witnessed from the ice age – and spotted a waterfall falling vertically down from a mountain. Then the cabin Steindalshytte came into view. There is a wooden bridge to cross one of the rivers.

Through the U-shaped valley

We followed an inflow of the stream and soon the valley opened more and more. And there it was – still in the distance – the glacier!

It gets rocky

The path went further up and the ground started go get rockier and we left the delta like wetlands behind. But still there were many crouching plants present, many of them in the brightest autumnal colours.

Approaching the glacier

A hill and the glacier Steindalsbreen came in full view, another hill also the glacial lake in the front. Quite depressing were the signs that marked the retreat of the glacier. Oh – so many hundred metres in so few years ;-(

Nearer and nearer …

The first photos Marika and I took from the edge of the glacial lake. Then we followed a path to the right that brought us nearer to the ice. Here we walked on gravel covered ice. I found a hole, perhaps 80 cm in diameter and 150 cm deep.

On the mud flats

As usual I hiked with rubber boots and so I could walk on the sandy mudflats right in front of the glacier. Oh, so beautiful the turquoise blocks of ice!

Mud, ice, and water

I also took some photos of the ground. Was it sand? Hard mud? Ice? Sometimes probably all the three.

Then I looked back to the lake. Hard to imagine that we hiked through autumnal forests some hours ago. This landscape looks eternal somehow although it is the opposite: very fragile and threatened by the global warming.

Heading back

After a meal break by a large rock it was time to head back. The times of midnight sun and bright nights are over and at 7 o’clock in the evening it would be dark. Just some more photos from our way back.

After round eight hours we were back at my car. What I great tour!

Takk for turen, Marika!

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!”

 

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.

 

 

Adventdalen by snowmobile

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

Yesterday it looked like sunny weather today so Annika and I looked for an activity today. We found and booked a three-hour tour with snowmobiles organised by Hurtigruten Svalbard. At 10:30 we were fetched by our tour guide by minibus that picks up tourists as us at their accommodations.

At the Hurtigruten Svalbard Expedition centre our group of nine got an introduction about how to drive a snowmobile. While others did it before it was Annika’s and my very first time to drive by ourselves. After that: dressing time!

When it’s -20 °C and you want to drive snowmobile you need to be properly dressed. What we needed by ourselves is woollen underwear, socks, a sweater and thin gloves. What we got from tour operator was bulky winter boots from Kamik, an insulated overall, thick mittens, a woollen balaclava and of course a helmet.

As soon as we were properly clad we fled the building because being dressed for a windchill of -30 °C is not very comfortable inside. TOO WARM! With the helmet and raised visor I look quite silly but safety first!

Then we went to the parked snowmobiles. These were quite special: they are electric. The range is quite limited but they do not produce as much noise as their more common fuel-powered cousins and more important: no stinking exhaust gases at all!

And then off we went into the large valley Adventdalen.

First impression: the snowmobile seems to follow the track. Steering hardly necessary. If it leaves the track then steering needs a bit of power. Second impression: the visor of the helmet is frosted within seconds and it is quite hard to see.

After ten minutes we took a first break. The guide asked us if everything was ok and then loaded her rifle. We were out of town and we could meet a polar bear. You may not shoot a polar bear, you have either to retreat or use a flare gun to shoo it away, but you need a rifle as a last resort.

We continued our tour through Adventdalen. We even saw the sun although it was much cloudier than forecasted. It will take three other days until it is visible again in town after more than four months of absence.

We took another stop. The guide spotted some reindeer. The Svalbard reindeer is an own subspecies that looks more compact than the reindeer on Scandinavias mainland. The photo is a cropped image, because we were quite far away to not to disturb the wildlife animals.

Next stop: coffee break. We decided to take the coffee and cake outside because the weather was cold but calm.

After the break we took the short way to the cabin anyhow to have a brief look. Here you can seek shelter if the elements are not as friendly as today. The cabin is private because tour operators are not allowed to use public ones. Understandable since there are a lot of tourist on Svalbard and this year a new peak is expected.

After that visit we headed back to Longyearbyen. This time Annika sat behind me to give another tourist the opportunity to drive alone. I cannot say that I felt completely confident on the snowmobile but at least I was more relaxed than in the beginning.

A nice beginner tour and a good opportunity to drive snowmobile and leave town. What I really liked was that the snowmobiles were electric. Great for shorter tours!