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!”
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.
That’s me, nine days ago, near a parking place by the lake Finnvikvatnet on the island Kvaløya.
I just got a drone from the Norwegian Polar Institute, a DJI Mavic Pro 2. Since it is forbidden to fly a drone in Tromsø (too near to the airport) I chose a place on Kvaløya to check out the drone and practise a bit.
What you may expect from drone flying is photos like this:
What I actually did that day was taking a bunch of photos like these:
Back at home let the computer do some heavy work. That’s the result:
What I wanted to achieve is creating a so-called orthophoto. That is a stitched image that also contains geographical information. You need quite a lot of photos to get good results. In the map above it is only 9 photos and 11 photos in two distinct groups.
I used two softwares: First OpenDroneMap to create the orthophoto and then QGIS, an open source Geographic Information System, to present the orthophoto in a geographical context.
This afternoon I took a trip to Kvaløya again, this time to the way to Sommarøya and stopped by the lake Kattfjordvatnet. Here I pulled up the drone to an altitude of 80 metres and tried to navigate a rectangular zig-zag pattern with a lot of overlapping between the images. Beside of the fact, that the images are underexposed (and I was too lazy to correct them) I’m quite content with the result. The first image is an oblique shot, the second image is an orthophoto calculated from about 80 images and then placed into QGIS.
Plan for the next two weeks: getting more practise!
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 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.
Today I was joining the “Thursday paddling” of the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club. They started the season two weeks ago, I joined today for the first time this year.
At 18:00 a group of 13 kayakers left the shore by the boat houses and headed to Telegrafbukta, the small bay near my apartment. In the dull weather the kayaks and the paddlers in their drysuits always look quite colourful.
Although I’ve already been paddling in Sweden several times this winter it took me some time to find a rhythm. When I’m alone, I use to paddle slower.
At Telegrafbukta we decided to continue to Sydspissen, the southern tip of the island Tromsøya. There we turned back, paddling through snow showers.
We already saw it on the way there – there was very low water at Telegrafbukta, or just “Bukta” as the locals say. We took a break there but only a short one. The weather was too chilly to be comfortable.
We talked about the weather and came to the conclusion, that summer probably already was on first of May and now summer season is over. I’m not completely sure, if this theory will prove true, but on the way back spring or summer seemed to be far away.
It reminded me at last years first Thursday paddling. It was on 28 April and the weather was as snowy as today. Let’s see how the weather is next week.
As in many other countries 1. May is a rød dag, a red day which is an official holiday. The weather is beautiful and I decide to do something I haven’t done for a long time: a car trip.
I take the car to Jøvik, a village in Tromsø municipality located on the peninsula Lyngenhalvøya, home of the impressive mountain range “Lyngen Alps”. As soon as I leave the E8 travelling is slow. On the one hand there’s a lot to see, on the other side the roads are in a pretty bad shape.
Just some photos I took on this wonderful day trip:
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.
Have a look at these two images. They have something in common.
Both are related to my participation in the Arctic Ocean cruise in June. After the Nansen legacy cruise last year this will be my second scientific cruise to the Arctic with the Norwegian Polar Institute. And this time I’ve got extra tasks.
1. Drone flying
A scientist asked if I could fly a drone to map the ice stations. I didn’t have any experience in drone flying so I bought a private one to practise some weeks ago. In addition to that I made the Norwegian online course in drones (class A1 and A3) and the exam. Now I’m registered as a drone pilot in Norway, both in private and for the Norwegian Polar Institute. That was the easy part.
The interesting part starts when I shall take photos with latitude and longitude information from a drifting ice floe. But I’m not there yet (and quite happy that I have another month of preparation).
The drone photo above was taken in Norway. In Sweden it is a lot of paperwork to get permission for the publication of photos, especially when they show the sea as well. In Norway this is not the case, as long as you know the legal rules and restrictions.
2. Ice chart and weather info
To help both the cruise leader and the crew with planning it will be my job to provide them with current information. That’s ice charts coming from a SAR satellite and weather forecasts for e.g. wind, temperature and pressure. The data will be presented using the Open Source Geographic Information System QGIS. The screenshot above is just from a small learning session where I loaded in quite unrelated data as a topographical map of Svalbard, an ice chart from two days ago and current wind information.
The interesting thing will begin when we head north, leaving Svalbard behind. Then we do not have internet access anymore except sending and receiving emails through the slow and expensive Iridium network. So I cannot use all the cool QGIS plugins to gather data directly but I’ll have to send data requests per email and then receive the data later. This will be both interesting and challenging. I’m somewhere in the middle of being quite excited and pretty nervous.
Anyhow I wanted to have jobs and tasks and I’m glad I get the opportunity in a more active role than last year, were I was more like an observer. I guess, I’ll learn a lot.
Arctic Ocean, soon I’ll come!
Yesterday I wrote I would write about Tussilago in Tromsø as soon as i see it. This morning I saw the typical yellow blossoms on my way to work. First a dozen, then a hundred, then a thousand. As early bloomers they apparently don’t have a problem with snow.
Even some steps away from my doorstep almost hidden by the snow I found Tussilago.
What a misjudgement! Since it was warm the last weeks I didn’t expect so much winter in Tromsø and around. It was a mistake not to take skis or/and snowshoes with me, when I visited the neighboring island Kvaløya today. And here everything was still snowy. Very snowy. So for example the tombstones on the graveyard in Henrikvik. Or a fence nearby, where only the edge looked out of the snow.
How many tombstone there are around? Hard to say. Some of the larger ones were quite visible while other parts of the graveyard were just a white sheet of snow. I’ll have to check in summer.
Although the temperatures were sub-zero the road by the coast was wet and free of snow. This changed when I turned into the road to Sommerøya, the summer island. Although the road is just 150 meters above sea level it was snow covered. During the snow showers it was hard to see the roadside and I slowed down a lot for every car that came my way.
Some other cars parked at the different parking places. Two skiers just started a tour. But I could hardly spot any fresh ski tracks and even some of the avalanche transceiver test station were quite snowed in. No wonder because parts of the lake Kattfjordvatnet are already open and the ice is not safe anymore.
On the other side of the water: a group of trees in the fresh, white snow. Not a single ski track could be seen. At least here ski season seems to be over.
On the other side walking through the snow is not the best idea neither, especially when there are deep, snow-covered ditches …