Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 3 and 4: transit to P1

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

Day 3 and 4 · 21 – 22 February 2022

Monday, 21 February

Yesterday afternoon we left Tromsø behind for the transit to P1. The program Arven etter Nansen has seven so called process study stations called P1 to P7. P1 is the southernmost station with the approx. coordinates 76° N 31°13′ E. That’s almost five degree more north then I’ve ever been in my live. And it is planned to reach P7 at 82° N later on this cruise. Will we make it?

ETA (estimated time of arrival) is set to tomorrow 8:00. So today is travel day.

After I woke up I take a short lookout on the helicopter deck before breakfast. This starts to be a personal tradition on this cruise. With -11 °C it is colder than the days before but wind is calm and the temperature feels still very moderate.

I expected that we had left the mainland far behind and would cruise through open sea. To my surprise I can see mountains and lights. Where are we!?

Internet reveals that we are just passing the island Melkøya near Hammerfest. Melkøya is illuminated by the lights of the processing plant Hammerfest LNG. Interesting!

After a rich breakfast I stand on the same deck again. Today I feel more like a cruise tourist then a data manager on a work trip. Even the photos look like beautiful but quite random pictures taken from a Hurtigruten ship.

And indeed the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon follows the very same route as the Hurtigruten ships. Aside from that we do not call any ports. (Spoiler: next port is Longyearbyen on Svalbard 18 days from now.)

What do you do on a transit day on sea? Participating the mandatory sea ice training for example. It’s from 9:00 to 14:00 with a lunch break and we are told a lot about the different risks we might be confronted with on this cruise.

What I know is cold weather. Hypothermia, frost bite. I tented at -35 °C, I skied in blizzard-like conditions. I guess I have a bit of experience.

What I hardly know is arctic sea ice. I’ve been on the ice of the northern Baltic Sea countless times, but that water has only the tenth of the salinity compared to the water of the Barents Sea. The sea ice is softer and the conditions are quite different.

I  definitely know nothing about polar bears and a lot of the training is learning the procedures to avoid contacts.  I’ll talk more about this in another blog article.

At 13:30 we meet at the quarterdeck and train the handling of throw bags. Inside the bag there is a rope attached to a hip belt. When someone breaks through the ice the rescuer can throw this bag. The person to be rescued catches the rope and can be pulled back to safety. By having a long rope it is possible to keep distance. This minimises the risk that the rescuer breaks through as well. I know this from kayak courses but I’m glad to give it some tries again. Yes, it’s me on the next photo.

Photo: Adam Steer, Norwegian Polar Institute

At 16:00 I go on deck 3 again. It has got dark and started snowing.

Later that day the arrival time for P1 has been postponed to 19:00, eleven hours later than the ETA before. So much to the letter E in ETA ;-) It is almost impossible to plan with conditions as unsure as in the Arctic.

Tuesday, 22 February

My sis has birthday today. Hooray! Will we still have internet that I can wish her a Happy Birthday? Don’t ask me why, but we have internet in this remote place and I can send her a message.

Again I am on the helicopter deck before breakfast. Three differences to the day before: The deck is covered with snow, it is slightly warmer and no land is in sight. Finally we have left mainland Norway behind. And more and more I’m able to realise that I am really on a scientific polar expedition!

Still it will take another 11½ hours until we reach P1. I use the time to finally start working. My goal on this cruise is to understand the flow of scientific data. Where do the unique IDs come from? Where location and time? How are physical samples tied to the digital data? And can I improve these processes? I ask many stupid question to scientists to get a basic understanding.

And since I cannot ask questions for 11½ hours – I don’t want to be thrown overboard by my “victims” – I use more time to stand outside and take pictures.

Dinner 17:30. I forgot what I ate but it was delicious! For sure, because every single meal has been delicious on Kronprins Haakon.

But after dinner it is time to recover a glider. This is the first scientific activity on this cruise. Finally!

 

A short and rainy Hurtigruten trip

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

After 2700 km by car we had arrived in Bjørnevatn near Kirkenes. From there it would be another 900 km back to Tromsø, my temporary home. So Annika and I had decided to use go by ship and use the Hurtigruten for our journey west. Last Friday we went on board of the MS Vesterålen, the smallest and oldest ship of the current Hurtigruten fleet. I left it to be parked while Annika used the regular gangway. The ship departed round 12:30, round 35 hours we arrived in Tromsø.

The weather was rainy, chilly, windy and although parts of the upper deck are well protected against wind and rain we often sat there alone. While it was quite rainy there were a lot of small holes in the clouds that let the sun peek through. Especially the light on the first day was very wonderful.

I just show some of the photos I made from the upper deck. All of them are made with a telephoto lens and focal lengths between 150 and 600 mm. To avoid blurred images because of the ship vibrations I hardly used a tripod but used ISO 800–1600. But now to the photos:

Grense Jakobselv

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

This sign marks the only Russian–Norwegian border station. In February 2018 I crossed this border to Russia together with Annika and two friends. This time we stay in Norway and I take just a photo of the sign.

Our destination today (which is 30 August): Grense Jakobselv, a small border village. As the road to Hamningberg the road there is opened only in summertime and we never have been there before.

It starts like a typical car trip. The road goes along the Jarfjorden and a large lake. In Vintervollen the road turns right and we see the barrier that closes the road in winter. It is open. Now the road leads over the mountains. The rocks here are the oldest in Norway with an average age of 2.9 billion years. I’m not a rock expert and so I take a photo of a birch instead of a random rock whose type and age I cannot determine.

We reach the small river Jakobselva. This small and shallow river is special because here it marks the Norwegian–Russian border. The pink salmon (also called humpback salmon) do not care, they are busy to go upstreams and not all fish succeed.

We continue to the village Grense Jakobselv. For me the biggest surprise was the chapel. In my view every northern Norwegian church is made of wood and painted white. Not the King Oscar II Chapel (built 1869) that is made of stone.

While I wasn’t properly prepared about the church I knew something else: There is a sandy beach. It is at the very end of the road. Annika and I take a bath. Water temperature is about 11–12 °C. It feels quite strange to change clothes for a bath while you can hear the Norwegian army practising shooting.

As many minor roads in northern Norway the road to Grense Jakobselv is a dead-end road and so we have to drive the very same road back. After having been back we get something we have missed on the journey so far: an afternoon nap!

Fylkesvei 8100

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

There are places that are so fascinating, that you want to return there for a longer time. For me the road to Hamningberg is one of these places.

Originally Annika and I didn’t have the plan to visit Hamningberg. It’s a detour of 2×40 km just to see a former fishing village whose houses are now used as summer cottages. On the other side the road 8100 that leads there is closed in wintertime and we never had the chance before to drive there.

So right before Vardø we spontaneously decided to turn left into the road Fylkesvei 8100. We could turn if it was boring. Well, it wasn’t. We were both extremely fascinated by the roughness of the landscape and the many light moods because of the constantly changing weather

The photos are just some snapshots I made on our tour. Maybe I have time to return there some other time with more time for making photos.

Norwegian summer journey II

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

Annika and I continue our tour through Northern Norway. Four days ago we left Hammerfest behind, now we are in Bjørnevatn 10 km south of Kirkenes. We have seen many places before, but only in winter. The differences between the seasons are huge and we discover a lot: Oh, here is a lake! Oh, here are fields of flowers …

Ten more images looking back:

10 – We just have arrived at our final destination Bjørnevatn where we visit friends for a few days. I have to climb up the hill (55 m) by our friends house to get a summery view. (Here are some winter photos.)

9 + 8 – the “Sjøsamiske samlinger” (Sea Sami Collections) in Byluft is always worth a stop. We have coffee and a chat with Helmer Losoa, the owner and collector of this exceptional museum who recognises us from former visits. (More about the museum.)

7 – this bird observation place near Vardø is very welcome as a shelter against the cold wind, when Annika and I have a lunch break. We do not see any special birds but a rainbow.

6 – after an overnight stay in Kiberg I climb up a hill to make a photo of the wideness and extent of the Varanger Peninsula in the sun. Well, the sun has mostly gone when I stand on the top, but I take some photos anyway.

5 – Annika and I just take a small evening promenade in Kiberg. It starts on a gravel road by the sea and ends in us walking cross-country and looking for dry patches between the small bogs. The sun colours the clouds which are reflected in the many water pools.

4 – Silfar Canyon? Never heard about it before. We were lucky that we decided to stop and have a look. Bad light for taking pictures but we got impressing views on the deeply carved canyon.

3 + 2 – We visit a small beach near Hammerfest together with a friend that just moved back there some months ago. We could take a bath but there is so much to talk about. The reindeer are everywhere. Here they graze, in town they stroll around and eat the front garden flowers.

1 – Before we meet our friend we take a small trip up the mountains. Here we get views in all directions, amongst others on the different parts of the town Hammerfest.

Norwegian summer journey I

This article is part of the series “2021-08: Northern Norway”.

Annika and I have two weeks holiday and are travelling through Northern Norway. Our southernmost point: Lofoten, right now we are in Hammerfest.

Ten images looking back:

10 – We are on the high plateau Sennalandet. There are hardly any trees and the road E6 crosses the plateau in a straight line. I can imagine how rough and lonely this place may be in winter.

9 + 8 – The Øksfjordjøkelen is definitely worth the 16 km detour. The parking place and the small path leading through the sparse birch forest grant impressive views on this glacier. When the weather is clear.

7 – It’s grey on our passage from Andenes, Vesterålen to Gryllefjord, Senja. I stand on the top deck of the ferry and wonder how many tourists may have rung this bell and what had happened then.

6 – We just left Andenes by ferry. The razor sharp mountain line of Bleik will soon transform into a whitish grey scheme slowly vanishing in the drizzle.

5 + 4 – It is grey on our short ferry passage from Fiskebøl, Lofoten to Melbu, Vesterålen, too.

3 – One of the typical features of the Norwegian landscapes is the presence of high summits and fjords. Sometimes the mountains are reflected in the water surface of the sea.

2 – Hauklandstranda is one of these incredible beaches on the Lofoten islands with white sand and turquoise water. The sun is shining – time for a bath. Air temperature 11 °C, water 12 °C. Not as cold as expected.

1 – We pass Sildpollnes kapell on the Lofoten twice. Once on our way south and once when heading back again. There’s a parking place by the road where stairs and ways lead up to some hills that present a view over the landscapes around.

0 – On Saturday I leave Tromsø to fetch Annika from Riksgränsen train station in Sweden. It’s still not possible to travel further to Narvik by train. Our destination today: a room in Tjeldsundbrua.

Travelling with the MS Lofoten: Kirkenes – Øksfjord

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

Friday, 15 February

While I moved into my cabin the Hurtigruten ship MS Lofoten still anchored in the port of Kirkenes. I had a windowless 2-bed-cabin for myself and was able to spread out my belongings. But before that I took a photo with my fisheye lens. With the fisheye-like distortion the cabin look huge!

I used the Hurtigruten twice before, in 2017 from Vardø to Stokmarknes and last year from Båtsfjord to Ørnes. So the section KirkenesVardø was new to me. And it’s the first time without my car on board.

We were in the harbour till half past twelve.

Then we left Kirkenes and my 3rd and longest Hurtigruten journey had started. I stood at the stern of the ship and looked back.

Soon I changed place from stern to bow – at the MS Lofoten you can stand next to the bridge – and looked ahead. Far away, a bit to the port side I could spot a white plain – part of the Varanger peninsula.

[Live interruption: We have reached the open Lopphavet between Øksfjord and Skervøy. The ship has started to rock again. I am interrupted by the sound of a plate falling down from the table. Thanks to the soft carpet it survived]

Annika and I travelled a lot on the Varanger peninsula last winter. I stood on the port side of the ship and tried to spot all places we have been: There’s Vadsø, the largest town – there, far away is Ekkerøy with it’s beautiful beaches. And there is Kiberg, where we had a good time with Trond, our host of Cape East Arctic Adventure. And there’s his house! I found it! Let’s see, what about Kibergsneset, the easternmost point of mainland Norway where Annika and I had been last year? It was farther away from the village than I remembered, but finally I found it, too. Both photos are taken with 600 mm from a rocking ship with a vibrating motor, so the quality is bad, but it was nice to take these pictures.

Half an hour we arrived in Vardø, stop #1. (Vadsø is left out on the southbound direction.) We arrived late and I decided to stay aboard. I’ve been in Vardø before.

When we left Vardø behind, it was too dark to see the scenery. I have breakfast included but not the other meals, because I think they are quite expensive. I have my own food with me. This day however I didn’t have a proper breakfast so I bought a large bread with salmon and scrambled eggs.

The MS Lofoten went along the northern coast of Varanger. It was windy and the sea was a bit rough. The MS Lofoten was exposed to the elements. It is not only the smallest operating Hurtigruten ship but also the only one without stabilisers. It was rocking in every direction and the swell got stronger and stronger. Sometimes the bow of the ship was hovering in midair and then scended into the next trough. I’ve never been seasick before but I started to sweat and to feel quite uncomfortable. I tried to ignore it for a while, then I interrupted my photo edit session, went down to my cabin and went straight into bed. Whether it was my lying position or the fact, that the cabin was nearer to the center of the ship’s mass I don’t know, but I felt much better and fell soon asleep.

I woke up shortly before Båtsfjord, stop #2. Near the harbour the strong swell had subsided. Soon the ship lay calmly at the jetty. It had started snowing intensely. We were in Båtsfjord quite a long time due to a lot of freight being unloaded and loaded.

I went into my cabin and continued sleeping. I overslept Berlevåg, Mehamn and Kjøllefjord but was awake in …

Saturday, 16 February

Honningsvåg, stop #6. I was so sure that I would oversleep this stop as well, but we were an hour late. I was still dark, but I could take some photos with my tripod.

[Live interruption: We have left the Lopphavet, the sea was much calmer than expected]

We left Honningsvåg with an hour delay. I tried to make pictures but the sight was poor, mostly because of the snow showers and the low hanging clouds. At least I could take a picture of the MS Nordnorge.

An announcement came through the speakers: Due to the delay we would skip Havøysund, usually stop #7. This would spare us half an hour.

It got warmer. Temperatures were hardly below zero, much too warm for the season. It snowed more and more and all you could see was the ship and a circular patch of waves and snow.

Anyway the snow showers didn’t last for hours and after another snow shower Melkøya came into view.

Melkøya is just a few kilometres away from Hammerfest, second largest town of the Finnmark. It’s the endpoint of an undersea pipeline for natural gas. Here it is converted to liquefied natural gas that is exported to the world.

Right after Melkøya Hammerfest, stop #7 on this journey came into view.

Here we had a longer stopover. A young woman took ropes, rolled them up and threw them up onto the much higher foredeck of the MS Lofoten. She succeeded every time. Later I asked here if I might use the photo (I may) and she told me that she wasn’t sure if she would make it today because of the strong winds.

I left the MS Lofoten for looking around, taking pictures and buying a coke in the local supermarket. Some photos:

After an hour I went aboard again, placed myself into the salon and started editing images. The weather was too dull to take great pictures, a good reason to be lazy.

I even took a short nap in my cabin. Anyhow I was up again when we arrived in Øksfjord, stop #8. With a fisheye photo of the port Loppa Havn I will finish this blog article.

[Back to now: Soon we’ll arrive in Skjervøy, stop #9. If we make it we’ll even reach Tromsø today but perhaps I’ll sleep. I’ve been in Tromsø several times before and even twice last year.]

 

 

 

Boarding the MS Lofoten

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

After some days in Bjørnevatn near Kirkenes I start my journey home today. But I’ll take a long, long detour!

Some hours ago I boarded the Hurtigruten ship MS Lofoten. It’s both the oldest and the smallest of the ships that serve the coastal route BergenKirkenes. It was built 1964 and is therefore older than me. It can accommodate 153 passengers.

I will travel four days and leave the MS Lofoten in Trondheim where I hope to catch the train back to Sweden. I already bought WiFi access for the next four days and found a nice place for blogging.

Here are the stopovers of the next four days:

Kirkenes – Vardø – Båtsfjord – Berlevåg – Mehamn – Kjøllefjord – Honningsvåg – Havøysund – Hammerfest – Øksfjord – Skjervøy – Tromsø – Finnsnes – Harstad – Risøyhamn – Sortland – Stokmarknes – Svolvær – Stamsund – Bodø – Ørnes – Nesna – Sandnessjøen – Brønnøysund – Rørvik – Trondheim

Inside the Snowhotel Kirkenes

This article is part of the series “2019-02: Northern Norway”.

After two great snowshoes tours I took it easy today. I went to the Snowhotel Kirkenes nearby, took some photos of the huskies, that didn’t have to work, visited an acquaintance who works in one of the restaurants and went inside the Snowhotel itself. I’ve been there before, but since the hotel is rebuild from scratch every year it looks always different.

Which photo of the lobby do you prefer? The first one, where the room is empty or the last one with the blurred people in it?