Polarsyssel in Tromsø (and ice cream)

While I was sitting at my computer in my apartment in Tromsø I looked out of the window. A blue ship was sailing on the Sandnessundet, the strait between Tromsøya and Kvaløya. It looked somehow familiar. I checked, first with my spotting scope, then with an app. It was the Polarsyssel, the ship of the Governor of Svalbard. I managed to take a photo between the trees.

Last time when I saw this ship it was on 16 March 2023, the week I was working in Longyearbyen/Svalbard.

What does the ship do here so far south as in Tromsø? Chasing polar bears? I checked the news but couldn’t find anything. While I was watching the ship  my thoughts wandered north. In August I’ll be in the Arctic once more. Will I stand on the sea ice again? Will I see polar bears again?

Then I heard a melody outside:

This is a famous melody in Norway! It is called “Norge rundt” and is the signal of the Isbilen ice-cream vans. Today I was one of the customers. So I got my ice. And the brand of the ice cream? Isbjørn is – Polar bear ice.

 

The first Thursday paddling 2024

Yesterday on 18 April  was the first organised Thursday paddling of the Tromsø Sea Kayakers Club this year. I was eager to join. I took a photo when I arrived at the boat houses:

What is special about this photo? I can show you. In comparison – these are photos I took on other first Thursday paddlings. One on 4 May 2023, one on 28 April 2022.

So this was my first time opening the kayak season in Tromsø where it didn’t snow! Instead the sky was blue, the sun was shining and the temperature round 1 °C. But it was so windy!

Me prepared our kayaks and made ourselves ready and then had a talk about where to go. The tour leaders make proposals and have the last word.

This timewe would go south – against the wind – and see if we make it to Telegrafbukta. OK, let’s go!

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because the wind punished each photo instantly by blowing me back. We took a rest seeking shelter in the lee of a breakwater where one of my fellow kayakers provided us with goodies.

Shall we continue? Yes, ok for all of us. So we left our shelter and continued further south.

The more south we came the stronger the wind got and the higher the waves. We weren’t alone. On the other side of the sound a commercial boat headed south. Nearer a sailing boat, driven my a part of its fore sail. I however had to fight to keep up with the others and I was glad, that Telegrafbukta is not far away.

There we took a break. A short one though because of the chilly wind.

On the way back it felt like a complete different tour. Now we could take it easy. Both wind and waves just pushed us ahead and we hadn’t to do much to keep momentum. Soon the colourful boat houses of the club were in view and a short time later we arrived. A pity, that I didn’t track this tour. I would have liked to know the difference of the speeds there and back.

Most of us kept ourselves near to the shore but some of us like wind and waves and were a bit further out. Here a b/w snapshot of B. in his self-built Greenland kayak. It’s too far away to reveal its beauty.

 

Meanwhile in Tromsø …

While I’m looking through the photos I’ve been taken on our ski tour and writing blog articles live goes on. I’ve been in Tromsø for a week now and since it snowed a lot this weekend (18 cm of snow until know) I took on my skis and went out for a small tour on the island. I could start right in front of my apartment.

Sometimes the weather was cloudy but calm …

… but at least half of the time if snowed, sometimes quite heavily.

On this ski tour I learned something new about the island Tromsøya: There are banana trees here, even in winter.

A nightly snowwalk

I woke up at 4:20 and since it still snowed I decided to to go out to take a photo. Or two. Taking a photo – or two – became a longer promenade in the snowy neighbourhood.

Just some photos before I continue sleeping. My sleeping room is behind the window behind the bush on the second photo. You see it?

For the stats: Last Saturday 90 of snow were measured at the meteorological station Tromsø PLU. Now it’s 128.4 cm.

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:

Wind and weather

Friday, 26 January

I took this photo at two o’clock in the afternoon just after I had walked home from work. I enjoyed my new apartment and the view from the balcony.

But I knew, that this beautiful weather wouldn’t last. The forecast predicted rain and storm.

Saturday, 27 January

In the evening the weather already had changed. It good warmer, rain clouds covered the moon and the speed of the hardest gust was wind was 24 m/s¹.

28 January

On Sunday the wind calmed down a bit but the forecast for the next day showed wind gusts of 36 m/s in the afternoon. That’s Beaufort 12 – “hurricane-force”. I wasn’t the only one who decided to work from home the next day.

29 January

And the weather became really nasty, although not as bad as expected. I was glad to be able to stay inside anyhow.

Let’s not forget, that Tromsø lies sheltered on the island Tromsøya surrounded by mountain chains. There are other places that are much more exposed to the elements. For example Torsvåg lies on a small island west of Vannøya. There the strongest wind gusts were round 41 m/s².

1 February

After two calmer yet warmer and very rainy days another storm had arrived, this time with gusts up to 30.8 m/s in Tromsø³.

Laughable the people in Kvaløyfjellet på Sømna probably would say. There the average wind speed between 1 and 2 in the night was 54.4 m/s (196 km/h)! That’s a new wind record for whole Norway⁴. And the gusts exceeded 60 m/s.

The nice thing: After all that rain in Tromsø it snowed again. When I arrived home the wind has already calmed down but the entry of my flat was caked in snow.

2 February

And the next morning it still snowed.

When I walked home today I crossed the cemetery. And there everything was snowed in and many tombstones were completely hidden under the snow. As if rain and storm never happened.

___
¹ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/1-305409/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8?q=2024-01-27
² https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90800/Norge/Troms/Karls%C3%B8y/Torsv%C3%A5g%20fyr?q=2024-01-29
³ https://www.yr.no/nb/historikk/graf/5-90490/Norge/Troms/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8%20LH?q=2024-02-01
https://www.nrk.no/nyheter/ny-vindrekord-i-norge-1.16744736

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!

 

 

The last way to work by the sea

As most days I walked to work today. It’s 2–2.5 km one-way depending on the route. Sometimes I am lazy and just follow the main road, but today I took the longer route by the sea.

7:09 – I come to the part of the way that is flooded sometimes. Today I’m lucky. I don’t wear boots but shoes with spikes because the roads and pavements are icy.

11:51 – an early lunch. After some grey days the sky is clear again and in the south you see the colours of the sun. The sun itself is below the horizon.

13:45 – today I go leave early.  Later I’ll work a bit from home. Since it is early it is not really dark yet. The sky is still blue and there is a golden spot at the southern sky.

I love this way and I will miss it, because it probably was the last time that I went to work here today. Next week I’m first on vacation and then I’ll move to a larger apartment within Tromsø. It has a bedroom, a real kitchen and even a balcony. I’m so looking forward to moving in but I’ll miss my way to work by the sea.

A Saturday “mørketid” promenade

Since Tuesday, 28 November the sun does not rise above the horizon anymore in Tromsø. In English this time is called Polar Night, in German Polarnacht.But is it night 24 hours a day? No, not really. Here are some images I took on a promenade in Tromsø yesterday. The photos have been shot between 10:48 and 12:13 CET.

As you see it was not dark at all.  The Norwegians differentiate better and have two words. What we have in Tromsø now they call Mørketid – “darkness time”. The sun is below the horizon the whole day, but less than 6° (civil twilight). Only when the sun is below 6° all day the Norwegians call it polarnatt – “polar night” as well. This however never happens on mainland Europe. You would have to travel north to the island Bjørnøya or the archipelago Svalbard to experience that.

So yes, we have seven weeks of mørketid in Tromsø, but that does not mean seven weeks of darkness. Fortunately!