New friends Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

New friends Tromsø is a Facebook group where people new to Tromsø meet. Some may be here only for  couple of days while others may have moved here and look for tips and other people.

Finally I had time to join an event that one of the group members organised, a hike to Gutta på skauen in Tromsdalen. Since I didn’t know this place I’ll can add the hike to my project #onceaweek.

As the day before the weather was quite warm but cloudy and rainy. I just took some photos with my iPhone since the focus was on get to know other people not on taking pictures. As usual I was quite early at the meeting point in town and waited in the rain for other people to come.

Eight people we were in total – from five, six different countries. We went to Tromsøbrua and used this large bridge the cross the Tromsøysund strait and reach the mainland.

On the mainland we had four more km to hike – first through the urban neighbourhood Tromsdalen, then on smaller roads through the forestry valley of the same name. And then we reached Gutta på skauen which means “guys in the wood”. These guys – all older than me – provided coffee and cinnamon buns. You do not pay per coffee or bun but donate an amount of money that you consider suitable.

There we sat for an hour or such while rainfall outside increased. Then we hiked back another parallel path (the nicer way), crossed the bridge again, asked a bypassed to take a picture of us and then started to split up. After another stop in the café Koselig I walked home. There are not many busses on Sundays.

There were a lot of water puddles on my way back, some of them quite deep. The last photo however is not rainwater but the sea. When the tide is quite high it covers one of the footpaths on the seashore. I managed with rubber boots this time but it was close.

No, this tour was not demanding but anyhow it was 14–15 km in total. So – motion: check! Meeting nice people: check! Having a good day: check!

Thank you, E. for organising.

Aurora hunting – failing and cheating

It’s always the same: when you wake up in the night and see the polar lights illuminating the sky it doesn’t mean, that you can take good pictures of them. In the time you need to dress, take camera and tripod and walk outside to a nice place it’s likely that they disappear again. Polar lights are shy fellows.

Last night it was the same: I saw a nice aurora from my sleeping room. But when I arrived at the bay Telegrafbukta no distinct aurora was visible anymore.

Anyhow the sky looked a bit pale. Clouds or polar lights? Let’s take a handheld photo with a long exposure. Cl… …ick.

Yes. The sky is definitely green. I set up the tripod, configure the camera and wait.

Nothing happens.

So I start taking a long expose shot of the sea, the mountains and the lights of Kvaløysletta.

And you can see the polar lights, at least a bit. No surprise because I exposed the photo for 30 seconds with ISO 560 and an exposure of ƒ/3.2. That puts enough light onto the sensor to catch even faint polar lights that are hardly visible to the naked eye. So this is not really an aurora photo, it’s more cheating.

Before I went back to my bed I wanted to take at least one photo with some kind of a motive. It became a shed nearby, illuminated by the moon and again with a faint polar light in the background.

Today I have to go to bed early, I have to catch up on sleep.

The first polar light of the season

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

Is the polar light shy? It was quite bright, when I peeked out of the window of my tiny room in Tromsø. It got pale when I took pictures at the bay Telegrafbukta. And it got really bright after that while I was returning home because clouds had been gathering.

Anyhow, it’s the first polar light of the season 2021/22 and therefore worth photographing.

There was another light at least as fascinating as the polar light. Plankton that was washed ashore. This plankton was bioluminescent and glowed blu- turquoise. I have a real ugly photo for the records. When this a common phenomenon I’ll try to take better photos some other time.

Back in Tromsø

This article is part of the series “2021-07: Back in Tromsø”.

After eight months of home office home I travelled back to Tromsø last Saturday to continue working at the Norwegian Polar Institute. My wife Annika has joined me for a week and I took some days off. Yesterday she travelled back to our home to Obbola. Tomorrow my Tromsø everyday life starts –at least for three weeks, then Annika and I will meet again for a two week vacation.

Sunday, 25 July

A grey day, a foggy day. Good for relaxing after a long journey from Sweden with train car and bus, that took eighteen hours.

Monday, 26 July

My first working day onsite since 20 November 2020. My boss has bought suksessterte (success cake) to celebrate my return. The seagulls have occupied my windowsill.

Tuesday, 27 July

Annika and I planned to hire a car for a trip, but none of the car rentals have free cars. Instead we are looking for a 2nd hand car for me. We find an old Subaru XV and may test drive it for 24 hours! Road trip to Sommarøya. Lunch at the hotel, watching private kayak lessons at one of the many beaches. Realising that the car fits onto my small parking place.

Thursday, 29 July

After work (well, after lunch) Annika and I take the bus to Tromsdalen on the other side of the sound Tromsøysundet. Here we use Sherpatrappa to hike up the mountain Storsteinen. Sherpatrappa is a stone staircase with 1203 steps built by Nepalese mountain road workers and finished in 2019. Then we hike to the summit of the mountain Fløya (671 m a.s.l.). After a break we return to the mountain station and enjoy our dinner in the sun. Then we walk down the stairs again. My knees are sulky, but that’s worth it.

Friday, 30 July

After lunch we fetch my car that I bought on Wednesday. Not the Subaru XV, but a three year old Suzuki S-Cross. After that we take a road trip to Tromvik and Rekvik on the island Kvaløya. And – oh – it’s so beautiful at many places here! Personal highlight: the two relaxed reindeer at the beach.

Saturday, 31 July

Farewell Annika! Now we are separated by at least 930 kilometres but fortunately for only three weeks. After I farewell Annika at the airport I drive to a parking place on the island Kvaløya and take two promenades. One at the beach, one over the bogs. The variety of landscapes is so impressive.

Sunday, 1 August

After a more or less lazy a short trip by bus to the center of Tromsø. The Indian restaurant is fully booked, but the sushi restaurant has place. 12 bits 189 NOK. Regular Norwegian prices. On the way there I find this narrow shortcut. Old dustbins, but a photo exhibition.

Gratulerer med dagen from abroad

Today is syttende mai (17th of May), the Norwegian national day. On 17 May 1814 the The Constitution of Norway that declared Norway to be an independent kingdom was signed. That’s why Norway turns 207 years today. Gratulerer med dagen – Happy birthday!

The first time that I was in Norway was the turn of the year 2003/04 together with a friend. Although the weather was really miserable – storm and rain – I was so fascinated by that country, that I travelled there one month later again to find a job as a developer.

Well, I didn’t find a job. I couldn’t speak Norwegian, didn’t have much programming experience and the dot-com bubble was still present.

2005, one and a half year later I visited Tromsø for the first time of my life after a week of hiking on the Hardangervidda. I had less than two days to discover this town but since then it has been my favourite town in Scandinavia.

Anyhow I didn’t think about moving there. The same year I had been in Northern Sweden twice and preferred the colder winters there. In addition to that I was a bit scared of mørketiden – the seven weeks in winter, where the sun stays below the horizon. Five years later I moved to Sweden.

This year however I was sure that I will be in Norway for syttende mai, since I’ve been working in Tromsø since last October.

Well, at least on the papers. Due to Covid 19 we were strongly advised to work from home, which I can better in our house in Obbola/Sweden than in my tiny room in Tromsø. On 22 November 2020 I took the plane to Oslo, another one to Stockholm and a third to Umeå. Since then I’ve been working and living home in Obbola. In five days I’ll have been here for half a year.

It feels a bit like a dream. Did I really work in the office of the Norsk Polarinstitutt in Tromsø? Together with others? Walked the 1.7 km from my shared flat? Enjoyed the first snow in the mountains? Took a kayak course?

Only when I miss my down sleeping bag (in Tromsø), my macro lens (in Tromsø), my rain parka (in Tromsø) I realise that I still have my flat there. And of course when I have to pay the monthly rent. And that’s a lot because it is ridiculously expensive to live there.

At time I’m forbidden to travel to Norway even though I have a job and a shared flat there. It’s unclear when I’ll be allowed there again. Until then I have the blog articles as memory of my two months in Tromsø to remember, the knowledge that I’ll be there again but most of all a wonderful time home.

I’ll be home for Christmas ♫

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Like last Saturday I had a handover meeting at the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday. And like last Saturday I walked there, taking a longer detour. In contrary to last time 15–20 cm of fresh, fluffy snow had fallen making the landscape look quite different than one week ago. Some photos:

This meeting was a bit special. We should actually have been working from home the last two weeks due to the new corona regulations. I however have just a tiny room with shaky internet in Tromsø and therefore was allowed to work in the office. The handover meeting was in the office, too. And that by the way was the last time for me being there this year.

No, I didn’t quit my job. I will just work from “home home” and that’s Obbola/Umeå. With the approval of my manager I’ll work from Obbola for the rest of the year.

Today is travel day. Since there are no trains from Narvik in Norway to Umeå (guess, why) I was forced to take the airplane. Right now I’m already at Oslo Airport, the first stopover.

Flight 1: Tromsø airport, Langnes – Oslo Airport, Gardermoen

At half past eight I stood at the bus station Sydspissen (southern tip) waiting for the bus. I felt quite warm, because I wore a huge down parka for my six-week stay home. Today I definitely won’t need it – it’s 0 °C in Tromsø – but you never know how winter is like at home.

I don’t write anything about airports. Most of them are equally boring and it’s a lot about waiting, buying high-priced snacks and such. You know that. The only airport photo I show is of the departure schedule in Tromsø. Two flights to Oslo, one to Bodø (via Andenes) and the next to Longyearbyen, the largest settlement of Svalbard. Oh, I have to fly there one time! And from Tromsø it’s nearer to Longyearbyen (960 km) than to Oslo Gardermoen (1110 km).

We got into the air late, because we had to wait for the de-icing of our plane. I sat in row 30 in the back. It was quite cold and I was freezing. That reminded me on my down parka, that I definitely wouldn’t need today. Well …

But soon we were in the air and there was an incredible view about the blue fjords and snow covers mountains surrounding Tromsø. When we were above the clouds I took a nap. The parka made a good sleeping bag, too. Shortly before Oslo the landscape was still white and most of the minor lakes were frozen. Some of the lower lands however were brown and free of snow.

This part I wrote in Gardermoen, where I’ve had a four hour stopover.

Flight 2: Oslo Airport, Gardermoen – Stockholm Arlanda Airport

When I went to the gate I spotted it: a grand piano. May I play it? I first saw the tape that taped the piano shut, then the paper: “Do not play the piano!”. Of course – corona. But I have to keep it in mind that if I’ll be really bored in Gardermoen in the future I maybe can play piano. Would be nice.

I went to the international departure. Here all restaurants and a lot of stores were closed as well as the waiting room for our gate.

But finally I sat in the airplane that connected Norway and Sweden. The crew talked Swedish, the pilot one of the zillion Norwegian dialects. The airplane was almost empty with round about 20–25 passengers.

Annika messaged me: “… kp 5”, which means a faint chance of polar lights even in Oslo or Stockholm. I saw the lights of the airport, when we started. I saw the colours of the sundown. I saw the illuminated towns, villages and streets below and some stars above. Finally even the half moon. But I didn’t see any polar lights.

But maybe my iPhone camera did. You see this cloud-like thing above the horizon on the last photo? It is slightly greenish. Of course it could be a reflection or a malfunction of the iPhone that is not made for available light photography. But maybe it was really a northern light. Well. I hope for more in the next weeks.

This part in I wrote in Arlanda where I’ve had another three and a half hour stopover. Two more hours to wait, one hour to fly, then I’m finally home.

Flight 3: Stockholm Arlanda Airport – UmeåAirport

Now it’s Monday and I sit home in my computer room. Two laptops are placed on the table and it smells burned dust, because I switched on the radiator. I have a look at the bay – sea level is 50 cm above normal and it’s 30 minutes before sunrise (which is two hours earlier than in Tromsø).

The last flight to Umeå was as eventless as the other flights. Anything went well and according to plan.

The only thing to mention: this time we definitely had polar lights. I could see them from my window. I tried to take pictures with my camera which was a bit tricky because I had to use anything I had to cover the rest of the window to avoid reflections. Here is the result where it worked best:

It’s an awful photo, but part of my journey. Now I’m home. Over and out.

Lunch break

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Days grow shorter and shorter in Tromsø so I took a small outside promenade in my lunch break to catch a bit of daylight. Tromsø is so beautiful with 10 cm of fresh snow that had fallen since yesterday.

I’m not sure if the snow will stay for longer or melt away soon but it doesn’t matter for me. That’s because on Sunday I’ll take the airplane home to Obbola in Sweden and will stay there the rest of the year.

But that’s another story that will be told on Sunday when I’ll spend many hours in Oslo Gardermoen and Stockholm Arlanda waiting for the connection flights.

Just a detour to work

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

Though Saturday I went to the Norwegian Polar Institute yesterday to get a handover from a former colleague. I went however not the direct way (20 minutes) but a long detour (90 minutes) to catch some air and some light before being in the office until dark.

Just some photos taken with my mobile.

It’s nice to go lightweight and taking pictures with the iPhone. While the photos are impressive considering the size of the lens and sensor, the quality is of course long from that of my Nikon. So next time I’ll carry more weight but probably I’ll be more content with the image quality afterwards.

 

Technique sea kayaking course

This article is part of the series “2020-10: New in Tromsø”.

I was really in doubt about writing this blog article and showing photos of the last weekend, where I participated the course Teknikkurs Hav (Technique sea kayaking).

Why? Because my photos lie. They show sea kayaks lying on nice beaches and us paddling in calm waters. All these photos are true but they tell only a fraction of the experiences I made when I kayaked in Northern Norway in the beginning of November.

Saturday – day 1

The paddling course was supposed to take place on Sommarøya. A beautiful place, but quite exposed to wind and weather. Due to the wind forecast (average wind 15 m/s) the instructors chose a more sheltered place for the first course day: Eidjordneset, just 12 km away from the boat house of the sea kayak club Trulle.

We gathered round 7 o’clock in the morning: We are the instructors Tim and Pål and four participants. Kind of luxury! We put the kayaks on the trailer and started driving: Past the airport, over the bridge crossing the Sandnessundet strait, to the left and then taking the turn to the island Håkøya where we parked and changed clothes for the tour. In my case: woollen underwear, two pairs of socks, a thick woollen sweater, drysuit, neoprene boots, gloves and hood. In addition to that the sprayskirt, life vest, towline system and helmet. We do not only dress for the chilly air but for being in the water as well. Tim wrote in the email: “We will be doing a lot of swimming”

We started to dress in darkness but when we were ready it had got light.

We put the kayaks into the sea and started paddling east along the Håkøya. After getting our paddle strokes improved we started to practise partner rescue. One kayaker capsizes, opens the sprayskirt and swims. Then there are different techniques of emptying the capsized kayak and support the swimmer to enter the kayak again. While we were training this several time. As Tim said: a lot of swimming. While practising the wind blew us more and more to the east. Time to turn back.

Now we had to paddle against the wind. First it went quite well but we already could see the huge shower cell coming towards us. Round 2–3 °C in the air. Would it be rain, sleet or snow? No – it was a grown up hail storm approaching. Within minutes we had wind speeds of round 20 m/s howling around us, blowing spray from each wave and throwing hail right into our faces (ouch, my lips!). The instructors decided to guide us to land where we waited for the hail to stop.

Soon the weather was calmer but still very windy. It took a while until we reached the bridge, where we started the tour. On the way back I had one of the rare opportunities to take some photos with my iPhone while paddling. Mostly I was too occupied with practising or catching up.

When we arrived at the bridge we crossed under it, because on the other side the sea was a bit more sheltered. Here we practised a lot of different paddle strokes as edging or low and high brace. This was quite intense – only interrupted by a short and frugal lunch break – and I’ll have to train a lot until my body has understood the movements. We ended with a rescue case: One of the participants had to pretend having an injured shoulder and we had to both give support balancing her kayak and tow her on land. Well, there was a lot of discussion but finally we managed it. Ok, it was only 20 metres or such to tow.

To make it short: changing into warm clothes · putting the kayaks onto the trailer · heading back to the boat house · I got a lift home · hot shower · great!

Sunday – day 2

Two of us met Tim at the boathouse, where we got a lift to a petrol station, our meeting point. As you can see it had been snowing and it was quite slippery.

Now on day two we would drive to Sommarøya and take the second course day there. Great, because the area round Sommarøya is wonderfully beautiful. Sommarøya is more than 50 km from Tromsø and the shorter way is leading through the mountains, so due to the weather conditions it took a longer time to travel there. And that’s how it looked like from the bay Steinsvika on Store Sommarøya.

We paddled to a flat rock covered by breaking waves and tried out some paddle strokes from the day before. That gave us opportunities for more buddy rescues, because of three capsizings. We made a short break on one of shallow beaches.

After that we started to round the island Storholmen where the Sommarøy lighthouse is located. First we tried to stick near the rocks to play with the waves. The further we came to the open sea, the higher the waves became and we increased distance.

Especially at the northwest tip we had waves up to 150 cm coming from several directions so that it took all my concentration just to paddle on while feeling quite stressed and a bit helpless. A bit further the waves coming from the open sea behind us built up to huge rollers and breakers on the shallow bay. I was too scared to join the others that played in these waves (with several capsizings and rescue manoeuvres). Therefore I paddled a bit further to reach a more sheltered part of the bay and wait there not to split the group. One other paddler joined my shortly after. Then all of a sudden a really huge wave came, broke just where we were and knocked us both over. There was nothing I could do. I immediately lost my kayak in the wave and it took a bit of time and help from the others to fetch my kayak and get us in again. I know that I have to learn to paddle under such rough conditions as well, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever enjoy it.

I really was glad about the lunch break. Here Tim and Pål told us about the star rating system for waves. It goes from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), and mostly we had 3-star conditions out there, with one two-metre-wave probably being a 4 star.

Even after lunch I was mentally quite exhausted. But at least we had started heading back and were soon in calm waters again. The others learned some more rescue manoeuvres and such but I kept aside for a while because I couldn’t focus any more.

Finally we made another towing manoeuvre, where two of us towed another kayak while the fourth paddler supported balance. While I was mentally tired I still had physical energy so I tried to drag a bit harder the last part to come up onto the sandy beach as long as possible. And that’s where Tim took this photo of us. I’m in the front – watch the nice violet helmet!

(Photo: Tim Vanhoutteghem – True North Adventures)

Conclusion: This course was too difficult for me. I was too scared and overchallenged. But I had skilled instructors, great fellow paddlers and learned a lot – though the hard way. I’m really glad that I had the opportunity to join this course and already decided to take the same course again as a fresh-up next spring.