Moon, Venus, Aurora

I’m sitting in the train travelling home to in Obbola where I’ll stay for some weeks. First vacation, then work. It’s the first time since Christmas. Time to post some photos I shot in Tromsø last week.

While I was in Longyearbyen it snowed quite a lot in Tromsø. The official snow depths last week were round 130–140 cm.

That ended a period of slush, rain and icy roads and my walks to work had become much more pleasant. I love snow!

Then it cleared up. In the evening of the 23 March I could see the young waxing Moon and the planet Venus. And then the polar light came out. Perhaps nothing new but still beautiful.

Aurora Lightshow in Tromsø

Hooray – finally the polar light and I were awake the same time!

It’s not the first polar light this season. But either there were clouds or it vanished when I was at the bay Telegrafbukta for taking pictures or I just slept. Today however I was lucky and was at the right place at the right time.

 

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – day 5: marine fauna · entering the ice · temperature drop

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

Day 5 · 23 February 2022

12:30 – it gets colder

Over night it has become much colder and windier. Temperature has dropped to -17 °C and the relative wind speed has increased to 17 m/s (ca. 60 km/h). According to the wind chill formula that feels like -33 °C. The taut nets around the deck are covered with ice structures and ice fog hovers over the still open sea.

14:00 – marine fauna

A large trawl net is being pulled up. Scientist are waiting on deck, they look eager. What will the trawl reveal?

The net is up and the haul is emptied onto the deck.

At once the marine biologists gather round the catch and start browsing, identifying, sorting. I know some of the animals, but neither taxonomy nor latin name. It’s a childhood’s memory – me walking along the shore, my eyes glued to the soil to search for shells, jellyfish, worms, starfish. As a child I wanted to become a researcher but live has changed many times. Anyhow it finally brought me here on this polar expedition on Kronprins Haakon. But I digress, back to some photos of marine fauna and scientists:

I would love to know a bit more about the taxonomy of all these species but this will take some time and efforts, nothing you will get for free.

14:37 – the first sea ice

And there it is. The first sea ice is ahead.

The photo is awful. Noisy, underexposed two levels but I want it here in the blog. Not only for you but also for me because it’s the very first photo of sea ice on this cruise.

But there is more. While we continue north, soon the Barents Sea gets covered with pancake ice – called because of the rounded shapes of the ice floes – that soon make place for larger ice floes. That takes only 20 minutes.

(The images are not in chronological order for layout reasons)

For more than an hour I stand at the bow of the heli deck and watch the changes of the ice coverage. I love ice, I love the sea, I love cold winter and here I can get it all together. I feel happy! And cold it has become. Temperature -22 °C, relative wind speed 16 m/s resulting in a wind chill of -39 °C. The Canada Goose Snow Mantra parka starts to make sense. It shows what it can: keeping me warm under these conditions.

I use a pair of gloves and two pairs of mittens to keep hands and fingers warm. With one exception: Smartphone selfies. These I take bare-handed. While doing that the pinky of my right hand gets really cold and I will feel this for many hours. I’m lucky, the fingertip has no frostbite but I decide to stop making selfies in such harsh conditions. I love the arctic, but I play piano, too. I need my fingers. All of them.

15:59 – dinner pleasures

The haul caught a lot of animals, amongst others a lot of shrimps. Only some of them are needed for research. I help cleaning them, plucking away starfish and other species while a huge pot with salt water starts boiling. And at dinner we all get shrimps. Freshly caught in the Arctic. Delicious!

19:00 – photo shooting

A. a marine taxonomy expert asks me if he can borrow a tripod, he wants to take photos of some of the animals. Oops – I forgot the mount for attaching other cameras. I make another proposal: I’ll drop by and take pictures by myself. From this day I’m the “official court photographer” of non-microscopic animals. That’s work I really like. The first results are not the best, but I’ll share them anyhow:

Species identification taken from the cruise report of Andreas Altenburger. Thanks a lot!

21:30 – Sailing through the night

It’s dark. Ice has become thicker and you can hear the cracking and feel the vibrations from Kronprins Haakon breaking the ice. Again I stand on the heli deck looking ahead. Two strong spotlights illuminate the ice.

And for some minutes there is even a Northern light palely glowing in the sky.

While I stand there, happily watching the ice and the sky, muffled up warmly in my down parka and pants, temperature has dropped even more. -28 °C, windchill -44 °C.

temperate in °C | wind speed relative to the ship in m/s | resulting windchill in °C.

 

Night promenade at Telegrafbukta

Clear sky, almost full moon, no wind. The snow is crisp and glitters in the moonshine. -10 °C. I take a promenade and enjoy the calmness of the night. The aurora is weak, more a bonus than the main act. Snow and moon win tonight.

Four winter days in and round Obbola

OK guys, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m too lazy to write long texts. I just show some photos of the last days where our German friend Medi joined Annika and me on various excursions with some notes.

Thursday, 6 January – skiing in Västermarks naturreservat

+++ Västermarks naturreservat, 50 km north from Umeå +++ a non-commercial forest made us climb over and under fallen trees that lay across the marked loop trail +++ by the trail a wooden cabin +++ time was too short to fire the oven but lighting candles is cozy, too +++

Friday, 7. January – lunch break skiing

+++ right next to our postbox (500 metres from our house) starts Spåret, a 3600 metre long forest trail +++ we use back-country skis to ski Spåret in my prolonged lunch break +++ we, that’s Dirk – guest for two nights – Medi and I +++ -12 °C, but my Anorak is too warm +++ I tie it round my hip +++ on the photo it looks like a skirt +++

Photo: Dirk Thomas

Me sking “Spåret” – Photo: Dirk Thomas

Saturday, 8 January — cross-country skiing on Olle’s Spår

+++ grey weather, -14 °C +++ the trees are covered with snow +++ black-and-white imagery +++ after some days of back-country skiing it’s nice to use cross-country skis on a real trail +++

Sunday, 9 January – Northern lights and sunrise

+++ 1 o’clock in the night +++ I check for Northern lights +++ we are lucky +++ Medi and Annika watch the aurora beside of the garage +++ I take some photos from our garden +++
+++ 8:20 in the morning +++ the Baltic Sea freezes over more and more +++ sunrise colours by the sea  +++ and then in our garden +++ watching sunrise while taking breakfast +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – Strömbäck-Kont

+++ just a short walk at one of Annika’s and my favourite places: Strömbäck-Kont +++ looking at the ice ridge by the sea +++

Still Sunday, 9 January – halo effects

+++ after lunch we are taking Medi to the airport +++ strong and colourful parhelion or sun dogs halos +++ the photo is taken at the airport +++ I am questioned by the security and show the taken photos to prove I’m not a spy +++

Cabin days in Christmas time

Christmas eve – Sommarøya and Hillesøy

It’s only 15 km to Sommarøya, a beautiful island reachable by car via a curved bridge. Even in snow fall and twilight you can see the turquoise colour of the sea. Everything is closed, even the hotel.

From there it’s not far to the church Hillesøy kirke, that by the way does not lie on the island Hillesøya but on the mainland. We tried to prebook one of the limited seats for the Christmas service but they where all taken. We are there very early and allowed to have a look in. Eye catcher: the tall wood-burning stove.

We drive back to the cabin – time for lunch while it gets dark outside.

Christmas day – Skitour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet

This day was supposed to be crisp and clear and it was. No clouds, hardly any wind, -10 °C. Perfect conditions for a small ski tour along the lake Kattfjordvatnet. In coastal Sweden we just would have started the tour, in the Norwegian mountains you must check the avalanche risk first. We got round 30 cm of powder snow the last days and the risk was level 3 which is quite high. So a real mountain tour would have been too risky but the terrain by the lake is too flat for avalanches.

And in the early evening we are lucky and get some polar lights. We just have to step outside the door and avoid the motion sensor for the outdoor lighting.

Everything would have been accessible from my apartment in Tromsø as well. Anyhow it feels more like a real holiday to be on a Norwegian mountain cabin over Christmas, just Annika and I. Perhaps we are allowed to use it again sometime.

Polar light at Tuesday night.

Thanks to a phone conversation with my wife Annika I was wandering around the apartment in Tromsø. I watched Orion rise behind the mountains and a faint something above. The something was a weak polar light. Within short time the aurora intensified and while I was walking to the shore I could see it moving over the whole celestial sphere. When I arrived at the shore some minutes later it already had weakened a lot (so typical!) and the violet parts were gone. Anyhow it was still a beautiful polar light worth being photographed.

 

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 blue-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.