Breaking the spring ice

This morning I saw not only the ice fishermen, but also the icebreaker Baus clearing the ice in the port of Skellefteå in Skelleftehamn. In the afternoon I remembered, that I had come into contact with K., one of the crew members on Facebook some weeks ago. I had asked if it was possible to go with the Baus to take photos sometime. K. had answered that I should just go there and ask the people. And so I did today.

I met a guy who works on the icebreaker and learned that it’s hard to make some kind of appointment. In winter no one knows exactly, when ships will arrive or depart due to the weather and the ice conditions and therefore neither when the Baus would start. But they would actually leave in twenty minutes to clear the ice for the ship Ice Star and I was allowed to join …

Sixteen minutes later I was at the dock again, this time with better clothes and my camera equipment that I got from home. How good that I live so close.

I was allowed to enter the Baus and say hello to the captain on the bridge.

He welcomed me, showed me some of the controls to steer the boat and allowed me just to go round everywhere to take photos. I didn’t want to disturb him, because he had to focus on his work and my plan was to make photos, not to interview the crew. At first I went up onto the top deck.

The water was completely covered with crushed ice. Some of the ice floes were at least half a metre thick. Slowly the Baus departed from the dock and I went down to the bottom deck to be closer to the icy sea.

While the Baus was slowly moving back and forth I went on every possible deck. I really enjoyed that freedom that you never can have on bigger ships as e.g. the Hurtigruten ships.

After some time of waiting and some time of moving around the way was clear for the Ice Star. Slowly it departed and followed the cleared channels between the solid ice where it with increasing speed left “Skellefteå Hamn”, the port of Skellefteå in Skelleftehamn.

While my eyes followed the Ice Star I spotted something blue at the horizon. Water! Somewhere behind the island Gåsören the ice had started to break and now open water covered the Baltic Sea behind Gåsören. Maybe the next paddle tour is closer than I think.

The Baus already had started to turn around (the previous photo shows the funnel at the rear) and return to the dock. I enjoyed watching the different types of ice.

Until now, the trip was extremely calm, now it started to get more rumbling, because Baus now went through packed ice – crushed ice that had frozen together and now was split into large irregular chunks. Great channel-like cracks developed in the ice, which soon closed again.

After some more minutes the Baus arrived and after thanking the captain for the opportunity to follow I left the icebreaker. The whole trip took less than 90 minutes, but felt much longer. I’ve been living in Skelleftehamn for almost eight years and it was a great experience to see my place of residence from a completely new perspective.

Thanks a lot, crew of icebreaker Baus!

Seeing the blue open water was a welcome spring sign. I saw two others today:

The first butterfly of the season, a small tortoiseshell that fluttered around the top deck of the Baus and (perhaps less romantic) the first teenager in shorts in front of ICA, the grocery store. I’m still waiting however for the first wild spring flower in Skelleftehamn.

Period of fine weather

I guess, this week has been the ice fisher’s delight. Nightly temperatures between round -8 °C (good for the ice), afternoon temperatures round +8 °C, hardly any wind and no clouds hiding the sun (good for oneself).

It’s really hard for me to focus on my work when weather is as nice as it has been the last weeks. I would prefer having holidays in the mountains enjoying the fabulous late winter weather. I guess however that there are times when I have to earn money, too …

Already at 8 o’clock I saw five ice fishers standing, sitting or lying on the ice with their tiny plastic fishing rods. Although it was -6 °C it was warm in the sun. In the background the icebreaker Baus circuited around to break the ice for the next ship to come.

I knelt on the ice to make the photos above and heard it cracking. Was it thin ice? Not at all, it is still thick and safe. I guess it was the waves caused by the Baus that made the ice swing and crack. A strange experience. Good to now however that the water is quite shallow where I went.

But now I have to continue my work …

Addendum

I didn’t work much more today, sometimes there are spontaneous opportunities to seize  …

Beginning of spring 2018

According to the meteorologists spring already had started on 1 March. They love to calculate in whole months. Astronomically the beginning of spring is just today.

Well, kind of …

Today I didn’t work but enjoyed the marvellous weather. Bright blue sky and sun, a good day to go to the beach.

Well kind of …

The temperatures were between -10 °C and -5 °C and the Baltic Sea is still covered with a thick layer of ice up to the horizon. Sometimes it’s solid ice, sometimes it’s packed ice. No open water is in sight and therefore no sea birds neither. Just snow and ice and the blue sky.

I left the mainland at the boat harbour Tjuvkistan and crossed the ice to the islands Norrskär and Bredskär. Now I walk along the eastern shore of Bredskär and then to the island Gråsidan.

At the eastern shore there’s a long wall of ice, up to two meters high.

I walk along the shore and look at the fantastical landscape of ice and snow. Sometimes I feel like being in an open air museum. I call the exhibitions “below zero, above sea”. Here’s one of my favourite exhibits:

I go round half the island and then cross it. Although the snow feels solid – like that green floral foam used for flower arranging – I mostly sink knee deep into it. I walk back along the western shore and then cross the ice to the southern edge of Bredskär. The island has a ice wall at the eastern shore as well, partly up to four meters high. Where shall I go? Right beside of the ice wall there are snow drifts, knee deep or even deeper. A bit farther there’s water between the solid ice and the covering layer of snow. Good to have rubber boots.

I cannot decide for the best way to go. So I’m walking king of zig-zag, constantly watching the ice edge. Sometimes there’s a long line of icicles …

… and once there’s even a quite large ice cave. A pity that it will melt within the next weeks (or months?).

I continue my walk, sometimes plunging through deep snow, sometimes just walking on solid ice, sometimes breaking through the snow into water and slush (don’t worry, there’s always a thick layer of ice beneath). I cross the natural gravel bank between the islands Bredskär and Norrskär and talk the same way back to Tjuvkistan.

Today I walked only round seven kilometres, but it was good to be outside, breathing air, letting my eyes wander, catching some sun and the colours of the sky. At 12:30 I reach the car. It’s very warm in the sun and I’m dressed too warm, but the air temperature is still -5 °C. It’s a season between winter and spring which is called vårvinter – spring-winter. A suitable name.

And here comes my favourite picture of today’s exhibition-expedition. I call it “layers of ice”.

Side note: did you notice the huge rubber boots I’m wearing on the first photo? I bought them in Murmansk a month ago. They are made for ice fishing and they are lightweight, comfortable, very warm and of course waterproof. And they were quite cheap. The only drawback: They have spikes that do the opposite of what they are made for. Instead of improving the grip the spikes just slide on the ice making the boots incredibly slippery on ice. I have to check if I can remove the spikes.

 

 

Back home again

Day 44 of my winter journey 2018

Ok folks, I’m tired, let’s keep it short and simple:

 ►►► I hereby declare the winter trip 2018 over.

After a long car ride starting in Ørnes Annika and I arrived in Skelleftehamn at 5 pm and I’m home again.

The part through Norway took a long time as usual because of the road bending and twisting left and right, up and down. The part through Sweden was much faster, but a bit of a bore, since there is not so much to see beside of snowy forests (ok, there is more to see, but not if you just want to come home).

We had blue sky the whole journey and temperatures between -5 °C and -20 °C.

In Skelleftehamn there’s still a lot of snow and the fence in the backyard is snowed under. Just now (19:57) the sky is clear in Skelleftehamn and the temperature is -13.6 °C. No polar lights (yet).

Some random useless facts about the journey:

  • 3798 kilometres by car
  • 59 hours by Hurtigruten
  • 4 different countries
  • -34 °C coldest temperature (and -25.8 °C home in Skelleftehamn)
  • only 1 day with rain and degrees above zero
  • overnight stays at 18 different places (if I counted right)

Some missing blog articles that I’ll write the next days:

That’s all for today,
/Olaf

 

A tour to the easternmost point of mainland Norway

This article is part of the series “2018-03: Varanger peninsula”.

Day 29 and 30 of my winter journey 2018

Yesterday we continued our journey to Ytre Kiberg which is 13 south of Vardø, one of the Hurtigruten stops. We started in Vadsø – another Hurtigruten stop – after a breakfast with our host Nils, bought a basis of food for the next days and took the E75 northwards. We made a stopover in Ekkerøy, a village on a peninsula near Vadsø. We like this place and will try to stay there for some nights next week.

At lunchtime we reached Cape East Arctic Adventure, our stay for four nights. We were welcomed by Trond, the owner and operator of Cape East Arctic Adventure and were shown our cozy bedroom, the kitchen and the homely living room. After making ourselves at home we went along the beach to the village and the harbour.

In the evening we were invited to a three course dinner based on freshly caught cod: Fish soup – cod with potatoes and carrots and finally cod roe. Everything was extremely tasty and it was Annika’s and my first time where we tasted cod roe. Yummy!

In Kiberg you are as east as you can be in the Central European Timezone, therefore sun is rising already at 6:24. I was awake very early and took a morning walk round 6 o’clock. Some snow drifts had been created by snow and wind over night but now the weather was less windy and quite sunny. At least for a short time. While I went the way to Indre Kiberg clouds approached, wind increased and it started to snow. It was hardly imaginable that it was sunny just a short time before. Weather changes here quite often as Annika and I should find out later.

After breakfast Annika and I took the car to the other side of the village, put on our snow shoes and started a hike to Kibergsneset, easternmost point of mainland Norway. This place is more east than e.g. St. Petersburg, Kairo or Istanbul! It was windy but quite sunny, when we started our tour but weather changes fast on the Varanger Peninsula:

Actually this hike is just a promenade but the weather may transform it into a small expedition. We were exposed to wind and snow and grateful, that we didn’t experienced a full storm. The weather was rough anyway and I was glad about my windproof jacket and two pairs of mittens.

We continued on a small hiking trail, first with, then without snowshoes because the thin snow layer was hardened by the wind and easy to walk onto. There’s a coastal fortress build by Germans in WW2 on Kibergsneset but we couldn’t see it in the snow weather. Instead of looking for it we continued to the small lighthouse at Kibergsneset that marks the easternmost point of mainland Norway (and most of Europe). Shortly before we reached it the sun came out and we continued the last metres in full sun. While I made some photos a small snow shower approached with the sun still shining.

From the lighthouse there was an amazing view over the arctic coast of the Barents Sea, but only for some moments. Soon the next snow shower came by and hid most of the view onto both the coast and the sea.

The way back was much shorter because we knew the way and went downwards. Even though the view was limited by the snow showers Ytre Kiberg came into view again soon and surprisingly the weather was nice and sunny again.

After this very windy promenade we were glad to find shelter in my car. We took the car to Vardø to eat something and after that we tried the road to Hamningberg. We knew that the road was closed in winter but we curious how long we would come.

Well, not very long. We managed to get to Smelror, some kilometres north from Vardø.

The main road however was definitely closed as you can see. There are no people living in Hamningberg permanently and the only motorised way to reach it in wintertime is by snowmobile. For car it is open less than half the year.

We took the car back to Kiberg, enjoyed the incredible and unbelievable colours of the sky and were surprised by a strange weather phenomenon: -6 °C and rain (including a faint rainbow!)

The rest of the day? -10 °C and wind outside, no more photos, no more excursions.

Fun fact: We took the E75 northwards. If you would take it southwards you could travel more than 4000 km and finally would arrive on Crete, Greece.

Checking the winter …

This winter has been quite lagom yet. It hadn’t been too warm for a longer period, nor it was it really cold. We got snow several times, but we didn’t get any lake effect snow neither as e.g. five years ago where it snowed more than 80 cm within 24 hours.

Yesterday and today it snowed round 20 cm. Since we already had round half a meter of snow, the fence of my garden is about to disappear in the snow.

I took the photo above through the window of my living room. It shows my (and the neighbours) backyard. The fence is round 80 cm high.

Today I took the car to the Näsgrundet, one of my favourite places in Skelleftehamn. When I had been at the same place 12 days ago, the Baltic Sea was covered with ice as far as the eye could see. When I arrived today I was really surprised to see the Baltic Sea clear of ice again.

 

The photo above shows a small bay beside of Näsgrundet. The ice had been broken by wind and the floodwater two days ago. The wind was pushing the ice floes slowly offwards and some of them already had started to drift seawards.

That was the view to the northeast. The view to the southwest is completely different: there is the peninsula Rönnskär with the copper smelter of the same name. It snowed but the low sun managed to peek through the airy cloud layer. Temperature was -9 °C and the chimneys smoked.

In front of the industrial plant is the “cape” of Näsgrundet, which is a peninsula as well. I took a short discovery tour and found another motive. When I was standing up, Rönnskär and some trees were visible but when I knelt down I was able to hide the background and to make a completely different photo:

I intensified both contrast and colours to give this photo a more irreal appeal. The motive itself however is unchanged.

What type of winter comes next? I could take a look at the weather forecast of SMHI, but I have difficulties to take it seriously. Beside of the overall temperature and wind direction trends the web forecasts for Skelleftehamn are quite bad. The 20 cm of snow for example weren’t forecasted at all.

But in the back of my mind I know that lake effect snow could be possible again as long as the Baltic Sea is open and wind comes from eastern directions …

 

Winter solstice 2017

It’s winter solstice today which means that it’s the shortest day of the year, at least in the northern hemisphere. Here in Skelleftehamn it was only 3 hours 44 minutes between sunrise and sunrise today and the sun rose hardly above the horizon. From now on the days will grow longer which feels a bit like winter’s ending. But far from it – it’s fortunately the astronomical beginning of winter today, not the end!

Hopefully the rain that we occasionally got the last weeks (e.g. yesterday) will come to an end and more snow will fall. Much more snow! I also hope that it will get colder to make the Baltic Sea freezing over so that I’m able to walk or ski to the islands. But this will probably take some more weeks.

This photo by the way is taken at 10:35, 58 minutes before the sun reached its highest point.

22 August: Kungsleden day 3 – Kaitumjaure—Singi (13 km)

This article is part of the series “2017-08: Kungsleden hike”.

When we woke up in Kaitumjaure it was cold (4 °C) but sunny. What a beautiful morning! Since the weather can change almost instantly in the mountains I got out at once and made photos from our hut and the place, where one call fill the buckets with fresh water.

Then I went down to a minor pond, part of the lake Bajip Gáidumjávri and enjoyed the awesome weather and the reflections of the mountains on the smooth surface of the pond.

On the way back I cut a bit cross country and came across this traditional sami dwelling, a wooden kåta.

I went back, we four took a breakfast, cleaned up, packed our backpacks and started our tour. Our backpacks weighed between 10 and 15 kilos. I tried to pack really lightweight but only to take six kilos of camera equipment with me. I could use one of Annika’s backpacks that fits perfectly and has room for all my belongings needed on such a tour, including some lenses and a tripod.

I was glad about the weather, not only for myself but for Katrin and Andi as well. They never had been in the Swedish mountains before and I was happy to show them my favourite landscape in the sun.

We followed the trail and after some hours we made a 20 minute rest by the riverside of the Čeakčajohka. (The Swedish name is Tjäktjajåkka, but I try to keep the geographical names in sami, since they are the genuine names.)

Sometimes I stayed behind to make some photos. When I tried to outrun the others after making a telelens photo, I realised that I lost my lens cap for that lens. I signalised the others that I would go back to look for it and would come later. Singistugorna (the Singi huts) were already in sight.

I went back and looked for the lens cap for a longer time but as I already suspected couldn’t I find it. It may lie hidden in the heathers for ages …

While I searched the lens cap, Annika and Katrin slowed down. Their knees didn’t like the stony and hilly path and so they took it easy. Therefore it was Andi who reached Singi first and booked four beds for us. He just came in time to get a four bed room for ourself. Great – since we planned to stay there for two nights.

I came last and was glad to drop my backpack and be able to focus on something that grows more and more important on such hiking tours: food and eating! This time we had two cans of köttbullar (the swedish meatballs) with potatismos (mashed potatoes) and some self picked blueberries for dinner.

And in addition to that tasty dinner we got real nice sundown colours. Another nice day!

Some words to the food. The good thing: You can buy food in many huts on the Kungsleden. So you don’t have to take all food with you and can keep the backpack weight relatively low. In addition to that you may find leftovers from other hikers. Sometimes it may be noodles, lentils or instant food, sometimes it may be pepper or salt.

Good to have with you (in our opinion):

  • Salami – you may buy some sliced salami, but not everywhere. Great with crisp bread, both for breakfast and lunch
  • Garlic – lightweight and good to spice pasta of all kinds and other dishes
  • Bregott – Swedish margarine, together with crisp bread it will give you kind of a real breakfast
  • Sugar and cinnamon – good to pimp oatmeal and self picked blueberries (many of them weren’t ripe yet)

Some of the things you can buy in most shops:

powdered milk · oatmeal · crisp bread · jam · chocolate · muesli bars · rice · pasta · goulash soup · mashed potato powder · köttbullar · chili con carne · Coca Cola(!) · beer with 3.5 % alcohol(!!!) and more …

April weather

It snowed, dark clouds sped past the coast, the sun illuminated the fresh snow and the gusty wind blew it around. The weather changed constantly this morning. The wind squalls made the temperatures of -3 °C appear much colder and I regretted that I went outside without windproof trousers and warm gloves. That’s the post-wintry release of Norrlands April weather.

The easter days shall be wintry as well with temperatures between -8 °C and 0 °C, at least here in Skelleftehamn. In the mountains however they’ll probably drop to -20 °C or even below.