5 × 5 images from a Hurtigruten cruise

Two weeks ago I took the plane from Tromsø to Bergen. From there I would travel back to Tromsø by Hurtigruten together with my sister, my brother-in-law and my mother. My wife Annika would join us in Trondheim two days later.

22 May

There is still a lot of snow in the mountains on Tromsøya, Kvaløya, Senja and other islands I do not recognise from the plane. But in the lowland it is springtime.

I travelled with the Hurtigruten several times, but never south from Trondheim. We were not the only one’s boarding in Bergen. A lot of people use the Hurtigruten as a cruise ship, not as a possibility to travel from A to B. And there it lies, the vessel Kong Harald.

We have boarded round 18:00. At 20:30 we are departing and leave the town Bergen behind.

We are in sheltered waters and you hardly notice the ship moving beside of the motor’s vibrations. Even though Bergen is nine degrees south from Tromsø is does not get dark anymore.

The weather is cloudy but when the sun peeks through a holes in the clouds it looks beautiful.

23 May

One breakfast later: We arrive in Ålesund where the Hurtigruten will stay for ten hours. Time to explore this town which looks so different from the towns in the north. Ålesund has many Art Nouveau houses and “exotic” plants like azaleas are blooming everywhere. Together with my sister I climb the four hundred and something steps up the Aksla where we have an awesome view on the town.

We have also a view on the cruise ship AIDA prima. And beside of that – our Hurtigruten ship Kong Harald. It looks so tiny in comparison. I definitely prefer the small one.

I take a short stroll through town before I met the others. First I admire all the small Art Nouveau details on the houses, then I almost get a culture shock when I find this tunnel:

In the evening we circumnavigate the island Hessa, because the ship is “reparked” on the other side of Ålesund. After a very warm and sunny day clouds have been gathering. But the sun manages to send beams through the clouds.

Is this one of the life boats? I mean – a photo of one of the life boats? No, it is a photo of a reflection of one of the life boats. It is reflected in the glass facade of an office building by the port.

24 May

Where are we? In Trondheim. Yay! I was so looking forward to meet Annika there. She checks in, then we take a short stroll in town along the channel with the groundbreaking name Kanalen – the channel.

As in Tromsø there are Kittiwakes in Trondheim. They use to screech a lot – often to each other – but these two fellows seem to be a bit shy, at least in the minute where I took the photo.

At lunchtime we leave Trondheim behind. The shimmering sunlight is reflected by zillions of tiny waves. We meet commercial ships, fishing boats, two kayaks and sometimes a sailing boat.

On the port side there is the open sea. Blue sky, blue sea, a small skerry and a house. Wait, a house? Yes, it is erected on a floating raft. What you cannot see – it is part of one of the countless salmon farms located in coastal Norway.

I have moved into Annikas cabin. It has no regular window but two portholes. It is five to eleven in the evening and the sun peeks into our small but practical cabin.

And that’s the night where I get sick. That really wouldn’t have been necessary at all.

25 May

I am feeling ill and I sleep, I sleep and I sleep. I do not leave the cabin before 17:45 to take some photos while we are approaching the Lofoten islands. They look like mirages at the hazy horizon.

Round half past seven we are approaching Stamsund, passing rocky skerries and rocky mountains. Northern Norway, here we come!

At the harbour a graffito was sprayed or painted on the outer wall of the waiting room. Free high fives! For me however it was time to continue sleeping …

… but I got up at 23:15 again to see more from the Lofoten islands. Some of the mountains look like not being from this world.

The light got dim but it didn’t get dark. It’s the first day of midnight sun on the Lofoten. And it is almost midnight.

26 May

The reason for being up so late is that Kong Harald sails into the quite famous and very narrow fjord Trollfjorden. The landscape is impressive because the Hurtigruten is so near to land. – especially the mighty dark rock face in the north.

On our way back I spot a beautiful wave pattern. I really wonder how it was created.

Then it is time for me to sleep. And I sleep long. At lunch time I take some more photos. Now the landscape looks very familiar. No wonder, in an hour we will be in Tromsø, where I’ve been working for three years now. To my relief there is still snow on the mountain tops. It looks so nice.

The sky is still blue and the sea has been calm more or less the whole journey. There is hardly any wind but the flag is flattering in the airstream.

Round two o’clock we pass the southern tip of the island Tromsøya and then the new buildings on the eastern sea side.

After round 93 hours we are leaving the ship. My family checks into their hotel, Annika and I take the bus to my apartment which has become on of my two homes.

Summer weather in Tromsø

10:30. I am sitting in my car on my way to Sommarøya – “The summer island”. The sun is shining and it is warm already. Today it is supposed to be 19 °C, much warmer than the last weeks (or months). The first photo stop, a parking place by the sea. Tussilago is blooming everywhere.

The road leaves the sea and leads through the valley Kattfjordeidet. The lake Kattfjordvatnet lies on 149 metres of altitude. Does not sound much, nevertheless it is high enough that most parts of it are still covered with ice. I like the open areas – small waterfalls and beautiful reflections.

The valley is 12 km long. I leave it behind and meet the sea again. And two locals – reindeer that know the traffic rules and walk on the other side of the street (or better said in the ditch).

Just before the tunnel Oterviktunnelen there is a parking place and shortly after a beautiful sandy beach. It looks so warm, but I didn’t measure the water temperature …

I am lucky, I find a nice shell, a “pelican’s foot”. Then I continue my ride and enter the tunnel. It is not long, just 607 m.

Almost wherever you stop there are nice places to explore, for example this tiny beach, less than ten metres wide. It is not far away from the bridge to Sommarøya.

From the bridge you can see a lot of small islands, many of them with sandy beaches. A kayakers paradise, although the weather can be pretty rough. But if you like challenges, take your boat, head west and after 1600 km you are in Greenland. ;-)

The last weeks I have seen three kinds of wild flowers blooming in and around Tromsø. (1) Tussilago – 17 April (always the first). (2) Dandelion – 26 April. (3) Oxlip (or another primula) – 8 May. Today I discovered two others. According to Pl@ntNet, which I use for identification a Goldilocks buttercup (91.2%) and a Purple mountain saxifrage (94.6%).

Would I find one of my favourites flowers as well – the Marsh marigold, which loves wet places and has an incredibly beautiful hue of yellow. Yes? I found some of them beside a small pond.

On Sommarøya I hardly took any picture, on the outer island Hillesøya I took a photo of one of the boat harbours. In my back an open door, a dark room and in there a man cleaning fish.

After taking lunch in the snack restaurant Havfrua (“The mermaid”) it was time to drive back. I chose the way round the south of the island Kvaløya and made some small stops. One at the ponds and puddles in a boggy area, which now are free of ice. Another by the church Hillesøy kirke, which is by the way not on the island Hillesøya.

And then the time came: 20 °C according to the car thermometer! Last time it was so warm here was last August.

I took another stop to take a photo of one of the mighty mountains on the other side of the strait Straumsfjorden. When I looked down into the deep water I spotted a shoal of fish. It was hundreds, probably thousands of fish resting in the shadow. The photo is heavily edited to make the fish more visible.

After a while I came back to more known areas – less than 30 minutes away from my “work flat” in Tromsø. I stopped at a small grave yard. Most tomb stones were free of snow, but those located in the snow drifts will have to wait a bit longer. Anyhow snow in the lowlands has become the exception. Even the bogs that tend to be cold are hardly frozen any more. And so I had to be quite cautious to avoid wet feet, when I looked for a good place to take a picture of that beautiful pine tree other there – the last photo for today.

Those of you that are not so familiar with Norway as a country may ask yourselves: Why did Olaf make an excursion on a Friday? That’s because today it is Constitution Day. On 17 May 1814 the Constitution of Norway was signed and this is the most important day of the year. Even through our street a marching band walked by and all people have their best clothes on – many of them the traditional bunad which shows, from which part of Norway they come from.

And so I shout out: “Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!” – Happy birthday, Norway!

Here is an article from 10 years ago: Syttende mai (German text).

A day trip to the island Vannøya

It is 10 o’clock on Sunday, 28 April. Marika, whom I know from work and I are in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya waiting for the ferry. It will take us to the island Vannøya where we want to stay for the day.

I want to take photos, so I am opening the boot of my car and realise that I have forgotten my camera backpack at home. Sh*t! Fortunately I have my Sony camera with me, which does a pretty good job on landscape photography But no time to be grumpy, here comes the ferry.

After a ferry ride of forty minutes we arrive at the island and take the western way to the fishing village Torsvåg. We pass the Polargirl, a passenger ship that uses to make touristic excursions in Svalbard in the summer season.

After seven kilometres we come to our first stop: A small beach. The view is incredible. Snow covered mountains in the back, a cloudless sky above, some islets with white sandy beaches and shallow waters of a turquoise colour so intense that you can see it on satellite images.

We start cleaning the beach, mostly of plastic. A huge amount is plastic nets and ropes from the fishing industry. The plastic is harmful to the environment and is especially dangerous to sea birds. Beach cleaning has become quite popular and it is a good feeling to remove the garbage from nature even when it is only a drop in the ocean. The next photo showing me is taken by Marika.

We stay there for a while, not only because the scenery is to beautiful and the sun shines warmly, but because there are seals out there. Some of them were sitting on rocks until the tide came in, others are swimming in the turquoise water. They are too far away to take good pictures, but I can observe them through my binoculars.

We continue our road trip, occasionally stopping when there is any wildlife. And there is quite a lot. Here at partially frozen puddles we do not only see crows but also a Eurasian curlew.

Minutes later we arrive at Sandsletta, a larger beach. The small sandy dunes are reminiscent of the German North Sea, the mountains aren’t.

There are some more photo stops, either for scenery or for animals. This time a reindeer (we saw some of them) grazing by the road.

Then we arrive at the fishing village Torsvåg. Parts of it are located on Vannøya, others on the small island Kåja. To get there by car you have to cross a dam with a single file concrete road. In the harbour area there is a huge rack full with fish hanging to dry. The dried fish is called stockfish. And there is the Torsvåg lighthouse. If you look north from there, you can see some stony islets and rocks and then there is the open Norwegian sea. Next stop Svalbard.

Is this the end of the island? Well, at least it is the end of this road. But there is more to explore. We turn, drive back 8 km and turn left onto the road to Burøysund in the east. Marika spots an eagle with prey, probably a mountain hare. I do not stop timely and the disturbed eagle flies away to land on a stone nearby. I make a photo through the windscreen, but it is blurred. Anyhow it shows, how big eagles are. You see the crow for size comparison?

Ten minutes later I have stopped the car again, this time for two ptarmigans that first strolled on a meadow by the road and then decided to ignore us and cross the road. Another object with flying abilities was easier to photograph, but what does a propeller plane do on a parking place by the road? Does it use the road for taking off and landing?

We arrive in Burøysund. The whole of Vannøya is a bit “Norway in a nutshell” with its snowy mountains, the blue sea, the rocky shore, the coastal villages. Here anyhow the rocks are special. They are sharp-edged with their “teeth” up into the air and look wild and rough.

Now it is time to head back. On a place we spotted already on our way there we take a late lunch break with the view to the sea (and some ptarmigans and seals in the distance) and the wetlands in our back.

Even if we take the second last ferry we have plenty of time. And we need it, because while driving further I spot something in the water which does not look like seabirds. It is an otter. No, it’s two, wait – three. They meet in the sea and then swim side by side.

Then they go ashore quite near us. One is swimming away soon while the other two stay on land for ten minutes. What an experience so see them so near! I’m sure they have seen us as well but since we are quiet they ignore us. What a pity, that I forgot my Nikon to use the large telephoto lens. The Sony did not manage to take good pictures, also because of the light situation. Anyhow – for the archives – two pictures of the otters:

This day really delivered! Incredible weather and a lot of wildlife. Reindeer, curlews, ptarmigans, geese, eagles, a lot of other birds I do not know, a white mountain hare, the first butterfly of the season (a small tortoiseshell), several seals and now the three otters. Time to catch the ferry with a hasty detour to the south east of the island from which you can see the Nordfugløya (Northern bird island).

Finally we have to hurry a bit but we reach the 19:15-ferry in time. Another forty minutes ferry ride in beautiful light …

… and we are back in Hansnes on the island Ringvassøya which is connected to the island Kvaløya with a tunnel which is connected to the island Tromsøya with a bridge, and that’s where I live. There are worse places!

Takk for turen, Marika!

Spring winter in Obbola

I’m sitting in the train travelling from Obbola, my “home home” to Tromsø, my “work home”. Normally the journey would have taken 18 to 19 hours but this train is four hours late. That will probably extend my journey to 37 hours including an overnight stay in Narvik.

The last days we had full vårvinter (literally “spring winter”) which is the transition period between winter and spring. Not only in my opinion this is an own season. And so it can look like:

Tuesday, 9 April

The weather is fine and calm. The drift ice that I paddled through the day before is mostly gone. I take another kayak tour to the islands Obbolstenarna and now also the sea is calm enough to circumnavigate the islands and the ice cap on the rocky shallow.

After the tour I continue my work in home office.

Wednesday, 10 April

It is raining at lunch time and the fog hides the horizon of the Baltic Sea.

Thursday, 11 April

The drift ice has come back over night. The day is sunny.

Friday, 12 April

In the village at lunchtime I spot the first Tussilago which always has been the first flower to bloom in vårvinter. And in front of a house I see some crocuses. It is +7.5 °C.

Some hours later I take a short and icy “farewell kayak tour”. It gets harder to find a good place to set in the kayak. And on the way back I was right when I doubted that the small ice floe would carry my weight. It didn’t. The ice has started to rot and then it’s not stable anymore even when 10 cm thick. So – be prepared.

We still have 50 cm of snow in the garden but round our rowan tree the snow has melted. The birds love to be there picking for food.

Saturday, 13 April

That’s today. I’m sitting in the heavily delayed train heading north. The forest ground and the bogs are covered with snow but the first patches of blueberry twigs are visible, too. It’s nice to see the landscape, but I’ll have a long journey ahead and I’m going to take a nap now.

Farewell Obbola

As almost every day the last weeks I went to the coast yesterday. This place is less than 100 metres away from Annika’s and my house in Obbola. It was partly cloudy but the upcoming sunrise made the clouds and ice extremely colourful. I waited for the sun to rise and then went back to my home office room to continue working.

Today I have other plans. After three weeks of being home – part vacation, part work – it it time to travel back to Tromsø. Normally I do this by train and bus, this time I travel by car. After I’ve found a nice flat in Tromsø I took my Norwegian car here to fetch some more stuff.

Such as a box of books, kitchen stuff, an uplighter, an Ivar bookshelf, my acoustic bass guitar, a bulky winter sleeping bag and more stuff that I want to have in Tromsø. Now my car is full but I still can use the rear-view mirror.

I guess I might need my down parka for if the weather forecast is correct it might be -25 °C on my way back to “work home”. But not today where I only have to drive round about 200 km to Gagsmark to visit friends and stay over. From there its 470 km go drive to Kuttainen (Saturday) and then 300 other km to Tromsø (Sunday).

Farewell, Obbola!

Two wintry sunrises

From polar night into the solar light

It is crazy – three days ago Annika and I have been in Tromsø in the middle of the mørketid – the polar night – where the sun hasn’t risen for weeks. Two days ago we went to Gällivare in Swedish Lapland by car. Yesterday we continued our way south and crossed the polar circle. The sky was clear and full of colours and then – at 10:23 – we saw the sun ahead. It did not only rise above the horizon but also the forested hills.

The sun was low but we saw it for several hours. That was a great feeling especially for me who haven’t seen the sun for almost a month.

But days are short and already at two o’clock in the afternoon the moon dominated the sky.

Soon it was too dark to take good photos from the moving car. At half past six we arrived at our house in Obbola, where I’ll stay for three to four weeks.

Today I worked from home and could see how it gradually got brighter. I took a break and went to the coast. I was lucky – now I got a real sunrise. Not above a road in the Swedish inland but above the partially frozen Baltic Sea. So beautiful!

 

Cruise leftovers: a seagull, a map and a tiny planet

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

One week ago I left the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon in Longyearbyen, Svalbard after a three week cruise. On the same day I took the plane back to Tromsø together with a lot of scientists from the same cruise.

The cruise went a little differently than planned. As you can see on the map below we seemed to cruise in a quite chaotic way.

But every loop was there for a reason. The left loop leading north was the attempt to cruise to station 05 at 83°58′ N. You see the line of planned stations in the upper right. But our attempt was in vain, the ice was too thick to get there.

So we decided to do research in the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard. Since this was never the plan we didn’t have a permit to do research in Greenlandic waters. Therefore we headed south and east to do a first ice station in Norwegian waters and then another one at 80 °N. That’s the right loop.

We were lucky: already after a couple of days we got the permit for Greenland. So we headed south and then west again into Greenlandic waters. Here we still had to zigzag a bit through the ice but there was another effect that made the track a bit special: The ice stations.

The ice floes drifted south with a speed of round about 0.7 knots (as far as I remember). When the ice station lasted 36 hours, that’s a drift of more than 45 kilometres. That’s the small loops to the south at 6.5 °W, 4° W and 2° W.

And since we had some travel time, I could take some photos. For example from the incredibly elegant ivory gull.

And even when I was on the sea ice to make aerial photos with my drone I often had some extra minutes to play around with the panorama function, resulting in so-called “tiny planet” photos.

Oh – I’m longing back to the Arctic. Home in Obbola in Sweden it is really warm and 24 °C inside of our house. A bit too warm for my taste. And rain would be very welcome, our garden is very dry.

Polar bear in the morning

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

One hour ago my telephone rang. 5:32. I picked up the phone. “Polar bear at the port side” I was told. I put on some overclothes over my pyjamas took the photo backpack and the big lens and walked outside. And there it was: I big polar bear quite near the ship. It had already circled the stern of the ship and was now starboard side.

It sniffed curiously around and was interested in all these smells the ropes emitted. And unfortunately is was quite interesting in the air sampling station as well. I hope that all the cables survived.

When it didn’t find anything of interest it slowly walked away into the fog that had started coming up.

Drone flying between ice stations

This article is part of the series “2023-06: Arctic Ocean cruise KPH”.

The 3rd ice station st4 (78°50′ N 006°30′ W), was finished yesterday. Tomorrow we will start the 4th ice station st9 (78°50′ N 004° W) on our scientific cruise. The journey led us to the Fram Strait instead of north of Svalbard. That was because we could not break through the surprisingly thick multiyear ice to get further north.

Right now we are at 78°46’N 5°00’W, engines off. We drifted with almost 1 knot southeast and just in the moment while I am writing this sentence we start actively moving again heading more or less eastwards to st9.

After we had left the ice station we first headed to 8° W yesterday evening and then took a CTD cast each degree in longitude. 8° W, 7° W, 6° W and just now 5° W. A CTD measures amongst others salinity and temperature of the water column and also takes water samples from different depths. Since the last station was in deeper water (round 900–1000 m) the CTD cast took time. Time to use my private drone to fly a bit around. Since I do not need any compass calibration and such to just take some snapshots I could start and land it from the helicopter deck. Of course I asked the captain first.

Here are some shots from the ship in the ice from different directions.

About yesterday’s ice station I will a write later. Tomorrow I might be quite busy.

It is still a bit special to be in the Arctic and have better internet than a lot of populated places in Germany. On the cruise last year we only had a shared email address using Iridium for sending text messages and occasionally a tiny image. Now internet became normal on board. Yes, it makes many things much easier but I also feel a bit of nostalgia. It felt nice somehow to be far away from daily life for a while on last years cruise.