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.

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.

Cruise day – bird watching

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

After we left yesterday’s ice station we have been cruising. When I woke up today morning I looked out of the window. Open sea, no ice in sight. Flocks of sea birds. And then a puffin flew past the porthole. Give me a moment – a puffin!? I must have been dreaming. Anyhow I got dressed and went to the helicopter deck to take bird photos.

Just a note: I do not know all these sea birds, but on a scientific cruise there are always people you can ask.

Large flocks of little black-white bird swooshed round the ship. They flew so fast, that the photos mostly only showed blurred shadows. It was flocks of …

Alle alle · Little auk · Alkekonge · Krabbentaucher

I moved to deck 3 to take pictures from a lower angle and played with the focus configuration of my Nikon. That helped a bit. I managed to take some photos from sea birds as …

Uria lomvia · Polarlomvi · Brünnich’s guillemot · Dickschnabellumme

… with the typical white strap behind the beak

Or the …

Fulmarus glacialis · Havhest · Northern fulmar · Eissturmvogel

… that loves to glide just above the sea surface.

Or the …

Cepphus grylle · Teist · Black guillemot · Gryllteiste

… with its red legs.

More or more ice floes covered the sea, we were heading to the ice edge to find a good place for a second ice station.

Still there were a lot of little auks around …

… but more and more the

Rissa tridactyla · Krykkje · Black-legged kittiwake · Dreizehenmöwe

… took over.

After some time at least a hundred circled the Kronprins Haakon hunting for small fish.

There is one photo however that makes me happy. The quality is bad, but I managed to take a photo of a …

Fratercula arctica · Lunde / Lundefugl · Atlantic puffin · Papageientaucher

So, I wasn’t dreaming this morning.

I always wanted to sea these birds, that I have loved since childhood. And today I saw two of them flying around.

A day cruise to Finland

A day cruise from Sweden to Finland and back.

HolmsundVaasa: 11:15–16:00. VaasaHolmsund: 16:30—19:00. The ferry is not faster on the way back but the Finnish time is one hour ahead.

Just some photos:

#escapism – microvacation

Two days ago Annika took the train from Umeå to Narvik to visit me in Tromsø. But what do you do when there is no bus connection to Tromsø the same day? Normally you’d take a hotel and continue the next day.

This time we made it slightly different. I took the car to Narvik as well – a very stormy ride – and fetched Annika from the train station.

Then we took the car to Harstad and stayed over night there. The next day we went up early and waited for our transportation to arrive. The Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge.

We left Harstad round 7:45 and passed the ship Havila Castor. Havila Kystruten serves the same route as Hurtigruten.

Then we took an extensive breakfast that we had booked with our 6½ hour cruise back to Tromsø. After that we listened to a lecture about the Arctic and the Antarctic. Then one of the main attractions followed: the hot tubs at the stern of the ship.

To my delight the weather forecast was wrong. It didn’t rain the whole journey, it snowed. That’s much nicer when you travel in February – even in the hot tub. Sometimes snow fall was intense enough to hide most of the scenic mountains we passed. A pity for the tourists.

At the Norwegian Polar Institute I often hear the tooting of the arriving Hurtigruten ship in the early afternoon. Now we heard it while we were standing on the top deck, passing the southern part of Tromsøya, where I live and then the Framsenteret, the building where I work. When we arrived I went to the car deck and fetched my car.

After arriving in my small apartment we were quite tired but decided not to take a nap but a walk to the bay Telegrafbukta. The reason: 15–20 cm fresh snow had fallen in Tromsø and it was still snowing. Just beautiful. The forecast however predicted warmer weather and a lot of rain for the next day.

This time the weather forecast unfortunately was correct. Today it really has been raining most of the day and the snow transformed into large puddles of ice and brown slush. Well, we will have snow and cold temperatures the day after tomorrow, when we travel to Svalbard for a week.

 

Summer travel plans

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

Today I got the final commitment of my boss, that I will participate the “Arctic Ocean Cruise 1” this year. It will be my second polar expedition with the Norwegian Polar Institute on the research icebreaker Kronprins Haakon. This time not in winter but in June when the sun never sets.

Planning has just begun, so there is not much more to tell. At least there is a first plan about where the expedition will head, if the ice conditions allow.

I’m both happy and very grateful to get such an extraordinary opportunity this year again. What a great job I have!

ℹ︎ This is an updated version of the original post, since I realised that I got more information by email.

10 days in Scotland

This article is part of the series “2022-10: Autumn in Scotland”.

It has been years, since Annika and I were on holiday outside of Fennoscandia. This October we enjoyed a ten day journey to Scotland from which I just arrived in Tromsø yesterday.

For this article I chose 2 photos for each day. Some more articles will follow later.

6 October – Edinburgh

I landed in the late morning and have the rest of the day strolling through Edinburgh. Blue sky – so it can actual stop raining in  Edinburgh ;-). In the evening I wait for Annika who is taking the tram from the airport. Now it is raining. Finally we are together.

7 October – travelling to Ullapool

We have pre-booked train tickets to Inverness where we will spend three hours before taking the coach to Ullapool. Well, in theory. The trains do not go the whole way due to heavy rain flooding. The rest is operated by replacement buses. So much to rain in Scotland. In Inverness we catch the connecting coach to Ullapool and have even time for a pizza.

8 October – hiking in Ullapool

After two travel days we want to be outdoors and look for the hiking trail to the hill Meall Mor after a hand-drawn sketch. We find it. From the top we have a view to the town, the hills and mountains in sun, clouds and rain.

9 October – taking the ferry to Lewis

After breakfast we take our backpacks through rain and heavy winds to the ferry terminal just to learn that the ferry has been cancelled because of the gusts on the Minch – the straight between Ullapool and the Isle of Lewis. Luckily the afternoon ferry runs according schedule and we arrive in Stornoway at nine o’clock. Scotland premiere: We hire a car. Annika is driving. Left-hand traffic in darkness!

10 October – exploring Lewis

We explore Lewis by car. Great that Annika is brave enough to drive in Scotland (I’m not). Read the article The west coast of Isle of Lewis about this day.

11 October – Peat bogs and Northern Gannets

From Gearrannan Village we take a small way back to Stornoway. In the bogs you can see traces of peat mining. We give back the car, take the ferry back and are watching the elegant aerial manoeuvres of the Northern Gannets. In Ullapool we receive another car that we have hired for the next two days.

12 October – exploring Assynt

We start exploring Assynt, the region north of Ullapool. Read the article Stac Pollaidh about this day.

13 October – taking a bath

Finally – our first bath! At Achmelvich beach. I will write more about this day later …

14 October – travelling to Edinburgh

It is time to give back the rental car and travel back to Edinburgh. First by coach, then by train. This travel confirms my theory that Scottish coaches and trains are designed solely for transport, not for comfort.

15 October – flying back

Short ones, long ones – all holidays comes to their end. Annika takes me to the tram, again it’s me travelling first. What a wonderful holiday. Thank you, Annika!

Polar expedition AeN JC3 – maps and numbers

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

Just some short info for the people who like maps and numbers.

This is the route of the icebreaker Kronprins Haakon on the polar expedition Arven etter Nansen JC3:

The northernmost point 82.0474°N
The southernmost point 69.5245°N
The westernmost point 07.6551°E
The easternmost point 34.1262°E

 

And some weather records (when my python script is right):

minimum maximum
Temperature -30.5 °C +2.0 °C
Wind speed 0.1 m/s 32.7 m/s
Wind speed on ship 0.1 m/s 30.9 m/s
Wind chill -48.0 °C +1.0 °C
Wind chill on ship -49.0 °C +1.0 °C

 

And some personal numbers:

Been on the sea ice 7 times
Photos taken 4084
Cakes eaten countless