Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Valley of Roses

One of the first sentences students of the Latin language learned many years ago was “Agricola rosam aspergit”, the peasant waters the rose. Knowing now that roses seem to need water, we are not overly surprised at the weather that awaits us in Rosendalen, the valley of roses, beautifully nestled in the southern Hardanger Fjord - it’s raining cats and dogs.
But who really cares? Certainly not the 120 brave guests who are headed for one of the instructive and beautiful excursions today. The longer trip went into the Folgefonna National Park to the Bondhus glacier a very pretty scion of the much larger Folgefonna glacier. The adjacent lake is picturesque and the walk in the area is stunningly beautiful.
For those who rather stick to the place Rosendal itself there is a unique project to be visited: The restauration of the ship Gurine, a sailing yacht from the late 19th century, that was mainly used for hunting purposes in the west ice.
For many years the wreckage lay dilapidated in the small town port, until the idea was born to get it going again. Now the whole village is spending lots of volunteer hours in the shipyard to make it happen, to get Gurine pretty again. And sure the pride makes them explain everything to our happy guests.
Rosendal has quite a few things to offer: Very famous is the Baronie, a manor that was built on a piece of land given as dowry from the richest landowner at the time. So splendid was the manor that it got the title of Barony, the only one in Norway.
Not far away is the old saw mill. Like in the olden days the town folks use the river to drive the mighty saw blades; and it is still fully operational, cutting floor boards and firewood on demand.
You don’t have to like rocks to fall in love with the Stone Garden of Rosendal; with great care and even greater artistic skills the sculptors created a unique resort with the most wonderful colors and shapes, all from the various rocks of the surroundings.
In the afternoon we go deeper into Hardangerfjord, and then it is time to turn and head for the longest fjord of them all, Sognefjord. 
On the way, just passing the city of Bergen, the weather clears up, and the first rays of sun hit the surface of the ocean. A bit ironic,though, as Bergen has a reputation of being one of the rainiest cities in the world…
But where there’s sun,there’s hope. So tomorrow will be a dry and beautiful day!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Our day at Eidfjord & Ullensvang

Fram arrived at the second stop of the trip yesterday morning at 08:00 AM. With a population of 550, the village of Eidfjord is the largest settlement in the municipality of Eidfjord and a perfect spot for disembarkation.

The Expedition Team started the morning by preparing the Kayak´s and bringing them on land so they were ready for the challenging activity. 7 passengers joined the 1½ hour adventure in the waters around the ship and the village and enjoyed the scenery while battling the elements. 
Then it was time for us to start the Historical footprints & the Eidfjord Church walk. We left the ship at 09:30 AM and headed into the village to see the Church from the outside and inside. The Old Eidfjord Church was built in Eidfjord in 1309. It was in continuous use until 198 when the new Eidfjord Church was built just north-west of the old church.
We continued our hike along the Eio River through a peaceful wooded area towards the Eidfjordvatnet Lake. This moraine-dammed lake is located immediately south-east of the village and has little stone beaches that offer stunning views. After a high viewing point, a few horses and cows we made it back on the ship for lunch buffet.

In the beginning of the afternoon, Fram left Eidfjord and headed to a municipality with 3,369 inhabitants: Ullensvang. Two members of the Expedition Team prepared a bright new activity: The walk along the fruit trail.
This could not be more appropriate as this municipality is the epicentre of Norwegian apple production. Apart from different species of apple trees, there are also (amongst others) Plum trees and cherry trees. Even though the weather was not in our favour, passengers were motivated and exited to go ashore to explore the area and do the hike(s). Their enthusiasm made their day a great success and we are all looking forward to the rest of the trip! 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Fjordland - Wonderland

A sea day is a fine thing to have, but still everybody was anxious to finally spot land in the late evening.
The Norwegian fjord coast is unequivocally one of the most exciting, dramatic landscapes in the world. And on this trip we will visit some of its highlights, go where the coastal ships of the company won’t go.
In order to make the most out of it we start very early: At first light of the day we venture into Lysefjord, the first fjord of Fjordnorway, the particular western section of the country that is home to a whole series of these natural wonders.
Lysefjord is rather short with “only” 42 kilometers length and a maximum depth of nearly 600 meters. But it is a cut in the landscape as sharp as it can be; the granite walls are looming near-vertically above us as we are moving deeper inside, passing Henjangefossen, Preikestolen and other famous locations.
Whereas in the past farmers were living constantly in this violent solitude, mostly self-sustained off their cattle and sheep, the rare houses are now mostly for recreational purposes.  Solitude can be a bliss, if it is not permanently imposed on you…
Near the bottom of the fjord is a crazy place, unfortunately hidden in the mist today: Kjeragbolten, situated at a lofty 1000m above the fjord level, is a large boulder, wedged in a crack in-between two rock walls, accessible only to the most daring, as you are literally standing one kilometer above ground. Well, some people take the leap - with a parachute; it is one of the most famous base jump spots in the northern hemisphere.
The skies are a little hesitant to clear up, but after a while  the drizzle seizes. Even a bit of blue is visible here and there. So the excursions going from beautiful Stavanger are a success, be it the panoramic tour, the visit of the herring and tin can factory (which had a huge impact at the time, believe it or not: the industrialized production of durable conserves caused also a boost in ship building, as more herring could be processed.), or the walking tour through the picturesque wooden Old Town. Interesting stories are to be learned, for example about a village of 50 people in the 12th century that gets an enormous cathedral, which served as a bribe for an English bishop, so that he would divorce said king.
There also is a small glass bottle, kept in the Oil Museum, which contains the whole fortune of Norway: It is the very first amount of crude oil, harvested at the Ekofisk field in 1969. Virtually this bottle turned the land of fishermen and peasants into one of the richest country in the world.
After a wonderful and educational day in Stavanger we cast the lines and head further towards wonderland.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

On our way to Norway!

Dear readers,

Fram left Bremerhaven on Monday evening and we are now in Norway! We spent our first day at sea, which is the ideal occasion for the passengers to discover the ship. Except for a few high waves, the conditions were good. Nice sunny weather with clear views.


Our program started early on Tuesday morning as everybody was welcomed on deck 2 to pick up our signature Expedition jackets. The Expedition Team already prepared them the evening before, after the captain’s welcome speech! They were put into large wooden boxes indicating their size so our staff was able to assist the passengers more efficiently while they tried them on. It took less then two hours to give the 208 passengers their new blue jackets.

During the rest of the morning, everyone was invited to attend lectures about Norway, Church architecture, the original Fram Expedition and the history of our planet. Lunch was served at 12 in our IMAQ Restaurant on deck 4 and while enjoying the food, passengers could spot several guillemots (sea birds) flying with us around the ship!


The tuesday afternoon also consisted of a few lectures about (amongst others) Lysefjorden and Stavanger. During the day and mostly the evening after dinner, our pianist Ralf entertained the guests in our observation lounge. Here, people can enjoy a nice beverage while listening to live music and watching out of the panorama windows. 




Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Fresh from the dock - we're back!

Well, isn’t she shiny…?? The last three weeks FRAM has spent in dry dock, giving it the usual overhaul. Sounds small, but it certainly isn't. It means, no speck of rust is left, everything is cleaned, every valve of the engines is checked, systems upgraded, new showers installed, windows exchanged and polished, and many, many other things, visible ones and - the bulk of it - things you will never get to see like the Ballast Water Treatment System (yes, even our ballast water is clean!). as long as everything is working smoothly. Like a big organism, and actually - isn’t it exactly what a vessel is?
So the 208 guests that arrive in the afternoon are the first ones to benefit from all the works that went into our good ship. 
Bremerhaven has a huge cruise terminal, so we get a sophisticated gangway, elevators and even colorful cruise terminal entertainment.
The tides do not allow the side door to be opened, so the luggage has to be hauled in by crane, which naturally takes a little longer. But eventually all is in; and as the safety drill  is done in a pretty chilly wind, we think a generous dinner is in order, during which the lines are cast - we are on our way. A splendid evening light shines over our departure, a fine start. 
After the warm welcome by Captain HÃ¥rvik and the staff it is a wonderful thing to sit in the panorama lounge and watch the other ships ploughing through the night, brightly lit like christmas trees. But now the eyes are getting heavy, long day.
Sea day ahead. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

SEADAY - CALM AND COLLECTED:

All day today at sea. We are motoring northward in flat seas with occasional light fog. Today the Expedition Staff was occupied collecting and cleaning the boots and tents and other “outside” equipment that will not be used until June when the FRAM reaches Greenland, Iceland and Spitsbergen.



In between their cleaning chores the Expedition Staff found time to send a few lectures our way. Manuel told us about Albatross’ and other long-ranging sea birds. Ralf and Helga told us about their experiences working in the Arctic. Our Chinese passengers were briefed on the Antarctic Treaty by Bob. 

And in between the lectures the wildlife and biology Staff members plus Adele the Expedition photographer gathered by the lounge and helped us identify the many animals we had photographed.   

Tomorrow will be another day at sea on our way northward to Buenos Aires.


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

WEST POINT AND NORTHWEASTWARD:


West Point Island is spectacular and one must admit the weather was perfect. It was another warm sunny day and though the main colony we visited was a good hike away most of us walked over to the Devils Nose overlook. Here the lumpy topography and tall grass allowed us to get fairly close for great views and photos of the nesting in Black Browed Albatross’ and their neighbors the Rock-hopper Penguins. Always circling overhead or waiting on nearby rocks were two types of birds of prey, Caracara falcons and Turkey vultures.




Some of us caught rides back to the settlement house in the Land Rovers because we wanted to have ample time to sample the large and tasty cookies and cakes that had been made for us to enjoy. By noon we were back on-board and underway for Buenos Aires. We do not know how the weather will continue but we started this 3+ day journey in flat seas and sunny weather.





Our evening activities were highlighted as passed through a fleet of brightly lighted fishing boats. The lights attract the small crustaceans that squid feed on and the fishing boats lower lures and hooks to catch the squid which will be sold on the world market.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

ISLANDS IN THE SUN:


Saunders Island presented a bit of a challenge as the swells and wind chop at the rocky ledges made for big steps getting in or out of the Polarcirkle boats. But certainly the landing was worth any minor difficulties as the sunshine and relatively warm temperatures made for a pleasant walk through a very large colony of Gentoo Penguins with big Caracara birds on patrol for easy pickings. On the nearby hillside there were Magellanic Penguins with their nesting burrows and several flocks of Upland Geese. We also visited a large colony of Rockhopper Penguins and adjacent were some Cormorants. On our way back to the landing site we passed the bones of a whale and we learned this animal had washed up on the beach, dead and the bones were then re-assembled by the islands residents for us to see.




Carcass Island continued our most pleasant day. We had the opportunity for a long walk around the bay to a colony of Gentoo Penguins. Farther on there was an overlook and we saw a penguin being devoured by a South American sea lion. While it was not nature in action there was a great deal of action around the large dining table in the settlement lodge as it covered with all kinds of tasty cakes and cookies and scones. There was tea or coffee to wash the goodies down and we returned to the ship for dinner is a ‘less than starving condition’.  




Several of us set up tents and camped overnight on the island. The winds decreased during the night and ground was soft. Best of all the evening was cloud free and we could see more stars than could be imagined. Most of the constellations our not familiar to those of us raised in the northern hemisphere but there was one constellation we could recognize and that was Orion. Yes his belt and knife were a bit upside dome from our home view but there he was. We were also quite sure we could identify the Southern Cross. Morning arrived and we quickly packed up the tents and sleeping bags and returned to the FRAM as we headed for our next and last island landing at Westpoint.   



Monday, 9 March 2015

STANLEY IN THE SUN:

The FRAM encountered strong headwinds as we approached the far eastern Falkland Islands. Breakfast could have been a bit of a challenge but by now we are ‘old salts’ when it comes to food and rocking and rolling. As we approached the harbor at Stanley the swells died down and we approached the wharf. Here the Captain and bridge crew handled the ship with style and grace as even with a strong cross-wind they fitted the FRAM into the designated non-too-large dock space. By noon most of us were headed for town and fish and chips lunches. Many folks took land or air tours and some of us just walked the streets and toured museums and the monumental cathedral.




Throughout the day the sun continued to shine and the temperature was balmy compared the conditions we encountered on our days down south. While we were enjoying the good weather down here, good news came from the northern hemisphere. We learned the officers, crew and staff of the FRAM were honored by the Hurtigruten organization with the “Best Product Award.”   



By 8pm we were all back onboard the FRAM and the dock-lines were cast off and we headed for tomorrows visit to the offshore islands located east of the East Falkland’s.