Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Arctic summer day in Isfjorden

Today we have had a nice arctic summer day with +7 degrees and the sun has been peeking through the clouds from time to time. We started the day with a nice breakfast buffet as usual, and then we had a landing at Ymerbukta. In Ymerbukta we had a nice view to Esmarkbreen (Esmark glacier) and we were witnesses to a massive calving! Some of us went glacier hiking, while others have been cruising around the area in our polar circle boats.


Later in the day, we stopped outside Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian mining town in Billefjorden. Some of the passengers went ashore here to have a dinner at the old hotel in Pyramiden, which was quite an exotic experience! The last polar circle cruising of this trip also started in Pyramiden, which went to the magnificent glacier front of Nordenskjoldbreen.
Fram also cruised along the glacier front of Nordenskjoldbreen, and it was magnificent! Afterwards, we went to pick up the passengers that left us for a dinner party in Pyramiden, and then we set sails towards Longyearbyen which was our final destination on this trip. We have had some great moments on this expedition, and it has been unique in many ways. We have seen 7 polar bears. We have spent hours breaking through dense pack ice. Fram has for the first time landed on Hopen. There has been strong winds up to hurricane, but also sunny and warm arctic summer weather. We have seen walrusses close up AND like this we can spend weeks talking about all we have experienced. This we will keep as good memories. 



Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A windy day in Hornsund and Burgerbukta

We arrived early morning to the entrance of Hornsund. The weather was not the best, with wind reaching moments of over 30 m/s and of course it was accompanied by some rain.  However, it was decided to explore further down the fjords to see if there was a place protected by the wind and lucky us we found that our afternoon landing site Burgerbukta was ok for a landing.  We went ahead and we did it. Some of us went for a glacier walk on Kvalfangerbreen glacier and the rest did a panoramic walk up to a moraine, and then down to the beach. Most of the late morning the weather was on our side but toward the early part of the afternoon rain, snow and ice came down in the company of some winds.



After lunch, since the weather was not the best for a landing, we decided to go inside the fjord for a scenery tour and have a closer view of some of the multiple glaciers that occur at the fjord end. The weather did improve a little when we were inside the fjord systems, but on our way out it was very windy, and the winds were reaching the force of a heavy storm we were not able to land, but instead, some lectures were offered.  The day ended with the famous MV Fram crew show.


Monday, 27 July 2015

A historic landing on Hopen

Today we woke up to a quite foggy weather. We had to put our course a little further away from the ice edge to be able keep the speed up. We had a relaxing start of the day with lectures, but before the lecturers were able to finish, we heard the announcement ringing on the speakers that a polar bear with a fresh kill had been observed close to the ship. Everyone of course ran out on the deck and it was magnificent to see a polar bear in its true element, dragging a fresh seal carcass across the ice floes.




Later in the day, the fog picked up again. But we did not think too much about the weather after the expedition leader announced that we would attempt a landing at Hopen! This place is rarely visited by tourists, and it was the first time for Fram, all passengers and everyone in the expedition time to visit this island. People were euphoric about this historical landing, and two of the meteorologists and a very friendly local Alaskan husky came out to greet us. They were quite happy to get visitors, and we were quite happy to meet local people who could answer all our questions. There is only four people living and working on Hopen, they stay there for six months at the time, and they do not see people very often.

In the evening some of the crew impressed us with their hidden talents at their fruit and ice carving show in the panorama lounge

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Breaking through the ice with Fram


We arrived at Alkefellet in the early morning. It is classified as a medium size bird cliff in Svalbard and it is estimated that about 60 thousand breeding pairs of Guillemots breeds at this place.  However large numbers of Kitiwakes and Glaucous gulls breed at Alkefellet as well.  It is an impressive and amazing sight to see the movements and to hear the sound produced by the high traffic of birds in and out of the colony.  You might think as to be in the middle of a large bee swarm the sensation is spectacular an experience that you will remember for a long while.


We then visited Torellneset the place was cold and foggy, however we did manage to land and to see a large herd of about 68 walruses, although they were divided in two clusters, the second cluster was a bit out of view and a few more were in the water the total count was perhaps close to 100 animals.  Everyone manage and see a quite close view of these amazing creatures.  

We returned back to Fram and continued through the Hinlopenstretet where we encounter the ice and navigated through it the rest of the afternoon a special feeling and sight. As we crossed the ice belt we spotted some polar bears we literally parked the vessel on the ice to observe them. They were quite curious but after a while they turned away and continued their walk through the ice. as the day ended we crossed the ice and again we ended in open waters to continue our trip. 
 


Saturday, 25 July 2015

An eventful day at Monacobreen and Mushamn

For some of us this day started very early. In the night, at around 04.00 we woke up to the announcment: Polar bear on the shore! Since this was the first polar bear we have spotted so far, many of us were eager to get on the deck and have a look.






In the morning we arrived Monacobreen in Lieftefjorden. Monacobreen has a magnificent glacier front and most of us went ice cruising with polar circle boats closer to the glacier front. We even saw calvings! Some of us went on top to Ringertzfjellet, a 630 meter high climb, while others went kayaking to Idabreen.








In the afternoon we arrived at Mushamna in Raudfjorden. A quite new trappers cabin is situated where we had the landing. The expedition team told us the stories behind the place, and this cabin was quite luxurious compared to most of the other trapper cabins we have seen. It even had its own sauna! While most of us did the landing on Mushamna, a few of us went with polar circle boats up to Gråhuken, where Christiane Ritter overwintered when she wrote her famous book “a woman in the polar night”.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Ny Ålesund and Magdalenafjord

In our second day 
of this trip we visited Ny Alesund a small and perhaps the northernmost settlement in the world only about 1231 km from the North Pole.  Started as a mining settlement and now it is a small research community.  The land and infrastructure is owned by Kings Bay Company a former mining Company that manages the area.  The first bits of coal were found in 1610 by Jonas Poole an English whaler and the coal activity was from about 1916 until the 1960´s.  Ny Alesund gain notoriety and fame in the 1920´s through the dramatic flight attempts to the North Pole with Admusen and Nobile as a center piece.


Our afternoon visit was Magdalenafjord a place with beautiful scenery, the fiord cut in for about 10 km into the coast and about 3 km wide a glacier named Waggonwaybreen, can be found at the end and large peaks around the highest peak is about 1000 m.  We landed in Graveneset on Trinity Harbor a place that in the 1500´s was a whaling station and a seaman cemetery. On Gravneset there is a wery nice, white sand beach, and the toughest passengers went for a swim in the ice cold waters!




Thursday, 23 July 2015

Expedition: Circumnavigation Spitsbergen, day 1

We were an excited group who met on the pier to board the Fram 04.00 pm this day. We are going on a 7-days long voyage, and we will on this cruise attempt to circumnavigate Spitsbergen! We started our journey in Longyearbyen, the “capital” and the largest society on Svalbard, with around 2000 residents. 

Our first destination on the voyage was Barentsburg, the second largest society on Svalbard with 400 residents. We reached Barentsburg at around 08.00 pm, where we had a guided tour around the city, and enjoyed a fantastic music and dancing show put together by the local people. It was a nice night, and as we were sailing we could enjoy the beatiful scenery and nature in Isfjorden.


After leaving Barentsburg we set sails to the north, and tomorrow we will reach Ny-Ålesund in the morning, and with that we will have covered all the three societies existing on Svalbard.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Exploring Northern Spitsbergen

Today we made two landings in the northern fjords that indent the north facing coast of the island of Spitsbergen. Our first stop was at southern end of fjord named Liefdefforden. Here the FRAM anchored and we divided into three groups. The hardiest of us joined the substantial hike that climbed more than 625m or 2062ft to the top of a peak just west of our anchoring site. The intermediate group went kayaking for 3 hours along the coast of the fjord. The remainders, those who preferred an easier start to their day, were able to cruise and enjoy the area from the comfortable seats in the 10 passenger Polarcirkle boats. We cruised past the front of the large glacier that discharges into the fjord. This glacier, Monacobreen, is named after Duke Albert I of Monaco. The Duke mapped this area in 1906/1907 on one of his many expeditions to Spitsbergen. It is the second largest glacier in Svalbard and the area is noted for its beauty. The Duke later became the Prince of Monaco and the current prince is a direct descendent.

 

Our second landing was at a smaller fjord named Bockfjorden. As the sunny afternoon evolved into a sunny evening we went ashore and climbed a bit to one sites of the hot springs. At this site, today, the hot springs were barely a trickle though the whitish calcite rocks around the small dome suggested that at times the springs must be more active with a larger outflow of geothermal calcite rich water. No matter as geologically this site is important it is the most recent volcanic activity known in Svalbard.      

 



Our dinner was later this evening but as we finished dessert, beluga whales 
started blowing and breaching and we could see them from the dining room windows.


The evening closed with a drive-by of Moffen. This islet is just north of 80° North Latitude and is the northernmost point most of us have ever reached. The islet has a large orange navigation marker and around this marker were many walrus. The big animals were so closely packed that from the FRAM we could not tell if there were 25 or more than 50 animals.   





Sunday, 19 July 2015

Svalbard, Spitsbergen and Ny Alesund

Understanding the name of this group of islands requires an explanation .The credited discoverer is Wilhelm Barents. In 1596 he named this group of islands Spitsbergen because of the jagged mountain peaks he sighted along the western coast. The island group was recognized as an archipelago and came under Norwegian sovereignty in 1925. The Norwegians re-named the archipelago as Svalbard, with the name Spitsbergen then restricted to the largest island of the group.

The day began with the last of our bridge visits and then we had a few lectures. Tessa presented Spitsbergen through the four seasons and Steffen opened us to a wider view asking: Are We Ruining the World. Later Bob covered the range of acceptance for global warming and or climate change. We recognize that the views range from complete rejection to acknowledgement of a fractional human role in the change to people who believe every sensational headline in the popular press. Tomorrow we will gather in the Panorama Lounge for discussion session on this topic and we will have the opportunity to express our individual views.

Our afternoon landing at Ny Alesund could not have been more pleasant. On our approach we saw a mother polar bear and her cub swimming across the fjord. On land the temperature was about 9°C or 48°F and though overcast there was no wind. It was a comfortable walk to see the nesting terns and geese and view the historic houses and the newer research buildings. Formerly Ny Alesund was a mining town but the mines closed over 50 years ago and now it is a polar research center. Over half a dozen nations have scientific stations here. To encourage scientific interaction and communication there is a single dining hall where the scientists gather for all their meals. Year round research is focused on the high atmosphere, the aurora phenomena and satellite orbit tracking. Closer to the ground geological and glaciological investigations are conducted during the summers.


Our evening entertainment was a skit explaining the origin and travels of the rare FRAM whisky. This whisky has traveled from the Arctic to the Antarctic several times and only a few bottles remain for sale.     
   





Friday, 17 July 2015

A sea day and lectures


Today, the 16th of July, we awoke to calm seas with cooler and cloudy weather. This was a full sea day, as we sail towards the Norwegian owned Arctic Island of Jan Mayen.

We crossed the Arctic Circle yesterday evening and today King Neptune greeted us onboard for our polar baptism! This was an ice cold, but refreshing experience.  The Captain and King Neptune had the joy of baptizing us by pouring icy water down our necks. There are some new crew members on board for this trip, and we were given very special treatment as we were showered with half a bucket of icy slush. The toughest of us even came back several times for the baptism! Brrrr…


Starting in the morning we had the mandatory and serious lectures with information from Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO). These lectures covered safety and behavior in Arctic areas. Later in the day, we had lectures regarding Jan Mayen Island and its weather station plus some photos of the volcano eruption.


Today was also the start of our children’s program and we had 2 events. The first was a trip to the bridge where the Captain explained the operation of the ships propellers and the steering system. The second event was a behind the scenes tour of the FRAM with our guide Uncle Bob. U.B. as he is known, showed us the Polarcirkle Boats that will take us to the islands then the ships storerooms, his cabin and our last stop was the ships jail. But there were no prisoners, just racks of outdoor clothing for the Expedition Staff.   


In the evening it was showtime at the panorama deck. Some of the crew and the expedition staff were models at our fashion show, where they showed off the clothes we have in the shop on board.







JAN MAYEN SHOWS US A GREAT DAY

As we were having breakfast, we arrived at the Norwegian Island of Jan Mayen. The FRAM anchored and we went landed at a black volcanic sand beach. About a 10 minute walk up the dirt road we found the station buildings. The main purpose of the station is to maintain the radio-navigation systems that have transmitters on the Island. In addition ornithologists and geologists also conduct research on the island.

Inside the main building we found a museum with photographs and artifacts for the whaling days to current times. The building also contained a small shop with maps and t-shirts for sale. There were also postcards and stamps for sale and many of us wrote cards and posted them to friends and relatives. We were told the next outgoing plane flight, with mail, would be in early August and most of us will be home before the cards reach their destination.

During most of our time ashore it was windy with light rain and low clouds. These conditions made photography challenging. As we returned to the FRAM the sun began to burn through the clouds a bit and as the FRAM headed northward along the southeast facing coast the clouds thinned and often parted. These conditions gave us a clear view of the coastal lava beds and the glaciers that descend from Beerenberg. This volcanic, glacier covered mountain, has a crater at its peak and the highest point on the crater is 2277m or 7514ft high. The Captain kindly motored the FRAM along the coast and around the northernmost tip and this course allowed Uli our geologist and Olav our glaciologist to explain the features we were seeing. Olav was particularly enthused as he had worked on Beerenberg soon after the large eruption in 1970.


Eventually we had to leave the peak and Jan Mayen behind as the FRAM set course for Spitsbergen and we expect to arrive there in the afternoon, the day after tomorrow.   






Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Isafjordur, Iceland on an overcast day






The center of town was an easy walk from the dock where the FRAM was tied up. The city streets and buildings were all neat, tidy and often brightly painted. There were small flower beds along the roadside and these colors added to our enjoyment. But the most spectacular was the typical Icelandinc nature which Isafjordur is surrounded by, with steep mountains, green hills and waterfalls.


The evening highlight was about 2030 or 8:30 pm when the announcement was made that the FRAM was crossing the Arctic Circle at 66° 33´ 39´´North latitude. Tomorrow we suspect King Neptune will show up on the FRAM.