Friday, 31 May 2013

Reykjavik Iceland

Of the gladdest moments in life, methinks is the departure upon a distant journey to unknown lands.  Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home.  Man feels once more happy.  Afresh dawns the morn of life.
Sir Richard Burton, journal entry - 2 December 1856
Photo © Corina Gamma
Iceland seemed to be living up to it’s frigid name today.  The 31st of May and only 6˚C.  A cold North Atlantic rain made the temperature seem even colder. However a quick check on the internet shows that the average temperature in Reykjavik on May 31st is 6˚.  So all perfectly normal for this time of year. Brrrr. 
The checkin process on Fram today went smoothly as always. 
Photo © Corina Gamma

It took only a few moments to receive a ship’s ID after which  we were shown to our cabins and then, on deck four we received our blue expedition jackets for the voyage. We had lots of time to explore Fram and to get to know our new home away from home before the mandatory safety drill at 19:30. As a matter of law all passengers much participate in this very important drill.
Photo © Corina Gamma
Shortly after the drill we cast off our lines and waved good-bye to Reykjavik.  As we “set sail” the sun poked through the clouds which seemed to be a good omen for crossing the Denmark Strait.  We will have the next two days at sea and the weather forecast looks good!
Photo © Corina Gamma
At 21:15 we met the Captain in the Observation Lounge where he gave a warm welcome speech and a toast for the start of our voyage to Greenland.  He introduced key members of the ship.  The Expedition Leader Anja Erdmann then took over and introduced the members of the Expedition Team.
It is now 22:00 as we head westwards across Denmark Strait on our way to Qaqortoq Greenland!  The winds are light and the seas one to two meters.  Ideal conditions!
Photo © Corina Gamma

Thursday, 30 May 2013

At Sea

Although we are whole day at sea it doesn’t mean that we are bored. Few lectures before lunch, few after the lunch and bridge visit kept us busy.
The vessel was surrounded by sea birds and many of us spent some time on the outside decks, taking photographs of gliding gannets, kittiwakes and fulmars.
Today is also our last day on board so packing the luggage and securing purchased souvenirs inside suitcases also took some time.
In the evening we had captain farewell. Captain Arild Hårvik briefly summarised our trip, thanked his crew for work good done and expressed the hope that we had good cruise. Truly – indeed we had excellent cruise on the unique waters.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

A beautiful day on the „Sheep Islands”.

At 10 o’clock MV Fram moored in the harbour of the capitol [1] of the “Sheep Islands” [2].
Also today we had excellent weather and immediately after MV Fram was cleared everybody went ashore. Judging be patches of snow which are still present on the highest hills, spring arrived here a bit later than usually. Small, fresh green leaves on the trees were another indication of the late spring arrival.
After pleasant stroll over the town and quick lunch on board we were ready for further exploration. We had a choice of the historical, architectural and biological tours.
At 16:40, enriched with acquired knowledge, we were back on board and at 17:00 MV Fram left the pier.
Sailing between the islands the ship set the course for Iceland. Tomorrow we have sea day but “today” is not over yet. At 22:00 “The Crew Show” will take place in Observation Lounge and we are eager to see it.

[1] – Torshavn
[2] – Faroe Islands

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Lerwick Shetland (or as they say in Shetland, “Lerrick.”)

“A first walk in any new country is one of the things which makes life on this planet worth being grateful for.”
Charles William Beebe, American Naturalist 1887 - 1962

The clouds and blustery winds of yesterday were replaced by largely clear skies today. It was still cool, around 15˚C but very comfortable with a sweater and windbreaker.
At about 07:30 Fram eased into the pier located in downtown Lerwick. By 08:15 the ship had been cleared. Several motor coaches were already on the pier waiting for those that had elected to go on one of the two excursions on offer.
Lerwick Shetland
Photo © Corina Gamma

At 08:30 the 1st buses set off for Jarlshof, on the southern tip of the Mainland of Shetland. Jarlshof is a site that was continuously inhabited almost from the beginning of human settlement in Shetland (from around 4000BCE) until the 17th century. The original Stone-Age houses are topped by a broch, Pictish wheelhouses, Viking longhouses and, towering over the whole complex, the ruins of a 16th century mansion. The highlight was climbing up a spiral staircase to the top of the tower of the most recent stage of settlement, for a birds-eye view over the whole of Jarlshof, laid out before us like a map.
"The bird watching on Mousa was excellent... even a Great Skua that was eating an unidentified bird species for a late breakfast.
The 2nd excursion was by motor coach and then ferry to the uninhabited island of Mousa and Mousa Broch, best preserved of all these uniquely Scottish Iron-Age (600BCE to 500CE) fortifications. 
Mousa Broch Mousa Island, Shetland
Photo © Klaus Kiesewetter

The bird watching on Mousa was excellent, especially the sea birds with sightings of Gannets, Gillemots, Northern Fulmars and even a Great Skua that was eating an identified bird species for a late breakfast.
Skua, Mousa Island
Photo © Klaus Kiesewetter

All of the motor coaches were back to the ship by 13:00 which still left enough time to grab lunch and explore the shops in downtown Lerwick.

Search and Rescue
Photo © Corina Gamma
In the late afternoon we had some excitement in the form of a helicopter visit by a local search & rescue team.  They radioed Fram and asked our Captain if we would like to participate in a helicopter rescue drill with them.

My lasting impressions of Mainland Shetland are of  a peaceful island with rolling bucolic landscapes. Shetland sheep with young lambs speckle lush green pastures. Sturdy Shetland ponies with young foals are frequently seen grazing not far from the roadside. There are many gorgeous white sandy beaches occupied only by Common and Grey Seals and various seabirds.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Kirkwall Orkney

“A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.“
Spike Milligan, Irish Comedian 1914 - 2002
Kirkwall Orkney
At 07:00 we could feel Fram shuddering as we approached the pier in Kirkwall Orkney. Our thrusters struggled as they slowly pushed Fram broadside into the pier against a thirty knot wind. When you live on board Fram as much as some of us do, you can tell by that particular vibration, without even getting out of bed, that it’s a breezy day outside. Gone was our warm sunny weather from Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Today was largely overcast with 25 knot winds and the temperature hovering around 10˚C.
We had three different excursions on offer. Those interested in birding set off on a bus tour at 08:30 while the folks interested in the Vikings and pre-viking history of Orkney left on a bus tour to Skara Brae at 08:45. The final tour of the day went to the Italian prisoner of War Chapel at Lands Holm by Scapa Flow and then on to Highland Park Distillery and St. Magnus Cathedral.
Earl's Palace, Kirkwall Orkney
By all accounts, all three of the tours were first rate. Whether you went on an excursion or not there was plenty of time to explore Kirkwall. From Fram to the centre of town was a mere 10 minute stroll. Orkadians refer to Kirkwall as a city but with only 8,000 inhabitants, no offence Orkney, but that seems a tad boastful. But perhaps it’s all relative as Kirkwall is the largest town/city/metropolis in Orkney and the administrative centre.
Italian Chapel, Lands Holm, Orkney
While Kirkwall is short in population the quality of the shops is high. Indeed I would say of a much higher standard than the average souvenir shop in, oh, say Edinburgh for example. Lots of us returned to the ship with souvenirs of Orkney.
Skara Brae, Orkney
The overall impression of Orkney was of a peaceful, green, rolling, very fertile farming landscape. Sheep and cattle dot a landscape bereft of trees. It is not difficult to imagine the best land being farmed for several thousand years.

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Looks like Scotland wants to show us its best side and today again, it greeted us with beautiful weather.
Shortly before 10 am we could go out and embark the excursion busses. Almost everyone took part in one of the three excursions, which were offered by the local tour agency. Our options were: “Highlights Aberdeen”, “Pitmedden Garden” and “Royal Deeside”.
With such a brilliant weather any excursion must be very exciting, so it is not an easy tusk to choose one.

Indeed, even few hours after we left Aberdeen, many guests were still commenting their awesome experience from “The Silver City”.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

A gorgeous day in Edinburgh

The two blue of the sky and the sea gave us a warm welcome. Before we reached the floodgate of Leith we had a perfect view to the famous Bridge of Forth, a landmark of Edinburgh.
Approaching the berth at the Ocean Terminal we could listen to a Lady piper. Close to Fram the Royal Britannia is placed, former yacht of the Royal family.

The first excursion started in the morning. We visited the castle of Stirling right in the middle of the country and important since the middle age and the residence of the Stewarts for 300 years. The castle is beautiful located and all of us enjoyed the view over the hilly landscape.
After having lunch in a nice local restaurant we headed to Scone Palace, where all Scottish kings were crowned. Although the six rooms which are open for the public are impressive, for example Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert spent a night in the castle, the loveliest and amazing part of the castle is the park with its old trees and some peacocks. On our way back we stopped in Queenferry for taking photos of the two famous Forth Bridges.

Most of use drove to Edinburgh either on their own or on the other excursion. This was a panoramic sightseeing through Edinburgh, passing Arthur’s seat, the beautiful shaped mountain in the town, from where you have an excellent view over the city. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland since 1437, today live around 525 000 people in the town. The so-called New Town, designed and built in the 18th century is perfect example of town-planning. We stopped at the Palace of Holyrood, which is the Queen's official residence in Scotland. The Royal Mile is the famous road from Holyrood to the Castle with a lot of small shops.

Edinburgh Castle was the home of Scottish kings and queens for centuries. Today, the Old Royal Palace from the 15th century houses the crown jewels of Scotland. From the castle there is a great view and you can walk right into the Old Town with its lovely narrow streets. Here are shops and most important: the pubs.
Our first day in Scotland was really an excellent start.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Time to relax, explore and learn.

As our first destination, Leith, is almost 500 nautical miles away from Hamburg, the MV Fram needs two nights and one day to reach it.
It was time to relax and the slight rolling movement of the ship made some of us a little tired.
It was time to explore the ship’s interior, as well as the outside decks, to find the best places for wildlife watching.
It was time to learn by attending the lectures, which covered places we are going to visit. So, we learn about first Shetland and Orkney residents, Viking exploration and life in the Polar Seas.
Late afternoon, the MV Fram had also few wildlife companions. Kittiwakes, Northern Fulmars and Northern Gannets were flying around the ship. Also dolphins were checking the vessel from below the water surface. So far, the weather is good, although the sky is overcast but mostly dry.
After dinner, we enjoyed the fashion show. Officers, including the Captain and Expedition Staff, presented the newest clothing collection on sale in the ship’s boutique. It is really worth to pay a visit to the shop.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Welcome on board!

Sometimes the check-inn can become very hectic but today everyone was relaxed and we left the harbor in Hamburg-Altona in time. Before the departure was the safety-drill and we received our blue jackets. That’s the obvious starting of the trip.
During the first nautical miles we listened to the explanations about Hamburg, the nice district Blankenese with its beautiful houses and the huge area of Airbus. Unfortunately it was a little rain, so most of us stayed inside.

After the dinner there was the warm and friendly welcome by Captain Arild Hårvik and his crew and also by the Expeditionleader Anja Erdmann and her staff. Around 11 pm most of us were tired. Tomorrow we’ll have a tough sea day.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


 Our last day of the voyage “Pearls of the Baltic Sea” and even the sky sent some tears to us. We have to say “Good Bye”, but again the day on sea was quite busy. In the morning and in the afternoon two lectures were given; one about the history of the old FRAM built by Colin Archer for the Nansen-Expedition to the North-Pole 1893-1896 and the second about the voyages of FRAM from Arctic to Antarctic.
A highlight was Benno’s reading of the short story of Siegfried Lenz “Die jütländische Kaffeetafel” and Antonio’s musical accompaniment.
At 3 pm Captain Arild Hårvik invited us to his Farewell Cocktail. Most of us will agree we spent a wonderful time in the Baltic Sea visiting eight harbors in six countries or – if we count Åland as an independent country – seven.

After the nice dinner it was time to pack and start planning the next voyage. Good Bye and see you soon on FRAM.

Kalmar – history, art and nature

Our day started with a relaxing morning at sea which was packed with a lecture, an historic walk through Fram’s own little museum (there are several items of the original Fram exhibited in the vitrines on board) and a radio feature focused on St Petersburg. As scheduled, we reached the last destination of our cruise at 2 pm in the afternoon. Kalmar in Sweden was waiting for us. From the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the town was one of Sweden's most important cities. Today, the cathedral and above all the castle remind of previous times. Many of us enjoyed a guided tour during which we appreciated incredibly elaborate intarsia and learned about the dining rituals at the court.

The other excursion crossed the 6 km long bridge to the island of Öland. We saw charming windmills and numerous flowers including delicate orchids. The ruins of castle Bornholm was a highlight for the history lovers while for those who like art, the culmination of the tour was a visit of the Vida-Museum. This composition of glass, concrete and wood is embedded in wonderful landscape and contains paintings, ceramics and impressive glass sculptures.

The plain, simple and sober forms and lines encountered during these last excursions and also in the wooden houses of Kalmar pose a strong contrast to the opulent buildings of St Petersburg. But they help us to come back to our own time and reality and make a perfect finale for this great and intense voyage.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Skål Stallhagen!

Does it matter that the Åland islands and their capital Mariehamn had disappeared in the fog? No! We spent a marvelous time in the small town. Ålands are very special, because they are an autonomy territory in Finland with their own laws and a different tax-system.
Although they belong to the EU they are a tax-free area. A good reason for all the travelers, nearly one million passengers arrive every day by ferry from Turku, Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn. That’s important for the economy besides agriculture. But we are talking about islands and therefor the sea and the navigation are the center of the life on Ålands. Close to the berth of Fram lies the famous museum ship “Pommern”. The most important ships owner of sailing merchant barques, Gustaf Erikson, bought the windjammer in 1923.

Ships are very important in Mariahamn also as a shipwreck. The brewer Christian Ekström found a 200 years old bottle of champagne in a shipwreck, today the highlight of his brewery, of course besides his tasteful beer. He brews four different kinds of the special Stallhagen beer and we could taste them all.
Although we started our other excursions by bus and by bike in the foggy morning, we could enjoy the beautiful landscape three hours later. Spring on the Ålands means a concert of the birds, colorful flowers in the meadows, the light green leaves and nesting birds on the lakes.
The summerhouses are close to the sea hidden by trees. The islands are flat and the highest point is just 104 m above sea level. Good for the bikers!

Looking back in the history we stopped on our historical trip at the open air museum Karlsgården with the Castle Kastelholm from the 14th century. After visiting the St. John’s church in Sund we finally drove to the ruins of Bomarsund, a former fortress built by the Russians in 1854.

We left the lovely town in the afternoon to Kalmar and Öland.