Monday 31 May 2010

NORDKAPP – the northernmost?

Hello there!
We are already in day three. And this monday was full of birds. Or, sorry, at first we visited Nordkapp, the northernmost place in Norway, we were told. But afterwards they told us it was a lie, because Knivskjellodden, a small spit to the left – is even further north.
It seems like it’s very important this “northernmost-thing”: The city were we disembarked, Honningsvåg, has fought for a long period with Hammerfest to be the northernmost city in the world. And our bus guide also told us about a lot of “northernmost this and the northernmost that” – and also the northernmost cat and dogs and even the northernmost American Car Club – all in Honningsvåg.

The northernmost ptarmigan? And the northernmost Chinese? Photo: Jørn Henriksen

In the morning there were some clouds, but than the nice weather came sneaking into our day – so when we reached Gjæsværtappan the sun was shining again. 
– Much better than they told us, Per Martin Pettersen smiled. He was out on deck five together with his wife Gunnhild Eidsvoll, she also very smiling.
Gjæsvartappan is a group of islands in Nordkapp municipality, with Norway’s largest bird colony.
– I saw a gannet. Fantastic! And I also learned the skill between razorbill and guillemot, she said, proudly.
They are both teachers from Moelv, close to Lillehammer in Norway.
– We are so exited. I think you need both fysical and sensual experiences to understand what all this talk about climate is about, Gunnhild said. Neither of them have been to Svalbard before.

After waving good bye to Nordkapp from the ocean it was time for education. Olav Orheim, former director of the Norwegian Polar Institute talked about what happens with the climate in the Arctic. The famous german climate researcher Mojib Latif talked about “Why the polar bear needs a refrigerator”. And now, outside: Only ocean, ocean, ocean, grey, black, white, beautiful.

Sunday 30 May 2010

TROMSØ – for two days

29th and 30th of May

WELCOME to this blog. And this trip. Climate Voyage 2010 from Tromsø to Spitsbergen. First Climate Voyage for Hurtigruten ever. First time to Spitsbergen as well.

We will tell you in key words what is happening every day on this trip. Some days we will present ”A guest of the day”, their thoughts, experiences and expectations. But lets start with yesterday, also called Saturday.

When the vessel arrived Tromsø. For the first time. Congratulations! It is 114 years since  last time another Fram was in Tromsø. Then with Fridtjof Nansen. When he returned from his attempt to reach the North Pole in 1896.

Saturday we all embarked. Amongst us: Chinese, Germans, Scandinavians –192 people all together, business people, professors, scientists, journalists and so on. At the Polar Environmental Centre we got wine and canapees – and together with the very shining sun this was a warm welcome.

Sunday the ship opened the doors for visitors from Tromsø. The sun was gone, and we went back to the Polar Environmental Centre to learn more about the climate changes and the polar bear.
– Should we go on a cruise like this? was one of the questions to the Director of Norwegian Polar Institute, Jan-Gunnar Winther.
– This is a cruise with substance. Don’t have bad conscience. You will be good ambassadors, he told us.  
– Have a nice trip! You have a lot to look forward too! he completed.

At five o’ clock we waved good bye to Tromsø, then we waved to Lyngsalpene and we are still waving – to beautiful mountains and low, grey skies as we are heading north.

Friday 28 May 2010

Music, Waves and Whales

What a amazing morning. The last day of  our Event-Cruise  was a highlight pure. Nyksund, the old
fishing community that came to fame when it was so abruptly depopulated. The houses cling on the
rock knolls around the harbour.

Red, greeen an grey wharf buildings are clustered together, their paint peeling. More than a few are one the verge of total disintegration. Inside the village itself, all is eerily calm-even on a fine summers day, like in the beautiful morning today.

Finally, there is some activity, as tourists of different nationalities amble betweeen the wharfs and houses with their cameras ready to captures images of this former ghost town. This are also the pictures on the day when all passengers of MV Fram qonquer Nyksund. The condition of the village bears witness to this-during the hectic tourist season, there is a melancoly undertone always present. And in the end of our walking through Nyksund there was a surprise for our passengers.

There was a classical concert in the museum, a former storehouse on the harbourside. Music from Debussy, Hugo Wolf, Arvid Hansen and Edvard Grieg with norwegians artists-Marit Nygård (Piano) and Synne Meland (Songs). A unique athmosphere on this historical place.

After leaving Nyksund we headed for the Vesteralen Islands. To the West the island of Andoya there is a little rock called Bleikoya, which is home to tens of thousands of seabirds. Kittywakes, cormorants, alks, puffins, skuas and sea eagles were observed in great flocks turning around Bleikoya and feeding right offshore. However, because of the rocky approach, we couldn't get as close as at Runde.

So in the end we headed North-Northwest for the deep sea canyon off Andenes. This is where the male sperm whales dive to the sea floor, as deep as 1.000 metres below the surface, to catch squid, their preferred food. Their females prefer warmer temperatures of more than 15 degrees C and stay in the Carribbean, around the Azores, Madeira or off the Canary Islands. Shortly before reaching the canyon, the helmsman exclaimed "there she blows!". 

We joined the whale-watching vessel from Andenes, MS Reine, which is equipped with an under- water microphone and via radio channel 16 were informed when strong clicks were heard, indicating a surfacing whale. We were verz lucky: our first whale surfaced right in front of us at 1 o'clock from our course, heading for us. After breathing about 30 times, the head of the whale came higher up, the animal took one last breath and then curved its back: "diving!". Then the fluke came up as the whale headed down for another vertical dive. Everybody took a photo of the tail, which for sperm whales is like a fingerprint. We will be able to identify the animal from the Andenes sperm whale catalogue.

The day ended in Bjarkoya, the settlement of the Viking Thore Hund, where we were met by real vikings and their families.

Thursday 27 May 2010

Fjords, Legends and Trolls

Again it is a beautiful morning. Today we spent nearly a full day on the archipelago of the Lofoten, famous for its natural beauty. At 7 a.m. our ship docked at the small pier of Reine. Two excursions were offered. One a visit to the fishing village of Å (the shortest village name in the world) and another one to the Lofotr Viking Museum in Borg. At 1p.m. MV FRAM set sail to the village of Svolvær, which is located on the south coast of Austvågøy. There our guests joined a rafting safari or a tour to Storvågan and Henningsvær.

At 6 p.m. we left Svolvær for more gorgeous landscape; the narrow approximately 2 km long Trollfjord. The name derives from troll, a figure from the Norse mythology. While cruising through the fjord we even spotted those legendary Trolls.
By special invitation the local guide, Geir, from Digamulen gave us and introduction to the upcoming port, Digamulen. At 9:30 p.m. we reached the village of Digamulen, where our Captain Rune Andreassen was born. Most of our guests went by Polar Circle Boat for a visit to this little charming place.

Spring at the Polar Circle

Around noon we crossed the Northern Polar Circle, passing by the monument, a globe, which marks the Latitude 66°33’N. Later on we arrived at the old trading post of SelsØvik. By Polar Circle boats we covered the short distance between ship and landing side. All 9 school children awaited us with their teachers to welcome the guests of MV Fram. After chatting along with the locals and checking out the historical trading post most of the guests took the opportunity for a walk on the island. It seemed that spring had just arrived here, spring flowers blossoming everywhere. For most guests, coming from Germany, it was the second time to experience spring this year.

Our afternoon stop brought us to the Svartisen Glacier. Already from the ship we had gorgeous views of the glacier; however a big number of guests made the hike to the glacier front, returning to the ship with unforgettable memories.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Norway at its best

The morning we spent in FrØja, an archipelago of more than 5000 small and tiny islands. As the weather was good, many passengers spent the early morning hours outside on the various decks or in the panorama lounge. At 8 o'clock, just after breakfast Anja, the expedition leader, went ashore by polar circle boat to meet with the welcome committee of FrØja. Only minutes later she returned with the Mayor of FrØja, his daughter and the Director of Tourism. They met the guests of MV Fram for a warm welcome to the port of FrØja; where MV Fram touched down for the first time. The citizens organized and planned our visit. Everywhere we enjoyed warm welcomes. Our visits included the culture center with a movie about town, a salmon tasting with drinks, shopping in the center and a highly interesting visit to one of the largest salmon farms of the world. The friendliness of this community has impressed us and with fond memories we return to MV Fram for further exploration. Cruising through narrow passages, passing by rocks eroded by glaciers during the last ice age covered partially with tundra vegetation and boreal forest we head direction polar circle. The weather and the landscape present Norway at its best.

The day ended with another highlight, the one and only MV FRAM Crew Show. Guest and crew enjoyed it alike and surprised each other with hidden talents, dancing, singing, laughing ...simply, the best!

Pentecost in Andalsnes

Welcome to the dramatic nature as More and Romsdal. So we start our excursion trough Romsdal
with Raumabanen directly from our ship because the railway station is opposite.
The Rauma Railway is operated by NSB, the state owned Norwegian train operator. This trip
offers our passengers a unique opportunity to experience one of Norway's most spectacular
natural regions. The train follows the river Rauma, runs dead-slow, to allow travellers time to
photograph such attractions as the famous Trollveggen, Europe's tallest vertical rock wall.
Later the train crosses the river at Kylling Bridge, Norways most impressive railway bridge.
It is here that the Rauma River is perhaps at is most dramatic.The Rauma Railway's bridges and
horseshoe tunnels are a tribute to the skill of the engineers who built it, and passengers will appreciate
why it took a full twelve years from the start of construction to the official opening of the line in 1924
by King Haakon VII.
Another highlight was our second excursion to Molde,the town of roses and jazz and the Atlantic Road,
a strech of road on highway 64 in Nordmore and Romsdal. The road is 8,274 meters long an goes from
Vevang in Eide to Kårvåg in Averøy.The construction includes eight bridges, and replaced the ferry
connection between Ørjavik and Tøvik. The road cost 122 million kroner at 1989 values and was partly
financed by road tolls. The toll was removed in June 1999.
Back on board there was a presentation of Vingården Tuen, the most northerly winegrower of the
world. Johan Setnes, the owner offers desert wine and wine-aperitiv in our panorama-lounge.
The nightcap in our daily program: we were ships passing in the night - two times! MS Fram traded cheers, waves, banners and fieworks with the MS Nordkap and MS Midnatsol, two other ships in the Hurtigruten fleet.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Olden, Nordfjordei and the Bird Island of Runde

On our way from Bergen to Olden we passed in the evening narrow sounds and hundreds off tiny islands. In the early morning we reached the Nordfjord, which is the sixth longest fjord in Norway. At 7 a.m. MV Fram docked at the pier of Olden. Our excursions for the day included a boat trip on the Lake Olden and a overland-tour to the Briksdal Glacier and Nordfjordeid. The helicopter flight over the glacier was due to the low clouds not possible. At 1:30 p.m. MV Fram reached the capital of the municipality of Eid; Western Norway. The ships Polar-Circle-Boats were put on water for a transfer service to Nordfjordeid where the passengers explored the scenic city. At 8:30 p:m. another high light of the day the Bird Island of Runde. Runde is famous for its enormous amount of birds. About half a million or more seabirds  inhabiting the island, most of them are to be found in the cliffs.

Saturday 22 May 2010

The Hurtigruten Grieg Event in Bergen

At 8 a.m.  MV Fram reached the second largest city in Norway, Bergen. On her way through the bay the MV Fram was escorted by another famous Hurtigruten ship, the MS Lofoten. The MV Fram docked in the cruise ship terminal close by to all the main attractions of Bergen. The Norwegian coastal steamer service Hurtigruten starts in Bergen heading northwards to Kirkenes.
Good and dry weather conditions.During the morning we offered our guests a city tour of Bergen. In the afternoon all guests were invited by Hurtigruten to enjoy a special event at Trollhaugen. The motto of this special event was "Grieg". Trollhaugen was the home of the famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. To experience not only the musik but also to see where Grieg lived can only be regarded as a high light of the cruise. A superb piano concert was given by professor Signe Bakke and the museum curator Eilif Løtveit enlightened us with interesting information about the life of Edvard Grieg. The entire event was absolutly fantastic and faboules!
To end the evening an onboard fashion show was held. The crew and staff members in an unusual role as models performed beautifully in the observation lounge on deck 7.

A sea day

Our second day on board MV Fram was spent at sea. Most thought that it would be a relaxing day at sea with a long sleep, relaxation in the Panorama Lounge or bathing in the sun. However, wake up call was at 08:30am by Anja. Now even the last passenger realized that we are not on a so-called "love boat" but on board an expedition vessel with a great programme! At 09.00am the first groups started to see the captain on his bridge before our lecture series started. After lunch there was some time to finally sit in the sun before the lectures continued at 02:30pm- there is so much to learn!
After dinner Antonio played the piano  in the Observation Lounge and then we had it- a little feeling of the "love boat" when crew members were singing some songs for us.

Thursday 20 May 2010

One man's meat is another man's poison!

It's our last day. Hamburg welcomes us with grey and deep hanging clouds. We can't believe, that this wonderful trip went so quickly. After an early breakfast we left MV FRAM, our beautiful home during the last days. In the harbour the busses were waiting for us, a last good bye from the expedition team, a last hug to new friends and than everybody started his individual trip home.
One man's meat is another man's poison. In our case it meant, leaving passengers had been very sad, that a beautiful trip came to an end, but the new incoming guests were looking forward to a trip, they have been waiting for since weeks or even months.
After all checking in formalities MV FRAM left Hamburg at 6 pm. The sun came out during we were sailing on the river Elbe into the direction of the North Sea. First the harbour buildings, later on very nice houses and a beautiful landscape were passing by. Our trip couldn't start better!
After the safety drill - a required course - our Captain, Rune Andreasson, welcome us in the Panorama Lounge. Whilst he introduced his officers to us, Anja, our expeditionleader, introduced her expeditionteam.
Full of new impressions we went to bed, looking forward to the next day.