Friday 31 July 2015

Circumnavigation Spitsbergen, day 2

This day we woke up once more to a beautiful weather. We started the day in Ny-Ålesund, a Norwegian research settlement situated in Kongsfjorden or Kings Bay on North West Spitsbergen. There is a lot of different nations doing research in Ny-Ålesund, so the town mainly consists of research stations from the different countries that are present. 

Some lucky few spotted an Arctic fox, otherwise we were guided around in the town by the expedition team and we were able to visit the local shop and walk freely around the town after that.

After Ny-Ålesund we headed for the famous Magdalendafjorden and Gravneset, where over 100 whalers were buried during the 1600s and 1700s

We had the opportunity to walk to Gullybreen, a calving glacier and some of us could clearly see the magnificent calvings from the glacier. Since the weather was still very nice and warm (!!) some of us went for a refreshing swim on the white sandy beach on Gravneset. 

 After some hours, when everyone was on board again, we continued our voyage, going north along the coast of western Spitsbergen, and we could enjoy the view on deck in the sun.

Thursday 30 July 2015


We arrived at 4pm to Fram there was the checking and formalities a mandatory safety drill was conducted and then our journey started. 

 Our first stop was during the evening and visited an active Russian coal mining town named Barentsburg which was named after the Dutch navigator William Barentsz whom came to Svalbard in 1596 and probably on the eyes of occidental or western civilization would be the official discovered of Spitsbergen. 

 The mining activities on the area started in 1912 and in 1932 became property of the Russian state owned Trust of Arktikugol.  There was a brake on the mining between 1941 and 1946 and currently still in operations.

We did a tour around town guided by local Russian people were they explained the town and its buildings that are being going through a large remodeling.  Around 400 persons live here year round some young kids still here but most are now at home on summer holidays. The tour ended with a nice musical show done by the miner workers or their wifes. 

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.