August 04 - September 05

 

ZURÜCK ZU

SPITZBERGEN 2004-05

 

 

Zum Bericht Jänner 2004 - Juli 2004

 

Zur Südkap Expedition 2004

 

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AUGUST 2004:

 

  

 

August followed July, as usual in middle Europe - and up here, I can tell you, its the same. August was our water and air month, with two nice cruises, a helicopter and two plane flights...

 

First we started with a trip north, invited by the governor, to clean beaches from waste brought by the sea. It was really amazing how much rubbish was on some places - as if someone had just dropped it there – the currents seem to drift the stuff on special places - around the corner it’s clean again...

 

   

 

Anyway, we were out with the boat for some days, cruising up north to more than 80 degrees north (!) and around the northernmost point of Spitzbergen. We cleaned beaches up there during day, and as its sun all night around, there was excursion time after dinner... One of our best and most amazing trips ever - pack-ice, swimming polar bear, the largest calving glacier (= floating in the sea) we ever saw, so many birds and seals; and we were so sea-sick on the first storm-night on the boat as we never thought we could ever be...

To get back to Longyearbyen we had an amazing helicopter ride, crossing half of the island, since the ship was kept north, waiting for the next cleaning-shift to come.

 

    

  

Our second cruise was university related. We were out for 8 days with the "Quaternary Stratigraphy" course (whatever that could be...?!). A great, but really intensive geology-course and a great trip north and south the west-coast, where we saw two polar bears (they call it the land of the polar bear up here, so why not seeing them...), great glaciers and landscape... and of course some really rough North Atlantic sea - strange but true I enjoyed it this time quite a lot - those sea-sickness pills make me pretty dizzy, but it was just great to have waves collapsing into the vessel, the horizon up, down, left, right, or wherever, everything moving and shaking,... and not feeling sick at all! And what was almost best - having lunch at rough see. Plates moving, soup dripping off again from your spoon, not easy at all to find your mouth, and... only a few people showed up, that means there was a hell lot of food - just for me (and some few others)....

 

Just two days after arriving back in Longyearbyen, we went on the next trip, by plane (an amazing flight over glaciers and mountains) to Ny Ålesund, 79 degrees north, and the northernmost permanent community in the world (another superlative from Svalbard...). It’s more or less a big research station, looking like a little village, with stations from Germany, Norway, France,... but also China and Korea. Had a great time there, checked out the area

around with the "arctic water resources" course, by boat and foot and enjoyed the outdoor-whirlpool (most likely the northernmost... - of course) and sauna in the evenings... 

 


SEPTEMBER 2004:

 

 

 

Back to Longyearbyen, “normal life” catched us again... we moved into our new appartment (we had a marvelous few over the fjord), bought two rotten bikes to get around more easy in the city, also bought a snow scooter for the next winter season, and some food for dinner and

a snack for the evening-shows, when sun sets around 11pm across the fjord and sky is orange, red in combination with dark blue - we havereserved best places for that spectacle on our sofa every night... 

 


OCTOBER 2004:

 

Let’s start this month with an old traditional Spitzbergian children’s “good night” poem:

 

i can't see the house

i can't see my shoes

if sun is all gone

i'm completly confused

 

So yes, but that’s how it more and more turned out to be - sun was disappearing… The last direct sun we had was when we climbed a mountain about the mid of October, in the village the sun was gone already. Anyhow, we had a nice twilight period, with lots of dark blue and red and full-moon over the mountains, northern lights at night and temperatures fresh and nice around -10°C. Since the end of October there was not too much day-night difference anymore – it became dark all day...

But life got more and more social, with dinner invitations, Norwegian folk dancing, cinema (one time a week, one film), indoor sports...

 

We also had a nice trip on the last weekend of October. The coal-mining company put us (Valeska, Benno and me) on a flight to Svea (the mining "settlement" a bit further south. Workers fly there every week from/to Longyearbyen). The students own a cabin in the area and we stayed there for four days, used the few hours of daylight for hiking, melted drinking water from an iceberg that had drifted ashore, saw some seals and reindeer and worried about the flight home because of a snowstorm... 

 


NOVEMBER 2004:

 

One of the coolest things this autumn happened on 05th of November (at least for a geographer) - a reminder of where we are located: the sailing club invited to an outdoor barbeque party with a big fire. Morning temperatures were around -10°C and wind came from the East. At lunchtime temperatures were up around 0°C, climbed even higher up to +2°C in the evening, no wind! It was perfect around the fire - almost too warm! But suddenly at 10 pm a snowstorm started from West that almost blowed us away and temperature dropped rapidly to -12°C!! It was just amazing! ...but the party went on... ;-) check out the climate data at http://haldde.unis.no/vaerdata/ and go back to the night 5th - 6th of November - its really an amazing drop at 10pm on the 5th!

 

It became colder, darker and colder and darker, outdoor activities became shorter and shorter trips and finally were just a fast run on the villages roads, accompanied by heavy wind and snow, until it was completely dark and life was reduced just to the basic activities and
instincts – and that’s not very much I can tell you - sleeping 15 hours, eating and being tired the rest of the "day".
It seems funny in the first month of completely darkness, strange in the second and almost on the edge to suicide in the third... a really strange thing, this living in the dark. Somehow cozy inside when snowstorms howl out there in the dark, somehow completely stuck, when weather seems to be nice but darkness keeps you in the village...

 


DECEMBER 2004 and JANUARY 2005:

 


Anyhow, the closer and closer it was to Christmas the more and more empty Longyearbyen was, since many people left for "home" somewhere on the mainland Norway and elsewhere. But who cares, time was nice, just a view friends were left and we were a lot gathering together and having a good time...

Over Christmas Valeska and me started our snow scooters (more or less the first time) and drove out Longyearbyen to a small cabin, where we had a nice, stormy and black as coal Christmas... Went for Christmas-celebration to church by snow-scooter!



Still the sun was far away from coming back to Spitzbergen, and the dark time started to feel a little too long - no, not a little, it was too long! Specially because there was not much to do, no jobs to be found and not really something to do outside, except staring on spectacular northern lights until getting frozen...

Oh yea, I almost forgot, there was new-year too - the Tsunami-catastrophe far away from Spitzbergen - people up here did not seem to care much and sent firework up in the sky like Graz and Salzburg together... - I have not much comment on that - many people are strange and stupid up here in the north...

 


FEBRUARY and MARCH 2005:


Then suddenly the weather changed and it became much to warm! The February up here was the warmest ever recorded (measurements run since 1912), 9.5 degrees warmer then the long term average!! We had rain and often were the warmest place in whole Norway... the fjords were open, snow melted,... awful!!

But the light started to return, slowly but steady! I remember the first "day" when there was some difference in the south, some “light” somewhere far away. But it was there and it became more and more every day! I almost never in my life have been waiting for something so hard to come then the light after almost four months of darkness!


   
Life came back to those who survived the darkness, skies were waxed and snow and mountains became a meaning again. Once the light starts to come it comes with dramatic
"speed" and the twilight-period, where we had all those dark blue, red and violet colors is almost too short...

Scooters got started, everyone was keen on getting out and exploring the island.


 


Then finally, about the end of February it started to become cold again and temperatures dropped to the bottom of the freezer below -30°C! The fjords had finally the chance to freeze and the weather did its best be make frozen faces smile...

 

 

 

And then there was the first day we could see the sun "reachable". Together with some friends we started our scooters and off we went up the glaciers and into the sun... The light was back on the mountains, and finally in Longyearbyen – lots of celebration!!
And then? I would say we were on our way to overtake the rest of the world with the amount of sunshine – ok, except the North Pole…


 

 


APRIL 2005:


With the sun, came the tourists, and for us it became easier to find a job. Valeska started jobbing in a guesthouse and I took tourists on scooter-trips and worked as a guide for “Basecamp” since the middle of March. A nice work with being on the run and out all time…
   


And of course we did our own trips too! Climbed the mountains around, or went skiing in the valleys with the two Greenland-huskies we were looking after the whole spring. We were also out on our own scooters, saw polarbears from cabin windows and enjoyed being in the Arctic. We just didn’t have the time to go on a long trip on our own this season, which was a pity…

 

   

  


MAY to September 2005:

 

In May meltingseason really started, it was warm and you could almost see the snow was disappearing. The fjords opened and I went on a cruise with the marine geologists – a nice cruise far up north  and into the ice, but quite hard since we were running on six hour shifts, means we made days and nights double…

 

   

 

The last short Scooter ride for the season was with my mother Ilse and Birgitta, a friend, who came for a visit. The last skiing was end of May with some tourists from Nordenskjøldtoppen…

Like always this was a “sad” time of the year. The last time we went to the glacier-cave in Longyearbreen... The nice white powder disappeared and what was left was water, too much for any hiking…

 

  

 

May and June is tourist low season, so no company gave us a full contract and we were freelancing, but had some nice trips around anyway…

I was a lot out with guests on the mountains, got wet like a frog every time, due to too much meltwater and snowfields. But anyhow, outside is where life starts J!

 

Besides this we were guiding a lot on a day-cruise ship called Ploaris in the Isfjorden, where we did lots of Zodiac-cruising along the sea-ice and the glaciers. Some of those trips were really nice as nice can be – lots of birds, seals and polarbears – the closest was just a few meters from the Zodiac…

 

   

 

In the mid of June Valeska and me had another nice job. Being Polarbear-guard for a big cruise ship – means, standing around with the riffle and see that no one gets eaten up by a hungry bear. The procedure for our trip was as follows: we took a flight to Ny Ålesund – the northernmost permanent settlement on earth (actually not far from Longyearbyen). We spent one day waiting for our boat, which means, having a paid holiday. Then our ship came and we went on board, got our nice cabin, had delicious food and a talk with the captain, who told us that they decided only to cruise and not to go on shore… That was OK for us as well, so we cruised with the ship up north, saw two polarbears in the fjord we should have been guarding on shore – with these two bears on the spot we would have cancelled the landing anyway – and then sailed over night back to Longyearbyen… - I love those well paid holidays!

A nice trip, but amazing how decadent everything (-one) on a ship like this is. Outside is the most spectaculars landscape you can imagine and people inside care must about dressing up for dinner, bingo and the Abba-Nightshow… Something was completely wrong on that ship – or maybe everything…?!

 

 

 

Valeska went for polarbear-guarding later in July again, staying a week up north in a tent, waiting for ships to land, then screaming after people not to step on the grass and not to feed the bears J

 

   

 

Another little job we do from time to time is helping with the Mooring on the harbor. So what the f… is this? We are those little guys taking the big landing ropes from the ships (some have up to 2000 passengers – so they are quite big sometimes) and put them over the blocks at the harbor…

 

Oh yes, I almost forgot, there was the Svalbard Marathon again. And again I made it to the 3rd place, but the time was better, even though there was lots of wind, 3:17:54.

 

 

 

And then end of June I was out for a week as a guide with Oceanwide Expeditions on the Professor Multanovsky, a medium size Russian vessel, taking a max. of 50 passengers.

 

   

 

The trip was quite exclusive and we made landings and Zodiac excursions at least twice a day, saw lots of amazing wildlife – bears, walrus, whales, huge bird colonies, etc… We cruised around the west and north coast of Spitzbergen and up almost to 81 degree north…

 

   

 

Back in Longyearbyen I started with the 1st of July again as a full-time-guide for Basecamp, the company I was working for in Spring. So I’m a lot out, hiking on the mountains, walking on the glaciers, but also taking care of the about 100 dogs we have for dog-sledging in winter…

 

Valeska was freelancing so far and now is out as a guide with the same vessel I was on in the end of June, Professor Multanovski. She’s taking three (!) cruises around Spitzbergen – I would say, about the nicest job you can get up here…

 

   

 

...September was the month of departure. After almost two years we packed our stuff again and off we went, home to Austria.


 

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