January/February 09

Friday, 27th of February
The weather is good today. Some clouds, no wind and -20 degrees Celsius.

This week we had a lot of changes in the weather. Last Saturday we had a complete whiteout with strong winds. The guides managed to bring the snowscooterguests out to Tempelfjorden. They did not see much of the surroundings but the next day brought nice and clear weather. This Sunday, 22th of February we had the sun shining in the fjord for the first time after the dark months.
It was only 20 minutes before he disappeared behind the mountains, but very enjoyable! 
Monday wind and snowdrift again.
Wednesday the wind calmed down, and at night time the sky was full of stars and some Northern lights.

As I just red 'The diaries of Thorleif Bjertnes', a trapper who over wintered in Spitsbergen/Nordaustlandet in 1933/1934 I can see that the changes in the weather from mild to very cold is not only from these days. As he wrote on February 16th 1934: "Snowstorm and colder with -20 C while yesterday it was only -9C." And then on 1 st of March 1934 Thorleif wrote: "Reasonable weather, a mild wind and overcast. It feels almost as if spring is 
in the air." I hope our 1st of March will be colder.

Already for six days now, Igloo is living aboard the ship with us. She is a fuzzy white Alaska Husky, almost nine weeks. Quite a tough puppy, already running up and down the gangway. As we drove the dogs to the snowy beach of the fjord, there was quite some running, sniffling and snow gliding to do. You can imagine that Igloo felt 
asleep on the way back, sitting in front of the snow scooter.

*20th of February the sun was 0, 8 degrees above the horizon in Longyearbyen *no sights of Polar Bears yet, although we found tracks 800 metres from the ship (mother bear with cub). In 3 cabins around Tempelfjorden the bears had caused havoc.
*Quite some people join the guided daytrips to Tempelfjorden. They have lunch onboard with us and warm up
 before they continue the trip to the Tuna/vonPostglacier. From here the drive back to town. The daytrip is 120 
kilometres on the snow scooter.


13 February 2009
Lack of snow

Mild weather today, no wind, overcast and -6 degrees Celcius.
The new ice at Fredheim (entrance of the fjord) has been growing well the last days, almost ready to cross with the snowscooter. But now there is another problem which blocks the traffic to the fjord. There has been no snow the last weeks, and it is impossible to drive the ice without a layer of snow. The belt has no grip and a stop means a definitive stop, it is impossible to gain speed again. Also the engine gets no cooling with a lack of snow, and can be overheated easily. 
We climbed the hill of Kapp Schoulz today, sitting there enjoying the vieuw we suddenly realized how the seaweed, which is on the ice around the ship the last weeks, happens to be there. As the coast is free of snow the wind just blows everything, from sand to seaweed, out over the fjordice.
Today i was fixing the roof of one of the doghouses. It needs to be ready as we will get an Alaska Husky puppy, eight weeks old, to live with us in Tempelfjorden soon.

February 9th 2009 Today we have been much occupied with our six guests. Quite some characters, noisy, smelly and with a lot of adrenaline. Though very easy with dinner, hungry as they were after the long trip we made. The trip was an adventure. With our visitors we drove into the mountains, underneath a full moon, big and bright shinning just beside Jupiter, also amazingly clear. We saw bear tracks everywhere. While we were enjoying our hot drinks, our eager guests were so full of energy that they decided to go on their own. Luckily for us, they went down hill, so it was not that difficult to catch up with them again. We could continue the trip altogether and arrived safely at the ship. The reason these dogs stayed with the 'ship in the ice', was that their transport route was blocked. As they came from the North, they had to cross the fjord ice in Tempelfjorden, but a big storm had blown away the ice at the entrance of the fjord a few days ago. For them it was not an option to take the steep mountain route out of the fjord as their dog trailer with their houses was too heavy to get uphill. So we parked their houses on the ice, filled them up with hey and checked them in. As soon as the ice conditions will improve at the entrance of the fjord, our dog guests will leave and our usual guests will come for lunch and overnight as they did before the storm. *Temperature last days was between minus 20 and minus 24 degrees Celsius *The days are getting longer, from nine in the morning till half past three we have daylight in the fjord. *The sun has not been above the horizon yet.

Tempelfjorden, 12th January, 2009

Now, at this moment, we, Maaike and Ted, are laying motionless, fixed in about a 25 cm ice floor, under a full moon in a clear sky with a temperature of minus 31. But let me start where the last report ended. We had one more Lofotentrip to do, again we had people from different kind of countries, and although we had excellent weather, a great guide, (Robin Buzza, with much knowledge from the country, he has been living there now for about 7 years), good sailing winds, and a nice group, but again we didn’t see the killer whales. Well in fact we saw one black fin in almost darkness, we don't count this as a killer whale sighting. It seems they are away, out on open sea, about a hundred miles North of Tromso. Even if we could find them on that immense sea, it would be too far, mostly too rough, and no fun at all for most of the guests to spent 24 hours on a sea they named the devils dance floor. We will however continue doing trips next year in Autumn in Lofoten and Ofoten area. Even without the killer whales, it is worth sailing there for the charactistics towns, the clear light, the long sunset, the Northern lights, the landscape, the wildlife, the Sámi culture, etc. etc, After the Lofoten up to Tromso, to store and get the crew on board. Two days later we left this Paris of the North for the crossing to Longyearbyen. It can be a hard voyage in this time of year. The sea is mostly rough, it can be stormy with the wind from the wrong direction, there can be drifting ice floes, which is hard to see in darkness and waves, it can be freezing cold which makes every drop of spray water turn into ice on the ship. And we all had it one way or an other on previous trips to Spitsbergen that late in the season. But this time the Gods where us very favourable. We had the full moon, the southerly winds, the southerly temperature, around zero, the smooth sea. A vacation trip in less then four days (90 hours) we made it. Most of the time sailing (one day on engine because lack of wind). During X-mas on the floating quay with nothing to worry about, just waiting for colder weather. One day later a lot more to worry as older ice came drifting into the bay with a strong North-westerly wind and the temperature dropping to minus 20. Before we could react on this situation we were already too late, we are stuck, no way to get out of here without help or a strong South-easterly wind with some warm rain. The weather forecast says North or North-easterly for the whole week. We also have this limit of breaking ice, it is not allowed after the tenth of January. An icebreaker is needed and Base camp managed again to arrange one. The tenth the KV Svalbard is in the neighbourhood and willing to do the job. And doing an excellent job. Getting us out of half a meter thick ice, without damaging the ship or even more important the floating quay. It took about two hours to free us, after this we followed the icebreaker trough the ice in Sassenfjord and Tempelfjord. Twenty-five cm of flat smooth ice, no problems for the ship besides that there is no paint left on the waterline. Back in Tempelfjorden, Winter is starting from now. Ted