May/June 10

21June-2July Svalbard has held a magical attraction for me for many years - it's proximity to the North Pole, it's remoteness, it's extreme weather and it's history have placed it high on my list of places to visit. This year, my dream came true when I spend 10 days aboard the Dutch registered sailing vessel Noorderlicht exploring the north and western parts of the area.
17 guests plus 4 crew set sail from Longyearbyen on the 21st of June 2010 and headed north up the western side of Svalbard. Our intention was to visit as many of the historic sites in the area as well as some of the magnificent natural wonders in the area as possible during our 10 day stay on board. Everything would depend on the weather but we were confident that Skipper Gert and his able crew would get us to some great places come what may.
The skipper was particularly good at manoeuvering the boat into tight spots where we were able to get great views of the wildlife and awesome glaciers. He was also very good at taking us where the larger cruise ships could not go - this meant we had a unique experience with a small group of like minded people.
As it turned out, the weather was extremely kind to us - we had excellent weather for most of the trip - and we were able to head for the northern parts straight away. This did not prevent us stopping off en-route and undertaking a landing at midnight ( in bright sunshine, of course ) to observe a group of resting Walruses hauled up on a beach. This was the first of many magical moments during the trip.

An essential element of any trip like this is to have expert guidance to enable you to get the most from the experience. Our guide, Robin was excellent and his knowledge of the wildlife and history is extensive. Svalbard is steeped in history from the early polar explorers, whalers, coal mining to, more recently, scientific research. Robin related tales of adventure, incredible hardship and personal achievement and placed it into context at all of the historical sites we visited - this greatly enhanced my experience. I will never forget sitting at the base of a towering glacier with Robin reading extracts from a 90 year old book relating to accounts written at the time.
For those with a particular interest in the wildlife of Svalbard, then our experience did not disappoint. We encountered two colonies of Walrus, on on land and one at sea where about 15 of these magnificent creatures surrounded the boat - they were really playing to the audience ! The most often talked about Svalbard animal is the polar bear. These magnificent animals can weigh up to 800kg and are ferocious predators. In total, we saw 17 polar bears - which seems to be something of a record. In one site, where Robin had been told there was a whale carcass, we saw 10 bears at the same time. These normally solitary animals tolerated each other as there was plenty of food for all of them. There were males and females, plus two small cubs born this year and two more from last year. This was a truly awe-inspiring sight. We saw several others during the trip including one swimming between two islands, looking for food.

We also saw Arctic Foxes, some just loosing their with winter coats and a couple already in their brown summer coat as well as bearded seals. The birdlife here is also very spectacular at this time of year with hundreds of pairs of Gulimots, Kittywakes, Fulmars, Puffins and little Auks lining the cliffs. We also saw Eider, King Eider, Red Throated Divers, Gray Phalerope, Snow Bunting and Ringed Plover to name a few.

For those interested in Flora, several species were just coming into flower at this time including Moss Campion, Mountain Aven, Purple Saxifrage and several others.

The trip would not have been the same if it were not for the excellent boat and crew. The cabins a small but comfortable, with 4 toilets/showers and another toilet at deck level. There are two saloons, one below and one at deck level complete with bar ! The saloon below decks became an impromptu cinema in the evenings where we had the opportunity to watch films about Svalbard, it's history and wildlife.

Every General knows that an army marches on it's stomach and they followed the same principle on board the Noorderlicht - The food was outstanding, from the comprehensive breakfast choices to lunches of soup and a hot dish to the 3 course evening meal - all served with a smile by chef

My thanks go to our guide Robin and the crew - Skipper Gert, Chef Menthe, First Mate Dickie, Second Mate Ruud.

I look forward to my next trip - now, what am I doing in 2011 ?

10th to 21st June on the Noorderlicht

The summer season in Svalbard has seriously started, looking at the number of echo's on our radar from yachts, research vessels and the first cruise ships.Temperatures are quite low for the time of the year but at least most
of the pack ice on the west and north coast has gone. With several favourable winds we managed to do a good deal of sailing. Simone Lindenmeyer Vial, one of our guests, reports.
Jeroen, mate.

Thursday afternoon, on June 10th, we fly with great expectations into Longyearbyen. It doesn't take us long to spot the others that are going to share this adventure with us. Rolf Stange, Gert, the captain, Jeroen and Aafke greet us with a warm smile and help us aboard where we meet Menthe,the cook, entertainer and salesman (for absolutely everything you probably don't need). The boat is even more beautiful than it looks on the pictures and you can see and feel the great passion that has been put into every detail aboard when they rebuilt it.
We get a first impression of the amazing wilderness around us. Rolf walks ahead with the gun, in case we encounter a polar bear and tells us stories about whale hunters, their lives, their problems and the hard time they had without the good clothing we have. We see reindeer, small but beautiful flowers and birds of all kinds. Later that day, in the St. Johnsfjorden we walk up to a walrus colony. What amazing creatures! They swim around with such ease, but sure they are extremely lazy, make funny sounds and spend their time scratching themselves and sleeping.
Later that evening the crew and some of us help tagging up the sails and we make our way to Fuglefjord where we see one of the big highlights of this trip: 7 polar bears! A whale that has stranded the year before still offers enough food to attract these bears that feast in turns from it.
The first one at that rich bouffet is a mother with two probably one year old youngsters. After that a big male bear gets his turn and after some dispute he lets a younger male have his turn. It is stunning to watch them obviously enjoying themselves in the snow. The big male climbed up the hill to come sliding down on his back after showing the youngster just who is the boss here. The two young ones where playing together and bothering their mother. Just the mother with a ever so sweet baby bear of maybe 4 month is staying well clear of the others.
With such a sight it is incredibly difficult to go to bed and sleep - even more so since it never gets dark and the sun is shining. But as we wake up the bears are still there.

But we must get on and so we sail on into Raudfjorden which is still covered up to about 80% with ice. The Noorderlicht lays alongside the edge of the ice and we walk over a blank on the ice. It is quite a strange feeling to
stand in the middle of this Fjord on this hopefully solid ice. After a visit to a trappers grave we go back on the boat and head further north, passing rocks full of breeding birds with a polar fox near by, waiting for his chance to catch a meal and another polar bear mother with a even younger cub. The wind is freshing up and so we set all the sails to get to the Woodfjorden where the next highlight awaits us. We see several minky whales cruising around us and suddenly we see a quite bigger fin that can only be the one of an orca! What a gorgous sight!
The wind is very strong, the sea rough and it is cold but that does not stop Gert and his crew to set sails. With the boat at an angle and waves that throw us around we head up north - all the way to the Moffen Island 80
degrees north!

After a hike on the 150 metres high hill on Utere Norskoya with a beautiful sight onto the Klovningen we head for Virgohamna, the famous place where first Salomon August Andree and later Walter Wellman tried to start to reach
the north pole by airship.
Further south our trip takes us into the Kongsfjorden and we visit Ny-Alesund, a high-tech town full of scientists and the most northern post-box (79 degrees north). We visit the docking mast from Roald Amundsen, accompanied by the whole story around it, see one of his statues and get a lot more geological information about everything that moves (or doesn't) from Rolf. A visit to the towns only shop is well worth it. They have the best warm socks, hats and a lot of other nice things and it just feels great to spend some money.
Our next stops are again a visual highlight. Gert steers the boat very close to the Conway glacier and afterwards to the Kongsbreen. Two beautiful glaciers with loads of icebergs around them. After that Gert and Jeroen take us to the top of the Ossian Sarsfjellet where we can see thousands of little auks and seagulls breeding. The noise is incredible - as incredible as it was for me to see those two dutch seamen (Gert and Jeroen) run up and around these cliffs like two mountain goats!
As a crowning of the day, Gert takes the boat very close to different part of the Kongsbreen after dinner, where we all have a glass of champagne due to the passing of our sons exams and where we are watching how the glacier
drops great big junks of ice into the sea.
Several hikes accompanied with interesting information and endless good stories from Rolf lead us way too fast towards the end of this trip. On our last trip we sit, how so many times before, very quietly on a little hill and let the surrounding sounds sink deep into our memories. While some of us are in deep concentration to classify all the different sounds, others are sound asleep due to the extensive excursion in Barentsburg (especially in
the bar) the night before...
On board we begin to pack, write down the last names of places and start thinking of how it will feel like, having to go back to the noisy, stinking civilisation with temperatures near the melting point. It was a wonderful and memorable time here, and this not just because of the beautiful landscape, the polar bears and the whales, but also because Rolf
Stange is an excellent, very humoristic and competent guide and the crew made us feel more than welcome, was always helpful and in good spirit!

Written by Simone Lindenmeyer Vial, Switzerland
e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Dit e-mail adres is beschermd door spambots, u heeft Javascript nodig om dit onderdeel te kunnen bekijken

1stJune The last hours of our 2nd sailingtrip we struggle again through the ice in Adventfjorden. Still unsertain if we can reach the quay. But if not, we drop anchor and drive the passengers from and to the ship by zodiac. This trip the program told us to go to Kongsfjorden. Again we didn't make it because of the pack ice at the entrance of Isfjorden. Edward Nash and Helge Ask wrote down their experiences of a 5 day cruise in Isfjorden.

6 months before our week as passengers of the Noorderlicht, we would not have been able to say, if asked, were Svalbard was – other than as the mythical climax of author Philip Pulman''s Northern Lights trilogy – a landmark in my son''s childhood (with whom I travelled). But the very large group of islands, well within the Arctic Circle, was suprisingly easy to reach by a daily SAS flight from the Norwegian capital Oslo.
Our journey with the crew of the Noorderlicht (a former German lightship, first in service in 1910) began at the main settlement of Svalbard, Longyearbyen, where after donning all weather suits we were brought through floating pack ice to the ship. The 5 days that followed showed us just a fraction of the majestic scenery and raw geology of the archipelago, but a wealth of its rich wildlife in the sea, on land, and in the air. Although a mass of pack ice, unsually brougth into the Isfjorden by a recent storm, meant we could not follow the coastal itinerary intented,thescale of the Isfjorden is so large, around 100 km in length, that it provided no shortage of daily journeys, landings for walks and overnight achorages at Tryghamna, Borebukta, Bohemanneset, Kapp Wijk, Skansbukta, Gipsvika, Sassendalen,in wich several passages through the broken ice of the fjords became an unexpected memorable experience of its own.
The ship was exceptionally well converted for its present use, proving extremely comfortable with 2 passengers lounges, comfortable seating, a bar and expertly managed galley. The bedroom cabins are well equipped and comfortable with the moments before a good night's sleep enriched by the mating calls of the bearded seals, clearly audible through the hull. The comfort of the ship meant that at no time did the outside temperatures (which hovered above or below zero degrees C)seem uncomfortble.
The Noorderlicht's crew of 5 clearly all relished the life on this lovely ship that they so readily welcomed the passengers to on voyages of 5 or 10 days and worked hard all the time to give us access to and understanding of this magnificant place. When we were under sail a very special atmosphere was felt thoughout the ship as passengers and crew experienced the quiet and gentle rhythm of a world that has to work around the daily challenges and hardships of its climate.

Edward Nash
Bath
England


Jeg er i ferd med å avslutte en fantastisk tur med SS Noorderlicht. Vi startet fredag ettermiddag, og vil väre tilbake i Longyearbyen om en time eller to – avhengig av isforholdene som har gjort at vi har måttet gjöre om hele programmet for turen. Vi skulle til Kongsfjorden og Ny Ålesund, men endte opp med å bli skikkelig kjent med Isfjorden. Vi kunne ikke komme ut av Isfjorden på grunn av havisen som kom fra Storfjorden i öst rundt Sörkapp og blokkerte innlöpet til Isfjorden. Dette er det ingen ting mannskapet på SS Noorderlicht kan gjöre noe med, men når det en gang skjedde, gjorde de likevel turen til en opplevelse som huskes for livet. Vi ble servert tre fantastike måltider pr. dag, og lugarforholdene og de övrige forholdene ombord er bare noe som må oppleves. Vi hadde ilandstigninger hver dag, og selv om en tror en vet mye om Isfjordenområdet siden en bor på Svalbard, var det mye nytt. Guiden og mannskapet var svärt kunnskapsrike og kunne leksen sin.

Jeg har fått höre at jeg er den förste passasjeren fra Longyearbyen som har värt med på en tur med SS Noorderlicht, og det synes jeg vi skal gjöre noe med. Det er jo vår lokale “Båten i isen”,så bli med på tur, ingen vil angre på det.

Helge Ask
Longyearbyen

 

Our first summer trip is a fact:
Bellsund Arctic Sail on Noorderlicht, 24.-27.5.2010
Featuring the crew: Gert, the captain. Barbara 1st mate, Aafke 2nd mate, Menthe the chef and Jan the guide; and the passengers: Brita and Oscar, Jan, Frode, Morten, Truls, Andreas, Bjørn Axel and Frauke.
We left Longyearbyen on Monday 24th, setting course out of Adventfjorden and Isfjorden. The wind was good, so we raised the sails on the 100-year old schooner, and after a 3-course dinner we listened to Jan, our guide, presenting the plan for the trip. We sailed past Isfjord Radio, and then, most of us went to sleep (even though the sun was shining high in the sky.) The weather was sunny, blue sky and some wind: We sailed on sails.
At about
1 o’clock in the “night” (midnight sun, 24-hour daylight), we were awakened by Jan ringing the ship bell and shouting “pack ice”: The deal was that he would ring the bell whenever there was something interesting to see. So we put on our nice, warm scooter suits and rushed up to the deck. And we saw the pack ice: A huge mass of sea ice, packed close, all along the west coast of Svalbard, and closing Bellsund.
So here our planned arctic Bellsund sail cruise ended.
And a marvellous trip in the
Arctic Sea around Svalbard and into many of the arms of Isfjorden started.
On May 25th, we saw lots of Walruses, both from the ship and on a land trip at Poolepynten on Prince Karl’s Forland. We crossed loosely packed ice, we had a long walk at Farmhamna on Oscar II Land, seeing Svalbard Reindeer, some bearded seals, and lots of birds, and finally we sailed to Trygghamna for anchoring. The weather was sunny, blue sky and nearly no wind.
The plan was to sail next to Isfjord radio, but the pack ice had moved north, and was covering the coast around the station. So we persuaded Jan that we should climb a little upwards the next morning…
On May 26th, we climbed the lower part of Värmlandsryggen. Our trusty guide Jan didn’t let us slide down a steep snow slope on the east side towards Ymerfjorden.
If we had only been on our own… Maybe we would have started an avalanche or hit a rock with our hips in high speed…
Ok, we put on our snow shoes and walked down in an orderly manner. We saw the King Alk, lots of fossils and more Svalbard Reindeer. During lunch, the ship sailed to Nordfjorden and approached the fast ice edge close to Sveabreen, where we had a short afternoon stroll on the ice. There were lots of seals to see, and more birds. Frauke had a marvellous view from the platform on the main mast. During dinner the ship crossed Nordfjorden, and we did an evening stroll around Kapp Wijk, near Harald Solheims trapping station. The weather was sunny, blue sky and nearly no wind.
On May 27th, we started our day at Svenskehuset. We walked up to the ancient wooden Swedish-style “villa”. It was not locked, and we looked around, and our guide Jan told us about the dramatic history of the place.
From there, we walked about 10 km’s towards Skansbukta. We had to cross some steep and deep river valleys and again used our snow shoes to pass snow-covered areas. Closer to Skansbukta there was less snow and some beautiful purple Saxifrage flowers starting to blossom. We enjoyed our packed lunch at a sheltered spot with a nice view towards Sassefjord. A while later, we boarded the ship again and sailed to the ice edge in Billefjord. There, we could see the ghost town Pyramiden and lots of seals on the ice, but none of the elusive Polar Bears. We experienced air temperatures below zero for the first time on this trip.
That evening we had a great final candle-lit dinner on the ship was a four-course dinner where Menthe our ship chef proved his skills. There is some pack ice at Longyearbyen, and maybe it is blocking the harbour. So we all have a tiny little hope that we can’t reach land, and will be on Noorderlicht for another few days!
Thanks to the crew of Noorderlicht and Base camp for a marvellous trip!
PS: the last hour of our trip we saw a Polar Bear!! Lying on the pack ice in Adventfjorden, close to Longyearbyen.

 

 

20 th May Out of the ice!

The winter season 2010 in Tempelfjorden had so many memorable moments, sunny days and nice visitors!
But the season has now come to an end. A lot of over water around Longyearbyen stopped the scooter driving and the last days in Tempelfjorden we did not see any scooters passing by. The warm degrees brought even some rain, so the ice conditions were not optimal any more. Water was coming on the ice and the snow became slushy. After a last run with the dog sledge up on Murdock glacier we moved all the dogs with their doghouses on the deck. Sonja, the Chef,
left the ship, with the last scooters driving to Longyearbyen.
The 24th of Mai the definitive end of the season was there by the entrance of tugboat Belikov in the fjord. The Russian tugboat with two engines of
800 horsepower broke a track in the ice towards the ship. Gert, Erik Rodesjo and the second mate Aafke joined Belikov and they stepped onboard when Belikov came alongside in the fjord ice.
As the ice was not that thick this year we could follow them out of the ice on our own power. Late in the evening it was a warm welcome on the quay of Longyearbyen by all our Base camp colleagues, our Chef Menthe and Expedition leader Jan.
We had a glass of
Champagne on the good end of the season in the Base camp Trappers hotel.
The 25th of Mai we unloaded the ship, all scooters and doghouses were put on the quay, we scrubbed the deck, got the fresh supplies on board to be ready for the first sailing trip!
And on the first 5 dayssailingtrip there is a lot of drift ice in Bellsund and Isfjordarea, coming from the east, around the south cape with the
Gulf Stream.
Hopefully more news soon!
Maaike

 

 

We managed to get out of Isfjorden! Also in Forlandsundet the pack ice had disappeared. In 10 days we sailed all the way to 80 degrees north en back. A report from Esther Beneker:
North-West Spitsbergen, June 1st. – 10th.
Spring at Spitsbergen! Most of the birds have already returned, some waiting for the right spot to nest others already breeding. For some the time to come will be a season with abundant food, for others a difficult period starts. The scenery is spectacular as we sail out of Isfjorden. In the Forlandsundet we meet lots of walruses on drifting ice as well as on land. Their extremely relaxed appearance reflects our holiday feeling. The first polar bears are spotted in the North-West. Five at the time, two mothers and three cubs. They seem quite happy with the carcass of a whale who died already some time ago. Arriving in Liefdefjorden nine more polar bears are spotted. A mother with two cubs walks over the ice towards the ship. The ice is at many places not thick enough to carry the weight of the mother, but her cubs are not struggling at all, they walk playfully beside her. As they reach the edge of the ice, mother swims away but the cubs have a very loud and clear message. They are not ready yet to swim. For the mother there is no other option than going back the same way over the ice, back to the land. Will they come through the coming period in which it will be hard to find enough food? Another bear spots two seals. It sneaks closer like a cat but starts the final and crucial meters to the seals a bit too early. They both disappear in the water! On June 6th we visit Smeerenburg mostly covered with snow but it is a perfect day! Blue sky, deep blue water, the sun shining and the land covered with snow. An overwhelming landscape and an extremely pleasant snowshoe walk! Today we spent the day in the surroundings of Ny Alesund, visiting a former marble quarry and in the afternoon a fantastic walk to the bird cliffs. What a luxury to watch this all with your own eyes on this beautiful sailing vessel!
Esther Beneker

 

 

10th to 21st June on the Noorderlicht
The summer season in Svalbard has seriously started, looking at the number of echo's on our radar from yachts, research vessels and the first cruise ships.Temperatures are quite low for the time of the year but at least most of the pack ice on the west and north coast has gone. With several favourable winds we managed to do a good deal of sailing. Simone Lindenmeyer Vial, one of our guests, reports.
Jeroen, mate.

Thursday afternoon, on June 10th, we fly with great expectations into Longyearbyen. It doesn't take us long to spot the others that are going to share this adventure with us. Rolf Stange, Gert, the captain, Jeroen and Aafke greet us with a warm smile and help us aboard where we meet Menthe, the cook, entertainer and salesman (for absolutely everything you probably don't need). The boat is even more beautiful than it looks on the pictures and you can see and feel the great passion that has been put into every detail aboard when they rebuilt it.We get a first impression of the amazing wilderness around us. Rolf walks ahead with the gun, in case we encounter a polar bear and tells us stories about whale hunters, their lives, their problems and the hard time they had without the good clothing we have. We see reindeer, small but beautiful flowers and birds of all kinds. Later that day, in the St. Johnsfjorden we walk up to a walrus colony. What amazing creatures! They swim around with such ease, but sure they are extremely lazy, make funny sounds and spend their time scratching themselves and sleeping. Later that evening the crew and some of us help tagging up the sails and we make our way to Fuglefjord where we see one of the big highlights of this trip: 7 polar bears! A whale that has stranded the year before still offers enough food to attract these bears that feast in turns from it. The first one at that rich bouffet is a mother with two probably one year old youngsters. After that a big male bear gets his turn and after some dispute he lets a younger male have his turn. It is stunning to watch them obviously enjoying themselves in the snow. The big male climbed up the hill to come sliding down on his back after showing the youngster just who is the boss here. The two young ones where playing together and bothering their mother. Just the mother with a ever so sweet baby bear of maybe 4 month is staying well clear of the others. With such a sight it is incredibly difficult to go to bed and sleep - even more so since it never gets dark and the sun is shining. But as we wake up the bears are still there. But we must get on and so we sail on into Raudfjorden which is still covered up to about 80% with ice. The Noorderlicht lays alongside the edge of the ice and we walk over a blank on the ice. It is quite a strange feeling to stand in the middle of this Fjord on this hopefully solid ice. After a visit to a trappers grave we go back on the boat and head further north, passing rocks full of breeding birds with a polar fox near by, waiting for his chance to catch a meal and another polar bear mother with a even younger cub. The wind is freshing up and so we set all the sails to get to the Woodfjorden where the next highlight awaits us. We see several minky whales cruising around us and suddenly we see a quite bigger fin that can only be the one of an orca! What a gorgous sight! The wind is very strong, the sea rough and it is cold but that does not stop Gert and his crew to set sails. With the boat at an angle and waves that throw us around we head up north - all the way to the Moffen Island 80 degrees north! After a hike on the 150 metres high hill on Utere Norskoya with a beautiful sight onto the Klovningen we head for Virgohamna, the famous place where first Salomon August Andree and later Walter Wellman tried to start to reach the north pole by airship. Further south our trip takes us into the Kongsfjorden and we visit Ny-Alesund, a high-tech town full of scientists and the most northern post-box (79 degrees north). We visit the docking mast from Roald Amundsen, accompanied by the whole story around it, see one of his statues and get a lot more geological information about everything that moves (or doesn't) from Rolf. A visit to the towns only shop is well worth it. They have the best warm socks, hats and a lot of other nice things and it just feels great to spend some money. Our next stops are again a visual highlight. Gert steers the boat very close to the Conway glacier and afterwards to the Kongsbreen. Two beautiful glaciers with loads of icebergs around them. After that Gert and Jeroen take us to the top of the Ossian Sarsfjellet where we can see thousands of little auks and seagulls breeding. The noise is incredible - as incredible as it was for me to see those two dutch seamen (Gert and Jeroen) run up and around these cliffs like two mountain goats! As a crowning of the day, Gert takes the boat very close to different part of the Kongsbreen after dinner, where we all have a glass of champagne due to the passing of our sons exams and where we are watching how the glacier drops great big junks of ice into the sea. Several hikes accompanied with interesting information and endless good stories from Rolf lead us way too fast towards the end of this trip. On our last trip we sit, how so many times before, very quietly on a little hill and let the surrounding sounds sink deep into our memories. While some of us are in deep concentration to classify all the different sounds, others are sound asleep due to the extensive excursion in Barentsburg (especially in the bar) the night before...

On board we begin to pack, write down the last names of places and start thinking of how it will feel like, having to go back to the noisy, stinking civilisation with temperatures near the melting point. It was a wonderful and memorable time here, and this not just because of the beautiful landscape, the polar bears and the whales, but also because Rolf
Stange is an excellent, very humoristic and competent guide and the crew made us feel more than welcome, was always helpful and in good spirit!
Written by Simone Lindenmeyer Vial, Switzerland
e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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