August/September 08

On the trip of 21 -28 September the Spanish family Querol was onboard. Here the livereport of the children.
Anna 9 years old
I liked very much to be in the Noorderlicht. The captain is a very kind person. His name is Gert. He knows very well all the places where to go, so don't worry at all. The sailors Elisabeth and Dick they are very cool. They like to sail during night and they never feel cold. Dick is a very good zodiac driver. It is a very strong crew. Rolf, our guide, very professional, explains very well all about Spitsbergen. He answers all the questions. He is very prudent and wants to keep all nationals things untouched. And now Anna the cook. She's a very good cook. Every morning she kneads to make fresh bread. She is her own boss as she always decides the menu. Very kind person, I did enjoy a lot with her. I enjoyed a lot this trip. We sail many different animals witch I've never seen before. If you decide to come, have a good trip.

Joaquim 11 years old
These days in the Noorderlicht have been great. First of all because the cook is a very good one and the crew and captain are all very cool. Landings haven been very beautiful and exciting. We have seen many wild animals and also glaciers.
Crew:
Gert Captian:very pleasant.
Elisabeth:sailor, very expert.
Dick: sailor, funny
Anna: Cook, very kind and the perfect cook.
Rolf: Geographic, quide always worried to pleasure all.
The most exciting moment: when we saw the Noorderlicht for the first time. The wildest moment: when the ship was sailing against big waves. The moment I liked most:the first time we saw a polar bear, sleeping behind a rock. She (as Rolf said) was white and enormous, in the middle of nowhere

Noorderlicht Circumnavigation of Svalbard. 28th Aug - 12th Sept. 2008

After boarding the good ship 'Noorderlicht' in the evening, the multi-national group of adventurers (Singaporean, German, English, Russian, Austrian and Yorkshire) spent the first night in Isfjorden. We returned to Longyearbyen in the morning to pick up our critical supplies which had been delivered late.
We then headed North; on the way, and at Kongsfjord, with the help of our birding experts we identified ivory gull, pink footed geese, arctic fox, eider duck, red throated divers, seal species and even reindeer. At the 14th July Glacier a very obliging and photogenic bearded seal entertained the group by attempting to clamber on to some ice very near the ship.
A rather cold and snowy Virgohamna and Ny Ålesund set the standard for Dan's "short" walks, which he referred to as "Wandles" - a new Dutch Zealand word for a combined wander ramble !
We were kept in suspense as we approached 80oN as to whether we would successfully get through the ice floes at the top of the island. At 80oN we celebrated with a glass of creosote ("Jaegermeister") and we were watched by walrus and bearded seals who were resting on the ice - a particularly impressive and lasting memory.
Turning south - we stopped between Kinnvika and Kross Island to visit a group of Walrus (Vising Island), some of which were swimming and some sleeping. Those in the water studied their human visitors with curiosity (and probably amusement) but provided an excellent photographic opportunity. Eleanor (who is not from Yorkshire) maximised this opportunity with a record 264 digital portraits, even after 203 deletions !
The odd behaviour of intensive and aggressive saxifrage interrogation with black digital devices had somewhat subsided by now. However, the odd cry of "What is it" ?! could still be heard over the Svalbard countryside during the quiet "Gore-Tex moments".
We sighted our first polar bear at Kapp Fanshawe , although it was some distance from the ship.
Close to a glacier front at Burgerbukta, we were treated to observing another polar bear swimming amongst the bergy bits. The bear changed direction and lifted its head to watch 4 beluga whales swimming nonchalantly past - Nice one !!
Fin whales and minke whales accompanied us on the crossing of Storfjorden to Gåshamna where we saw bear #5. Next stop was Bellsund, and whilst wandling on the coast of Aksel's island a beluga whale swam lazily along, very near the coast - thankfully there was little saxifrage evident !
One of the guests unfortunately needed the services of the air-sea rescue helicopter from Longyearbyen. In a fairly large swell, a very professional air lift was performed - hopefully we will all be reunited on our last evening.
Anna the cook (who is also not from Yorkshire) provided us with excellent delicious food, especially the bread and various broths (even without an oven !) - fantastic ! We would also like to express our thanks to Gert, Anna, Renske, Elisabeth and Dan (our extremely patient and knowledgeable guide) for their hard work and commitment in showing us the wildlife, flora, geology and history of Svalbard. We all learnt a great deal about global change, Pingos, sea-ice formation and the geological features of this unique environment from Dan's informative lectures. A great time was had by all.

Richard (who is also not from Yorkshire)

13-28 august
Noorderlicht has completed our first successful voyage around Spitsbergen for 2008, with a French group from Grand Nord on board. When Ted wrote the last report, we had just made our way through the sea ice in the northeast of Spitsbergen, and were enjoying calm sunny weather in the Hinlopen Strait. As he said, we went for a walk on land at Faksevagen with a mother bear and cub sleeping peacefully on the other side of the bay. Later that day we sailed past the wonderful cliff at Alkefjellet, where thousands of guillemots were getting ready to leave at the end of the summer. In the evening, we stopped at one the small barren islands in the middle of the Hinlopen Strait to stretch our legs after dinner. It was a beautiful calm night, with the sun low in the north, and when we reached the top of a small hill we spent some minutes looking through our binoculars for any bears in the distance. None to be seen - the white dots we saw were either reindeer or birds.

A few minutes later, however, we spotted a mother bear with two young cubs, several hundred metres away. The situation was not dangerous, but we gathered our group closer together, and called Noorderlicht to be picked up again on the beach. While everyone was taking pictures of the bears in the distance, another bear came up close behind us, this time a mother bear with two large second-year cubs!! She was rather thin and hungry, and we had to fire three warning shots with the signal pistol to make her keep a respectful distance. After watching each other for a few minutes, Ted and Kiki arrived with the zodiac to take us back to the ship. Although this is definitely a situation we try to avoid, it's nice to know that everything went smoothly: nobody panicked, and we came back on board without any injuries to humans or bears.

Continuing our journey, we passed through the narrow channel of Hayleysundet, between Spitsbergen and Barents Island, where strong tidal currents swirl around the rocky coast. After beautiful weather for landings on Barents Island and at Kapp Lee, where we saw a group of walrus, we woke the next morning in a think mist. Rather than try to walk on land in poor visibility (everyone is now very aware of bear danger!) we began the long crossing of the Stor Fjord, and were rewarded by some lovely encounters with whales, including two Humpbacks which spent some time swimming close to the ship. We also were able to hoist sail and turn off the motor, and arrived the next morning in the Hornsund, back on the west coast of Spitsbergen. We spent two days in the Bellsund area, making our French connection at the Recherche Bay and Glacier, named for the French research ship that visited here in the 1830's. Returning to the Isfjord, we spent a day visiting outposts of civilisation at Kapp Linne and Barentsburg, before a final day in the wilderness at Ymerbukta.

Altogether, this was a superb two week voyage: adventure and excitement, wildlife and wonderful weather. During this time, the sun set for the first time after three months of continuous daylight, and now each day is getting a little shorter and colder. Now we have a new group on board, and are heading north to try and go around again.

29 Juli - 13 Augustus

Zeilen rond Spitsbergen met de Noorderlicht.
Zo avontuurlijk als het klinkt is het ook: op een heuse schoener (een
tweemastschip met 8 zeilen) in zestien dagen proberen rond Spitsbergen te
varen. Proberen, want hoe het weer en de ijsgang rond een van de
Noordelijkste eilandengroepen boven de Poolcirkel zich gedragen, weet je
nooit van tevoren. Alleen dat is al avontuur.
Stap aan boord van de Noorderlicht en een prachtige reis, zo niet de reis
van je leven, is gegarandeerd.
Met stralend weer zijn we 29 juli vertrokken vanuit Longyearbyen. Het doel
was "rondom". Maar voorbij Moffen (walrussen!) kwamen we vast in het pakijs.
Alhoewel dit een ongelooflijk mooi gezicht is (zeker met stralende zon!),
wel jammer, we konden niet verder. Daarom zijn we weer richting westkust
gevaren. En met stevige noordenwind ook door de Kwaaie Hoek gezeild. Dat is
toch wel het meest mooie met zo'n boot.
Onderweg gletjers, papegaaiduikers, jagers, dwergvinvissen, pingo's, enorme
mosvelden met bloemen en bossen van 2 centimeter hoog, walrussen en
natuurlijk ijsberen. Teveel moois om te bevatten en te verwerken in de tijd
die hier voorbij vliegt. 24 uur licht per dag helpt niet mee, soms moet er
toch geslapen worden. De dagboeken worden driftig dagelijks bijgewerkt, net
als de nieuwste foto's van de dag.
Op 1 augustus was er een zonsverduistering. Wij waren toen op Smeerenburg,
waar we bij terugkomst van een mooi zicht op de zon werden verrast door de
eerste close encounter met een ijsbeer. Koelbloedig bleef Constance onze
gids ons richting zwemvesten dirigeren en als je eenmaal weer veilig in de
zodiac zit is een foto maken van dit indrukwekkende beest wel een must.
Het is inmiddels 9 augustus en we zijn op weg naar Grønfjorden. We zijn dus
vrij zuidelijk, er is niet zoveel ijs meer, al is ook dat een relatief
begrip: waar vind je zoveel gletsjers als hier. En waar ijs is.. zijn
ijsberen zou je zeggen. En inderdaad. Waren we al blij met een "oogst" van
drie, in twee dagen tijd poseerden er ineens zes ijsberen voor de camera's.
De waarschuwing vooraf bij de reis is op zijn plaats: je blijft hier
fotograferen, dus zorg voor voldoende materiaal ! En ook voor voldoende
truien want aan de kou moet je ook even wennen (in Oslo nog 32 graden, in
Longyearbyen 2!).
Spitsbergen, het is waanzinnig mooi. Alles zo groot, stil, leeg, ongerept en
uitgestrekt, je voelt je nietig. Het is een voorrecht dat je zo'n prachtige
omgeving mag ervaren. Maar meegaan op de Noorderlicht is meer. Het is
kennismaken met Nederlandse historie. Walvisvaart en mijnbouw bijvoorbeeld.
Niet alles is om trots op te zijn, maar het is er, zicht- en tastbaar.
Meevaren is ook, als je wilt, meehelpen met zeilen. Dus de spieren kunnen
flink getraind worden. Maar het is bovenal gezellig, leerzaam en niet te
vergeten... heerlijk eten! Elke maaltijd weer een verrassing.
Dus dank aan de bemanning Ted, Renske, Jeroen, Anna en gids Constance voor
een geweldige reis, die ongetwijfeld ook de komende dagen nog veel moois
zal opleveren!

Olga en Anja

About the last 4 trips and the struggle with ice.
At this moment, the 5th day of the trip, the sun is shining, the guests are out for a walk, a mother bear with cub is sleeping on the mountain slope nearby and a bearded seal is swimming around the ship at anchor in Faksevagen. After two earlier attempts to go around, with a Belgian group and a Dutch group, we finally made it to the Hinlopen strait. We had some ice fields, but with our guide, Dan in the mast, we could manage to get through. The ice chart shows not much ice further south.
This Summer there has been a lot of ice in the north close to the coast. We have not had this for many years. Also it seems colder than other years. Here where we are now the mountains are as white as in Wintertime. With the sun shining and the dark blue water it looks beautiful, but makes my toes feel a little uncomfortable.
There was sometimes snow and ice on deck. The Belgians took 8 hours to do a 4 hour walk because of the thick snow on land. They slept well that night.
With the Spanish group on a north trip, we could not go further than the Utre Norskoya, what we call Zeeuwse uitkijk. From there we just managed, steering north, to get to the 80 degree by sailing along the ice edge. We hadn't many sunny days that period but I assume they didn't come for that. Moved South with a northerly wind, we made a stop in Ny-Alesund, were there was even more wind and swell. The friendly harbourmaster helped us to a place inside were there was shelter, and ms Heidi made place for us. Thank you Heidi. With the same strong wind further on to the Bellsund where we saw 2 bears.
The previous trip with the people from Beluga-travel we were stopped by the ice a little east of Moffen. We stayed at the ice edge for a day for it was just nice to be there, out of the fog, the quietness, the sun and the feeling that a bear would show up. The bear didn't show up but we saw a good one the next day. After this we went back in the fog to the Liefdefjord which was also foggy, very thick I could barely see the bowsprit but the mountaintops were clearly visible. Makes you feeling to made small for this world. Just before the glacier front, it was also clear and there we saw a swimming bear, and a little later a seal close by teasing the bear. What a dangerous game the seal played with the bear. Both diving under and coming up sometimes very close. It went on for a while and then the seal had had enough fun and swam away. We saw bears on not the usual places, you can see them everywhere of course, but there spots where we have more chance, like the Liefdefjord where mostly there are some during the summertime. Now we saw only one over there, but 4 in the Bellsund, a few in the Kongsfjord and one in front of the Kongsbreen eating a seal. Also the usual place for the walrus, Moffen, was empty but we did see them regularly on Poolepynten and some on ice floes. Beluga's and whales occasionally, the birds by millions.
Halfway this trip, but Dan promised to write about this trip.
Ted

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