29th December Christmas in Tempelfjorden!
Noorderlicht left Tromso the 16th of December, with strong South Easterly winds, heading for Spitsbergen. The light of the moon was useful in the 24 hours darkness.. Already the 20th of December she arrived in Longyearbyen. Due to Northerly winds the last day of the crossing, the ship was covered in a thick, thick layer of ice.
Thanks to all Crew for good help with sailing and storing!
As it was already very cold in Spitsbergen from October, we had a regular check on the ice maps. And yes, ice was forming in Tempelfjorden... Already too much ice to come in the fjord our self. Belicov, the Russian icebreaker, was a very good help last Mai, to break us out of the ice. So the contact was made to ask for assistance to break us in the ice.
The Russian Christmas is celebrated in January, so for the crew it was no problem to assist us on the 24th of December.
Solfrid and Erik joined on Belicov to have an easy communication between both vessels.
At 10 o' clock in the morning we left the harbour of Longyearbyen together with Belicov.
The first small ice fields we met in Sassenfjorden. At the entrance of Tempelfjorden thicker ice came on our way, Belicov had to go back and forward to break through.
At some distance we followed in her track, the ice was around 20 cm now.
The last part of the track the ice was 25 cm thick, but Belicov made our way clear to our wintering position.
At Christmas eve, 16.00 hours, Belicov turned her bow, heading for Longyearbyen.
And our Christmas, as well as our -freezing in-, could start in Tempelfjorden!
Lofoten 24 November - 1 December
Here I am, sitting in a nice corner of this beautiful ship, Noorderlicht. Together with my book and cup of tea I am warming up after another nice walk we had this morning, through the nature of Norway. While the walkers came inside one-by-one, the room below fills with the great smell of freshly baked cake. Anna, our cook, surprises us every day with all kinds of delicious treats. Yesterday, when we sailed through the Troll fjord, we even had warm apple pie on deck. The sight of the Troll fjord are breathtaking. They are really high and steep, and now and then some snow crawls down like a smoke curtain falling over the fjord. With the big sails out, the Noorderlicht steers quietly through this magical surrounding. Everybody is standing on deck. This fairy tale music is playing softly in my mind while we traverse this narrow fjord. This is amazing and so wonderful. In the freezing crystal clear water is a perfect mirror reflection from the snowy mountains. The Noorderlicht sails so slowly and softly that the water barely moves as we slide over it. The pictures of the glassy mirror water are fantastic.
On the way back out of the fjord we are heading for open sea. Everybody helps and the sails are pulled taught. Gert, our captain, ask me if I want to steer a little bit. Without any worries on his face he hands me the helm and let me tell you this: it is a lot harder then it looks, but give it a shot because it is a really fun experience.
We are travelling with an international company, so I can work on my languages. It is very nice and pleasant atmosphere. At night we play cards at the bar of the Noorderlicht or go in to the town where we are moored. It is nice and relaxed here, if you are sleeping, reading, hoisting sails, hiking or at the look out, it is all okay, nevertheless it is your holiday.
After breakfast we dress ourselves nice and warm to go on shore for a walk, or actually a hike. Our guide, Jan, likes to choose the paths that go straight through a snowy forest or frozen lake. Passionated he walks with a quick step through the mountainous scenery, he makes it look so easy. Me, 24 years old, from the Netherlands, in no shape whatsoever and certainly no hiking experience thinks a little bit different about this. On one side I am soaked by the melting snow and on the other side wet with sweat. While the French Troup is passing me at a steady speed, desperately trying to walk off all that red wine they drunk last night, I am catching my breath. Luckily I am almost at the next top for a stop. The fresh snow crunches under my feet and there we see an elk, on the other side of the mountain, a really nice view. As soon as I look around me, I forget the cramp in my legs and the sweat on my back, because the view is really astonishing. The nature of the Lofoten is indescribably beautiful, it really amazes me. We just arrive at the summit on time to see the sunrise. The air is coloured pink and orange and it seems that the mountaintops are going to explode, so brightly they are lit up.
Climbing down again suits me much better. Like a snowball I roll and jump down from the mountain. I am feeling good, like I am able to conquer the world. The cold air tingles my nose. As soon as we return back to the ship a lovely warm meal is being served. That evening we are watching a movie about the Noorderlicht going on a trip to Spitsbergen. A loud voice breaks the silence down below. It is Anna, calling for us, the famous Polar Light it revealing itself. With my shoes in my hand I am running towards the deck, and there it is, right above us. The air colours green, white and red and this amazing light show is going on, in the eye of a cheering and laughing crowd, this is a magical experience.
Great journey through the Lofoten, a beautiful ship, lovely people, nice food and amazing views. I would recommend this trip on Noorderlicht to everybody who wants to learn and meet Norway. Thank you all for this experience.
And with this last report our sailing season has come to an end. Noorderlicht will be dry dock in Harstad until half December and then she goes north again, to Spitsbergen. Waiting for the ice to freeze in Tempelfjorden. See you next year!
The story below is written by Urszula Dawkins, one of the artists who joined the northwest voyage from 10 til 22 October 2010.
The Arctic Circle artist residency
With the days growing dramatically shorter until the sun barely reached the horizon, a group of professional artists from around the world joined awesome Noorderlicht Captain and crew Gert Ritzema, Barbara Francke and Aafke van der Werf, and wonderful chef Anna Kors, for an eleven-day voyage to experience the fjords, glaciers and rock-strewn lands of northern Spitsbergen.
Armed with the seemingly endless knowledge of our expert guide Jan Belgers, we headed out from Longyearbyen on a clear Sunday evening to anchor in Trygghamna (safe haven) overnight and were greeted next morning by the incredible sight of what seemed to be snow-covered mountains all around us.
In Svalbard, the light is so clear and the mountains so magnificent that distance and perspective often seem to evaporate: sometimes one really doesn't see the entrance to a fjord except when sailing through it, creating a sense of being transported by magic to each new place.
Over the ensuing ten days we sailed along Spitsbergen's west and northern coasts visiting Magdalenefjorden, Liefdefjorden, Moffen Island (just scraping 80-and-a-bit degrees north), the astonishing Monaco glacier, historic sites Virgohamna and Advent City, and the world's most northern community, Ny Ålesund an international scientific research outpost. While our first shore landing consisted of a hike, a lot of oohs and aahs and a thousand camera clicks, we were far from a tourist group from the second landing, at Gravneset, Magdalenefjorden, everyone was busy with their work in one way or another. A hungry polar bear or inquisitive arctic fox would have spied two-legged creatures with large-format cameras and tripods composing incredible shots of pointed peaks and turquoise ice; filmmakers directing actors in unusual costumes; a dry-suited swimmer exploring the shallows; a painter struggling with oils, brushes and snow; sound artists interviewing the ice (which constantly crackles, bubbles and whistles) and all with respect for this amazing wilderness, leaving no trace of our presence when we left.
Experiencing life at sea, the northern lights, phosphorescent jellyfish, Jan's brilliant local knowledge and Anna's cooking all added to a journey that will definitely fuel our artwork for a long time to come. Thanks to the Noorderlicht crew for their skill in providing us with a safe and inspiring journey, and thanks to The Arctic Circle program and founder Aaron O'Connor for a truly amazing professional opportunity.
Urszula Dawkins, voyage participant
1 November Noorderlicht has just started with her last Spitsbergen voyage of this season. The moon is permanently visible, whereas the sun is under the horizon for 24 hours a day. Since the 26th of October we have been living in the twilight-zone. The long nights are made brighter by moonshine, starshine and northern lights. The sea is beginning to freeze and is covered by arctic frost-fire.
Cruise between the Lofoten Islands and mainland on the Noorderlicht 17-24 November 2010.
This week cruising on the Noorderlicht was a new experience for most of us (19 French + 1 Belgium). Some had previous experience in sailing, some already traveled in the arctic environment. Very few knew both.
We have all been delighted by this trip.
The Noorderlicht and its crew are perfect for such a cruise.
For navigation, the vessel size and draft, and the experimented crew allow them to enter in the narrowest fjords and berth in small isolated harbors. This is suitable for the discovery of these islands. This with a high feeling of freedom.
Level of comfort for passengers on the Noorderlicht surprised most of us in a very positive way. (No need to say that after few hours of outdoor activities in the arctic environment, it makes you happy to take refuge in a cosy place!)
The highlight of the cruise is when wind is strong enough to sail under full sail.
The strength and the dexterity of Gert (captain) and Barbara (first mate) to manage the 550 sqm of sails impressed us! Even, if our help was always welcome, we have to remain modest about our efficiency !
Hoisting the sails requires a physical commitment. Nevertheless, a large smile illuminates their face as soon as they have the opportunity to stop the engine. For sure, as a passenger and a customer, these smiles enhance the magic of the silent navigation and gorgeous scenery.
Last but not least. We all appreciated the very good cakes and dishes prepared by Anna the cook. A real success to satisfy 19 French people, ready to eat every 2 hours after a walk on shore or few miles navigation!
Thank you Gert, Barbara and Anna for your kindness and constant availability. Take great care of you and your 100 years old vessel!
In the morning of the 5th of November we set sail towards the south, destination Tromso, Norway. Of course not before saying goodbye to our last Spitsbergen travellers. Together with five other adventurers we crossed the Devil's Dancefloor, facing windforce 9, coming from the north east. Despite a broken boom of the schooner sail, everything went well. With some adjustments we were still able to use the schooner sail. Tromso was reached in 83 hours, which means we sailed with an average speed of 7,1 knots. Not bad for a 100 year old lady.
We are in Harstad now, making the ship ready for the Lofoten trips, which starts the 17th of November.
A report of our last voyage: The Twilight Voyage
(West-Spitsbergen 29th October-5th November)
On the first day, everyone of our mixed group (2 Australians, 1 Englishman, 2 Germans, 3 Spaniards and 11 irrepressible Italians) was aboard Noorderlicht by 6 pm and we set off from Longyearbyen to Trygghamna, to anchor for the night. The following day we were instructed in safety procedures by our guide Robin, who has later also given fascinating stories of live in Svalbard coloured by his own experiences, before we made our first landing on an icy beach to explore the coast and visit abandoned hunting stations. The zodiac was expertly handled by Aafke and Barbara (...an exciting and wet experience every time) and our landing was closely observed by a playful seal. We later saw a distant reindeer on the horizon. In the afternoon we took sail south to Bellsund to anchor for the night. The next morning we landed at Recherchebreen to explore the frozen lagoon in front of the glacier. There we saw fresh polar bear, arctic fox and reindeer tracks. We made a second landing nearby Chamberhinddalen to see an early trappers' hut. The ship headed towards Van Keulenhamna, but it was too icy to make an anchorage, so Gert, our captain, diverted to the closeby Midterhukhamna. In the night we were treated to our best auroral display covering the entire sky. On day four we sailed to Fridtjofhamna and landed to climb a ridge overlooking Fridtjofglacier. Anna the cook has provided plenty of delicious food to keep us going on our daily adventures. Only halfway trough our twilight voyage, the following days will be determined by the everchanging arctic conditions.
Axel Barchfeld and Richard McConnell