9 th of June 2013 A group of 20 passengers, 4 crew members and a guide on the Noorderlicht, a dapper red schooner sailing ship on a 12 days voyage around southern Spitsbergen. Storm at sea with 6 meter swell, cold drizzle and every now and again clear blue skies, and sunshine 24 hours per day. Boring? No - not at all!! The ship is kept right on course, the sails filled with crisp arctic winds, meals with a Michelin star quality and service , a glass of wine on deck surrounded by snowy mountains, mighty glaciers and turquoise seas. Anchor dropped in safe coves in astonishing rocky fjords. Tens of thousands of sea birds on cliffs towering high above us with an Arctic fox on patrol underneath. Fulmars guide us through the clear open waters of Svalbard's waters, a bearded seal at rest on its ice flow at starboard, the sea ice is talking to us with its gentle twinkling sound. Dozing walruses remain undisturbed on the beach, oblivious of our presence. Rocks are painted with bright orange and green lichen, the first flowers start to bloom on the tundra. Always on the lookout for whales and polar bears - eager to see all the beauties of the Arctic. Sleeping is not a good way to spend one's time here, but bearded seal can be heard whistling under water when we lie down in our cabins for a rest. No other human being in sight for days on end, we are at one of the most remote places on this globe - if this is not like paradise, then where would it be? Barents burg first hurts the eye but reveals its history of sturdy men and women to the curious visitor. As do the old trapper stations scattered in the many fjords and the remains of whaling stations - monuments of a darker past which drove Spitsbergen's wildlife almost to extinction. It is with heavy hearts that we disembark after one of the most astonishing trips we have ever made. We wish the Noorderlicht and her crew many more years of safe passage in the Arctic waters of Spitsbergen - and an Arctic which remains unspoiled by modern mankind.
Friday 31th of Mai, end of the winter season 2013
Exciting days in Tempelfjorden, the last week of Mai... Already from the 26th of Mai we were hoping to see the icebreaker.Bear Island was very much delayed as they could not unload the goods due to bad weather. We prepared the breaking out operation: hoisting the snow scooters on the deck (after a very good, sunny, last ride in the fjord), breaking down the boot room, taking the roof isolation away, taking in all dog lines from the ice etc .On the 30th of Mai we got the good message that Coastguard vessel K.V.Svalbard will come to Tempelfjorden on the 31th of Mai! So time for the last 2 jobs: hoisting the doghouses on board and taking in the gangway. A lot of dogs running on the deck! At two o'clock we saw the icebreaker entering the fjord and had contact on the VHF. It took them only half an hour to break the ice towards us, but still around 70 cm thick. Some years they start breaking a circle around us, but this year they had a different method: The icebreaker broke the ice as close as possible towards our bow, (bow to bow), then went backwards away, turned the ship, came back with the aft ship towards us and started 'washing away' the ice by using his propellers. As this icebreaker can also crunch and eat away ice with the propeller, it worked well. First it looked like a swimming poolbaround us, so much water on the ice which got a blue shine from ice beneath. Then we could see the cracks coming, the ice opening up and suddenly we were free of the ice! We followed the icebreaker through the channel, but still hard for us to come through all the loose pieces of ice. So we followed her closely, to have as little ice as possible. What a great job the coastguard did, so much power leaded in a such precisely breaking and maneuvering. Very impressive! As soon as we reached open water we could speed up our engine and head for Longyearbyen, as our first summer cruise guests already arrived in Longyearbyen. They welcomed us from the top of Plateau montain, from where they overlooked Advent fjorden and saw Noorderlicht entering the fjord. Our summer crew with Captain Gert, Daniel second mate and Chef Durk were welcoming us at Bykaia and ready to have all hands. In a few hours we unloaded the winter goods, got fresh summer supplies aboard, tanked diesel and water and cleaned the deck. With a glass of Champagne we welcomed our WWF guests aboard. Around midnight Gert started the engine and from the quay, with the 6 dogs beside me, I waved Noorderlicht goodbye, heading out for the first summer trip in beautiful weather....=
Wednesday 22nd of may 2013
Just before last weekend we had our last overnights of winter season 2013.
The 5 dog teams stayed over for the night and headed north towards Billefjorden the next day.
The last snow scooter guests brought our Chef Jackie back to Longyearbyen,
as she had to catch the weekend flight to the Netherlands.
Always hard, the last period in the season, saying goodbye to all guides and colleagues with whom we have worked all winter.
But Basecamp made it a little easier by organizing a nice farewell party in town. Barbara and Jackie took a scooter ride to the town to join the party on the 14th..
Still it looks like winter in Tempelfjorden, but signs of spring pop up everywhere:
Snowbuntlings picking in the hay from the dogs
Two Pink-footed geese flew over as we were resting the dogs at Kapp Schoultz
The first 'singing' of the male bearded seals, trying to find a partner
The mother bear is still around with het two cubs, we had her passing on 100 meters two days ago.
At this moment we can she her resting at the coast of Kapp Schoultz, the cubs playing around her.
We were a little worried the other day, as we saw one of the cubs had a limb in his walk.
But as it looks now, they are both running on 4 feet again!
The weather has been quite nice the last days, so we could do maintenance outside. Cha-cha was barking and suddenly we saw why: a dog team was passing far away.
The strange thing was, when we took a look with the binoculars, we could not see a dog driver!
Quickly we packed an emergency kit (the dog driver could be in the water or injured) and started the 2 snow scooters.
As we approached closer and closer to the dog team, we suddenly realized what was going on:
the two dog drivers were dressed in completely white overalls, their camouflage to hunt the seals......
With the 4 of us, we concluded that their suits were functioning very very good, not only for the seals....
With their hunting they were collecting samples and doing measurements for the Norwegian Polar Institute.
Today we also took a test start of the Caterpillar, our main engine. She started straight away after the cold winter, so good!
Tomorrow another day, to get everything ready and packed before the icebreaker will arrive in Tempelfjorden.
Some more days to enjoy this beautiful spot in Spitsbergen...