Tuesday, 10 October 2006

October Svalbard

It is beautiful weather on Svalbard today, ÷10 C and just a little wind. Snow have started covering the landscape and it is totally different compared to summer. Twilight is looong and you can enjoy how white is changing to pink and then to apricot and then to coldish blue. Enjoy 20° in middle Europe, in the Arctic winter is taking it's grip.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

First Skiing in Lyngen

The snow has started falling in the mountains around Tromsø and our hypothesis was that it would be skiing conditions at higher altitudes in the Lyngen Alps. Shure enough, the hypothesis was verified at about 800 m.asl. and it was beyond expectations above 1000 m.asl. where powder was present. We even decided to abort our try on one of the summits due to avalanche danger. It is not every year you can go powder skiing in Northern Norway before October.

I look forward to an eventful season in the backcountry. I'd like to thank the two superbros from Sweden that initiated this firs trip of the season; Olof and Kalle Selander. We also met some eager students from my old telemark-club; TULL, at the University of Tromsø.

The pics here are some from the trip, the panorama is taken of the Lyngen Alps when arriving with the ferry at Svendsby.

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Fall in Greenland

Greenland is the largest island in the world. It contains a lot of ice but on the coasts are rather green... Polar Star is sailing along the coasts of East and South Greenland in the Fall, after the Svalbard season. Crossing from Svalbard over to East Greenland is always very interesting, you never know exactly where or when you are going to hit the ice that are migrating out of the Arctic Ocean south through the Fram and Denmark Strait. The seaice you are most likely to meet is no-non-sense ice, meaning multi year, packed and hard ice. If you manage to get to the coast you can find that even in late August some of the fjords north of 76° is still covered with first year fast ice. This ice is an effective moderator for visitors, and some of the places I have visited, I would be the only visitor that year or even that decade.

Coming to the coast of Northeast Greenland is a dream. It is like coming to a place empty of people (there is only 27 persons living within the national park) and only nature have worn and torn the landscape over millions of years. The natural beauty is beyond words. The mere feeling of being alone and in the wilderness is overwhelming. The national park is 972 000 km² or 375 291,3 sq miles - that is eqivalent to Spain and France combined. ¾ of this area is covered by ice, but it still leaves about 250 000 km² without ice, in comparison the island of Great Britain is 209 000 km².

Anyway, enough statistics. Enjoy the pictures and make sure you experience Greenland once in your lifetime.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Fall in Tromsø

This picture is of Kvaløya as I see it from my window at home. The mountain most prominent is Blåmannen, 1044 m.asl. The sun and the skies are amazing at this time of the year, it changes all the time. One of these days I saw Aurora Borealis east on the sky while the sun was setting in west - that was quite intriguing.

Friday, 21 July 2006

Brunnich Guillemots on Svalbard

The Brunnich Guillemot is a member of the auk-family. It is similar to the Common Guillemot ut have a more northern distribution than the common. It´s a little smaller, has a blue/gray line on the upper mandible and do not have the white ring around the eye that some of the commons get. It is nesting in cliffs on Svalbard and one of the largest colonies is situated in the Hinlopen Strait on East Spitsbergen. Last week we had the conditions to do the first Zodiac-cruise (small boat cruise) in front of this cliff and it resulted in these pictures. Many think about penguins when they see the guillemot. They are not related but are subject to something called convergent evolution, meaning that they adapt to similar environmental challenges. One example is that they are white on the chest and black on the back - this means that they are camuflaced in water from preditors both from above and below (white against a light sky and black against the dark abyss). The guillemots also have very short wings that they use for propelling in water. They have a large chest bone that support big muscels, but they are rather inefficient flyers.

Friday, 14 July 2006

Polar Bears in Svalbard

On request from one of my readers I´m posting some pictures of some of the polar bears we have seen so far this season. It is very little sea ice this season and it seems that the bears are congregating where there still is a sufficient "hunting platform" for them. We have seen a lot females with two cubs this season - mabye they are the ones who didn´t make it when trying to follow a fast retreating ice edge this year. Last week we observed 39 polar bears - this is a new record for Polar Star.

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

A few days in Lyngsalpene again...

North Norway is shining at the moment. The Lyngen Alps is one of the jewels not far from Tromsø for skiers that don´t need lifts and comfy infrastructure (there are accommodations...). Trond Aalde and I went to Nord Lenangen (a place in Lyngen) to ski, take photographs and have a nice time. Skiing with Trond is super, a good pal and a super skier (former world champion telemark skier) trying to hang on to down the mountain sides is challenging, both for me and my dog; Pinga. Trond also gave me the opportunity to try out next years skiis, bindings and boots. Canadian skis - Genuine Guide Gear (G3) and Dynafit boots and bindings. He imports this stuff to Norway and his mission is off course to have everyone in the world using it. I can sign on that what he gave me works, you can see the signature down on front of the mountain Storgalten in Northern Lyngen. We did all our skiing trips in the evening to get the best light and the best snow (the last pic of me skiing down is at about 9:30 pm) - no alpine start necessary. Take your tent, rent a car in Tromsø, drive out to Lyngen and find a beach and camp and ski a nearby mountain or just stroll along the coast for a while looking at rocks and shorebirds. Good luck. (all pictures here are taken by Trond exept the one of him that I took).

Monday, 17 April 2006

Easter Holiday; Telemark skiing in Lyngsalpene

Weather has been perfect this Easter. The mountains around Tromsø have invited to skiing trips. On this occasion, my friend: Aslak Prestbakmo and I went to Lyngsalpene and a mountain called Sofiatinden. Sofiatinden is one of then easy accessible mountains on the 85 km long penninsula called Lyngen. There are more than 30 summits higher than 1500 meters (4500 ft) a.s.l. It is challenging alpine terrain and no lifts what so ever to take you to the tops. The pristine Lyngenalpene (Lyngen Alps) is partly protected (two-thirds of the total land area) from future installations and infrastructure. This makes Lyngsalpene one of the most interesting places in Northern Norway for outdoor activity, especially for those who look for challenges in steep skiing and climbing. The pictures should talk for themselves, on this day we found Nirvana less than one hour from where I live in Tromsø (35 min. driving + 15 min. ferry + 5 min driving again…) (All pictures is of Aslak Prestbakmo and shot by me, Jørn Henriksen)

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Antarctic Fur Seal

The last trip to Antarctica was pretty grey weatherwise. Non the less, on our first landing we came upon some really nice antarctic fur seals on Half Moon Island. This guy was posing for me while his friend was pretty indifferent to me. The fur seals is extremely adaptive and are thriving in the Southern Ocean. On the Island of South Georgia there are now millions of them, in the 1970´s there were virtually non left there. The fur seals was harvested for their delicate underfur that waterproofs them. They were hunted almost to extinction. Then the whales faced a severe toll in the same area and some now speculate if it is actually the marginalized number of whales in the Southern Ocean that are the reason fur seals are multiplying so fast the last decade or two. They are after all feeding on the same "cornerstone" spiecies; krill. Summed up; less whales to eat krill gives more krill to our friends the fur seal, and they are better off. The big question is; Is the whales going to come up in the competition with these guys? And when?

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Fathom Expeditions charter 2006

The last expedition with Polar Star to Antarctica was a full time charter with a Toronto based company called Fathom Expeditions. Our 12-day itinery took us to Elephand Island, Danger Islands, Paulet Island, Snow Hill Island, Devil Island, King George Island, Cuverville Island, Paradise Harbour, Danco Island, Petermann Island, Port Lockroy, Neko Harbour, Cierva Cove and Deception Island. These places would we known to seasoned Antarctic guides – I just list them up here because I think these names contains a certain athmosphere themselves.

However, Antarctica again showed all her sides; howling winds in the Weddel Sea, making it impossible to land on Heroina Island, flatt calm and super in amongst the South Shetlands the day after, reflections – double of everything as we sailed north the Neumayer Channel and big waves again coming north the Bransfield Strait towards Deception Island at the end. Smooth crossing of the Drake Passage both ways!

People often ask me; …what do you prefer; the arctic of the antarctic?

I often answer; …don´t be unfair to me – I grew up and have a special relationship to the arctic, it´s my home. On the other hand, Antarctica is beyond words…

Have a great time wherever you are in the world – and remember – all the penguins in down here depend on YOU!!

...behind the scenes continues

Photo reportage; Polar Star behind the scenes

Most people who are onboard M/V Polar Star see things from a passenger perspective. Working and living aboard a small expedition vessel is something quite different. Most of the Philipino crew are onboard for 9 months, home for 3 months and onboard again for 9 months. Some of our crew have been with Polar Star since the vessel came into service in 2001.

Common for all crew is that they are hard working and smiling. No matter what an enthusiastic expedition team throws at them, they are up to the challenge and super keen on cooperating giving the passengers the best possible experience while onboard.

Even when I intruded some of their back stages to shoot this reportage they kept smiling, no matter what situation they were in. I will continue working on this little project until I have a portrait of everyone onboard M/V Polar Star.