Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Visit to Svea and Salhusryggen

On very short notice, me and the rest of the cabin group at UNIS, went to Svea and the student-cabin Salryggen.

Salryggen by night (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Svea is a mining settlement run by the Norwegian mining company Store Norske(SN) and between 2-300 people work here everyday making it the third largest settlement on Svalbard (After Longyearbyen and Barentsburg). The name Svea is old for Sweden and was first established by the Swedish, but later sold to SN.

Outside snowscooter-season students usually travel by plane to Svea if there are seats available through a deal between SN and UNIS. This means that we often don't know until close up to departure whether we can go or not. This was the case with us as well. At first we gotten a notice telling us there were no seats available, but then we got a phone call and we were suddenly rushing towards the airport.

For UNIS students: Booking goes through students advisor. You're not allowed to bring signal guns or ammunition. Rifle ammunition should come in original packing. Check out student cabin folder at the server. When arriving at the airport use entrance to the right of the main entrance. Check in starts 25minutes pre flight departure.

From Longyearbyen airport (LYR) the flight path is more or less to the south across Reinsdalen and into Van Mijenfjorden(Name after Willem Van Muyden which in error was written Van Mijen by Nordenskiöld). Normally it should take about 15 minutes and if it takes longer, there's probably some kind of problem - be lucky!

Map from Svea to Salhusryggen (Map from Norsk Polarinstitutt)

So. We arrived at Svea airport and we soon realized that a map was forgotten. We also had not got our return flight confirmed yet, so we went to the reception (Yellow building with postal sign, right up the road of the airport).  The reception lady was not impressed by our preparations. In addition to our lack of maps we had not been informed that walking along the road was prohibited due to the big mining trucks driving there. In general there's also a restriction on walking around in Svea. This makes it a bit complicated to get to the cabin outside the snowscooter-season.

Svea in general (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Svea airport (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Svea in general II (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

We were in luck however. The port captain, Rolv Enger, offered to drive us to the cabin and even pick us up for our return flight at 08.30 the next morning. This guy was definitely the hero on our trip!

One of the main aims of our little trip was to check the condition of the cabin. We had heard all sorts of things. That the roof was leaking, mold and basicly that the cabin was following down. Therefor we were a bit surprised as we arrived at the cabin. It was fairly big, although probably half the size of Smutthullet in Bjørndalen. And as far as we could see the roof for the most part seemed okey, although, there were some cracks around the pipe which probably should be maintained. There were also some doorhandles missing and generally it should be supplied. There were also gas and coal, but wood is starting to run out.

View from the cabin toward the harbour (where you can get water)
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)

If you need water you can ask the workers in the building on the harbour. Also. See poster at the cabin.

We had some problems getting the coal to burn, but this was mainly due to lack of experience on making a good fire with coal. Due to the design of the oven - instead of making a sort of teepee fire, you should build a platform type of fire in order to promote air circulation from underneath the coal.

The evening was spent eating chocolate, talking and playing "Sysselmannen and coal worker" which is the Svalbard version of the card game "president.

Kirsteen being... Kirsteen. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

From the left: Me, Erika and Kirsteen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Kirsteen and Ida playing "Sysselmannen and coal-miner"
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)
 The next morning we were driven to the airport and offered breakfast and coffe at the mess hall before returning to LYR and Longyearbyen.

I've uploaded a GPS log with a waypoint at the cabin. This can be downloaded from the cabin group folder on the server.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Me-time at Bjørndalen

Ooops: This blogpost contains a badly shot Svalbard rock ptarmigan

So. There was a big party at UNIS this weekend. A perfect oppertunity to get the cabin in Bjørndalen all for myself (with reference to last blogpost). I woke up at 6am saturday morning ready to go. However, outside, the wind was still hitting us hard with a 10m/s average (Strong breeze), but with 18-20m/s in the throws. Temperatures was okey thought ranging from 0 to -4 degrees celcius.

Photo from previous afternoon with strong winds
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)
After an hour it all calmed down a little and I took a chance and went for it. Originially I was planning on going up Platåfjellet, but poor visiblity and still strong winds. I followed the road along the coast towards Bjørndalen (about 15km/9.3miles). The visibility was for the most part quite okey, but it was quite slippery across the windblown landscape. I'd brought skies, but there wasn't really any snowcover worth skiing on.

Following the road to Bjørndalen.
So, I arrived at Bjørndalen without much problem. Crossing the river wasn't any problem either since it was all frozen up and there isn't really any melting going on in the mountains either due to the low temperatures.

Waves were hitting the coast hard
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Bjørndalen with Smutthullet in the far distance
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)

At Smutthullet ( 78° 13' 23" N, 15° 17' 47" E) I got some food, some coffe and a fire running. Then i did some repairs on the cabin, fixing one of the doors and a window that wouldn't shut. Then I treated myself with a trip up Bjørndalen. 

Smutthullet (from next morning) Photo: Alexander Hovland)
So, I started to walk up, following the valley side. The wind wasn't that strong now, but there were some amount of snow coming down. Then suddenly I spotted something white up in the mountain side and I immediately knew it had to be a svalbard rock ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperboreus). I started to climb up the scree slope towards the top. I'd almost given up when I saw something moving in the corner of my eye and is it flew past me I gave it a shot. It started to roll down the scree slope and I couldn't even see it when it stopped. I rushed down. It was still breathing and as I twisted the neck the..erhh... head fell off. Ooops.

Ooops. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Getting dark (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Returning to the cabin I put the ptarmigan up on the wall and went out again, this time was for a short skiing trip up the valley.

The evening was spent in front of the fireplace reading A short history of nearly everything by Bill Bryson, which as the title suggest, is a book about nearly everything.

Evening picture (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Evening picture II (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
 As I woke up this morning I was hoping to ski most of the way back home. The wind however had turned and now almost all of the snow was gone again. It was a long and boring walk back home. My knee was still not up for walking across Platåfjellet.

A small herd of reindeer (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Adventtoppen at 786msl (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Friday, October 14, 2011

On being alone, but not lonely

Warning. This blogpost is just a personal reflection on solitude. You might want to skip it if you're here for Svalbard.

One of the things I miss about Svalbard is being able to hike around on my own. There are some options like using cabins (these are often full however) or tripwire (which we don't really trust up here), but for the most part trips up here are done in groups.

What is it with the solitude that I like so much? I don't think most people really get it and to be honest. Sometimes. Neither do I.
It had been raining almost non-stop since I started to walk two days ago and now the wind was picking up. There wasn't much to see either due to the heavy fog that filled the whole valley. I wasn't really tired, just not motivated. I was cold and wet - my jacket was leaking down the shoulders and I had already gotten blisters. I passed a DNT-cabin and smoke was coming from the pipe, people inside. Still. Stopping there would be defeat. I continued.

Many times I've experienced the feeling of being cold, alone and tired. My legs are giving up and there is just no more motivation to continue. Every step is toward a goal 20meters ahead and for every 20meters you move your goal another 20 meters ahead. Sometimes I play this game for hours.
Just one more cairn... Then another... (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Then you come home. You take a shower, get some food and put your feet on the table. Then, you realize that you want more. Why? What is it that keep pulling me back everytime?

The tent was filling with steam as the water started to boil. I was lying on my back on top of my sleeping bag just stretching my legs, my arms, feeling the tingling sensation of sore muscles. It had been a long day and I had been walking for hours just dreaming of this moment. Just a few meters more.

There is something special about being able to crawl into the tent after a hard day. You know you've pushed yourself as hard as you could. There is no question, no doubt about it. And even the shittiest cup of coffe tastes better than anything you ever dreamed off.

Some much needed food (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

However, this does not answer why I prefer the solitude of it. Would it not be better to actually share this moment with someone? Sometimes. But I think some of the reward is in that you've actually accomplished this by yourself. Do I need to prove something to myself? To others?

Tired... And wet... Reindeers in the background thought. (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

I tend to think quite a lot when I walk around. About the big stuff, and about the small stuff. It does not take long before I start talking to myself. I am not sure if I do this loud or if it is just inside my head. I am not even sure if it is sane. 
Why? Why Alex? Why the hell did you not cross further down? It is slippery. It will take hours to pass this shit. You're such an idiot Alex. Damn it. Why did you not just stick with the path?
I often argue with myself on longer trips. When you're all by yourself you sort of need to fill all the social roles yourself. You need someone to blame, someone to joke to and someone to talk to. 

It is not that you despise other people. Quite the opposite. There's this special feeling when you suddenly hear other people again. Your heart starts racing, and you listen with every sense. Where are they? How many are they? Did you actually hear them? Are they coming closer? 

You do get very social by being unsocial and it is not hard to talk when you finally meet. You really learn to appreciate these moments. 

Simplicity is probably a good keyword when trying to understand it all. As you wake up, you know what you're supposed to do. You have clearly defined goals which result both in internal and external rewards which reinforce that behavior.

As soon as you introduce other people it gets more complicated. At least for me. I think most people would describe as a sort of lone wolf. It is not that I can't enjoy group-activities. I just prefer not using too much time on it and I prefer smaller groups  rather than big groups. Prefer is a keyword thought and sometimes (often?) I choose not to participate.
Do I ever feel alone on my trips? Actually. I often do, but that is what makes it so rewarding to actually meet people again. It is almost like starving yourself to preserve your appetite for a good meal.

There's an ad for the Norwegian phone company Telenor which is starring the famous Norwegian polar explorer Børge Ousland. Sadly it is only in Norwegian, but I've transcribed it below.

"Loneliness is a strange thing
I remember the feeling when I was walking alone to the North pole... Or the south pole... And did not have contact with anyone for months.
But the weird thing is that I'm feeling exactly the same now. I've forgotten my cell phone at home and I feel more alone then I did on the North pole or the Southpole. That is something new for me. It was not like this before.
What if everyone forgot their cell phone or computers at home for one day?  Then I think we'd have an outbreak of collective loneliness. And it is weird how quickly we've become dependent of being available. Everywhere. All the time.
Not being available has become almost a luxury today. At least it is like that for me. Because it is a bit nice to actually being able to choose yourself when you want to be lonely. "
... and you have moments like this (: (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
There is a huge difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone does not necessarily  imply loneliness. Sometimes the most lonely place on earth is in the middle of a crowd. 

Feedback is most appreciated (Comments/facebook/mail)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Short note on my knee

Went to the doctor today and he agreed that it was probably some kind of infection in my knee. Hopefully it should go over by itself, but he prescribed me Brexidol and Orudis which both helps to mute the pain and heal the infection.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Short evening walk

Only 16 days left until the sun goes down for the last time. But for now, I still enjoy the dark nights up here... 

Fullmoon rising above Larsbreen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Nordenskiöldtoppen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Longyearbyen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Daytrip to Fardalen

Fardalen is a valley about 9km south of Longyearbyen. It is a Branch of Colesdalen draining southward for about 7,5 km before connection with the mainvalley. In the winter this is the main passage from Adventfjorden to Grønfjorden. The name does not imply "a distant valley", but come from the norwegian word "far" which in this case means "passage" and thus it  is the "valley of passage".
(Adapted from Svalbardkartet (Norsk Polarinstitutt))
The trip was just not for fun. As previously posted, Francesca is doing some work on Dryadebreen, a glacier draining into Fardalen from the northern side of Håbergnuten. This time we had crampons and could just follow the top of the Longyearbreen(Longyear glacier) to the valleyopening between Lars Hiertafjellet and Teltberget which represent a relict ice-divide for the glacier. You can walk on Longyearbreen more or less safe without rope and harnesses. This is due the polar regime of the glacier, meaning it is cold based and frozen to the ground which in turn means that ice-movement is slow. Therefor there are only a few and very shallow crevasses (<1m). There are however some supraglacial meltwater channels that one should watch out for. Especially the one running running along the eastern margin of the glacier.

So after checking the weather forecast we decided on starting early in order to get back and forth to Nybyen before the snow would come. The plan was to start six a clock, however when I woke up at 04.45 to have breakfast and pack, I went on facebook only to learn that we started an hour later. This made me slightly annoyed since I only had a few hours of sleep. I did go to bed at 22.00, but there was a party going on which was a bit loud and I couldn't sleep until I around 01.00 crawled into our storage room with a sleeping bag

However. At 07.00, me, Francesca and Niklas was walking up the moraines in front of Longyearbreen. The weather was really nice with -8 degrees celcius, little wind, and only a few clouds hanging on the sky. We put on our crampons and soon encounted a small problem. Niklas had gotten a pair of broken crampons. However, due to recent snow, it was not so slippery on the glacier and Niklas did not slip to many times(:. The meltwater channels were for the most easy to identify by the slightly whiter color, although we did sink slightly into a few of them. 

Putting on crampons (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
Looking back at Longyearbyen. Platåfjellet to the left
and Sarkofagen to the right (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Group photo from the glacier  
(Photo: Alexander Hovland (On timer))
It took us about one and a half hour to cross the glacier and it was beautiful sight as we looked into Fardalen with the sun peaking over Karl Bayfjellet (After managing director of Store Norske 1885-1930). 
Niklas Brådemark. A real
swedish vegetarian viking 
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Valley opening at the top of Longyearbreen with 
Teltberget to the right (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Sunset in Fardalen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
From there it took us about one hour to reach the moraine-system in front of Dryadebreen. There I left Franscesca and Niklas with a rifle. And went to explore Fardalen and look for some huntable birds (Rock ptarmigans (Lagopus muta ssp)). Despite my best effort I only found a feather and some smaller herds of reindeer running around. No polar bears either. Apparently I'm not a very good hunter.

View into Colesdalen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Dryadebreen with Håbergnuten to the left. We entered 
Fardalen through the valley right of Dryadebreen.
(Photo: Alexander Hovland)
After a while I returned to Fransesca and Niklas who were both a bit cold and after a bit of chocolate and a frozen apple we started to return home the same as we came. We stopped for a bit of food and enjoyed the view. Francesca also had her first wee in the wild (hurrah for Fran!).

On the way back across the glacier me and Francesca also found one of the few crevasses on Longyearbreen (going across 2/4 down from the top as we both stepped into it at the same time. Not deep and only good fun however. As we were reaching the front of the glacier the snow came and our timing turned out to be perfect. We arrived backat Nybyen  in the late afternoon.

On a side note. I sadly seem to have some problems with my left knee. It's been hurting a bit the last weeks and I suspect it might be something called a runner's knee (Chondromalacia patellae). The bad news is that I have to take it more easy and let it heal the next couple of weeks. The good news is that it is not as serious as other types of knee injuries. I've gotten an appointment next week and I'll know more then.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Girly girl on visit from mainland Norway

Disclaimer: This post involves a girl.

So, yeah. Where to start? This weekend I had a visit from a special friend of mine. Kristine and I meet in 2008 when we were both studying psychology at the University of Bergen (UiB). We didn't really hang around, but we would always read together and share candy. And yeah. Drink together (Because that is what proper psychcology students do). Anyway. After a year of psychology she moved to Oslo to become a teacher and I stayed back in Bergen. Since then we have not seen eachother.

It was really weird seing her again as I picked her up at Longyearbyen Airport (LYR) in the early afternoon on friday. Althought her hair was not as blonde as before she looked pretty much like the girl I remember from earlier. AND She had brought me fruit, vegetables, and writing pads from the mainland (Which are incredibly expensive here). JOY!

So. After I got her settled into my room we went for a trip up to Sarkofagen. Weather was good with temperatures just below freezing and fresh snow. The trip went fine, althought I had some problems with slowing down (as always) - I really did try thought! As always, I did not spot any grouses, but we did see quite a lot of reindeers over at Platåfjellet. At the top of Sarkofagen, we took some pictures and just enjoyed the view.

View from Sarkofagen (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Kristine in the arctic (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Me and Kristine (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
On our way back, we meet Knut Ola which lives in the kitchen next to me. Kristine immideatly recognized him since he also went in our psychology class. Small world and me having a bad memory since I did not remember him.

Later that evening we went to Kroa and had a pizza and a couple of beers. I think we stayed there for some hours just talking and catching up on everything. As always I displayed my lack of drinkning skills and got a bit buzzed. Plan was to to go to Friday night gathering, but since it got quite late before we left Kroa we went directly back to our barracks.

Party, party! As always there was a party going on in our kitchen. I can't really remember if anything happenend between us arriving and us playing "flip-cup" (a drinking game) and that might be indicative of how the party went. So. We got drunk and went to Huset in the blistering cold of the arctic and woke up quite late on saturday. Yes, there is something missing in between there!

After getting out of bed we went down to Longyearbyen to do some shopping. Kristine bought a heapload of alcohol, chocolate and cigaretes. On our way back to the barracks we visitied Svalbard Galleri which is located along the road in the lower parts of Nybyen. They have got a lot of nice pictures and artwork from Svalbard and the arctic. Their collection also include a really interesting series of old maps which sort of reflect the early exploration of the artic areas.

My original plan for saturday was to bring Kristine to Nordenskiöldtoppen, but weather was not the best with some snow coming in and poor visibility. Instead we went with a couple of others to explore Nye Gruve II (The new mine # II). Locally it is known as the mine of Santa Claus. The mining started in 1937 and ran until second world war when it was hit by a grenade from the german battleship Scharnhorst and the coal started to burn. Althought the fire did not go out until 1962, mining continued after the second world war until it was closed down in 1968. In 1954 a coal dust explosion killed 6 miners. Today the mine is open, but the old mine shafts are sealed.

On our way after bombing Alice with snowballs (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Nye Gruve 2 / Gruve 2B / Julenissegruva (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Kristine "loves" the snow (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Insert cool caption here :P (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

A wall of ice is building up within the mine (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Me and Mike posing as miners (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Cans of "fire extinguisher foam"(?) (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

Some kind of working room within the mine (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
So we explored the mine. And yes. It would be a great place for a horror movie. Althought most of the equipment is gone, there are still a lot of neat stuff laying around. It also started to snow quite heavily and it was really cozy just sitting inside and looking out at the valley.
Cozy in the mine (Photo: Alexander Hovland)

On our way to the top with a view down the valley (Photo: Alexander Hovland)
After a couple of hours me and Kristine went back home to make dinner. We had taco (WITH VEGETABLES!) and watched Mr. Poppers Penguins which WE thought was great (So HAH! Kristian!).

Next morning we just stayed up here in the barracks, watching some movies and just talking, before Kristine had to leave. :( Sadly, the taxi driver turned up earlier then planned, so yeah. It was a quick goodbye before she left. Back. To the mainland...