Travels

Beyond the Arctic Circle

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Almost 5 years have passed since that expedition to the Antarcticaof 2009 whose hard navigation through the most fearsome seas on the planet (Drake Pass) led us to see land, although far away, to the Antarctic Circle that we would touch days later. Today, however, we are well above the Arctic Circle, which we have accessed in a much more affordable and economical way, but no less exclusive. The Svalbard is possibly the closest archipelago to the most inhospitable and isolated northern places on the planet, and these days we will prove it being the first contact today.

He Arctic Circle it covers different territories of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Iceland, the United States, Canada and Greenland, but unlike Antarctica, within its 80º latitude it barely houses firm land. Possibly the area we are sailing through today is one of the northernmost points where one can make a landing. But something has surprised us ... Their places have nothing to do with those of the South.

78º 13'N 15º 35'E Longyearbyen

Sleeping on a sailboat anchored in the capital of Svalbard for the first time in life is an experience. To think that yesterday we were in that huge bed of feather pillows of The Thief (an experience what to see in Oslo) and today we have risen in these humble bunk beds of the cabin, between bags of equipment and reserves of the pantry, makes us feel that we are already within That adventure story is yet to begin.

The sun continues to illuminate the bay of Lonyearbyen before leaving, without having gone all night and to the opposite end of the city, perhaps somewhat higher but almost negligible. And it is that in this little "territory" of just 2600 inhabitants within Norway, the light does not disappear at this time of the year, but the Polar Night does not host sun between October and February, leaving extreme temperatures up to -42ºc.

Jytte and Carmen are already prepared on board, we just need to leave Albert who is accompanying the documentary filmmakers who come with us on the Greenpeace ship, nothing more and nothing less than the Sunrise that has spent the night anchored to our side. There, this environmental group, passionate about everything they do together with a famous person, are carrying out the "Save the Arctic" campaign, being their next stop the Bear Island.


While Fernando and David are already preparing everything to return to the interior. They also say goodbye to the crew of the French sailboat moored in our buoy, and who returns today on their way to their beloved homeland as the end of the season, while, we have already begun with the inevitable “onion operation”, that which includes layer upon layer and that It will protect us from the cold and wind the next days.


 

In fact, wind has risen and the temperature has dropped somewhat compared to yesterday. That shows on the side of the Sterna in its first miles through the Isfjorden fjord.

The archipelago of Svalbard covers 63,000 km2 of territory, it is possible that many sound more Spitzsbergen, in those searches that we all start on Google in turn when we dream of these magical places on our planet, until we usually back down.


However, there is a dream that we will not be able to fulfill, and that is that for certain reasons, the initial expedition that would take us to latitudes of 80º cannot be realized. The dream of being able to see polar bears will have to wait for another occasion and another place on future trips unless we have some luck, well climate change (which we will talk about in the next few days and that we check firsthand), It has taken these to latitudes much further north than we are now (even more so even if it seems impossible!). Our final route will be confined to latitudes between 78º and 79º, also one of the highest on the planet, which makes us feel privileged.

We don't need to spend many minutes to realize that some of our "premade" ideas are wrong. Ice, cold, icy mountains and fog? The Arctic is presents as a very different place to Antarctica, almost as if from a desert mixture of tundra and snowy mountains, perennial glaciers or canals surrounded by cliffs with all kinds of wildlife, especially birds, is what surrounds us since our departure


Sailing inside this huge bay of fjords is very pleasant. If it did not hurt between 1 and 6, we would say that even peaceful. When it's time for common tasks we all do our part. Today it touches a little pasta and fruit to eat, and we have discovered that both David and Fernando are excellent cooks, developing perfectly in that little kitchen in a corner of the common area adjacent to the cabins.


 

Inside the sailboat the heating is already on and it is very good, because we can only stay with "two" layers hehehehe, although all, perhaps because of the emotion of the first day we do not stop entering and leaving although it will be one more day of journeys than of landings.

The Atlantic puffin in the Arctic Circle

78º 22'N 16º 11'E Bird watching in Diabasodden

On this day without night, you can perfectly appreciate the details of our surroundings. It's around 15'00 (already with a satisfied stomach) when we border huge cliffs, where speedboats coming from the capital (how cold they must go!) Brings some travelers to observe accumulations of a small seabird similar to a seagull and perhaps some petrels, those that accompanied us so long in Antarctica. Are the most extraordinary animals in the world, beyond the Arctic Circle, surviving the most extreme weather.


Also the human species, sometimes challenging our own nature, we have reached certain corners of this inhospitable place, the vast majority of prefabricated or wooden constructions from the communist era of which it seems that we will know more in the near future


Although possibly the The most special sighting of the day has been that of the friendly puffin, an exotic bird that lives in these corners of the planet, with an orange beak, that flutters its wings and flutters at water level to get away from our presence, without hardly raising a height span (they say it reaches up to !! 90 km / h ).

For animal lovers, theAtlantic puffin orcommon puffin(scientific name Fratercula arctic) is a small bird of just 30 cm and peculiar aspect with that beak, which feeds on fish diving in the water in a similar way to penguins. In fact they remind us in some way of these.


 

Time is unbeatable, and that allows us to make social life. The 10 crew members are a pineapple and we have only been there for a few hours, and we all do to know each other more, even taking advantage of some corner of the sailboat to take the privilege of some sunbeams that will not always accompany us (or yes? What a surprise!).


Jytte is our friendly land guide. He is seen to have "blown" this all his life, and he does not miss the opportunity to observe any corner of the island. You never know, perhaps one of these days will surprise us, although we all know that the Polar Bear is an almost impossible target in these latitudes due to global warming.


At this time of day we are already accustomed to the return to the primitive world, to the wild and adventure, even to the isolation of the world, the mobile, the Internet ... something that can be even a good therapy in the times that run

An inhospitable desert beyond the Arctic Circle

78º 25'N 17º 09'E Templefjorden

It's around 19'00 when we enter the Templefjorden fjord, our first exploration. Huge cliffs that show thousands of sedimentary stages produced over thousands, even millions of years, receive us as we border them


Again, we receive some nice puffin, which, it seems, will be our best company every day, as was the penguin in Antarctica, an animal that you take care of since you see it, for its docile appearance, almost stuffed, that you would wear without letting go ...


Some large block of ice around us it makes us almost stop the speed of navigation, until the moment of 5 knots, and it begins to indicate the proximity of some huge glacier formation…


 

But who drives the ship? !! Paulaaaaaaaaaaa !! Let us get confessed. Under David's supervision, Paula is taking her "first lessons." It is not the best area to learn but you have to recognize that you are good. For when those Greek islands with Alex and daddies? LOL


 

We have to recognize that we are still in love with those huge birds, petrels and other species that inhabit these icy areas of the planet. Not only for their ability to survive, but for that memory of company and feeling of shelter they provided in the fearsome Drake Pass Of such bad memories.


 

In the distance, majestic, the Tunabreen Glacier, an ice tongue that has receded over the years, but still impressive among the valleys and mountains of Templefjorden


At times, huge ice floes fall on the water, leaving a terrifying sound, which comes to us 7 or 8 seconds after they occur. It may be time to not come closer.


 

What you have to go on a sailboat, is not only your ability to travel sustainably with the ecosystem, but the tranquility and peace that transmits the moment you turn off the engines, in complete silence, simply observing the surroundings, surrounded by that silence that makes the ears vibrate so that no loud noise could get


We are still surrounded by a multitude of different bird species, which we cannot distinguish, some of them showing their most primitive instincts, including a kind of ritual that allows them to renew their "impermeability" with water. They are extraordinary animals, since this water does not promise to be the best possible bath.


 

We return to the interior, which we alternate with specific departures. David has prepared a surprise for us.

Bjonahamna, our first Arctic landing

78º 23'N 16º 50'E Bjonahamna

It is surprising in what situations and places one finds that return to childhood, that of those huge bowls of hot Colacao that serve to warm our hands between entering and leaving the sailboat outside. It is possible that it becomes one of the best moments of each day as it seems that temperatures are still lower these days. At this time of the "theoretical night" we are already at 1º


The Bjonana Bay brings us our first "landing" in Arctic lands, after a long day of travel, in this beautiful? strange? site. We are in some of the most unusual cliffs of the planet will be our shelter to sleep today, but first we will explore it ...


 

It is difficult that with global warming, which has thawed a fjord to the point that now it does not freeze even in winter when it was previously frozen and was only accessible with icebreakers, allows us to observe wildlife in this place. However, if you leave remnants of your passage through it both recent and thousands of years ago


 

The walk through Bjomapynten also indicates that not many months ago there were reindeer in these lands, since their main food, a kind of tar, is abundantly found here. Jytte tells us that Svalbard's reindeer is unique and small, so Paula who loves them, will enjoy the beautiful day you see one.


Apart from geological formations that would excite scientists and traps for Arctic foxes, which looks like being in disuse, we don't appreciate much more symptoms of life in this place.


 

There is a desire to have dinner, so the day will not give much more. Here we will spend the night ?, the one that never comes but which we will have to get used to ...


 

If this area of ​​the Svalbard is already strange, how will it be in winter? Our first night in the Norwegian Arctic will be at this point, in what has been a day of mere introduction in a less surprising place. We feel that exciting stages await us ahead, but while we try to survive the cold night, today with a double bag. !!More tomorrow!!


Paula and Isaac, from Svalbard (Norwegian Arctic)

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