Pos. 76° 23' N - 017° 17' E
We have reached Hopen Island - we arrived well on Sunday in Spitsbergen!
We had already received a sincere invitation per radio to visit the meteorological station from Tore, the head of the station. He was very happy to greet the second ship this year. The welcome on this rough and remote island could not have been warmer. Despite many previous attempts, the "Dagmar Aaen" had not managed to reach this 370 meter high, 33 kilometer lomg and 1,5 kilometer wide outpost south-east of Spitsbergen till now, although this had long been a dream of Arved's. Now we have reached this important goal. In the bay, the anchor falls 10 meters deep into the water by the steep coast. Long clouds and fog banks flow down over the cliffs and soon we can see almost nothing.
Tore has worked on Hopen since 2004 with few breaks in between - 40 months in the winter and summer months. Even if the polar days on the 76th parallel are fascinating and exciting, he prefers the winter with its rough conditions and many polar bears. He has count up to 300 in some years. Lately the number has gone down to 80 male, female and young ones. He keeps exact accounts of the sightings and encounters.
In the first night, the sun rose at one o'clock in the north-north-east and 48 hours later is was over the horizon
Another task is the measurement and expansion of the ice around Hopen Island. The island was first explored upon in 1908. Since the 1970's, the ice has lost per decade an avagere of 11 cm in depth. Last year, it took until February for the ice to reach the expansion that it, on the average, normally reaches in November. They are expecting an extremely low amount of ice this year - Spitsbergen is now (almost) completely free of ice and the yearly ice minimum is usually in September.
During our quick and safe crossing of the Bering Sea (450 sea miles), water and air temperatures dropped from a moderate 16 °C to 6 °C and we often sighted thick fog banks: We have reached the high Arctic. The fact that we were making good time heading north was obvious during our night-watches: The first night the sun rose at one o'clock in the north-north-east and 48 hours later it was just a thumb's width above the horizon. At midnight. The difference between 70° and 72°30' N ca be read directly by the higher position of the sun - one thumb's width is equivalent to 2,5°.
Stefan, being a human enthusiastic ornithologist, has taken exakt notes on his and our sightings of birds, dolphins and whales. His deep knowledge covers much more than just the area of birds. He observes and determines quite exactly and this had an effect on the crew! A logbook entry would not only state "dolphins are accompanying us" but after consulting books which determine the species and Stefan, would also state the position and white-nosed dolphin, for example, would be added.
We are on our way with sunshine, thick fog and cool easterly winds around the south cape of west Spitsbergen to Longyearbyen.
We will report back from there!