Svalbard up to 80 North

Last year we were later in the season and became the first sailboat circumnavigating whole Svalbard! See “Clean up the North Pole”:

TOPtoTOP Arctic Research Expedition report # 3:

  • Location: Longyearbyen
  • Date: 2021-06-30
  • Author: Dario, Noé
  • Track us!
  • Outcome: The amount of plastic was increasing more North and max at the edge of the pack-ice. 80 degrees North in June by sailboat, the warming is changing everything. We have to act now! Please help us to save our planet!

More high resolution pictures from our TOPtoTOP Expedition Photographer “Peder Pedersen” about our 2021 “TOPtoTOP Arctic Research Expedition“.

Sampling Svalbard
Environmental DNA sampling in Svalbard
Sailing back from Svalbard to Norway
Back in the Norwegian Arctic.

Summary by Noé (11) in German:

Auf dem Weg nach Svalbard sahen wir viele white-backed dolphins. Mich interessieren auch die Vögel. Deswegen durften wir, als wir in Ny-Alesund ankamen, mit einem Ornithologen Vögel beobachten und zählen gehen. Es war sehr spannend. Am Abend gab es eine Mittsommerparty. Dann segelten wir in den Krossfjord. Am Weg in den Fjord nahmen wir sechs microplastic und eDNA proben. Ein paar Stunden spaeter waren wir an der 10 km langen Gletscherfront angekommen. Ich war sehr erstaunt das hier um diese Jahreszeit kein Packeis lag. Wir gingen zu einem nahe gelegenen Ankerplatz, dem Nilspynten, und schliefen kurz. Ich aber ging mit der Unterwasserdrohne den Grund des Lillienhöök Fjordes erforschen. Kurz danach gingen wir weiter in den Magdalenenfjord. Ich habe die ganze Fahrt über geschlafen. Als ich aufwachte, sagte Sabine, dass wir auf einen Gletscher gehen. Ich aß Frühstück und packte meinen Rucksack. Als wir an Land kamen, mussten wir noch einen Schießtest machen. Dann ging es los. Wir liefen schon eine halbe Stunde, als wir Eisbärenspuren entdeckten. Sie waren nicht sehr frisch. Beim weitergehen sanken wir bis zu den Knien ein. Wir entschlossen uns zurückzukehren. Als wir auf dem Schiff waren, sagte Papa, dass wir in dem Fjord sechs microplastic – und eDNA Samples machen. Als wir diese beendet hatten, probierten wir zur Packeisgrenze zu segeln. Dort war es sehr neblig. Wir drehten Kurs Richtung Insel Prinz Karls Vorland, denn da hat es eine Walross Kolonie. Dort nahmen wir noch ein Sample. Dann sind wir nach Longyearbyen gesegelt. Dort konnten wir duschen. Am nächsten Tag segelten wir los Richtung Norwegen.

Report by Dario:

Just like last year we had a warm welcome by the leader of the research base in Ny-Alesund  “Helge Markusson”. The timing of our arrival was perfect:

At the time of arrival we could join the annual clean-up of this multinational research base in the High Arctic at 78.56 degrees North.

In the evening we presented our “TOPtoTOP Global Climate Expedition” to the researchers and staff and took them on our 21-year expedition around the globe. After the dark Arctic winter, which meant they were locked for several months in Ny-Alesund, our presentation was a welcome change and we got invited to their mid-summer pirate party the next day.

The following day, before the party, Sabine and I, thanks to our old friend Tor-Petter, managed to stop a leakage and change a water pump and belt on the boat. Peder, Noé, Alegra, Mia and Vital helped bird researcher “Maarten Lohnen” studying Arctic terns and barnacle geese. Max and Sei got a lift with a Danish researcher by Zodiac to a bird colony 5 km from the base, planed to take samples on the “Austre-Lovenbreen” Glacier and climb the top up to 726m.

The party started at 17:00. As Max and Sebastian didn’t show up in time, staff members at the base became more and more concerned. Fog caused suddenly bad visibility and they forgot to take a radio. The two had been late before, so with this experience in mind, I hoped for the best, tried to calm everybody down and came up with an action plan. At midnight the first step of our search and rescue plan came into action: We gave everybody a heads-up. Luckily no major search and rescue operation had to be launched and they showed up early next morning: Sampling was more time-consuming than expected.

As soon as Max and Sebi were on-board, we left Ny-Alesund into Krossfjorden and Lillienhöökfjorden. There we took 5 microplastic samples for the Western Norway University and NORCE, and simultaneously  eDNA samples for the Swiss Polar Institut and the ETHZ at the impressive vertical 80m high – and 10 km long glacier wall of Lillienhöök glacier. We anchored not far from the glacier wall, just below Nilspyten, a large rock tower. There are large colonies of guillemots and kittiwakes; which means another opportunity for Max and Sebastian to sample for the Austrian Polar Research Institut and the University of Innsbruck. There is also a WWII German weather station lying S of the anchorage. For Noé, another reason to check the seafloor for trash from WWII, but also from whalers or nowadays tourist vessels. The “Blue Eye” is the perfect tool to do this assessment for the Arctic University of Norway.

The next stop was at 79.34N 11.03E in Magdelenefjorden. Before our clean-up, we did a polar bear protection drill and a crevasse-rescue training. Max and Sebastian went off to a side glacier of the Waggonbau glacier, Brokebreen, to take more air, sediment and snow samples. While Peder, Noé, Alegra and Dario went from the anchorage at Gravneset all the way to the Southern shore and looked for plastic. There were some big and plenty of small pieces and a lot of microplastic at the tide limit. Afterwards they left the anchorage with Sabine, Mia and Vital for another set of 5 microplastic and eDNA all the way into the glacier wall of Waggonbau Glacier at the end of the fjord till the entrance on both the North and the South side.

After Magdalenafjord we sailed and sampled along the most north-westerly islands of Svalbard, “Danksøya” and “Amsterdamsøya”, named by whalers from southern countries in the old days. From there we sailed straight north towards the edge of the pack ice. 

We saw a big contrast on sea water temperatures: From 12 degrees, at a spot just outside Magdalene Fjord at 79 North, to 2 degrees less than a day later at 80 North, close to the pack ice, where the rigging started to ice. It was north of 80 degrees North, where suddenly the wind generators caused so much vibration that I got worried that we would loose the arc at the back of the boat. Luckily I was able to stop them. The reason for the vibration was the icing of the wings.

At 80.06 North and 010.00 East Peder, Max and Sebastian got baptised by Neptun and Venus to Sei (Arctic Char), Sperm Whale and Basking Shark.

Most interesting sampling for microplastics and eDNA just North of 80 North this year was that we had the same experience as last year: We encountered the most micro- but also macroplyastics swimming at the edge of the pack ice! 

From the foggy edge of the pack ice, we headed south to meet our walrus friends again at the large colony at Prinz Karls Vorland Island. There we started a clean-up and for the first time in a long while met two humans – except for Ny-Alesund of course. It was park rangers Jakob and Jens. They asked us to stop the clean-up at our landing site, because they would like to do an assessment of the litter the next day. So we did a shorter clean-up just south-west of the point and sailed further to Longyaerbyen. 

There, Max and Sebastian went sampling again on the glacier behind the town. We also got some new sampling containers at the University Centre in Svalbard, which we had stored last winter in Prof. Andrew Hodson’s office. We did some shopping for our basic on-board necessities, but was super expensive. We got some free bicycles to get around from the tourist office and met our old friend “Lexi” again. We first met a year ago in Ballstad, Lofoten. She is working here as a COO at the only food producing plant in Svalbard, where they grow vegetables in artificial light all year round. She invited us to her flat, where we cooked spaghetti and all got to have a hot shower. If you want to learn more about the northernmost farm in the world, visit

Tomorrow we will say goodbye to Svalbard and find our way to Jan Mayen Island to sample on the highest volcano in the Arctic, “Beerenberg”….. We will swing by Sørheim Brygge (ETA 6th/7th of July) to get a Torqeedo electric outboard motor we can charge with a solar panel. We are all excited about this great tool to make our work more efficient and safe, and specially to shortly see our friends in Lyngseidet again!