Skip to content

Save the Arctic Seas

We sample microplastics and e-DNA at 70 degrees north for the ETHZ, NORCE and the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.

The days are getting shorter. That means just over 3 hours of light from sunrise to sunset. The sun is waning faster every day. Currently with 15 minutes less daylight every day.

But the sunlight has been replaced by the stunning aurora borealis.

With the northern lights came the whales. Our children spotted the orcas first. We feel like we are on another planet.

A mini-description about the Orca by Noé (11):

“The smallest orca on earth is 4 meters tall. In Norway they are about 6 – 8 meters long. Females can live up to 50 – 80 years. The oldest orca is 105 years old. The orcas can stay under water up to 30 minutes and can swim up to 56 km/h. The males can weigh up to 6 tons. On earth there are 3 different types of orcas. They differ in hunting. One species is specialized in whales, the second species is specialized in dolphins, seals or penguins and the last species is specialized to hunt fish. In Norway there are 2 types of orcas, the 2nd and 3rd type. Orcas live all over the world. There are about 50’000 Orkas on our planet. The 3 types of orcas cannot understand each other because they speak a different language.

The whales come to the fjords here in Norway during this time of the year because they follow the herring. The herrings come to the fjords for overwintering and the whales follow them. Orcas eat small fish up to whales that are bigger than they are. The orcas hunt the herrings in this way by drifting them towards the coast and then hitting the herrings with their tail fin. So they become unconscious and then they eat one by one. To attack the right prey while hunting, they have a so called x-ray. So they can see every broken bone. Then they aim at the weakest fish. When the orcas have found a shoal of herring, often the humpback whales and the fishermen come and steal their meal. When the humpback whales have a school of herring, the orcas and the fishermen come and steal their meal. Orcas live in families where there are 10 or more animals. In almost every family it has one or more males. These families live, play and hunt together. You can recognize a male by the fact that it has a dorsal fin of about 1.8 meters. Whales are often found where herring, fishing boats or flocks of birds are. Orcas differ in the pattern on their dorsal fin. Each pattern is individual. Humpback whales differ in their fluke, each fluke is unique.”

The star photographer Florian joins our mission (Florian’s Instagram).

In Skjervøy the super trio of Lars-Åge, Toby and Andy from “Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure” became our friends. They have years of experience and shared their passion for these great creatures with us. Here some pictures of Andy (Andy’s Instagram):

While we were sampling for microplastic, Andy took a photo of an Orca’s dorsal fin entangled in a plastic bag and on the fin of the humpback it might be plastic as well:

The goal of all of us on board is to inspire more people to save the polar seas.

Join our “LPS” campaign (Leave the Plastic in the Shop)!

The orcas and humpback whales around us accept and respect us. They are curious when we are in their element. We feel so humble.

We learned the importance of being connected with nature: it feels like falling in love. It creates a deep relationship that gives you so much energy and satisfaction. We believe this feeling has the power to save the planet.

In this context we got the idea for our new campaign: ☺H☺ MORE with LESS!

Make the promise to spend at least 1 hour a day outdoors (= One Hour Out = OHO = ☺H☺).

Start with “living light“:

Keep your things to the bare minimum. If anything gets damaged, fix them before replacing it.

Being in nature for 1 hour will benefit you from being a happier and healthier person. You will be connected with nature and you will deepen that friendship every day.

You will realize that it does not need things to be happy, but relationships. There is nothing more precious than sharing these experiences with your loved ones. Free yourself from your ballast. “Living light” is good for your soul and you gain freedom. It also takes fewer resources if we stop with our consumerism of “more and more”. Mother Earth will be able to breathe again.

Again our planet earth with its unique natural environment and its biodiversity will be the safe home for all living beings. Take care of her! She deserves it!

Thanks to “Patagonia” and “Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure” we had the right wet and dry suits. Thanks to “Victorinox” we have the best multi-tool and thus the freedom to improvise and repair things.

Because of Corona our funding is critical. Please consider a donation?

Alegra’s Expedition Report (9):

„When we packed everything in Svolvaer, we sailed to Tromsø. From there Andri travelled to Switzerland and we sailed further north. We anchored in a bay where there were many northern lights. It was very beautiful because there was snow on the mountains and behind it you could see the green and purple northern lights and the stars in the sky. The next day we didn’t see so many orcas because there were high waves. It got dark early and we were looking for a place to anchor. We met Lars, Andy and Tobi who dive with whales. They came on our ship for dinner. The next day we started early as soon as there was enough daylight. We could borrow 2 drysuits from Lars. Unfortunately we could not get close enough with the sailboat to really swim with the whales. In the evening we went to the harbour of Skervøy. The next morning we were a bit luckier and we saw some orcas and humpback whales. We got very close. We could take good pictures of the whales. Then we went to Skervøy again. The next day we could go with the speedboat thanks to Lars. We saw a lot of whales and two humpback whales even jumped out of the water. The orcas were surfing with the waves and the humpback whales just stayed in the water and we could almost touch them, they were so close.

In the evening we celebrated Mia’s birthday in Skervøy. All the sailors we knew and who came with us to the north were there. The next morning we sailed on to Lyngen. On the way we made school. When we arrived we first put on the ropes. Because we have friends in Lyngen, we could shower at their place. It was quite nice. We prepared everything for Mia’s fifth birthday, which we celebrated in the evening. The next day we hiked to a hut. It was beautiful there. There was already snow, so we were able to go sledding downhill quickly, it was very funny. In the afternoon we had school.“

German version:

Rettet den Arktischen Ozean

Wir nehmen Mikroplastik- und e-DNA Proben auf 70 Grad Nord. Die Tage werden kürzer. Das bedeutet etwas mehr als 3 Stunden Licht von Sonnenaufgang bis Sonnenuntergang. Die Sonne nimmt jeden Tag schneller ab. Derzeit mit 15 Minuten weniger Tageslicht jeden Tag.

Aber das Sonnenlicht wurde durch das atemberaubende Polarlicht ersetzt.  Mit dem Polarlicht kamen die Wale. Unsere Kinder erspähten die Orcas zuerst. Wir fühlen uns wie auf einem anderen Planeten.

Eine Minibeschreibung über den Orka bei Noé (11):

“Der kleinste Orka auf der Erde ist 4 Meter gross. In Norwegen sind sie ca. 6 – 8 Meter lang. Weibchen können bis zu 50 – 80 Jahre alt werden. Der älteste Orka ist 105 Jahre alt. Die Orkas können bis 30 Minuten unter Wasser bleiben und können auch bis zu 56 km/h schnell schwimmen. Die Männchen werden bis zu 6 Tonnen schwer. Auf der Erde gibt es 3 verschiedene Orkatypen. Sie unterscheiden sich beim Jagen. Eine Art ist spezialisiert auf Wale, die zweite Art ist spezialisiert auf Delfine und Pinguine und die letzte Art ist spezialisiert um Fische zu jagen. In Norwegen gibt es 2 Arten von Orkas, nämlich die 2. und 3. Art. Orkas leben überall auf der Erde. Es gibt ca. 50’000 Orkas auf unserem Planeten. Die 3 Orkatypen können sich untereinander nicht verstehen, weil sie eine andere Sprache sprechen. Die Wale kommen in dieser Zeit im Jahr in die Fjorde hier in Norwegen, weil sie den Heringen folgen. Die Heringe kommen in die Fjorde zum Überwintern und die Wale folgen ihnen. Orkas essen kleine Fischen bis hin zu Walen, die grösser sind als sie selber. Die Orkas jagen die Heringe so, indem sie sie gegen die Küste treiben und dann mit der Schwanzflosse auf die Heringe schlagen. So werden sie bewusstlos und dann essen sie einen nach dem anderen. Um beim Jagen die richtige Beute anzugreifen, haben sie einen sogenannten x-ray. Sie können so jeden Knochenbruch sehen. Dann zielen sie auf den schwächsten Fisch. Wenn die Orkas einen Heringschwarm gefunden haben, kommen oft die Buckelwale und die Fischer und stehlen ihnen die Mahlzeit. Wenn die Buckelwale einen Heringschwarm haben, kommen die Orkas und die Fischer und nehmen ihnen die Mahlzeit weg. Orkas leben in Familien, in denen es 10 oder mehr Tiere hat. In fast jeder Familie hat es ein oder mehr Männchen. Diese Familien leben, spielen und jagen zusammen. Ein Männchen erkennt man daran, dass es eine ca. 1,8 Meter grosse Rückenflosse hat. Wale findet man oft bei den Heringen, bei Fischerschiffen oder bei Vogelschwärmen. Orkas unterscheiden sich an dem Muster bei ihrer Rückenflosse. Jedes Muster ist individuell. Die Buckelwale unterscheiden sich bei ihrer Schwanzflosse, jede Flosse ist einzigartig.”

Der Starfotograf Florian schließt sich unserer Mission an.

In Skjarvøy wurde das Supertrio von Lars-Åge, Toby und Andy von “Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure” unsere Freunde. Sie haben jahrelange Erfahrung und teilten ihre Leidenschaft für diese großartigen Geschöpfe mit uns. Während wir Proben aus Mikroplastik entnahmen, machte Andy ein Foto von der Flosse eines Orca, die sich in einer Plastiktüte verfangen hatte:

Unser aller Ziel an Bord ist es, dass mehr Menschen inspiriert werden, die Polarmeere zu retten.

Die Orcas und Buckelwale um uns herum akzeptieren und respektieren uns. Sie sind neugierig, wenn wir in ihrem Element sind.  Wir fühlen uns so demütig.

Wir haben gelernt, wie wichtig es ist, mit der Natur verbunden zu sein: Es fühlt sich an, als würde man sich verlieben. Es schafft eine tiefe Beziehung, die einem so viel Energie und Zufriedenheit gibt. Wir glauben, dass dieses Gefühl die Kraft hat, den Planeten zu retten.

In diesem Zusammenhang bekamen wir die Idee für unsere neue Kampagne: ☺H☺ MORE with LESS!

Gebe Dir das Versprechen, mindestens 1 Stunde pro Tag im Freien zu verbringen (= One Hour Out = OHO = ☺H☺).

Beginne mit “living light”:

Beschränke Deine Sachen auf das Minimum. Repariere sie, wenn etwas beschädigt wird, bevor Du es ersetzts.

Wenn Du1 Stunde in der Natur bist, wirst Du davon profitieren, ein glücklicherer und gesünderer Mensch zu sein. Du wirst mit der Natur verbunden sein und Du wirst diese Freundschaft jeden Tag vertiefen.

Du wirst erkennen, dass es keine Dinge braucht, um glücklich zu sein, sondern Beziehungen. Es gibt nichts kostbareres als diese Erfahrungen mit Deinen Liebsten zu teilen. Befreie Dich von Deinem Ballast. “Living light” ist gut für Deine Seele und Du gewinnst Freiheit. Es braucht auch weniger Ressourcen, wenn wir mit unserem Konsumverhalten von “immer mehr” aufhören. Mutter Erde wird wieder atmen können.

Wieder wird unser Planet Erde mit seiner einzigartigen natürlichen Umwelt und seiner Artenvielfalt das sichere Zuhause für alle Lebewesen sein. Kümmere Dich um sie, sie hat es verdient!

Dank “Victorinox” haben wir das beste Multi-Tool und damit die Freiheit, zu improvisieren und Dinge zu reparieren.

Dank “Patagonia” und “Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure” haben wir die richtigen Nass- und Trockenanzüge.

Wegen Corona ist unsere Finanzierung schwierig. Bitte erwäge eine Spende?

Alegra’s Expedition Report (9):

“Als wir alles in Svolvaer gepackt haben, segelten wir nach Tromsø. Von dort reiste Andri in die Schweiz und wir segelten weiter in den Norden. Wir ankerten in einer Bucht, wo es viele Nordlichter hatte. Es war sehr schön, weil es Schnee auf den Bergen hatte und dahinter sah man die grünen und violetten Nordlichter und den Sternenhimmel. Am nächsten Tag sahen wir noch nicht so viele Orkas, weil es hohe Wellen hatte. Es wurde früh dunkel und wir suchten nach einem Ankerplatz. Wir lernten Lars, Andy und Tobi kennen, die mit Walen tauchen. Sie kamen auf unser Schiff zum Abendessen. Am nächsten Tag fuhren wir früh los, sobald es genügend Tageslicht hatte. Wir konnten 2 Drysuits von Lars ausleihen. Leider kamen wir nicht genügend nahe mit dem Segelboot an die Wale heran, um wirklich mit ihnen zu schwimmen. Dann gingen wir in den Hafen von Skervøy. Am nächsten Morgen hatten wir ein bisschen mehr Glück und wir sahen ein paar Orkas und Buckelwale. Wir kamen ganz nahe ran. Wir konnten gute Fotos von den Walen machen. Dann gingen wir nochmals nach Skervøy. Am nächsten Tag konnten wir dank Lars mit dem Schnellboot mitgehen. Wir sahen ganz viele Wale und 2 Buckelwale sprangen sogar aus dem Wasser. Die Orkas surften mit den Wellen und die Buckelwale blieben einfach so im Wasser stehen und wir konnten sie fast anfassen, sie waren so nahe. Am Abend haben wir Mias Geburtstag in Skervøy vorgefeiert. Alle Segler, die wir kannten und die mit uns in den Norden kamen, waren da. Am nächsten Morgen segelten wir nach Lyngen weiter. Unterwegs machten wir Schule. Als wir ankamen machten wir als erstes die Seile an. Weil wir in Lyngen Freunde haben, durften wir bei ihnen duschen. Es war ganz schön. Wir bereiteten alles für Mias fünften Geburtstag vor, den wir am Abend feierten. Am nächsten Tag wanderten wir zu einer Hütte. Dort war es schön. Da hatte es schon Schnee, da konnten wir schnell runterschlitteln, das war sehr lustig. Am Nachmittag hatten wir Schule.”

Back in Lofoten

The last destination on Vesterålen was Møysalen, the highest mountain in the region. We climbed the 1262 m.a.s.l. with our friends Brita and Carl. The higher we came, the windier and steeper it got. Just before the summit we roped up and put on our crampons.

After about 10 hours of hiking we returned tired and satisfied to the Pachamama.

Early the next morning we started towards Lofoten. On the way we didn’t miss the famous Trollfjord. Steeply the cliffs rise up the narrow fjord. It is hard to imagine that such a big ship like the Hurtigruten could fit in there. We stayed for one night and the next day we took samples in the fjord before we went on to Svolvaer. There the company “Flåtens Safety” gave us a CO2 fire extinguisher and Sabine edited the film for the “Bildungsforum Schweiz”:

We continued on to Kabelvåg. There we visited the Folkehøgskole of Lofoten. For one school year after the official school time, the students can dedicate themselves to their interests, such as photography, climbing, ski touring, surfing and much more. A great concept and so we felt very comfortable there right from the start. Dario gave a presentation at the school. The next morning many of the students came to visit the boat. Some of them were so enthusiastic that they accompanied us sailing to Henningsvaer the next morning and helped us to take samples. Together we did a clean-up in Henningsvaer. The next morning we met again and did a clean-up around the island. This resulted in a huge mountain of waste. Despite the cool breeze we enjoyed the nature at a campfire and some even dared to jump into the freezing cold sea.

In Henningsvaer we visited the local school and the students visited our ship. In our free time we climbed some of these impressive mountains around Henningsvaer. Many thanks to our friends in Henningsvaer, Hanne, Rolf, Annelise and Heidi. We enjoyed the time here very much with the impressive football field in the middle of the sea and the local glassblowing workshop we visited.

There we were not far away from Ballstad, where we already spent some weeks in May with Yngvar and Torgunn and their friends at the “Kraemmervika Rorbuer”.  We set sails and it felt like coming home when we saw Yngvar already standing at the jetty. We climbed a mountain and traditionally for Dario’s birthday the sun came out. In the evening we celebrated extensively with friends.

The next days we enjoyed Ballstad and its beautiful surroundings. The cool temperatures did not stop us from jumping into the cold water and looking for the best waves. With our friend Roman we had a great surf guide who taught us a lot.  With about 9 degrees Celsius water temperature and about 4 degrees outside temperature it was a torture to get into the wetsuit. But the waves and surfing were very worth it!

Because we got a place in the Skarvik AS shipyard to take our boat out of the water, we went back to Svolvaer after one week. For “Pachamama” it is the first time in a drydock. It was exciting to see how the ship was lifted out of the water and how a gigantic ship was placed right next to us in the shipyard, where later the water was completely pumped out. Or as Mia said: “Now we have a flying home.”

During this time we were allowed to stay with our friends Peder Pederson and his daughter Kaja.  Thank you so much for sharing your house with us and making us feel at home! According to Dario, this was the most beautiful shipyard time he had ever experienced in all these years. We also celebrated Andri’s birthday there, with lots of cake and even more good friends.

There was always something to do at the shipyard. So we were busy for about two weeks and always had something to do. Thanks to the professional work of Skarvik AS shipyard workers, we felt very well taken care of.  Thank you very much for your excellent work, especially Marius, Morten and Daniel!

Thanks also to Jürg Zahnd for a spare part and your creative shipping idea. Thanks also to Alex Zehnder, because of his spring wire, the cupboards are holding again.

A big thanks also to Sten-Robin Morfjord from the company “NOGVA”. He checked our emergency engine and organized a spare part for us, which he then installed for free. The part was with CHF 2900.- enormously expensive for us and so we hope for some generous donors, so that our expedition budget remains in the plus area.

Soon we will be heading north again, towards the whales, we are looking forward to it!

Report in German:

Als letztes Ziel auf den Vesterålen stand der Berg Møysalen auf dem Programm, der höchste Berg der Region. Die 1262 m.ü.M. bestiegen wir mit unseren Freunden Brita und Carl. Je höher wir kamen, desto windiger und steiler wurde es. Kurz vor dem Gipfel seilten wir uns an und zogen unsere Steigeisen an.

Nach ca. 10 Stunden wandern kehrten wir müde und zufrieden auf die Pachamama zurück.

Früh am nächsten Morgen ging es los Richtung Lofoten. Unterwegs liessen wir uns aber den bekannten Trollfjord nicht entgehen. Steil ragen die Felswände den schmalen Fjord empor. Man kann sich fast nicht vorstellen, dass dort hinein ein so grosses Schiff wie die Hurtigruten passt. Wir blieben für eine Nacht und entnahmen am nächsten Tag Proben im Fjord, bevor es nach Svolvaer weiterging. Dort schenkte uns die Firma „Flåtens Safety“ einen CO2-Feuerlöscher und Sabine editierte den Film fürs Bildungsforum Schweiz.

Weiter ging es nach Kabelvåg. Dort besuchten wir die Folkehøgskole der Lofoten. Für ein Schuljahr können sich die Schüler hier nach der offiziellen Schulzeit ganz ihren Interessen widmen, wie zum Beispiel Fotografie, Klettern, Skitouren, Surfen und vieles mehr. Ein tolles Konzept und so fühlten wir uns auch von Anfang an sehr wohl dort. Dario hielt eine Präsentation an der Schule. Am nächsten Morgen kamen viele der Schüler/innen um das Boot zu besichtigen. Einige waren so begeistert, dass sie uns am nächsten Morgen beim Segeln nach Henningsvaer begleiteten und beim Proben nehmen halfen. Gemeinsam machten wir in Henningsvaer ein Clean-up. Am nächsten Morgen trafen wir uns erneut und machten ein Clean-up rund um die Insel. Dabei kam ein riesiger Berg an Abfall zusammen. Trotz der kühlen Brise genossen wir die Natur bei einem gemeinsamen Lagerfeuer und einige getrauten sich sogar in das eiskalte Meer zu springen.

In Henningsvaer besuchten wir die  örtliche Schule und die Schüler besuchten unser Schiff. In unserer Freizeit kletterten wir auf einige dieser beeindruckenden Berge rund um Henningsvaer. Vielen Dank an unsere Freunde in Henningsvaer, Hanne, Rolf, Annelise und Heidi. Wir genossen die Zeit hier sehr mit dem eindrücklichen Fussballfeld mitten im Meer und der örtlichen Glasbläserei, die wir besuchten.

Nun waren wir nicht mehr weit entfernt von Ballstad, wo wir schon einige Wochen im Mai bei Yngvar und Torgunn und ihren Freunden bei der „Kraemmervika Rorbuer“ verbrachten. Wir setzten die Segel und es fühlte sich wie ein nach Hause kommen an, als wir Yngvar bereits am Steg stehen sahen. Wir bestiegen einen Berg und traditionsgemäss für Dario’s Geburtstag zeigte sich auch die Sonne. Am Abend feierten wir ausgiebig mit Freunden.

Die nächsten Tage genossen wir in Ballstad und seiner schönen Umgebung. Die kühlen Temperaturen hielten uns nicht davon ab, ins kalte Nass zu springen und die besten Wellen zu suchen. Mit unserem Freund Roman hatten wir einen super Surfguide, der uns vieles beibrachte. Bei ca. 9 Grad Celsius Wassertempereratur und ca. 4 Grad Aussentemperatur war es eine Qual, in den Wetsuit zu steigen. Die Wellen und das Surfen lohnten sich aber sehr!

Da wir einen Platz in der Skarvik AS Werft bekamen um unser Schiff aus dem Wasser zu nehmen, machten wir uns nach einer Woche wieder auf den Weg zurück nach Svolvaer. Für die Pachamama ist es das erste Mal im Drydock. Es war spannend zu sehen, wie das Schiff aus dem Wasser gehoben wurde und wie ein gigantisches Schiff direkt neben uns in der Werft platziert wurde, wo später das Wasser komplett ausgepumpt wurde. Oder wie Mia es sagte: „Jetzt haben wir ein fliegendes Zuhause.“ In dieser Zeit durften wir bei unseren Freunden Peder Pederson und seiner Tochter Kaja wohnen. Vielen Dank, dass ihr mit uns euer Haus teiltet und uns wie zu Hause fühlen liesst! Gemäss Dario war dies die schönste Werftzeit, die er in all diesen Jahren je erlebt hatte. So durften wir auch Andris Geburtstag dort feiern, mit viel Kuchen und noch mehr guten Freunden.

In der Werft gab es immer etwas zu tun. So waren wir für ca. zwei Wochen beschäftigt und immer etwas am werkeln. Dank der professionellen Arbeit der Werftarbeiter der Skarvik AS fühlten wir uns super aufgehoben. Vielen Dank für eure exzellente Arbeit, besonders Marius, Morten und Daniel!

Danke auch an Jürg Zahnd für ein Ersatzteil und deine einfallsreiche Versandidee. Danke auch an Alex Zehnder. Dank deinem Federdraht halten jetzt die Kästchen wieder.

Ein grosser Dank gebührt auch Sten-Robin Morfjord von der Firma „NOGVA“. Er kontrollierte unseren Notmotor und organsierte uns ein Ersatzteil, dass er dann umsonst einbaute. Das Teil war aber mit CHF 2900.- für uns enorm teuer und so hoffen wir auf einige grosszügige Spender, so dass unser Expeditionsbudget im Plusbereich bleibt.

Bald geht’s wieder nordwärts, den Walen entgegen, wir freuen uns!

Aurora Borealis & The Perfect Storm

Lygen Alps - Tromsø - Ringsvassøy - Sommarøy - Senja - Andøya - Vesterålen

Track us and see where we sample and join our Instagram!See The Perfect Storm on our Instagram Story "Norway".

Noé:
After Svalbard we spent a few weeks in Lyngseidet. We were often in the Magic Mountain Lodge. We celebrated my, Vitals and Simon's birthday in Lyngseidet. Unfortunately, Simon, Meret and Salina went back to Switzerland. A few days later our new teacher Melanie came on board. We enjoyed the Lyngen Alps on hikes and walks. At some point it was time to leave Lyngen. We set sail and sailed to Tromsø. There we met our friend Fred again, whom we wanted to meet in Svalbard, but never made it. It was very fun to share our Svalbard stories.

Alegra:
From Tromsø we sailed to the island of Ringsvassoy. When we arrived, the Selvåg family came on board: Eskil and Ane with their children Brage, Ingvild and Audun. We finished our breakfast then we went ashore. I swam to land, but of course with a wetsuit, it wasn't that far. When we got ashore, we could fly kites. We spent a nice day outside in the sun. The next day we tried to make lunch only with things from nature. Me and my two brothers Noé and Andri, Brage and his father Eskil went fishing and collected mussels. The others gathered blueberries, mushrooms and seaweed for soup. We caught a lot of fish, a large cod and 4 mackerel. Ane made a soup out of the seaweed. Since the Selvåg family also has a garden, we were able to boil potatoes to really fill us up. That was a beautiful day. The next day we did a clean up on the beach and Phillipp from Qilak joined us too. I was able to kayak back and forth with Eskil and Brage. We thought we could dump the trash with the kayak, but in the end it was so much that we had to pick it up the next day. Then we sailed back to Tromsø to visit a school and collect samples along the way. There we also worked with the Polar Institute, the University of Tromsø and “Akvaplan Niva” and had dinner with Salve Dahle.

Noé:
After a few days in Tromsø, we went on. We spent a day on the island of Sommarøy in a beautiful landscape with white sandy beaches, but as soon as you put your foot in the water, you realize that you are not in the Caribbean. Then we set sail again, on the way we collected microplastics and e-DNA samples. Our next destination was the village of Senjahopen on the island of Senja. Surrounded by steep mountains, we had an impressive view. Word quickly got around that we are in port. So we made contact with a teacher from the village. Together we visited the school and the students visited our ship. We spent two great days with them, where we did a clean up and played football together. From Senjahopen we went on to Andenes.

From Whale to Space (Story of Noé):
At a depth of 2000 meters in the ocean, a fish notices a pressure wave. Sound waves are sent through a muscle in the throat of a sperm whale, which are reflected back to it when they hit something. Suddenly a giant sperm whale glides through the water like a rocket. He catches the fish and tears it into pieces. Slowly he dives again the 2000 meters up to the surface. Such a dive can take up to 90 minutes, during which the whale holds its breath. Soon you can see the village of Andenes. Exposed to the changeable weather, this village sits enthroned at the tip of the island of Andøya. There is a bluish house just behind the lighthouse. In there is a whale center and a real sperm whale skeleton on display. The village has big plans. A huge whale center "the Whale" is planned on the coast of the village in the shape of a large whale back. There, visitors can discover art and information about the whale families. On the beach further south you can see a large building, the "Andøya Space Center". A rocket is currently being launched there. It is sent into space only to thunder back into the sea a few minutes later with important information. Not only scientists work in the same building, but also school classes and students can build a rocket for several days as a project. Many thanks to Stefan & Natalie as well as Camilla who made our time in Andenes a wonderful experience.

In Andenes we not only learned something about whales and space, but also made two wonderful hikes and picked mushrooms. Unfortunately, the time in Andenes was soon over and with a lot of wind in our sails we sailed on to Vesterålen to Alsvåg.

Melanie:
It got really stormy in Alsvåg. The first blast of Hurricane Sally reached hit us with 74 knots, the second storm even went more than 90 knots. Thanks to Rikart, Ingelise, Steinar and Trond, we had enough fenders to protect ourselves from the storm. In Alsvåg we visited the school, showed good climate examples and organized a clean-up campaign. We also met Cerpus again to get some progress in our environmental game for our exploration based learning tool ADVENTURE. We were also able to get an exciting insight into the Delitek company. It is a member of the Marine Recycling Cluster and would equip us with a compactor. This enables us to compress the collected waste. Then we went to the picturesque Nyksund at the northern end of Vesterålen island. After a rainy week, the sun came out again and we enjoyed it to the full. At night we observed the impressive northern lights and even managed to capture them with our cameras. This thanks to Michel, who gave us a course how to do it. What an incredible spectacle. Our next stop was called Myre. There we visited the school for the second time. The 10th graders from Myre School came to see the ship. They did a clean-up on the way. Many thanks to the Families Nygård, Evensen and Jürgensen our great organizers in Myre! Many thanks also to AS Myre Redskapssentral for their support. We continued along the island of Vesterålen to take e-DNA and microplastic samples.

Report in German:

Lygen Alps – Tromsø – Ringsvassøy – Sommarøy – Senja – Andenes – Vesterålen

Noé:

Nach Svalbard verbrachten wir einige Wochen in Lyngseidet. Dort waren wir oft in der Magic Mountain Lodge. Wir feierten meinen, Vitals und Simons Geburtstag in Lyngseidet. Leider gingen Simon, Meret und Salina zurück in die Schweiz. Ein paar Tage später kam unsere neue Lehrerin Melanie aufs Schiff. Wir genossen die Lyngen Alps auf Wanderungen und Spaziergängen. Irgendwann wurde es dann doch Zeit Lyngen zu verlassen. Wir setzten die Segel und segelten nach Tromsø. Dort trafen wir unseren Freund Fred wieder, den wir in Svalbard treffen wollten, es aber nie schafften. Es war sehr lustig unsere Svalbardgeschichten auszutauschen.

Alegra:

Von Tromsø segelten wir zu der Insel Ringsvassoy. Als wir ankamen, kam die Familie Selvåg: Eskil und Ane mit ihren Kindern Brage, Ingvild und Audun aufs Boot. Wir beendeten noch unser Frühstück dann gingen wir an Land. Ich schwamm zum Land, aber natürlich mit einem Wetsuit, es war gar nicht so weit. Als wir an Land waren, konnten wir Drachen steigen lassen. Wir verbrachten einen schönen Tag draussen an der Sonne. Am nächsten Tag versuchten wir ein Mittagessen nur mit Sachen aus der Natur zu machen. Ich und meine zwei Brüder Noé und Andri, Brage und sein Vater Eskil gingen fischen und sammelten Muscheln. Die anderen sammelten Blaubeeren, Pilze und Algen für eine Suppe. Wir haben viel Fisch gefangen, einen grossen Dorsch und 4 Makrelen. Ane hat aus den Algen eine Suppe gemacht. Da die Familie Selvåg auch einen Garten hat, konnten wir noch Kartoffeln dazu kochen um wirklich satt zu werden. Das war ein schöner Tag. Am nächsten Tag machten wir ein clean up am Strand und Phillipp von Qilak machte auch mit. Ich konnte mit Eskil und Brage mit dem Kajak hin- und zurückfahren. Wir dachten, wir können den Müll mit dem Kajak abladen, aber schlussendlich war es so viel, dass wir es am nächsten Tag holen mussten. Dann segelten wir wieder zurück nach Tromsø um eine Schule zu besuchen und unterwegs Proben zu sammeln. Dort arbeiteten wir auch mit dem Polar Institut, der Universität von Tromsø und „Akvaplan Niva“ zusammen und Salve Dahle und seine Frau kamen zum Essen.

Noé:

Nach einigen Tagen in Tromsø ging es weiter. Einen Tag verbrachten wir auf der Insel Sommarøy in einer wunderschönen Landschaft mit weissen Sandstränden, sobald man aber den Fuss ins Wasser stellt, merkt man, dass man doch nicht in der Karibik ist. Dann segelten wir wieder los, unterwegs sammelten wir Mikroplastik und e-DNA Proben. Unser nächstes Ziel war das Dorf Senjahopen auf der Insel Senja. Umgeben von steilen Bergen bot sich uns eine eindrückliche Aussicht. Es sprach sich schnell herum, dass wir im Hafen sind. So knüpften wir Kontakt mit einer Lehrerin aus dem Dorf. Gemeinsam besuchten wir die Schule und die Schüler/innen besuchten unser Schiff. Wir verbrachten zwei tolle Tage mit ihnen, in denen wir zusammen ein clean up machten und gemeinsam Fussball spielten.

Von Senjahopen ging es weiter nach Andenes.

From Whale to Space (Geschichte von Noé)

Auf 2000 Metern Tiefe im Ozean bemerkt ein Fisch eine Druckwelle. Durch einen Muskel im Rachen eines Pottwals werden Schallwellen losgesendet, welche zu ihm zurückgeworfen werden, wenn sie auf etwas treffen. Plötzlich gleitet wie eine Rakete ein riesiger Pottwal durch das Wasser. Er fängt den Fisch und zerreisst ihn in Stücke. Langsam taucht er wieder die 2000 Meter nach oben an die Oberfläche. Ein solcher Tauchgang kann schon mal bis zu 90 Minuten dauern, in denen der Wal die Luft anhält. Schon bald sieht man das Dorf Andenes. Dem wechselhaften Wetter ausgesetzt, thront dieses Dorf an der Spitze der Insel Andøya. Gerade hinter dem Leuchtturm befindet sich ein bläuliches Haus. Dort drin ist ein Walcenter und ein echtes ausgestelltes Pottwal Skelett. Die Pläne des Dorfes sind gross. Geplant wird ein riesiges Walcenter „the Whale“ an der Küste des Dorfes in der Form eines grossen Walrückens. Dort können Besucher Kunst und Informationen zu den Walfamilien entdecken. Am Strand weiter südlich sieht man ein grosses Gebäude, das “Andøya Space Center“. Gerade wird dort eine Rakete gelauncht. Sie wird ins All geschickt um einige Minuten später wieder mit wichtigen Informationen zurück auf die Erde ins Meer zu donnern. In dem selben Gebäude arbeiten nicht nur Wissenschaftler sondern auch Schulklassen und Studenten/innen können für mehrere Tage projektmässig eine Rakete bauen.

Wir haben in Andenes nicht nur etwas über die Wale und das All gelernt, sondern auch zwei wunderschöne Wanderungen gemacht und Pilze gesammelt. Leider war die Zeit in Andenes schon bald vorbeit und mit viel Wind in den Segeln segelten wir weiter nach Vesterålen nach Alsvåg.

Vielen Dank an Stefan & Nathalie, als auch an Camilla, welche unsere Zeit in Andenes bereicherten.

Melanie:

In Alsvåg wurde es richtig stürmisch. Die ersten Ausläufer des Hurrikans Sally erreichten mit 74 Knoten Hurikanstärke, beim zweiten Sturm ging es sogar bis auf 90 Knoten hoch. Dank Rikart, Ingelise, Steinar und Trond hatten wir genügend Fender, um uns vor dem Sturm zu schützen. In Alsvåg besuchten wir die Schule und zeigten gute Klimabeispiele und organisierten eine Aufräumaktion. Auch durften wir einen spannenden Einblick in die Firma Delitek (delitek.no) erhalten. Sie ist Mitglied des Marine Recycling Clusters und würde uns mit einem Compactor ausrüsten. Damit können wir den eingesammelten Abfall komprimieren. Danach ging es weiter in das malerische Nyksund am nördlichen Ende der Insel. Nach einer regnerischen Woche kam die Sonne wieder heraus und wir genossen es in vollen Zügen. In der Nacht beobachteten wir eindrückliche Nordlichter und schafften es sogar, sie mit unseren Kameras einzufangen. Dies war möglich, dank Michel’s Photokurs. Was für ein unglaubliches Spektakel. Unser nächster Halt hiess Myre. Dort besuchten wir die Schule bereits zum zweiten Mal. Die 10. Klässler der Schule Myre, kamen, um das Schiff zu besichtigen. Unterwegs machten sie ein clean-up.

Vielen Dank den Familien Nygård, Evensen und Jürgensen für die Zeit in Myre.

Vielen Dank auch an die AS Myre Redskapssentral für ihre Unterstützung.

Weiter ging es entlang der Insel Vesterålen um e-DNA und Mikroplastikproben zu nehmen.

Let’s clean the North Pole!

7-summits non-stop around the world by human power and nature’s force. A unique challenge from TOP to TOP and SCHOOL to SCHOOL: A Swiss family of 8 together with volunteers share the joy of sport and environmental action to protect the climate since the year 2000.

See how they managed to do the first circumnavigation of whole Svalbard under sail and climbing from to the sea to the very TOP of Perriertoppen.

On the way, they sampled for microplastics and e-DNA. They came as close as 3 days sailing to the North Pole till they got stopped by the pack ice. The youngest crew of our 6 children on board was Vital. He is two years old, followed by Mia 4, Alegra 9, Noé 10, Andri 13, and Salina 15. Together, they cleaned the most northerly islands on the planet from plastics. Read also Simon’s blog “81degrees”!

Please consider a donation on our website to support our work.

Track us here.

How we got to Svalbard: Read Simon’s report “Northway”

Svalbard expedition in detail:

Since 2000, the TOPtoTOP Expedition has covered 111,000 nautical miles and visited more than 100 countries.

In the last 20 years we have collected a total of 60’000 kg of plastic together with 140’000 students at “Beach Clean Ups”.

The plastic pollution has increased extremely in the last 20 years.

In 2016, we were the first to find microplastics in the Canadian Arctic, in the Northwest Passage going through Fury&Hecla. In the following years we were confronted with the consequences of plastic pollution in East Greenland and the North of Iceland. We found a dead basking shark on the beach in Olafsfjördur. His stomach was filled with plastic.

This year we used a manta net for the microplastic samples and took samples for e-DNA at the same time. The goal is to locate the hotspots of microplastics and to get an idea about the living beings in the vicinity of these plastic concentrations. A future goal will also be to better understand ocean currents with the final goal of determining the sources of pollution.

This year we were the first sailing boat to circumnavigate the whole of Svalbard and in doing so we advanced in the pack ice to record-breaking northern positions close to the North Pole. A surprising amount of microplastics was visible in the samples at the pack ice boundary.  We also saw a lot of large plastic parts swimming past. The samples will now be analyzed in detail this winter at ETH Zurich, the HVL in Sogndal and the Norwegian Research Center NORCE in Stavanger.

Furthermore, we have found an enormous amount of macro plastic on exposed beaches on these northernmost islands between Spitsbergen and the North Pole. During clean-up operations, it was easy for one person to feel an 80-liter waste bag of plastic within less than 10 minutes. The largest amounts were fishing nets, plastic bottles, plastic bags and plastic containers. Looking closer, our assessments showed at least one microplastic particle (< 5mm) per square centimeter on all the beaches we visited. There were also concentration accumulations where there were already more plastic particles than sand.

In this region there is one of the largest polar bear populations. Therefore, polar bear protection must always be guaranteed during activities on land, which does not make the work easier. This summer our alarm pistol had to be used only once, where 3 polar bears approached us up to 30m at the same time.

Furthermore, the transport is difficult and we couldn’t avoid to make depots of the collected plastic on land, because we don’t have enough space on the boat for the large amounts of plastic waste. We therefore hope for support next year and are confident that a sustainable solution for the transport can be found. The authorities in Svalbard (Sysselman) also provide excellent service and were very supportive.

A further challenge besides the polar bears and pack ice, are the “growlers”. These are icebergs from glaciers on Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. In contrast to icebergs, these “growlers” are hardly visible at the sea surface. When the sea is rough, it is, therefore, safer to hide in the pack ice. The pack ice then acts as a breakwater. In an emergency, you can lash yourself between two large floes with ice screws and ice anchors. Like at a floating dock you are safer than as in the open sea, where you run the risk of being bombarded by breaking waves loaded with blocks of ice. However, this tactic only works well in areas where the pack ice does not start to drift with strong currents like in a river; otherwise you run the risk of the ship being crushed in the pack ice like in a mortar.
In 2016, we built our own icebreaker out of trash from the landfill in Nome , Alaska and improved it thanks to the harbor master in Longyearbyen, Rikhart Olsen Ingeroe to protect our bow.

Navigation was not easy in some remote areas, because the map material was very patchy or further east sometimes completely missing. Sailing into this region was only possible thanks to a forward looking Echo Pilot, so that we always had enough water under the keel in these partly shallow waters. Radar was essential to avoid the danger of collision with unknown rocks, islands and icebergs. Additionally we often had a lookout in the mast. Last but not least, our SPADE anchor was once again worth its weight in gold, so that we could anchor safely in a sheltered bay or fjord and take a break from the often rapidly changing weather and sea conditions. Because when you are on the move, you are constantly on guard and tense for 24 hours. Since the sun never sets, after a while you will miss your usual sleep.

Conclusion: We suspect that the Gulf Stream transports the plastic parts up to the pack ice barrier and this “pack ice barrier” could lead to these high concentrations. The laboratory analyses will hopefully help to better understand the complex relationships in a few months. But one thing we all became aware of. The health of the far north is essential for our planet because of its large biomass. Climate change, which has more extreme effects in the far north, is already major stress for this ecosystem. Plastic pollution is an additional major stress factor that could lead to the collapse of the system.

Many thanks to the crew:
Meret, Simon, Robert, Vital, Mia, Alegra, Noé, Andri, Salina, Sabine, Dario


Special thanks to:
Alessio Gomiero, NORCE
Andy Hodson, UNIS
Charles & Doris Michel, Swiss Arctic Project
Hanne Lykkja, Lofoten
Håvard Fjellheim, Alesund
Hebe Markussen, Norwegian Polar Institut
Jürg Zahnd, Solar4
Loïc Pellissier, ETHZ
Maarten Loonen, Dutch Arctic Station
Magne Andreassen & Bjørg Irene Østrem, Kirkenes
Marianne Nilsen, HVL
Mario & Hildegard Okle, WEYTEC
Mathieu Blein & Ingunn Rieverts Vatne, Solhov
Nick Olson, PredictWind
Odd Tufte, Kaupanger
Patrik Jonssonn & Henrika Lönngren, Magic Mountain Lodge
Rikart & Inger-Lise Evensen, Ålsvag
Rikhart Olsen Ingeroe, harbourmaster Longyearbyen
Sigmund Andersen, UiT
Stein Erik Eliassen, Sørheim Brygge
Tarald Seldal, HVL Sogndal
Thomas Haavik, Sysselmannen på Svalbard
Tom Johansen, Meteo Station Hopen
Yngvar & Torgunn Rist Aagaard, Kraemmervika Rorbuer
Vanessa Ruber, Patagonia

Thanks for your support:

Victorinox, Patagonia, myclimate, WEYTEC, Echopilot, Hostpoint, Internezzo, Kleven Jakt & Fiske, Kraemmervika Rorbuer, Magic Mountain Lodge, Munters, PredictWind, Professione Canyon, Solar4, SPADE, Solhov, Sørheim Brygge, Sunware, Superwind, Surfshop NO, Turtlepac

Polar bear kills man in Svalbard on the 28th of August 2020. Polar bears are forced on to land for food as sea ice diminishes. Polar bears could be extinct by the end of the century, study says. In another attack in Longyearbyen a boy got killed and the bear got killed afterwards. In bear country it is absolutely necessary to have proper bear protection. With a flare gun and a proper rifle you avoid deadly attacks and save also the life of bears.

81 Degrees

What an elation! After four weeks of winter in the barren vastness of the far north, we were able to set foot on green land again. As much as we enjoyed feeling the mild late summer breeze in Kirkenes, we miss the beautiful memories we collected during the last weeks circumnavigating the fantastic Svalbard Archipelago. Although these experiences are hard to put into words, I’ll try to summarise the highlights of our journey in a few points.  By and large, we made it our goal to reach the outermost points of Svalbard in order to filter the water for eDNA traces and micro-plastic particles in collaboration with the ETH Zürich, Western Norwegian University of Applied Sciences and NORCE Research Center. The eDNA tells us which animals have moved through the respective waters over a certain time period. Determining the plastic content with the manta net does not yet allow causal conclusions to be drawn on the plastic’s impact, but at least correlations and overlaps can be identified. Marine ecologist Meret Juncker explained that up to 80% of some arctic bird species were found to carry plastic in their stomachs. A frightening number that calls for more research on the effects of the plastic in the species guts! At the same time, we wanted to continue with our routine clean-ups to free the beaches from plastic – if we could actually find any so far away from civilization! And the less we expected it, the more sobering the experience was of encountering it in large quantities even in the most remote places. A great number of fishing nets, food packaging, buoys, boilers, lighters, and other waste piled up even in the sheltered fjords of the Northern coast of Nordaustlandet.  Removing the plastic often felt like a Sisyphean task that could have kept us busy for months. Once the big chunks were removed, you discovered how many medium and small particles were hidden in the sand underneath. The friendly filmmaker Robert Wittmer joined our trip and recorded everything that happened. His own movie about the plastic flood on the Greek Islands is called  In Between Beauty and Waste – A title that sums up our own experiences in Svalbard quite poignantly. Because although the currents coming from the south carry in these remainders of human activity, the largely untouched piece of Arctic has provided us with tremendous impressions of nature and wildlife.

Our expedition report in Longyearbyen marked the last waypoint to the north, where we still had internet and telephone connection. In the following days, we sailed to the small village of Ny Ålesund – the northernmost year-round inhabited settlement in the world. The place has its origin in the dwelling of workers from the Kings Bay mining Company from 1916. However, the Norwegian Government had to buy all the shares in the economic crisis of 1929. Today, the settlement is a permanent Arctic research station consisting of environmental monitoring institutes from Norway, Germany, France, China, Italy, Great Britain, Japan, Spain and the Netherlands. Researchers from Sweden, Denmark, Greenland and the USA are regular guests! A launch site for sounding rockets (SvalRak) is located on the outskirts of the town. The Kings Bay Company maintains a marine research laboratory, port facilities, a canteen, workshops, and a common infrastructure for the inhabitants.

 

After our little detour to the east, we continued our journey to the westernmost point of Svalbard; the Forlandet Nationalpark on Prince Charles Island. During a walk on the white beach, we were surprised by what we discovered! About 30 walrus were lying on a heap – twisting and rolling on the spot to keep warm. These animals are up to three and a half meters long, and their weight exceeds 1200 kilograms. Fascinated we watched the spectacle from a distance before we dared to approach these arctic giants. In the background, we discovered humpback and fin whales diving up and down. The scene felt a bit like watching “Mother Earth” and falling asleep by the sight of its fantastic pictures. A similar impression we experienced when we anchored for a walk at the ‚Mosselbukta‘ and unexpectedly met a polar bear mother with two cups on a stroll. Feelings of respect, perplexity and fascination overcame us when we watched these incredibly exciting creatures so carefree in their natural environment from no more than 40 meters. Fortunately, the animals neither felt disturbed by our presence nor did they enjoy it so much that we ended up on their menu. Quite casually the animals noticed us, continued playing and disappeared after a while. While sailing we discovered two other bears, one of them even crossing our way in the water.

 

For the further journey, we lacked reliable maps since only few people sail this far north. The situation with the floating ice and pack ice is particularly difficult to assess, as it changes day by day.  The highlights of our trips were – in the truest sense of the word – the ascent of the highest peak of Svalbard and sailing to the pack ice border at 81.17 degrees north! On 28 July 2020, we climbed “Perriertoppen” with 1712 m.a.s.l. which is exactly one meter smaller than the official Top of Svalbard “Newtoppen”! However, as Perriertoppen is more demanding in terms of alpine climbing and also looks more like a mountain, we decided to honour it and added one and a half metres of height by shovelling snow and adding a reindeer antler on top. 🙂 Coinciding with our arrival at the top, the heat record on Svalbard was broken. Below the summit meltwater splashed out of a crevasse as if from a fire hose! Bare ice without any remnants of snow demanded good ice axes. On the way back to the boat, we were confronted with streams of meltwater, two debris flows through the permafrost and even a landslide. For Dario, this was something he had never experienced before – even after 30 years as an international mountain guide. The glaciated mountains on Svalbard are sweating themselves to death! The distance from our boat to Top was about 25 km and 1790 meters in altitude. However, the difficult terrain kept us busy for 24 hours without a break. Tired and happy we found back to the boat and rested for two days before we tackled the 200 nautical miles to the northernmost point of Svalbard. Several times we navigated through floating chunks of ice and we had some spectacular encounters with whales and dolphins.

 

On the Swiss National Day we broke the ToptoTop record and were only a little more than 500 nautical miles away from the North Pole. In the pack ice above 81° North, I (Simon) was baptized “Blue Whale” with an ice-shower in the warm outside temperatures. This northerly position of a normal sailing ship (without assistance from an icebreaker) shows how far the pack ice has already retreated!

 

After passing the island of Kvitøya next to the Russian border, we anchored our boat for the last time in the very southern island „Hopen“. Two meteorologists, a cook and an engineer operate a local weather station and welcomed us very warmly as their first visitors for years, except the supply vessel that was last time there 6 months ago! Tom Johansen told us over coffee and cake that he has been running the station for the last 15 years. In his first years there, the water around the island froze in October, then it would freeze in December and now last year only in February. The thawing of the permafrost layer in the warm months has also risen from an initial five centimetres to 50 centimetres now – data which confirmed our overall impression that the Arctic is currently warming rapidly. The “Sysselmannen” (Government of Svalbard) told us that we might be the first boat under sail in history to circumnavigate Svalbard including Nordaustland – especially so early in the summer. Until now, the ice always blocked the way, which would have made a circumnavigation impossible. In the next few days, we sail via Alta, Lyngseidet to the Lofoten and look forward to meeting our friends again! (Simon, 13.8.2020)

 

Here our routing of the circumnavigation of Svalbard.

Note: Mohit from India just reminded us about the 10th anniversary of the first TOPtoTOP Climate Solution Award:

Hello Gabi, Stefan, Tiffany, Macarena, Gao, Chris, Zofie, Debbie, Lucia, Annemarie, Andrea and Dario!
How is everyone! Hope you all are doing great! It’s been exactly 10 years since our expedition in Switzerland! I went back to our camping grounds and recorded a video message and uploaded it on youtube for all of you. Hope it brings back some nice memories. Mohit Agarwal 🙂

 

1 2 142