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Svalbard up to 80° North

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 www.polarpermaculture.com.

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!

Champagne Sailing to Svalbard

Last year it was a different story:

TOPtoTOP Arctic Research Expedition report 1:

  • Location: Ny-Alesund, the small research village with the world’s N-most post office
  • Our real-time position!
  • Date: 2021-06-25
  • Author: Sebastian:

Unfortunately our journey started with some complications with the engine. A few hundred meters after leaving Lyngseidet there was no cooling water coming, so we had to immediately shut down the engine so it would not overheat. We then sailed with very low winds back to Lyngseidet were we stayed for one more night. During the whole night Dario and Sabine worked on finding out where the problem was. The next day, 18.6.2021, we started another attempt and made it a little bit further, but again the cooling water stopped coming and we had to anchor at the bay of Koppangen. As at first the weather did not look to bad at that time, the researchers Max and Sebastian started to go to the glacier Strupbreen to take their first samples of micro-plastics. They ended up walking 6 hours through pouring rain and therefore could not take any samples. However, it was a first sight of the mountain and they had seen where they can go up the best. On they way down, they saw that Pachamama was quite close to the rocks, and they were wondering if the boat has moved. When they arrived at the beach they saw however, that the location of the boat has changed and they found out, that the crew was awake as they had to prevent the boat from crashing into the rocks. 

As the weather cleared up the next day (19.6.2021), Max and Sebastian decided to go to the mountain again to take samples. They started at about 17:00. Their first stop was directly at the beach where they showed the whole Schwoerer Family how they were going to take the air-, water-, and sediment samples. The children were all interested and always had a helping hand! While science was on the go, Dario and our photographer Peder started to make a bonfire so that everyone could eat fish, which was caught by Noe, Alegra, Mia and Vital some hours before. After that, Max and Sebastian started again towards Strupbreen. This time they were successful. Sampling in these areas however is a cold issue and it took them longer as expected. They were back at the boat at 06:00 on the 20th of June, almost 12 hours after they started. After a breakfast they went straight to bed, but they have got the good news, that the problem with the engine could be fixed and that we all could continue towards Svalbard. 

The first hours were quiet, the weather was good and the sea calm for a couple of hours. The next goal was Sørvær where the famous rock “Andotten” is located with a big bird colony. The colony however was not as busy this time. There was a discussion why this might be, and if this might be because of the decrease of the fish population, the food base for the birds. Sabine and Noe started at 01:00 on June 21st, the longest day in the Northern hemisphere, to take their first eDNA and micro-plastic samples from the ocean with their eDNA-pump and the manta-net. Anyway, the weather was beautiful and we arrived in Sørvær with the midnight sun shining though the scenic fishing town on Soeroey Island.

The next morning father and son of the fisher-family Furøy helped us to get some oil and fuel. Soon after we started to sail in calm conditions with direct course towards Bear Island, following by whales just some miles off the coast.

On the 22nd we had to change the course to the West as the wind direction and its strength changed. The sea got a little bit rougher but so far nobody has been seasick. The change of course proved to be a good decision as in the night to the 23rd we could turn again towards North with better winds. At 07:20 on the 23rd we had sight to Bear Island about 25 miles to the East. We even could see snow there. Sabine told us, that last year at that time, no snow was on the island. During the day, the sea got calmer and the wind decreased a little bit, so we could keep course to Svalbard.

On 24th at about midnight, 42 nautical miles West of us, we could get the first glimpse of Svalbard´s Southern peaks. At that time water and air were still calm. This allowed us to spot several whales and seals while they were feeding. As we got closer to Svalbard, we could even see the glaciers and started to look out for ice swimming around in the ocean as there might be a danger of collision. As we follow the Svalbard West coast further North, Max and Sebastian get the feeling that sampling on the glaciers here will be an extremely cold issue.

But thanks to SPORTLER we are all optimistic that we have the right equipment: International mountain- guide Dario is very happy to finally have new climbing boots after fixing his old ones several times in the last 7 years.

The six days on sea passed fast. Thanks to easy conditions and the great kitchen of Sabine the mood was high. There was a lot of time to observe nature and even to play Yatzy. Now we go to EXPLORE the High Arctic. First, we do our traditional non-alcoholic “anchor drink” and straight after a polar-bear-protection-drill before we step on land. Keep tuned to know more. Please note that we are in one of the most remote places on the globe, but we do our best to blog again as soon as there is an opportunity.

Challenging start

We had a challenging start of the “TOPtOTOP Arctic Research Expedition 2021“: We left Lyngseidet on the 17th of June after filling the boat with water and food. Soon after we had an engine failure. We changed the impeller, but still no water flow. We sailed back and were busy the whole night to take the engine apart to fix the problem. Finally, there were 2 broken rubber wings blocking the inlet of the water pump, but on the intake! – Very strange!

On the 18th of June we took of again. After some hours we lost the wind and again no water flow. Luckily the wind picked up again and we tried to get into Struppen to take samples on a glacier. Furious falling winds made it too dangerous to proceed without the backup of our motor. We changed the plan and finally anchored in Koppangen. The anchorage was quite deep. Max and Sebastian went sampling. Then at night, the wind picked up and we were drifting towards a cliff, even with 80m of the chain out.

We had to act fast: We tie all our ropes together. Peder went with the dinghy with a line of 250 m to a buoy. Like that Sabine and Dario were able to pull Pachamama in the calms in between the gusts towards safety. In the morning we learned that the buoy will be not strong enough. We had to do another anchor maneuver without engine and set a safety line to shore.

The kids were successful in fishing and so we had last night a wonderful dinner, before sampling on a glacial river and on the glacier above the anchorage. Soon we continue and hope now that we have not more surprises…

20 years Sabine&Dario

=> JOIN: “TOPtoTOP Lyngen Expedition 12.-17.05.2021”

Wednesday, 12.05.2021: 18:00 Lyngseidet – Djupvik 20:00
Thursday, 13.05.2021: ROV training in Djupvik
Friday, 14.05.2021: 17:00 Djupvik – Circumnavigation of Uloya Island – anchorage
Saturday, 15.05.2021: 17:00 Koppangen pick up for Camp @ Åroya Island
Sunday, 16.05.2021: Clean up Camp on Åroya and 10th birthday party of Alegra
Monday, 17.05.2021: 09:00 Aroya – Lyngseidet 10:00 for National Day Boat Parade with kids dinghy sailing

Material: sleeping bag, sleeping mat, life jacket, food

Please call +41 79 943 52 35 for questions or if you need equipment?
Please call till Friday if you need a pickup/ drop off in Koppangen for transfer to Aroya?

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Latest News: “Klima Familie” –  2021-05-2021 – Schweizer Radio SRF1 RegionalJournal – Sascha Zürcher

=> JOIN: “TOP SAIL Lyngen Expedition 21.-24.05.2021”

Friday, 21.05.2021: 17:00 Lyngseidet – Mandalen
Saturday, 22.05.2021: Mandalen – Joppolbakken – Mandalen – Hamnes
Sunday, 23.05.2021: Hamnes – Uløya-Travers – Trollberget – Stupen – Koppangen – Årøya
Monday, 24.05.2021: Årøya – Lyngseidet 18:00

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