The course of the expedition
The expedition summary
The expedition was succesfull and quite according to the plan. We kept to the planned route. We also fit well within the planned time schedule. No day plan turned put to be too long to shoft the day and night rythm off the correct hours, which often happens during the polar day.
Overall we had a great luck for weather. Only one day the weather was bad enought to keep us from going out on the sea. During the journey only twice we had the strong wind against us. Visibility was also usually good. In general it could be said, that the bad weather was coming when we could best afford it and it was bringing interesting experience.
To Svalbard and back
We left Prague in our expedition Skoda Favorit car on 24th July at 6 AM. We reached Sassnitz early enough, our tickets were for a ferry leaving for Trelleborg at 17:45. The only problem along the way was refiling the fuel tank from the backup container due to the fuel gauge malfunction.
We stopped for several hours of sleep on the highway rest some 100 km before Goteborg and we continued on 25th July at 5 AM. The trip to the Oslo airport was easy, we made it before 11:00. In a farm nearby we arranged the parking of the car. Our fight was at 20:40, we went to check-in in advance at 17:00.
Although most of our food travelled in our quite heavy hand-luggage, we still had about 24 kg overweight. They charget us 15 kg, 45 NOK each. The rifle and paddles went through special luggage counter. More problems came at the security check. We had some small meat cans in our hand luggage, some of them a little heavier than 100 g. Thus we learned that a meat can is a liquid or gel and were forced to send it as a special luggage. The flight was allright after that. Unfortunately one of our packs with hydro-gear remained in Oslo and was sent the next day.
On the way back we had about 15 kg overweight too. The lady at the airport charged us all of that with no compromise. The firecrackers we had against the bears did not go through. Besides that the rifle and gunlock must travel in separate luggage. Longyearbyen airport security is aparently used to deal with weapons and fireworks, therefore they are trainedto detect them on the X-ray. And they have given us a valuable experience.
The car in Oslo was well and functional. THere were certain problems with starting it at first, but the trip to Prague was perfect.
Reaching the goals
We have paddled to the deserted town of Pyramiden and spent three nights of rest there. About half of our stay it was foggy, whic actually added to the ghost-town atmosphere. Entering the port, which is basically great industrial ruin was in the light fog really strong expereince.
We have met part of local russian five men crew. That significantly added to the quality of our exploration of the town. They gave us a very warm welcome, took us on tour to the locked houses and found a room in one of the former living houses for us. We saw the farm, canteen, school, hotel with museum and the always crying seagulls nesting on its windows. Furthermore there was an indoor swimming-pool, outdoor stadium with the field washed away by water and the culture center with cinema and more sport facilities. In front of the last of these structures, there was, on the highest point of the main square, the world's northernmost Lenin looking somewhere in the fog. On the third day, we could see, he has been watching the beauty of Nordenskjoldbreen glacier...
We also met the people from the Czech research station in Pyramiden established by University in Ceske Budejovice. The two red habitat and supply containers of original station are placed at the end of Pyramiden's jetty. Besides that there is a large cabin to the north in Petunia bukta rented from the Russians. There we have met the zoological section of the station's crew. We are quite fond of the memories of that meeting.
Last day, when we went up to the top of Pyramid mountain, the weather was sunny. The 935 meters climb was a beautifull ending to our stay in Pyramiden. Besides the view of the town below, we could see many of Svalbard's significant mountains from Newton toppen, the highest, to Tre Kroner above Ny Alesund and Nordenskjold fjellet above Longyearbyen.
We observed both Tunabreen and Nordenskjoldbreen glaciers. The front of Tunabreen at the end of Templefjorden was reached on the fourth day of expedition. This glacier is cerrently surging, on the other hand, Von Postbreen just south from Tunabreen has been retreating and does not reach tbe coast at all. Along the north coast of Templefjorden there is a lot of floating ice from small pieces to real icebergs the size of a family house.
Three days later we paddled along the front of Nordenskjoldbreen glacier at the end of Billefjorden. This glacier retreated a little in comparisson with the map but still it is an impressing view. Altough it is larger and higher than Tunabreen, it was our second meeting with this totally strange environment and which lessened the impression a little. On the other hand, there was a lot of seals around Nordenskjoldbreen to provide yet another kind of experience.
From the stay near the glacier fronts, we remember the rumbling. The glacier cracks, the pieces ale breaking off and it all sounds like a thunder. We have watched smaler blocks of ice fall into the sea, but we were in a safe distance that not even the wave really reached us. The distance from the glacier front is hard to gouge. The concept of minimum safe distance thus has a little sense. We just came as close as we all felt safe. And a jagged end of a huge mass of ice towering high, rumbling deeply and breathing the chill causes a feeling of great respect.
The last stage of our trip was the river Adventelva. In two days march we carried the boats from coast of Sassenfjorden and there was no other reasonable option than to continue on the river. Whenwewere leaving Longyearbyen, we were looking forward to thos part, as we saw a lot of water in the river. In two weeks since that the water levels dropped significantly. Going down the braided and winding Adventelva was the cinstant search for water and often we had to get of the boat in the shallows. In some parts, all the water was on either side of the walley, even the interesting spots could be found. None more dofficult than WW II+ though.
We divided thos part into two days. How many kilometers we crossed, it is difficult to estimate, with all the weaving the way it was certainly more than could be measured from the map. Several kilometers each boat went on the defferent river too. Both were quite similar though and when our streams met again we were not far from each other. Most bothersome was searching for the current among the large shallows of the delta. We were happy to finally get to the sea.
We skipped this part due to our respect for the sea and the weather. We did not want to waste time connecting the boats and putting up the sail, when the weather was good but itwasnot clear for how long. The conclusion is that sailing experiments was unnecessary for our type of expedition on the fjords. Favourable wind was helping anyway and with any other our sail would only harm our progress.
Course and the plan
The expedition put out from LYB basecamp on Sunday 27th July after 13:00. The original plan was to cross Adventfjorden after resuplying in LYB 26th July and camp on the other side. Due to the fault of the airline, we had to wait till 21:00 for our pack with hydro-gear, so we could not even start building the boats. To put out later at night could be dangerous due to the fatique.
On the third day the weather was bad, we made the trip to the mountains on the south coast of Templefjorden and took some rest.
On the north coast of Templefjorden, nearthe morraine, we were on the fourth day. Therefore we reached the checkpoint #1 in time and we continued up to Bjona Hamna whoch was planned for the next leg.
The trip to north part of Billefjord took us two days compared to four that were planned for. On the sixth day we camped in Brucebyen, not far from southern end of Nordenskjoldbreen's front. Checkpoint #2 was on its northern side and was reached the next day.
Trip to Pyramiden harbor was quick and easy. We combined it with the glacier front tour which belonged to the previous leg. In Pyramiden, we spent three nights of safe indoor sleep without having to take turns on bear-watch. For two days we had easy program and on the third day, we climbed the Pyramid mountain and left in the afternoon.
We reached the checkpoint #3 in Sassendalen in three days paddling including the afternoon of the last day in Pyramiden. It was planned for 4 days. We were lucky with the weather when crossing Billefjorden and Sassenfjorden.
It was plannedfor twodays to march with the boats up Sassendalen and Eskerdalen to Adventelva. We used two days. There was some more time each day, but we gladly used it to rest.
For the river, there was only one day planned. Due to the low water levels, overall fatique and good progress with three spare days, we added one day to this leg. Originally we wanted to camp opposite to LYB and cross the fjord in the morning to go to breakfast in Polar hotel. That was changed too. We went straight to camp and got our breakfast the next day without the necessity to pack up the camp.
The waterborne expedition ended by comming to LYB camp on 11th August at 19:15.
Stay in Colesbukta
For remaining daysthe plan was to move to Russanov's cabin on the coast of Colesbukta. There we planned to rest and take shorter trips. The main diversion from the plan was, that we moved on the ground and left the boats in LYB. We wanted to use a route we have not tried before, over the top of Nordenskjold fjellet. Unfavorable weather that startedin camp on Plato berget chandeg this plan. We came to the cabin using the traditional route through Grumantbyen on 13th August.
We occupied the cabin and supplied it with coal and driftwood from nearby ruin of Colesbukta town. The girls went to a day-trip to the other side of Colesdalen, originally to Nathorst fjellet, actually only to the pass between Swandalen and Lailadalen (the former up, the latter down).
We also planned the trip to Barentsburg. We started on 16th August when we crossed Colesbukta and reached the Kapp Laila cabin. We also climbed Vesuv that day. The next day the wind and raincloudsfrom the west stole our determination and we traded the idea of Barentsburg for a short trip to Holanderdalen. Then, on 18th August, we came back to Russanov's cabin.
THere we made atrip to slopes of Lindstrom for a view to upper Colesdalen. We gave up the climb to Lindstrom because of the clouds. Back to LYB we went through Colesdalen, Fardalen and Endalen, the route yet unknown to us.