Archive for October, 2011

Red Aurora

On Monday evening I was tired after a busy day, and I was about to go to bed… I knew the aurora was active but it was too cloudy, still I took one last look at the webcam located in the next valley. I noticed it had cleared up and there was RED aurora… something I have only seen once before, and that was in the Netherlands. A big auroral storm was happening, and I couldn’t stay at home! Thanks to Facebook, we also got Eelke and Roy to join us :D It was an incredible show! The northern lights were seen all over Norway that night, much further south than they normally do. The sky was filled with pulsating northern lights, and at times we could see deep red colours. We also saw the corona overhead, very impressive.

Northern lights reflected in a puddle - actually I was so excited when we saw the lights that I stepped straight into a puddle that was more than ankle deep.. oops! The corona showing overhead

Red aurora! More red aurora, so pretty

A red beam of aurora Paul posing with the northern lights

The sky was just FILLED with aurora, crazy! One last photo before going home...

We stayed out until 2:30 in the morning… and I only went to bed reluctantly. The lights were active through the rest of the night, until dawn! What a night :)


Last week I spent 48 hours in Longyearbyen, my second visit to Svalbard (read about the first one here). We had a work meeting there, with everyone from my institute and everyone who works at one of “our” (mostly military) airports in Northern Norway (Andenes, Bardufoss, Bodø and Longyearbyen). But because most of us work shifts, we can’t all go at the same time and they actually have to organise the same trip twice! I was in the first group, the second group is there at the moment. The main goal is getting to know each other, so it was quite a fun trip :)

The flight time from Tromsø is only 1.5 hours, and we went straight from the airport to Svalsat, the world’s largest satellite receiving station. Quite an incredible place! We first listened to a presentation about the station, and then we went outside to take some photos, and we also went inside one of the domes. They all have satellite dishes inside, and while inside, we saw it slowly turn round to follow a passing satellite.

Satellite receiver at Svalsat, inside the dome is a satellite dish Some of the dome covers are made of fabric!

Satellite receivers in the sun. It was very windy that day! Me at Svalsat

Afterwards, we were taken to our hotel and we had some time to ourselves. Shopping time ;) Longyearbyen is FULL of outdoor shops, which more choice than you’d ever get in Tromsø, I think everybody came back with at least one new item of clothing ;) In the evening we had dinner at Kroa, a restaurant across the street from our hotel, in a very nice room.

Group meal at Kroa, in a beautiful room. The cover on the table is a huge seal skin.

The next day we had a meeting so we spent a large part of the day inside. As soon as we had the chance, Ine-Therese and I went outside with our cameras to capture the beautiful light. The light was really incredible the whole time we were there, always changing and always beautiful. I could have taken photos all day long!

Looking towards Nybyen and the Longyear glacier in the background One of the mine entrances, this one is known as julenissegruva - or the mine where Santa Claus lives ;) All pipes go overground, and all houses are on poles - because of permafrost

These photos were taken on our walk from the meeting place to UNIS, the university at Svalbard. I never got enough of the view of the mountains on the other side of the fjord, so pretty!

Walking towards town - the view of the mountains on the other side never bored me! And another view of the mountains in the sunlight

In the afternoon we went on a bus excursion to “Gruve 7” or Mine 7. Longyearbyen used to be a coal mining town, and you can see the remainders everywhere. They weren’t very original with names, so the mines are just numbered. Mine nr 7 is the only one in Longyearbyen that’s still in use. We couldn’t actually visit the mine, but we had nice views from the mountain above it.

Mine nr 7 (they have such original names!), the only one in Longyearbyen that is still in use Spectacular views!

In the evening the light of the setting sun painted the mountains a beautiful orange/red colour… We had a great dinner at Huset, which is quite a fancy restaurant. It felt unreal to sit in such a comfortable place, enjoying amazing food and great wines, and look out the window at the harsh beauty of the Arctic!

In the evening the view of the mountains got even more spectacular in the light of the setting sun

On Friday morning there was the option of visiting the museum, but a few of us decided to skip that and hike to one of the glaciers instead. Ine-Therese lived in Longyearbyen for 5 years, so she knew a nice walk – and most importantly: she was able to borrow a rifle and knows how to use it. As soon as you leave Longyearbyen, you should carry one to protect you from polar bears. It’s very rare to see one, and you can only shoot them as a last resort, but safety first!

On the way to the glacier we found this shooting practice animals - this one was the most realistic, the other ones were all farm animals like sheep and pigs! Looking back towards town

A panorama looking back at the Longyearbyen Valley.

A panorama of the valley that Longyearbyen is situated in. In the front you see Nybyen, a somewhat separated part of town with mostly student housing

Ine-Therese is showing the way :) It was a beautiful walk, with some light snow every now and then, but great views all around.

Ine-Therese is pointing out the way to Tore Tore, Ine-Therese, Trond & Gjermund

Ine-Therese left Svalbard 11 years ago, and in her memory it was just a short walk to the glacier. Much has changed in those 11 years though, the glacier had retreated quite a lot and we had to climb quite high up to reach the glacier. We were keen to get there though, so we continued. And we were rewarded with this incredible blue ice, which really looked as if something was lighting it from the inside. Aurora-in-ice we called it :) I’d never seen anything like it before!

When we finally reached the glacier we were rewarded by this amazing blue piece of ice which seems lit from behind - we called it aurora-in-ice :) Five meteorologists on the glacier!

It took us 2 hours to reach this point, and it was time to turn back so we wouldn’t miss our bus to the airport.

Ine-Therese showing our route on the map Heading back to Longyearbyen. Ine-Therese carries a gun as protection against polar bears

Here are some photos I took on the walk back through Longyearbyen, the first one shows Huset where we had the nice dinner the night before. The other one shows Ine-Therese “hunting” for Svalbard grouse. They were quite tame, she could come very close and they didn’t seem to mind.

Huset, where we had a great dinner the evening before. It stands all alone as it was placed at equal distance from the different settlement groups in Longyearbyen (miners, students, and governors) Ine-Therese hunting Svalbard grouse...

Before getting on our flight back to Tromsø, we visited the office of our colleague who works at the airport there. His office is in the control tower, just one floor down from the actual control room. Great views from there!

View (from the airport control tower) towards the glaciers and mountains on the other side One last photo... the sign outside the airport

It was a great trip, and many of us wished we could stay for a couple of days longer. Now I am dreaming of another trip there :)

Aurora, planes & satellites

It’s been nearly 4 weeks since I last posted, and time has flown by so fast! We’ve been to Mallorca for a week, a weekend trip to Altevatn near the border with Sweden, and I just got back from 2 days on Svalbard… Today is the first day I get to spend at home, sorting and editing photos :)

I’ll start with the most recent photos, taken last Thursday night. We had a Dutch meteorologist and his friend over for dinner, they were visiting Tromsø to see the northern lights. The northern lights have been very active lately, and they already got to see it 3 times during their visit. This was the evening before they were flying home, and when the aurora came out they were keen to use this last opportunity :) So we headed to Telegrafbukta with a thermos of hot chocolate and watched the show. It was partly cloudy, but it was a great show! A few planes flew through our photos, on their way to landing at Tromsø airport which is quite close.

Beautiful show last Thursday evening A plane on its way to Tromsø airport :)

There was no wind and it didn’t feel very cold, nice way to watch the northern lights :) While editing my photos, I found that I also caught a satellite flare (in the last photo below).

Aurora seen from Telegrafbukta in Tromsø The aurora is almost shaped like a heart :) Here I caught the flare of a satellite near the top of the image

If the aurora season continues this way, I won’t get much sleep this winter :D Luckily this time the lights died out just after 22:00, so we went home relatively early.