25-Mar-2004 -- Apparently it was time for the north. A confluence avalanche rushed over Svalbard, triggered probably by the almost simultaneous visit of two groups at 78°N 15°E. After this very special day the confluences seemed to attract visitors as seals do attract polar bears. I suddenly felt myself playing the polar bear part, and the fat seal was laying in the North, more precisely in Høegdalen, about 90 km north of Longyearbyen. This is the Norwegian settlement where I am living right now to write my diploma thesis in geology. Kora, Martin and Jakob were sharing the plan to go there. And we could combine it with our plan to cross the Isfjord, which is a very big fjord and normally uncrossable. But this year the Isfjord was totally frozen, which happens in average once in seven years.
To go on such a snowscootertrip one has to plan quite a lot: The right amount of fuel to bring (a scooter with sledge takes up to 40 litres per 100 km depending on snow conditions), make GPS points, bring enough food, a rifle and bivouac equipment, and of course we got stuck again at the confluence web page and then we had to eat and so on etc…
When we were finally ready to go it was night and even though the night is very bright here in the arctic at this time of the year we decided not to go. We were not sure about the ice conditions on the fjord, and most of the people we asked advised us against crossing the Isfjord.
After a few hours of sleep we left at six o’clock in the morning the next day.
Here and there the sun was coming through the clouds and with some stops to enjoy the landscape (and the view that is normally only possible from a ship in summer) we reached the northern side of Isfjorden. We had some surges of adrenaline during the ride because in some places the ice was covered by a thick layer of slush. The only way to get out of this is to accelerate and leave the thumb on the throttle until the ice is safe.
In Dicksonfjorden we passed a polar bear which was having it’s breakfast, a seal. It ran away from the sound of our scooters so we made a circle around it and drove on. We would not like to be disturbed by a polar bear while eating either!
We came into Nathorstdalen, a valley named after a Swedish arctic explorer, geologist, and palaeobotanist. Here we passed some glaciers that end in the valley. Meltwater ate its way through the ice and thus formed enormous caves and channels in the glacier. This very impressive valley is leading to Austfjorden.
From Austfjorden a wide fjord, Wijdefjorden, opens directly to the north and between here and the North Pole are only 1200 km of water and ice.
A short part on the glacier, Mittag-Lefflerbreen, was between us and the confluence. Since the glacier here is calving into freshwater lakes, we had to get over a steep step and some crevasses. That was quite tricky. Luckily one small ice bridge afforded us a route to the safe part of the glacier. Over small, blue ice hummocks and later on the ice of the frozen fjord we made our way to Høegdalen. We reached the confluence on our three scooters side by side.
The second confluence point at 79°north was reached at half past three in the afternoon. The point is situated at the side of a broad valley, more or less exactly at a major geological fault zone, the Billefjorden Fault Zone. Because of this the mountains in the area are very manifold. We took the pictures, drank a Mack arctic beer and drove back.