dad w ice

More on that photo later, just wanted to show off what we picked up on the beach…

From Magdalenefjord, we made our way to Virgohamna, a very special place in Svalbard’s history. In order to visit, a special permit is required from the Sysselmannen. Fortunately Captain Haddock overheard someone else asking for it in the office and they offered us one too! It didn’t seem to be an issue but if we hadn’t known to ask, it would’ve been somewhat disappointing to arrive and not be able to go ashore.

Located on the northern edge of Danskoya, Virgohamna contains relics from several different eras. The oldest remains are from a Dutch whaling station called Harlinger Kokerij, which was established in 1636. There are some piles of rocks along the beach that are meant to be the remains of the foundations of blubber ovens. I’m starting to get a little skeptical of these, although there were several graves laid out. No bones though. Guessing the polar bears were pretty quick to make the most of anything that sprouted up through the permafrost…

grave virgohamna

Whaling continued in this area for almost 200 years. Then in the late 1800s, a different type of explorer established base here. Swedish engineer Salomon August Andree came first in 1896. He wants dot reach the north pole in a hot air balloon. He built a balloon shed, the remains of which can be seen in the back of this photo. There were large heaps of wood and a border of massive stone structures with large bits of iron to tie down the balloon; and another “explorer” getting in the way of the photograph.

balloon shed

Unfortunately this adventure came to a devastating end, which no one discovered for over thirty years. Andrew took off in his hot air balloon, Ornen, with another engineer and his photographer in 1897. They’re bodies were found on the island of Kvitoya. They’d flown from the NW to the NE corner of Svalbard. There were nails, bolts, wires, wood, piles of rusty iron filings and loads more scattered around the beach. Virgohamna received its name from Andree’s steamship, Virgo. Here’s a memorial to Andree:

andree memorial

There were even more remains from a second expedition. Well three expeditions really. Walter Wellman had three failed attempts at reaching the North Pole, in 1906, 1907 and 1909. He built a large hangar for his airship, America (which could be the same remains as Andree’s above – they seemed to recycle a lot in those days). And there were massive ceramic gas tanks and iron fillings for the hydrogen gas works.


Rusty petrol drums… drums

The whole beach was covered in ruins…

virgohamna beach

Here’s me and Captain Haddock looking a bit grumpy, I’m not really sure why but our patience wore thin a few times with the cold and the wind and the rubbish anchorages. So far we’re all still on good terms :P.

bundled up

Unfortunately I think my tolerance for the cold has actually worsened through this trip rather than improved. Or maybe I’m just bundled up because it was late in the evening and, despite the sun never setting, there really was a clear temperature change between ‘day’ and ‘night’. On the way back to the boat we had a lovely suprise. A group of seals were also enjoying the sunshine – basking on the rocks and playing in the water. They were a little apprehensive of us motoring past in our five hp dinghy, but they chased us around and popped up every now and then to say hello and see what we were up to. Unfortunately Captain Haddock was rather keen to get back to the boat – I think he was a bit anxious they might try to pirate the dinghy, or maybe he was just keen to get going again. Unfortunately though, all the photos we tried to get were very blurry. Here’s one I’d taken earlier on shore though, and another guy swimming along nearby.

seal floating

seal swimming

Rather than stay here for the night, we decided to head just a little further north. The main reason was it wasn’t a particularly nice anchorage, but we were also gaining a bit of focus now that the sun was out and the wind was finally working with us. We headed around Amsterdamoya to a bay near Sallyhamna, where there are more remains we hoped to find. We probable only did about 40 miles in total today but managed to cover a lot of ground. Here’s a glacier we passed along the way somewhere – they’re starting to look the same. I think I liked this one because it is MASSIVE! I realised their size comes across well in photographs, but trust me, this one was big…


Before we head off for the night though I should finish the story from the first picture. It has a happy ending this one. Once we were all anchored up for the night in Sallyhamna, we broke open the Bailey’s kindly donated to us by Captain senior (x2). This would’ve happened much earlier in the trip except that we felt it wouldn’t be right to have it without ice. So we picked up a piece in Magdalenefjorden and stored it safely in the sink while we made our way around the islands to our anchorage. Here’s me (still keeping warm) trying to break some pieces off. Fortunately we have lots of useful kit on board:

chopping ice

And space for Bailey’s of course (and champagne, but that story’s coming soon… tomorrow I hope!):

Baileys in glass

baileys and ice