torsdag 31. januar 2008

Here comes the sun I

It´s happening - it´s coming back! I´m so glad something is to be trusted in this world.

18 january, 1300, looking south from our house

24 January, 1300

26 January, 1230

... and today, 1230. Looking darker because of the clouds - but it is lighter. Some of the blue lingers until almost 3 o´clock, it´s great!

Another thing that´s repeating itself (in a more modest scale) is the annual Polarjazz Festival - this year is the 11th year it´s arranged. Last night was kick-off night with local talents, and we were impressed with how good many of them were. Out of a population of 2000, it´s not bad that they can whip up a proper brass band and several singers. Personally, I thought the interpretation of Anthony and the Johnsons "Hope there´s someone" was particularly impressive - it´s the first time I´ve heard someone try to sing his songs, and they did quite well.

From tonight, and until Sunday the "real" artists perform at various venues around town, and we plan to have our share of it. If I can get rid of this irritating cold I´ve got...

torsdag 24. januar 2008

Another book by Estrid Ott, from Svalbard

... except that for this book (and others) she assumed a pen name, Magnus Moen (although Narvik Folkebibliotek seems to think it´s the other way round, which is a little amusing).

I´ve mentioned Estrid Ott before, because of her book "Siri from Svalbard", which was about a young girl´s life in Longyearbyen sometime in the 1930´s. Most of what I´ve learnt about coal-mining I got from that book. In "Sverre på Svalbard" (1951) Estrid has taught me a few things about driving dog-sleds, and as I´ve just had a chance to try it myself, I was eager to learn.

Sverre is a resourceful young man from the north of Norway, who leaps at every chance to travel and have exciting adventures (he goes to Africa and Canada in other books). This time he overwinters in a small cabin somewhere on Svalbard with a trapper. They shoot seals and polar bears, and they catch foxes. There´s also a dramatic bit about two bandits who try to rob them, and about their sad ending. But despite the dramatic parts, the book also gives a picture of the trapper´s everyday life through autumn, winter and spring - taking care of furs and clothes, finding water, stocking supplies, and cooking and cleaning. As a whole, you´re left with an impression that in general, trappers in the Arctic were clean, polite and sober. Which is a nice illusion.

Here´s a list of Estrid Ott´s books, which I expect is complete - except that I can´t find "Sverre på Svalbard" on it... It could be that the book "Sverre i fangstlære" ("Sverre is a trapper") from the same year is an early title.

It´s interesting that Estrid Ott chose a male pseudonym for the books about Sverre, probably on the publisher´s assumption that boys wouldn´t read books written by a woman (publishers seem to believe this still - Joanne Rowling used only her initials when the books about Harry Potter were published, because her publishers wanted to conceal the fact that she was a woman. Which in hindsight seems pretty silly).

So which do I like best, Siri or Sverre? I think probably the book about Sverre. He did more interesting things, and had a lot more freedom. Which is not Siri´s fault, and which I have a feeling Estrid Ott was the first to regret.

mandag 21. januar 2008

Dogs and magic light in Bolterdalen

Yesterday morning, the Frozen Family ventured out into the wild again, this time with the help of 12 happy huskies.

Underneath: from the dog yard in Bolterdalen, belonging to Basecamp Explorer.

Most of them just loved to be hugged by humans - and Thomas happily complied.

Peter wrapped up in the sled. It wasn´t very cold - around -16C - and almost no wind. But cold enough if you were sitting still.

This is how light it got - the best light we´ve had since November.

But still not the best light for photography. These are a couple that turned out OK.

Travelling by dog sled is so different than driving the snowmobile, it´s amazing. The silence and darkness comes nearer somehow - and even if you can´t travel as far as with a snowmobile, just being around the friendly and eager dogs makes up for that threefold. There´s no question as to what I prefer.

Nearly full moon in one direction, and a blue glow in the south gave us light from two sides - and no need for head-torches.

Back at the dog yard - we had a cup of hot tea and some quality time with the puppies Danse ...

... and Viagra. Don´t ask.

This is my first time on a dog sled, but it´s certainly not my last. But maybe my last in that kind of light. It was ... perfect.

lørdag 19. januar 2008


Yesterday, Peter invited two friends for a very exclusive birthday-celebration, in the igloo that has expanded a lot since last time you heard about it. Afterwards the guests, Sondre and Simon - stayed for a slumber-party (and lots of cake and sweets and playstation).

There are now three igloos in our backyard, connected with corridors - an excellent place to eat hotdogs and cake.

Three boys ready for more cake. And then for staying up way past midnight.

torsdag 17. januar 2008

Svalbard-films to be seen

Two current films that use Svalbard-scenery as a backdrop are The golden compass, which everyone knows about, and Far north, which is fairly unknown.

I haven´t seen The golden compass yet, but I know enough about it to know that the actors never set foot on Svalbard – a camera team came here instead to film the backgrounds. They went to Bergen as well, to film the background for the scenes were Lyra meets the polar bear (in ”Trollsund”), but Dakota Blue Richards – or any of the other actors – never actually came to Bergen. They did the acting in front of a bluescreen.

Why they didn´t go to Bergen I don´t know (really - there are no polar bears there), but apparently, the polar bears prevent filming here at Svalbard. When you need people to guard the set with rifles, no insurance-company will touch it, or so I´ve heard. Golden compass filmed on a bear-free – and probably not so cold - glacier in the alps instead.

Fancy living somewhere so dangerous that James Bond – aka Daniel Craig, who plays lord Asriel – isn´t allowed to go there!

The actors in the film Far north, which we saw at Huset the other day, seem to be made of tougher material, because they did most of the out-door scenes here at Svalbard, during the summer and autumn of 2006. The screening here was a part of Tromsø Film Festival – and it´s director Asif Kapadia were present. Jason Roberts, who lives in Longyearbyen, was its production supervisor, and before the screening, he gave an interesting talk about the filming. For instance, he told us about the 40 tons of equipment they had with them, which - because you´re not allowed to use motorized vehicles - had to be carried by hand. Imagine hauling loads of incredible heavy stuff around for every scene! They were approached by only one bear during the weeks of filming, but they never saw it - it came by one night and vandalized an empty tent.

Pictures from the production, nicked from Svalbardposten - and Jason Roberts speaking to a crowded room before the screening.

Of course, it can be annoying to see a film from an area that you recognize - like a scene that´s obviously filmed in two very different locations: one angle from Troms on the mainland, the other from a Svalbard beach - you get kind of distracted from the actual story. But this won´t be noticed by people around the world, so I tried to look past it.

Still, I´m sorry to say - the story´s not good enough. Spectacular filming, boring story.

I found this review - and I agree with it when it says: "If as much care were taken with script as with visuals, pic would have more impact. As it stands, the thinly drawn characters are dwarfed by the magnificent landscapes, and fail to forge an emotional connection with auds."

Nature is great to look at, as long as you´re in it yourself - beautiful/dramatic/harsh etc scenery on film can work well, but only if the story that goes along with it is engaging. That goes for photos of landscapes too - they can be breathtaking and perfectly done - but in my opinion they´re mostly boring. It seems that a well-told (human) drama must be introduced to make it absorbing and interesting - and as for "Far north", that is not the case.

But, if you want to see great filming from Svalbard, go and have a look.

And, once again, Huset was filled to the brim with an enthusiastic audience - who must be forgiven for giggling audibly when Sean Bean in one scene beat up and then shot a minor character, who also happens to be a local guy.

Peter is 12 today - gratulerer!

Sleepy, but happy birthday-boy at breakfast.

The day will be properly celebrated later today - and tomorrow with a couple of friends.

tirsdag 15. januar 2008

Opera, but no queen

I wasn´t planning to go, but I changed my mind and I´m glad I did. Longyearbyen had visitors from the National Opera yesterday, to mark the beginning of a tour around some of Norway´s outskirts, before the grand opening of the new opera-house in Oslo on the 12th of April (which is, incidentally, the same weekend as my exhibition at Galleri Svalbard opens).

So the whole orchestra and 4 brilliant singers plus 5 excellent dancers performed opera-dainties at Huset last night. And a very enthusiastic audience were present - but no queen, because she got a cold and had to stay home in her castle (I presume).

I wasn´t planning to go, because I´m not so keen on opera music. But the atmosphere was so good, and the performers were so fine, and everyone was in such excellent mood that you couldn´t help but be carried away by it. So I´m glad I went. And when we got the Star Wars theme as an encore, I even felt rather friendly towards the new opera-building in Oslo. (But then again, why not Star Wars? It´s an excellent example of space opera, isn´t it?)

The new opera on the left.

Finally, after the Star Wars theme, when the audience wouldn´t stop applauding, the conductor looked a bit desperate - before he grabbed the concertmaster and fled the scene. Which definitely ended the concert.

PS - We´re going back up to Huset again tonight, to see a sneak preview of the film "Far north", which was filmed partly here at Svalbard. But more about that later.

torsdag 10. januar 2008

Construction sites indoors and out

Lego is extremely popular in this house, among the young and the not so young. Thomas and Peter build boats and planes and cars and police stations and cranes and airports and you name it, while us parents are thankful that lego exists in the world. It offers a neverending source of creativity, during the very dark and sometimes very cold winter-days.

But at the moment there´s construction going on out in the darkness too: William and the kids (with the help of neighbours from time to time), are building igloos in the back-yard. With head-torches they´ve been working methodically for several days - their ambition is a little village of igloos.

With luck we´ll have no more warm weather for some time, so these still stand when we can admire them in proper daylight. Which is on it´s way, or so the rumor goes:-)

søndag 6. januar 2008


There´s a phenomena called Svalbard-tillegget, which I suppose can be translated to "the Svalbard-supplement". It could have been the name of some extra social benefit, but I´m afraid in this case it´s not - it´s the kind of supplement that gathers around the waist....

The snow-mobile is to blame, I think - and the cheap alcohol, and the long polar-night - and good ol´ laziness too, of course.

So far I think I´ve managed to avoid this particular accumulation, as I´ve been exercising a lot more during the last 5 months than I´ve ever done before (which is not saying much, I´m afraid). However, we´ve just been through christmas, and it feels like I´ve been doing nothing else for three weeks, than sitting down and stuffing my face (I´m afraid the snowmobile-trip to Barentsburg doesn´t count as exercise, because we were, in fact, sitting down on the whole trip).

Luckily, we have an excellent public sports center here in Longyearbyen, Svalbardhallen, with several smaller exercise-rooms and a swimming pool which towns on the mainland should be envious of. There are facilities for football, badminton, bandy, climbing, gymnastics - and aerobic groups, step, spinning... you name it. It´s really good - and cheap too.

So that´s why I´ve been exercising so much - and I´m determined to keep up the good work. So today, for the first time in 2008, I went for a swim. An excellent start!

The pool was almost empty ...

... and the sports hall completely empty. Am I the only one with new year´s resolutions?

onsdag 2. januar 2008

Rainy days in Longyearbyen

Did I mention the -25C we had the other day? I believe I did. Well, today it´s been up to +5C, and it´s been raining since yesterday. This naturally has caused some interesting conditions in town. Wading through deep ponds, trying to find safe passages across icy streets - while sweating in clammy winter-clothes - these are new experiences for us in Longyearbyen!

Snowmobile-activities have come to a sudden halt, we now have to rescue them from sinking into water, then freeze and get firmly stuck tomorrow, when temperatures are expected to sink to a normal -10C or so.

According to, Svalbard was the warmest place in Norway yesterday (Bergen, for instance, had cold, bright weather).

Climate change? Not necessarily, mild periods around christmas are fairly normal here, or so we´ve been told.

But, despite being used to mild winters, I must say I prefer -25C to this!