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First trekking to Raudfjorden

15th July: excursion to Brucevarden and Alicehamna bay

First excursion to the Brucevarden peak and Alicehamna bay, visit to the grave of Erik Zakariassen Mattilas, to Raudfjordhytta and to an anonymous grave.


In the morning we departed for our first Arctic excursion. We headed toward the Brucevarden peak, walking on Solanderfjellet, which is part of the Brucesenet mountain group. It was cloudy.

On this day we saw the reindeers for the first time. A guide informed us of their presence with a whisper. We stood still in the Arctic silence, to watch the two young animals which were looking back at us from the top of the hill, before quickly turning away from us.

We were surrounded by mountains and glaciers which fell away into the sea. From the top of the Brucevarden peak, you can see the Raudfjorden (Red Bay), which owes its name to the red sand of the south-eastern mountains.

The graves and the Raudfjordhytta

Here we found the grave of the skipper Erik Zakariassen Mattilas, who died from scurvy in the spring of 1908 after spending the winter there. A cross and a stone cairn stand as a memorial to him.

To the west of the Raudfjorden we visited the Alicehamna bay which owes its name to “Princesse Alice”, the boat used by Alberto I of Monaco during an sea expedition to Svalbard between 1898 and 1907. For some time Alberto sponsored a group of Polar researchers, amongst which were William S. Bruce, Fridtjof Nansen and Gunnar Isachsen.

On the beach of Alicehamna, we found a recent shelter called Raudfjordhytta. Here we met a ranger and a patrolman who were looking after this protected area.

Between the grave of Mattilas and the Raudfjordhytta there was a anonymous grave. The body of an unknown explorer lay under some wooden planks and stones. Astri, our guide, told us that the previous year a bear had managed to disturb all of the stones to reveal the buried bones. Despite this, the Arctic cold had managed to preserve the clothes.

From there we returned to the camp, passing by the beach. With the clear sky, the rectangular shape of the Raudfjordhytta could be seen against the silent and distant bay.

Bear watching

That night I commenced my bear watching shift. My duty was to raise the alarm on the approach of a bear. My shift was from 5 to 7 am.

Bjorn gave me instructions for the following morning: I had to wake him up at 7, so that he could start preparing breakfast using the hot water I had started boiling half an hour earlier.

Silvia and me were on the same shift which started at 5 in the freezing temperatures. The sun was obscured by clouds. We wore heavy garments which we had obtained from the big tent and equipped ourselves with binoculars to begin our shift.

The two hours of the shift passed quickly. At 6.30 I started boiling the water for breakfast and went to wake Bjorn up. He invited us to rest for an hour but we stayed to help him with breakfast.

The first trekking day had finished and a new one was just beginning.

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