Meteorological Station Bjørnøya

Sailing up the east coast around 1-1,5nsm from the shore, the fog gets more and more tight and we can’t see the shore anymore. The light is gray blue ish the water looks dark with white sizzles where they break. We are sailing through a white skye on dark ground. Our world looks so small…

The fog lifts as we turn a bit westwards aiming for the north coast and the wave pattern indeed change, they are even more powerful on land. Uff. But there will be a jetty in front of the meteorological station to get out of the dinghy dry. 

We’ve been in email contact before we left towards open water. They know we are coming and are happy to show us around, they said. In the morning we had confirmed our arrival via VHF and are now searching for a good place to anchor to get on shore. We can’t use the jetty, as the water around it is too shallow for us. We find something further out, 60m anchor chain. I always hope the electric will not goose, rolling that up by hand will not be fun at all. 

We pump up the dinghy, we have three and I am happy we don’t go for the newest one we got further down in Fasnavåg in June. It looks more like a toy, our old dinghy more experienced in adventures. I know there is an edge between looking adventures and being a risk. I don’t feel we are on this edge jet. The dinghy is just to small for all of us 7 at once so we need to shuttle. 

First brave ones are Manu, Riley and Fredrik. They also take some equipment and the gun. We follow them with our eyes towards the shore and also can see them coming back. There is no shame to return. Rather safe than sorry. The waves are high and the ride was an adventure but the breaking waves on shore are to massive and the jetty was out of sight. 

I was about to take a picture of the station but when I came back with my camera the station was gone. At first I though we might have just drifted. Nope, the fog is back. 

We wrap it up and search for a new anchorage with an easier access to shore getting directions from the weather station. In case the fog remains we bring the navigation iPads to find back to our boat and also the handheld VHF Radio, just in case…

This time our first crew is Fredrik, Manu and Steffen and they find the jetty, even though we can’t follow them with our eyes onto land. Fredrik comes back and picks us in batches of two. I still find it scary to climb over the railing to get into a dinghy, especially in waves like these. But no disaster happened, we all got safe in and out. 

The island looks weather washed everything looks like. The pier must have seen some pretty waves. And water pitches were probably white waters in spring and all covered with snow and ice during winter. We pass by some small boats and tenders, I guess to collect the supply and bring it on shore. 

A designated bike trail catches my attention. Is this sign for visitors, and do they bring their bikes?…

Old red wood barnes and rusty equipment from former times make me feel like entering an open air museum. Walking by the old Bjørnøya Radio Station and around the corner. Three dogs are waiting in front of their huts. One more skeptical, one more keen for strokes, one works as a noisy alarm system, but more friendly than scary. 

In the entrance hall is place for shoes, jackets and guns. A few free slots let me suggest that some are walking out side. The view is about 50m, so one must be quick to spot a hazard and be safe. Polar bears run 11m/s… Well but I was told there was no sight of a polar bear on Baerisland in this summer so far. 

We get a warm welcome in the station, sitting together with coffee and cakes and exchange plans and ideas of our lifes. 

9 people are living on this island, 3 dogs. It were four dogs but one disappeared and was never found again. It’s always someone on duty 24/7 in the weather office and the others have other things to do. From normal housekeeping over launching a weather ballon to send data to universities on the mainland to collecting impressions out on the island. The complex is a bit like a maze. All different stations are somehow connected and one doesn’t need to get outside to reach the next working station. One can, and I am sure they sometimes do. There are heavy tractors and other machines in a workshop. All they need to be done they can fix here, as they have a mechanic on site and all common tools. 

The gym has a little Boulder wall, THX, all kinds of weights and some cardio machine. One could properly workout. 

It seems to be a little village to me but the village grocer and bakery are missing. In summer very 4-6 weeks a supply boat comes up to bring food or ordered goods. And two chefs care for the meals. 

I could imagine working here for a season or two, to see how the island changes over the year. This weather thing really interests me. But for this station I would need to be Norwegian citizen.  

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