Sometimes when readers send in their scanned copies of QSL cards for the “QSL of the Day” feature we receive additional text (such as this one). Thanks to Tom, LA4LN we have received another historically interesting card and share with you below:
Here is the QSL card front for my Bear Island expeditions. The island is situated about half way between the Northern tip of Norway and the Southern tip of the main Svalbard island.
The Dutch sea captain Willem Barentsz tried three times to find a shorter sailing route in the Arctic Sea from Europe to China, by sailing North of Norway and Russia. On the 9th of June 1596 he discovered the island now called Bear Island, named by Willem Barentsz, because they killed a polar bear there. They thought they could be attacked by the big and strong polar bear. Here is a drawing of their fight with the polar bear in 1596, from Willem Barentsz’s report. The polar bear is in the sea water between the two boats.
I thought it would be nice to have a photograph of a polar bear on my QSL card from Bear Island. Luckily I never saw a polar bear there, during my 3 summer expeditions to this island. So my polar bear photograph, for my QSL card, I took at a previous expedition to King Karl’s Land (North-East Svalbard) in 1971, at a distance of some 30 meters from the polar bear, using a telephoto lens.
These bears are the local “kings” up there in the Arctic, and they are not afraid of anything – so we had to be very careful, and keep our weapons handy at all times. On my lower right photo insert on my QSL card you may see my Caliber .44 Magnum revolver in its holster, to the left of my Icom IC-706Mk2 transceiver and MFJ antenna tuner. In addition to this revolver, I always also carried a rifle for self-protection against potential attacking polar bears.
I am a geologist, and my expeditions to Bear Island were for surveying the old lead mines on the island, mined from 1925 to 1930. But the island is located right at the border between the cold Arctic air and the warmer and more humid European air. The result is the making of dense fog along this border. Most of the time on the island we had a view of just a few meters, so we had to use the compass to find our way on the island. And we walked with our weapons ready to fire at the shortest time, if we suddenly would meet a polar bear just a few meters from us in the very dense fog!
73 from Tom, LA4LN
(and JW4LN on the Svalbard Islands – I have operated 7 times from JW for a total of about half a year)
Beautiful text! Just to add that at his 3rd attempt to find northwest strait the expedition. turned to nightmare as his boat got jammed in thick ice(Maunder minimum) they builted a summary shelter and heated with the boat pieces. All died from starvation and illness.So bad…
About weapons for self-defence agaisnt bears i fully agree. I am a part time prospector and those beasts could be very dangerous for humans…so reality prevails
Congratulations Tom, LA4LN (JW4LN) such a special experience. Good luck. 73, Berkin – TA3J