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Yearly Archives: 2008 − News & Stories

Moto­ri­sed traf­fic ban­ned from Bol­terd­a­len

Moto­ri­sed traf­fic may be ban­ned in Bol­terd­a­len after 01 March in the future. Bol­terd­a­len, tri­bu­t­a­ry to Advent­da­len east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, is a fre­quent­ly used snow mobi­le rou­te during win­ter and spring towards, for examp­lem Sveagru­va.

Tho­se who want to pro­mo­te envi­ron­men­tal­ly sound tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen such as dogs­led­ging have deman­ded lar­ger snow-mobi­le-free are­as for a long time.


Motorised traffic banned from Bolterdalen

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

EU fun­ding rese­arch in Spits­ber­gen

The “Sval­bard Inte­gra­ted Arc­tic Earth Obser­ving Sys­tem” (SIAE­OS) pro­jekt is desi­gned to under­stand envi­ron­ment and cli­ma­te with their com­pon­ents land, sea, ice and atmo­sphe­re. EU will fund this pro­ject with initi­al­ly 400 Mil­lio­nen NOK (ca. 43 mil­li­on Euro) and sub­se­quent­ly 70 Mil­lio­nen NOK (almost 8 mil­li­on Euro) annu­al­ly. 

Important part of the sci­en­ti­fic infra­struc­tu­re in Spits­ber­gen: the EIS­CAT-radar near mine 7 in Advent­da­len.

EU funding research in Spitsbergen

Source: UNIS

Clo­sing eas­tern Sval­bard for orga­ni­zed tou­rism – an ongo­ing dis­cus­sion

The plan to clo­se the lar­ge natu­re reser­ves in eas­tern Sval­bard lar­ge­ly for orga­ni­zed tou­rism has been men­tio­ned seve­ral times on this site (click here and here). The public dis­cus­sion is going on, as reflec­ted by a num­ber of artic­les and seve­ral let­ters to the edi­tor of the local news­pa­per Sval­bard­pos­ten, a com­mon plat­form for (public) dis­cus­sions con­cer­ning Spits­ber­gen. The unde­mo­cra­ti­cal, intrans­pa­rent pro­ce­du­re is being cri­ti­cis­ed, as is the fact that the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te – a major poli­ti­cal influence in the cur­rent pro­cess – is at the same time the play­er with by far the hig­hest level of acti­vi­ties in rele­vant are­as.

Local poli­ti­ci­ans demand to “dis­cri­mi­na­te locals posi­tively”.

Ano­ther reason for cri­ti­cism is that the argu­men­ta­ti­ve base for the clo­sure of such lar­ge are­as are rest­ric­ted to the “pre­cau­tio­na­ry prin­ci­ple” and the “sci­en­ti­fic demand for lar­ge, undis­tur­bed refe­rence are­as” – a very thin line of argu­men­ta­ti­on, given that many sci­en­tists do not sup­port this demand.
The fol­lo­wing quo­ta­ti­ons may shed light on the pro­cess:

“Tou­rism as it is curr­ent­ly mana­ged is not an envi­ron­men­tal pro­blem in Sval­bard” (Arne Mal­me, Seni­or envi­ron­men­tal offi­cer, Sys­sel­man­nen. Octo­ber 2008)

“I like strikt rules as long as they are the­re for others but not for me” (a rese­ar­cher acti­ve in the Arc­tic, known to the pre­sent aut­hor. Sum­mer 2008)

The plan is to pro­hi­bit landings of orga­ni­zed tou­rists in eas­tern Sval­bards in all are­as except desi­gna­ted places which are mark­ed with green on this map (addi­tio­nal­ly, local rest­ric­tions app­ly to seve­ral of the­se landing sites). Click here for a lar­ger ver­si­on of the map.

Closing eastern Svalbard for organized tourism - an ongoing discussion

Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Natu­ral fluc­tua­tions of reinde­er: 2008 not a good year in Spits­ber­gen

It was quite obvious in the field due to many dead reinde­er, but now it is “offi­ci­al”, becau­se foun­ded on sci­en­ti­fic data: 2008 was not a good year of the Spits­ber­gen reinde­er. During free­zing fol­lo­wing on a warm spell ear­ly in 2008, the tun­dra was cover­ed with a lay­er of ice, which made access to food dif­fi­cult. In April 2008, the ani­mals were on avera­ge 21 % less in weight than nor­mal, and only 10 % of the adult fema­les had cal­ves in June.

Strong annu­al fluc­tua­tions of the reinde­er popu­la­ti­on are natu­ral and quite nor­mal in Spits­ber­gen. The popu­la­ti­on can quick­ly reco­ver in good years, alt­hough it may beco­me exc­tinct local­ly.

Not doing gre­at: Spits­ber­gen reinde­er in De Geerd­a­len (July 2008).

Natural fluctuations of reindeer: 2008 not a good year in Spitsbergen

Source: Sval­bard Sci­ence Forum

Coal mining remains vital for Longyearbyen’s eco­no­my

A new stu­dy shows that Lon­gye­ar­by­en will depend on coal mining for a long time into the future. Even if acti­vi­ties within both research/higher edu­ca­ti­on and tou­rism were dou­bled, they could not replace mining, which crea­tes seve­ral hundred local jobs, both direct­ly and indi­rect­ly. A loss of the­se jobs would lead to signi­fi­cant loss of other func­tions inclu­ding important public ser­vices (school, …), accor­ding to a stu­dy now published by NIBR (Norsk Insti­tutt für by- og regi­on­forsk­ning = Nor­we­gi­an insti­tu­te for city and regio­nal rese­arch). 

Cen­tral in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, not only as a monu­ment: coal miner.

Coal mining remains vital for Longyearbyen's economy

Source: Norsk Insti­tutt by og regi­on­forsk­ning

New muse­um in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: Sval­bard Air­ship Muse­um will open on 15 Novem­ber

After a long time with a lot of work, the Sval­bard Air­ship Muse­um will open its doors on 15 Novem­ber. It is dediac­ted to the air­ship exped­ti­ti­ons that were laun­ched in Vir­go­ham­na (1906-09) and Ny Åle­sund to reach the North Pole. The new muse­um is loca­ted in the for­mer cow­shed (whe­re the Sval­bard­mu­se­um was until a few years ago).

The famous air­ship mast near Ny Åle­sund under con­s­truc­tion in 1926. It was used by Roald Amund­sen to launch the Nor­ge and to years later again during Umber­to Nobile’s Ita­lia-expe­di­ti­on.

New museum in Longyearbyen: Svalbard Airship Museum will open on 15 November

Source: Sval­bard Air­ship Muse­um

PCBs in Rus­si­an sett­le­ments

Scrap con­tai­ning PCB, espe­ci­al­ly con­den­sa­tors from elec­tric instal­la­ti­ons, have been remo­ved by the Rus­si­an mining com­pa­ny Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol from the sett­le­ments of Pyra­mi­den (aban­do­ned in 1998) and Barents­burg. The items have been deli­ver­ed to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for dis­po­sal. Pyra­mi­den is now belie­ved to be lar­ge­ly free of rele­vant mate­ri­als; work in Barents­burg will be continued.The items deli­ver­ed recent­ly con­tain about 30 kg of high­ly toxic PCBs. Coope­ra­ti­on is working very well, accor­ding to Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties, who are hap­py about the results achie­ved so far: a poten­ti­al source for future con­ta­mi­na­ti­on of the envi­ron­ment with dan­ge­rous sub­s­tances has been lar­ge­ly remo­ved, and fur­ther pro­gress is expec­ted for the near future.

Addi­tio­nal­ly, light ele­ments con­tai­ning mer­cu­ry have been remo­ved.

In sum­mer 2007, hig­her PCB con­cen­tra­ti­ons have been detec­ted near the sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen, espe­ci­al­ly near the Rus­si­an ones. 

Scrap machi­nery in Barents­burg: poten­ti­al source for dan­ge­rous envi­ron­men­tal toxins.

PCBs in Russian settlements

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Poli­ce report against Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te

Pro­ba­b­ly for the first time, the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te (NPI) has been repor­ted to the poli­ce by a pri­va­te per­son (Olav Vik Sol­heim) for having anes­the­ti­zed and mark­ed a lar­ge num­ber of polar bears (150-200 per year in recent years). This includes fol­lo­wing the bears with heli­c­op­ters, a pro­ce­du­re that is not exact­ly easy on the animals.Soleim cri­ti­ci­zes that the num­bers of bears mark­ed are unneces­s­a­ri­ly high and that the­re is a strong ine­qua­li­ty bet­ween dif­fe­rent actors in the field: any­bo­dy who dis­turbs a polar bear, for exam­p­le with a snow mobi­le, risks hea­vy fines.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has drop­ped the case alre­a­dy after a cou­ple of days, becau­se a punis­ha­ble offence was dee­med unli­kely and becau­se it would have been very dif­fi­cult to inves­ti­ga­te the case for the poli­ce. Sol­heim has announ­ced that he wants to take fur­ther legal steps.

Polar bear in Spits­ber­gen. He does not care if dis­tur­ban­ce is legal or not, he does not like it any­way.

Police report against Norwegian Polar Institute

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

New Ame­ri­can report about cli­ma­te chan­ge in the Arc­tic

A new report about recent cli­ma­tic chan­ges in the Arc­tic has been published by NOAA (Natio­nal Ocea­nic and Atmo­sphe­ric Admi­nis­tra­ti­on). Click here for the report.
The beha­viour of sin­gle gla­ciers can­not be used direct­ly as an indi­ca­tor for cli­ma­te chan­ge, but the retre­at of Mona­co­b­reen in Spits­ber­gen is impres­si­ve and no more or less dra­ma­tic than that of other gla­ciers. The island in the fore­ground was under the ice of the gla­cier that can be seen in the midd­le of the pic­tu­re until no more than a few years ago. 

The beha­viour of sin­gle gla­ciers can­not be used direct­ly as an indi­ca­tor for cli­ma­te chan­ge, but the retre­at of Mona­co­b­reen in Spits­ber­gen is impres­si­ve and no more or less dra­ma­tic than that of other gla­ciers. The island in the fore­ground was under the ice of the gla­cier that can be seen in the midd­le of the pic­tu­re until no more than a few years ago.

New American report about climate change in the Arctic

Source: NOAA

Pass­port con­trol in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

So far, the­re is no pass con­trol for tra­vel­lers from Nor­way to Lon­gye­ar­by­en (or vice ver­sa). This will pro­ba­b­ly chan­ge, as Nor­way is part of the Schen­gen trea­ty, but Sval­bard is not. 

Air­port Lon­gye­ar­by­en: soon with pass­port con­trol

Passport control in Longyearbyen

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

New regu­la­ti­ons for ship-based orga­ni­zed tou­rism in Eas­tern Sval­bard

The public hea­ring pro­cess for the cur­rent pro­po­sal for new regu­la­ti­ons for ship-based orga­ni­zed tou­rism in the natu­re reser­ves in Eas­tern Sval­bard has been ope­ned on Octo­ber 10 (for some more details on the pro­po­sal, scroll down to April news or click here). The hea­ring will be going on until Decem­ber 10. Should the cur­rent pro­po­sal come into force, then the fle­xi­bi­li­ty of expe­di­ti­on ships in the are­as in ques­ti­on (the com­ple­te eas­tern part of the Sval­bard archi­pe­la­go) would be signi­fi­cant­ly redu­ced. The pro­po­sal is con­tro­ver­si­al. The law will not be pas­sed befo­re the Nor­we­gi­an par­lia­ment (Stort­in­get) has issued a new white paper on Sval­bard in spring 2009.

The issue was dis­cus­sed during a con­fe­rence of Expe­di­ti­on Lea­ders who work with ship-based tou­rism in Sval­bard and other polar regi­ons in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Octo­ber 07 and 08. The result is a let­ter to the Nor­we­gi­an admi­nis­tra­ti­on that addres­ses weak­ne­s­ses of the cur­rent pro­po­sal and points out alter­na­ti­ves. 

Hiking in Pal­an­der­buk­ta on Nord­aus­t­lan­det -soon histo­ry?

New regulations for ship-based organized tourism in Eastern Svalbard

“Clean up Sval­bard”: tou­rists coll­ec­ting gar­ba­ge, part­ly dan­ge­rous to wild­life, from a remo­te beach in nor­the­as­tern Sval­bard. This will then also be histo­ry.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, AECO-Expe­di­ti­on Lea­der con­fe­rence in Lon­gye­ar­by­en Okto­ber 06-08, 2008

Spitsbergen’s gla­ciers on the run

“On the run” may not be the right trans­la­ti­on, but some of them show a beha­viour that sci­en­tists call a “sur­ge”, that is a rapid advan­ce at a speed that exceeds the nor­mal one by a fac­tor of up to 100, after a quiet pha­se of many deca­des. This phe­no­me­non is com­mon for gla­ciers on Sval­bard. Moni­ca Sund, a geo­lo­gist at UNIS, has iden­ti­fied sur­ging gla­ciers, inclu­ding Kropp­b­reen which is in a very ear­ly sta­te of a sur­ge – a sci­en­ti­fi­cal­ly very inte­res­t­ing dis­co­very. 

Com­fort­less­breen in Engelskbuk­ta, June 2008. The steep (land-based) ter­mi­nus indi­ca­tes sur­ging beha­viour.

Spitsbergen's glaciers on the run

Source: Sval­bard Sci­ence Forum

Gold in Spits­ber­gen

Store Nor­ske Gull (SNG), daugh­ter of the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kull­kom­pa­ni, has coll­ec­ted rock samples along the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, bet­ween Kongsfjord and St. Jons­fjord, hoping to find gold occur­ren­ces of eco­no­mic­al value for poten­ti­al future mining.

SNG had alre­a­dy inves­ti­ga­ted depo­sits north of Kongsfjord in 2003, but the explo­ra­ti­on was stop­ped in 2004 on a poli­ti­cal level: the vici­ni­ty to both the Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen Natio­nal Park and the rese­arch faci­li­ties in Ny Åle­sund made com­mer­cial dril­ling and poten­ti­al acti­vi­ties on an indus­tri­al level unde­si­ra­ble. 

St. Jons­fjord at the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, bet­ween Isfjord and Kongsfjord. The area may have eco­no­mic­al­ly valuable gold depo­sits.

Gold in Spitsbergen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

CO2-sto­rage in Advent­da­len

A new dril­ling pro­ject has been star­ted in ear­ly August in Advent­da­len. The pur­po­se is to inves­ti­ga­te the ground down to 1000 met­res to find sedi­ments that are capa­ble of sto­ring lar­ge amounts of car­bon dioxi­de. In case of suc­cess, the sto­rage capa­bi­li­ties of the sys­tem will be tes­ted during a second pha­se. The long-term aim is to store all CO2 of Longyearbyen’s coal power plant in the ground. If the other sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen were to recei­ve their ener­gy through cables from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, then the power sup­p­ly of almost the who­le island could be orga­nis­ed wit­hout any emis­si­ons of green­house gases into the atmo­sphe­re. 

The coal power plant in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

CO2-storage in Adventdalen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Arc­tic sea ice

A new rese­arch pro­ject is expec­ted to bring pre­dic­tions of sea ice deve­lo­p­ment in the Arc­tic clo­ser to rea­li­ty. In Sval­bard, the­re has been more ice this sum­mer than in recent years, but the cur­rent lack of ice in other parts of the Arc­tic is dra­ma­tic.

A lone­so­me belt of drift ice west of Mag­da­le­nefjord, late June 2008.

Arctic sea ice

Source: Sval­bard Sci­ence Forum


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