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Monthly Archives: August 2008 − News & Stories


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

Bar­ents­burg: Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter flights

A law dis­pu­te is beco­m­ing a poli­ti­cal issue: In 2007, the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter com­pa­ny Spark Plus ope­ra­ted several heli­co­p­ter flights from Kapp Heer (Bar­ents­burg) which were not cove­r­ed by the licence issued by Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties, inclu­ding flights for Rus­si­an sci­en­tists and for a film pro­ject. Accord­ing to Nor­we­gi­an offi­cials, the licence covers only flights bet­ween Bar­ents­burg and Lon­gye­ar­by­en and bey­ond this area only flights direct­ly con­nec­ted to the acti­vi­ties of the Rus­si­an mining com­pa­ny Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol (TA). TA has rejec­ted a fine, now the case will be taken up by a court in Nor­way. Bey­ond this, the mat­ter is dis­cus­sed on a poli­ti­cal level. Accord­ing to the Rus­si­ans, the Nor­we­gi­an pro­ce­du­re offends the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty. The Nor­we­gi­ans argue that rele­vant parts of the trea­ty con­cern govern­men­tal acti­vi­ties, but not tho­se of com­pa­nies or pri­va­te per­sons. In prac­ti­ce, the situa­ti­on means a mono­po­ly of the Nor­we­gi­an heli­co­p­ter com­pa­ny Air­lift in Sval­bard.

After mine acci­dents and other tech­ni­cal pro­blems in Bar­ents­burg, mining will only start again in sum­mer 2009. TA has announ­ced to open a “shop­ping cent­re” in Bar­ents­burg and to moder­ni­se other infra­st­ruc­tu­re (hotel, telecom­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons etc.).

Nor­we­gi­an coast guard heli­co­p­ter near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Accord­ing to Nor­we­gi­an law, only Nor­we­gi­an air­craft may ope­ra­te in Nor­we­gi­an air space, excep­ti­ons can be per­mit­ted.

Barentsburg Russian helicopter flights

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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