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Home → January, 2009

Monthly Archives: January 2009 − News & Stories


Good news abour envi­ron­men­tal toxins

Long-lived envi­ron­men­tal toxins such as PCBs, insect repell­ents and fire­pro­of mate­ri­als con­tai­ning bro­mi­ne are enri­ched in the arc­tic food chain and pro­vi­de a serious enri­von­men­tal thre­at to spe­ci­es on high tro­phic levels such as Ivo­ry gulls, Glau­cous gulls and Polar bears.

From 1995 to 2004, con­cen­tra­ti­ons of such sub­s­tances have drop­ped by 50 to 80 % in tis­sue of Rin­ged seals in Spits­ber­gen. Rin­ged seals are an important food source for Polar bears and com­mon­ly used for human con­sump­ti­on in Green­land and arc­tic Cana­da.

The decrease shows cle­ar­ly that legal mea­su­res in count­ries that are major pro­du­cers can pro­vi­de signi­fi­cant impro­ve­ments. Future chal­lenges con­sist in inclu­ding new­ly deve­lo­ped, but simi­lar sub­s­tances in the legal frame­work and in intro­du­cing such laws world­wi­de. Most wes­tern count­ries have adopted simi­lar laws and signed inter­na­tio­nal agree­ments (“Stock­holm-con­ven­ti­on”), but some important count­ries are still miss­ing, such as the USA.

Polar bear and Ivo­ry gull at lunch.
Unde­si­reable addi­ti­ves are likely to be pre­sent.

Good news abour environmental toxins

SvalSat-satel­li­te sta­ti­on near Lon­gye­ar­by­en

SvalSat, based on Pla­tå­ber­get near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, was instal­led in 1996/97 as a base sta­ti­on to recei­ve data from satel­li­tes in polar orbits. The com­bi­na­ti­on of good infra­struc­tu­re of near-by Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the posi­ti­on clo­se to the pole make SvalSat uni­que and an important link in the chain of glo­bal satel­li­te sys­tems. Curr­ent­ly, the­re are 16 minor and lar­ger anten­nas stan­ding on Pla­tå­ber­get, but the num­ber is to be enlar­ged soon. Major demand is expec­ted when the Euro­pean satel­li­te-based navi­ga­ti­on sys­tem “Gali­leo” will be estab­lished in a few years, pro­vi­ding an alter­na­ti­ve to the US mili­ta­ry-con­trol­led GPS.

The Nor­we­gi­an Ant­ar­c­tic sta­ti­on Troll will ser­ve a simi­lar pur­po­se in the sou­thern hemi­sphe­re. 

Anten­nas of SvalSat on Pla­tå­berg near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (pho­to: Michel­le van Dijk).

SvalSat-satellite station near Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten No 2, 2009

Polar bears like reinde­er

Recen­ty, a sur­pri­sing obser­va­ti­on has been made in Wij­defjord (cen­tral Spits­ber­gen), when a polar bear kil­led a reinde­er – so far, it has lar­ge­ly been assu­med that polar bears eat dead or inju­red reinde­er, but don’t hunt ani­mals that are in good shape. This rai­ses the ques­ti­on if the obser­ved beha­viour is real­ly as rare as assu­med (alt­hough this was not the very first obser­va­ti­on of its kind) or if it is more com­mon.

Should it turn out that polar bears are actual­ly able to catch reinde­er, then this might be an advan­ta­ge for the bears in case their main habi­tat, the drift ice, con­ti­nues to shrink due to cli­ma­te chan­ge.

Polar bear on land: pre­fers reinde­er over stones.

Polar bears like reindeer

Source: Tom­my San­dal (Austfjordnes/Wijdefjord), published in Sval­bard­pos­ten

Cold and calm New Year’s eve in Spits­ber­gen

The new year has seen a calm and cold start in Spits­ber­gen, with tem­pe­ra­tures below -20°C. The eas­tern part of the archi­pe­la­go is most­ly sur­roun­ded with drift ice, while some “warm” water keeps the nor­t­hern and nor­the­as­tern coasts still rather open – let’s see how things deve­lo­pe until we start the ship­ping sea­son in June. Mean­while, a smal­ler field of drift ice curr­ent­ly forces the Noor­der­licht to stay for ano­ther while in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, while they were pre­pa­ring to sail to Tem­pel­fjord, whe­re the Noor­der­licht tra­di­tio­nal­ly stays fro­zen in fjord ice during spring.

Nor­we­gi­an ice chart, 30 Decem­ber
Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te)

Cold and calm New Year's eve in Spitsbergen

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