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Monthly Archives: May 2010 − News & Stories


Polar bears feed on goose colonies

It is no news that polar bears are opportunistic feeders, taking almost anything they can get down into the stomach. Recent observations point towards a possibly increased tendency to visit Barnacle goose colonies on small islands on the west coast of Spitsbergen in the early summer, when the nests are easy prey. According to Dutch biologist Jouke Prop, in the 1970s bears visited this area only by chance when they came with drifting ice in late May or early June, without paying too much attention to breeding geese. In the 1980s, no bears were observed at all, while bear have visited the colonies frequently in recent years. Interestingly, they tend to come in late June, when there is no ice in the area, but something in the nests to feed on. — Coincidence or newly developed behaviour? Unknown so far.

In any case, after a total of 4 (!) bear visits within a few days, breeding success of the Barnacle geese was reduced to something in the area of 1 %.

Polar bear with Pink-footed goose. Edgeøya, mid July 2009

Polar bears feed on goose colonies - Habenichtbukta

Source: Svalbard Science Forum

Large cruise ships in Spitsbergen: soon history?

Crude oil has been banned from the nature reserves in the eastern part of the Spitsbergen archipelago already in 2007, and the same legislation has been introduced to the national parks, covering large parts of the west coast, in 2009 (excluding, for some years, a route into Magdalenefjord, a popular destination for large cruise ships). Crude oil is a common fuel type for larger ships.

It is now considered to ban crude oil from all Spitsbergen waters, only excluding acknowledged shipping routes to Longyearbyen and the mining settlement of Sveagruva. This is to prevent catastrophic oil spills in case of shipping desasters.

This would factually be the end of oversea cruise ship visits to Spitsbergen or at least a drastic reduction. From an environmental perspective, a ban on crude oil in arctic waters would be very welcome.

41.387 visitors came to Spitsbergen on ships, by far most of them on large cruise ships. Some more are expected in 2010.

The oversea cruise ship Costa Magica, here in Longyearbyen on
03 August 2009, was until then the largest ship to visit Spitsbergen.

Large cruise ships in Spitsbergen: soon history?

Source: Svalbardposten (19/10)

Zinc mine in North Greenland

The Citronen Fjord is not in Spitsbergen, but in Peary Land in northernmost Greenland. The zinc occurrence in Citronen Fjord are known since long ago, but are currently under investigation and mining is supposed to begin in 4 years, aiming at 300.000 tons of annual export.

The Citronen Fjord is part of the Northeast Greenland National Park. The airport near Longyearbyen is currently playing a vital role in the logistics of the investigations.

Citronen Fjord (red circle) is situated within the National Park in northernmost Greenland.

Zinc mine in North Greenland - Citronenfjord

Source: Svalbardposten (18/10)

Fewer dangerous confrontations with polar bears

According to studies by master student Margrete Nilsdatter Skaktavl Keyser, dangerous confrontations between polar bears and humans have recently become less frequent, inspite of increased traffic also in remote parts of Spitsbergen. The main reason for the positive development is believed to be the decreasing number of inexperienced tourists that visit wilderness areas individually. Instead, there is an increasing trend to join organized tours with experienced guides, who work to avoid confrontations and are more likely to be able to deal with such events without shooting the animals, for example by scaring the bears away with warning shots from the signal pistol.

Scientists are now actually more likely to get involved in dangerous confrontations, including events where bears were shot in self defence. The reason is that scientists spend more time on land, also in remote areas which are frequented by bears, also in camps during the night. Additionally, not every individual researcher has the level of experience and skills that is desireable to deal with polar bears as safely as possible.

Fewer dangerous confrontations with polar bears

Fewer dangerous confrontations with polar bears - Habenichtbukta

Source: UNIS

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