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Home → May, 2010

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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