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Yearly Archives: 2010 − News & Stories


Third EIS­CAT-anten­na

The instal­la­ti­ons of EIS­CAT (Euro­pean Inco­he­rent Scat­ter) near mine 7 will be enlar­ged with a third anten­na, which will be the big­gest one. The pro­ject is main­ly finan­ced from Chi­na, that is inte­res­ted in the data becau­se of plan­ned space ope­ra­ti­ons. The addi­tio­nal anten­na may be ope­ra­ti­ve in 2013.

EIS­CAT-anten­na 2008: one out of four simi­lar instal­la­ti­ons in Scan­di­na­via. The sys­tem is run by 7 nati­ons.

Third EISCAT-antenna

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Polar Star aground

On June 30, MV Polar Star ran aground on a rock north of Horn­sund (south of Dun­øya­ne). The sur­pri­sing aspect is the fact that the shal­low is actual­ly mar­ked on the most recent sea charts, but as it tur­ned out, older ver­si­ons were used on board, which do not inclu­de the rock. The­re were no inju­ries or los­ses and dama­ge to the hull was not signi­fi­cant. The governor’s ves­sel and the coast guard were soon in the area to eva­lua­te the situa­ti­on and assist, if necessa­ry. The 67 pas­sen­gers of MV Polar Star were soon trans­fer­red to MV Fram, ano­t­her crui­se ship that was in the area. MV Polar Star could con­ti­nue its regu­lar ser­vice alrea­dy July 03.

MV Polar Star has been used as crui­se ship in Spits­ber­gen waters for a num­ber of years and has fre­quent­ly visi­ted the area in ques­ti­on befo­re.

Dun­øya­ne north of Horn­sund, whe­re MV Polar Star ran aground on June 30. The coast of the main island in the back­ground.

Polar Star aground - Nordre Dunoya

Sourcen: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten und Mil­jøsta­tus på Sval­bard

Field poli­ce ope­ra­ti­ve

In late June, 3 teams of field inspec­tors were brought to their respec­ti­ve working are­as by the Sys­sel­man­nen. The teams con­sist of two per­sons, one poli­ce offi­cer and one per­si­on with a back­ground in natu­ral histo­ry. They are initi­al­ly based in Mag­da­le­n­efjord, Ny Åle­sund and Isfjord, but often use huts fur­ther north and nor­the­ast, such as in Virgo­ham­na (Dans­køya) or Mus­ham­na (Woodfjord). The main task of the teams is to con­trol all traf­fic in the area, main­ly sai­ling boats and crui­se ships.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Pass­port Con­trol

Aut­ho­ri­ties are working on plans to intro­du­ce pass con­trol at the air­port of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Spits­ber­gen is under Nor­we­gi­an sov­er­eig­n­ty, but has a spe­cial sta­tus due to the regu­la­ti­ons of the Spits­ber­gen trea­ty that is in for­ce. Sin­ce 2001, Nor­way is part of the Schen­gen sys­tem, but this does not inclu­de Spits­ber­gen. This can lead to pro­blems for tra­vel­lers who are regis­tered insi­de the Schen­gen sys­tem, but who are not regis­tered when they lea­ve Schen­gen when tra­vel­ling from Nor­way to Spits­ber­gen. Pass con­trol on Lon­gye­ar­by­en would eli­mi­na­te this pro­blem, alt­hough it would be unpo­pu­lar in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Nor­way. Final details remain to be deter­mi­ned.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten and Bar­ents Obser­ver

Orca­nic was­te mills

Most house­holds in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have recent­ly been equip­ped with orga­nic was­te mills. The pur­po­se is that food was­te is not sup­po­sed to incre­a­se the quick­ly gro­wing was­te dump in Advent­da­len, but is rather inten­ded to be shred­ded and released to the sea, tog­e­ther with the gene­ral was­te water. Lon­gye­ar­by­en does, so far, not yet have a was­te­wa­ter tre­at­ment plant. Akva­plan-Niva, a Nor­we­gi­an insti­tu­te for rese­arch on water, has recom­men­ded to have one estab­lis­hed.

The orga­nic was­te mills may theo­re­ti­cal­ly be a good con­tri­bu­ti­on to was­te reduc­tion in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but the­re have been fre­quent tech­ni­cal pro­blems lea­ding to incre­a­sing loss of popu­la­ri­ty of the new instal­la­ti­ons.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Polar bears in Lon­gye­ar­by­en …

… tend to be dead and stuf­fed. Not so the one that came in the evening of 08 June to Nyby­en, the upper part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It was sca­red away by the poli­ce. It was real and dan­ge­rous enough for some warning shots and the heli­co­p­ter was used to fol­low the ani­mal over the near­by Lon­gye­ar gla­cier and into the neigh­bou­ring val­ley Farda­len.

Polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, less dan­ge­rous than the one on Tues­day.

Polar bears in Longyearbyen

Source: local gos­sip; Sys­sel­man­nen

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

Gold rush

The Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske is inves­ti­ga­ting gold occur­ren­ces in Spits­ber­gen, as repor­ted ear­lier on the­se pages. The area of inves­ti­ga­ti­on is the south side of St. Jonsfjord on the west coast, north of Isfjord. Four cores have been dril­led on Hol­mes­let­fjel­la, 500 metres high; 4000 metres of cores are sup­po­sed to be dril­led until June. The area of inte­rest stret­ches across 7 kilo­me­tres, and several years of fur­ther rese­arch work are nee­ded until any mining can pos­si­b­ly be star­ted.

Map of Spits­ber­gen;
St. Jonsfjor­den is on the west coast
(GNU Les­ser Gene­ral Public Licen­se, crea­ted with Marb­le)

Gold rush Svalbard

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Sin­gle-han­ded flight across the North Pole

On 05 April, the French adven­tu­rer Jean-Lou­is Eti­en­ne ven­tu­red on a bal­loon flight from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the North Pole. He almost suc­cee­ded in reaching 90°N, but was then blown off at 88°N towards Rus­sia.

Eti­en­ne car­ri­ed instru­ments to mea­su­re car­bon­di­oxi­de levels and magne­tism. His first solo expe­di­ti­on to the North Pole was on ski in 1986. This time, he wan­ted to focus on obser­va­tions of chan­ges in the high Arc­tic. On 10 April, after 121 hours and 3130 kilo­me­tres, he lan­ded in Jaku­tia (Rus­sia).

Sourcen: Sval­bard­pos­ten; Jean-Lou­is Eti­en­ne (Home­page)

Vol­ca­nic ash cloud from Ice­land also in Spits­ber­gen

The vol­ca­no at the Eyjaf­ja­l­la-gla­cier in Ice­land gives Spits­ber­gen some of the remo­teness back that it used to have in the past. The recent con­cen­tra­ti­on of ash par­ti­cles in the atmo­s­phe­re abo­ve Nor­way for­ced pla­nes from and to Lon­gye­ar­by­en to remain on the ground, mea­ning that Spits­ber­gen was cut off not only for human traf­fic, but also for food and other deli­ve­ries, mail and medi­cal emer­gen­cy flights. The coast guard was on stand­by in case of urgent medi­cal evacua­tions. After two days, the first tou­rists were flown out of Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Trom­sø.

Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten and Sys­sel­man­nen

Seed vault is gro­wing

The seed vault near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, that is sup­po­sed to secu­re glo­bal gene resour­ces for future genera­ti­ons, has now more than half a mil­li­on sam­ples of seeds from food crops. This makes Spitsbergen’s seed vault the lar­gest collec­tion of its kind in the world.

The latest sam­ples inclu­de high­ly resistant beans from South Ame­ri­ca, straw­ber­ries from the Kuri­les in the nort­hern Paci­fic and Ame­ri­can soja beans.

The seed vault was ope­ned in Febru­a­ry 2008. The arc­tic per­ma­frost pro­tects seeds of corn, beans, and other cul­tu­re crops from plant dise­a­se, cli­ma­te chan­ge, war impact and natu­ral desas­ter. So far, only one out of three cham­bers is in use; the other ones are sup­po­sed to be used in 25 and 100 years, respec­tively.

The ent­ran­ce to the seed vault near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. (© Pho­to: Hagen Held)

Seed vault is growing

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Infor­ma­ti­on about the eco­sys­tem Bar­ents Sea: Bar­ent­s­Por­tal

The joint Nor­we­gi­an-Rus­si­an Com­mis­si­on on Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion has publis­hed a web­site and a report with com­pre­hen­si­ve, inte­res­ting infor­ma­ti­on about the Bar­ents Sea eco­sys­tem, rele­vant for admi­nis­tra­ti­on and the envi­ron­ment.

Click here to get to the Bar­ent­s­Por­tal.

It loo­ks grey, but is actual­ly com­plex and needs envi­ron­men­tal con­si­de­ra­ti­on: The Bar­ents Sea
(At Bear Island).

Information about the ecosystem Barents Sea: BarentsPortal

Source: Bar­ent­s­por­tal

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