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Yearly Archives: 2010 − News & Stories

PCB-pro­ject com­ple­ted

Good Christ­mas news: The pro­ject to remo­ve local PCB sources from Spits­be­ren is now com­ple­ted with the final deli­very of rele­vant items from the Rus­si­an sett­le­ment Barents­burg to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for des­truc­tion in Fin­land.

Over three years, a total of 4.762 items, most­ly older elec­tri­cal com­pon­ents, con­tai­ning the long-lived, dan­ge­rous envi­ron­men­tal toxin PCB, have been remo­ved from sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen. 3.750 of the­se come from the Rus­si­an sett­le­ments Barents­burg and Pyra­mi­den.

Barents­burg: Spitsbergen’s lar­gest PCB-pro­vi­der

PCB-project completed - Barentsburg

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Pass con­trol in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Start­ing 01 Febru­ary 2011, ever­y­bo­dy will have to pre­sent a pass­port or ID card when ente­ring or lea­ving Spits­ber­gen ter­ri­to­ry. This is due to regu­la­ti­ons of the Schen­gen trea­ty, which requi­res pass con­trol on the outer bor­ders. Becau­se of the Spits­ber­gen trea­ty signed in 1920, Spits­ber­gen („Sval­bard“) is not part of the Schen­gen trea­ty area (citi­zens of all signa­to­ry count­ries have unli­mi­t­ed right of resi­dence), oppo­sed to Nor­way, the Schen­gen bor­der is bet­ween Nor­way and Spits­ber­gen. Accor­din­gly, Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties are obli­ged to intro­du­ce pass or ID card con­trol at Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port for all pas­sen­gers, inclu­ding Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens.

As Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens do not (yet) have ID cards, they can alter­na­tively use a dri­ving licen­se issued after 1998, bank card or mili­ta­ry ID papers. Child­ren, who do usual­ly not have dri­ving licen­se etc., may be iden­ti­fied by an accom­pany­ing adult. Once Nor­way has intro­du­ced natio­nal ID cards, it has to be used by Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens to enter or lea­ve Spits­ber­gen.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: soon with pass con­trol

Pass control in Longyearbyen

Source: Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment press release No 156-2010, 15 Decem­ber 2010.

Nor­t­hern light acti­vi­ty maxi­mum in 2013/14

Nor­t­hern light acti­vi­ty is con­nec­ted to the acti­vi­ty of the sun, which con­stant­ly sends char­ged par­tic­les into space that react with the Earth’s hig­her atmo­sphe­re and magne­tic field. The sun’s acti­vi­ty varies slight­ly with an 11 year peri­odi­ci­ty. The next maxi­mum is expec­ted near 2013/14. Nor­t­hern light fans should be on watch that win­ter.

Nor­t­hern light in Spits­ber­gen, Octo­ber 2008.

Northern light activity maximum in 2013/14 - Borebukta

Source: Nord­licht-For­scher Dag Lorent­zen (UNIS, Lon­gye­ar­by­en), Sval­bard­pos­ten

Jan May­en Natu­re Reser­ve

The Nor­we­gi­an island of Jan May­en north of Ice­land has been declared a natu­re reser­ve on 19 Novem­ber 2010. The pro­tec­ted area includes the who­le island with the excep­ti­on of the sta­ti­on area and the landing strip. Addi­tio­nal­ly, a 12 mile zone around the island is also pro­tec­ted.

The regu­la­ti­ons are simi­lar to tho­se con­cer­ning the natu­re reser­ves in the Spits­ber­gen islands, but tou­rism – very limi­t­ed on Jan May­en any­way – will have to deal with rest­ric­tions: landings from ships insi­de the natu­re reser­ve are pro­hi­bi­ted unless the sta­ti­on com­man­der gives per­mis­si­on (this for­ma­li­zes a com­mon rou­ti­ne) and cam­ping is only allo­wed for sta­ti­on crew and their guests.

Visi­tor on Jan May­en

Jan Mayen Nature Reserve - Eggoya

Source and more details (Nor­we­gi­an): press release of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment

Brunich’s guil­l­emot on the Nor­we­gi­an Red List

If you have seen the bird­life of Spits­ber­gen, then you will never for­get the con­cen­tra­ti­on of wild­life at the cliffs whe­re up to seve­ral ten thousand bree­ding pairs of Brunich’s guil­l­emots are crow­ded tog­e­ther on incre­di­bly steep cliffs. The decrease in num­bers has now lead to the spe­ci­es being included in the Nor­we­gi­an Red List. Main­land Nor­way has seen a num­ber of sea­birds colo­nies vir­tual­ly dis­ap­pearing in recent years. The situa­ti­on in Spits­ber­gen is not (yet) that bad, but the new clas­si­fac­tion sends a clear signal. The reasons for this deve­lo­p­ment are not yet ful­ly unders­tood, but are likely to be lin­ked to chan­ges of food avai­la­bi­li­ty, which may again be rela­ted to cli­ma­te chan­ge and/or over­fi­shing.

The Brunich’s guil­l­emot is not the only spe­ci­es that is new to the latest edi­ti­on of the Nor­we­gi­an Red List. This does not neces­s­a­ri­ly mean that the new spe­ci­es, most­ly gras­ses, are in a situa­ti­on worse than they used to be: In some cases, the reason is sim­ply more infor­ma­ti­on, for exam­p­le about a very limi­t­ed dis­tri­bu­ti­on area which is in its­elf reason for con­cern.

Other spe­ci­es could be remo­ved from the list.

Brunich’s guil­l­emot, Bear Island.

Brunich’s guillemot on the Norwegian Red List - Fugleodden

Sedov visit to Spits­ber­gen

The world’s lar­gest sai­ling ship that is still sai­ling is visi­ting Spits­ber­gen in late Sep­tem­ber. Sedov, built in 1920 in Kiel (Ger­ma­ny), is a four mas­ted steel bar­que with about 4200 squa­re meter of sails.

SV Sedov in Barents­burg

Sedov visit to Spitsbergen

His­to­ri­cal hut burnt in Bruce­by­en

One of four his­to­ri­cal huts in Bruce­by­en burnt com­ple­te­ly down on August 17. A group of young hikers had left hot ashes behind when they left the hut, which had been built in 1919/1920 as part of a coal mining camp.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Reinde­er hunt

The annu­al reinde­er hun­ting sea­son was ope­ned August 15. The hun­ting are­as are limi­t­ed and the num­ber of ani­mals taken is con­trol­led. The popu­la­ti­on bet­ween Sas­send­a­len and Grøn­da­len, whe­re the hun­ting are­as are loca­ted, has been on the decrease during the last 5 years and the­re has been a low num­ber of cal­ves this year.

Reinde­er calf and cow in Toda­len, late June 2010.

Reindeer hunt

Source: Sys­sel­mann

Natu­ral emer­gen­cy har­bours in Spits­ber­gen

The Nor­we­gi­an coas­tal aut­ho­ri­ties have been out on a field trip around Spitsbergen’s coasts to eva­lua­te loca­ti­ons whe­re ships might seek shel­ter in case of emer­gen­cy. Repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, the minis­try of the envi­ron­ment, the gover­nor and the Nor­we­gi­an rese­arch insti­tu­te on mari­ne tech­no­lo­gy (MARIN­TEK) were on board during the field crui­se.

On the west coast, the best sites known so far are in Mag­da­le­nefjord, Trygg­ham­na and Horn­sund. The experts and offi­ci­als invol­ved want to dis­cuss fur­ther sites and publish their recom­men­da­ti­ons within 2010. The need for more emer­gen­cy shel­ter sites is seen becau­se of increased ship traf­fic in Sval­bard waters.

Quel­le: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Sea ice, planc­ton and rela­ted issues …

The polar sea ice has its widest dis­tri­bu­ti­on during the late win­ter. The return of the sun­light in spring brings the algal bloom under the ice floes. As a result, zoo­plank­ton comes from deeper water lay­ers to the ice to feed on the algae. The­se small ani­mals are again prey for lar­ger orga­nisms such as fish and seals and thus, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, for the who­le rest of the food chain up to polar bears. The basics of this sys­tem are com­mon know­ledge, but sci­en­tists are still working on many important details.

Mari­ne bio­lo­gists from the uni­ver­si­ty in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (UNIS) have found out that the litt­le crustaceae (in this case Cala­nus gla­cia­lis) are per­fect­ly adapt­ed to the sea­so­nal deve­lo­p­ment of sea ice in spring. The adult fema­les eat as much as they can in the twi­light under the clo­sed sea ice cover, until they are able to repro­du­ce. Two months later, their off­spring is lar­ge enough to pro­fit from a second algal bloom when the sea ice breaks up. The­se young, fat crustaceae are ide­al food for polar cod, seals, sea­birds such as guil­l­emots and wha­les.

In case the sea ice is get­ting thin­ner and thin­ner due to cli­ma­te chan­ge, the break­up will be ear­lier and the second algal bloom accor­din­gly ear­lier. As a result, the young phy­to­plank­ton might not yet be old enough to feed suf­fi­ci­ent­ly, which might lead to signi­fi­cant wea­k­e­ning of this important link in the arc­tic food chain, pos­si­bly lea­ding to major dis­tur­ban­ces of the arc­tic eco­sys­tem as we know it.

Sea ice, plancton and related issues ...

The colou­ra­ti­on of the ice is due to algae. In the midd­le a bea­ched repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the arc­tic mari­ne fau­na that depends on the algal bloom for food.

Source: Sval­bard Sci­ence Forum

New dino­saur fos­sils

It has been know for a long time that Spits­ber­gen is an Eldo­ra­do for pal­aen­to­lo­gists, inclu­ding tho­se spe­cia­li­zed in dino­sau­ria. The dis­co­very of a Plio­saur at Janus­fjel­let, north of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, in 2007 has rai­sed world­wi­de atten­ti­on not only among­st spe­cia­lists. In 2009, three ske­le­tons of Icht­h­y­o­sau­ria (mari­ne car­ni­vor­ous dino­saurs) were found and to be retrie­ved this year, when the sci­en­tists made ano­ther spec­ta­cu­lar dis­co­very: a Ple­si­o­saur with a three meter long neck. Now, the rese­ar­ches want to use their fin­dings to recon­s­truct the cour­se of evo­lu­ti­on in the polar sea of the Creta­ce­ous.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Two padd­lers and an bear

Two young Nor­we­gi­ans had set out to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te the who­le archi­pe­la­go of Spits­ber­gen, inclu­ding Nord­aus­t­land, in their sea kay­aks, but their jour­ney came to a very sud­den end on the north coast of Nord­aus­t­land, when they were taken by sur­pri­se by an aggres­si­ve polar bear in their tent during the night. The trip wire, which had been set up cor­rect­ly, was not trig­ge­red when the bear ente­red the camp and drag­ged one of the two young men out of his slee­ping bag and away from the camp. The second padd­ler mana­ged to shoot the bear soon. Both men were soon brought to hos­pi­tal with the governor’s heli­c­op­ter. The inju­ries of the one who was pul­led out of the tent by the bear were not serious and he reco­ver­ed quick­ly, as expec­ted.

It is still unknown why the trip wire had fai­led when the bear wal­ked through. Two pins were pul­led out of the mecha­nism, as they are sup­po­sed to, but the alarm mines did not explo­de. A few days ear­lier, some wind had been enough to trig­ger the alarm.

Two paddlers and an bear

During sum­mer, when the sea ice is retrea­ting from the coast, access to seals, their main prey, is more dif­fi­cult for polar bears. If they remain on shore, they will try to find car­ri­on, bird eggs or any­thing else that is digesta­ble, which can make hun­gry bears dan­ge­rous also for man. In Spits­ber­gen, it is com­mon (and requi­red) to pro­tect camps with trip wire during the night. Alter­na­tively, dogs can ser­ve the same pur­po­se.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten and Sys­sel­man­nen

New geo­de­tic sta­ti­on plan­ned in Ny Åle­sund

The Nor­we­gi­an map­ping aut­ho­ri­ty wants to estab­lish a new geo­de­tic sta­ti­on at Bran­dals­pyn­ten near Ny Åle­sund. Both the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and NERC (Natu­ral Envi­ron­ment Rese­arch Coun­cil, Groß­bri­tan­ni­en) are against the plan in its cur­rent shape. They agree that exis­ting infra­struc­tu­re should be used for the pur­po­se, rathern than buil­ding new bridges and roads. NERC fears that other pro­jects might fol­low in case aut­ho­ri­ties open for estab­li­shing new buil­dings and infra­struc­tu­re out­side Ny Åle­sund. Until now, the area around Bran­dals­pyn­ten is untouch­ed wil­der­ness.


New geodetic station planned in Ny Ålesund - Koldewey

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Under­ground CO2 sto­rage in Advent­da­len

Rese­ar­ches are curr­ent­ly working to estab­lish the reser­voir capa­ci­ty of sand­stone lay­ers in Advent­da­len for car­bon dioxi­de. The equip­ment used for pre­vious tests has not been strong enough to explo­re the full poten­ti­al. Test­ing is done by pum­ping water into the lay­ers 970 met­res under the sur­face, start­ing with a rate of 10 liters/minute and incre­asing gra­du­al­ly to 500 liters/minute. The results will help to eva­lua­te the ques­ti­on if the lay­ers in ques­ti­on are sui­ta­ble to store lar­ge amounts of car­bon dioxi­de safe­ly. If so, car­bon dioxi­de will be pres­sed down in liquid sta­te, thus water as test­ing sub­s­tance. A 400 meter thick per­ma­frost lay­er is sup­po­sed to keep the liquid gas insi­de. If test­ing works accor­ding to plan, UNIS sci­en­tists plan to con­ti­nue with fur­ther test dril­lings in 2011.

Advent­da­len in sum­mer 2010: the street from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to mine 7 is pas­sing the old nor­t­hern light obser­va­to­ry and the blue, chim­ney-like buil­ding were test dril­ling for the CO2 sto­rage site is car­ri­ed out.

Underground CO2 storage in Adventdalen - Nordslysstation

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Will Bear Island get its own cenotaph?

The fishery sup­port ves­sel »Petro­za­vodsk«, that ran aground on Bear Island in May 2009, will until fur­ther remain in its posi­ti­on on the sou­the­as­tern coast of the island. Aut­ho­ri­ties have not yet deci­ded how to deal with the wreck. Seve­ral opti­ons have been dis­cus­sed, among­st them lea­ving it whe­re it is, sin­king it in deeper waters or cut­ting it up and remo­ving it. All of the­se opti­ons have in com­mon that they have envi­ron­men­tal effects and are expen­si­ve. Mean­while, the ves­sel has bro­ken up into two parts, which are still on the rocks direct­ly under seve­ral hundred meters high, near-ver­ti­cal cliffs, which makes all ope­ra­ti­ons dif­fi­cult and dan­ge­rous. Oil, fuel and other dan­ge­rous liquids and goods were remo­ved soon after the wrecka­ge; it can­not be excluded that fur­ther dan­ge­rous sub­s­tances have remain­ed on board.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten


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