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Monthly Archives: March 2011 − News & Stories


Costs for search and rescue

The number of SAR (search and rescue) operations carried out annually by the Sysselmannen and Red Cross has increased to 60-80. Less carefull planning, potentially due to the availability of modern communication technology (satellite phone etc) may have contributed to this development.

Non-residents are obliged to apply for permission for visits to most parts of Svalbard. Insurance cover for potential SAR costs is compulsory to obtain any permission. In practice, the Sysselmannen has, so far, usually not claimed costs back from the rescued person(s). As the costs have increased with the number of operations, the bill from now on not be paid anymore by the Norwegian tax payer, but by those responsible for the operation. This has, in theory, already been the case, but it has usually not been applied, a practice that has now been announced to be changed. Most SAR operations involve helicopter flights, which quickly involves a bill of 100.000 NOK (currently ca 12.700 Euro) or more.

This applies for any trips that require permission and insurance. Where this does not apply, that is for tourists within administration area 10 (Nordenskiöld Land, Dickson Land, Brøggerhalvøya), the rescued person(s) will also in the future have to carry the costs only in cases of gross carelessness.

SAR-helicopter: quite expensive.

Costs for search and rescue - Helicopter

Source: Sysselmannen

Record depletion of arctic ozone

Exceptionally strong cold in the higher atmosphere has in recent weeks led to the loss of about half of the stratospheric ozone. The cold as such is a natural condition, but it inforces processes that lead to the destruction of ozone where man-made “ozone killers” such as FCKWs are involved. This includes substance that have been banned for years, as they remain in the atmosphere for a long time before they are finally broken down.

As the polar air mixes with air masses in lower latitudes, scientists recommend to pay special attention to sun protection against UV radiation during the coming spring.

Some processes in the arctic atmosphere have very pleasant results, other ones less so

Record depletion of arctic ozone - Varfluesjoen

Source: Svalbard Science Forum

Father puts himself and his two sons at risk

A Swedish family has shown an amazing range of options to do it the wrong way: The family, father and two sons (11 and 20 years old), came to Longyearbyen as individual tourists and rented snow scooters and satellite phone (at least!) for a private trip to Barentsburg. As even groups accompanied by guides had decided to cancel their trips to Barentsburg and take alternative routes because of adverse weather conditions, the family received warnings in Longyearbyen to change their plans, preferably in favour of a guided tour. They went anyway, spent a night in Barentsburg and came into trouble on the way back – again after ignoring a warning and advice to wait in Barentsburg for better weather.

The 3 got stuck in Semmeldalen and called for help. Rescue teams tried repeatedly with snow scooters and helicopter, but had to turn around because of difficult conditions. Only when the weather improved slightly near midnight, could rescuers reach the family, who was already affected by wet and cold.

The Sysselmannen strongly recommends individual tourists without experience to join guided tours and to consider weather forecast, advice and warnings from authorities and locals carefully. As the family decided to ignore these common sense rules completely, they may have to face the bill for the search and rescue operation, which is estimated around 15.000 Euro.

Should be taken seriously: winter arctic

Father puts himself and his two sons at risk - Podbeschniggbreen

Addendum: In a letter to the editor (Svalbardposten 10/2011), the family states that, before starting the return trip from Barentsburg, the Sysselmannen advised that they should try, rather than waiting for better weather in Barentsburg. They also write that technical failure of one of the snowmobiles and bad battery performance of the rented satellite phone contributed to the worsening of the situation, finally leading to a call for help.

Source: Sysselmannen

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