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Home → October, 2011

Monthly Archives: October 2011 − News & Stories

Nar­co­ti­ca abu­se in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, it is an open secret that drugs bey­ond legal ones are being con­su­med by locals. During the last weekend, the Sys­sel­man­nen tog­e­ther with the Nor­we­gi­an main­land poli­ce have caught 9 per­sons in con­nec­tion to drug abu­se, 2 of them also for deal­ing. All 9 are locals.

Haze in the arc­tic: not always a pure natu­re expe­ri­ence.


Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Tem­pe­ra­te water in Spitsbergen’s fjords

Tem­pe­ra­te Atlan­tic water has ente­red the fjords on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, resul­ting in a decre­asing chan­ce for a lar­ge-sca­le solid ice-cover in coas­tal waters com­pared to last win­ter. The rela­tively strong ice-for­ma­ti­on of last year may be among­st the reasons: the cold, sal­ty water that sinks down gives way to inflowing Atlan­tic water­mas­ses.

In the end, the wind con­di­ti­ons are decisi­ve for fjord ice for­ma­ti­on.

Fjord­eis­bil­dung braucht ruhi­ges, kal­tes Wet­ter. Hier Eis in Auf­lö­sung im Juni, Lief­defjord.

Temperate water in Spitsbergen’s fjords - data-lazy-src=

Com­pul­so­ry pilo­ta­ge?

The Nor­we­gi­an minis­try for fishery and coast has plans to intro­du­ce com­pul­so­ry pilo­ta­ge in Sval­bard for cer­tain ships, such as pas­sen­ger ves­sels with a length of 70 met­res or more and a width of 20 met­res or more, pos­si­bly also smal­ler ones, 24 met­res long or more. Back­ground is a report that sta­tes that crui­se tou­rism invol­ves a „serious envi­ron­men­tal risk“, such as oil leaka­ge in case of groun­dings.

Befo­re rele­vant legis­la­ti­on may come into force, it has to go through a hea­ring pro­cess.

Ship aground: always a bad thing. Here the for­mer coast­guard ship Kong­søy on well char­ted rocks near Smee­ren­burg.

Compulsory pilotage? - Kongsoy

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re elec­ted

Big Spits­ber­gen poli­cy comes from Oslo and part­ly from the Sys­sel­man­nen in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, who is appoin­ted by the govern­ment in Oslo. Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re has rather the func­tion of com­mu­ni­ty coun­cil. During elec­tions on Octo­ber 9 and 10, 907 out of 1592 voters have elec­ted the new Lokals­ty­re. Arbei­der­par­tiet (Socia­lists) won with by far with 43,7 % of all votes.

The poli­ti­cal dif­fe­ren­ces bet­ween the 5 par­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are rather small. The most colourful pro­gram­me may be that of the „Kon­sek­vens­lis­ta“, which has 2 elec­ted mem­bers in the Lokals­ty­re. Their main goal of clo­sing the Lokals­ty­re is con­side­red chan­ce­l­ess even by them­sel­ves, but they see their main task in being poli­ti­cal watch­dogs.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: In 100 years from com­pa­ny town to local demo­cra­cy.

Longyearbyen Lokalstyre elected - data-lazy-src=

Eas­tern Sval­bard

The dis­cus­sion about a new admi­nis­tra­ti­on plan for eas­tern Sval­bard, poten­ti­al­ly inclu­ding clo­sing lar­ger are­as for the public, has made a step fur­ther. A working group of the Sys­sel­man­nen has pro­du­ced a paper that sta­tes that »cur­rent or future rese­arch in eas­tern Sval­bard is not nega­tively influen­ced by other local acti­vi­ty in the area as of today. That East Sval­bard is a natu­re reser­ve does alre­a­dy stron­gly regu­la­te traf­fic in the area.« (Manage­ment plan for eas­tern Sval­bard, Report of the working group Rese­arch and Edu­ca­ti­on (Nor­we­gi­an), Sys­sel­man­nen). A real defi­ni­ti­on for the term »refe­rence area« is not pro­du­ced, a real sci­en­ti­fic need for such are­as that are clo­sed to any traf­fic (other than sel­ec­ted sci­en­tists) can­not be defi­ned and is not clai­med by rese­ar­ches.

Nevert­hel­ess it is sug­gested to clo­se seve­ral lar­ge are­as in eas­tern Sval­bard as »refe­rence are­as«, to which only sel­ec­ted sci­en­tists that work on rese­arch are­as with rele­van­ce for admi­nis­tra­ti­on and poli­tics have access. The map below gives an over­view of the sel­ec­ted are­as.

Clo­sing the­se are­as would have only minor impact on expe­di­ti­on crui­sing.

As can be expec­ted, is the sug­gested ver­si­on of the manage­ment plan met with strong cri­ti­zism by inha­bi­tants and local poli­ti­ci­ans in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, local tour ope­ra­tors and in the sci­en­ti­fic world, such as UNIS:

  • »It seems as if aut­ho­ri­ties want to make peo­p­le deli­bera­te­ly tired (by means of the long dura­ti­on of the pro­cess). … clo­sing so lar­ge are­as seems abso­lut­e­ly unneces­sa­ry. Within the exis­ting regu­la­ti­ons, the Sys­sel­man­nen has alre­a­dy far rea­ching pos­si­bi­li­ties to limit traf­fic in the natu­re reser­ves in eas­tern Sval­bard.« This is said by Hein­rich Eggen­fell­ner, second chair­man of Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re (the local par­lia­ment) to Sval­bard­pos­ten (39/2011). Eggen­fell­ner assu­mes that the pro­cess is main­ly dri­ven by hig­her admi­nis­tra­ti­ve levels in Oslo, which stron­gly influence the working group of the Sys­sel­man­nen: »my impres­si­on is as if the who­le pro­cess is con­trol­led by the admin­stra­ti­ve body within the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and the Direc­to­ra­te for natu­re admi­nis­tra­ti­on. They are not in line with the sci­en­tists, so the who­le things seems rather absurd.«
  • The lack­ing sci­en­ti­fic defi­ni­ti­on of »refe­rence are­as« and the lack­ing reasons for a real need for such are­as are cri­ti­ci­zed, and so is the miss­ing inclu­si­on of fishing acti­vi­ties in the plan, while tou­rism and lar­ge parts of the sci­en­ti­fic world are sup­po­sed to be kicked out.
  • The cur­rent sug­ges­ti­on does threa­ten the foun­da­ti­ons for the exis­tance of UNIS, the local uni­ver­si­ty in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, accor­ding to its direc­tor Gun­nar Sand. UNIS does lar­ge­ly work with pri­ma­ry rese­arch and edu­ca­ti­on, both at a first glan­ce not neces­s­a­ri­ly rele­vant for admi­nis­tra­ti­on and poli­tics. Sand also ques­ti­ons the Sys­sel­man­nens com­pe­tence to deter­mi­ne what kind of rese­arch is rele­vant, on the long term, also (but not only) for admi­nis­tra­ti­on.
  • The owner of this web­site and aut­hor of this arc­tic­le agrees that are­as, espe­ci­al­ly lar­ger ones, should not be clo­sed unless the­re is reason to do so such as real sci­en­ti­fic or envi­ron­men­tal needs.

The pro­cess is ongo­ing, a final decis­i­on and fol­lo­wing legis­la­ti­on will need fur­ther time, pos­si­bly until late 2012.

Sug­gested so-cal­led »refe­rence are­as« in eas­tern Sval­bard.
Map source: Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, modi­fied by Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Eastern Svalbard

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Visa and pass­port requi­re­ments

Many tou­rists do not know that Spits­ber­gen (Sval­bard) is, oppo­sed to main­land Nor­way, not part of the Schen­gen trea­ty sys­tem. Accor­din­gly, if you need a visa to visit the Schen­gen area, then you will also need a visa to fly from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Nor­way, even if you are just on a return jour­ney from a shorter trip. As a result, when you app­ly for a visa at home to prepa­re a jour­ney from out­side Schen­gen area to Sval­bard, it is advi­sa­ble to app­ly for two visa rather than only one, so you can enter Nor­way when coming back from Spits­ber­gen wit­hout dif­fi­cul­ties. If neces­sa­ry, you can also get a visa from the Sys­sel­man­nen.

Remem­ber that you will also need to show a pass­port or natio­nal ID card when tra­vel­ling to and from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Only Nor­we­gi­an citi­zens are allo­wed to use, for exam­p­le, a dri­ving licen­se. Non-Nor­we­gi­an flight pas­sen­gers have been denied access to their flight from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Nor­way becau­se they did not car­ry pass­port or ID card.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port, sin­ce ear­ly 2011 with pass­port con­trol.

Visa and passport requirements - Longyearbyen airport

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (3611), Sys­sel­man­nen

Polar bear alarm fence

When cam­ping in Spits­ber­gen, it is com­mon and makes sen­se to secu­re the camp against polar bears with an alarm fence (Nor­we­gi­an: snu­b­le­bluss), using trip­wires and small explo­si­ve devices. The most relia­ble ver­si­on NM4 comes from Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry sources, but is not available any­mo­re for legal reasons. The fol­lower (M2) is con­side­red not relia­ble and safe enough to be used in the field for polar bear pro­tec­tion. As a con­se­quence, the­re are curr­ent­ly almost no alarm sys­tems available in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to secu­re camps against polar bears.

Next to the obvious safe­ty aspect, the­re is a deba­te to make tech­ni­cal sys­tems for pro­tec­tion of camps against bears legal­ly man­da­to­ry. It still needs to be defi­ned what such “tech­ni­cal sys­tems” might be, but alarm fen­ces are at least an obvious part of any tech­ni­cal alarm sys­tem. The Sys­sel­man­nen is awa­re that it is dif­fi­cult to make a sys­tem man­da­to­ry that is not available on the mar­ket and is try­ing to con­tri­bu­te in fin­ding a solu­ti­on, but so far wit­hout suc­cess.

Under the fatal polar bear attack on August 05 in Tem­pel­fjord, a fai­ling alarm fence con­tri­bu­ted to the desas­ter.

In the UK, a sys­tem is available from Arc­tic Limi­t­ed.

Polar bear alarm fence of the old type (NM4), which is hard­ly available any­mo­re.


Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (3611), Sys­sel­man­nen


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