Every year, field biologists from the Norwegian Polar Institute work on Polar bears in Spitsbergen by anesthetizing them from helicopters. Then, the bears are measured, samples are taken and in some cases a sender is attached to the bear to follow their migrations. Due to adverse weather conditions, the 2010 season was less successful than usual: only 53 bears were caught, including 25 adults, the remaining younger ones. 70 % of these 53 had been caught before.
This kind of work, that often involves following fleeing bears for some distance with helicopters, is controversial, but data regarding population, migration and concentrations of environmental toxins would be difficult to aquire otherwise.
First results of fieldwork for a master thesis by Anja Johansen Haugerud show that glaucous gulls in Spitsbergen are still suffering from environmental toxins. Samples taken in Kongsfjord in 2010 and 2011 were found to have high levels of substances such as PFC, PCB, PFAS which are used for example in impregnation for outdoor clothing, fire extinguishing foams and surface finishing of frying pans and cooking pots and assumed to have negative effects on, amongst others, the hormone system.
The public hearing regarding the application for further geological investigations of the gold occurrence near St. Jonsfjord is completed. 12 Institutions including the Norwegian Polar Institute and several governmental departments have forwarded their comments to the Sysselmannen, who will consider them when issuing the detailed requirements for the environmental auditing.
The current procedure concerns is limited to geological investigations, including drilling. In case the occurrence should be economical, then the application for a potential mine would be a completely new process on a larger scale and with open outcome.
St. Jonsfjord is at the west coast of Spitsbergen, between Isfjord and Kongsfjord, outside the protected areas
MS Nordstjernen, built in 1956 in Hamburg, is one of the last classical, old-style Hurtigruten ships. Until 2008 she was a regular summer guest in Spitsbergen; since then, she was used in regular traffic along the Norwegian coast. In 2011, she will be back for one last season in Spitsbergen for a classical programme of 3-day cruises along the west and north coast.
MS Nordstjernen is the last ship in Spitsbergen carrying out cruises that remind of the style of classical cruises of the earlier 20th century. After the 2012 season, she will be taken out of traffic.
A classical ship at a classical place: MS Nordstjernen in Magdalenefjord
The Spitsbergen treaty (often called “Svalbard treaty”) does not allow military facilities in Svalbard. It has often been a matter of debate what is actually to be considered a “military facility”, but permanent installations may clearly not serve military purposes.
The Norwegian author Bård Wormdal has now claimed in a new book that the satellite antennas of SvalSat on Platåberg near Longyearbyen are regularly used to download data from military satellites. Wormdal wrote this happened, amongst others, during the NATO operations in Libya. This would be a clear violation of the rules of the Spitsbergen treaty, which is still in force.
SvalSat is a system of satellite antennas to download data from satellites in polar orbits. The 7 antennas are owned by Kongsberg Satellite Services who is responsible for the overall operation, EUMETSAT, NASA and the American weather service. Services such as GPS and the future European equivalent Galileo also buy capacities.
SvalSat on Platåberg near Longyearbyen: Civil or “dual use”?.