|Double calendar 2024: Spitsbergen & Norway|
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:
The process is ongoing, a final decision and following legislation will need further time, possibly until late 2012.
Source: Sysselmannen, Svalbardposten
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.
Source: Svalbardposten (3611), Sysselmannen
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.
Source: Svalbardposten (3611), Sysselmannen
The Sysselmannen’s field inspectors have visited 85 ships and boats during the 2011 summer season, mainly on the west coast, but also in more remote regions including Hinlopen. Permits, ship papers and waste management routines are amongst what the field inspectors check routinely. Additionally, presence of authorities is shown to all visitors, who are encouraged to comply with relevant laws and regulations and to move carefully in the Spitsbergen environment. Controls also include camps and research activities.
The inspectors were in touch with 2403 persons and had only two complaints: one group had established their camp in in Grumantbyen (cultural heritage and accordingly protected). Another group had cut drainage trenches around their tents and left them at departure. The operator was requested to conduct a clean-up of the site.
Several cases of rabies have been found near Longyearbyen within a week: First, the virus was found in a polar fox that had attacked a dog. A few days later, two reindeer which were apparently partly paralyzed were shot and found to be infected with rabies. As far as known, this is the first time the virus has infected another species beyond polar foxes in Spitsbergen. Rabies is a fatal disease also for humans, and the authorities request the public to be accordingly careful:
The polar bear that has attacked the English camp in Tempelfjord, leaving one 17-year young man dead and several ones injured, was an old, mal-nutrioned animal that suffered from severe toothache. According to specialists, it is unknown if pain makes bears more aggressive but it is safe to assume that starving bears are likely to be more dangerous than well-fed ones.
What is known is that all technical safety means failed to work in Tempelfjord: The alarm fence did not trigger, and both signal pistol and rifle failed as well.
The issue of the alarm fence has been matter of debate for some time, regarding both reliablity and availability. The best system is of military origin, but soon out of stock in Longyearbyen. Retailers and Sysselmannen have tried to get access to more supplies, but so far without success.
The question is why the rifle failed during the first four attempts to fire it. One option is incorrect handling of the safety pin. Next to the positions »safe« and »fire«, rifles of the type Mauser, as the one used in Tempelfjord, have a third position, which allows to repeat, but not to fire. If the safety pin was accidentally in this position, then any attempt to fire and repeat would only result in emptying the magasine without actually firing, as happened in the camp. If this is the reason for what happened, is at the present time speculative.
Only when an already injured group leader managed to find one of the cartridges on the ground and re-loaded the rifle, he managed to shoot the bear with one shot from a close distance, thus preventing even greater damage.
The fatal attack of a polar bear that led to the death of a 17-year old on Friday (August 05) took place in the early morning hours while the group was still asleep, thus coming as a total surprise. The very aggressive bear attacked a tent (several ones?), killing one person and injuring another four, two out of these seriously in the face.
The bear was a male weighing 250 kg.
Next to shock and the sadness about the loss of a person, the question of how the deadly attack could happen remains to be answered. We need to wait until further details will be published before final conclusions can be drawn regarding the situation and its implications for risk assessment and safety measures.
Generally speaking, when camping in polar bear country it is important:
P.S. last official statements confirm that the alarm mines did not explode when the polar bear entered the camp. So far, the reason for this is unknown.
In the early morning of August 05, there has been a tragical polar bear attack on a group of people in Tempelfjord. For the first time since 1996, a person was killed, another four were injured. The injured people are between 16 and 29 years old, the killed person was 17 years young. The injured ones are in medical treatment in Tromsø.
The polar bear was shot.
Further details are not yet known.