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Yearly Archives: 2011 − News & Stories

Polar bears

An inte­res­t­ing artic­le about polar bears in the light of cli­ma­te chan­ge has been published by the Rus­si­an Aca­de­my of Sci­ence. Click here to read the artic­le.

Litt­le polar bear fami­ly in nor­t­hern Spits­ber­gen. Polar bears have to cope with cli­ma­te chan­ge and envi­ron­men­tal toxins and face accor­din­gly an uncer­tain future.

Polar bear family

Libya and the north pole

The new Liby­an govern­ment has announ­ced a flight to the north pole tog­e­ther with repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of NATO mem­ber sta­tes that took part in the 2011 mili­ta­ry cam­paign. The flight aims at an increase of the fee­ling for tog­e­ther­ness within the Liby­an socie­ty and a posi­ti­ve recep­ti­on in the world public.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has, howe­ver, denied per­mis­si­on for a fuel stop in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The orga­ni­zers of the flight said they were dis­ap­poin­ted and would try to take the issue up to a poli­ti­cal level.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: Not available to the Liby­an govern­ment on their way to the north pole.

Libya and the north pole - data-lazy-src=

Spits­ber­gen: UNESCO world heri­ta­ge site?

Parts of Spits­ber­gen may be added to the world heri­ta­ge site list of the UNESCO. In 2012, a working group of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment will start to com­pi­le an appli­ca­ti­on that can be sub­mit­ted to the UNESCO at a later stage.

Spits­ber­gen: Uni­que natu­re and histo­ry and thus a poten­ti­al UNESCO world heri­ta­ge site. Here remains of a blub­ber oven from 17th cen­tu­ry wha­ling at Smee­ren­burg.

Spitsbergen: UNESCO world heritage site? - data-lazy-src=

Ny Åle­sund: new geo­de­tic sta­ti­on

Until now the geo­de­tic sta­ti­on in Ny Åle­sund is situa­ted near the air­field, about 1 km from the vil­la­ge. The Nor­we­gi­an topo­gra­phic agen­cy that is run­ning the sta­ti­on intends to build a new sta­ti­on near the coast at Bran­dals­pyn­ten, a pen­in­su­la not far from Ny Åle­sund. This is con­tro­ver­si­al becau­se the­re is a gene­ral con­sen­sus that the envi­ron­ment near Ny Åle­sund is to be kept in a natu­ral con­di­ti­on as much as pos­si­ble, to pre­ser­ve the eco­lo­gi­cal and sci­en­ti­fic values. The Nor­we­gi­an minis­try for the envi­ron­ment has now announ­ced that per­mis­si­on will be given to build the new sta­ti­on.

It is expec­ted that 5 years will be nee­ded to build the new sta­ti­on and both sta­ti­ons will run par­al­lel for 3 years to syn­chro­ni­ze the data.

The old geo­de­tic sta­ti­on at the air­field near Ny Åle­sund

Ny Ålesund Geodetic station

Source: Nor­we­gi­sches Umwelt­mi­nis­te­ri­um

New coal mine at Lun­ckef­jel­let

The Nor­we­gi­an depart­ment of eco­no­my and trade has announ­ced that per­mis­si­on for a new coal mine at Lun­ckef­jel­let will be given. The mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kull­kom­pa­ni (SNSK) has appli­ed for this per­mis­si­on to replace the mines at Sveagru­va, which are decli­ning in terms of qua­li­ty and quan­ti­ty of coal. The depart­ment has men­tio­ned main­ly eco­no­mic­al reaons.

The Nor­we­gi­an depart­ment of eco­no­my and trade is the most important share­hol­der of the SNSK.

Ope­ning a new mine clo­se to a natio­nal park is a con­tro­ver­si­al mat­ter. The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment keeps say­ing it wants Sval­bard to beco­me “the best admi­nis­te­red wil­der­ness in the world” and pushes to clo­se major are­as to the public (see first Decem­ber note). To the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment, ope­ning a new mine near a eco­lo­gi­cal­ly very important tun­dra area seems to be less envi­ron­men­tal­ly harmfull than small boats, rub­ber boots and limi­t­ed visi­tor num­bers in bar­ren are­as.

Envi­ron­men­tal obli­ga­ti­ons, inclu­ding a cle­a­nup after the end of mining acti­vi­ties, are part of the per­mis­si­on.

Reind­a­len. The new mine will be direct­ly south of it (right side).


Source: Nor­we­gi­sches Wirt­schafts- und Han­dels­mi­nis­te­ri­um

East Sval­bard

The working group of the Sys­sel­man­nen has pro­du­ced a map as a base for the ongo­ing dis­cus­sion about a manage­ment plan for east Sval­bard. The cur­rent pro­po­sal will be for­ward­ed to the Nor­we­gi­an direc­to­ra­te for natu­re admi­nis­tra­ti­on in Janu­ary 2012. Later, it will go through ano­ther public hea­ring. The map below is the basis for the cur­rent pro­po­sal.

East Svalbard

The cur­rent pro­po­sal distin­gu­is­hes seve­ral zones for eas­tern Sval­bard:
Zone A: »sci­en­ti­fic refe­rence area«, which will most likely be a no go area for ever­y­bo­dy except a few sci­en­tists sel­ec­ted by the admi­nis­tra­ti­on.
Zone B: No traf­fic during the bree­ding sea­son.
Zone C: spe­ci­fic site-spe­ci­fic gui­de­lines
Zone D: local bans on traf­fic at cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge sites, in force sin­ce 2010
Zone E: Kong Karls Land (alre­a­dy off limits)
Map: Sys­sel­man­nen

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Polar bear rese­arch: field sea­son 2010

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.

Polar bear fami­ly, Spits­ber­gen

Polar bear research - field season 2010

Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Nor­we­gi­sches Polar­in­sti­tut.

High levels of envi­ron­men­tal toxins in Glau­cous gulls

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.

Glau­cous gull in Spits­ber­gen

High levels of environmental toxins in Glaucous gulls - data-lazy-src=

Gold­rush in St. Jons­fjord

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

Goldrush in St. Jonsfjord

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

MS Nord­stjer­nen: final sea­son in 2012

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


Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Mili­ta­ry use of SvalSat?

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”?.


Source: NRK Nyhe­ter

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=


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