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Home → January, 2012

Monthly Archives: January 2012 − News & Stories

Deadly polar bear attack in Tempelfjorden

In August 2011, one person died and four other ones were seriously injured under a polar bear attack on a camp in Tempelfjord (see August 2011 news on this site for further details). The Norwegian police has now published a report on the technical condition of the safety equipment. Both the alarm fence and the rifle had failed, which contributed to the tragic outcome of the incident. Four attempts to shoot the bear failed, the bear was shot with a fifth cartridge, which had been in the rifle before, but had been ejected without firing and was then found on the ground.

According to the Norwegian police, both the rifle and the alarm fence worked when handled properly. As had been assumed before, it seems now safe to say that misusage of the alarm fence and the rifle contributed to the tragic development. Based on the information available, it is however impossible to say if it might have been possible to shoot the bear before the victim was killed. The bear was extremely aggressive and the attack went very rapidly.

Mauser-style rifles are commonly used for protection against polar bears in Spitsbergen.

Deadly polar bear attack in Tempelfjorden - Rifles

Source: Sysselmannen

East Svalbard management plan: open letter from Thor Larsen

Thor Larsen is a well-known polar bear biologist. He was research director at the Norwegian Polar Institute and is now professor emeritus. With a large number of expeditions over more than half a century, he is one of the veterans of Norwegian polar research.

Recently, Thor Larsen has expressed substantial criticism about the latest proposal of a management plan for east Svalbard, which includes large so-called scientific reference areas. It can be expected that public access to these areas will be significantly more difficult, if not impossible. Larsen critizises that the plan is kept upright although several working groups of the Sysselmannen have concluded that conflicts between tourism and science can not be identified at the time being and are not expected in the future either. The actual environmental impact of organized tourism is described as minimal by these working groups. For example, it was feared that tourist visits to walrus haulout sites might lead to disturbance. Monitoring with automatic cameras over several years has, however, not yielded any evidence to support this. According to Larsen, remaining problems such as local erosion can be solved with the implementation of site-specific guidelines wherever needed. A need for closing large areas is not seen, neither from a scientific nor from an environmental perspective, writes Larsen, also pointing out that the areas in question are all inside the nature reserves, which are already enjoying strict protection. The current regulations are well capable of protecting scientific and environmental needs, according to Larsen.

Larsen critizises that higher administrative levels keep the proposal to reserve large areas as “scientific reference areas” upright despite of this obvious lack of data which might support such a drastic step. He also points out that the scientific quality of the papers that suggest the proposal is not meeting any standards. Larsen supposes that relevant institutions now insist on their proposal because of a feared “loss of face” and reminds of a common-sense rule for mountaineering that is well-known in Norway: it is never too late to turn around.

Thor Larsen’s complete letter was published last Friday in Svalbardposten (02/2012) in Norwegian. An English translation can be downloaded here.

Northeastern Nordaustland is mostly very rocky. Nobody really knows why this area should become an exclusive playground for “science relevant to administration”.

East Svalbard management plan - Kapp Bruun

Diesel leakage at Kapp Linné

The old radio station Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linné at the mouth of Isfjord was abandoned about 10 years ago. Today, the protected buildings are used only during the spring and summer season for touristic purposes. For the rest of the year, the houses are standing empty, mostly without supervision.

Employees of the owner SNSG (Store Norske Spitsbergen Grubekompani) have discovered a diesel leakage. It is uncertain for how long diesel could escape from the tank, but the Sysselmannen assumes that up to 100,000 or 150,000 litres may have entered the local environment. The leakage happened in a generator room.

The polar winter makes it impossible to take counteractive measures.

The houses of the former radio station Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linné.

Diesel leakage at Kapp Linné - data-lazy-src=

Management plan for East Svalbard: letter to the editor of Svalbardposten

The ongoing controversy about the East Svalbard management plan has been covered repeatedly on these pages, most recently in early December, 2011. Now 17 expedition leaders have given their comments and made alternative suggestions in a letter-to-the-editor of Svalbardposten, which was published in Norwegian on last Friday (Svalbardposten 01/2012). An English translation can be downloaded here (englisch).

Many of the undersigned, including the owner of this website, have university-level education in natural sciences and are dedicated environmentalists with experience from areas, where tourism is successfully controlled, such as Antarctica.

According to the latest official proposal, Duvefjord is to be part of the controversial “Zone A”, the “scientific reference area”.

Management plan for East Svalbard - data-lazy-src=

Exploration drilling in the Barents Sea

OMV Norge, the Norwegian daughter of the international oil- and gas company OMV, plans exploration drillings in the field PL 537, about 196 kilometres southeast of Bear Island, searching for hydrocarbons. The depth of the Barents Sea in this area is near 400 metres.

The Barents Sea is biologically very productive and ecologically sensitive. It is highly important for large seabird populations, marine mammals and the fishing industry.

The approximate location of PL 537 in the Barents Sea.

Exploration drilling in the Barents Sea

Source: Oilinfo.no

AECO: site-specific guidelines

AECO (Arctic expedition cruise operators) has published site-specific guidelines. These are intended to support visitors at a number of mostly frequently visited site to treat the natural and historical environment carefully. AECO member companies, which run most tourist ships that travel Spitsbergen on a regular basis, have commited themselves to the AECO guidelines. All other ships, including private boats, are invited to follow them.

The guidelines can be downloaded from AECO.

As expected, experienced expedition leaders won’t find a lot of new information in the guidelines. Tourleaders with lesser experience and private visitors will find them interesting and helpful in order to avoid or minimize any impact.

From the guidelines: Ytre Norskøya. © AECO.

AECO site-specific guidelines: Ytre Norskoya

Source: AECO

Spitsbergen on the UNESCO world heritage list?

In December it emerged that the Norwegian government has plans to nominate the Spitsbergen archipelago (at least partly) for the UNESCO world heritage list. Political parties and representatives of the local populations are spectical. Local politicians in Longyearbyen said they would prefer such initiatives to come from the local population, rather than the government in Oslo, which is often too far away from real life in the arctic.

It is also believed that a nomination for the UNESCO world heritage list is seen as a political exchange for a new mine, which has recently been announced to be permitted. Politicians in Longyearbyen fear that the ministry of the environment is looking for a political balance for the new mine at the possible expense of locals and tourists, who may face new restrictions which are often beneficial for Oslo politicians rather than the environment.

Controversial: a nomination for the UENSCO world heritage list. The image shows a scene from Krossfjord.

Spitsbergen on the UNESCO world heritage list? - Signehamna

Source: NRK (Norwegian TV boradcaster)


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