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Monthly Archives: June 2012 − News & Stories


Reindeer population has doubled since 1994

Local reindeer populations in several important valleys near Longyearbyen such as Semmeldalen, Colesdalen and Adventdalen have doubled since 1994, and this trend is believed to apply also to other parts of the Spitsbergen archipelago. The reason is thought to be a 2 degrees increase of summer temperatures which have led to stronger growth of vegetation. On the other hand, instable weather patterns have led to a higher frequency of bad years with starvation and a loss of parts of the population. The average weight of the individual animals has decreased slightly (about 1 kg). 2012 is likely to become the fourth bad year for reindeer since the beginning of the observations, which include population surveys and the examination of reindeer jaws which are delivered by hunters.

Spitsbergen-reindeer: larger population, thinner individuals since 1994.

Spitzbergen-Rentiere.

Source: Norwegian Polar Institute

Aasiaat (Disko Bay, Westgreenland), 13th June, 2012

While the rest of the world was watching 22 Dutch and Germans running after a black-and-white ball, I was on my own following a black-and-white bird (a male snow bunting) in Aasiaat. Here some impressions of this first day in west Greenland, soon there will be more.

aasiaat (gallery)

Click on thumbnail to open an enlarged version of the specific photo.

Beginning of arctic shipping season 2012

The midnight sun is shining over Spitsbergen’s fjords since late April and most of the birds have started their breeding business by now. Most tourist ships that sail Spitsbergen’s coastal waters, from large cruise ships to small sailing boats, are now on their way up north, some are already there.

The owner of this website is also soon on his way north and will be there (Spitsbergen and west Greenland) until late September. The news section will accordingly be updated less frequently than during recent months, but there will be updates and news of importance will, if necessary, be posted with a little delay – but they will appear here.

The travel blog site (triplogs, photo galleries) of trips of the 2012 season will soon be updated regularly until late September/early October. So – please visit again!

Spitsbergen under the midnight sun: the sailing season in the high norht has started.

Beginning of arctic shipping season 2012 - Midnight sun

Svolvær – or Svalbard…?

An American lady was more than just a bit surprised when she found out where she actually was in the airport of Longyearbyen. She had intended to travel up to Svolvær, the main settlement in Lofoten, a group of islands off the coast of north Norway.

The reason for the not so little detour was the similarity between the words “Svolvær” and “Svalbard”, as the Norwegians commonly call Spitsbergen. The lady had asked the travel agency for a ticket to Svolvær but got one to Svalbard, without anyone taking notice of the difference. She was a bit surprised about the passport control in Tromsø, but did not pay any further attention to it.

She said she enjoyed her 2 days in the high arctic after the first surprise, until a seat on a flight back was available.

Svalbard (yellow circle) and Svolvær (red): a little difference.

Svolvær or Svalbard - Svalbard map

Source: Svalbardposten (2112)

Eider duck news

Eider duck news: Biologists have revealed some interesting facts about common eider ducks in Spitsbergen. They were negatively affected by egg and down feather collecting until they were protected in 1963. Since 1973, important breeding colonies, mostly on small islands, may not be visited anymore without special permission, which is only issued to scientists and occasionally professional local down collectors. Nevertheless, numbers of breeding common eiders at colonies in Kongsfjorden have remained stable, but did not increase.

Another colony in Bellsund shows however pronounced growth: this is the colony on the small island Eholmen, where a local Norwegian trapper has collected down over years. Careful collecting does not have any negative impact on the breeding success. Protection from predators such as polar bears and foxes which is provided by the trapper seems to have a positive impact, making the site attractive for breedings ducks. The numbers of breeders have consequently increased significantly.

Common eider ducks may possibly also benefit from a warming climate, for example from an early break-up of fjord ice which makes breeding colonies on islands inaccessible for the polar fox, which is generally an important predator.

Breeding common eiders in Adventdalen near Longyearbyen.

Eider duck news - Breeding common eider ducks

Source: NINA.

Passage of Venus on June 6th

Astronomers are looking forward to a very rare event in the early morning hours of June 06th: a passage of Venus. Observation opportunities will be excellent in northern Scandinavia and in Spitsbergen. Every 130 years there are 2 transits of Venus with a few years between them. The last one was in 2004. The current one will be the last chance to observe such an event until December 2117.

You wouldn’t see if if you didn’t kow about it, but it is a very important and spectacular moment for astronomers. Historically, transits of Venus were very important for science, as the simultaneous observation of a transit from different places on Earth allowed, for example, the distance to the sun to be calculated.

If you want to see something, you will need – next to good weather – at least binocular and sufficient eye protection. If you try to observe it withour proper eye protection, you risk to lose your eyesight immediately and permanently!

Transit of Venus, Iceland 2004. Venus is visible as a dark dot (arrow). The foto was taken with binoculars and welding glasses.

Passage of Venus on June 6th - Transit of Venus, Iceland 2004

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