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Home → June, 2012

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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