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Home* News and Stories → Low flight over Polar bear

Low flight over Polar bear

Sys­sel­man­nen and Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard are curr­ent­ly cri­ti­ci­zed for a low flight over a group of wal­rus­ses on Nord­aus­t­land, in the strict­ly pro­tec­ted natu­re reser­ve Nord­aust Sval­bard. A simi­lar event invol­ving a Polar bear has now been repor­ted. On July 11, a group of tou­rists of MS Quest had board­ed 5 Zodiacs to crui­se along drift ice sou­the­ast of Sjuøya­ne (north of Nord­aus­t­land). When a swim­ming Polar bear was seen from the ship, the Swe­dish expe­di­ti­on cal­led the boats tog­e­ther to avo­id dis­tur­ban­ce: fol­lo­wing swim­ming Polar bears with any moto­ri­zed vehic­les is strict­ly for­bidden (and would wit­hout any doubt be ruthl­ess).

A near­by small air­craft ope­ra­ted by the coast­guard caught the VHF con­ver­sa­ti­on bet­ween the gui­des and the ship. The crew of the air­craft deci­ded to check what was going on, resul­ting in low flights over the Zodiacs and the Polar bear.

The expe­di­ti­on lea­der belie­ved this to be a uni­que inci­dent, until news of the low flight over wal­rus­ses sur­faced recent­ly, and then deci­ded to wri­te a report. In a first reac­tion, the Sys­sel­man­nen announ­ced that the Zodiac ope­ra­ti­on of the tou­rists might have to be che­cked for poten­ti­al dis­tur­ban­ce of the bear. The fac­tu­al dis­tur­ban­ce of the pro­tec­ted ani­mal by the coast­guard air­craft does not seem to be a mat­ter of gre­at inte­rest for the Sys­sel­man­nen, who is the hig­hest repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment in Spits­ber­gen.

The coast­guard con­siders them­sel­ves a gene­ral poli­ce aut­ho­ri­ty for the waters around Spits­ber­gen, which are under Nor­we­gi­an legis­la­ti­on. Accor­ding to other views, the duty of the coast­guard is, in Spits­ber­gen waters, exclu­si­ve­ly to con­trol fishing ves­sels. Other con­trol may be car­ri­ed out in indi­vi­du­al cases, whe­re the need may ari­se, but gene­ral­ly, it is the Sys­sel­man­nen who con­trols tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen. Now it seems as if it is the duty of tou­rism – the clo­sest thing to the “public” in the rele­vant are­as – to con­trol the aut­ho­ri­ties in the field …

Low flight over Polar bears: An inci­dent in Hol­miabuk­ta, pho­to­gra­phed by the aut­hor on July 31, 2010, when the pre­sence of seve­ral bears in Hol­miabuk­ta was gene­ral­ly known. The heli­c­op­ter is mark­ed with a red cir­cle, a Polar bear with a yel­low cir­cle*. Click here for a lar­ger ver­si­on of this image.

Low flight over Polar bear: Holmiabukta, July 31, 2010.

Amend­ment (Decem­ber 04, 2012): Regar­ding the pho­to abo­ve, the Sys­sel­man­nen sta­ted that the­re was no heli­c­op­ter flight on behalf of the Sys­sel­man­nen in the area in ques­ti­on on July 31, 2010. Accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen, the heli­c­op­ter in the pho­to was pos­si­bly char­te­red by a pri­va­te par­ty.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (47/2012)



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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange