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Monthly Archives: April 2013 − News & Stories


Spitsbergen panorama photography

The ongoing arctic winter season has, so far, turned out to be very productive from a photographic perspective. Next to a high number of conventional images, more than 50 360 degree panoramic shots have been taken and published so far during a couple of weeks. These photos give the impression to stand in the middle of the landscape, which can be moved on the screen to all directions. This is the beginning of a project which aims at a more comprehensive documentation of landscapes all over the Svalbard archipelago.

The panorama images can be seen free of any charge on this website, either through a map which sorts the panoramas geographically, according to where they were taken. Or in the travel reports/photo gallery section. Enjoy!

The yellow dots indicate the locations where panorama images are available so far. Click here to view the map with the links..

Spitsbergen-Panorama - Map

Spitsbergen-tourism: growth in certain parts

Tourism in Spitsbergen is on the growth in certain parts. Especially the number of large cruise ship passengers has increased significantly from 24,000 (2011) to 42,000 (2012). The figures had dropped significantly in the years of the crisis following 2007.

The number of overnights in hotels in Longyearbyen has been more or less stable for a couple of years, ranging between 83,000 and 89,000. Compared to early 2012, the hotel business is currently quite happy. One important reason is said to be the airline Norwegian, which started to fly to Longyearbyen again recently. The competition with SAS has led to more affordable seats on flights to Longyearbyen, an important bottleneck for almost all tourism in Svalbard.

The numbers of those venturing out into remoter parts on their own has always been fluctuating to some degree, between 400 and 750, without any clear trend. The same goes for snow mobile tourism, which depends on the duration of the season, which again depends on the weather in late April and early May and is accordingly impossible to predict.

Such and similar figures can be read in the tourism statistics, recently published by the Sysselmannen.

“Costa Magica”, 2009 in Longyearbyen. Until then, with 3400 passengers the biggest the biggest cruise ship in Spitsbergen.

Spitsbergen-tourism: growth in certain parts: Costa Magica

Spring in Spitsbergen

The arctic spring is just around the corner: signs of warmer days are more and more visible even in the high arctic. No darkness anymore since early April, and the midnight sun is officially shining in Longyearbyen since yesterday (April 20). The first birds, including Snow buntings and Little auks, have returned to their breeding areas.

The next days are even supposed to be quite warm, around zero degrees, but the forecast is promising temperatures well below freezing again later – let’s hope they are right. But a warm spell in mid April followed by colder temperatures until early or mid May is quite normal.

The ice conditions are also more “normal” again than last year. The east coast is packed with dense drift ice or even fast ice. The drift ice is also coming closer and closer to the north coast.

Ptarmigan on iceberg. Strictly speaking, the ptarmigan is no symbol for the spring, as it is the only bird to spend the winter in Spitsbergen.

Schneehuhn.

Once again polar bear shot in self defence

After a polar bear had already been shot in self defence in late March, a similar incident occurred only a few weeks later in Isbukta on the southern east coast of Spitsbergen. Two persons skiing Spitsbergen „på langs“ (the whole north-south distance of the main island) were camping on the ice in Isbukta when a bear came near and turned out to be impossible to scare away by noise and other means. The two felt threatened and shot the bear.

The bear was young and with a weight of 119 kg either not fully grown or not well fed or a combination of both.

As the case from March, the incident will routinely be investigated by the local police (Sysselmannen). Polar bears are completely protected in Spitsbergen and may only be shot in self defence. The Sysselmannen has already mentioned that the circumstances point towards a case of legal self defence.

Polar bear on the east coast of Spitsbergen.

polar bear shot - polar bear on the east coast of Spitsbergen.

Source: Sysselmannen

Search-and-rescue operations in Spitsbergen: slight increase, but altogether normal

Sysselmannen and local Red Cross have documented a slight increase in the numbers of search-and-rescue operations (SAR) in Spitsbergen. The number has recently been near 80 per year, including evacuations of crew members from fishing vessels. There are cases where the rescue services are called in, as it seems, situations where it should not have been necessary, such as the recent case of two ski travellers who had completed less than 10 % of their intended route, but were too exhausted to continue even in good conditions. The Sysselmannen reminds everybody of the importance of good preparation and their own responsibility for individual safety.

Altogether, however, the use of SAR capacities is well within the frame of what they have been calculated and established for. The includes the recent Easter weekend, when traditionally a lot of people travel in the field. This is also due to the good weather conditions.

Potential major accidents which involve a larger number of persons remain a worry. Local SAR capacities are not sufficient for such major accidents.

SAR-helicopter of the Norwegian coast guard during an exercise in Spitsbergen.

SAR operations Spitsbergen - SAR-helicopter

Source: Sysselmannen

Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-news: currently more photos than news

The frequency of Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-news postings is currently a bit reduced, because the author is currently mostly in the field in Spitsbergen. As a result, there is a large number of recent photos being posted. Important news will be posted anyway, but possibly with minor delays.

An evening at Negribreen on the east coast of Spitsbergen. In this weather, we spend as much time outside as we can. The computer has to wait.

Negribreen, east coast of Spitsbergen.

Polar bear shot while climbing through a window into a hut

On March 24, a polar bear was shot while it tried to enter a hut through the window. The hut was used by a couple from Longyearbyen, who tried to scare the bear away with noise and by throwing items at it. When this turned out to be unsuccessful, the bear was shot at short distance with a revolver.

The incidence happened in Hyttevika, an old trapper’s hut on the west coast north of Hornsund. The couple went there from Longyearbyen by snow mobile for the weekend. Both are considered locally very experienced outdoor persons.

The case is routinely investigated by the local police (Sysselmannen). Polar bears are completely protected in Spitsbergen and may only be shot in self defence. The authorities have already made known that the circumstances seem to indicate a case of legal self defence.

The case received some criticism during the following debate regarding the potential use of pepper spray, which is often used for example in North America to solve similar conflicts without loss of human or animal life. In Spitsbergen, however, the local authorities have officially declared that they do not support the use of pepper spray for self defence against polar bears. The owner of this website and current author means that pepperspray is certainly not suitable for stopping a bear that it vigorously attacking in open terrain, but may well be used successfully from the relative safety of a hut or even a tent to save the lives of bears and humans alike. A bear thus scared away is unlikely to go near a hut again.

This was the first case of a polar bear being shot since the lethal attack in Tempelfjord in August 2011.

The area of Hyttevika from a safe altitude, one day after the bear had been shot.

Polar bear shot - West coast of Spitsbergen, the area of Hyttevika.

Source: Svalbardposten

Accident in coal mine in Barentsburg

An accident has happened today (April 04) in the coal mine in the Russian settlement Barentsburg. A worker was killed by a falling block. The Norwegian authorities are currently investigating the incident.

Old mine entrance in Barentsburg.

accident Barentsburg: Mine entrance, Barentsburg.

Source: Sysselmannen

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