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Daily Archives: 21. April 2013 − News & Stories

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.


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


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