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Monthly Archives: May 2013 − News & Stories


Evacuation from Bear Island (Bjørnøya) after solarium use

This is not how station chef Erling Gustavsen had pictures his farewell from Bear Island (Bjørnøya): In mid May, he got painful changes to the skin on the ankle. Tele-medical consulation resulted in some fear that he might have caught Staphylococcus spec. Finally, it was decided to helicopter-evacuate him from Bear Island to get him into medical treatment.

In the hospital in Tromsø, however, it turned out that Gustavsen had simply burnt his ankle in the solarium. He had, at the same time, used cream to cure problems with his Achilles heel, which makes the skin more sensitive to UV radiation.

The patient is improving rapidly, but he finds the story a bit embarrassing. Effects of the evacuation of the chef on the meals for the remaining station crew on Bear Island are not known.

The weather station on Bear Island (Bjørnøya). The solarium is of course the only place to be in such conditions.

Evacuation from Bear Island Bjørnøya

Source: Finnmarksdagbladet

Guidebook “Spitsbergen-Svalbard”: book review

A very positive book review for the guidebook “Spitsbergen-Svalbard” has recently been published in the Czech Polar Reports, a periodical for polar research. The author, Miloš Barták, is Professor for Biology at the Masaryik-University in Brno (Czech Republic). Amongst others, he writes:

“Thanks to his personal experience with Svalbard, the author wrote an excellent guide …”.

“I would like to point out the precise description of plants and animals that follows a well-designed scheme”.

“Substantial part of the book deals with history, geology and geography of Svalbard. I find it very useful because there are many information attracting both travellers and polar research professionals. For each important location, detailed information of the history of discovery and/or settlement is given …”

“Throughout the book, there are many positive features that … pushes the book from a standard turist guide to a higher quality.”

“… the book is not only a perfect turist guide attracting people to come and see but also a comprehensive source of information for professionals in polar science who may use it for logistic and field works planning. It could be also recommended to university students of geology, biology, and ecology of polar regions,…”

The full review is published here: Barták, M. (2013): R. Stange (2012): Spitsbergen / Svalbard. A complete guide around the Arctic archipelago. Book Review. Czech Polar Reports, 3: 78 – 79.

Spitsbergen-Svalbard: this guidebook has recently received a very positive review in the Czech Polar Reports.

Guidebook Spitsbergen Svalbard: book review

Arctic expeditions 2014: Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen

House news: we will offer 4 exciting arctic voyages in 2014, to Spitsbergen and Jan Mayen.

The expedition to Jan Mayen has been in a planning stage for quite some time, but the details are almost finalized so the trip can be booked soon. If you have already contacted me about the Jan Mayen expedition 2014, then you will get a message the next days before the final details go public on the website.

We will also run 3 trips in Spitsbergen: two with SV Antigua, one in high summer in late July/August and one in September. And in August, we want to offer “advanced Spitsbergen”: with a small sailing boat and a small group (about 10 passengers) to the remote parts of Svalbard. For those who are out for a very intimate, active experience of nature and excellent photographic opportunities, including wildlife. The Spitsbergen voyages are expected to be German speaking, but for those of you who speak a bit of German and are not afraid of a bunch of Germans/Swiss, please have a look at the more detailed descriptions for the Arctic 2014!

Sunset on the west coast of Spitsbergen, September 2012.

Sunset, west coast of Spitsbergen, September

Longyearbyen CO2 neutral?

Will Longyearbyen be Norway’s first CO2 settlement? This is the vision of a group of scientists within UNIS (University in Longyearbyen). The geology around Longyearbyen seems suitable for long-term storage of large amounts of CO2 (CCS, carbon capture and storage): porous sandstones are able to host large volumes of volatiles (liquids, gas), and overlying layers of fine-grained sediments seal this natural storage off to prevent volatiles from escaping into the atmosphere. First tests with water instead of gas went well.

The next step should be to press a larger volume of CO2 into the ground in Adventdalen, where the test sited is situated, to test the suitability of the sediments under more realistic conditions. There are three options: separating CO22

The “CO2.

Longyearbyen CO2 neutral? CO2-lab, Adventdalen

Source: Aftenposten

… the arctic summer is on its way!

The Little auk colonies that are in many places on the slopes high above Longyearbyen are active, something that is easy to hear now. Snow buntings are playing their spring games on snow-free patches of tundra, which are growing larger day after day. And the geese have arrived after their spring migration. Summer on 78 degrees north is on its way.

Pink-footed goose in Longyearbyen, 22nd May.

Ping-footed goose, Longyearbyen

The end of the arctic winter …

The winter has come to an end in Spitsbergen, and it is being replaced by a short in-between season. The snow mobiles are calm now, the snow is getting wet and heavy and the snow-free patches larger and larger. Around 20th/21st June, the first small runlet was flowing down over snow in the river bed of Longyearelva, the river in Longyearbyen.

Calm days, nothing big happening here otherwise. Good.

The first water running down the river in Longyearbyen, 22th May.

Snow melt, Longyearbyen

Climate change: fjord ice on the west coast of Spitsbergen strongly reduced

A recent visit of the Norwegian environmental minister Bård Vegar Solhjell to the research settlement Ny Ålesund in Kongsfjord has put climate change back in the political debate in Norway. According to leading local scientists, the boat excursion into Kongsfjord would have happened with snow mobiles just 10 years before, following exactly the same route. The loss of solid fjord ice in many fjords on the west coast of Spitsbergen especially during the last 2 years is indeed alarming. This leads to massive problems for example for Ringed seals, who cannot give birth and raise their offspring without good fjord ice. Hardly any Ringed seal, generally the most abundant arctic seal, has been born and raised successfully in Kongsfjord in recent years.

The loss of solid fjord ice in the fjords on the west coast of Spitsbergen especially during the last two winters is indeed dramatic. This involves problems for example for Ringed seals, which need solid ice and good snow conditions to raise their offspring successfully. Hardly any young Ringed seal has survived in Kongsfjord during the last 10 years.

The increase of sea surface temperatures on the west and north coasts of Spitsbergen during the last 2 years is significant and has reduced the drift and solid ice considerably. In eastern Spitsbergen, the development is less dramatic and the ice conditions are comparatively normal. On the west coasts, many fjords remain largely open. Mostly, only inner reaches of the fjords are frozen over.

The Norwegian environmental minister has spoken of clear signals for an already ongoing warming.

Ringed seal in Tempelfjord, early May 2013. Here, the fjord ice is currently still solid.

climate change Spitsbergen: Sveagruva

Source: Aftenposten

Store Norske: black gold yields red numbers

The Norwegian mining company Store Norske is currently operating deeply in red numbers. After several good years, an exception in Spitsbergen’s mining history, the loss was near 234 million Kroner (29 million Euro) in 2012, and 2013 is not expected to be much better. The main reasons are said to be low prices on the world market for coal and the increasingly difficult conditions in the main mine Svea Nord near Sveagruva, which is now operating in marginal parts of the coal seam, with lower quantities and inferior qualities.

A new mine is expected to operate from 2015 at Lunckefjellet, north of the current mine Svea Nord, but only until 2018.

Store Norske reacts by cutting down costs. Employees will have to face release, and the daughter company Store Norske Gull, which has been prospecting for gold for years at St. Jonsfjord on the west coast of Spitsbergen, will not continue its activities in 2013.

Sveagruva in Van Mijenfjord: the current centre of coal mining in Spitsbergen.

Spitsbergen mining - Sveagruva

Source: Finnmarken.no

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