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Home → January, 2013

Monthly Archives: January 2013 − News & Stories

East Sval­bard manage­ment plan: new pro­po­sal from the Sys­sel­man­nen

The ongo­ing, con­tro­ver­si­al pro­cess of a new manage­ment plan for East Sval­bard seems to reach its final stages, as the Sys­sel­man­nen has on Janu­ary 09 published his latest and most likely final pro­po­sal, which has alre­a­dy been sent to the Direc­to­ra­te for Natu­re Admi­nis­tra­ti­on (DN) with the Envi­ron­men­tal Minis­try in Oslo for fur­ther bureau­cra­tic tre­at­ment befo­re it can be tur­ned into valid law by the par­lia­ment.

The assess­ment within the DN is, howe­ver, any­thing but for­ma­li­ty: the who­le pro­cess fai­led alre­a­dy once years ago, when the Sys­sel­man­nen tur­ned down the ori­gi­nal pro­po­sal from Oslo as too dra­stic and lack­ing suf­fi­ci­ent, know­ledge-based foun­da­ti­on. In the fol­lo­wing, the bureau­cra­cy in Oslo made it clear whe­re the com­pe­ten­cy to shape the new law real­ly is: not in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The same will most likely app­ly to future hand­ling of some of the admi­nis­tra­ti­on of East Sval­bard, some­thing that may be decisi­ve in prac­ti­ce. The Sys­sel­man­nen, who is – as an insti­tu­ti­on – still belie­ved to have his feet on the ground of rea­li­ty at least to some degree, is appar­ent­ly too soft in the eyes of the hard­li­ners in Oslo, who care litt­le about envi­ron­men­tal or sci­en­ti­fic bene­fit of their legis­la­ti­on as long as the public is lar­ge­ly being out of are­as they con­sider their own play­grounds (in this con­text, it is inte­res­t­ing to have a look the legis­la­ti­on that is in force on Jan May­en sin­ce 2010).

The cur­rent pro­po­sal is still lar­ge­ly dri­ven by ideo­lo­gy rather than argu­ments see­king for real envi­ron­men­tal or sci­en­ti­fic bene­fits, but at least less dra­ma­tic than older ver­si­ons which frank­ly sug­gested to clo­se the who­le thing most­ly down, except from a few sel­ec­ted loca­ti­ons – still annoy­ing but for most pro­ba­b­ly not the end of the world, in other words. Accor­ding to the cur­rent pro­po­sal, East Sval­bard is to be divi­ded into 6 dif­fe­rent zones, some cove­ring lar­ge are­as, others smal­ler loca­ti­ons, with dif­fe­rent regu­la­ti­ons for all of them (see map fur­ther down):

Zone A (yel­low): “Sci­en­ti­fic refe­rence are­as”. Anyo­ne who wants to tra­vel the­re needs to noti­fy the Sys­sel­man­nen first, who can requi­re chan­ges of plans or stop them altog­e­ther. Com­ment: the DN is likely to demand this power for them­sel­ves. One can only guess what this would mean in prac­ti­ce for tho­se who wish to tra­vel the­re. The result might as well come clo­se to a com­ple­te clo­sure of the are­as in ques­ti­on, which are lar­ge, alt­hough most­ly (but not com­ple­te­ly) irrele­vant for tou­rism. The sci­en­ti­fic need for and value of such refe­rence are­as is very con­tro­ver­si­al, no solid argu­ments that sup­port such a need or value have been put for­ward, a fact that did not keep DN and other inte­res­ted par­ties from decla­ring that such are­as are neces­sa­ry. By the way, an obli­ga­ti­on to app­ly for per­mis­si­on to tra­vel in the East Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ves – which cover the pro­po­sed refe­rence are­as and far more – is alre­a­dy in force and has been so for many years. One might won­der what the chan­ge will real­ly be.

Zone B (oran­ge): No admis­si­on bet­ween May 15 and August 15. This means in prac­ti­ce a clo­sure of Lågøya and Tusenøya­ne for most of the rele­vant sea­son. A simi­lar regu­la­ti­on is alre­a­dy in force for the bird reser­ves, but the­se are rest­ric­ted to smal­ler are­as and loca­ti­ons, most­ly the actu­al bree­ding colo­nies on smal­ler islands, rather than lar­ger islands and who­le island groups.

Zone C (green dots): site-spe­ci­fic regu­la­ti­ons are to app­ly. This is a pro­ce­du­re which is get­ting incre­asing­ly com­mon for polar tou­rism, for exam­p­le in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca.

Zone D (red dots): smal­ler are­as around cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge sites that are clo­sed com­ple­te­ly year round. In force sin­ce 2010.

Zone E (red): This is Kong Karls Land. No admis­si­on around the year. In force sin­ce many years ago.

East Svalbard management proposal by Sysselmannen, January 09, 2013

Click here for a lar­ger ver­si­on of this map.

It is worth noti­cing that com­pe­ten­ces of the Sys­sel­man­nen to clo­se smal­ler are­as within the Natu­re Reser­ves for any reason are to be moved to the DN in Oslo and widen­ed to the opti­on to clo­se also lar­ger are­as. This impli­es a dan­ger that the DN can, in prac­ti­ce, still clo­se lar­ge parts of the Natu­re Reser­ves by decree, wit­hout any fur­ther legal pro­cess and public dis­cus­sions con­nec­ted to it. It also shows the dis­trust of the Oslo bureau­cra­cy to the Sys­sel­man­nen, who is often “too kind” in the per­spec­ti­ve from Oslo offices. Others would say the Sys­sel­man­nen has still some idea what is real­ly going on on the ground in Sval­bard. It remains an inte­res­t­ing ques­ti­on why the Sys­sel­man­nen hims­elf has writ­ten this into his pro­po­sal, rather than lea­ving it up to the DN.

Accor­ding to the cur­rent pro­po­sal, Lågøya is among­st the are­as which will be off limits bet­ween May 15 and August 15.

East Svalbard management plan: New proposal from the Sysselmannen - Purchasneset, Lågøya

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Advan­ced Ant­ar­c­ti­ca: with MV Ort­eli­us to the Ross Sea

The Ross Sea is a remo­te part of a remo­te con­ti­nent: Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. Most tou­rist voy­a­ges visit the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la, whe­re­as the Ross Sea area sel­dom sees crui­se ships. You may call it “Ant­ar­c­ti­ca for advan­ced lear­ners”: For “beg­in­ners”, it means main­ly a long, expen­siv ship jour­ney over often stor­my seas. But for tho­se who know more about it, it can be a dream of a life­time to sail the­re in the wake of Scott, Amund­sen and Shack­le­ton (who was the­re befo­re he famous Endu­rance-expe­di­ti­on).

“Beg­in­ners” do not need to read any fur­ther, but “advan­ced lear­ners” who can make such a voya­ge on rela­tively short noti­ce have now got an (almost) afforda­ble oppor­tu­ni­ty to join an expe­di­ti­on to the Ross Sea with MV Ort­eli­us, as the owner com­pa­ny Ocean­wi­de Expe­di­ti­ons is offe­ring attrac­ti­ve dis­counts for the voya­ge start­ing on Febru­ary, 18, from New Zea­land, and ter­mi­na­ting March, 20, in Ushua­ia (Argen­ti­na). For more infor­ma­ti­on, plea­se visit the web­site of Ocean­wi­de Expe­di­ti­ons.

MV Ort­eli­us in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. Addi­tio­nal­ly to the Zodiacs, the ship will also have 2 heli­c­op­ters during the Ross Sea voy­a­ges.

MV Ortelius

Final remark: this page is not used for adver­ti­sing for any third par­ty, and the owner does not recei­ve any pay­ment (neither direct nor indi­rect) for pos­ting this note, but finds the voya­ge abso­lut­e­ly worth spre­a­ding the word here.

Envi­ron­men­tal toxins lead to thin­ner eggshells for Ivo­ry gulls

Envi­ron­men­tal toxins lead to thin­ner eggshells for Ivo­ry gulls. This is one key result of a recent stu­dy made by sci­en­tists from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te (NPI), the Rus­si­an Ant­ar­c­tic Rese­arch Insti­tu­te (AARI) in St. Peters­burg and others. Samples were taken in Sval­bard and arc­tic Rus­sia in 2007. Com­pared with data from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, eggshells from Spits­ber­gen and the Rus­si­an arc­tic are up to 17 % thin­ner.

Ivo­ry gulls are on top of the food chain, and long-lived envi­ron­men­tal toxins such as PCBs and DDT are accu­mu­la­ting towards the top of the food chain. The thin­ned eggshells are shown to have high con­cen­tra­ti­ons espe­ci­al­ly of DDT.

DDT was gra­du­al­ly ban­ned in many count­ries from the ear­ly 1970s onwards and is now used legal­ly only in rela­tively small quan­ti­ties to fight dise­a­ses such as mala­ria. After an ban on DDT in Nor­way, eggshell thic­k­ness of sea­birds and birds of prey reco­ver­ed again back to natu­ral values.

Ivo­ry gull in Spits­ber­gen.

Ivory gull

Source: Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te

Polar bear attack on came­ra­man

The Bri­tish came­ra man Gor­don Buchanan, who was film­ing Polar bears for BBC in Spits­ber­gen for 12 months, was during his work atta­cked by a fema­le Polar bear for about 40 minu­tes. Buchanan was sit­ting insi­de a ple­xi­glass cage, which was strong enough to with­stand the attack. A short video can be seen on You­tube zu sehen.

The attack took place on sea ice: A small ship can be seen in the back­ground.

Polar bear attack on Gor­don Buchanan.

Polar bear attack on Gordon Buchanan

Spits­ber­gen Sep­tem­ber 2012: pho­to coll­ec­tions

The Spits­ber­gen crui­se with SV Anti­gua (the “gla­cier trip”) has alre­a­dy been docu­men­ted on this site (click here to see pho­tos and tri­plog). Mean­while, 2 more pho­to-docu­men­ta­ti­ons have been crea­ted and are available online. Both fea­ture impres­si­ve pho­to­gra­phy:

Alex­an­der Lembke is pro­fes­sio­nal pho­to­grapher and joi­n­ed us (again) as gui­de on this tour. He has published a very enjoya­ble slide­show on his web­site. On the same web­site, you will also find artis­ti­cal­ly impres­si­ve pho­to gal­le­ries of other expe­di­ti­ons in Spits­ber­gen.

Harald and Andrea Dessl have com­pi­led a who­le pho­to book with their mate­ri­al from the voya­ge in Sep­tem­ber 2012, which can be seen com­ple­te­ly online (click here). A print ver­si­on can also be orde­red.

The pho­to­book made by Harald and Andrea Dessl.

Spitsbergen cruise - Photobuch Spitsbergen, September 2012, by H.& A. Dessl

Wal­rus shot in Nor­way

First of all: Hap­py New Year to all visi­tors to this site! Unfort­u­na­te­ly, the first news for 2013 are sad ones: A wal­rus that show­ed up as a sur­pri­se guest in Dala­buk­ta near Kris­ti­an­sund, west of Trond­heim on the coast of Nor­way, was shot by the aut­ho­ri­ties after a few hours. The reason was said to be the bad health sta­tus of the ani­mal.

Accor­ding to wit­nesses, the wal­rus was in good con­di­ti­on regar­ding at least the nut­ri­ti­on sta­tus. As far as can be seen on pho­tos, the ani­mals seems to have been in good shape. Small inju­ries inclu­ding bro­ken tusks are nor­mal for wal­rus­ses. The decis­i­on to shoot the ani­mal, taken within a very few hours and wit­hout con­sul­ting experts, is met with sub­stan­ti­al cri­ti­cism and has now been repor­ted to the poli­ce. Wal­rus­ses are pro­tec­ted sin­ce 1953.

It is quite rare, but not unhe­ard of, that indi­vi­du­al wal­rus­ses take long trips from their high arc­tic home waters south to the coasts of Nor­way or even Den­mark or Spain during win­ter.

The wal­rus in Dala­buk­ta near Kris­ti­an­sund, Janu­ary 01, 2013. The ani­mal was shot after only a few hours by local aut­ho­ri­ties. Foto © Sind­re Sver­drup Strand, tk.no

Walrus, Dalabukta, Kristiansund, Norway

Source: Tidens Krav (seve­ral artic­les) and other Nor­we­gi­an online media.


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