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Yearly Archives: 2013 − News & Stories

Spits­ber­gen-gui­de­book: 4th Ger­man edi­ti­on now available

The 4th updated edi­ti­on of Rolf Stange’s gui­de­book “Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard” (Ger­man ver­si­on) is now available. Many text sec­tions in almost all chap­ters have been updated or added, the­re are many new colour pho­tos, a who­le new page block of 16 pages with text has been added. A new cover makes the 4th edi­ti­on reco­gnizable as a new book. The­re are more than enough updates to make the purcha­se wort­hwhile also for owners of pre­vious edi­ti­ons. Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on about the new edi­ti­on of “Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard” (4th Ger­man edi­ti­on).

Tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties during the print pro­cess led to a delay of seve­ral months during the pro­duc­tion.

The third Eng­lish edi­ti­on (2012) remains of cour­se available.

Spits­ber­gen-gui­de­book “Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard”: the 4th updated Ger­man edi­ti­on is now available.


Polar bear dead after anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists

Sci­en­ti­fic field work on polar bears is usual­ly any­thing but ani­mal-fri­end­ly. Fotos and vide­os from polar bears being cha­sed by heli­c­op­ters have more than once been seen and met with cri­ti­zism. As a per­so­nal obser­va­ti­on, we hard­ly see polar bears any­mo­re that have not been mark­ed by sci­en­tists. Near-cont­act with sci­en­tists, which can safe­ly be assu­med by be a very stressful, if not trau­ma­tic expe­ri­ence, is thus likely to be the rule rather than the excep­ti­on for Spitsbergen’s polar bears.

Recent­ly, a polar bear did not sur­vi­ve the sci­en­ti­fic tre­at­ment. A young male, 2 or 3 years old and phy­si­cal­ly in good shape, was found dead 2 days after anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists at Meodden on Edgeøya. A pos­si­ble expl­ana­ti­on is that the ani­mal has moved from a side­way posi­ti­on. It was found lying on the sto­mach and had suf­fo­ca­ted. Anaes­the­ti­sa­ted polar bears are left behind lying on the side to pre­vent suf­fo­ca­ti­on, but they are not moni­to­red. Suf­fo­ca­ti­on after chan­ging the posi­ti­on or pre­da­ti­on by other bears can accor­din­gly never be excluded.

Has not sur­vi­ved its mee­ting with sci­en­tists: polar bear at Meodden, Edgeøya (© foto: Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard).

Polar bear, Meodden, Edgeøya

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Loss due to fewer crui­se ship tou­rists in Ny Åle­sund

Ny Åle­sund has recei­ved con­sider­a­b­ly fewer tou­rists in 2013, com­pared to the 2012 sea­son. A year ago, visi­tors num­be­red near 40,000. This figu­re decre­sed to 25,000 in 2013. Accor­ding to the direc­tor of the owner com­pa­ny, the con­se­quence was a loss of 2 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an Kro­ner in har­bour fees and sou­ve­nir sales.

The reason is belie­ved to be the expen­si­ve com­pul­so­ry pilo­ta­ge, which is curr­ent­ly being intro­du­ced step­wi­se, and the ban of hea­vy oil as ship fuel, alt­hough ships using hea­vy oil may still visit Ny Åle­sund and Mag­da­le­nefjord until 2014.


Source: Heg­nar (Nor­we­gi­an news web­site)

Green­land shark: high levels of long-lived pol­lut­ants

The Green­land shark is the unknown big ani­mal in mari­ne arc­tic eco­lo­gy. Until recent­ly, sci­en­tists have not spent too much atten­ti­on to this lar­ge shark, and litt­le is accor­din­gly known about them. But during a sci­en­ti­fic catch in Kongsfjord some years ago, sur­pri­sing num­bers were caught: dozens of sharks in a short time. They can be up to 7 m long, which places them among­st the lar­gest sharks in the world.

Sur­pri­sing was not only the num­ber of sharks pre­sent in the bot­tom waters of Kongsfjord, but also the high levels of long-lived envi­ron­men­tal toxins, which equal the high con­cen­tra­ti­ons sad­ly known from polar bears in Spits­ber­gen.

Ano­ther sur­pri­se was their diet: the sto­mach con­tent was most­ly fish and seals. Appear­ent­ly, they are effi­ci­ent hun­ters and not just sca­ven­gers, as had been belie­ved until then. The diet is likely to be the reason for the high levels of con­ta­mi­nants, which accu­mu­la­te through the food chain and over time. The long life span of Green­land sharks may accor­din­gly be ano­ther con­tri­bu­ting fac­tor to the high level of con­ta­mi­na­ti­on. During the rese­arch catch, the big­gest indi­vi­du­al caught was as hea­vy as 700 kg, but not even old enough to repro­du­ce.

Green­land shark in nor­thwes­tern Green­land


Source: Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tut

White wha­les imi­ta­te human voice

The obser­va­ti­on was made more than 30 years ago, but it still attrac­ted con­sidera­ble atten­ti­on when it was published prober­ly recent­ly in a reco­gni­zed sci­en­ti­fic maga­zi­ne: White wha­les, also cal­led Belugas, are able to imi­ta­te the human voice with sur­pri­sing accu­ra­cy. This is at least what a young White wha­le did in an Ame­ri­can zoo: accu­ra­te­ly enough to con­fu­se near­by peo­p­le until the wha­le was iden­ti­fied as the source of the “voice”.

Due to its dif­fe­rent phy­sio­lo­gy, a Belu­ga is belie­ved to go through a con­sider­a­be pro­cess of lear­ning and prac­ti­ce befo­re it can pro­du­ce some­thing simi­lar to a human voice.

Simi­lar obser­va­tions have been made else­whe­re, but in this case even sound recor­dings were secu­red.

White wha­les in Wood­fjord. They did not say much, but nevert­hel­ess a stun­ning sight.


Source: Cur­rent Bio­lo­gy

Fewer polar bear dens in Kong Karls Land

Kong Karls Land is a group of small islands in eas­tern Spits­ber­gen and a very important den­ning place for polar bears. In the past, up to 50 dens have been found within cer­tain are­as.

In recent years, howe­ver, the deve­lo­p­ment is more fluc­tua­ti­ve, with a nega­ti­ve over­all trend. Last spring, only 2 dens were found during a count car­ri­ed out by the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. The direct reason appears to be a lack of sea ice. The amount and timing of sea ice has beco­me signi­fi­cant­ly more varia­ble, with a strong nega­ti­ve trend which is expec­ted to con­ti­nue in the future.

Sea ice is neces­sa­ry to reach the islands and to rai­se the off­spring suc­cessful­ly. The femails that used to den on Kong Karls Land may have used other are­as for den­ning this year.

Fema­le polar bear with satel­li­te tra­cker, atta­ched with col­lar.

Polar bear

Source: Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te

Metha­ne from arc­tic per­ma­frost: acce­le­ra­tor of glo­bal warm­ing?

A recent publi­ca­ti­on in the sci­en­ti­fic maga­zi­ne Natu­re descri­bes the poss­bi­li­ty of a release of lar­ge volu­mes of metha­ne within a geo­lo­gi­cal­ly very short peri­od of a few deca­des from arc­tic shelf seas. Accor­ding to this sce­na­rio, metha­ne hydra­tes from the sea bot­tom could be desta­bi­li­zed once the Arc­tic Oce­an is peri­odi­cal­ly com­ple­te­ly ice-free during the late arc­tic sum­mer, in Sep­tem­ber. This is some­thing that may hap­pen as soon as 2015, as the ice deve­lo­p­ment in recent years indi­ca­tes. The paper men­ti­ons up to 50 bil­li­on tons of metha­ne that might be released into the atmo­sphe­re, an amount that would cer­tain­ly have dra­ma­tic con­se­quen­ces for the glo­bal cli­ma­te sys­tem.

The paper is curr­ent­ly mat­ter of hot deba­te in sci­en­ti­fic cir­cles. Not all sci­en­tists agree with the hypo­the­sis of a cata­stro­phic metha­ne release from the sea bot­tom in the near future.

Arc­tic per­ma­frost-soil in Isfjord, Spits­ber­gen

Methane from arctic permafrost

Source: The Guar­di­an

Reinde­er popu­la­ti­on rea­ched hig­hest level

The num­ber of reinde­ers in Advent­da­len rea­ched the hig­hest level this year sin­ce the sur­vey began in 1979. Rese­a­chers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te coun­ted about 1200 ani­mals inclu­ding 300 cal­ves. Ther­eby the num­ber of reinde­ers increased about 250 exem­plars in com­pa­ri­son to last year. On the one hand this could be explai­ned due to war­mer som­mers that allow reinde­ers to accu­mu­la­te a thick lay­er of fat, which is their ener­gy source for the win­ter. On the other hand reinde­er popu­la­ti­on varies from year to year. One year with a low count of ani­mals is fol­lo­wed by a year with a high count due to lar­ge­ly food sup­p­ly.

Reinde­ers on Spits­ber­gen

Reindeer population reached highest level

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Ice­peo­p­le

Explo­si­ves have been found

North of Lon­gye­ar­by­en bet­ween Advent­top­pen and Hiorth­fjel­let a gui­ded group found explo­si­ves pre­su­ma­b­ly of the World War II. For a long time the explo­si­ves had been cover­ed with snow and stones. Now traf­fic pro­hi­bi­ti­on is intro­du­ced on the moun­tain ridge bet­ween Advent­top­pen and Hiorth­fjel­let until the Nor­we­gi­an Defence has cle­ared the area.

Hiorth­fjel­let on the north side of Advent­fjor­den

Spitsbergen - Explosives have been found - Hiorthfjellet on the north side of Adventfjorden

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Sys­sel­mann

Book review for Sval­bard gui­de­book “Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard”

Final­ly – good news again from Spits­ber­gen: ano­ther book review about my gui­de­book “Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard” has been published in Polar Record, the polar sci­ence peri­odi­cal from the Scott Polar Insti­tu­te in Cam­bridge. The aut­hor is Niko­las Sell­heim from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lap­land in Rova­nie­mi, Finn­land. I just quo­te one sen­tence: “What inde­pen­dent wri­ter, publisher and expe­di­ti­on lea­der Rolf Stan­ge has accom­plished with this book is extra­or­di­na­ry.”

Gre­at that someone has reco­gni­zed it – final­ly 🙂

Down­load the full review here of read it at:

Sell­heim, Niko­las (2013) Book Review: Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard: A Com­ple­te Gui­de Around the Arc­tic Archi­pe­la­go by Rolf Stan­ge. 2012. In 49 Polar Record 3, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0032247413000260.

The gui­de­book “Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard” has recent­ly recei­ved a very posi­ti­ve review in Polar Record.

Guidebook: Spitsbergen-Svalbard

Mine acci­dent in Barents­burg: worker dead

More tra­gic news from Spits­ber­gen. Yes­ter­day (Thurs­day, June 20) a worker died in the coal mine in Barents­burg. The 27 year old Ukrai­ni­an was caught by a rock­fall in a ven­ti­la­ti­on fun­nel, 300 meters under the sur­face. The mine is now clo­sed until fur­ther.

The Sys­sel­man­nen is inves­ti­ga­ting the case. When the Nor­we­gi­an offi­ci­als rea­ched the mine, the body was, howe­ver, alre­a­dy remo­ved from the mine.

Ven­ti­la­ti­on fun­nel in Barents­burg (archi­ve image).

Mine accident in Barentsburg - Ventilation funnel Barentsburg

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Zodiac acci­dent in Kross­fjord: woman dead (II)

Some more details regar­ding the dead­ly Zodiac acci­dent in Kross­fjord on Mon­day have been published. It has now been con­firm­ed that the ship invol­ved was the Sea Spi­rit, which is curr­ent­ly under char­ter by Quark Expe­di­ti­ons, an Ame­ri­can expe­di­ti­on crui­sing com­pa­ny, well known in the busi­ness. The vic­tim was an US-Ame­ri­can woman in her six­ties. The acci­dent hap­pen­ed during a Zodiac crui­se near the nor­t­hern side of Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta in Kross­fjord. All 13 per­sons fell into the water as the Zodiac was hit by a lar­ge wave. One woman lost her con­scious­ness and died then for reasons not yet known in detail. Three more per­sons were inju­red, two of them were sub­se­quent­ly trea­ted in the hos­pi­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Fur­ther details have as of yet not been published. Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta is reason­ab­ly well shel­te­red from hea­vy seas. A wave lar­ge enough to cau­se a Zodiac to cap­si­ze might come from a very mas­si­ve cal­ving of the gla­cier or in case of extre­me wea­ther. It seems likely that a dri­ving mista­ke was invol­ved. Shal­lows near the litt­le bird cliff on the north side of Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta may have play­ed a role: in case of a lar­ge wave rol­ling in from the gla­cier, it may be harm­less over deep water, but break over a shal­low. This may cau­se a boat to cap­si­ze. All this is, howe­ver, pure spe­cu­la­ti­on; we have to wait for more con­firm­ed infor­ma­ti­on.

Fjor­ten­de Juli­buk­ta, Kross­fjord.

Zodiac accident in Krossfjord: woman dead (II) - Fjortende Julibukta, Krossfjord

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Zodiac acci­dent in Kross­fjord: woman dead

A woman died during a small boat acci­dent today (17th June) in Kross­fjord, nor­thwes­tern Spits­ber­gen. The Zodiac (inflata­ble rub­ber boat) was caught by a wave on the way from a small crui­se ship to the shore. All 13 per­sons fell into the water. One woman was sub­se­quent­ly trea­ted by the ship’s phy­si­ci­an and res­cue ser­vices were cal­led, but could not save her.

All that is known so far is that the woman was in her six­ties and not of Nor­we­gi­an natio­na­li­ty. Fur­ther details regar­ding the acci­dent, the cau­se of death or the iden­ti­ty of the woman are not yet known.

Zodiacs are very strong inflata­ble rub­ber boats that are com­mon­ly used during rough con­di­ti­ons. The wea­ther con­di­ti­ons in Kross­fjord at the time of the acci­dent are not yet known, but it can be belie­ved that they must have been extre­me. The last days have gene­ral­ly been quite win­dy in Spits­ber­gen (today in Isfjord force 4-5 from west and sou­thwest, but else­whe­re pos­si­bly much stron­ger).

Zodiac in use during strong wind.

Zodiac, Spitsbergen

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Hap­py ending of a dra­ma­tic dogs­led­ding expe­di­ti­on

Two ger­man tou­rists, one gui­de and 18 sled dogs left Ymer­buk­ta (Ymer­bay) for an five-day dogs­led­ding expe­di­ti­on on the north side of Isfjor­den. Initi­al­ly the wea­ther was nice but it chan­ged the day after and got worse. Final­ly the whiteout forced the expe­di­ti­on to find a sui­ta­ble camp­si­te at Kjepas­set (Kjepp­ass). At the same time the dogs of the gui­de got into a steep snow­drift and star­ted to slip. The gui­de couldn´t mana­ge to stop them and jum­ped off the sled. The dogs and the sled dis­ap­peared in a crev­as­se. In case of bad wea­ther con­di­ti­ons on the next day res­cue wasn´t pos­si­ble despi­te ser­ve­ral attemps to reach the dogs. Alt­hougt it was able to lower a new rif­le. The rif­le of the expe­di­ti­on dis­ap­peared also in the crev­as­se with the sled. Ano­ther day later the wea­ther cle­ared and res­cuers were able to reach the dogs. All dogs were unin­ju­red and in good shape. After the dogs got food and water the gui­de and the two tou­rists deci­ded to con­ti­nue the expe­di­ti­on back to Ymer­buk­ta.

Sled dogs on Spits­ber­gen

dogsledding expedition

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Ice­peo­p­le

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


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