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Yearly Archives: 2013 − News & Stories

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

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.


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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