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Yearly Archives: 2013 − News & Stories

Arte­facts from polar histo­ry lost in muse­um fire in Ita­ly

A fire in the muse­um of sci­ence in Nap­les (Napo­li) in Ita­ly hast led to the loss of irre­triev­a­ble arti­facts from polar histo­ry. The exhi­bi­ti­on was meant to focus on tho­se aspects of polar histo­ry which are shared by Ita­ly and Nor­way, such as the air­s­hip expe­di­ti­ons to the North Pole by Roald Amund­sen and Umber­to Nobi­le, who star­ted 1926 and 1928 in Ny Åle­sund. Now, both coun­tries have lost some of their polar heri­ta­ge.

Accord­ing to media, fire rai­sing was the rea­son for the dis­as­ter, which has des­troy­ed the muse­um and thus 175 jobs. The­re is no infor­ma­ti­on about peop­le being inju­red. The moti­ve is belie­ved to be a local con­flict about the attrac­ti­ve muse­um esta­te.

Some of the lost arti­facts were brought to Nap­les from Nor­way espe­cial­ly for the exhi­bi­ti­on. Lost are, amongst others, the ski­es that Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen has sup­po­sed­ly used during his famous cros­sing of the Green­land inland ice in 1888, clothes used by Nobi­le during his North Pole flight with the Ita­lia in 1928 and the log­book of the Nor­ge, the air­s­hip that was used by Amund­sen, Nobi­le and Ells­worth and their crew on their famous flight from Ny Åle­sund across the North Pole to Alas­ka in 1928. It was most likely on this occa­si­on that the North Pole was seen by man.

The air­s­hip Nor­ge in 1926 near Ny Åle­sund befo­re taking off for the North Pole. The log­book is now lost fore­ver.

Airship Italia, Ny Ålesund.

Source: Aften­pos­ten

Spits­ber­gen under pres­su­re

Spits­ber­gen is cur­r­ent­ly com­ing under strong pres­su­re – regar­ding the wea­ther. The meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­ons in Sval­bard are registring record-high air pres­su­re values, stron­ger than anything that has been mea­su­red in histo­ry of local mea­su­re­ments, which is part­ly going back into the 1920s. A new record has been estab­lis­hed at the auto­ma­tic wea­ther sta­ti­on on small Karl XII Øya (-island) north of Nord­aus­t­land, whe­re 1054,7 hPa were regis­tered a few days ago, signi­fi­cant­ly more than the old record of 1051,9 hPa from 1929.

Nort­hern Green­land has cur­r­ent­ly part­ly even hig­her values. The high pres­su­re is respon­si­ble for a peri­od of calm, clear and cold wea­ther, much to the delight of locals and tou­rists. The fore­cast for the Eas­ter wee­kend in Spits­ber­gen is, howe­ver, pre­dic­ting clouds, but still tem­pe­ra­tures well below free­zing. The cold wea­ther is also bene­fi­cial for wild­life and the deve­lo­p­ment of fast ice in fjords and drift ice east of Spits­ber­gen. The north coast is still lar­ge­ly ice-free, due to the influ­ence of more tem­pe­ra­te waters that have come up with the West Spits­ber­gen Cur­rent (“Gulf Stream”) from fur­ther south. On the eas­tern side, the drift ice has recent­ly even reached Bjørnøya (Bear Island), whe­re the first polar bears in 2 years have alrea­dy been seen!

High pres­su­re over Green­land and the Euro­pean Arc­tic. Image: mountainforecast.com.

Spitsbergen weather - High pressure over Greenland and Spitsbergen.

Source: adressa.no

Jan May­en expe­di­ti­on 2014 – plans are get­ting shape

Our plans for an expe­di­ti­on to Jan May­en in 2014 are get­ting shape. We are now aiming at the time from 28 June to 12 July 2014 (from and to Isafjor­dur, Ice­land). Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on about this exci­ting trip. We have alrea­dy more inte­res­ted peop­le than pla­ces avail­ab­le, so plea­se get in touch soon if you are inte­res­ted in joi­ning (con­ta­ct).

Jan May­en: our desti­na­ti­on for 2014.

Jan Mayen expedition 2014 - Jan Mayen

Polar bears: still legal prey for tro­phy hun­ters after lates CITES con­fe­rence

The latest CITES con­fe­rence has not been suc­cess­ful in put­ting a ban on hun­ting polar bears. Several coun­tries inclu­ding Cana­da and Green­land still allow limi­ted hun­ting, inclu­ding tro­phy hun­ting for rich for­eign hun­ters. As can be expec­ted, this is met with sub­stan­ti­al cri­ti­cism by envi­ron­men­tal orga­ni­sa­ti­ons. During the latest CITES con­fe­rence in Bang­kok, Den­mark was amongst the coun­tries that expres­sed worries about a com­ple­te ban on hun­ting. Den­mark is spea­king for Green­land inter­na­tio­nal­ly. Accord­ing to the CITES trea­ty, each EU coun­try has a vote on its own in the con­fe­rence. The­re is, howe­ver, an agree­ment that the EU coun­tries agree on their vote or do not vote at all. As a result, important votes for a glo­bal ban on polar bear hun­ting were mis­sing and an agree­ment was con­se­quent­ly not reached.

CITES is the legal­ly bin­ding Con­ven­ti­on on Inter­na­tio­nal Tra­de in End­an­ge­red Spe­ci­es of Wild Fau­na and Flo­ra.

It is wide­ly accep­ted that cli­ma­te chan­ge is gene­ral­ly the most serious glo­bal thre­at for polar bears, fol­lo­wed by pol­lu­ti­on with envi­ron­men­tal toxins. But regio­nal­ly, pres­su­re from hun­ting can be signi­fi­cant, or at least its con­se­quen­ces for regio­nal popu­la­ti­ons are not unders­tood.

In Spits­ber­gen, whe­re Nor­we­gi­an law is valid, polar bears are and remain ful­ly pro­tec­ted.

Result of a suc­cess­ful hunt on polar bears in east Green­land.

Polar bears CITES - Polar bear hunt, Scoresbysund, Greenland.

Source: Spie­gel Online

Esmark­breen-inci­dent – case clo­sed by Sys­sel­man­nen

The Sys­sel­man­nen have con­clu­ded their inves­ti­ga­ti­on of the let­hal inci­dent in August 2012 at Esmark­breen (Ymer­buk­ta) (see Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-news of August 2012). Juri­di­cal­ly, the case is now clo­sed, as no hard evi­dence for cri­mi­nal­ly rele­vant beha­vious was found.

The acci­dent hap­pen­ed on 21 August 2012 when ice mas­ses bro­ke off and fell down from the cal­ving cliff of Esmark­breen in Ymer­buk­ta. The ice did not fall into the water, but onto dry ground. Two Zodiacs of the French tou­rist boat Pola­ris I, each with 6 pas­sen­gers and a dri­ver, were in the vicini­ty. A woman was hit by a pie­ce of ice and died almost immedia­te­ly. It could not be estab­lis­hed if the boat was clo­ser to the gla­cier than 200 metres, which is the mini­mum distan­ces as recom­men­ded by the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te.

This sec­tion of the cal­ving cliff of Esmark­breen in Ymer­buk­ta is res­ting on rocks at sea level.

Esmarkbreen-incident - Esmarkbreen, Ymerbukta.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Drift ice at Bear Island

After a long peri­od with very litt­le ice, the drift ice has now sur­roun­ded most of the eas­tern parts of the Spits­ber­gen archi­pe­la­go. It has even reached Bear Island (Bjørnøya) again, much to the delight of the crew of the wea­ther sta­ti­on!

Drift ice in Her­wig­ham­na, near the wea­ther sta­ti­on on Bear Island (Bjørnøya), on 1 March 2013.

Drift ice at Bear Island (Bjørnøya).

Sources: Nor­we­gi­an ice chart, Bjørnøya-Blog of the wea­ther sta­ti­on

Ice loss in the Arc­tic: alrea­dy up to 80 % at mini­mum times

The loss of lar­ge are­as of sea ice in the Arc­tic Oce­an is an ongo­ing pro­cess. In Sep­tem­ber 2012, new nega­ti­ve records were reached once again. Now the­re is some more infor­ma­ti­on about the qua­li­ty of the loss: as expec­ted, the ice is not only shrin­king in area, but also in volu­me. The mini­mum dis­tri­bu­ti­on, that is usual­ly reached in Sep­tem­ber, is now down to only 20 % of what it was in 1980 – a loss of up to 80 % wit­hin just 2 deca­des.

The­se results are part of a recent stu­dy of data of US- and Euro­pean rese­arch satel­li­tes. The pro­ces­ses dri­ving the loss are both atmo­s­phe­ric and ocea­nic and are not yet ful­ly unders­tood. This makes it dif­fi­cult to pre­dict the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment in detail, but the­re is litt­le doubt that the loss will con­ti­nue.

Drift ice off East Green­land.

Ice loss in the Arctic -Drift ice off East Greenland.

Source: Geo­phy­si­cal Rese­arch Let­ters

5 years of spitsbergen-svalbard.com-news

The ope­ning of the seed vault near Lon­gye­ar­by­en was the occa­si­on when this Spits­ber­gen news site was star­ted, which is accord­in­gly also cele­bra­ting its 5th anni­ver­s­a­ry the­se days. Three cheers!

This here is ent­ry num­ber 245. The fre­quen­cy of ent­ries, near 1 per week in average, has cer­tain­ly incre­a­sed in more revent times. Sin­ce num­ber 1, the over­all appearan­ce of this web­site has chan­ged com­ple­te­ly. Its Eng­lish sec­tion has also qui­te recent­ly been moved to its own URL, spitsbergen-svalbard.com.

Screen­shot of one of the first ent­ries, Febru­a­ry 2008.

5 years of spitsbergen-svalbard.com-news, Spitsbergen news - February 2008

Seed vault Lon­gye­ar­by­en – ope­ned 5 years ago

On 26 Febru­a­ry 2008, the glo­bal seed vault near Lon­gye­ar­by­en was offi­cial­ly ope­ned. The Nor­we­gi­an minis­ter for agri­cul­tu­re and food will be in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Tues­day to mark the 5th anni­ver­s­a­ry of the vault. The ope­ning in 2008 attrac­ted world­wi­de media atten­ti­on. Sin­ce then, more than 770,000 seed sam­ples from most coun­tries on the glo­be have been stored in the 3 halls, which are sup­po­sed to accom­mo­da­te at least 1.5 mil­li­on sam­ples in the future. The natu­ral tem­pe­ra­tu­re of the sur­roun­ding per­ma­frost is -3 to -4 degrees cen­tig­ra­de. The tem­pe­ra­tu­re of the seed vault is con­stant­ly kept near -18 degrees.

The ent­ran­ce is not far from the air­port. It is easi­ly seen and acces­si­ble by road. The inte­rior is not acces­si­ble for the gene­ral public.

The vault is lar­ge­ly finan­ced by, amongst others, the Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­ti­on, but also by glo­bal com­pa­nies such as Mon­s­an­to, who are other­wi­se not known as guar­di­ans of bio­di­ver­si­ty.

The ent­ran­ce to the seed vault near Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

See vault near Longyearbyen

Source: Nor­we­gi­sches Minis­te­ri­um für Land­wirt­schaft und Ernäh­rung

Bar­ents­burg: Spitsbergen’s stron­gest popu­la­ti­on growth

Bar­ents­burg is cur­r­ent­ly the sett­le­ment with the stron­gest popu­la­ti­on growth in Spits­ber­gen: in ear­ly 2013, the offi­cial num­ber of inha­bi­tants was 471 per­sons or 101 more than 2 years ago. Lon­gye­ar­by­en has, in com­pa­ri­son, seen a plus of 30 during the same peri­od. The mini­mum was reached in Bar­ents­burg in 2010 with 370 per­sons.

The annu­al coal pro­duc­tion has chan­ged litt­le and is still near 120,000 tons, a frac­tion of the pro­duc­tion of modern coal mines else­whe­re. The seams are said to last for ano­t­her 12-15 years. Bey­ond mining, future fiel­ds of eco­no­mic growth are sup­po­sed to be tou­rism and rese­arch. The­re may also be a new Rus­si­an coal mine in Cole­s­da­len, but a decisi­on about this is not expec­ted befo­re 2015.

“Our desti­na­ti­on: com­mu­nism”. This old sign is only of doubt­ful nost­al­gic value. Barentsburg’s future is sup­po­sed to be rather capi­ta­listic.


Source: NRK


The trap­per sta­ti­on at Aus­t­fj­ord­ne­set in inner Wij­defjord may be ope­ned again for trap­pers in autumn 2014. Until 2 years ago, the sta­ti­on, which has a com­pa­ra­tively long histo­ry and is now owned by the Sys­sel­man­nen, was open for use for hun­ters who would stay at least one year to hunt main­ly polar fox and rein­de­er on a pro­fes­sio­nal basis. The sta­ti­on was then clo­sed for rea­sons that are some­what unclear. Initi­al­ly, it was sta­ted that the ope­ra­ti­on requi­red too much of the Sysselmannen’s resour­ces, a rea­so­ning that was dif­fi­cult to fol­low: the main­ten­an­ce was car­ri­ed out any­way regard­less of poten­ti­al pri­va­te use (and pri­va­te users would actual­ly con­tri­bu­te to main­ten­an­ce) and the respec­ti­ve users would essen­ti­al­ly be respon­si­ble for their own logistics and expen­ses (alt­hough it was cus­tom that the Sys­sel­man­nen offe­red trans­por­ta­ti­on with their ves­sel Nord­sys­sel, for examp­le during the annu­al inspec­tion trips in the late sum­mer). In a recent press release, atten­ti­on was rather drawn to inven­to­ry work on near­by his­to­ri­cal sites and the local rein­de­er popu­la­ti­ons and their reco­very from ear­lier hun­ting.

The regu­la­ti­on for pro­fes­sio­nal hun­ting in Spits­ber­gen is cur­r­ent­ly being revi­sed. The inten­ti­on is to pro­vi­de a frame­work to keep a tra­di­ti­on of pro­fes­sio­nal all-year hun­ting ali­ve while not put­ting any pres­su­re on local ani­mal popu­la­ti­ons. The­re are cur­r­ent­ly 3 pri­va­te­ly owned trap­per sta­ti­ons in use for pro­fes­sio­nal hun­ting: Kapp Schol­lin in Bellsund, Farm­ham­na in For­landsund and Kapp Wijk in Isfjord.

The trap­per sta­ti­on at Aus­t­fj­ord­ne­set, inner Wij­defjord.

Rossmeer Küste

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Ross Sea 2013: triplog now avail­ab­le

The first Ross Sea voya­ge of MV Orte­li­us has recent­ly come to an end. The triplog is now avail­ab­le (click here). Exten­si­ve pho­to gal­le­ries will fol­low soon.

The Ross Sea coast near Coul­man Island seen from the heli­co­p­ter.

Ross Sea 2013 - Ross Sea coast

Mil­der win­ters: bad for polar mam­mals

Mil­der win­ter wea­ther with rain ins­tead of snow is not­hing com­ple­te­ly new for polar are­as with a mari­ti­me cli­ma­te such as Spits­ber­gen, but the­re is more of it in times of cli­ma­te chan­ge, a ten­den­cy expec­ted to incre­a­se in the future. Rain that free­zes to ice on cold ground during an alrea­dy dif­fi­cult sea­son has always been dif­fi­cult for rein­de­er, and an incre­a­sed fre­quen­cy of such events will make their alrea­dy chal­len­ging life cer­tain­ly not easier.

Pregnant fema­le polar bears need slo­pes with good snow cover in the ear­ly polar night and good hun­ting grounds on sea ice in spring. Both, but espe­cial­ly the lat­ter, may be lacking more and more fre­quent­ly in the future with a chan­ging cli­ma­te.

Spits­ber­gen-rein­de­er in late win­ter. Ear­ly May 2010, Eskerda­len.

Climate change - Spitsbergen-reindeer in late winter

Source: NINA

Ice in Tem­pel­fjord too thin for Noor­der­licht at usu­al posi­ti­on

As last year, the ice in Tem­pel­fjord (the inner­most branch of Isfjord) is cur­r­ent­ly not strong enough for the two-mas­ted schoo­ner Noor­der­licht to anchor and free­ze fast for win­ter excur­si­ons from Lon­gyear­ben. The ship moved deeper into Tem­pel­jord and is now at anchor at Kapp Schoultz.

Two-mas­ted schoo­ner Noor­der­licht

Two-masted schooner Noorderlicht

Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com and the Ross Sea

The rela­ti­ve lack of acti­vi­ty in the news-sec­tion of Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com is part­ly due to the rela­ti­ve lack of rele­vant news from Spits­ber­gen (look at it this way: no news are good news!), part­ly also to the absence of the main aut­hor, who is cur­r­ent­ly as assi­stant expe­di­ti­on lea­der on MV Orte­li­us on what could be cal­led an “Ant­arc­tic Odys­sey” from Ushua­ia to New Zea­land. A brief visit to the Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la was fol­lo­wed by a suc­cess­ful heli­co­p­ter-Lan­ding on the rare­ly visi­ted Peter I Island. The pas­sa­ge from the­re into the Ross Sea took some more time than sche­du­led due to hea­vy sea ice, but an inten­se 4 days brought a wealth of beau­ty and rich expe­ri­ence. The voya­ge brought new land not also from a geo­gra­phic, but also from a pho­to­gra­phic per­spec­ti­ve: HDR and pan­ora­ma tech­nics were explo­red. Results can soon be seen on this web­site.

Polar night in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com and the Ross Sea - Polarnacht in Longyearbyen


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