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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.

Barentsburg

Source: NRK

Aus­t­fj­ord­ne­set

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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