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Yearly Archives: 2013 − News & Stories


Queen Son­ja of Nor­way in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Queen Son­ja of Nor­way ope­ned the world nort­hern­most jazz fes­ti­val “Polar­jazz” and the exhi­bi­ti­on “Tre rei­ser – tre lands­kap” (Three jour­neys – three land­s­capes) at Sval­bard gal­le­ry. Queen Son­ja pre­sen­ted also her own pic­tures (pho­to­graphs) from a visit to Spits­ber­gen in 2006. The­re are, amongst others, pic­tures from an ice cave in Bol­terda­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Ice cave in Bol­terda­len

Queen Sonja of Norway in Longyearbyen - Ice cave in Bolterdalen

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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