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Daily Archives: 18. April 2014 − News & Stories

Rese­arch ves­sel Lan­ce breaks ice in Dick­son­fjord

In the north and east, the drif­ting sea ice is now more and more clo­sing around Spitsbergen’s coast, but the fjords remain lar­ge­ly ice-free this year. Even fjords that usual­ly free­ze over qui­te reli­ab­ly, such as Tem­pel­fjord, Bill­efjord, Dick­son­fjord, Ekmanfjord (all bran­ches of Isfjord) as well as Wij­defjord and Van Mijen­fjord are far more open than they usual­ly are, much to the reg­ret of tho­se who are enjoy­ing the cur­rent ski, dog sledge and snow mobi­le sea­son – and, more import­ant­ly, the wild­life, who needs the ice to give birth to their off­spring, such as Rin­ged seals, or to find food, as the polar bear does.

At least, some fjords are fro­zen in their inner­most parts. Dick­son­fjord had an ice cover that came clo­ser to nor­mal stan­dards than in the case of most other fjords.

Recent­ly, from 8 to 10 April, the rese­arch ves­sel Lan­ce bro­ke a lead of several kilo­me­tres into the fast ice of Dick­son­fjord. This was done as part of a field cour­se in sea ice, ori­gi­nal­ly sche­du­led to take place in Horn­sund, but as ice con­di­ti­ons the­re did not deve­lop sui­ta­b­ly, UNIS app­lied for per­mis­si­on to break a lead of “several ship’s lengths” into Dick­son­fjord.

The result is an ope­ning several kilo­me­tres long. At the inner­most posi­ti­on, the ice thic­kness was a mere 35 cen­ti­me­tres. Fur­ther out, it was even less. It can accord­in­gly not be expec­ted that the ice free­zes solid again during the cur­rent sea­son. It seems rather likely that the long crack may decre­a­se the sta­bi­li­ty of the who­le fjord ice, poten­ti­al­ly con­tri­bu­ting to an ear­lier break-up of the ice in Dick­son­fjord.

The lead bro­ken by Lan­ce is met with cri­ti­cism from several sides. Amongst others, Harald Soleim, a Nor­we­gi­an trap­per who has lived in Dick­son­fjord for many years, is less than amu­sed. During spring, he uses the fjord ice to tra­vel wit­hin his hun­ting area by snow mobi­le. He was not even infor­med about the lead bro­ken by Lan­ce and descri­bed the unex­pec­ted ope­ning as “direct­ly life dan­ge­rous”. UNIS reg­rets not having infor­med Soleim in advan­ce. If brea­king up fjord ice in times of low ice cover, at the cost of wild­life and humans, is jus­ti­fied for a sci­en­ti­fic field cour­se, may be dis­pu­ted. It is doubt­ful that per­mis­si­on had been given if stan­dards for sci­en­ti­fic ope­ra­ti­ons were equal­ly strict as for tou­ris­tic acti­vi­ties.

Fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord: much less than nor­mal in terms of area and thic­kness. It is con­tro­ver­si­al for which pur­po­se the ice may be bro­ken when the­re is alrea­dy less than nee­ded any­way.

Fjord ice, Tempelfjord

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen (Feltlogg), Sval­bard­pos­ten

Man fell 6 metres into gla­cier crev­as­se on Con­way­jø­ku­len

The simi­la­ri­ty to the next to last head­line is no coin­ci­dence: again, a ski­er fell down a crev­as­se on a gla­cier in Spits­ber­gen. And again, it went well in the end.

A group of five tou­rists led by one gui­de was on the way back from a trip to New­ton­top­pen, Spitsbergen’s hig­hest moun­tain. In the area of Con­way­jø­ku­len, nor­the­ast of Bill­efjord, the group got into crev­as­sed area. At the time (Thurs­day, 16 April) the wea­ther was bad in the area, with strong winds and drif­ting snow and visi­bi­li­ty accord­in­gly poor. The six ski­ers were roped up into two groups of three per­sons each, when the gui­de, lea­ding the first group, well down into a crev­as­se. His two fol­lo­wers could, howe­ver, stop his fall after 6 metres. The second team approa­ched the crev­as­se and final­ly mana­ged to retrie­ve the emer­gen­cy beacon, which the gui­de had with him.

Due to the poor visi­bi­li­ty on the ground, the res­cue heli­co­p­ter was not able to land, des­pi­te several attempts. Res­cue for­ces in Lon­gye­ar­by­en pre­pa­red a ski expe­di­ti­on, and the heli­co­p­ter pre­pa­red to winch the six per­sons all up indi­vi­du­al­ly, when the wea­ther impro­ved slight­ly, allowing the heli­co­p­ter to land. Mean­while, the five ski­ers on the ground had mana­ged to get their gui­de up from the crev­as­se. He had suf­fe­red light shoul­der inju­ries, but was other­wi­se unhurt.

All six and their dog could then board the heli­co­p­ter and return to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The exact posi­ti­on of the crev­as­se has not been publis­hed. The wide gla­cier are­as of Lomo­no­ss­ov­fon­na are gene­ral­ly thought to have few crev­as­ses only. It is pos­si­ble that the group had ended up some­whe­re they would not have gone in bet­ter visi­bi­li­ty. It is not known if the crev­as­se had been visi­ble under bet­ter con­di­ti­ons.

Gla­cier land­s­cape in the area of Lomo­no­ss­ov­fon­na, not far from Con­way­jø­ku­len, whe­re a man fell 6 metres into a crev­as­se on Thurs­day.


Sources: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten


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