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Monthly Archives: October 2014 − News & Stories

Begin­ning of the polar night, Krossfjord pan­ora­ma pages

The polar night has begun in Spits­ber­gen some days ago, and it won’t be befo­re the second half of Febru­a­ry that the sun will be visi­ble again abo­ve the hori­zon. In the dar­kest time, from mid Decem­ber to ear­ly Janu­a­ry, it will be dark 24/7. Only stars, moon and nort­hern lights will cast some bleak light over the snow-cove­r­ed land­s­cape when the sky is clear.

A good time to sort pho­tos and take care of the web­site. Krossfjord has now got the site it deser­ves, being one of Spitsbergen’s big­gest and most beau­ti­ful fjords. A map makes it easy to navi­ga­te through several sub-pages that have got pan­ora­ma seri­es and vir­tu­al tours of a num­ber of pla­ces in Krossfjord, of cour­se inclu­ding some back­ground infor­ma­ti­on.

One of many new pan­ora­mas from Krossfjord.


Polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, final act

The polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (see pre­vious posts) is not in Lon­gye­ar­by­en any­mo­re. Today (Thurs­day, 16 Octo­ber) at 12.45 hours, it was seda­ted and then flown out to a remo­te part of Sval­bard. Befo­re the polar bear actual­ly fell asleep, it still wal­ked for about 3 kilo­me­tres from the shore of Advent­fjord, whe­re it had been lying for a while, to the old nort­hern light obser­va­to­ry (at the old run­way) in Advent­da­len. After the usu­al weig­hing, mea­su­ring and mar­king, it was flown nor­thwards.

The Sys­sel­man­nen wants to get it as far away as pos­si­ble, pre­fer­a­b­ly to ano­t­her island rather than the main island Spits­ber­gen. The exact place will, howe­ver, depend on the wea­ther during the flight. The initi­al­ly nort­her­ly direc­tion may, howe­ver, point to Nord­aus­t­land as a pos­si­ble new home for the bear. If it beco­mes simi­lar­ly faith­ful to a smal­ler area the­re as he did near Lon­gyear­ben, is some­thing nobo­dy can cur­r­ent­ly know, pro­bab­ly inclu­ding the polar bear its­elf.

A lar­ger num­ber of peop­le used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a glim­pse of the bear in a distance of about 540 metres. For some, it was the first time to see a polar bear in the wild.

Appro­xi­ma­te posi­ti­on of the polar bear near Lon­gye­ar­by­en when it was seda­ted (red dot). Image base: Goog­le Earth.

Polar bear Longyearben

Source: http://svalbardposten.no/index.php?page=vis_nyhet&NyhetID=5128

Polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: part II

Yes­ter­day (Wed­nes­day, 15 Octo­ber) a polar bear visi­ted Lon­gye­ar­by­en (see yesterday’s post here). The bear was final­ly dri­ven away by the Sys­sel­man­nen (poli­ce), who fol­lo­wed it several kilo­me­tres by heli­co­p­ter to make sure it would return direct­ly.

But it did. Now, the polar bear is some­whe­re on the sea shore of Advent­fjord adja­cent to Advent­da­len, clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Tog­e­ther with the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, the Sys­sel­man­nen is now pre­pa­ring an attempt to seda­te the polar bear and then fly out out to a remo­te loca­ti­on in the Spits­ber­gen archi­pe­la­go.

The Sys­sel­man­nen asks ever­y­bo­dy to stay away from the­re area until this has been done.

The polar bear is appro­xi­mate­ly in the area mar­ked red near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Image base: Goog­le Earth.

Polar bear near Longyearben

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Polar bears were seen in the vicini­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en several times during the last cou­p­le of weeks, for examp­le in Hior­th­hamn, on the north side of Advent­fjord about 3 km from town, in late August, and in near­by Advent­da­len.

Last sunday (12 Octo­ber) morning, a polar bear was seen just east of Isdam­men, the lake east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, near the road. But the “high­light” was cer­tain­ly the bear that actual­ly ent­e­red the lower part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, near Advent­da­len, today (Wed­nes­day, 15 Octo­ber) in the ear­ly morning. The polar bear came from Advent­fjord and wal­ked past Inge­niør Paul­sen (a shop) and to the row of resi­den­ti­al buil­dings east of Forsk­nings­par­ken (the UNIS/Svalhardmuseum buil­ding), wal­king direct­ly next to the houses in vei 238, part­ly bet­ween them. Then, it went back into Advent­da­len, whe­re it was found by the poli­ce near the first dogyard, only a few 100 metres from town. The Sys­sel­man­nen (poli­ce) sca­red the bear away and fol­lo­wed it for a while by heli­co­p­ter to make sure it would not return strai­gh­ta­way. It went into Mälarda­len, a val­ley on the oppo­si­te side of Advent­da­len.

It was an unplea­sant sur­pri­se for the inha­bi­tants of the houses in vei 238 to see the polar bear tracks whe­re some had been wal­king late­ly in the evening befo­re. The thought of sud­den­ly mee­ting a polar bear on the way home from school, work or the pub is qui­te unplea­sant. At least, most peop­le do not lock their doors, so in the worst case most houses offer shel­ter in case it is urgent­ly nee­ded.

The Sys­sel­man­nen asks ever­y­bo­dy to be care­ful, espe­cial­ly as the dark sea­son is now star­ting and a bear may be dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble to see befo­re it is actual­ly clo­se.

This time, the polar bear was not only in Hior­th­hamn, as in this pho­to from late August, but actual­ly in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, clo­se to Advent­da­len. It may have been the same indi­vi­du­al.

Polar bear near Longyearben

Quel­le: Sys­sel­man­nen

The arc­tic sea­son 2014 in retro­spec­ti­ve: Bjørnøya, Jan May­en, Spits­ber­gen …

I can’t deny that the arc­tic sea­son 2014 is histo­ry now. The last ent­ry in my tra­vel blog is alrea­dy 3 weeks old (ages in times of social media), and in 2 weeks, the polar night will start to shed its darkness over our beloved Spits­ber­gen. Alrea­dy now, it is pret­ty uncom­for­ta­ble up the­re, out in the field; the tours in Sep­tem­ber were alrea­dy bles­sed with free­zing tem­pe­ra­tures and qui­te a lot of snow and wind. Well. The out­door sea­son is defi­ni­te­ly over north of the arc­tic cir­cle. Full stop.

So the arc­tic expe­ri­ence hap­pens, to a lar­ge degree, on the com­pu­ter screen at the time being. But that isn’t as bad as it may sound. Not only that it invol­ves a far smal­ler risk of frost­bi­te and exhaus­ti­on. But also, even in my 18th Spits­ber­gen sum­mer, all the­se impres­si­ons come down on me as a water­fall. Beau­ti­ful, migh­ty, but also a bit over­whel­ming, threa­tening to bury the indi­vi­du­al expe­ri­ence under a flood of impres­si­ons, sightin­gs, acti­vi­ties … I can cer­tain­ly recall last summer’s trips day by day, remem­ber pret­ty much all the hikes, lan­dings, sai­lings, wild­life sightin­gs, wea­ther etc., not to men­ti­on the expe­ri­ence of con­stant­ly sharing all this with groups, col­leagues, crew, friends (the­re isn’t necessa­ri­ly a strict dis­tinc­tion bet­ween some of the­se groups) without refer­ring to any dia­ry or other brain sup­port. But after all this exci­te­ment has been every day life for many mon­ths, it is a good thing to sit down for a while, have qui­te a few cups of tea and revi­ve the expe­ri­ence in my head.

This turns a neces­si­ty into an advan­ta­ge. It is a neces­si­ty to com­ple­te triplogs and sli­de­shows after the sea­son, the­re is sim­ply not enough time to do it all on the road, and I con­si­der it an important ser­vice to my guests. So it has to be done after the sea­son, to some degree. So now I have the plea­su­re to recall all tho­se trips again, go through count­less pho­tos, turn them into pho­to gal­le­ries and sli­de­shows, com­pi­le triplogs … unbe­liev­a­ble, the­se mon­ths! Hund­reds of kilo­me­tres of hiking over tun­dra and moun­tains, across snow and rocks, beaches and gla­ciers, mud­dy soli­fluc­tion soil and san­dy vol­ca­nic ashes, from Bear Island and Jan May­en to Sjuøya­ne, Spitsbergen’s fur­thest north, and a lot of what is in bet­ween.

Join me, if you want to, on the­se retro­spec­ti­ves. It does not take any effort bey­ond a mouse­click, it does not cost any­mo­re than a few minu­tes of time – a pre­cious resour­ce, I know, but I am sure, it will be worth it. So have a look at the pho­to gal­le­ries of the 2014 arc­tic sea­son. The­se pages are lar­ge­ly com­ple­te by know, only one or the other sli­de­show is still to fol­low, but it won’t take long. And my tip: the polar pan­ora­mas with 360 degree pan­or­amic images from all parts of the arc­tic (and Ant­arc­tic, for that sake) that I have tra­vel­led recent­ly. It is by far the lar­gest collec­tion of its kind, and it is gro­wing. It is almost like being the­re, as you rota­te a polar sce­ne­ry 360 degrees. Make a vir­tu­al trip to the arc­tic every day, explo­re a beau­ti­ful place you didn’t even know exis­ted, be in such a won­der­ful place, vir­tual­ly, for a moment. It will give you a moment of peace and beau­ty, almost as being the­re in rea­li­ty. Espe­cial­ly the pan­or­amic tours, which play almost like a litt­le film, illus­tra­ting a place and tel­ling some kind of sto­ry about it. For examp­le: the famous trap­per hut Fred­heim in Tem­pel­fjord, the remo­te, small islands of Ryke Yse­øya­ne or, of cour­se, Jan May­en.

The­re won’t be any new tra­vel blogs here for a while. May­be I will have one or the other blog here, but no reports from “out the­re” in the new future. But I will feed the Spits­ber­gen news a bit more fre­quent­ly, so mean­while, check them.

View over Lil­lie­höök­breen in August. One of many pri­celess moments of the last sum­mer.


Polar bear in hotel bar in Pyra­mi­den

Several polar bears have been han­ging out in the Bill­efjord area, north of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, for qui­te a while alrea­dy. The­se have ben seen many times by tou­rists and the 14 per­sons who are working and living in the lar­ge­ly aban­do­ned Rus­si­an sett­le­ment Pyra­mi­den. Several times during the sum­mer, a bear has been seen insi­de Pyra­mi­den, also direct­ly next to hotel Tuli­pan, whe­re several peop­le live and whe­re guests are lod­ged.

Now, the polar bear has liter­al­ly gone a step too far: during the night to Mon­day, it went through a win­dow into the bar to have a look around. The human inha­bi­tants of the hotel were woken up by the noi­se, but pre­fer­red to lea­ve the polar bear alo­ne to its busi­ness. No infor­ma­ti­on has been publis­hed about dama­ged that is likely to have hap­pen­ed, other than that the living bear was not inte­res­ted in his pad­ded con­spe­ci­fic fel­low. It is not known if the polar bear show­ed any inte­res­ted in the strong drinks that are stored in the bar.

In any case, it had alrea­dy left when the Sys­sel­man­nen arri­ved on the sce­ne. Des­pi­te a 1.5 hour heli­co­p­ter search, the bar bear could not be found.

As repeated attempts to sca­re the polar bear away from Pyra­mi­den have not yiel­ded anything bey­ond short-term suc­cess, the Sys­sel­man­nen has now deci­ded to tran­qui­li­ze the bear and move him to a remo­te desti­na­ti­on when he comes back.

It is likely the same polar bear that bothe­red a stu­dent camp near Nor­dens­kiöld­breen oppo­si­te Pyra­mi­den a few weeks ago (when the gre­at pho­to with the bear and the Sval­bard­bu­tik­ken plastic bag was taken).

Polar bear in the bar of Hotel Tuli­pan in Pyra­mi­den (and yes, this pho­to is a pho­to­shop affair, obvious­ly).

Polar bear in Pyramiden

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

“Wild­life spe­cia­lists” bar­ked at wal­rus­ses

Pro­bab­ly, you have to read the head­line twice to belie­ve it: yes, peop­le were grun­ting at wal­rus­ses, not the other way around. This remar­kab­le event is said to have hap­pen­ed on July 16 at Torell­ne­set in Hin­lo­pen Strait during a pas­sen­ger lan­ding from MS Expe­di­ti­on.

A guest wro­te a let­ter later to Sys­sel­man­nen and Sval­bard­pos­ten, becau­se 2 “wild­life spe­cia­lists” from the ship dis­tur­bed wal­rus­ses to achie­ve “good” pho­to­graphs. The 2 “spe­cia­lists” are said to have approa­ched wal­rus­ses in shal­low water to distan­ces of about 2 metres and then to have “bar­ked” and “grun­ted”, assum­a­b­ly to make the wal­rus­ses move for “bet­ter” pho­to­graphs. Later, other staff jus­ti­fied this beha­vious by say­ing the “spe­cia­lists” knew what they were doing.

Accord­ing to the Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal act, it is for­bid­den to “hunt, catch, harm or kill” ani­mals. The Sys­sel­man­nen will inves­ti­ga­te if the inci­dent is a bre­ach of legal regu­la­ti­ons. In any case, an acti­ve approach of less than 30 metres distance is not allo­wed accord­ing to AECO-regu­la­ti­ons. AECO is an orga­ni­sa­ti­on of ship-based arc­tic tour ope­ra­tors with, amongst others, the pur­po­se of self-regu­la­ti­on. To achie­ve this, AECO has crea­ted gui­de­li­nes which are often stric­ter than legal requi­re­ments. The­se gui­de­li­nes are bin­ding for mem­bers such as the ope­ra­tor of the MS Expe­di­ti­on, who has announ­ced inter­nal inves­ti­ga­ti­ons and con­fir­med a gene­ral dedi­ca­ti­on to high envi­ron­men­tal stan­dards. AECO is now con­si­de­ring to dis­cuss the inci­dent on their annu­al mem­ber mee­ting.

In any case, an approach to about 2 metres distance to wal­rus­ses for tou­ris­tic pur­po­ses is defi­ni­te­ly not accep­ta­ble. It is also com­ple­te­ly unne­cessa­ry: wal­rus­ses, usual­ly rather lazy and inac­ti­ve on shore, are often lively and curious in the water. It is not too unusu­al that curious wal­rus­ses them­sel­ves approach peop­le who are stan­ding on land near the water­line to clo­se distan­ces – without any dis­tur­ban­ce of wild­life by bar­king or grun­ting or wha­te­ver.

It is usual­ly easy to see on pho­to­graphs if ani­mals have been dis­tur­bed. Such pho­tos are today hard­ly accep­ted any­mo­re by pro­fes­sio­nal publis­hers.

Wal­rus­ses can be very curious when swim­ming: the­se ani­mals deci­ded free­ly to approach a group of tou­rists, who were not moving, without any dis­tur­ban­ce of anyo­ne or anything. An acti­ve approach of tou­rists to such clo­se distance is neit­her allo­wed nor accep­ta­ble.

Walrusses and people

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

„Polar­sys­sel“: A new ship for the Sys­sel­man­nen

After a delay of near­ly four mon­ths, the Sysselmannen´s new ship Polar­sys­sel could be named and offi­cial­ly taken into ser­vice on Satur­day, Sep­tem­ber 20th. The cere­mo­ny was held at the ‘Gam­mel­ka­ia’ in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the pre­sence of the Nor­we­gi­an Minis­ter of Jus­ti­ce Anders Amund­sen.

The Polar­sys­sel repla­ces the Nord­sys­sel which in Sep­tem­ber last year, after it´s ele­venth sea­son in ser­vice for the Sys­sel­man­nen, left Spits­ber­gen for the last time. To com­pen­sa­te the new ship´s delay the begin­ning of this year´s sea­son, star­ting in May, was run by a ship of the Ice­lan­dic coast­guard cal­led Tyr.

Unli­ke for­mer ships of the Sys­sel­man­nen, the new Polar­sys­sel was cus­tom-built for ser­vice in Spits­ber­gen and is equip­ped for the spe­cial requi­re­ments of the Sys­sel­man­nen. The vessel´s main tasks will be in the fiel­ds of res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons, envi­ron­men­tal moni­to­ring and the pre­ven­ti­on of oil pol­lu­ti­on.

The Polar­sys­sel is equip­ped with a heli­co­p­ter deck, a winch to tow other ves­sels, infra­red and optic came­ras to find per­sons or lea­king oil, water can­nons to fight fire, a medi­cal room, two work-boats which can be laun­ched quick­ly and the faci­li­ties for an exter­nal power sup­ply to save fuel when the ship lies at the pier in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. With the Polar­sys­sel a ship with the ice class 1B was cho­sen, dif­fe­ring from its ante­ces­sor ‘Nord­sys­sel’ which had the hig­hest ice class 1A Super. The Polar­sys­sel has a crew of 9 per­sons, cabin space for 21 pas­sen­gers and a capa­ci­ty for 35 day-pas­sen­gers.

The hull was built in Tur­key and the ship was then moun­ted and equip­ped in the Havy­ard ship­y­ard in the Nor­we­gi­an town Leir­vik. She is lea­sed out to the Sys­sel­man­nen by the ship­ping com­pa­ny Remøy Manage­ment. Owner of the ves­sel is the Ice­lan­dic com­pa­ny Faf­nir Off­shore. The con­tract for using the Polar­sys­sel ends in 2020 for the time being. After this, the Sys­sel­man­nen has the opti­on to renew it until 2024. The cos­ts for using the ship will be 329 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an Kro­ner in the first ten years. Though, each sea­son the Polar­sys­sel will only stay in Spits­ber­gen for six mon­ths, from May to Novem­ber. During win­ter time it will ser­ve on other occa­si­ons for examp­le as a sup­ply ves­sel for the off­shore oil indus­try.

The new Polar­sys­sel will pro­bab­ly not win beau­ty con­tests, but she is an extre­me­ly func­tio­n­al ship (Foto: Cemreshipyard.com).


Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Sys­sel­man­nen


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