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Yearly Archives: 2014 − News & Stories


Rein­de­er kil­led in traf­fic acci­dent in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Traf­fic in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is usual­ly qui­te safe, but Mon­day evening saw a tra­gic acci­dent when a car hit a rein­de­er on way 500. The animal’s back was bro­ken, and the poli­ce did accord­in­gly not have a choice but to kill the rein­de­er on the spot.

The­re are almost always some rein­de­er some­whe­re in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and they are usual­ly not afraid of peop­le or moving vehi­cles and they don’t watch out for cars befo­re cros­sing roads. Dri­vers the­re­fo­re have to take gre­at care, espe­cial­ly at times of darkness.

Way 500 is the “main street” bet­ween the cent­re and the river. Most streets in Lon­gye­ar­by­en do not have names but num­bers.

Rein­de­er next to the road in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Reindeer, Longyearbyen

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Polar voya­ges 2014, 2015: Spits­ber­gen, Jan May­en, East Green­land

Most of my polar voya­ges in 2014 have alrea­dy been ful­ly boo­ked for qui­te some time. If you still want to join in 2014, then you have got the pos­si­bi­li­ty to do so in Sep­tem­ber, focus­sing on natu­ral histo­ry, pho­to­gra­phy and hiking with SV Anti­gua. Click here for more info (Ger­man site, as the trip is Ger­man spea­king).

Now I have also got most of the dates for 2015 fixed. Detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on is yet to come, but as most voya­ges will, accord­ing to expe­ri­ence, be ful­ly boo­ked at an ear­ly sta­ge, I do recom­mend to get in touch in case you are inte­res­ted.

The fol­lowing trips in Spits­ber­gen are plan­ned for 2015 (they will be Ger­man spea­king, so you should speak a bit if you want to join, but of cour­se it does not have to be your first lan­guage):

  • Around Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua, June 30- July 17, 2015.
  • Advan­ced Spits­ber­gen: Expe­di­ti­on with SY Arc­ti­ca II, July 19- August 06, 2015.
  • West and North Spits­ber­gen with Anti­gua, focus­sing on gla­ciers: Sep­tem­ber 15-25, 2015. Have a look at the pho­tos of a simi­lar voya­ge in 2012.!

Jan May­en: our expe­di­ti­ons to Jan May­en are ful­ly boo­ked more quick­ly than we can adver­ti­se them pro­per­ly, which is qui­te ama­zing! This is the case both for 2014 and 2015, so if you are inte­res­ted to spend a week on Jan May­en, then we are now loo­king at 2016 and you should get in touch soo­ner rather than later.

We are also plan­ning ano­t­her trip into Scores­by­sund (east Green­land) with SV Ópal, simi­lar to 2013, so have a look at the pho­tos (trip 1 and trip 2) to get an impres­si­on. The plan­ning for ano­t­her trip to East Green­land in 2015 is cur­r­ent­ly still in an ear­lier pha­se.

Sai­ling expe­di­ti­ons in the arc­tic: Spits­ber­gen, Jan May­en, East Green­land 2015.

Antigua, Spitsbergen

Febru­a­ry tem­pe­ra­tures in Lon­gye­ar­by­en 15 degrees abo­ve average

In Febru­a­ry, the average tem­pe­ra­tu­re was no less than 15 degrees abo­ve the long-term average. For weeks, the tem­pe­ra­tures have oscil­la­ted around free­zing. Only the first 10 days, the air was at -10°C or below. Sin­ce then, tem­pe­ra­te Atlan­tic air­mas­ses have moved north to push col­der, arc­tic air­mas­ses fur­ther away.

Meteo­ro­lo­gists have cal­cu­la­ted the average tem­pe­ra­tu­re of Febru­a­ry in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to be -1.2°C. The long-term average for Febru­a­ry is -16.2°C.

It can be assu­med that it is not only the air that is cur­r­ent­ly war­mer than it used to be, but also the waters around Spits­ber­gen. The ice situa­ti­on seems to con­firm this, as lar­ge parts of the waters east and north of Spits­ber­gen are far more open than they usual­ly are at this time of the year. Even inner bran­ches of the fjords such as Tem­pel­fjord and Bill­efjord have not yet real­ly fro­zen over so far.

The cur­rent wea­ther fore­cast for the next 10 days does at least not show any tem­pe­ra­tures abo­ve free­zing. While it was not far below zero in Lon­gye­ar­by­en over the wee­kend, tem­pe­ra­tures at the east coast were said to be near -30°C.

Also in Nor­way, the win­ter has, so far, been far mil­der than it usual­ly is.

Even the small Advent­fjord has not real­ly been fro­zen in several years by now.

Adventfjord, Spitsbergen

Source: NRK

New coal mine at Lunck­ef­jel­let offi­cial­ly ope­ned

The mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske (SNSK) has ope­ned the new coal mine at Lunck­ef­jel­let, bet­ween Sveagru­va and Reinda­len, offi­cial­ly on Tues­day (Febru­a­ry 25). Next to miners and com­pa­ny offi­cials, the local admin­stra­ti­on from Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Nor­we­gi­an media were pre­sent at Lunck­ef­jel­let. Miner Ter­je Nyland has cut the sym­bo­lic cord to mark the ope­ning. He was deter­mi­ned to do so by lot, rather than an offi­cial taking the job, a nice ges­tu­re by the mining com­pa­ny.

It is 14 years ago a new coal mine was ope­ned on Sval­bard for the last time.

The first ton of coal left Lunck­ef­jel­let alrea­dy on Octo­ber 25 as part of the pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for mining, which are now almost finis­hed. Soon, ever­ything is sup­po­sed to be rea­dy for a dai­ly pro­duc­tion of 10,000 tons coal.

SNSK is cur­r­ent­ly expe­ri­en­cing eco­no­mi­c­al­ly chal­len­ging years. Pri­ces on the world mar­ket are under pres­su­re, and the risk con­nec­ted to exchan­ge rate fluc­tua­tions is high. A 1 % loss of the dol­lar rate may cost the com­pa­ny up to more than 1,2 mil­li­on Euro. The last time Store Nor­ske has finis­hed a year with a posi­ti­ve result is several years ago. A nega­ti­ve result is expec­ted also for 2014, alt­hough the pres­su­re is expec­ted to les­sen due to first bene­fits of the new mine. On the other side, cos­ts for the ope­ning of the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine as well as incre­a­sed cos­ts at Svea Nord, whe­re pro­duc­tion is get­ting into mar­gi­nal sta­ges, are incre­a­sing the pres­su­re.

Store Nor­ske has publis­hed the fol­lowing figu­res for 2013:

• Pro­duc­tion: 1,855,000 tons of coal (2012: 1,229,000)
• Inco­me: 1,32 bil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an Kro­ner (2012: ca. 160 mil­li­on)
• Sales: 2,135.000 tons of coal (2012: 701,000 tons)

The eco­no­mi­c­al situa­ti­on of the new mine at Lunck­ef­jel­let, plan­ned to be pro­duc­ti­ve for 6-7 years only, is descri­bed as mar­gi­nal by com­pa­ny lea­ders alrea­dy given cur­rent mar­ket con­di­ti­ons. Store Nor­ske invests in rese­arch which is sup­po­sed to incre­a­se sales pri­ces or gene­ra­te addi­tio­nal inco­me from, for examp­le, tech­ni­cal upgrading of coal. On the long term, the com­pa­ny has hopes for fur­ther new mines near Sveagru­va (at the moun­tain Ispal­len) and Lon­gye­ar­by­en (Ope­raf­jel­let).

New future mines are poli­ti­cal­ly uncer­tain. Peop­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are, howe­ver, awa­re that coal mining is still by far the most important sin­gle eco­no­mi­c­al fac­tor to sup­port local jobs and accord­in­gly the popu­la­ti­on of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Coal-bea­ring lay­ers at Lunck­ef­jel­let. Foto: Mal­te Joch­mann, SNSK.

Lunckefjellet, Spitsbergen

Sources: SNSK Bedrifts­nytt, Sval­bard­pos­ten (09/2014)

Rus­sia inten­si­fies mili­ta­ry acti­vi­ty in the Arc­tic

In 2014, Rus­sia wants to inten­si­fy its mili­ta­ry acti­vi­ty in the Arc­tic by estab­li­shing a new com­mand struc­tu­re which has the objec­ti­ve to defend Russia´s natio­nal inte­rests in this regi­on. This inclu­des the pro­tec­tion of mili­ta­ry faci­li­ties and civi­li­an ships as well as secu­ring access to the mine­ral resour­ces on the Arc­tic shelf.

The new mili­ta­ry struc­tu­re will be cal­led “Nort­hern Fleet – United Stra­te­gic Com­mand” (SF-OSK). Its sta­tus will be that of a mili­ta­ry district, even if this is not offi­cial­ly shown in its name. So far, the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry is orga­ni­zed in four lar­ge districts: Wes­tern, Sou­thern, Cen­tral and Eas­tern.

The main com­bat for­ce of the SF-OSK will be the Nort­hern Fleet, which is based at the Mur­mansk regi­on, clo­se to the Nor­we­gi­an bor­der. It will be with­drawn from the “Wes­tern Mili­ta­ry District” to form the basis of the new struc­tu­re. Other units from Nort­hern Rus­sia will be added and new units will be based at Nova­ya Zem­lya, at Franz Josef Land and on the Novo­si­birsk Islands.

This new stra­te­gic ori­en­ta­ti­on of the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry must be seen in rela­ti­on to the explo­ra­ti­on of resour­ces in the Arc­tic during the last years. Esti­ma­tes tell us that about 30% of the world´s undis­co­ve­r­ed gas depo­sits and 15% of the oil are loca­ted on the Arc­tic shelf. Here, as other coun­tries in this regi­on, Rus­sia defends its eco­no­mic inte­rests, without making a secret of it. Pro­po­sals of put­ting the Arc­tic under the con­trol of the inter­na­tio­nal com­mu­ni­ty or to estab­lish pro­tec­ted are­as, simi­lar to tho­se in the Ant­arc­tic, were unam­bi­guous­ly refu­sed by the Rus­si­an Pre­si­dent Vla­di­mir Putin in Octo­ber 2013.

Bukh­ta Tik­ha­ya, a sta­ti­on on Hoo­ker Island (Ost­rov Guke­ra), Franz Josef Land, aban­do­ned in 1959. In 2014, Rus­sia wants to incre­a­se its pre­sence in the area again.

Bukhta Tikhaya, Franz Josef Land

Source: Bar­ents­no­va

Retre­at of Arc­tic sea ice acce­le­ra­tes glo­bal war­ming

The retre­at of Arc­tic sea ice acts as an acce­le­ra­tor for cli­ma­te chan­ge, sin­ce the bright ice sur­faces reflect much more sun­light than the dar­ker sur­faces of open water. Ice reflects up to 90% of solar ener­gy back to space while water absorbs a lar­ge amount of ener­gy and warms both its­elf and the over­ly­ing air lay­ers.

If war­ming leads to retrea­ting ice, then this effect cau­ses addi­tio­nal war­ming and the ice melts even fas­ter: a clas­si­cal posi­ti­ve feed­back reac­tion. Of cour­se this would also work the other way around: If lower tem­pe­ra­tures cau­se an expan­si­on of snow and ice cove­r­ed are­as, this would lead to an addi­tio­nal coo­ling.

The abi­li­ty of sur­faces to reflect radia­ti­on is expres­sed by the albe­do, a figu­re that quan­ti­fies the amount of reflec­ted radia­ti­on in per­cent.

Sci­en­tists of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cali­for­nia in San Die­go could now, by satel­li­te mea­su­ring, veri­fy that the albe­do north of the 60. degree of lati­tu­de is fal­ling and that this is rela­ted to the retre­at of arc­tic sea ice. The result of the mea­su­re­ments is that the albe­do decre­a­sed from 0,52 to 0,48 bet­ween 1979 and 2011. Ins­tead of 52% now only 48% of the solar radia­ti­on in the Arc­tic is reflec­ted. This cor­re­sponds to an addi­tio­nal average input of solar ener­gy of ca. 6,4 W/m² sin­ce 1979. Aver­aged over the glo­be this cor­re­sponds to an addi­tio­nal ener­gy input of 0,21 W/m², which is 25% of the amount attri­bu­t­ed to the incre­a­se of CO2 in the same peri­od.

The­se figu­res are signi­fi­cant­ly hig­her than tho­se expec­ted befo­re by models and esti­ma­tes.

Ano­t­her result of the mea­su­ring is the fact that the albe­do also decre­a­sed in are­as which were cove­r­ed with ice all over the year. One explana­ti­on for this is an incre­a­sing occur­rence of melt water lakes on the ice which again absorb more solar ener­gy and cau­se addi­tio­nal war­ming.

Mel­ting fjord ice, Lief­defjord.

Fjord ice, Liefdefjord

Sources: Spie­gel Online Wis­sen­schaft, Pro­cee­dings of the Natio­nal Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces of the United Sta­tes of Ame­ri­ca (PNAS)

Polar night, polar day

Thurs­day (Febru­a­ry 20) the return of the sun at the end of the polar night is cele­bra­ted in Bar­ents­burg. Lon­gye­ar­by­en has to wait until March 08, becau­se the­re are more moun­tains towards the sou­thern hori­zon.

A good oppor­tu­ni­ty for some gene­ral thoughs about polar night and polar day. The basic celesti­al mecha­nics are gene­ral­ly known: the tilt of the axis of the Earth, which is the rea­son for polar night and day. Also the so-cal­led Nova­ya Zem­lya effect: the refrac­tion of sun­light in the cold atmo­s­phe­re, which makes the polar day see­min­gly (!) lon­ger than it should be, astro­no­mi­c­al­ly: the sun is visi­ble even though it is actual­ly just under the hori­zon, becau­se the sun rays are refrac­ted in the cold atmo­s­phe­re. This makes a dif­fe­rence of several days and depends on the wea­ther situa­ti­on. It is cal­led Nova­ya Zem­lya effect becau­se of an ear­ly obser­va­ti­on of this phe­no­me­non on Nova­ya Zem­lya by Wil­lem Bar­entsz’ expe­di­ti­on, 1596-97, the same voya­ge during which Spits­ber­gen was dis­co­ve­r­ed.

So far so good. But still, the polar night should have the same dura­ti­on in Arc­tic and Ant­arc­tic on any given lati­tu­de, one would expect. But this is not the case. This is a quo­ta­ti­on from the South Polar Times, the famous expe­di­ti­on gazet­te publis­hed for the first time during Scott’s first expe­di­ti­on on the Dis­co­very in April 1902. The edi­tor, by the way, was a cer­tain Ernest Shack­le­ton. The fol­lowing quo­ta­ti­on is on page 18: “The South Polar Win­ter is near­ly eight days lon­ger than the North Polar Win­ter. This is becau­se in the for­mer case, the Earth is far­t­her away from the Sun (aphe­li­on) ,and the­re­fo­re moves more slow­ly in its orbit. In the Nort­hern Win­ter the Earth is clo­ser to the Sun (peri­he­li­on) ,and the­re­fo­re moves more rapidly.” (punc­tua­ti­on as in the South Polar Times, which was typed manu­al­ly under rather endu­ring con­di­ti­ons).

The rea­son is the second of Kepler’s laws of pla­ne­ta­ry moti­on: “A line joi­ning a pla­net and the Sun sweeps out equal are­as during equal inter­vals of time.” In other words: The Earth is moving fas­ter when it is clo­ser to the sun. Simp­le, isn’t it?

This again means that the Earth spends less time in a posi­ti­on that crea­tes the polar night in the Arc­tic. On the con­tra­ry, the Earth is moving more slow­ly when fur­ther away from the sun, and accord­in­gly spends more time in the posi­ti­on that results in the polar night in the Ant­arc­tic.

How big is the dif­fe­rence now? The dura­ti­on of the polar night is

on 80 degrees north: 122 days (21 Oct – 20 Feb)
on 80 degrees south: 128 days (18 Apr – 24 Aug)

mea­ning that the dif­fe­rence amounts to six days! The cal­cu­la­ti­ons can qui­te easi­ly be made on a web­site pro­vi­ded by the US Naval Obser­va­to­ry.

Hut Point, whe­re the South Polar Times was writ­ten in 1902 for the first time, is at 77°47’S, 133 nau­ti­cal miles north of the 80th par­al­lel. The dif­fe­rence of eight days clai­med the­re is accord­in­gly a litt­le bit too much. The value is seven days at the poles.

This is why the polar night is lon­ger in the Ant­arc­tic than it is on a cor­re­spon­ding lati­tu­de in the Arc­tic. The ans­wer is Kepler’s second law of pla­ne­ta­ry moti­on.

Thanks to Andre­as Kaufer for spe­cia­list advi­se and refe­rence to the US Naval Obser­va­to­ry.

The last light of the sun in Bar­ents­burg at the begin­ning of the polar night, Octo­ber 22nd.

Polar night, Barentsburg

Noor­der­licht wai­t­ing for the ice in Tem­pel­fjord

In the win­ter sea­son, the two-mast schoo­ner Noor­der­licht free­zes into solid ice in Tem­pel­fjord to ser­ve as a desti­na­ti­on for tou­rist acti­vi­ties like snows­coo­ter- and dog sledge tours.

This year the ice is so far mis­sing, so the ship is still wai­t­ing its job. Simi­lar to last year, winds from the south are pres­sing warm water into Isfjord and keep even Tem­pel­fjord still open, which is loca­ted at the eas­tern (inner­most) extre­mi­ty of Isfjord. Ano­t­her rea­son are extra­or­di­na­ri­ly high tem­pe­ra­tures in Spits­ber­gen which have now varied around the free­zing point for weeks and make this win­ter so far one of the war­mest sin­ce the begin­ning of the record­ings.

Now the tour ope­ra­tors hope for lower tem­pe­ra­tures so that the sea­son can start as plan­ned at the end of Febru­a­ry when the first tours are sche­du­led. Last year, the tem­pe­ra­tures went down in March and the “boat in the ice” could begin its sea­son just in time.

Noor­der­licht in Tem­pel­fjord, April 2013.

Noorderlicht, Tempelfjord

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Decli­ne of popu­la­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Against a long-term trend, the popu­la­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en fell by 47 to the num­ber of 2043 in 2013. This is indi­ca­ted by the annu­al report of the Sys­sel­man­nen for 2013. As Sval­bard­pos­ten reports, amongst the­se 47 the­re are 17 child­ren in pre-school age, which equals 36%.

Com­pa­red to pla­ces of simi­lar size on the Nor­we­gi­an main­land, the num­ber of inha­bi­tants in Lon­gye­ar­by­en can face stron­ger varia­ti­ons, as tho­se who are regis­tered as resi­dents usual­ly live the­re for a limi­ted peri­od of time, most­ly in accordance to their jobs. Working con­tracts are tem­pora­ry, rota­ti­ons amongst the employees are usu­al and often desi­red by employ­ers and many wish to return back home after one sea­son in the arc­tic. For the­se rea­sons, a high fluc­tua­ti­on is qui­te typi­cal for Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Howe­ver, in the last years the num­ber of inha­bi­tants incre­a­sed per­ma­nent­ly. In 2010 the­re were 1966 peop­le regis­tered in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, in 2011 the num­ber was 2063 and in 2012 it was 2090. The­re­fo­re the local government is not con­cer­ned about the sin­gle decli­ne in 2013, it is not seen as a sign for a long las­ting nega­ti­ve trend.

Sval­bard­pos­ten dis­cus­ses pos­si­ble rea­sons for the cur­rent decli­ne of inha­bi­tants: Rest­ruc­tu­rings at the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske are men­tio­ned, which led to staff reduc­tion. On the other hand the rela­tively high decli­ne among young child­ren leads to the assump­ti­on that many of the new inha­bi­tants came without fami­lies. As the refe­rence date for the eva­lua­ti­on of the num­ber of inha­bi­tants is the 31st of Decem­ber, it is pos­si­ble that the diver­gence equa­li­zes again during this year.

In his annu­al report the Sys­sel­man­nen publis­hes the num­ber of inhbi­tants for all sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen. The­se are, in addi­ti­on to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the sett­le­ments of Ny Åle­sund (34) and Bar­ents­burg (419), the hotel at Kapp Lin­né (Isfjord Radio) (1), the four trap­per sta­ti­ons Kapp Wijk (1), Akseløya (1), Kapp Schol­lin (1) and Farm­ham­na (1) and the polish polar sta­ti­on at Horn­sund (10). The workers of the coal­mi­nes at Sveagru­va, Svea Nord and Lunck­ef­jell, are not regis­tered the­re, their resi­den­ces are in Lon­gye­ar­by­en or on the main­land. In 2013 the average num­ber of workers in Sveagru­va was 208.

Has cur­r­ent­ly a few pupils less: school in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

school Longyearbyen

New pho­to gal­le­ries and pan­ora­mas from Lomfjord

The light is slow­ly com­ing back the­se days in Spits­ber­gen after the polar night, but it will take ano­t­her 2 weeks more or less until the sun makes it abo­ve the hori­zon again. While it is rela­tively calm in the far north, it is time to get a bit of home­work done. The­re is ple­nty of mate­ri­al for 360 degree pan­ora­mas wai­t­ing to be pro­ces­sed, and the pages with regio­nal descrip­ti­ons on spitsbergen-svalbard.com are to be com­ple­ted with com­pre­hen­si­ve pho­to gal­le­ries from the indi­vi­du­al parts of Sval­bard.

Both requi­res signi­fi­cant time and effort, but the­re is pro­gress. A site that is now com­ple­te with gal­le­ries and pan­ora­mas is the one about Lomfjord in nor­the­as­tern Spits­ber­gen, neigh­bou­ring Hin­lo­pen Strait.

If you pre­fer to see the pan­ora­mas and pho­to gal­le­ries sepa­r­ate­ly, without all the tal­king about geo­lo­gy and histo­ry, then check the­se two dedi­ca­ted sites: pho­to gal­le­ries and pan­ora­mas.

The­se sites are just part of a major deve­lo­p­ment that is aiming at a com­pre­hen­si­ve illus­tra­ti­on of all parts of the Spits­ber­gen archi­pe­la­go (and Jan May­en and parts of Green­land and Ant­arc­ti­ca, for that sake) with pho­to gal­le­ries and navigab­le 360 degree pan­ora­ma mate­ri­al. This requi­res a lot of effort in terms of both time and money. The results are on spitsbergen-svalbard.com and can be free­ly acces­sed at no cost and without regis­tra­ti­on or wha­te­ver, but the web­site and its owner/maker are hap­py about links or like it clicks. If you want to sup­port the­se efforts finan­cial­ly, then plea­se have a look on the right side if the­re is any book or calen­dar that might fit well into your collec­tion or as a pre­sent …

Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion act updated

The Sval­bard envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion act (Sval­bard­mil­jøl­o­ven) regu­la­tes what can and what can’t be done in Spitsbergen’s natu­re. It is updated more or less regu­lar­ly to meet the latest needs. The latest update came into for­ce with the arri­val of 2014. The­re are no major chan­ges rele­vant for most visitors/tourists.

Chan­ges inclu­de:

• Longyearbyen’s coun­cil area has been enlar­ged to inclu­de Advent­fjord com­ple­te­ly. This means that this area is now admi­nis­tra­ted local­ly by the elec­ted muni­ci­pal admi­nis­tra­ti­on of Lon­gye­ar­by­en and not cen­tral­ly from Oslo through the appoin­ted Sys­sel­man­nen (gover­nor), as all other are­as of Spits­ber­gen which are not part of any coun­cil area of the sett­le­ments.
• Minor adjus­t­ments have been made in the regu­la­ti­ons for hun­ting. So far, young hun­ters had to be at least 16 years old. Now, it is enough to cele­bra­te one’s 16th bir­th­day in the calen­dar year in ques­ti­on. This will cer­tain­ly be very popu­lar in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re child­ren are intro­du­ced to hun­ting alrea­dy in the Kin­der­gar­ten.
• The use of mari­ne hover­craft, alrea­dy for­bid­den on land and fro­zen lakes and rivers, is now also ban­ned from the sea wit­hin one mile off shore. The use of such crafts has been mat­ter of con­tro­ver­si­al deba­te in Spits­ber­gen recent­ly. They have been used for rese­arch, inclu­ding expe­di­ti­ons far out into the Arc­tic Oce­an, and local­ly in Sveagru­va for Search and Res­cue (SAR) pre­pa­red­ness. Lar­ge wet are­as near Sveagru­va are neit­her acces­si­ble by boat nor by land vehi­cle, but SAR for­ces need to be able to reach the­se are­as in case of acci­dents. The­re is a small airstrip in Sveagru­va. The use of hover­craft remains pos­si­ble in case of emer­gen­ci­es, but cur­r­ent­ly not for the pur­po­se of prac­ti­ce. It is not unli­kely that SAR for­ces in Sveagru­va will get some more free­dom here to enab­le them to prac­ti­ce with hover­craft. Com­mer­cial use of hover­crafts, for examp­le wit­hin filming our tou­rism, has not been an issue so far and is not an opti­on any­mo­re from now on.
• The so-cal­led admi­nis­tra­ti­on area 10, whe­re visi­tors can move around without noti­fy­ing the Sys­sel­man­nen in advan­ce, has been enlar­ge around Ny Åle­sund, giving peop­le the­re more free­dom to move around also pri­va­te­ly. Most sci­en­tists in Ny Åle­sund don’t stay long enough to get legal sta­tus as resi­dents, so they are as restric­ted as any other tou­rist for their pri­va­te trips. The area they can access without noti­fy­ing the Sys­sel­man­nen now also inclu­des the famous moun­tains Tre Kro­ner and a lar­ger part of For­landsund.

Advent­fjord seen from Suk­ker­top­pen near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This area is now under local admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

Adventfjord

Source: Nor­we­gi­sches Kli­ma und Umwelt­mi­nis­te­ri­um, Pres­se­mit­tei­lung

Bar­ents­burg: coal mine re-opens after acci­dents in 2013

Coal pro­duc­tion can now start to con­ti­nue in the Rus­si­an mine in Bar­ents­burg. In 2013, workers were kil­led or inju­red in a seri­es of 3 serious acci­dents, after which Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties fined the Rus­si­an mining com­pa­ny with NOK 1.3 mil­li­on (about Euro 155,000) and clo­sed the mine tem­pora­ri­ly. In April 2013, one miner was kil­led in a block fall. In June, one was kil­led by fal­ling stones and in Sep­tem­ber, one lost a leg after ano­t­her acci­dent. The mine was sub­se­quent­ly clo­sed due to the gene­ral­ly low safe­ty level.

Sin­ce then, the Trust has fol­lo­wed Nor­we­gi­an advice to incre­a­se the safe­ty in the mine. Now, the Nor­we­gi­ans have got the impres­si­on that the situa­ti­on is impro­ving and have given per­mis­si­on to re-open the mine.

Coal pro­duc­tion was alrea­dy stop­ped in Bar­ents­burg in 2008 after a fire in the mine fore more than 2 years.

Bar­ents­burg: coal mine per­mit­ted to re-open after acci­dents in 2013.

Barentsburg

Source: Bar­ents­ob­ser­ver

Hopen: dis­co­ve­rer Mar­m­a­du­ke final­ly on the map

The litt­le island Hopen in sou­the­as­tern Sval­bard was, as far as known, dis­co­ve­r­ed in 1613 by the Eng­lish wha­ler Tho­mas Mar­m­a­du­ke. The island was sub­se­quent­ly named after his ship, the Hope­well, but the name of the dis­co­ve­rer did not make it on the map.

This scan­dal has caught the atten­ti­on of the crew of the Nor­we­gi­an wea­ther on Hopen, who deci­ded, in the year of the 400th anni­ver­s­a­ry of the dis­co­very, to file a request to the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te (NPI) to get some­thing done about it. It was the sta­ti­on cook who sent the app­li­ca­ti­on, and an appro­pria­te, as so far nameless, topo­gra­phic fea­ture was duly found: a litt­le gul­ly on the west side of the island, just a few hund­red metres from the sta­ti­on. The name giving com­mit­tee of the NPI agreed, and the gul­ly in ques­ti­on bears now offi­cial­ly the name Mar­m­a­du­kes­ka­ret (Mar­m­a­du­ke gul­ly).

The name giving com­mit­tee meets twice every year to deci­de offi­cial­ly about new place names which then appe­ar on the topo­gra­phic map. Basi­cal­ly, ever­y­bo­dy can file sug­ges­ti­ons. Names of living per­sons have, howe­ver, hard­ly any chan­ce to be accep­ted.

Gul­ly on the island Hopen. Not the one now named after Mar­m­a­du­ke, but that one is qui­te simi­lar. A bit smal­ler.

Hopen

Source: Hopen­me­teo

Arc­tic ali­ens: miti­ga­ting inva­si­ve spe­ci­es

The intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es to iso­la­ted eco­sys­tems with a low spe­ci­es diver­si­ty is always pro­ble­ma­tic and often cata­stro­phic, as anyo­ne know who is fol­lowing the deve­lo­p­ment on sub-ant­arc­tic islands such as South Geor­gia. In the Arc­tic, the pro­blem is at least a bit less dra­ma­tic than on sub-ant­arc­tic islands. The­re are several rea­sons: flo­ra and fau­na are alrea­dy to some degree adap­ted to plant-eating ani­mals and pre­d­a­tors, respec­tively. Second­ly, the natu­ral intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es by winds and cur­r­ents is much more com­mon in the Arc­tic, which is a main rea­son why it has much more ani­mal and plant spe­ci­es than remo­te islands in the deep south, whe­re lati­tu­di­nal winds and cur­r­ents iso­la­te them rather than con­nec­ting them to war­mer are­as.

But the pro­blem of inva­si­ve spe­ci­es is nevertheless to be taken very serious­ly also in the high north. The­re is alrea­dy a num­ber of ali­en spe­ci­es in Spits­ber­gen, which has a long histo­ry of explo­ra­ti­on, mining etc., during which plants and ani­mals were impor­ted with buil­ding mate­ri­als, ani­mal feed and other car­go. Spe­ci­es that might be espe­cial­ly pro­ble­ma­tic for the natu­ral diver­si­ty of spe­ci­es inclu­de cow pars­ley (Anthris­cus syl­ves­tris), which is thri­ving in Bar­ents­burg, and the sou­thern vole (Micro­tus levis). The fact that the sou­thern vole lives hap­pi­ly in pla­ces like Grum­ant­by­en and Cole­s­buk­ta, which have been aban­do­ned as mining sett­le­ments half a cen­tu­ry ago, indi­ca­tes that not much may be nee­ded in terms of adap­t­ati­on or cli­ma­te war­ming to make it spread over lar­ge are­as so far unaf­fec­ted.

Now the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Sys­sel­man­nen) has deci­ded to do some­thing about it. This has taken sur­pri­sin­gly long, con­si­de­ring what can be learnt from efforts to remo­ve inva­si­ve spe­ci­es from sub-ant­arc­tic islands.

The need to pre­vent new inva­si­ve spe­ci­es from com­ing to Spits­ber­gen is evi­dent. Car­go and bal­last water of ships will need atten­ti­on to achie­ve this. Also, stu­dies have shown that a sur­pri­sing amount of seeds and orga­nic mate­ri­al comes atta­ched to boots of flight pas­sen­gers arri­ving Lon­gye­ar­by­en. As a con­se­quence, the gover­nor will request future visi­tors to make sure they do not trans­port unwan­ted orga­nic mate­ri­als by acci­dent. This is alrea­dy com­mon prac­ti­ce in Ant­arc­ti­ca.

Attempts should also be made to remo­ve inva­si­ve spe­ci­es that are alrea­dy the­re. If this is not pos­si­ble, then their fur­ther disper­sal should be con­trol­led.

To start this pro­cess, the Sys­sel­man­nen has now publis­hed a report to descri­be the pro­blem and to iden­ti­fy appro­pria­te mea­su­res.

Simp­le, but effec­ti­ve: clean your boots!

Boot cleaning

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Arc­tic inva­dors: the Snow Crab in the Bar­ents Sea

The intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es to eco­sys­tems, be it by natu­ral migra­ti­on, with human influ­ence or hel­ped by cli­ma­te chan­ge, is hard­ly ever good news for any regi­on affec­ted. Too often, local­ly estab­lis­hed spe­ci­es suf­fer severely from their new neigh­bours. This is espe­cial­ly the case for rela­tively iso­la­ted eco­sys­tems, for examp­le in polar are­as or on remo­te islands.

The­re is a new spe­ci­es now estab­lis­hed in the Bar­ents Sea: the Snow Crab (Chio­noe­ce­tes opi­lio), which can be up to 90 cm lar­ge (inclu­ding the legs) and 2 kg hea­vy. She was wide-spread also in the past, with an occur­rence in the Bering Strait and fur­ther north as well as at the coasts of New­found­land. It is likely that it has migra­ted along the coast of Sibe­ria west­wards into the Bar­ents Sea. Initi­al­ly, it was found east of the Bar­ents Sea, near Nova­ya Zem­lya, but it has been repor­ted east of Spits­ber­gen sin­ce.

Expe­ri­ence in a simi­lar case, with King Crabs at the coast of North Nor­way, has shown that the mari­ne bot­tom fau­na is stron­gly deple­ted by their new hungry neigh­bours. It is likely that the Snow Crab has a simi­lar­ly healt­hy appe­ti­te as its rela­ti­ve, the King Crab. Addi­tio­nal­ly, it may just be a ques­ti­on of time until the King Crab its­elf migra­tes fur­ther north to inha­bit the nort­hern Bar­ents Sea and Sval­bard waters.

The Snow Crab has been found east of Spits­ber­gen sin­ce the mid 1990s and is now about to beco­me a pre­cious tar­get spe­ci­es for the fishing indus­try.

Immi­grants to the Bar­ents Sea: Snow Crab (foto © Ter­je Engø).

Snow Crab, Barents Sea

Source: Kyst­ma­gasi­net

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