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Home* News and Stories → Happy end to long SAR operation

Happy end to long SAR operation

A large SAR (search and rescue) operation was started in the early afternoon of Wednesday, March 12, when 3 men had not returned back to Longyearbyen from their trip to the east coast of Spitsbergen. The private group, all locals from Longyearbyen in their 30ies, left for the east coast with snow mobiles on Monday and should have returned Tuesday evening or later that night. As they did not return to their jobs on Wednesday, their boss alarmed the authorities (Sysselmannen).

Sysselmannen and Red Cross started a SAR operation with 2 helicopters, which lasted the whole afternoon on Wednesday, without any result for many hours. Next to several huts on the east coast which can be used by locals, an immensely large area had to be checked. The group had not informed anyone in Longyearbyen about the exact details of their plans, nor did they have a satellite beacon or satellite telephone which would, very likely, have made the SAR operation much shorter and easier.

In spite of darkness, the emergency forces kept going in the evening and found the 3 men shortly after 11 p.m. on Königsbergbreen. They had given an emergency signal, probably using a torch, and could be transported back to Longyearbyen with some undercooling, but generally in good condition. They were taken to the hospital for medical examination.

Königsbergbreen is a large glacier near the east coast of Spitsbergen, north of Mohnbukta, and part of a frequently travelled route.

The cause for the delay is not yet known in public. Technical difficulties with snow mobiles are certainly possible, including getting stuck in deep, soft snow after periods of snowfall.

In this area, tourists are obliged to inform authorities about their plans well in advance, they have to have insurance for SAR operations and a satellite emergency beacon. Locals do not have this legal obligation.

Königsbergbreen in fine weather.


The position of Königsbergbreen near Mohnbukta on the east coast of Spitsbergen. © base map: Norwegian Polar Institute, cartography by Rolf Stange.

position Königsbergbreen

Source: Sysselmannen, Svalbardposten.

last modification: 2015-03-12 · copyright: Rolf Stange