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Daily Archives: 24. May 2015 − News & Stories


Raft­sund & Ves­terå­len

We watch the sou­thern Ves­terå­len islands pas­sing by while we are making miles to the north. Sce­nic coast­li­nes and moun­tains, sea eagles and even orcas make the after­noon a very plea­sant and inte­res­ting expe­ri­ence.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Diger­mu­len

We are cer­tain­ly not the first tou­rists in this area. The Ger­man emperor Wil­helm II. was here in 1889. If he had only spent more time tra­ve­ling and less with poli­tics, it might have saved the world a lot of trou­ble, who knows.

Des­pi­te all the trou­bles that he had with his job – his own fault! – he mana­ged to tra­vel to Nor­way qui­te a lot. And twice he made it to Diger­mu­len, a litt­le vil­la­ge – about 300 inha­bi­tants – at the sou­thern end of Raft­sund. That is the strait that sepa­ra­tes Aus­t­vå­gøya (Lofo­ten) from Hin­nøya (Ves­terå­len). The­re is a moun­tain next to Diger­mu­len that is cal­led Diger­kol­len. It is not so ter­ri­b­ly diger (big), actual­ly not at all with an alti­tu­de of 384 m, that is some­thing we can do. And nobo­dy has to car­ry up pla­tes of gra­ni­te with our names incar­ved after us. We are more than hap­py with our signa­tures in the Gip­fel­buch (what is that in Eng­lish?).

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

The way up, across stones, mud and snow, takes about 1 ½ hours, with an inte­res­ting mix­tu­re of rain, sun, snow and sun again. Luck­i­ly, it remains sun­ny as we reach the top, so we can enjoy sple­ndid views of Raft­sund, Hin­nøya, Aus­t­vå­gøya and and a num­ber of smal­ler islands. An impe­ri­al view, inde­ed!

Win­ter sea­son com­ing to an end; polar bear fami­lies in Bill­efjord

Inspi­te of thawing peri­ods in April, the win­ter sea­son has las­ted for qui­te a long time. Now it is com­ing to an end. In late April, the wea­ther had final­ly sta­bi­li­zed with tem­pe­ra­tures below zero and many sun­ny days, brin­ging good tou­ring wea­ther bey­ond 17 May, the Nor­we­gi­an natio­nal day.

The spring has brought new inha­bi­tants to inner Isfjord: two polar bear fami­lies have been regu­lar­ly seen in Bill­efjord and Tem­pel­fjord, inclu­ding one with 3 cubs, a gre­at rari­ty. This very plea­sant fact brought con­tro­ver­si­al dis­cus­sions regar­ding snow mobi­le traf­fic in the­se fre­quent­ly visi­ted fjords. The Sys­sel­man­nen (local aut­ho­ri­ties) asked the public several times to exe­cu­te good self con­trol and keep traf­fic to an unavo­ida­ble mini­mum. Nevertheless, small groups were obser­ved several times too clo­se or too long near the bears.

Expe­ri­ence for examp­le from Tem­pel­fjord in 2013 shows that polar bears, inclu­ding fami­lies with young off­spring, do not necessa­ri­ly suf­fer from fre­quent traf­fic. In that spring, a mother with 2 first year cubs spent several mon­ths in Tem­pel­fjord, which was fre­quent­ly visi­ted by lar­ge num­bers of groups. Respect­ful beha­viour con­tri­bu­t­ed to the well-being of the bear fami­ly, which was gene­ral­ly not visi­b­ly affec­ted by traf­fic, but see­med to enjoy a good and healt­hy peri­od, with regu­lar hun­ting suc­cess.

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, both cubs from 2013 are most likely dead by now. One died in Bill­efjord a short time after tran­qui­liz­a­ti­on for sci­en­ti­fic rea­sons. The­re is now evi­dence for the tran­qui­liz­a­ti­on being the cau­se of the death, but the assump­ti­on is not far away.

The second one of tho­se 2 cubs was most likely the one that was shot near Fred­heim in late March 2015 by tou­rists in their camp. The bear had inju­red one per­son in a tent and was then inju­red with several bul­lets from a revol­ver. It was later shot by the poli­ce.

The­se obser­va­tions indi­ca­te that a lar­ger num­ber of well-con­trol­led tou­rists, with respect­ful beha­viour, is less of a pro­blem than a smal­ler num­ber of visi­tors (inclu­ding sci­en­tists) with more unusu­al acti­vi­ties, invol­ving a hig­her risk. An inte­res­ting impres­si­on, as the public recep­ti­on of tou­rists is gene­ral­ly much worse than that of sci­en­tists.

Cur­r­ent­ly, the grea­test public con­cern is about the polar bear fami­ly with 3 cubs. Dis­cus­sions in social net­works make it clear that the­re is public con­cern and inte­rest, at least local­ly, and the­re is litt­le tole­ran­ce for beha­viour that might dis­turb or even end­an­ger the bears. On the other hand, the mother has alrea­dy been mar­ked by sci­en­tists, which invol­ves tran­qui­liz­a­ti­on of at least the mother. It is not known in public wether the sci­en­tists used snow mobi­les or heli­co­p­ters to get wit­hin shoo­ting ran­ge, but in any way this can safe­ly be assu­med to be a trau­ma­tic expe­ri­ence for the who­le fami­ly, wit­hin a peri­od that is belie­ved to be so sen­si­ti­ve for the sur­vi­val of the young bears that the Sys­sel­man­nen asks the public to mini­mi­ze traf­fic in the same area.

Now, the snow mobi­le sea­son is over any­way, which will make life for the polar bears a bit more quiet, as indi­vi­du­al do not have the oppor­tu­ni­ty any­mo­re to get too clo­se to the bears.

Polar bear fami­ly in Bill­efjord, April 2015

a3j_Billefjord_28April15_102

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