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Monthly Archives: October 2015 − News & Stories

Trom­sø – 31st Octo­ber 2015

The final trip with Anti­gua is taking us to the nor­t­hern lights. In theo­ry, any­way. Soon more about real life. Any­way, we are start­ing in Trom­sø, about to sail to the beau­tiful Lofo­ten islands. One week of scenic islands, love­ly small fishing vil­la­ges, and of cour­se nor­t­hern lights, that’s what we are hoping for.


The wea­ther fore­cast, shown in the first pic­tu­re, is deter­mi­ning real life, that’s how it is in the far north. You don’t have to be a meteo­ro­lo­gist to under­stand that this fore­cast pre­dicts shit wea­ther. Yes, I wro­te „shit“ wea­ther. Some­ti­mes you have to be direct and honest, the­re is no way around it.

Gal­lery Trom­sø – 31. Okto­ber 2015

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

Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar: con­tin­ued

This is the update on yesterday’s artic­le (Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar). A mixed US-Ame­ri­can/­Ca­na­di­an team is out try­ing to find the bear, which is known as “Andy”. The fol­lo­wing update from ear­lier today (Oct. 28) is from Polar Bears Inter­na­tio­nal, with addi­tio­nal comm­ents from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen:

“… basi­cal­ly … there’s no news: The bear hasn’t been re-sigh­ted sin­ce Oct. 13th and a com­bi­ned US/Canadian team is asses­sing how to pro­ceed. To fur­ther com­pli­ca­te mat­ters, the sea ice has begun to free­ze, the bears are disper­sing from Kak­to­vik, and the col­lar is no lon­ger broad­cas­ting (if it were on the air, it would have been remo­ved ear­lier). This is a logi­sti­cal­ly com­plex pro­blem that they’re doing their best to resol­ve…”

Comm­ents from Mor­ten:

“This is sad. And it rai­ses more ques­ti­ons than it ans­wers.

The com­ment that if it had been working, the col­lar “would have been remo­ved ear­lier” is a stran­ge one. Does that imply that the fate of “Andy” was known long befo­re the expe­di­ti­on was moun­ted? Does that mean that the expe­di­ti­on could have been sent out ear­lier? Does that sug­gest that the expe­di­ti­on was sent out not so much to save “Andy” as to appease the gro­wing amount of con­cer­ned peo­p­le?

Apart from that, now we know a litt­le (very litt­le) more.

1. We know that the col­lar is not sen­ding a signal and has not done so for a while – mea­ning that the bear is wea­ring it for abso­lut­e­ly not­hing.

2. And we know that unless the situa­ti­on chan­ges, “Andy” is off some­whe­re in the begin­ning of the polar night on his own, pos­si­bly to slow­ly die from wounds and infec­tions inflic­ted by his “instru­ment”.

This case lea­ves many, many ques­ti­ons still. Once tho­se respon­si­ble are back from their excur­si­on, we expect ans­wers.”

So far Morten’s comm­ents. The­re will be updates on this pages as soon as the­re are any news.

The polar bear “Andy” in Alas­ka, equip­ped with and inju­red by a sci­en­ti­fic col­lar with satel­li­te trans­mit­ter, is now out on the sea ice. His chan­ces to be found and res­cued are get­ting smal­ler.

Male polar bear Andy with collar and injuries

Source: Infor­ma­ti­on from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen / Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear

Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar

Every year, a lar­ge num­ber of polar bears is seda­ted and mark­ed by sci­en­tists in various parts of the Arc­tic. Samples are taken and some of the bears are equip­ped with col­lars that have satel­li­te trans­mit­ters to fol­low their jour­neys. This is usual­ly only done with fema­le polar bears, as the males have a neck too strong and thick to mount the col­lars, which would be lost quick­ly or hurt the bear and even cau­se dif­fi­cul­ties while swal­lo­wing food and breathing. It has so far been com­mon­ly assu­med in public that only fema­le polar bears are mark­ed this way and col­lars are gene­ral­ly not atta­ched to male polar bears.

As it tur­ned out recent­ly, rea­li­ty may be dif­fe­rent, pos­si­bly alre­a­dy for years. Near Kak­ti­vik in Alas­ka, on the coast of the arc­tic Beau­fort Sea, a male polar bear wea­ring a col­lar has been seen and pho­to­gra­phed. The col­lar is cut­ting into the skin, caus­ing visi­ble inju­ry and most likely pain.

It is belie­ved that the bear has been seda­ted and mark­ed by sci­en­tists in Cana­da. it is said that male polar bears have been equip­ped with col­lars alre­a­dy for some time on an expe­ri­men­tal basis. The col­lars are sup­po­sed to drop off auto­ma­ti­cal­ly after a while, which may be half a year. It is pos­si­ble that this does not always work in time. It is also pos­si­ble, actual­ly quite likely, that polar bears can put on a lot of weight in short time when they have access to lar­ge amounts of food, for exam­p­le when a dead wha­le is stran­ded on the beach. On the arc­tic coasts of Cana­da and Alas­ka, polar bears some­ti­mes find wha­le car­cas­ses from indi­ge­nous hun­ting near Inu­it sett­le­ments. This is unpre­dic­ta­ble, accor­ding to rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties. The­se events do inde­ed not occur on regu­lar inter­vals, but they are well known and not rare, so they have to be expec­ted and accoun­ted for at any time.

In the USA inclu­ding Alas­ka, the United Sta­tes Fish & Wild­life Ser­vices (USFWS) is the aut­ho­ri­ty respon­si­ble for mana­ging and pro­tec­ting mari­ne wild­life inclu­ding polar bears. Accor­ding to the USFWS, the polar bear is moni­to­red, but resour­ces are not available to help it. May­be moti­va­ti­on to take action is limi­t­ed as the bear recei­ved the col­lar most likely in Cana­da.

The actu­al case seems to have been known local­ly alre­a­dy for months and it is now get­ting public atten­ti­on. Inte­res­ted indi­vi­du­als are approa­ching the USFWS, adding pres­su­re to help the bear and release it from the col­lar. More about the pre­sent dis­cus­sion, inclu­ding cont­act details of rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties, on the Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear. Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen from Den­mark has taken initia­ti­ve. Mor­ten is also the aut­hor of the book Polar Bears on the edge, whe­re sci­en­ti­fic tre­at­ment of polar bears is dis­cus­sed cri­ti­cal­ly.

Sci­en­ti­fic seda­ti­on, exami­na­ti­on and mar­king of polar bears is gene­ral­ly a trau­ma­tic event for the ani­mals con­cer­ned, not to men­ti­on cases whe­re fema­le bears with cubs are trea­ted this way. See also news posts Polar bear dead after anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists (II) and Polar bear found dead in Petu­ni­abuk­ta had been anaes­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses on this web­site.

Orga­niza­ti­ons such as WWF and Polar Bears Inter­na­tio­nal are sup­port­ing sci­en­ti­fic work on polar bears inclu­ding satel­li­te col­lars. The dis­cus­sion about risks of this work is not new, but has not rea­ched the gene­ral public yet.

Male polar bear in Alas­ka, equip­ped with and inju­red by a sci­en­ti­fic col­lar with satel­li­te trans­mit­ter. Nor­mal­ly, only fema­le polar bears recei­ve such col­lars.

Male polar bear with collar and injuries

Source: Infor­ma­ti­on from Mor­ten Jør­gen­sen / Face­book-page Pro­tect the Polar Bear

Polar bear mother with 3 cubs has lost 2 of them

In May 2015, a polar bear fami­ly with 3 cubs has been obser­ved in Tem­pel­fjord and Bil­lefjord (click here for May artic­le on this web­site).

Tri­plets are very rare, twins are nor­mal. The fema­le in ques­ti­on, did, howe­ver, not have tri­plets for the first time: in april 2011, she had alre­a­dy been caught, seda­ted and exami­ned by sci­en­tists on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen, when she had tri­plets. Back then, only one of three cubs sur­vi­ved in the end.

In spring 2015, the fema­le was caught and seda­ted again. At that time, her 3 cubs were so small that they were not seda­ted, but they were pre­sent during the exami­na­ti­on of their mother. Accor­ding to data from the satel­li­te trans­mit­ter on the col­lar that was atta­ched to the fema­le on the occa­si­on, the fami­ly then star­ted a remar­kab­le jour­ney nor­thwards to spend the sum­mer north of Nord­aus­t­land. Later, they retur­ned south again, crossing Nord­aus­t­land, Hin­lo­pen Strait and nor­the­as­tern Spits­ber­gen to return to Tem­pel­fjord, whe­re the fema­le was recent­ly seen. Only one cub was still with her, the other two are appar­ent­ly lost. It is not known when and how they died, but it is com­mon that mother polar bears lose part of their off­spring during the first sum­mer or later. Access to food can be dif­fi­cult, and com­pe­ti­ti­on bet­ween the cubs can be strong then.

Polar bear fami­ly in Bil­lefjord, April 2015.

Polar bear family in Billefjord

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (41/2015)

Elec­tion of the new City Coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Sun­day the 4th and Mon­day the 5th of Octo­ber were elec­tion days in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. For the upco­ming four years the 15 mem­bers of the new City Coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re) were elec­ted. The City Coun­cil is the supre­me organ of the local govern­ment in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. 1651 elec­to­ra­tes were entit­led to vote, having the choice bet­ween four par­ties and their can­di­da­tes. The coun­ting of votes led to the fol­lo­wing preli­mi­na­ry result:

Par­tyResult in %Seats
Arbei­der­par­tiet(Ap, social demo­cra­tic)34.65
Høy­re(H, con­ser­va­ti­ve, eco­no­mic libe­ral)29.75
Venst­re(V, social-libe­ral)21.03
Mil­jø­par­tiet De Grøn­ne(MDG, envi­ron­men­tal par­ty, social-libe­ral)13.52

1006 valid votes were cast, accor­ding to a voter par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of 60.93 % (2011: 56.56 %). For the cal­cu­la­ti­on of the seats, both the votes for the sin­gle can­di­da­tes and for the par­ties in total are rele­vant.

For the Arbei­der­par­tiet this result is a set­back. With 7 seats so far it was the stron­gest par­ty in the pre­sent City Coun­cil pro­vi­ding the head of the local govern­ment in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Chris­tin Kris­toff­er­sen. Even in the recent sur­vey from Sep­tem­ber the Arbei­der­par­tiet was cle­ar­ly ahead with 56.5 % of the votes and 9 seats. Here the Høy­re achie­ved only 21 % (3 seats), the Venst­re 12.9 % (2 seats) and the green MDG 9.7 % (1 seat). Howe­ver, 45 % of the respond­ents ans­we­red that they still were unde­ci­ded, would not vote or didn´t want to ans­wer. Kris­toff­er­sen had announ­ced ear­lier that she would not can­di­da­te again for ano­ther peri­od. This time Arild Olsen is top can­di­da­te of the Arbei­der­par­tiet.

The Høy­re had 3 seats in the Coun­cil so far and was the 2nd stron­gest par­ty after the Arbei­der­par­tiet. Now the Con­ser­va­ti­ves are see­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to defi­ne the poli­tics of the upco­ming four years in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in a coali­ti­on with the Venst­re and to install their top can­di­ta­de Tor­ge­ir Prytz as head of the local govern­ment. Both par­ties alre­a­dy announ­ced the inten­ti­on to go into coali­ti­on nego­tia­ti­ons. Tog­e­ther they would have a majo­ri­ty of 1 seat in the Coun­cil. Such a coali­ti­on might sound stran­ge out­side of Nor­way (Høy­re means ‚right-wing‘ and Venst­re ‚left-wing‘). But in the Nor­we­gi­an poli­ti­cal land­scape the­se two par­ties are not too far away from each other (see abo­ve, Venst­re is not a socia­list or com­mu­nist par­ty as the name might sug­gest).

Venst­re and the green MDG were not repre­sen­ted in the City Coun­cil befo­re. Espe­ci­al­ly for the MDG the repre­sen­ta­ti­on in the Coun­cil is a signi­fi­cant suc­cess. With 13.5 % of the votes and 2 seats in the Coun­cil the group in Lon­gye­ar­by­en would be the most suc­cessful group of the envi­ron­men­tal par­ty in who­le Nor­way so far. The top can­di­da­te of the MDG Hel­ga Bårds­dat­ter Kris­ti­an­sen alre­a­dy pro­mi­sed an acti­ve oppo­si­ti­on poli­cy.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is now get­ting a new city coun­cil (Lokals­ty­re). A lot is chan­ging curr­ent­ly in the litt­le city.


Source: Lokals­ty­re, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Dra­stic downs­ca­ling of coal mining indus­try

The low coal pri­ces on the world mar­ket make life even more dif­fi­cult than expec­ted for the Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK). Alre­a­dy in spring, the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment, which is owning almost all shares, had to help the SNSK out of trou­ble with a loan. Due to the dra­ma­tic situa­ti­on, the manage­ment has deci­ded to take some dra­stic steps:

  • The pro­duc­tion in the mines at Sveagru­va (Svea Nord and the new mine in Lun­ckef­jel­let) will be stop­ped. A mini­mum crew of about 50 miners will ensu­re main­tainan­ce to keep the opti­on of future pro­duc­tion available.
  • If the coal pri­ces do not reco­ver until 2019, the mines at Sveagru­va will be clo­sed.
  • The pro­duc­tion in the smal­ler mine 7 near Lon­gye­ar­by­en will be increased. 45 miners (until now 24) are sup­po­sed to pro­du­ce 155,000 tons per year (curr­ent­ly 70,000) .
  • Fur­ther occur­ren­ces near mine 7 will be pre­pared for mining to ensu­re a pro­duc­tion peri­od of at least 10 years.
  • The admi­nis­tra­ti­on will be down­si­zed.

The main­tainan­ce mode in Sveagru­va will requi­re an annu­al bud­get of 95 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an Kro­ner, which will have to come from the owner (the gover­ment), accor­ding to the plans of the manage­ment. Nego­tia­ti­ons with the govern­ment are star­ted imme­dia­te­ly.

Altog­e­ther, the num­ber of jobs in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Sveagru­va will be decreased by 150. Tog­e­ther with tho­se jobs alre­a­dy lost recent­ly, the num­ber of employees is down­si­zed by 150 within 18 months.

Many peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are worried now about the future. A lot of jobs in many com­pa­nies still depend on mining, and the fear is the­re that a mas­si­ve downs­ca­ling of the coal indus­try and rela­ted eco­no­my would have a major nega­ti­ve impact on the local eco­no­my and socie­ty. The poli­ti­cal deba­te about the future eco­no­mic­al struc­tu­re of Lon­gye­ar­by­en has star­ted. One of the mea­su­res to fight the eco­no­mic­al pro­blems is the envi­sa­ged increase of the har­bour faci­li­ties.

Facing a dark future: miner in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

miner in Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (36/2015)

Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 04th Okto­ber 2015

Har­bour days are not the most exci­ting days. The­re is a lot to do to finish a trip and to get the ship rea­dy again, even though I won’t be on board when Anti­gua takes off again.

In the evening, I went back to Jan May­en in my mind. The Sval­bard­mu­se­um had invi­ted me to do a pre­sen­ta­ti­on about the island and my tra­vels the­re. For an hour and ten minu­tes, we went through the geo­gra­phy and the histo­ry of the island, over lava fields and moss car­pets, from the impres­si­ve coast­li­ne to the sum­mit cra­ter of Bee­ren­berg. Nice to go through all that again men­tal­ly, it was defi­ni­te­ly a high­light among­st my polar tra­vels, and the­se are not few. And in a place like Lon­gye­ar­by­en, peo­p­le are cer­tain­ly inte­res­ted in their remo­te neigh­bour island, 1000 km to the sou­thwest. Nice also that some of the Anti­gua crew are pre­sent in the audi­ence, as well as some well-known faces from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 04th Okto­ber 2015

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

What an iro­ny: the first thing that we saw as we step­ped out of the muse­um was a nice nor­t­hern light. And this after having hoped for it for a week tog­e­ther with the group that left Anti­gua and lar­ge­ly flew home today! The hap­pier were tho­se few Anti­gua-guests who had not yet left. The evening was to be a long one, the nor­t­hern lights came and went. Bet­ween the various chap­ters of a culina­ry trip to Ita­ly, enjoy­ing and pho­to­gra­phing the auro­ra was one of the main plea­su­res of the evening.

By the way, a while ago I wro­te an artic­le on this site about the nor­t­hern lights: Gene­ral info and pho­to­gra­phy tips (click here).

Isfjord II – 03rd Octo­ber 2015

The­re were no nor­t­hern lights last night, but apart from that, it was a very nice evening in Pyra­mi­den, nice and calm.

We spent a nice, long mor­ning the­re, the­re is so much to see and to do in Pyra­mi­den, and the pho­to­graph­ers can never have enough time.

Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen was to be this trip’s final high­light. I could almost get a bit sen­ti­men­tal now. Also becau­se this gla­cier has shrunk so dra­ma­ti­cal­ly sin­ce I have seen in for the first time in 1997.

And now we are motoring the last miles back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, into ano­ther colourful sun­set. The final miles of this trip, the last miles of a long arc­tic sea­son. I should cal­cu­la­te how many miles we have done, altog­e­ther. Four trips on Anti­gua, then the­re was Arc­ti­ca II, and of cour­se Jan May­en and East Green­land. In a few hours, when we are along­side, this season’s polar ship-based trips are histo­ry, as far as I am con­cer­ned (and almost ever­y­bo­dy else has alre­a­dy left a good while ago). Of cour­se, the­re is still the Lofo­ten trip on Anti­gua in late Octo­ber, but that is not the high Arc­tic. No polar bears, no wal­rus­ses, no tun­dra, no rif­les, no Zodiacs (well, may­be occa­sio­nal­ly).

Gal­lery Isfjord II – 03rd Octo­ber 2015

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

No reason to be sad, still. This year’s Spits­ber­gen time is not over yet, I still have some time here, shore-based. Calm time in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Nice light, nice peo­p­le, and hop­eful­ly some pro­duc­ti­ve crea­ti­vi­ty.

Isfjord – 02nd Okto­ber 2015

Back in Isfjord, and the lights are going on. A sun­set, that is moving more and more towards noon, is thro­wing a soft pin­ki­sh-red light onto the snow-cover­ed moun­tain tops. The tun­dra is fro­zen, the moss beds, soft and wet just a short while ago, are hard as con­cre­te. A few small rivu­lets are still run­ning under an icy cover, just a few spots of run­ning water are still expo­sed. Soon, they will also turn into ice, and not­hing will move here until well into the next spring.

Only some reinde­er are moving here and the­re, and a group of ptar­mi­gan high up on the slo­pe.

Eit­her the­re are no wha­les in Isfjord any­mo­re, or they have alre­a­dy left for the Azo­res or whe­re­ver they spend their win­ter. Ins­tead, we have time for a short late after­noon landing. Our choice is Skans­buk­ta, a clas­sic. The glo­wing evening light on Gips­hu­ken, a moun­tain on the oppo­si­te shore, is the undis­pu­ted high­light.

Gal­lery Isfjord – 02nd Okto­ber 2015

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

A cosy evening along­side the pier in Pyra­mi­den. We are won­de­ring if we will get nor­t­hern light. The sky is lar­ge­ly clear, and the moon is shi­ning on Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen. The poten­ti­al is not bad at all.

Kongsfjord – 01st Okto­ber 2015

Last night it loo­ked pret­ty awful out­side. Well, not awful, it was actual­ly quite exci­ting. Strong winds and den­se snow drift. Arc­tic in win­ter mode. The­re was even a snow­ball fight on deck.

Towards the mor­ning, the wea­ther cal­med down and we could easi­ly go ashore on Blom­strand. While we were hiking, the Anti­gua could even be moved to Ny Lon­don, to Mansfield’s old marb­le mine, to pick us up the­re. Very nice. And the light, while we were out, you should have seen that! Light snow drift while the sun was going up abo­ve the Tre Kro­ner … gigan­tic.

Gal­lery Kongsfjord – 01st Okto­ber 2015

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

The har­bour in Ny Åle­sund is small, and so is Anti­gua, so we mana­ged to sneak in to the inner side of the pier, which can be very useful. A calm win­ter after­noon in Spitsbergen’s nor­t­hern­most sett­le­ment, a calm evening in port, and then we went off, towards For­lands­und, towards Isfjord. The­re is curr­ent­ly still a bit of swell in outer Kongsfjord, but not so bad any­mo­re, and it will be calm again soon, in For­lands­und.


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