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Monthly Archives: November 2015 − News & Stories


Sval­bard win­ter 2016: pho­to trip and a bal­loon adven­ture

Some new ide­as for exci­ting tra­vels to Spits­ber­gen in win­ter 2016: tog­e­ther with Spitz­ber­gen Adven­tures, we are doing a pho­to trip into the arc­tic win­ter. In March, the regu­lar chan­ge bet­ween sun­light and darkness is brin­ging con­stant­ly chan­ging light and colours into the arc­tic win­ter land­s­cape. Based in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Bar­ents­burg, we will spend a full week to enjoy and explo­re the sce­nic beau­ty of Spits­ber­gen, most­ly using snow mobi­les for trans­por­ta­ti­on, at a time when the light is often at its best, from gla­cial ice caves to wide val­leys and the cold coast (liter­al­ly: “Sval­bard”). Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on about this trip.

By snow mobi­le into Svalbard’s win­ter land­s­cape. Sun­sets can crea­te stun­ning light in March.

photo trip Svalbard winter

Addi­tio­nal­ly, Spitz­ber­gen Adven­tures has come up with some­thing real­ly new and spe­cial: the arc­tic bal­loon Adven­ture. Arc­tic sce­ne­ry enjoy­ed from a bird’s eye view. Sin­ce flight­see­ing using moto­ri­zed air­craft inclu­ding pla­nes and heli­co­p­ters is com­ple­te­ly ban­ned, this is a uni­que and envi­ron­ment­al­ly sound oppor­tu­ni­ty to see ama­zing sce­ne­ry from a total­ly new per­spec­ti­ve. The method has pro­ven to work spec­ta­cu­lar­ly during the solar eclip­se in Sval­bard in March 2015. Now, Spitz­ber­gen Adven­tures is offe­ring several depar­tures for tho­se who are keen on this adven­ture (click here for more info).

The Spits­ber­gen bal­loon adven­ture: A new idea by Spitz­ber­gen Adven­tures.

Spitsbergen balloon adventure

Hiking to Pyra­mi­den in the polar night

Hiking from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Pyra­mi­den in the polar night does not sound like a good plan. Not having serious equip­ment does not make it bet­ter. If you start such a deman­ding jour­ney without at least a good slee­ping bag, solid win­ter hiking boots and a wea­pon (and a lot of other stuff), then you are eit­her cra­zy or sui­ci­dal.

So nobo­dy would even think of this? Wrong. Yes­ter­day (Novem­ber 23), the Sys­sel­man­nen (poli­ce; search and res­cue agen­cy) had to go out by heli­co­p­ter to search for a tou­rist from Eng­land who had left Lon­gye­ar­by­en and told peop­le befo­re that this was exact­ly what he inten­ded to do – on his own. Some locals he had been tal­king to had con­ta­c­ted the Sys­sel­man­nen.

As it tur­ned out, the many warning the man had recei­ved had alrea­dy been enough to make him chan­ge his mind: he had alrea­dy aban­do­ned his ide­as of a hike to Pyra­mi­den, ins­tead opting for a much more rea­son­ab­le walk to mine 7.

The distance to Pyra­mi­den is 50 km as the crow flies, but the distance over land is well over 100 km, espe­cial­ly as the fjords are still open. The­re are several crev­as­sed gla­ciers on the way: altog­e­ther, an impos­si­ble task in darkness for a sin­gle per­son.

The last part of the over­land rou­te to Pyra­mi­den: Nor­dens­kiöld­breen and Bill­efjord (fro­zen).

Route to Pyramiden

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Tougher bor­der con­trols bet­ween Nor­way and Sval­bard

While Euro­pe is deba­ting tougher bor­der regimes, the Nor­we­gi­an government has imple­men­ted stric­ter bor­der con­trols on flights bet­ween Nor­way and Sval­bard. Pass­port con­trols in Oslo or Trom­sø have to be expec­ted now, whe­re ID cards had been suf­fi­ci­ent so far for non-Nor­we­gi­an Euro­peans.

It is important to make sure that the name on the ticket is exact­ly the same as it is in the pass­port, other­wi­se air­line web­site will not allow online check-in. Staff at check-in coun­ters may deny check-in and boar­ding if the name on the ticket devia­tes from the one in the pass­port.

Sval­bard is under Nor­we­gi­an sov­er­eig­n­ty, but with limi­ta­ti­ons as defi­ned by the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty of 1920. Due to the trea­ty regu­la­ti­ons, Sval­bard is not trea­ted as part of Nor­way by cus­toms. Flights from Oslo to Lon­gye­ar­by­en start at the inter­na­tio­nal part of the air­port Oslo Gar­der­mo­en. Nor­way is part of the Schen­gen trea­ty area, Sval­bard is not, and this means that you are cros­sing a Schen­gen bounda­ry when tra­ve­ling to or from Sval­bard.

The recent tigh­tening has pro­bab­ly litt­le to do with the cur­rent deba­te about Schen­gen bor­ders, refu­gees and secu­ri­ty. It is more likely that the sur­pri­se visit of the Rus­si­an vice pre­mier Rogosin in spring made the Nor­we­gi­an government take the­se steps. If Nor­way would legal­ly have been able to deny Rogosin access to Spits­ber­gen is con­tro­ver­si­al.

No check-in for flights to Lon­gye­ar­by­en without pass­port now. This app­lies also to moo­se.

Pass control

Polar night – mid Novem­ber

By now, the polar night has come to the high arc­tic, the sun remains below the hori­zon 24 hours a day. Even mid day the­re is just a bit of twi­light, far from sun­ny bright­ness.

As so often at this time, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is a bit uncomfy: it has been qui­te warm recent­ly and the snow had been thawing. As a result, it is slip­pe­ry, and not just a litt­le bit. You could ice-skate to the super­mar­ket, and a walk to the café without spikes is a bit of an expe­di­ti­on.

This is obvious­ly not the time for long trips out in the field, but that is not necessa­ry. It is about the light, about darkness, which is so much more than just darkness.

And about the quiet­ness and the peace of the arc­tic at this time of year. Spring and sum­mer are always hec­ti­cal, the­re is always so much to do, all the days seem to have 30 hours. During the polar night, peop­le are not so much under stress, ever­y­bo­dy is more rela­xed, they have time, they meet.

Gal­le­ry – Polar night – mid Novem­ber

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

Many peop­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en say that the polar night is their favo­ri­te sea­son. The­re is some­thing about it.

Skro­va, the Polar Light Cent­re in Lauk­vik and Svol­vær – 05th Novem­ber 2015

Today was the day! We star­ted by hiking over the island of Skro­va in the most beau­ti­ful wea­ther, many went up on top of Skro­va­f­jel­let, 285 m abo­ve Ves­t­fjord, with a view that is just gre­at.

The same app­lied to the pas­sa­ge into the port of Svol­vær in the ear­ly after­noon. Sun­set at 3 p.m. Liquid gold over boats, houses and moun­tains.

The Nort­hern Light Cent­re in Lauk­vik on the nort­hern side of the island Aus­t­vå­gøy (which has Svol­vær on the sou­thern side) was next on our plan. Rob and The­re­se from the Nether­lands have cho­sen this lovely, silent spot for their own pri­va­te nort­hern light insti­tu­te, with litt­le light pol­lu­ti­on and a free view to all direc­tions, espe­cial­ly to the north. Their pas­si­on for the auro­ra pola­ris (a collec­ti­ve term for the polar light in north and south, does that term actual­ly exist or have I just made it up? I don’t know) is impres­si­ve, and so is Rob’s collec­tion of tech­ni­cal instru­ments, which he is using con­stant­ly to make „direct con­ta­ct with the sun“, as he puts it. And inde­ed, his short mes­sa­ge info ser­vice has been very use­ful over the last cou­p­le of days, kee­ping us updated about solar and magne­tic acti­vi­ty and our chan­ces to see nort­hern lights.

Inde­ed, Rob’s con­nec­tion to the sun is good and direct enough to prompt a nort­hern light the­re and then. But may­be he has for­got­ten to pass the mes­sa­ge on also to the wea­ther God, who is prompt­ly pushing some clouds bet­ween us and the beloved auro­ra. But a bit later, during the bus back to Svol­vær, we get a sple­ndid nort­hern light show abo­ve nice moun­tain rid­ges; I guess more than one was thin­king about hijacking the bus, stop­ping instant­ly and jum­ping out onto the road with came­ra and tri­pod.

Gal­le­ry Skro­va

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

But that was inde­ed not necessa­ry. Later that night, we got an impres­si­ve and beau­ti­ful dis­play of the nort­hern light which could be per­fect­ly seen from Svol­vær.

By the way, for tho­se inte­res­ted in the mat­ter, have a look at the­se links to sites wit­hin my web­site:

And of cour­se you should visit the Polar Light Cent­re in Lauk­vik on the inter­net or – much bet­ter – in real life, in Lauk­vik.

All in all: the day today was our day, it was important and gre­at! ☺

Troll­fjord and Skro­va – 04th Novem­ber 2015

The wea­ther nee­ded still some time to get a bit more friend­ly, Raft­sund was still a rather wet affair. But the famous Troll­fjord is always impres­si­ve, and so was the Sea eagle show. Three of the­se majes­tic birds were cir­cling in the sky! Well, next time I have to bring a lon­ger len­se also for the trip to the nort­hern lights 😉

Gal­le­ry – Troll­fjord and Skro­va – 04th Novem­ber 2015

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

But then it clea­red up. After a lovely sun­set at the best ear­ly to mid after­noon time, we ent­e­red the har­bour of Skro­va, which was qui­te exci­ting in twi­light, with rocks sti­cking out of the water to all sides of the ship. And it was to beco­me even more exci­ting in the evening. Our first nort­hern lights! What a delight, what a reli­ef 🙂

Har­stad and Tron­de­nes – 03rd Novem­ber 2015

It tur­ned out that we mana­ged to escape qui­te well from the storm. Fur­ther south, har­bours had been clo­sed and fer­ries were can­cel­led. In com­pa­ri­son, it was qui­te all­right fur­ther north.

Gal­le­ry – Har­stad and Tron­de­nes – 03rd Novem­ber 2015

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

At least it is dry enough today for a walk through Har­stad. The his­to­ri­cal-tou­ris­tic high­lights are, howe­ver, not in Har­stad, but a few kilo­me­tres fur­ther east in Tron­de­nes. Next to a his­to­ri­cal muse­um and north Norway’s oldest stone church, the­re is a WWII gun bat­te­ry which is inde­ed known by the bizar­re name Adolf Gun. It was part of Hitler’s for­ti­fi­ca­ti­on of the Atlan­tic coast. The Adolf Gun was a migh­ty thing, with a calibre of 40.6 cm and the capa­ci­ty to shoot shells that were more than 1000 kg hea­vy over more than 40 km. And they would even have been able to hit a ship, as the Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry found out later. Luck­i­ly, the bat­te­ry never fired in anger, that is the only posi­ti­ve aspect of this histo­ry. But we must not for­get the ter­ri­ble fate of tho­se Rus­si­an pri­so­ners-of-war who had to build the fort­ress. Hund­reds of them died during this slavery work.

Lyn­gen­fjord – 02nd Novem­ber 2015

Nice light on the sur­roun­ding island, at least for some time, while we are wai­t­ing for the wind to calm down a bit. As soon as we are sai­ling again, we are con­fron­ted with an unex­pec­ted nau­ti­cal high­light: The cros­sing of the 70th degree of lati­tu­de is not the cros­sing of 70°N, but of 69°60’N. Real­ly! At least accord­ing to the GPS screen on the bridge, at least for a moment. A dime for the GPS’s thoughts that moment!

Ano­t­her nau­ti­cal-astro­no­mi­c­al chal­len­ge are the celesti­al mecha­nics behind polar night and day. No pro­blem with the aid of a tro­pi­cal fruit and a torch. And just in case anyo­ne wants to read again why polar night respec­tively polar day are not equal­ly long in the nort­hern and sou­thern hemi­s­phe­re, the arc­ti­cle polar night – polar day on this web­site is recom­men­ded.

Gal­le­ry – Lyn­gen­fjord – 02. Novem­ber 2015

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

Not much else to say about this day, other­wi­se. Rain, rain, rain.

Mann­da­len – 01st Novem­ber 2015

Ins­tead of sai­ling sou­thwest, towards Lofo­ten, we hea­ded nor­the­ast, try­ing to escape from the wea­ther. Who needs for­ce 9 winds? So off into the fjords, behind the moun­tains, away from the coast. Deep in Kåfjord, the­re is Mann­da­len in the area that was tra­di­tio­nal­ly inha­bi­ted by the Sea Sami peop­le. As we learnt in the cul­tu­re and han­di­c­raft cent­re, the­re is not much left from the tra­di­tio­nal Sami cul­tu­re due to for­ced Nor­we­gia­ni­sa­ti­on in the ear­lier 20th cen­tu­ry. Few peop­le speak the Sami lan­guage still today, but even young peop­le are inte­res­ted in lear­ning the lan­guage of their grand­par­ents in cour­ses that are offe­red by the cent­re. Han­di­c­rafts are also enjoy­ing incre­a­sing popu­la­ri­ty.

A litt­le trail leads along pla­ces of Sami oppo­si­ti­on against sup­pres­si­on from out­side. Incredi­ble what the peop­le here had to endu­re. Not just that they could not speak their own lan­guage in public. Tho­se who could not pay their debts were depri­ved from their last belon­gings which were to be auc­tion­ed away then. No sur­pri­se that at some sta­ge the locals gave the Nor­we­gi­an lens­mann a good bea­ting with fence poles and cha­sed him away. At the end of the war, the Ger­man army burnt the place down as the last one in north Nor­way – as men­tio­ned befo­re, the­se peop­le had to endu­re all hardships of a mino­ri­ty in the 20th cen­tu­ry.

The­re is still a small hut. Its owner was sup­po­sed to pay dues on the buil­ding mate­ri­als after rebuil­ding it after the war, as was com­mon. He refu­sed this with a let­ter which can be sum­ma­ri­zed brief­ly, but cor­rect­ly, with the words „go to hell“. He was left in peace after that.

We were also not saved from some hardships when tho­se who were still with us on the 8 km trail in rain and darkness found that the last part of the small road had given way to a steep, slip­pe­ry, mud­dy slo­pe at a road con­struc­tion site. But the moti­va­ti­on to find a way after more than 6 km is con­si­derable, in con­trast to the wil­ling­ness to turn around and go the same way back.

Gal­le­ry – Mann­da­len – 01st Novem­ber 2015

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

The­re was not much to see for the rest of the day, just rain and darkness. No chan­ce for the nort­hern lights that ever­y­bo­dy came for, which is espe­cial­ly tough as the sun acti­vi­ty is cur­r­ent­ly said to be con­si­derable. Without coulds, we would pro­bab­ly see nort­hern lights all over the sky!

Oil and gas from the Arc­tic? Test dril­lings nor­the­ast of Sval­bard

During Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber the Nor­we­gi­an Petro­le­um Direc­to­ra­te (Olje­di­rek­to­ra­tet) arran­ged seven test dril­lings nor­the­ast of Sval­bard. The finan­cing for the­se dril­lings was appro­ved by the Nor­we­gi­an Par­lia­ment (Stor­ting).

Such acti­vi­ties are high­ly con­ten­tious, par­ti­cu­lar­ly becau­se Nor­way clear­ly defi­ned that the­re should be no dril­ling for oil or gas bey­ond the sea ice edge, the line of maxi­mum sea ice expan­si­on in spring. This time the dril­lings were done along Svalbard´s east side, up to the island Kvi­tøya and were going down to 200 meters below the seaf­loor. This area lies out­side the pro­tec­tion zone of the archi­pe­la­go but it lies far north of the sea ice edge. In accordance with this fact, the Petro­le­um Direc­to­ra­te decla­red that the dril­lings had not­hing to do with the oil and gas indus­try. They were just sur­veys of the geo­lo­gi­cal struc­tu­re in this area.

The dis­sen­ting oppo­si­ti­on par­ties in the par­lia­ment, the social libe­ral Venst­re and the green MDG, con­dem­ned this ope­ra­ti­on shar­ply. If so far in the north, oil and gas extrac­tion is not inten­ded any­way and is not even allo­wed, at least so far, this ope­ra­ti­on was sim­ply a was­te of money, a spea­ker of the Venst­re said.

In recent years Nor­way pushed for­ward the explo­ra­ti­on of oil and gas fiel­ds in the North Atlan­tic – off Lofo­ten and Ves­terå­len – and in the Bar­ents Sea. But not even the­re extrac­tion is appro­ved ever­y­whe­re, and it is still con­tro­ver­si­al. It is rejec­ted among others by parts of the local popu­la­ti­on, envi­ron­men­tal asso­cia­ti­ons and by the fishing indus­try. Howe­ver, when lar­ge oil and gas fiel­ds are dis­co­ve­r­ed and explo­red con­ti­nuous­ly, as recent­ly hap­pen­ed in the Bar­ents Sea nor­thwest of Ham­mer­fest, this will obvious­ly crea­te facts, regard­less of the cur­rent legal situa­ti­on. Poli­ti­cal decisi­ons will be influ­en­ced by the pro­spect of eco­no­mi­c­al pro­fit. In 2012 the for­mer for­eign minis­ter Espen Barth Eide of the social demo­cra­tic Arbei­der­par­tiet alrea­dy made clear that eco­no­mic con­si­de­ra­ti­ons are prio­ri­ti­zed when it comes to the Nor­we­gi­an oil and gas resour­ces. Envi­ron­men­tal poli­tics can be adjus­ted, if necessa­ry (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Nor­we­gi­an for­eign minis­ter about arc­tic oil and gas from Novem­ber 2012).

Nor­the­as­tern Sval­bard: a place for polar bears, ice and wil­der­ness, not for oil and gas.

Northeastern Svalbard

Source: TV2

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