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Home → March, 2015

Monthly Archives: March 2015 − News


Joy­ous news from the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject in South Geor­gia

Good news from the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject in South Geor­gia in the news sec­tion of the ant­arc­tic coun­ter­part of this web­site (click here).

Sea­b­irds near South Geor­gia: thanks to the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject, popu­la­ti­ons espe­cial­ly of smal­ler spe­ci­es can be expec­ted to incre­a­se signi­fi­cant­ly in years to come.

Seabirds near South Georgia

Solar eclip­se in Spits­ber­gen: total darkness – total suc­cess

The wea­ther Gods were on our side today here in Spits­ber­gen during the solar eclip­se: some thin clouds clea­red up during the morning to give an undis­tur­bed view of a bril­li­ant­ly clear sky. Thousands of visi­tors and locals went to Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en to obser­ve the specta­cle, and the ten­si­on was rising when the tota­li­ty approa­ched at 11.12 a.m. local time.

Solar eclip­ses have been descri­bed many times and are, at the same time, inde­scri­bable, so I won’t try. I thought that tho­se who said a total solar eclip­se was still some­thing com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent than a par­ti­al one were exa­g­ge­ra­ting, but it is com­ple­te­ly true, and we are very glad to have seen it. Total darkness and total cold in the fin­ger­tips, but it was abso­lute­ly worth it. The moment the coro­na was blosso­m­ing … but I didn’t want to descri­be it. So: pho­tos! Of cour­se I took some pho­tos, some­thing that wasn’t that easy … can we plea­se do it again? 😉

Visi­tors get­ting rea­dy for the solar eclip­se in Spits­ber­gen.

Solar eclipse in Spitsbergen, 20th March 2015: visitors

The solar eclip­se in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, 20th March 2015: par­ti­al pha­se.

solar eclipse in Spitsbergen, 20th March 2015: partial phase

The solar eclip­se in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, 20th March 2015: tota­li­ty.

solar eclipse in Spitsbergen, 20th March 2015: totality

The solar eclip­se in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, 20th March 2015: the end of the tota­li­ty.

solar eclipse in Spitsbergen, 20th March 2015: end of totality

Polar bear shot near Fred­heim in Tem­pel­fjord

Today (Thurs­day, 19th March) ear­ly morning around 6 a.m., a polar bear was shot near Fred­heim in Tem­pel­fjord after an attack on a camp. A Czech group was cam­ping, the tents were secu­red with a polar bear alarm fence of the usu­al sys­tem (Nor­we­gi­an mili­ta­ry sys­tem with nylon string). The polar bear, said to be a small, pres­um­a­b­ly young ani­mal, pro­bab­ly crept under the alarm string into the camp without trig­ge­ring any alarm.

The bear then drag­ged one man out of a tent, inju­ring him in his face and arm. Ano­t­her man shot three times with a rif­le at the bear, inju­ring him, but not kil­ling him. The polar bear then drop­ped the man and ran away.

Soon, the Sys­sel­man­nen (poli­ce) was the­re, found the bear and shot him (or her).

The inju­red man was brought to hos­pi­tal. It can be assu­med that his inju­ries are only minor, as the group assu­mes he can be back with them on Sunday to con­ti­nue the trip.

The camp is only a few hund­red metres from the shore and ice edge. Polar bears are regu­lar­ly seen in Tem­pel­fjord in spring, most recent­ly just a few days ago. Clo­se to the camp that has been atta­cked, the­re are two more, lar­ger camps.

This aut­hor hap­pen­ed to be in the same area just a few hours later, initi­al­ly without knowing about the inci­dent, and tal­ked to the Czech group at their camp.

The camp which was atta­cked by a polar bear which was later shot near Fred­heim in Tem­pel­fjord.

camp attacked by polar bear in Tempelfjord

Solar eclip­se is com­ing clo­ser in Spits­ber­gen

The solar eclip­se that will cast darkness over nort­hern Euro­pe for some minu­tes on Fri­day is get­ting clo­ser and exci­te­ments are rising. Sin­ce the first fog­gy views of Fri­day the 20th emer­ged in the crys­tal balls of the the first bra­ve long term wea­ther fore­cas­ters, spe­cu­la­ti­on about the all-import­nat wea­ther is gro­wing and gro­wing. Con­clu­si­on: it may or may not work. And of cour­se the 20th of March is ana­ly­zed in hind­sight, put­ting sta­tis­tics covering more than 10 years tog­e­ther. Con­clu­si­on: it may or may not work.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has pre­pa­red a lot: lec­tures exp­lai­ning the phe­no­me­non are sche­du­led to pre­pa­re the public for the astro­no­mic event, eclip­se eye pro­tec­tion is in stock, a brochu­re has been pro­du­ced, cul­tu­ral events orga­ni­zed to keep peop­le busy any­way and a T-Shirt with a prin­ted some­thing resem­bles a burnt fried egg and the words “Eclip­se Sval­bard 2015” is avail­ab­le in the shops. In Advent­da­len, a short walk from town, a camp is pre­pa­red in a loca­ti­on whe­re the sun will be abo­ve the moun­tains on Fri­day, so guests have a place to warm up a litt­le bit and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get some food.

From today (Wed­nes­day), Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port will recei­ve char­ter and pri­va­te flights every day, brin­ging several thousand visi­tors here until Fri­day morning, so Lon­gye­ar­by­en will have its first real mass tou­rist event now, and very likely the last one for a long time (until it app­lies for the Olym­pic games or the foot­ball world cham­pions­hip, but that is cur­r­ent­ly not on the agen­da). All avail­ab­le hotels are said to have been ful­ly boo­ked sin­ce 2007, and many locals have ren­ted their flats out for pri­ces that cor­re­spond to the astro­no­mic natu­re of the event.

Now ever­y­bo­dy is curious about the wea­ther on Fri­day, clouds or clear ski­es, that will be the all-important fac­tor. Many are secret­ly hoping for a solar eclip­se with nort­hern lights, which is actual­ly pos­si­ble … and wha­te­ver hap­pens, the­re will be pho­tos of the event on this web­site.

Solar eclip­se with nort­hern lights. A fan­ta­sy of the aut­hor, made visi­ble with some com­pu­ter help.

solar eclipse Spitsbergen with northern light (computer drawing)

South Geor­gia: rats, birds and “The Mists of Time”

Die Nebel der Zeit, our Ger­man trans­la­ti­on of James McQuilken’s book “The Mists of Time”, has hel­ped to clear 2 hec­ta­res of South Geor­gia of rats in 2014 🙂 for more infor­ma­ti­on about the ongo­ing Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject of the South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust, click here (antarctic.eu news).

In 2014, the book Die Nebel der Zeit hel­ped to finan­ce the South Geor­gia Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject on 2 hec­ta­res of South Geor­gia.

Die Nebel der Zeit: support the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project

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.

Königsbergbreen

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.

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