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Monthly Archives: May 2015 − News


May 17th: Nor­we­gi­an Con­sti­tu­ti­on Day is also cele­bra­ted in the Arc­tic

May 17th is the Natio­nal Day of Nor­way. On this day Nor­we­gi­ans cele­bra­te the Nor­we­gi­an Con­sti­tu­ti­on which was adop­ted on May 17th in 1814 by the recent­ly estab­lis­hed Con­sti­tu­ent Assem­bly at the small place of Eids­voll in sou­thern Nor­way. A con­si­derable act for the coun­try and cou­ra­ge­ous as well, as Nor­way befo­re was gover­ned by the Danish crown for almost 300 years. Offi­cial­ly Nor­way was part of the Danish king­dom, the important posi­ti­ons were held by Danes and by the impact of cul­tu­re- and school-poli­tics Nor­we­gi­ans should beco­me Danish.

In 1814, at the end of the Napo­leo­nic Wars, as the ter­ri­to­ri­al reor­ga­niz­a­ti­on of the Scan­di­na­vi­an coun­tries was nego­tia­ted in the Trea­ty of Kiel, the Nor­we­gi­ans took the oppor­tu­ni­ty: They estab­lis­hed a natio­nal assem­bly, gave them­sel­ves a con­sti­tu­ti­on and elec­ted an own king. Yet, it did not work that easy. Nor­way was pres­sed into a uni­on with Swe­den ins­tead and the Swe­dish king also beca­me king of Nor­way in per­so­nal uni­on. But at least Nor­way was a sepa­ra­te king­dom again, the natio­nal assem­bly was trans­for­med into a par­lia­ment (Stor­ting) and the con­sti­tu­ti­on, cele­bra­ted on May 17th, was main­tai­ned. Nor­way beca­me com­ple­te­ly inde­pen­dent in 1905 when the uni­on with Swe­den was sus­pen­ded.

Tra­di­tio­nal­ly the Natio­nal Day is cele­bra­ted with a para­de inclu­ding music, lots of Nor­we­gi­an flags and a diver­si­ty of tra­di­tio­nal cos­tu­mes from the dif­fe­rent parts of the coun­try. In the capi­tal Oslo the para­de moves along Karl Johans Gate and pas­ses the Roy­al Palace. All over the coun­try peop­le rai­se the Nor­we­gi­an flag.

In the Nor­we­gi­an Arc­tic May 17th was cele­bra­ted as well, not only on Spits­ber­gen, in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, among the rese­ar­chers in Ny Åle­sund and in the mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va, but also at the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­ons on the remo­te islands of Bjørnøya, Jan May­en and Hopen. Even the crew of the rese­arch ves­sel RV ´Lan­ce´, fro­zen in the ice north of Spits­ber­gen, orga­ni­zed a para­de: across the ice, once around the ship. After­wards the­re was a par­ty onboard. The sta­ti­on on Bjørnøya was visi­ted by the crew of the coast­guard ves­sel KV ´Har­stad´, incre­a­sing the num­ber of par­ti­ci­pants at the para­de signi­fi­cant­ly. It is also said, that they could win some new mem­bers for the Bjørnøya Nude-Bat­hing-Asso­cia­ti­on. The smal­lest May 17th cele­bra­ti­on was held on Hopen. At least with 4 per­sons (and the 4 sta­ti­on dogs) all inha­bi­tants were pre­sent.

The para­de in Lon­gye­ar­by­en stops at the war memo­ri­al.
Pho­to: © RS

nationalfeiertag-4

In Lon­gye­ar­by­en the para­de moved from the church to the city cen­ter and fur­ther to the war memo­ri­al whe­re flowers were laid down and spee­ches were held. The spea­kers were Robert Her­man­sen, for­mer CEO of the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni and the Rus­si­an Con­sul Gene­ral in Bar­ents­burg, Jurij Grib­kov, who congra­tu­la­ted the Nor­we­gi­ans to the cele­bra­ti­on of their Con­sti­tu­ti­on. After­wards the para­de moved to the Sval­bard­hall whe­re a meal was ser­ved and the cele­bra­ti­on con­ti­nued with several events, espe­cial­ly for the child­ren. In his speech the Sys­sel­man­nen Odd Olsen Ingerø empha­si­zed Norway´s sov­er­eig­n­ty over Sval­bard and con­fir­med the vali­di­ty of the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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

Rus­sia pro­tests against Nor­we­gi­an oil deve­lo­p­ment in the Bar­ents Sea

Rus­sia is using every oppor­tu­ni­ty to chal­len­ge the Nor­we­gi­an government in the Arc­tic. Alrea­dy in ear­ly March, the Rus­si­an ambassa­dor has filed a sharp diplo­ma­tic note to the Nor­we­gi­an minis­try of for­eign affairs to pro­test against the ope­ning of blocks for oil and gas in the Bar­ents Sea.

Accord­ing to the Rus­si­ans, the area in ques­ti­on should be gover­ned by the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty, which would give other coun­tries more rights to make use of poten­ti­al resour­ces. The fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment would, at least, not be a domestic Nor­we­gi­an issue any­mo­re.

The Rus­si­an rea­so­ning, howe­ver, lea­ves a mixed impres­si­on at best: it is argued that Spits­ber­gen has a shelf area on its own, to which the rele­vant area belongs. Hence, the area should be trea­ted as part of Spits­ber­gen, accord­ing to the Rus­si­an government, and not as part of the Nor­we­gi­an eco­no­mic zone.

It is com­mon­ly accep­ted, as is illus­tra­ted in the image in this arti­cle, that the­re is one con­ti­nuous shelf from main­land Nor­way up to Spits­ber­gen, and this shelf belongs to Nor­way. This is cer­tain­ly the per­spec­ti­ve of the Nor­we­gi­an government, which is cer­tain­ly shared by the Rus­si­an government when it comes to their own shelf are­as north of Rus­sia. The­re is no geo­lo­gi­cal or juri­di­cal rea­son to defi­ne a sepa­ra­te “Spits­ber­gen Shelf”.

The con­ti­nen­tal shelf in the Bar­ents Sea (light blue) is com­mon­ly con­si­de­red one con­ti­nuous shelf. The arrow marks the posi­ti­on of Bear Island (Bjørnøya).

Kontinentalschelf Barentssee

Source: Alas­ka Dis­patch News: Rus­sia pro­tests oil deve­lo­p­ment in Sval­bard zone

Store Nor­ske bai­lout

The Nor­we­gi­an coal mining com­pa­ny in Spits­ber­gen, Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK), has been in dif­fi­cul­ties for a while (see Decem­ber news: Coal mining not pro­fi­ta­ble: Store Nor­ske cuts 100 jobs). The low world mar­ket pri­ces for coal are the main rea­son. The SNSK has alrea­dy cut a lar­ge num­ber of jobs, which is rea­son for ner­vous­ness in a place as small as Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which may suf­fer stron­gly from a signi­fi­cant loss of jobs, both eco­no­mi­c­al­ly and social­ly.

Hence, a decisi­on by the Nor­we­gi­an government comes as a reli­ef for many in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: As minis­ter of eco­no­mic affairs Moni­ca Mæland announ­ced during a press con­fe­rence, SNSK will get a credit of 500 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner (about 60 mil­li­on Euro). The com­pa­ny had asked for 450 mil­li­on NOK, less than it will actual­ly get now.

Mæland made it clear that the credit does not come without some con­di­ti­ons: it is not to be taken as a gua­ran­tee for the long-term exis­tence of coal mining in Spits­ber­gen. Future government poli­tics in Sval­bard, which set the frame­work for the deve­lo­p­ment, are to be defi­ned in a government poli­cy state­ment (“Sval­bard­mel­ding”), which comes every 5-10 years. The next Sval­bard­mel­ding is cur­r­ent­ly under pre­pa­ra­ti­on in the minis­try of jus­ti­ce. The cur­rent credit still needs appro­val from the Stor­ting (Nor­we­gi­an par­lia­ment). And the land pro­per­ty of the SNSK, which is an important local land owner, is to be trans­fer­red to the government. This shall streng­t­hen Nor­we­gi­an sov­er­eig­n­ty and is likely to be more of a sym­bo­lic cha­rac­ter, rather than having major prac­ti­cal con­se­quen­ces.

The credit for SNSK has led to com­mon reli­ef in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Coal mining in Spits­ber­gen: an indus­try with future or only with a lot of histo­ry?

coal mining, Spitsbergen

Source: NRK

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