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Yearly Archives: 2015 − News

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)

Hau­de­gen sta­ti­on under repair

The famous Hau­de­gen-sta­ti­on in the remo­te Rijpfjord on the north coast of Nord­aus­t­land was a Ger­man mili­ta­ry wea­ther sta­ti­on from the Second World War. The sol­diers who man­ned the Hau­de­gen sta­ti­on were not picked up befo­re Sep­tem­ber 1945 and they were the last unit of the Wehr­macht (Ger­man mili­ta­ry during the war) which sur­ren­de­red offi­ci­al­ly (and very hap­pi­ly) on this occa­si­on. Rumors that they had sim­ply been for­got­ten are wrong: they had con­stant­ly been in touch with Nor­way after the end of the war, both about their pick­up and for sen­ding wea­ther data to the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal net­work.

Sin­ce then, the buil­ding of the Hau­de­gen-sta­ti­on has been decaying. It is the only war wea­ther sta­ti­on in the arc­tic that still has a stan­ding buil­ding, but the so-cal­led “hard paper hut” has suf­fe­r­ed stron­gly from 70 years of arc­tic wea­ther. Melt­wa­ter see­ping through the roof was a men­ace alre­a­dy in spring 1945, and the mois­tu­re has not done the buil­ding any good sin­ce. As a reac­tion, access to the hut and its nea­rest sur­roun­dings was clo­sed in 2010. Per Kyr­re Rei­mert, then archeo­lo­gist at the Sys­sel­man­nen, said that due to a lack of resour­ces to repair the house, clo­sing it was the only alter­na­ti­ve.

In August 2015, major repair work was done on Hau­de­gen sta­ti­on for the first time sin­ce 1945. A team of craft­smen from the Sys­sel­man­nen was the­re to start the pro­ject. A small tem­po­ra­ry hut was estab­lished for accom­mo­da­ti­on. The Hau­de­gen sta­ti­on has got a new roof which is sup­po­sed to pro­tect the buil­ding from mois­tu­re. Fur­ther work remains to be done, but no more details are known at the time of wri­ting.

The Hau­de­gen-sta­ti­on in August 2015 with a new roof.

Haudegen-station 2015

Memo­ry card lost in Spits­ber­gen in 2009 now found

Pho­tos can sur­vi­ve for a long time in the ice. In 1930, film mate­ri­al from the Swe­dish Andrée expe­di­ti­on was found on Kvi­tøya, whe­re the three mem­bers had got maroo­ned and died in 1897. A sen­sa­ti­on after 33 years.

A bit less sen­sa­tio­nal, but nevert­hel­ess remar­kab­le is the sto­ry of a digi­tal memo­ry card that was found in Spits­ber­gen in August this year. It con­ta­ins more than 1200 pho­tos, taken with an Olym­pus came­ra. The files seem to be fine after 6 years in the arc­tic. The pho­tos were taken during a trip with the sai­ling boat Noor­der­licht in ear­ly July 2009.

But the sto­ry still needs a hap­py end, as the memo­ry card has not yet found its way back to the owner. He or she is pos­si­bly on the pho­to that is shown below. Who knows this woman? We would like to help to get the card back to the owner. Plea­se let us know in case you know any­thing of inte­rest (click here to get in touch).

Likely the owner of a memo­ry card that was lost in Spits­ber­gen in 2009 and found now in August.

Memory card owner Noorderlicht 2009

The Swe­de Andrée in late July 1897 in the ice. His expe­di­ti­on got lost, the remains inclu­ding pho­tos (Kod­ak film mate­ri­al) were found on Kvi­tøya only in 1930.

Andrée in ice, 1897

Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016 available

The Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016 is available from now on in two sizes (A3 and A5). Twel­ve beau­tiful pho­tos bring Spitsbergen’s sce­n­ery and wild­life throug­hout the arc­tic sea­sons onto your wall. Click here for fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on about the new Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016.

Der Spitz­ber­gen-Kalen­der 2016 ist ab sofort wie gewohnt in den For­ma­ten A3 und A5 erhält­lich. Zwölf schö­ne Fotos brin­gen Spitz­ber­gens Land­schaf­ten und Tie­re durch die Jah­res­zei­ten auf die Wand. Der Spitz­ber­gen-Kalen­der 2016 ist hier bestell­bar.

The new Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016.

Spitsbergen calendar 2016

Mild sum­mer in Spits­ber­gen

Accor­ding to wea­ther data of the Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te, the cur­rent sum­mer month August is the war­mest of its kind sin­ce the begin­ning of mea­su­re­ments in the 1970s at the air­port near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The nor­mal avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re in August is 4.8°C. The cor­re­spon­ding value for 2015 will be bet­ween 6.6 and 6.8°C (the final value is not yet available).

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has not had sum­mer tem­pe­ra­tures on this avera­ge level at least sin­ce the 1970s. And inde­ed, parts of August were real sum­mer in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, with tem­pe­ra­tures up to around 16°C in cases. Peo­p­le were enjoy­ing the out­side tables of the cafés and restau­rants and their own homes.

Some­ti­mes, the warm tem­pe­ra­tures were more of a local cha­rac­ter: while it was more than 16°C in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, it was plea­sant­ly cool (4-5°C) at Kapp Lee on Edgeøya. Altog­e­ther, howe­ver, wea­ther data from other sta­ti­ons (Ny Åle­sund, Isfjord Radio, Barents­burg) indi­ca­te a very mild sum­mer also else­whe­re in the regi­on.

Locals are more worried about war­mer win­ters than war­mer sum­mers. The win­ter cold is important for the fjord ice. Also shrin­king gla­ciers alre­a­dy make for very obvious chan­ges in the land­scape.

Sum­mer wea­ther in Isfjord.

Summer in Isfjord

Source: NRK

Smol­de­ring fire at cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge in Coles­buk­ta

Almost two weeks ago a team of the Sys­sel­man­nen star­ted extin­gu­is­hing a sub­ter­ra­ne­an fire in Coles­buk­ta cau­sed by a camp fire. The fire was igni­ted at the foun­da­ti­on of a his­to­ri­cal buil­ding which is pro­tec­ted as a lis­ted monu­ment. In Coles­buk­ta seve­ral buil­dings from the time bet­ween 1913 and 1962 are pre­ser­ved. They ser­ved as a har­bor whe­re coal from the near­by Rus­si­an mining sett­le­ment Gru­mant­by­en was loa­ded. Both sett­le­ments are cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ges.

On Tues­day 13th of August the Sys­sel­man­nen was infor­med by tou­rists about the fire in Coles­buk­ta and a team was sent by heli­c­op­ter. The ori­gi­nal camp fire was alre­a­dy extin­gu­is­hed but it had initia­ted a smol­de­ring fire under the ground which was about to spread. First the Sysselmannen´s team pre­ven­ted the fire from spre­a­ding by dig­ging a trench and the cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge could be saved.

As now, almost two weeks later on Tues­day 25th of August the Sys­sel­man­nen and the fire depart­ment exami­ned the place again, they noti­ced that the fire was still smol­de­ring. The fire figh­ters tried to extin­gu­ish it with foam and now they think about using a seve­ral meters long hose for pum­ping water from the coast to the fire area.

As it is pro­hi­bi­ted in Sval­bard to make a fire clo­se to cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ges, the Sys­sel­man­nen is inves­ti­ga­ting in this case. So far it is not known who made the camp fire. The Sys­sel­man­nen asks for infor­ma­ti­on, pre­fer­a­b­ly from the respon­si­ble per­sons them­sel­ves.

The old mining/harbour sett­le­ment Coles­buk­ta in win­ter.


Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Nord­aus­t­land cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ted by sea kay­a­kers

The main island of Spits­ber­gen has been cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ted by sea kay­a­kers alre­a­dy in 1990. But the second-lar­gest island, Nord­aus­t­land, has so far withs­tood all attempts. Not that the­re have been a lot, but the­re were a few, which never real­ly took off due to hea­vy ice con­di­ti­ons.

Next to dif­fi­cult ice and wea­ther con­di­ti­ons, it is the long ice cliff of the ice cap Aus­t­fon­na on the east and south coast of Nord­aus­t­land, which makes any attempt to kay­ak this coast a very deman­ding ven­ture. The cal­ving gla­cier front is about 160 kilo­me­t­res long and does not afford any oppor­tu­ni­ty to land for a rest or to sit out bad wea­ther.

This sum­mer, two groups have been suc­cessful with their attempts to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te Nord­aus­t­land. The Nor­we­gi­an group “Nord­aus­t­land” rea­ched Kinn­vi­ka on August 14, whe­re they had star­ted their kay­a­king expe­di­ti­on. A crui­se ship pro­vi­ded safe and com­for­ta­ble trans­por­ta­ti­on from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Kinn­vi­ka and back, the goal of the expe­di­ti­on was kay­a­king around Nord­aus­t­land and this has been achie­ved. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons!

But “Nord­aus­t­land 2015” were not the first group. Just about one day befo­re, a group of three kay­a­kers, two from New Zea­land and one from Nor­way, had com­ple­ted their kay­ak-cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Nord­aus­t­land suc­cessful­ly. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons also to this group! But they have not yet com­ple­ted their expe­di­ti­on, as it is their ambi­tious plan to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te the who­le archi­pe­la­go, from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. But they have done the lar­gest step, Nord­aus­t­land, with impres­si­ve suc­cess.

Both groups met on the way, kept good cont­act and sup­port­ed each other with infor­ma­ti­on. “Nord­aus­t­land 2015” wro­te in their blog “If we reck­on that Nord­aus­t­lan­det is 800 mil­li­on years old, 24 hours dif­fe­rence is insi­gni­fi­cant.” Only a quib­b­ler would chall­enge this 🙂

Both groups have made an ama­zing achie­ve­ment with years of pre­pa­ra­ti­on and trai­ning. The New Zea­land-Nor­we­gi­an group com­ple­ted the 160 kilo­me­ter ice cliff coast within 40 hours wit­hout any major rests. Cam­ping on Isisøya­ne (ear­lier cal­led Isis­pyn­ten) was not pos­si­ble becau­se of the pre­sence of a num­ber of polar bears. Vibe­buk­ta was the next place whe­re put­ting up a tent was an opti­on. Drift ice and fog slo­wed the trip down. Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen, who in 1895 and 1896 made an incre­di­ble kajak adven­ture north of and within Franz Josef Land tog­e­ther with Hjal­mar Johan­sen during his Fram Expe­di­ti­on, would be impres­sed.

Gla­cier front on the south coast of Nord­aus­t­land behind den­se drift ice, July 2015.

Glacier front Nordaustland

Sources: Nord­aus­t­land 2015 (Face­book), Ice bears and Islands

Sys­sel­man­nen remo­ves gar­ba­ge from Svalbard´s bea­ches

This year an amount of 101 cubic meters of gar­ba­ge was coll­ec­ted on the Sysselmannen´s annu­al cle­a­nup crui­se to remo­te bea­ches in Sval­bard. The Sysselmannen´s ship ‘Polar­sys­sel’ was ope­ra­ting for eight days, approa­ching three places at the west- and the north coast of the main island Spits­ber­gen and two places in the nor­thwest of the island Nord­aus­t­lan­det. 24 vol­un­teers sup­port­ed the Sysselmannen´s crew in clea­ning the sin­gle coast­li­nes from gar­ba­ge that was washed ashore.

It is most of all pla­s­tic gar­ba­ge of dif­fe­rent kind and size from all over the world which floats on the ocean´s sur­face, some­ti­mes for years, and final­ly finds its way to the coast. And the big­ger part deri­ves from the fishing indus­try: fish­nets, fish­net floats, ropes and so on. For ani­mals the gar­ba­ge can turn into a lethal trap, in the water as well as ashore. Sea­birds for exam­p­le swal­low small pie­ces of pla­s­tic which they are not able to digest. They final­ly die by the accu­mu­la­ti­on of pla­s­tic pie­ces in their sto­machs. Birds and other ani­mals get ent­an­gled in ropes and fish­nets. On this year´s cam­paign the Sysselmannen´s crew found a reinde­er ske­le­ton com­ple­te­ly wrap­ped in a fish­net and in 2014 a polar bear was trai­ling a huge fish­net with its ear. The net got stuck at an ear­mark pla­ced by sci­en­tists (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Again polar bear caught in fishing net from August 2014).

With 101 cubic meters the­re was more gar­ba­ge coll­ec­ted than last year (88 cubic meters). Yet, the Sysselmannen´s cle­a­nup crui­se was not as suc­cessful as expec­ted. In the begin­ning the work was two times dis­tur­bed by polar bears show­ing up and later bad wea­ther pre­ven­ted the approach to high­ly pol­lu­ted bea­ches. Spe­cial thanks go to the local popu­la­ti­on with its wil­ling­ness to sup­port the cam­paign. More than 200 locals vol­un­tee­red for the cle­a­nup and final­ly 24 were cho­sen to accom­pa­ny the Sysselmannen´s crew.

Gene­ral­ly, the Sys­sel­man­nen can only cover a very small part of Svalbard´s coasts with this annu­al cam­paign, as for exam­p­le this year the­re were only five bea­ches clea­ned. The­r­e­fo­re smal­ler pri­va­te expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships are a signi­fi­cant help in this case, as most of them con­stant­ly arran­ge simi­lar cle­a­nups with their pas­sen­gers (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news The Oce­an Cle­a­nup: solu­ti­on for the glo­bal pla­s­tic pol­lu­ti­on pro­blem from June 2014).

Fish­net washed ashore
© Chris­ti­an Nico­lai Bjør­ke


Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

UN Secre­ta­ry-Gene­ral Ban Ki-moon is visi­ting Sval­bard

United Nati­ons Secre­ta­ry-Gene­ral Ban Ki-moon is curr­ent­ly on an offi­ci­al trip in Sval­bard. The visit is part of the UN´s cam­pain in pre­pe­ra­ti­on of the upco­ming UN Cli­ma­te Chan­ge Con­ven­ti­on in Decem­ber 2015. Ban intends to get an over­view over the local effects of glo­bal warm­ing in the Arc­tic and to use the publi­ci­ty of his visit to pri­ma­ri­ly inform about the alar­ming extend of gla­cial mel­ting.

On Tues­day Ban arri­ved at the air­port in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, accom­pa­nied by the Nor­we­gi­an For­eign Minis­ter Bør­ge Bre­de. The guests were direct­ly taken to the Nor­we­gi­an rese­arch ves­sel ‘Lan­ce’, which had recent­ly retur­ned from a rese­arch ope­ra­ti­on in the ice, north of Sval­bard. Onboard the ‘Lan­ce’ they were brought to Ny-Åle­sund whe­re sci­en­tists of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te infor­med Ban about the situa­ti­on in Sval­bard. After­wards they took a boat trip to the edge of the gla­cier Blom­strand­breen, which had mel­ted signi­fi­cant­ly sin­ce Ban’s last visit in 2009. The next stop on the tour is again Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Ban Ki-moon,
CC BY-SA 2.0 by
Minis­te­rie van Bui­ten­land­se Zaken


Source: United Nati­ons

Glau­cous gulls: The popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is under pres­su­re

Rese­ar­chers of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te repor­ted about a signi­fi­cant decli­ne of the glau­cous gull popu­la­ti­on on Bear Island, the most important bree­ding area for glau­cous gulls in Sval­bard and the Barents Sea. During the past few deca­des a per­ma­nent decli­ne of the popu­la­ti­on was reco­gni­zed on the island. An exten­ded moni­to­ring shall now find out if this trend can be con­firm­ed for other regi­ons of Sval­bard.

Bes­i­des fac­tors like food shorta­ge and cli­ma­tic chan­ges the reason for the decli­ne is more and more seen in the bird´s incre­asing con­ta­mi­na­ti­on with envi­ron­men­tal toxins (hea­vy metals, PCBs, fluo­ri­ne, …). The birds recei­ve envi­ron­men­tal toxins with their food and accu­mu­la­te them for exam­p­le in their brains and livers whe­re they affect the animal´s health. On Bear Island con­ti­nuous­ly dead and dying birds with a high con­ta­mi­na­ti­on were found. In pre­vious stu­dies Nor­we­gi­an rese­ar­chers found out that glau­cous gulls with a low con­ta­mi­na­ti­on sur­vi­ved with a rela­tively high rate of 91.5 % while only 40-50% of tho­se with a high con­ta­mi­na­ti­on sur­vi­ved the cur­rent sea­son (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Glau­cous gulls threa­ten­ed by envi­ron­men­tal toxins from March 2012). As pre­da­tors, stan­ding at the top of the food chain, glau­cous gulls also give a good indi­ca­ti­on for the con­di­ti­on of the eco­sys­tem they live in.

On the Nor­we­gi­an Red List of Threa­ten­ed Spe­ci­es the glau­cous gull popu­la­ti­on in Sval­bard is curr­ent­ly lis­ted as ‘near threa­ten­ed’ (‘nær truet’). If the alar­ming trend on Bear Island will be con­firm­ed for the who­le of Sval­bard, the sta­tus might be upgraded to ‘end­an­ge­red’ (‘truet’). Obser­va­tions in Ice­land and Cana­da also docu­men­ted a signi­fi­cant decli­ne of the glau­cous gull popu­la­ti­on while the popu­la­ti­on in Green­land, Alas­ka and Rus­sia seems to be sta­ble. But for the­se are­as, and espe­ci­al­ly for Rus­sia, the data­ba­se is not suf­fi­ci­ent.

Glau­cous gull in Spits­ber­gen, the popu­la­ti­on ist under pres­su­re.


Source: Norsk Polar­in­sti­tutt

Polar bear eats dol­phin: nor­mal or not?

Pho­tos are curr­ent­ly cir­cu­la­ting in media that show how a polar bear is eating the car­cass of a White-bea­k­ed dol­phin. Both artic­les and comm­ents that come with the­se pho­tos are reason for some exten­ded comm­ents on the event.

The first obser­va­ti­on was made in April 2014 by Jon Aars, polar bear rese­ar­cher in the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, and his sci­en­tists, in Raud­fjord, whe­re they found a polar bear that was eating a dead White-bea­k­ed dol­phin. They had not obser­ved how exact­ly the dol­phin had died. In the fol­lo­wing time up to the sum­mer, seve­ral other bears were seen eating more dol­phins, but all fur­ther obser­va­tions rela­te to the same event in the same area.

White-bea­k­ed dol­phins are com­mon in the Barents Sea inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen waters, but tend to stay at open sea, away from coas­tal waters, and are accor­din­gly not often seen. This con­tri­bu­tes to the wide­ly belie­ved impres­si­on that the­re are no dol­phins in the Arc­tic. This is not true. The state­ment that their “sud­den” pre­sence the­re has to be lin­ked to cli­ma­te chan­ge is obvious­ly wrong, they have been the­re alre­a­dy for a long time, wit­hout any link to the pre­sent cli­ma­te chan­ge. The­re are, howe­ver, obser­va­tions of White-bea­k­ed dol­phins in fjords.

It is safe to assu­me that a group of White-bea­k­ed dol­phins was trap­ped by drift ice in Raud­fjord that was blown in the­re by nor­t­her­ly winds during the days befo­re the first obser­va­ti­on was made. Insi­de the fjord, the dol­phins were forced to sur­face regu­lar­ly at small holes in the ice to breath. The­re, they are easy prey for polar bears, who often hunt seals in a very simi­lar way. Polar bears can kill seals instant­ly by hit­ting them with the paw or biting them into the head. The­re is now reason why they should not be able to do the same with dol­phins, which are of simi­lar size, once they are forced to sur­face in ice simi­lar­ly to seals.

Polar bears are very well known as oppor­tu­ni­stic fee­ders, which means they will eat almost any­thing they come across as long as they can get it down. It is no sur­pri­se that they take dol­phins when they can get hold of them. It would actual­ly be very stran­ge if they didn’t.

It is cer­tain­ly true that polar bears do usual­ly not eat dol­phins. This is due to the simp­le fact that dol­phins nor­mal­ly stay in open water, whe­re polar bears are not able to catch them.

If it is now sta­ted that polar bears, who can’t hunt their usu­al prey (seals) now becau­se of cli­ma­te chan­ge, are forced to chan­ge to dol­phins, which – again due to cli­ma­te chan­ge – have moved fur­ther north, the­re are obvious­ly seve­ral very dif­fi­cult, if not plain­ly wrong, assump­ti­ons invol­ved. The obser­va­ti­on rather means that man has not yet seen ever­y­thing that occa­sio­nal­ly hap­pens in natu­re, espe­ci­al­ly in very remo­te are­as in dif­fi­cult sea­sons and with ani­mals which are very dif­fi­cult to fol­low. Espe­ci­al­ly when it comes to quite rare events.

Polar bear sci­en­tist Jon Aars is quo­ted say­ing that White-bea­k­ed dol­phins may beco­me an important food source for a smal­ler num­ber of spe­cia­li­zed polar bears. This lacks an expl­ana­ti­on how the­se spe­cia­li­zed hun­ters should get hold of tho­se dol­phins on a more or less regu­lar basis, at least more than during a once in a life­time occa­si­on due to rare cir­cum­s­tances. Con­side­ring this and the fact that this is, so far, based on only one obser­ved event, it seems a some­what far-rea­ching hypo­the­sis. (The­re is a num­ber of pho­tos taken on seve­ral oppor­tu­ni­ties, but all of them show the same group of polar bears fee­ding on the same group of dead dol­phins in the same area).

Con­clu­si­on: this is cer­tain­ly a rare event and an even more rare obser­va­ti­on, which is, howe­ver, by no means neces­s­a­ri­ly lin­ked to cli­ma­te chan­ge, but due to an unu­su­al con­stel­la­ti­on of cir­cum­s­tances.

A polar bear fee­ding on a White-bea­k­ed dol­phin. Nor­thwest Spits­ber­gen, July 2014 © Samu­el Blanc.

Polar bear eats dolphin

Source: Polarresearch.net

Noor­der­licht: last sea­son as “ship in the ice”

SV Noor­der­licht, the two mast sai­ling ship ori­gi­nal­ly built in Ger­ma­ny as fire­ship Kalk­grund and in Dutch owner­ship a regu­lar and beau­tiful sight in Spits­ber­gen waters for many years now, is known to many as the “ship in the ice”.

When the ice sett­led in Tem­pel­fjord, Noor­der­licht was park­ed the­re and fro­zen in inten­tio­nal­ly. As soon as the ice was strong enough, the ship could be visi­ted and tou­rists could spend a night on a ship in the ice, to enjoy an atmo­sphe­re that remin­ded one of Nansen’s ship Fram during her gre­at ice drift across the arc­tic oce­an in 1893-1896. A bit shorter and less dan­ge­rous, but the fee­ling was the­re. Noor­der­licht‘s first sea­son as ship in the ice was in 2002, and sin­ce then, near 7000 over­night guests have enjoy­ed this uni­que expe­ri­ence. Due to per­mit rest­ric­tions, the ship was not open for indi­vi­du­al tou­rists, but only tho­se who came as orga­ni­zed groups with gui­des. It was often visi­ted by groups who came by dog sledge.

The Noor­der­licht crew has the desi­re to explo­re some­thing new and has sche­du­led sai­ling in north Nor­way in the spring 2016, so the ship will not be back in Tem­pel­fjord.

The tour ope­ra­tor behind the ship in the ice con­cept, Base­camp Spits­ber­gen, is now loo­king of an alter­na­ti­ve, so the sto­ry of the ship in the ice may con­ti­nue with ano­ther ves­sel. It will, howe­ver, be dif­fi­cult to replace Noor­der­licht.

Click here for some 360 degree pan­ora­mas from Noor­der­licht as “ship in the ice”.

Noor­der­licht as “ship in the ice” in Tem­pel­fjord.

Noorderlicht in Tempelfjord: ship in the ice

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten (22/2015)

Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: run­ning out of fuel

The air­port at Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Sval­bard luft­havn, is run­ning out of fuel. New kero­si­ne is orde­red and coming up by ship, but this takes some time. Mean­while, fuel is ratio­ned. Poli­ce and res­cue ser­vices have got prio­ri­ty, while air­lines are asked to refuel in main­land Nor­way as much as pos­si­ble.

As a result, direct flights from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Oslo may be forced to make an extra stop in Trom­sø for refuel­ling, which results in delay­ed arri­vals, as this aut­hor pain­ful­ly expe­ri­en­ced last week.

The sup­p­ly ship is to come next week, and then all pla­nes can refuel again in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

A king­dom for a jer­rycan! Sval­bard luft­havn is run­ning out of fuel.

Longyearbyen airport

Quel­le: NRK


News-Listing live generated at 2023/December/09 at 22:57:40 Uhr (GMT+1)