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Yearly Archives: 2015 − News

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.


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.

Night flight across Lon­gye­ar­by­en

A vir­tu­al Spits­ber­gen expe­ri­ence of a spe­cial kind can be enjoy­ed in a video recent­ly published by Hein­rich Eggen­fell­ner:


By down­loa­ding the video you accept the pri­va­cy poli­cy of You­Tube.
Find out more

Down­load video

Night flight across Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Equip­ped with a came­ra he sends his remo­te-con­trol­led qua­dro­c­op­ter on a mid­night flight across the icy cen­ter of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The jour­ney starts in upper Lon­gye­ard­a­len at the con­nec­ting road bet­ween Nyby­en and Huset and takes us across the town, to the coast of Advent­fjor­den. On the other side of the fjord the full moon is stan­ding abo­ve the moun­ta­ins of Hiort­fjel­let. In front of the uni­ver­si­ty buil­ding of UNIS the aeri­al dro­ne stops and turns to the left, cat­ching the view to the air­port and to Isfjor­den. Then it returns to its start­ing point on the same rou­te. On our way back we can see a group of snow­mo­bi­les coming down the Lon­gye­ar­breen gla­cier.
Very impres­si­ve images!

The ‘came­ra­man’ Hein­rich Eggen­fell­ner lives in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and some of the Spits­ber­gen tra­ve­lers might know him as skipper/owner of the Arc­ti­ca II, a boat which Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com uses for sai­ling tours sin­ce 2014.

Spitsbergen’s fjords are free­zing over

In recent years, the fjords in Spits­ber­gen did not have as much of a relia­ble ice cover as they used to have ear­lier on. But the cur­rent sea­son is deve­lo­ping well: Tem­pel­fjord is fro­zen and the sai­ling boat Noor­der­licht has taken her posi­ti­on as the “boat in the ice”, alre­a­dy wel­co­ming visi­tors. Alre­a­dy now, the fast ice in Tem­pel­fjord is wider than in pre­vious years: should it get strong enough, then it would be pos­si­ble to take a fast and direct rou­te from De Geerd­a­len to the boat in the ice or even into Bil­lefjord or at least to Gips­da­len, making the win­ter rou­te to Pyra­mi­den much fas­ter. We will see if this actual­ly hap­pens, but any­way: it is loo­king good.

After a dis­ap­poin­ting fjord ice situa­ti­on in 2014, which did not even allow Noor­der­licht to beco­me fro­zen in, both locals and tou­rists are now loo­king for­ward to a good win­ter tou­ring sea­son. Only a few days ago, a hea­vy storm bro­ke a lot of ice up, but both water and air are cold enough now to turn the bro­ken floes into a con­ti­nuous ice cover again quite quick­ly.

Also Grønfjord near Barents­burg and the fjords on the nor­t­hern side of Isfjord are to a good degree fro­zen over now. It remains to be seen if Advent­fjord near Lon­gye­ar­by­en will free­ze over, as it used to in the past. A thin, young ice cover was dri­ven out by the storm on Sun­day.

Ice chart from Wed­nes­day (25th Febru­ary), © Nor­we­gi­an Ice Ser­vice.

Ice chart

Why not 2 pic­tures for one ent­ry?

The Noor­der­licht as “boat in the ice” with some local visi­tors.”

Noorderlicht as boat in the ice, Tempelfjord, with polar bears

Solar eclip­se in March attracts visi­tors to Spits­ber­gen

Tho­se who stay in Spits­ber­gen on March 20th will have the rare oppor­tu­ni­ty to enjoy the event of a total solar eclip­se. At 10:11 a.m. and 51 seconds in the sky abo­ve Lon­gye­ar­by­en the moon starts to move in a posi­ti­on bet­ween sun and earth. Almost one hour later the sky will turn dark for 2 minu­tes and 27 seconds as the moon obscu­res the image of the sun com­ple­te­ly. All in all the event lasts a litt­le lon­ger than 2 hours. On March 20th the moon´s shadow will move over the North Atlan­tic in a cur­ve bet­ween Ice­land and Nor­way over the Faroe Islands to Spits­ber­gen and fur­ther towards the North Pole.

A total eclip­se of the sun is an extre­me­ly rare natu­ral phe­no­me­non. In 2008 it occur­red abo­ve the remo­te island of Kvi­tøya, north-east of Spits­ber­gen and the next one abo­ve Spits­ber­gen will be in 2061.

Mean­while Lon­gye­ar­by­en pre­pa­res for a par­ti­cu­lar­ly high num­ber of visi­tors, wis­hing to wit­ness the spec­ta­cle in March. Spits­ber­gen Tra­vel, the big­gest hotel ope­ra­tor in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, did alre­a­dy in 2006 make reser­va­tions for their who­le con­tin­gent of 528 beds with only a sin­gle tour ope­ra­tor. Altog­e­ther 820 beds at hotels and guest­hou­ses are available. In addi­ti­on the­re are apart­ments and cab­ins which are ren­ted pri­va­te­ly – and then the­re will still be the cam­ping ground…

Due to the high demand the­re are by now pri­va­te apart­ments offe­red for extra­or­di­na­ry high pri­ces up to 100.000 kro­ner (ca. 11.560 Euro) for 5 days. Ano­ther bot­t­len­eck is the num­ber of flights. On the days befo­re the solar eclip­se 6 addi­tio­nal flights to Lon­gye­ar­by­en were estab­lished.

Solar eclip­se in Spitz­ber­gen in 2008.

Solar eclipse Spitsbergen

Young man died in snow ava­lan­che

About 7 km south of Lonye­ar­by­en, in Fard­a­len, a 21-year-old Nor­we­gi­an was found dead under a snow ava­lan­che on Satur­day 24th of Janu­ary.

As the Sys­sel­man­nen reports, the poli­ce in Lon­gye­ar­by­en was infor­med on Satur­day noon about a lar­ge ava­lan­che in Fard­a­len which cover­ed parts of the snow­mo­bi­le track lea­ding through the val­ley. Res­cue teams of the Red Cross and the Sys­sel­man­nen were sent to the sce­ne of the acci­dent imme­dia­te­ly and about one hour after being infor­med they found the young man´s body. Despi­te of the quick reac­tion it was unfort­u­na­te­ly too late for res­cuing him. The man´s body was lying clo­se to his snow­mo­bi­le which was also cover­ed by snow. No other per­sons could be detec­ted and as it tur­ned out later, no one else was miss­ing.

Fard­a­len is a popu­lar snow­mo­bi­le rou­te for trips to for exam­p­le Barents­burg or to the deser­ted mining sett­le­ment in Coles­buk­ta. The dan­ger of ava­lan­ches in Fard­a­len is not given by par­ti­cu­lar­ly high and steep moun­ta­in­si­des, it occurs by the rou­te through the val­ley lea­ding through very nar­row and win­ding pas­sa­ges.

View into Fard­a­len


Sources: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Polar bear gathe­ring on Hopen

The days bet­ween Christ­mas and New Year´s Day the crew of the Nor­we­gi­an wea­ther sta­ti­on on the remo­te island Hopen was visi­ted by an excep­tio­nal­ly high num­ber of polar bears. On sin­gle days up to six polar bears were con­ve­ned around the small group of hou­ses, as the station´s cook, Bjørn Ove Fins­eth, reports on the station´s offi­ci­al web­site. Among them the­re was also a mother tog­e­ther with its two 2-years old cubs. They found a com­for­ta­ble place to rest on the sta­ti­ons heli­c­op­ter landing place. As mem­bers of the crew have to lea­ve their shel­te­ring quar­ters con­stant­ly for meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal mea­su­res they were forced to cha­se the bears away again and again. As Fins­eth sug­gests, this was the reason for some busy days bet­ween the years. For­t­u­na­te­ly the­re was never a cri­ti­cal situa­ti­on neither for humans nor ani­mals.

The small, stre­ched island Hopen belongs to Sval­bard. It is loca­ted in the far sou­the­ast of the archi­pe­la­go. Sin­ce 1945 the Nor­we­gi­ans ope­ra­te a meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on the­re. Curr­ent­ly the sta­ti­on is run by a crew of four per­sons during win­ter­ti­me. Hopen is one of the bree­ding places for polar bears in Sval­bard.

Nor­we­gi­an meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on on Hopen in sum­mer. Polar bear pic­tures on the web­site of the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on


Source: web­site of the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal sta­ti­on on Hopen

Ant­ar­c­tic semi-cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on: Ross Sea expe­di­ti­on

It is more than 13 months ago that I have been to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. Time to get back, no doubt. Today (Fri­day, Janu­ary 09) we are start­ing in Ushua­ia with MV Ort­eli­us. Tonight, we will get the two heli­c­op­ters on board, and then we’ll cross the bel­oved Dra­ke Pas­sa­ge, hea­ding for the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la. But we want to get much, much fur­ther than that: Peter I Island, the Ross Sea and Camp­bell Island are on the wish­list for the next cou­ple of weeks … advan­ced Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, as one might be tempt­ed to say.

Fol­low us on my regu­lar blog on antarctic.eu – almost dai­ly news from the very deep south. And keep your fin­gers crossed for good wea­ther and ice con­di­ti­ons!

Tre­asu­red memo­ries from the Ross Sea trip in ear­ly 2013: curious Emper­or pen­gu­ins in McMur­do Sound. See what the next weeks will bring 🙂

Emperor penguins, Ross Sea

New Nor­we­gi­an spy ship in the Barents Sea

The Nor­we­gi­an Intel­li­gence Ser­vice (Norsk Etter­ret­ningst­je­nes­ten) is get­ting a new spy ves­sel for ope­ra­ti­ons in the Barents Sea. As it´s four pre­de­ces­sors the ship is named Mar­ja­ta. It will be put into ser­vice offi­ci­al­ly in 2016. Sin­ce the 1950s the Nor­we­gi­an Intel­li­gence Ser­vice is prac­ti­cing civil and mili­ta­ry sur­veil­lan­ce in the Barents Sea, sin­ce 1966 with an own ves­sel.

The new Mar­ja­ta will be one of the most advan­ced ships of its kind. It is lar­ger, has a bet­ter sen­sor capa­ci­ty and a wider ope­ra­tio­nal ran­ge than its direct pre­de­ces­sor which will stay in ser­vice until 2016. As the new ship will be able to cover a lar­ger area, it is sup­po­sed that it will also ope­ra­te in polar waters bey­ond the Barents Sea, for exam­p­le around Spits­ber­gen. The Nor­we­gi­an Parliament´s decis­i­on to build a new ship ins­tead of impro­ving the old one is, accor­ding to Kjell Grand­ha­gen, chief of the Intel­li­gence Ser­vice, a signal that a con­ti­nuous Nor­we­gi­an pre­sence in the Arc­tic is of high prio­ri­ty. In the long run Nor­way, as well as the other Arc­tic sta­tes, has geo­stra­te­gic inte­rests in this regi­on, con­cer­ning first of all access to natu­ral resour­ces. A new deve­lo­p­ment can be seen in the poor rela­ti­onship to the neigh­bor Rus­sia.

As Rus­sia announ­ced, the coun­try is plan­ning to inten­si­fy its mili­ta­ry acti­vi­ty in the Arc­tic (see also Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com news Rus­sia inten­si­fies mili­ta­ry acti­vi­ty in the Arc­tic from Febru­ary 2014) and after the poli­ti­cal deve­lo­p­ment in Ukrai­ne resul­ting in ten­si­ons bet­ween Rus­sia and NATO seve­ral cases of bor­der vio­la­ti­ons by the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry were reco­gni­zed in Nor­way and other Scan­di­na­vi­an sta­tes. As a reac­tion on Russia´s acti­vi­ties in Ukrai­ne the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment recent­ly deci­ded to sus­pend its long las­ting coope­ra­ti­on with the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry con­ti­nuous­ly until the end of 2015. This coope­ra­ti­on is alre­a­dy inter­rupt­ed sin­ce March 2014.

Howe­ver, in the fields of coast­guard, bor­der guards, search and res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons and the Inci­dents at Sea Agree­ment both count­ries will con­ti­nue coope­ra­ti­on as well as the cont­act bet­ween the Nor­we­gi­an Defen­se Head­quar­ters and Rus­si­an Nor­t­hern Fleet will be con­tin­ued. The­se coope­ra­ti­ons are sup­po­sed to ensu­re secu­ri­ty and sta­bi­li­ty in this regi­on.

One of the new Nor­we­gi­an spy vessel´s tasks will be to regis­ter and to docu­ment all mili­ta­ry acti­vi­ties clo­se to Nor­t­hern Nor­way so that pos­si­ble devia­ti­ons from the norm can be reco­gni­zed.

Nor­way is kee­ping a big eye open in the Barents Sea (here a coast­guard ves­sel in Kinn­vi­ka, Nord­aus­t­land). Neigh­bour Russia’s mili­ta­ry acti­vi­ties are good reason.

Norwegian coastguard ship

Sources: forsvaret.no, regjeringen.no, Barents­ob­ser­ver

Digi­tal map Spits­ber­gen

The new year (hap­py new year to all visi­tors of this web­site, by the way!) has a good start, with a slight­ly delay­ed Christ­mas pre­sent from the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment: as announ­ced, the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te has made the digi­tal maps from the Arc­tic and Ant­ar­c­tic available as down­loads. So far, the nice digi­tal maps from Spits­ber­gen, Jan May­en and the Ant­ar­c­tic (Peter I Island, Dron­ning Maud Land) could only be view­ed online. Now, they can be down­loa­ded in pixed-based and vec­tor file for­mats and used under “Crea­ti­ve Com­mons Attri­bu­ti­on 4.0 Inter­na­tio­nal (CC BY 4.0) Licen­se”. This means the maps can now be used off­line in the field and by aut­hors, web­site owners and others for publi­ca­ti­ons and this will make some peo­p­le hap­py, inclu­ding the pre­sent owner.

More on the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te web­site (Nor­we­gi­an).
To get to the down­load site, click here.

TopoS­val­bard, the digi­tal Spits­ber­gen map. Now, the map data can be down­loa­ded for off­line use. © Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te.

digital map Spitsbergen


News-Listing live generated at 2023/December/09 at 21:58:21 Uhr (GMT+1)