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Yearly Archives: 2016 − News & Stories

Evacua­ti­on of Nyby­en lifted

Yesterday’s evacua­ti­on of Longyearbyen’s upper area Nyby­en is lifted. Also the road bet­ween the school and Nyby­en is open again.

Sys­sel­man­nen and other aut­ho­ri­ties (NVE) have inves­ti­ga­ted the snow on the slo­pes abo­ve Nyby­en and other parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en which are poten­ti­al­ly expo­sed to ava­lan­ches. It is curr­ent­ly offi­ci­al­ly con­side­red that the­re is no risk of major ava­lan­ches that might hit buil­dings.

The­re are no reports about major dama­ge from last night’s storm inclu­ding ava­lan­ches. A post box was blown away and a dog was cover­ed by snow in the dogyard, but it was found and dug out in good con­di­ti­on.

The Sys­sel­man­nen reminds ever­y­bo­dy that the ava­lan­che risk for Lon­gye­ar­by­ens sur­roun­dings is still con­side­red high and to be accor­din­gly careful with any out­side acti­vi­ties.

Longyearbyen’s upper area Nyby­en: the recent evacua­ti­on becau­se of ava­lan­che risk is lifted.

Longyearbyen avalanche risk: Nybyen evacuation

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Ava­lan­che dan­ger: Nyby­en evacua­ted

The wea­ther fore­cast for Lon­gye­ar­by­en says strong wind incre­asing to full storm during the night to Thurs­day, com­bi­ned with strong snow­fall. This wea­ther situa­ti­on means an increased risk of snow ava­lan­ches. The cur­rent ava­lan­che war­ning is level 4 on a sca­le of 5 levels. As a con­se­quence, the Sys­sel­man­nen has deci­ded to evacua­te Nyby­en.

Smal­ler snow ava­lan­ches on the slo­pes sur­roun­ding Lon­gye­ar­by­en are exepc­ted, but so far no major events that may cau­se dama­ge dama­ge to buil­dings. Nyby­en, Longyearbyen’s upper part, is faced with the grea­test risk, hence the pre­cau­tio­na­ry evacua­ti­on. Nyby­en is main­ly used for stu­dent housing and guest hou­ses, but the­re are also a few flats whe­re locals live. Most stu­dents are curr­ent­ly at home else­whe­re and not in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The road to Nyby­en is clo­sed from the school. It is stron­gly advi­sed to resign from any field trips.

Other parts of Lon­gyear­ben are curr­ent­ly not con­cer­ned by evacua­tions. This includes the resi­den­ti­al area near Suk­ker­top­pen, which was hit by an ava­lan­che in Decem­ber 2015 with lethal con­se­quen­ces. The deve­lo­p­ment will be con­stant­ly moni­to­red by the Sys­sel­man­nen and rele­vant insti­tu­ti­ons.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en during the polar night. The steep slo­pes sur­roun­ding the sett­le­ment can pro­du­ce ava­lan­ches.

Longyearbyen avalanche risk

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

No Christ­mas gifts? May­be it’s the reinde­er…

If San­ta Claus does not bring gifts on Satur­day, that could also be due to his reinde­er. Whe­ther they can pull the sledge hea­vi­ly packed with gifts is ques­tionable. Becau­se the reinde­er on Spitz­ber­gen are get­ting thin­ner!

The sub­spe­ci­es – the Sval­bard reinde­er – is alre­a­dy some­what smal­ler than their rela­ti­ves on the main­land. 135 ani­mals were weig­hed by the rese­ar­cher Ste­ve “Mis­ter Reinde­er” Albon from the James Hut­ton Insti­tu­te in Scot­land sin­ce 1994 every year in April. Rudolph Nor­mal­ren­tier lost seven kilos during this peri­od. Reason is that the ani­mals find less to eat in win­ter.

Hun­gry: Sval­bard reinde­er

And who is to bla­me? Most likely once again cli­ma­te chan­ge. Becau­se of hig­her avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tures it rains on Sval­bard more often than it snows. The rain free­zes and forms an ice lay­er on top of the snow. This makes it more dif­fi­cult for the reinde­er to come to the lichens, of which they main­ly live in the win­ter.

Nevert­hel­ess, this does not seem to affect the popu­la­ti­on: Sin­ce the 1990s, the num­ber of Sval­bard reinde­er has risen from 800 to 1400 in the Advent­da­len. What actual­ly sounds like good news could lead to a fami­ne among the reinde­er in the long term as the com­pe­ti­ti­on for food increa­ses.

We keep our fin­gers crossed for San­ta Claus and his reinde­er, and in any case wish ever­y­bo­dy a Mer­ry Christ­mas!

Sources: TV2, Dagens Nærings­liv

Head of north­po­le expe­di­ti­on “Ark­ti­ka 2.0” must go to court

A french skip­per, who is accu­sed of having vio­la­ted seve­ral of the strict requi­re­ments for the pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment on Sval­bard, is to pay a fine of 25,000 crowns (€ 2750). The two French adven­tu­r­ers Gil­les and Ale­xia Elka­im were actual­ly on the way to the North Pole in Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber this year, but had to rever­se due to bad wea­ther con­di­ti­ons.

The fact that they sought pro­tec­tion from a storm in one of the most sever­ely pro­tec­ted are­as of Sval­bard with their sail­or “Ark­ti­ka” could now be their doom. The 56-year-old skip­per does not want to pay the penal­ty. The case will then be heard befo­re the Dis­trict Court (Tin­g­rett) Nord-Troms on Febru­ary 23rd and 24th.

The adven­tu­r­ers are accu­sed of having ancho­red in the area around Kong Karls Land in the east of Sval­bard within the pro­tec­tion zone for three days, and having ente­red the island of Svens­køya with their seven hus­kies. Svens­køya is sub­ject to rigo­rous rules of pro­tec­tion: it is for­bidden to approach the island more than 500 meters, and ente­ring is for­bidden all year round. The skip­per is also sup­po­sed to have ille­gal­ly impor­ted his dogs to Sval­bard and to not have appro­ved per­mis­si­on for his expe­di­ti­on. In lar­ge parts of Sval­bard, the­re is a requi­re­ment for indi­vi­du­al tou­rists.

Polar bear in the Duvefjor­den, whe­re the French expe­di­ti­on ancho­red. The Duvefjord is loca­ted in the Nord­aust-Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve and is also pro­tec­ted as a sci­en­ti­fic refe­rence area.

Often such dis­pu­tes are a ques­ti­on of the point of view. Gil­les Elka­im descri­bes the case on 23rd Novem­ber from his per­spec­ti­ve on his Face­book page: he asked the Sys­sel­man­nen for aut­ho­riza­ti­on to over­win­ter on Octo­ber 8th, but did not recei­ve a respon­se for days. Elka­im claims also to have reques­ted for per­mis­si­on to import the dogs alre­a­dy in July – wit­hout reac­tion. The “Ark­ti­ka” had con­sidera­ble pro­blems with the engi­ne and a water pump at the begin­ning of Octo­ber and could the­r­e­fo­re not con­ti­nue. He wan­ted to get the ship safe from an emer­gen­cy. To get the boat out of the pro­tec­ted area, the Sys­sel­manns deci­ded to tow the “Ark­ti­ka” and the crew to Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Octo­ber 13th. An action with con­se­quen­ces. The expe­di­ti­on has been ter­mi­na­ted.

In the Duvefjor­den and on the Svens­køya ancho­red the Arc­tic befo­re being towed to Longyearbyen​.

Home­page of the expe­di­ti­on
Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, iFinnmark.no

Hau­ke Trinks is dead

Hau­ke Trinks was not only a sci­en­tist, but also a Spits­ber­gen adven­turer. He win­tered three times in remo­te places nor­t­hern Sval­bard. Born on Febru­ar 19, 1943 in Ber­lin, he beca­me pre­si­dent of the Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­si­ty in Ham­burg-Har­burg. After finis­hing his sci­en­ti­fic care­er, he had more time for his pas­si­ons, sai­ling and adven­ture.

In 1999-2000, Hau­ke Trinks win­tered on his own on his yacht Mesuf in Mus­ham­na in Wood­fjord. As a sci­en­tist, he wan­ted to find evi­dence for his theo­ry of an ori­gin of life in the ice. Two more win­terings fol­lo­wed, in 2003-2004 in the old sta­ti­on in Kinn­vi­ka on Nord­aus­t­land and in 2010-2011 once again on his boat in Mus­ham­na. On the­se two later win­terings, he was accom­pa­nied by Marie Tié­che. Hau­ke Trinks told his arc­tic adven­ture sto­ries in seve­ral books and docu­men­ta­ti­ons to a wider public. The­re has hard­ly been a visit to Wood­fjord sin­ce wit­hout the ques­ti­on coming up: “isn’t it someh­we­re around here whe­re Hau­ke Trinks win­tered?”

It is up to dedi­ca­ted sci­en­tists to judge his efforts and results as a reser­a­cher. Opi­ni­ons regar­ding this may be varied, but that does not mat­ter now and here. As a per­son, Hau­ke Trinks easi­ly felt at home in Spits­ber­gen, some­thing that was very evi­dent during seve­ral mee­tings this aut­hor had with Trinks in Mus­ham­na, Kinn­vi­ka and Lon­gye­ar­by­en. To share just one of the­se unfor­gettable moments: when we approa­ched Kinn­vi­ka with MV Pro­fes­sor Mul­ta­novs­kiy in the late sum­mer of 2003, when Hau­ke and Marie were just sett­ling down the­re for the­re win­tering, they quick­ly jum­ped into their Zodiac and took off to dis­ap­pear deep in Murch­ison­fjord as they saw us coming. But as we were about to lea­ve, they retur­ned quick­ly and Hau­ke, being a good nar­ra­tor, was hap­py to share sto­ries and know­ledge with us.

Hau­ke Trinks kept a strong con­nec­tion to the north and sett­led down in his new second home on Utsi­ra in Nor­way. He died in Decem­ber 2016 at the age of 73 in Spits­ber­gen or on Utsi­ra, the sources are not yet quite clear about this. We will keep fond memo­ries of him as one of few adven­tu­r­ers who, in recent years, ven­tu­red on month-long expe­di­ti­ons on his own or with just one more per­son into the polar night and the ice, fol­lo­wing a sci­en­ti­fic quest, and as a uni­que, very likeable cha­rac­ter.

Hau­ke Trinks and Marie Tiè­che in Kinn­vi­ka, 2003.

Hauke Trinks und Marie Tiéche, Kinnvika

Sources: Press release Tech­ni­sche Uni­ver­si­tät Ham­burg-Har­burg, Ham­bur­ger Abend­blatt

The ava­lan­che risk report for Lon­gye­ar­by­en has been published

The ava­lan­che risk report for Lon­gye­ar­by­en is now available. After the dead­ly ava­lan­che on Decem­ber 19, 2015 and the pre­cau­tio­na­ry evacua­tions in ear­ly Novem­ber 2016, the report has been awai­ted with eager­ness. It was com­pi­led by NVE (Nor­ges vass­d­rags- og ener­gi­di­rek­to­rat, Nor­we­gi­an direc­to­ra­te for waters and ener­gy within the minis­try for oil and ener­gy) and it is based on maps and aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy, ter­rain mode­ling, cli­ma­te ana­ly­sis, his­to­ri­cal expe­ri­ence, on-site inves­ti­ga­ti­ons and com­pu­ter mode­ling.

For the public, the results are more rele­vant than the metho­di­cal back­ground. The report includes a map that shows end­an­ge­red are­as in three colours. The are­as whe­re dama­ge cau­sed by ava­lan­ches hap­pens with a likeli­hood of 1:5000 per year is mark­ed in yel­low. In other words: dama­ge cau­sed by an ava­lan­che has to be expec­ted every 5000 years – sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, that is.

Are­as mark­ed oran­ge have an annu­al risk of 1:000 or ava­lan­che dama­ge every 1000 years. And then the­re are the red are­as, whe­re an ava­lan­che has to be expec­ted once per cen­tu­ry. The risk of a devas­ta­ting event is one per cent every year.

This risk assess­ment includes snow and slush ava­lan­ches, muds­li­des and rock­falls. Some parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are “only” expo­sed to par­ti­cu­lar hazards within this list. This can mean that dif­fe­rent are­as may be expo­sed to dan­ger at dif­fe­rent sea­sons or in dif­fe­rent wea­ther situa­tions.

A first look at the ava­lan­che risk map makes the view­er take a breath. No less than 154 flats as well as two guest hou­ses are insi­de the red zone. The­se addres­ses are faced with an annu­al risk of 1:100 of a poten­ti­al­ly cata­stro­phic event, caus­ing gre­at dama­ge and put­ting life at risk.

The obvious ques­ti­on is how Lon­gye­ar­by­en will deal with this situa­ti­on. it is clear that the opti­on to move all the hou­ses con­cer­ned quick­ly to safe are­as is not available. That will neither tech­ni­cal­ly nor poli­ti­cal­ly and finan­ci­al­ly be pos­si­ble, and the­re is the issue of space being available in suf­fi­ci­ent quan­ti­ties in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (remem­ber, it is a val­ley, and the­re are rivers, slo­pes and a fjord not far from whe­re­ver you are). As a result, the hou­ses will remain whe­re­ver they are at least for quite a while.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en will obvious­ly be deve­lo­ped in are­as that are not end­an­ge­red, making sure as much housing as pos­si­ble will be available in the­se are­as in the future. Secu­ring dan­ge­rous slo­pes with tech­ni­cal will also be dis­cus­sed.

For the time being, the­re is no other opti­on but kee­ping the ava­lan­che war­ning sys­tem upright and evacua­te end­an­ge­red addres­ses in risk situa­tions.

It was empha­si­zed that the­re is a num­ber of com­mu­ni­ties in Nor­way who are in simi­lar situa­tions. In the end, it is nor­ma­li­ty in a moun­tain and win­ter coun­try such as Nor­way, and com­mu­ni­ties will natu­ral­ly have to deal with that. This has recent­ly been igno­red in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. A high pri­ce was paid in Decem­ber 2015.

It can be taken for gran­ted that poli­ti­ci­ans from the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Lokals­ty­re) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to rele­vant depart­ments in Oslo have got some home­work to do. Mean­while, inha­bi­tants of many hou­ses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will have to live with tem­po­ra­ry evacua­tions on a short war­ning during ava­lan­che risk wea­ther.

Ava­lan­che risk map for Lon­gye­ar­by­en (NVE).

Avalanche risk map Longyearbyen

Direct link to the ava­lan­che report and direct link to the ava­lan­che risk map.

Sources: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Polar bear shot on Prins Karls For­land: fine for the shoo­ter

A polar bear was shot by a Rus­si­an sci­en­tist on August 09 on Prins Karls For­land (see Polar bear shot on Prins Karls For­land). The cir­cum­s­tances see­med doubtful: it appears that no serious attempt had been made to sca­re the polar bear away with non-lethal methods and the lethal shot was fired at a very ear­ly stage of the encoun­ter from the lar­ge distance of 130 (!) met­res. Addi­tio­nal­ly, the aut­ho­ri­ties were only infor­med about the inci­dent the fol­lo­wing day and not imme­dia­te­ly, as requi­red.

It was a two year old fema­le, weig­hing 155 kg. The ani­mal had been mark­ed befo­re.

The case was han­ded over by the Sys­sel­man­nen in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to the public pro­se­cu­tor in Trom­sø. The reason may have been the juri­di­cal and public cha­rac­ter of the case. When con­side­ring the spar­se infor­ma­ti­on that is available, one may quick­ly be tempt­ed to con­clude that the kil­ling may have been a cri­mi­nal offen­se.

Now the ver­dict from Trom­sø is the­re: the sci­en­tist who had fired the dead­ly shot is con­dem­ned to pay a fine of NOK 15000,- (ca. 1670 Euro). The man has accept­ed the fine, hence the ver­dict is effec­ti­ve.

Char­ges against the other three per­sons who were in the camp tog­e­ther with the shoo­ter have been dis­missed.

The bay Sel­vå­gen a few days befo­re the polar bear was shot on August 09.

Spitsbergen: Selvågen

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Autumn in Spits­ber­gen breaks all records

Even though it is gra­du­al­ly get­ting col­der in Spits­ber­gen, the news about record-brea­king tem­pe­ra­tures in the Arc­tic are not stop­ping. For six years, Sval­bard has been signi­fi­cant­ly war­mer than usu­al, and the tem­pe­ra­tures in Novem­ber were up to 10 degrees abo­ve avera­ge.

The con­se­quen­ces of some days of extre­me wea­ther with strong pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on in Novem­ber: At least 50 lands­li­des and ava­lan­ches were obser­ved, parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en even had to be evacua­ted.

Cli­ma­te chan­ge also threa­tens the shores, hou­ses and huts. The sea has ero­ded the unfro­zen, loo­se ground, which in Novem­ber should have been hard by frost. The hut on the left in the pic­tu­re had to be left for safe­ty reasons. Image: ©Rolf Stan­ge

climate changes threatens houses and cottages

Also in other parts of the Arc­tic it beco­mes obvious: It is quick­ly get­ting war­mer than befo­re. This appli­es both to the tem­pe­ra­tures on land as well as in the sea, whe­re up to four or even five (Isfjord, near Lon­gye­ar­by­en) degrees more have been mea­su­red. In some Arc­tic regi­ons, the air tem­pe­ra­tu­re was actual­ly 20 degrees abo­ve avera­ge (north pole).

And never befo­re has the­re been so litt­le ice on land as on the sea. Tri­cky: ice reflects the sun’s radia­ti­on. The less ice floats on the sea, the dar­ker the sea sur­face and the more suns­hi­ne is absor­bed. Rese­ar­chers are worried that the sum­mer sea ice might dis­ap­pear com­ple­te­ly from the Arc­tic.

In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, nobo­dy is curr­ent­ly expec­ting a good ice win­ter with fro­zen fjords for the 2017 sea­son.

On Spits­ber­gen it has been obser­ved for some time that the per­ma­frost ground is get­ting war­mer and beg­ins to thaw. This can lead to sett­le­ment dama­ges on buil­dings, as they are curr­ent­ly alre­a­dy obser­ved in seve­ral cases in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. In other Arc­tic regi­ons such as Sibe­ria, the tha­wing of per­ma­frost ground in mars­hy are­as, which have stored a lot of orga­nic mate­ri­al in the cold soil, also leads to the release of lar­ge amounts of the high­ly aggres­si­ve green­house gas metha­ne, which fur­ther sti­mu­la­tes cli­ma­te chan­ge.

Cli­ma­te chan­ge is no lon­ger a sca­ry news­pa­per mes­sa­ge on Spits­ber­gen, but an ever­y­day expe­ri­ence with effects on peo­p­les’ dai­ly life. More warm win­ters, ava­lan­ches and lands­li­des and evacua­tions have to be expec­ted in Spits­ber­gen in the coming years.

Sources: NRK, Cli­ma­te Home

Lon­gye­ar­breen – 20th Novem­ber 2016

I may have men­tio­ned it befo­re: the polar night is not exact­ly the time for fre­quent long field trips. You can easi­ly enjoy the nice light and atmo­sphe­re within Lon­gye­ar­by­en. And if the­re is a nor­t­hern light the­re are good places direct­ly next to town. If you want some exer­cise, then the sports­hall or run­ning shoes are good opti­ons. At least as long as the­re is not enough snow for ski or snow shoes.

And when you do ven­ture on a hike in the dark­ness, then the ter­rain does curr­ent­ly not make it easy. Lar­ge parts of the sur­face in the val­leys are iced over and very slip­pery. Which is hard to see in dark­ness. So you have to walk slow­ly and careful­ly.

All this makes it even more inte­res­t­ing to ima­gi­ne how it was when Alfred Rit­scher came on foot down from Wij­defjord to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which was cal­led Lon­gyear City back then. In Decem­ber 1912, Rit­scher made an unbe­lie­va­ble hike under the grea­test dif­fi­cul­ties and dan­gers you can ima­gi­ne. He did not have a detail­ed map, he did not know the ter­rain, he did not have a head­lamp which he could switch on when­ever nee­ded …

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­breen – 20th Novem­ber 2016

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

Well, we did not want to go that far. We were hap­py with a walk up to Lon­gye­ar­breen. That is a short and (rela­tively) easy walk when you have light and nor­mal con­di­ti­ons, I have done it with fri­ends tog­e­ther with their litt­le child­ren. But in the polar night, it is inte­res­t­ing. And beau­tiful!

Extre­me wea­ther in Spits­ber­gen: ava­lan­ches in Nor­dens­ki­öld Land

The extre­me wea­ther with strong pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on last week has trig­ge­red more than “just” a few lands­li­des near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Dama­ge was limi­t­ed to minor mate­ri­al loss at a dog yard near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (the first one at the road into Advent­da­len). More than 200 peo­p­le had been evacua­ted from their homes for seve­ral days in case of a major event.

Satel­li­te images have now shown that more than 50 lands­li­des were trig­ge­red by the rain­falls just in Nor­dens­ki­öld Land bet­ween Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Barents­burg. This shows the lack of sta­bi­li­ty of the ter­rain during peri­ods with strong rain.

Sci­en­tists expect extre­me wea­ther events like last week’s with very strong pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on to increase in fre­quen­cy and magni­tu­de. Rain­falls of 50 mm within 24 hours or even more are, so far, unty­pi­cal for the high arc­tic (“polar desert”). This means that geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal slo­pe dyna­mics inclu­ding lands­li­des, snow- and slush ava­lan­ches and rock­falls.

This will be important know­ledge both for arc­tic out­door enthu­si­asts and city plan­ners. Last year, 2 per­sons died in their homes in a snow ava­lan­che that des­troy­ed seve­ral resi­den­ti­al hou­ses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Recent satel­li­te image of Nor­dens­ki­öld Land in Spits­ber­gen show­ing Lands­li­des trig­ge­red by last week’s rain­falls. Image: Copernicus/ESA.

Extreme weather: recent avalanches landslides in Spitsbergen

Sources: bygg.no, UiO

Lon­gye­ar­by­en – 16th Novem­ber, 2016

Again, the blog had to wait for a wile. Busy times, even in the polar night. You have to be rea­dy to get out, to look for, enjoy and pho­to­graph nor­t­hern lights at any time. Hard life. The­re is no snow, unfort­u­na­te­ly. Hard to belie­ve, here in Spits­ber­gen in mid Novem­ber! But the auro­ra is beau­tiful, even wit­hout snow. And lady auro­ra has a lot of ardent wor­ship­pers. They meet out the­re when she is dancing on the sky and later on the inter­net, sha­ring and enjoy­ing the results.

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

And of cour­se peo­p­le are set­ting their minds for Christ­mas up here as well. The second half of Novem­ber is the time for the tra­di­tio­nal jule­mes­se, the Christ­mas mar­ket. Wit­hout hot spi­ced wine – we are in Nor­way, and the Nor­we­gi­ans would never touch alco­hol, would they? Well … right … But the­re is an ama­zin­gly high pro­por­ti­on of local­ly made pro­ducts, from self-made stol­len („bestem­ors tyske jule­brød“, mea­ning „grandma’s Ger­man Christ­mas bread“ 🙂 ) through pho­tos and various knit­ted mate­ri­als to Wolfi’s love­ly cut­ting boards, made by mas­ter craft­sman Wolf­gang Zach in his work­shop bet­ween the fjord and Sys­sel­man­nen. The arc­tic under your break­fast bread, repre­sen­ted by polar bear, wha­le, wal­rus or Spits­ber­gen. May­be I have to export a box and make it available, what do you think?

Ves­t­pyn­ten – 11th Novem­ber, 2016

The polar night – a beau­tiful time in the high north. The sea­son of the blue light. Nor­t­hern lights, cold, snow, silence, time for yours­elf, for fri­ends, for ever­y­thing you want.

That’s what you might think.

Rea­li­ty is dif­fe­rent. Tem­pe­ra­tures around zero and hard­ly much below. No snow, but a lot of wind and rain, recent­ly. The wind was tur­ning Isfjord’s calm waters into some­thing rather wild and furious, for a while, and the surf was smas­hing against the shore­li­ne.

Not good for the unfro­zen land. The­re is fjord now whe­re the­re used to be the shore, and the­re is shore now whe­re the­re used to be tun­dra. You don’t sleep in peace any­mo­re whe­re you could live a good life in a cosy hut just last week.

The cold coast isn’t that cold any­mo­re, and it is an ongo­ing pro­cess. Tho­se days now when an arti­fi­ci­al­ly uphea­ted and sti­mu­la­ted natu­re got clo­ser to man were the time when in the US – no, let’s not talk about it. It is just no fun at the time being, loo­king at the lar­ge events around the glo­be.

Rather than dis­cus­sing poli­tics, action was requi­red. A hut nee­ded to be emp­tied from ever­y­thing that had been nee­ded for a family’s life, bed and books, fur­ni­tu­re and fire­wood had to be moved away from the coast. Next to ever­y­thing else that was going on, the arc­tic book­wri­ting work­shop was quite busy at the same time and so on and so forth.

Gal­lery – Ves­t­pyn­ten – 11th Novem­ber, 2016

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

It would have been a nice job if it had not been a bit sad. Phy­si­cal work next to the fjord. The­re is still a bit of light around noon, you can just about ima­gi­ne the moun­ta­ins on the nor­t­hern side of Isfjord. And the moun­ta­ins on the other side of Advent­fjord are shi­ning through the dark­ness with all their beau­ty and cha­rac­ter.

Extre­me wea­ther in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (III): Eva­kua­tions can­cel­led

All evacua­tions in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have been can­cel­led. The wea­ther is calm and the aut­ho­ri­ties have esti­ma­ted the situa­ti­on as safe. Slo­pes that may pro­du­ce lands­li­des will be moni­to­red.

The way west of the cam­ping site towards Bjørn­da­len remains clo­sed. This makes an area inac­ces­si­ble whe­re many locals have lei­su­re huts. It is pos­si­ble to walk to the huts, which is, howe­ver, not prac­ti­ca­ble for many pur­po­ses. The huts will only be acces­si­ble again by regu­lar means when the road is ope­ned again or the ter­rain is sui­ta­ble for snow mobi­le traf­fic. Neither of the­se opti­ons is curr­ent­ly in view.

Some of the huts in this area will have to be moved or aban­do­ned. It has hap­pen­ed befo­re in Spits­ber­gen that huts end­an­ge­red by coas­tal ero­si­on whe­re moved. The most famous exam­p­le is Fred­heim, the famous trap­per hut in Tem­pel­fjord, which was moved away from the coast in 2015. One or the other hut bet­ween Ves­t­pyn­ten (near the cam­ping site) and Bjørn­da­len will recei­ve a simi­lar tre­at­ment and be moved at least to the other side of the road.

When and how the way its­elf will be secu­red or relo­ca­ted is ano­ther and curr­ent­ly unans­we­red ques­ti­on.

The famous trap­per hut at Fred­heim was moved away from the coast in spring 2015 due to coas­tal ero­si­on.

Fredheim, Tempelfjord

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, local gos­sip.

Extre­me wea­ther in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (II): evacua­ti­on held upright

Extre­me wea­ther with strong winds and a lot of pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on has held Lon­gye­ar­by­en in awe during the night from Mon­day to Tues­day. The­re was a fear for lands­li­des from steep and lar­ge­ly water-satu­ra­ted slo­pes near are­as with living hou­ses and infra­struc­tures. Seve­ral roads were clo­sed and a num­ber of hou­ses were evacua­ted Mon­day after­noon.

The­re have been seve­ral minor lands­li­des, but no dama­ge except from com­pa­ra­tively minor dama­ge to a dog yard near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The dogs in ken­nels at risk had been moved to other ken­nels befo­re, all ani­mals are well and safe.

On the coast bet­ween the cam­ping site and Bjørn­da­len, coas­tal ero­si­on is incre­asing due to high water and surf on unfro­zen ground. Seve­ral cab­ins and parts of the roads are at risk and likely to get lost on the long term.

The admi­nis­tra­ti­on, howe­ver, has deci­ded to keep evacua­tions upright until fur­ther noti­ce. Slo­pe pro­ces­ses take their time, and the­re is still a risk of lands­li­des. Peo­p­le are asked to stay away from steep ter­rain.

Closed and evacuated parts of Longyearbyen due to extreme weather

The mark­ed parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are curr­ent­ly (Novem­ber 7) clo­sed due to the extre­me wea­ther. Map © Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Extre­me wea­ther in Spits­ber­gen: Lon­gye­ar­by­en part­ly evacua­ted

Octo­ber had alre­a­dy been quite extre­me in Spits­ber­gen, with unu­sual­ly warm tem­pe­ra­tures and a lot of rain. The­re were mud­flows from Pla­tå­berg across the road bet­ween the church and Huset, the road was tem­po­r­a­ri­ly clo­sed.

Now it is get­ting worse: up to 50 mm pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on or even more are expec­ted during the night from Mon­day (Novem­ber 7) to Tues­day. Below 500 m alti­tu­de the pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on is expec­ted to fall as rain. Seve­ral roads in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en are clo­sed and hou­ses in seve­ral roads are evacua­ted becau­se of the risk of ava­lan­ches.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has issued seve­ral war­nings. Among­st others, peo­p­le are reques­ted to stay away from steep ter­rain and from old buil­dings such as mines and parts of the old coal cable­car, which may col­lap­se in extre­me winds.

The dan­ger of snow ava­lan­ches in hig­her ter­rain is high (stage 4).

The wea­ther is expec­ted to calm down Tues­day mor­ning. Fin­gers crossed all goes well until then.

P.S. Per­so­nal remark for fri­ends of the aut­hor: our home in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not in the con­cer­ned area.

Closed and evacuated parts of Longyearbyen due to extreme weather

The mark­ed parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are curr­ent­ly (Novem­ber 7) clo­sed due to the extre­me wea­ther. Map © Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen


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