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Home → January, 2016

Monthly Archives: January 2016 − News & Stories

Loo­king back at 2015 – Decem­ber

While I am tal­king about good old Anti­gua: right now, she is in the shi­py­ard. Cut into two parts. No ice­berg and now under­wa­ter rock are the reason for this, but the owner’s plan to make her a bit lon­ger. Half of the cab­ins will be a bit lar­ger from 2016. But the­re won’t be more cab­ins and no more beds than so far, so not more peo­p­le than we are used to, and that is important. And they say that a lon­ger hull is making for bet­ter sai­ling abili­ties. I am loo­king for­ward to a rene­wed Anti­gua in 2016!

Anti­gua rel­oa­ded, Decem­ber 2015. Pho­to © Sven­ja Hol­lank.

Antigua in the shipyard

Mean­while, the polar night has come over Sval­bard. What should have been a peaceful and silent arc­tic win­ter brought dis­as­ter to Lon­gye­ar­by­en just befo­re Christ­mas, when a snow ava­lan­che went into a housing area, stron­gly dama­ging 11 buil­dings and kil­ling two peo­p­le. So the year 2015, which has brought war and ter­ror to many count­ries, comes to a sad end also in Spits­ber­gen. Let’s hope that 2016 will bring as many gre­at adven­tures as 2015, but less sad ones.

During the sea­son of the short days, I am sort­ing the trips of the past, get­ting tri­plogs, vide­os and pho­to gal­le­ries rea­dy, which I recom­mend to ever­y­bo­dy who wants to lea­ve their home or office men­tal­ly for a moment to take a vir­tu­al trip up north. New trips are being plan­ned, with Anti­gua, with Arc­ti­ca II, with Ópal (in 2017), with Auro­ra. To Spits­ber­gen, Green­land and Jan May­en. A new focus on hiking, in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber. This all takes time for a lot of thin­king and plan­ning. 2015 has seen 166 news and blog ent­ries on this web­site. Also new book pro­jects are get­ting on. Seve­ral ones are in the making, some in a stag quite advan­ced. So I can pro­mi­se new books, but I am not going to say any­thing about timing. I am not plan­ning an air­port, I am just wri­ting books. Nobo­dy is pay­ing me for that. So I don’t have to pro­mi­se any­thing and I don’t have to excu­se any­thing in case it takes more time. That keeps life easy (kind of).

I wish all rea­ders a good and hap­py new year! Gre­at trips in high or low lati­tu­des, health and hap­pi­ness! May­be our paths will cross, near the poles or some­whe­re in bet­ween. Under the mid­night sun or the polar light.

Cruel­ty to polar bear in Rus­sia

I guess I have to warn you here: this is not for the faint-hear­ted. The sto­ry and a rela­ted video on you­tube are dis­tur­bing.

The­re has been an extre­me case of cruel­ty to a polar bear on Wran­gel Island in the far eas­tern Rus­si­an arc­tic. A fema­le polar bear accom­pa­nied by cubs had visi­ted a con­s­truc­tion site regu­lar­ly. Appear­ent­ly, she had beco­me used to peo­p­le, who fed her regu­lar­ly. In Novem­ber, a fire­cra­cker was mixed into the food and explo­ded in her mouth, hea­vi­ly inju­ring the ani­mal. A you­tube video shows the bear moving around in gre­at pain and losing blood. The fire­cra­cker is said to have been a mili­ta­ry-type ban­ger nor­mal­ly used for mili­ta­ry edu­ca­ti­on and trai­ning, con­tai­ning 80 gram gun­pow­der.

The offen­der was the cook, who said later that it was an act of self defence, an attempt to divert the polar bear’s atten­ti­on away from ano­ther near­by per­son. This is, howe­ver, unli­kely to be true, accor­ding to local media, who report that the bear had been used to peo­p­le and never show­ing aggres­si­ve beha­viour. It is said that workers quite com­mon­ly pho­to­gra­phed them­sel­ves tog­e­ther with this par­ti­cu­lar polar bear.

A video is cir­cu­la­ting on you­tube, show­ing how the polar bear is suf­fe­ring from strong pain and blee­ding sever­ely. Infor­ma­ti­on about the con­di­ti­on of the bear sin­ce is con­tra­dic­to­ry: the­re are state­ments that she is ali­ve, but others say she has not been seen sin­ce.

Initi­al­ly the offen­der see­med to get away with a sym­bo­lic fine, but sin­ce the case drew inter­na­tio­nal atten­ti­on on the web, poli­ti­ci­ans inclu­ding Rus­si­an Envi­ron­ment Minis­ter Ser­gej Dons­koj and the gover­nor of Chu­kot­ka have deman­ded inves­ti­ga­ti­ons and a lawsu­it. The Att­or­ney Gene­ral has taken up inves­ti­ga­ti­ons, which may lead to impri­son­ment up to 3 or 7 years, depen­ding on source.

A peti­ti­on on thepetitionsite.com is sup­po­sed to increase pres­su­re on Rus­si­an aut­ho­ri­ties to take strong steps.

The online peti­ti­on does not con­tain dis­tur­bing images, but the abo­ve men­tio­ned you­tube video is tough stuff: cruel and dis­tur­bing. If you want to see it, then this is the link.

The offen­der was (is?) working for the com­pa­ny Русальянс (Russ­al­li­ans), which is con­trac­ted by the Rus­si­an Minis­try of Defence. Offi­ci­al­ly, the com­pa­ny is sup­port­ing a foun­da­ti­on that is working for the arc­tic envi­ron­ment, inclu­ding a “har­mo­nic rela­ti­onship bet­ween humans and ani­mals”.

Screen­shot of the you­tube-video.

cruelty to polar bear on Wrangel Island

Source: Stutt­gar­ter Nach­rich­ten

Loo­king back at 2015 – Novem­ber

Novem­ber is not the time for long out­door trips in the arc­tic. A slight­ly con­fu­sed Eng­lish tou­rist did not see any reason why he should not walk on his own from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Pyra­mi­den – in the polar night. Local could final­ly con­vin­ce him that this was not a gre­at thing to do.

Our last miles with guests on SV Anti­gua went in north Nor­way, get­ting out of the way of a big storm east of Trom­sø. Later, we found the nor­t­hern lights that we had all come for, and the glo­rious Lofo­ten sce­n­ery that makes this area unfor­gettable. Admit­ted­ly, some­thing else that is quite unfor­gettable is the migh­ty Adolf gun near Har­stad. So I just had to men­ti­on it here. Done that now, enough of it.

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

Thank you, Anti­gua, for gre­at trips again in 2015! This includes, of cour­se, all good peo­p­le who have been part of it. The crew, the col­le­agues, the guests. Good peo­p­le, good times, good stuff.

Loo­king back at 2015 – Octo­ber

Octo­ber began with this year’s last days in Spits­ber­gen spent on SV Anti­gua. This is of cour­se not­hing dra­ma­tic, quite the oppo­si­te, it feels good when a good time is coming to an end and you can rea­li­ze that is has actual­ly real­ly been a good time, wit­hout any acci­dents or other major unp­lea­sant events. Ins­tead, we got our final polar bear sightin­gs and the beau­tiful light of the arc­tic fall in a land­scape that is more and more get­ting into win­ter mode.

Jan May­en memo­ries came back as I show­ed the pic­tures during a pre­sen­ta­ti­on at Sval­bard­mu­se­um in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, while nor­t­hern lights were dancing on the night sky.

It was not just in natu­re that were lights were tur­ned off, but also in the Nor­we­gi­an mines in Spits­ber­gen. Not com­ple­te­ly and final­ly, but it does look dark and the working force has been redu­ced dra­sti­cal­ly in 2015. Lon­gye­ar­by­en is shrin­king, some­thing the place is not used to at all. And Sveagru­va is shrin­king even more. The­re, they are get­ting rea­dy for years of being a slee­ping beau­ty. But nobo­dy knows if this sleep will ever real­ly end to give way to rene­wed acti­vi­ty.

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

My Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016 saw the light of day at this time, the fourth of its kind in a row.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en ava­lan­che: more hou­ses dama­ged

Soon after the evacua­ti­on was lifted on Tues­day evening it tur­ned out that more hou­ses are dama­ged so stron­gly that they have to be aban­do­ned. The inha­bi­tants had to lea­ve them again soon. The hou­ses are loca­ted in Vei 228 (yel­low cir­cle in pic­tu­re below) and owned by the sta­te-owned Stats­bygg, who was at least able to quick­ly pro­vi­de repla­ce­ment accom­mo­da­ti­on. It is at least pos­si­ble to return to the buil­dings to get per­so­nal belon­gings.

This is more luck than tho­se have who lived in the now stron­gly dama­ged hou­ses (red cir­cle) hit by the ava­lan­che with full force. This area remains clo­sed to all non-aut­ho­ri­zed traf­fic accor­ding to Lokals­ty­re (the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on), who will make a plan how the for­mer inha­bi­tants can get their per­so­nal belon­gings.

Queen Son­ja of Nor­way and minis­ter of jus­ti­ce Anund­sen visi­ted the ava­lan­che site on Thurs­day after­noon.

A fami­ly who have lost their home in Vei 236 and almost their lives have now published their dra­ma­tic expe­ri­ence of the ava­lan­che in Sval­bard­pos­ten. They were in their kit­chen, having break­fast with their two litt­le child­ren and a fri­end when the ava­lan­che hit. They were com­ple­te­ly buried in snow befo­re anyo­ne could react and they just mana­ged with a lot of luck and the power that comes from despe­ra­ti­on to get them­sel­ves at least part­ly out of the snow until help came. Altog­e­ther it took about three quar­ters of an hour to get ever­y­bo­dy out. They were buried under up to two meters of hard snow, mixed with sharp frag­ments of wood and other debris. They were taken to hos­pi­tal and part­ly trea­ted for hypo­ther­mia in advan­ced stages. Due to an ama­zing amount of luck and a lot of help during and after the dra­ma­tic event, they are all well now.

The resi­den­ti­al area hit by the ava­lan­che. The hou­ses mark­ed by the red cir­cle are lar­ge­ly des­troy­ed. As it tur­ned out now, some buil­dings in Vei 228 (yel­low cir­cle) also have to be aban­do­ned.

Longyearbyen avalanche

Loo­king back at 2015 – Sep­tem­ber

A memo­ry card lost in the arc­tic wil­der­ness in 2009 was retur­ned to the owner after six years, to her (the owner’s) gre­at plea­su­re.

Mean­while, I had the gre­at plea­su­re to spend a very memo­rable week with the Ice­lan­dic scho­o­ner Ópal in Score­s­by­sund in east Green­land. What can I say. A stun­ning dis­play of arc­tic colours, a land­scape on a sca­le of its own kind. A hea­vy storm raging out on the open sea and in Ice­land, cal­ming down just in time to let us fly out wit­hout pro­blems – yes, some luck on your side is always hel­pful. And so is a buf­fer day in Ice­land if you come back from Green­land, just in case. I just men­ti­on it …

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

In Spits­ber­gen, Sep­tem­ber brings the often unde­re­sti­ma­ted magic of chan­ge bet­ween day and night back. Sun­sets and … of cour­se, nor­t­hern lights. Which we got. And, after seve­ral years, final­ly again a landing on Mof­fen, a for­bidden island in the sum­mer. The wal­rus­ses the­re were obvious­ly hap­py to see some peo­p­le. They don’t get to see too many the­re.

Loo­king back at 2015 – August

I was on the sai­ling yacht Arc­ti­ca II when July left and August came. This sum­mer was unu­sual­ly ice-rich in Sval­bard, so we expec­ted to be unable to cir­cum­na­vi­ga­te Spits­ber­gen, some­thing that had not been the case for seve­ral years. But who would com­plain about too much ice in the arc­tic? Usual­ly, we are moa­ning about the oppo­si­te the­se days.

Crossing Prins Karls For­land from west to east is not quite like crossing Green­land. It can easi­ly be done as a day hike. But how often do you have the oppor­tu­ni­ty? The sea calm enough to go ashore on the expo­sed outer side? The wea­ther good enough to make it real­ly enjoya­ble? Ever­y­thing work­ed out well and we all tho­rough­ly enjoy­ed the stun­ning views over Prins Karls For­land and the adja­cent seas and moun­ta­ins.

Some­thing that cros­ses my mind when I think back of this trip is the days that we spent in the ice in the sou­the­ast. The com­bi­na­ti­on of ice and cur­rent in Heley­sund was inde­ed spec­ta­cu­lar and some­thing one would not neces­s­a­ri­ly want to do every day. Having done that, we con­side­red the cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on a fact and I was hap­py to get to Barent­søya and Edgeøya. A sum­mer wit­hout get­ting to the­se islands in sou­the­as­tern Sval­bard would not be quite com­ple­te.

Not quite com­ple­te as of yet was our cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on, as it tur­ned out. The ice in sou­thern Storfjord actual­ly almost made us doubt it would hap­pen at all, but after spen­ding some time loo­king for a pas­sa­ge, the strong Hur­tig­ru­ten ship Fram sud­den­ly came, pushed into the ice, thus crea­ting a chan­nel that we could use com­for­ta­b­ly.

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

While were were cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ting Spits­ber­gen not wit­hout some effort, some bra­ve adven­tu­r­ers went around Nord­aus­t­land – in sea kay­aks! Actual­ly, two teams did this almost simul­ta­neous­ly. For one of them, it was just a part of a pret­ty extre­me trip from and to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This was one of the last big „firsts“ to be had in Sval­bard. Con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons!

Ava­lan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: evacua­ti­on lifted

The wea­ther in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is final­ly sett­ling with tem­pe­ra­tures below zero and litt­le wind, so aut­ho­ri­ties could now lift the evacua­tions and gene­ral ban on any traf­fic in are­as on the eas­tern side of the sett­le­ment. Peo­p­le are free to return to their homes sin­ce Tues­day evening, 2000.

The cata­stro­phic ava­lan­che befo­re Christ­mas, which des­troy­ed 11 hou­ses and kil­led two peo­p­le, was fol­lo­wed by an evacua­ti­on of a total of 114 flats. Con­se­quent­ly, about 200 peo­p­le had to lea­ve their homes, near 10 % of the total popu­la­ti­on. The exact num­ber is unknown, as not ever­y­bo­dy con­cer­ned repor­ted to the aut­ho­ri­ties. Some are also, as is quite com­mon, on Christ­mas holi­days, fol­lo­wing the events from warm bea­ches far away.

At the same time, the ava­lan­che hazard for parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en is high­ligh­ted by aut­ho­ri­ties. This risk had been known for a long time, but now it has bru­t­ally come to everybody’s minds, final­ly. A preli­mi­na­ry sys­tem with actu­al ava­lan­che risk eva­lua­ti­on has been instal­led on varsom.no, as has been com­mon­ly used in main­land Nor­way for some time alre­a­dy. Ways to deal with the risk local­ly will be dis­cus­sed now. Are­as at risk will be map­ped and then mea­su­res from tech­ni­cal safe­ty means to – poten­ti­al­ly – per­ma­nent evacua­ti­on of some are­as will con­side­red. The local com­mu­ni­ty admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Lokals­ty­re) is respon­si­ble, in coope­ra­ti­on with rele­vant tech­ni­cal aut­ho­ri­ties.

The lack of safe­ty mea­su­res, a war­ning sys­tem and public awa­re­ness, also within the aut­ho­ri­ties, has recei­ved cri­ti­cism, as the risk had been known for many years. Lon­gye­ar­by­en will see a deba­te about respon­si­bi­li­ty.

The rele­vant part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en befo­re the ava­lan­che (image © Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te).

Longyearbyen avalanche

The rele­vant part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en after the ava­lan­che. Hou­ses can be iden­ti­fied in both images by the num­bers. Buil­dings have been moved up to 80 met­res (pho­to © Geir Barstein/Svalbardposten).

Longyearbyen avalanche

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Loo­king back at 2015 – July

The long cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua is always an important mile­stone in peak sea­son. This is the case even when the trip turns out not to be a cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on. Ins­tead, at some point we had to con­ti­nue the oppo­si­te way. Not only does this sound bet­ter than going back, but it is quite true. This point was rea­ched at the ice edge in sou­thern Hin­lo­pen, whe­re it beca­me obvious for ever­y­bo­dy who was the­re that a sai­ling ship, and actual­ly any ves­sel other than the very stron­gest ones, would not con­ti­nue any fur­ther that way. But think of all we would have missed had things gone any other way! The wha­les far out on open sea, the Litt­le auks in Hyt­te­vi­ka … to men­ti­on just to events that cross my mind very spon­ta­neous­ly.

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

The polar bear in Raud­fjord that appeared exact­ly whe­re I had picked up the last ones just minu­tes ear­lier. The colours of the tun­dra, full with count­less flowers, sur­pri­se mee­tings with sci­en­tists … not to men­ti­on the three polar bears, not rela­ted, who hap­pen­ed to be all in the same place, on the ice of the lagoon of Mus­ham­na, fol­lo­wing their indi­vi­du­al ways for hours, mee­ting occa­sio­nal­ly for moments, kee­ping a watchful eye on one ano­ther. No human will ever know what a polar bear real­ly thinks of any other polar bear. Usual­ly, they will tre­at each other with respect and be rather careful. We were bles­sed with an oppor­tu­ni­ty to obser­ve that for the best parts of a memo­rable day.

Loo­king back at 2015 – June

Just in time as May gave way to June we arri­ved with SV Antiu­ga in sou­thern Spits­ber­gen, coming from Bear Island. A defi­ni­te high­light among­st this year’s events is the encoun­ter with a polar bear fami­ly in Van Keu­len­fjord. Who could ever for­get that? Anti­gua was moo­red along the fast ice edge, in peace and silence, until in the very ear­ly mor­ning hours the offi­cer on watch came down to wake ever­y­bo­dy up. The polar bear fami­ly that had been seen alre­a­dy the day befo­re, kilo­me­t­res away out on the ice, had come to the ship out of curio­si­ty. The mother was a bit more careful and stay­ed more in the back­ground, but did not mind her two cubs, both loo­king well and healt­hy, coming straight up to the ship and inves­ti­ga­ting us from all sides. An ama­zing way to start a day!

A nui­sance for tho­se con­cer­ned, but later an event not wit­hout some enter­tai­ning value: Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port was run­ning out of fuel. A nice litt­le remin­der that the arc­tic is still a remo­te place, and even the­se days it may hap­pen that sup­pli­es are not always available when they are nee­ded. Some flights direct­ly bound for Oslo had to make a sto­po­ver in Trom­sø for refuel­ling.

Mean­while, many were won­de­ring if polar bears now have dis­co­ver­ed dol­phins as their favou­ri­te prey, as seen and pho­to­gra­phed the year befo­re, and now pho­tos and dis­cus­sions were coming up. Weird. Obvious­ly nobo­dy has spent much thought on how polar bears should get hold of dol­phins on a regu­lar basis. When natu­re hap­pens to ser­ve dol­phins on a sil­ver tablet, for exam­p­le by them get­ting stuck in ice in a fjord, then a polar bear wouldn’t be a polar bear if he said no to the oppor­tu­ni­ty. But that is real­ly no news.

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

Later in June, I could add ano­ther expe­ri­ence to the alre­a­dy long list of this year’s memo­rable and plea­sant events: the view from the top of Bee­ren­berg, Jan Mayen’s famous vol­ca­no. A dream of seve­ral years, taking years of pre­pa­ra­ti­ons, beca­me a rea­li­ty in my second attempt, made pos­si­ble by a fri­end­ly wea­ther god and rea­li­zed with con­sidera­ble effort. It was worth every hard breath, and the­re were quite a few.

Loo­king back at 2015 – May

The snow melt is start­ing in May. Time to put ski and snow mobi­le away and to set sail! Tra­di­tio­nal­ly, my arc­tic sum­mer starts with SV Anti­gua, sai­ling from Bodø in Nor­way to Bear Island and up to Spits­ber­gen. Lofo­ten are a gre­at place to start the sea­son. No polar bears, no Zodiacs, a rela­xed warm-up, but wit­hout any lack of scenic beau­ty. And then off to Bear Island. Always some­thing spe­cial!

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

But the­re was some­thing lack­ing else­whe­re. Money. The Nor­we­gi­an mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske does not get the pri­ce she needs for the coal on the world mar­kets, and this has brought her into gre­at trou­bles. Mining in the high arc­tic is expen­si­ve, and being a coal miner in Spits­ber­gen is dif­fi­cult the­se days. It invol­ves a gre­at risk to find a let­ter of can­cel­la­ti­on in your post box, and that’s what hap­pen­ed to many of them. Dif­fi­cult for the peo­p­le, for the com­pa­ny, for all of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The place is small enough to suf­fer from a loss of major parts of the indus­try.

Loo­king back at 2015 – April

This is one of the most beau­tiful sea­sons up north. The wea­ther tends to sett­le a bit, and the other­wi­se quite inac­ces­si­ble inland is invi­ting to long trips. We did not need to be told twice and we spent a lot of time out the­re, inclu­ding seve­ral trips to our bel­oved east coast. It is dif­fi­cult to point out that one out­stan­ding sin­gle event, it is a mat­ter of all tho­se many ever­y­day impres­si­ons in the win­ter arc­tic, tho­se many hours under the open sky, in cold air, the ever-chan­ging light, encoun­ters with polar foxes and the Spits­ber­gen reinde­er. And of cour­se spen­ding time with good fri­ends and mee­ting other good and inte­res­t­ing peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. All this makes the time pass very quick­ly. Soon the mid­night sun is kil­ling the last dark nights.

And if you want that one out­stan­ding expe­ri­ence, then it is pro­ba­b­ly our mee­ting with a polar bear fami­ly in Bil­lefjord. This will defi­ni­te­ly remain among­st our dea­rest memo­ries. And it sol­ved the pro­blem of a title pho­to for our Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2016.

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

Spits­ber­gen made it into inter­na­tio­nal news agin when Rus­si­an vice pre­mier Rogos­in made an unhe­ral­ded visit. He is per­so­na non gra­ta in Nor­way and the EU due to the Ukrai­ne con­flict. This brought the ques­ti­on up how Nor­way could pro­tect Svalbard’s boun­da­ries more effi­ci­ent­ly (sounds fami­li­ar the­se days, doesn’t it?). If Nor­way is actual­ly entit­led to deny ent­ry to Sval­bard to a citi­zen of a trea­ty coun­try, is ano­ther ques­ti­on.

Loo­king back at 2015 – March

Spits­ber­gen got back into inter­na­tio­nal head­lines in ear­ly March, when a polar bear was shot after an encoun­ter with Czech ski tou­rists in their camp. One man suf­fe­r­ed mild inju­ries when he was drag­ged out of his tent. The event might have been avo­ided, which makes the result – a dead polar bear – even more sad. And still more sad for us, as we are quite sure that this bear was one of the two cute litt­le cubs that were play­ing so beau­tiful­ly with their mother in Tem­pel­fjord in ear­ly May 2013. We had the pri­vi­le­ge to spend many hours obser­ving them, a stun­ning expe­ri­ence that will stay with us fore­ver. I am stray­ing off cour­se, this was 2013. And now they are dead … the first one pro­ba­b­ly died in April 2014, after anaes­the­sia for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses. A con­nec­tion? Does not exist, offi­ci­al­ly. Of cour­se.

Now, away from sad­ness and dis­as­ter. On March 20, short­ly after 11 a.m. local time, Spits­ber­gen was bles­sed with a total eclip­se. Once befo­re, I had seen a par­ti­cal eclip­se, which I found quite impres­si­ve. Many peo­p­le have sin­ce told me that a total eclip­se is some­thing com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent from a par­ti­al one. Yes, of cour­se. Always gre­at to tell someone „what you have seen isn’t the real thing“. Pure bla­tancy, isn’t it?

No, they were sim­ply right. A total eclip­se is an unre­al, other­world­ly, frigh­ten­in­gly beau­tiful expe­ri­ence. And this in the con­text Spitsbergen’s win­ter land­scape, which is magi­cal by its­elf! From the diver­se light phe­no­me­na to the atmo­sphe­re that silen­ced ever­y­thing while it crept over val­leys and moun­ta­ins and the tem­pe­ra­tu­re which was fal­ling dra­sti­cal­ly within moments: all this was extre­me­ly impres­si­ve. Unfor­gettable.

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

All the eclip­se tou­rists, who had come from all over the glo­be, whe­re so extre­me­ly lucky with the wea­ther, may­be more than the­re were awa­re of. Until then, the­re had been remar­kab­ly few clear days. But this Fri­day had been imma­cu­l­ate­ly beau­tiful.

Street floo­ded in Advent­da­len

The extre­me wea­ther in the north Atlan­tic has brought this sec­tor of the Arc­tic again into inter­na­tio­nal media. A strong low pres­su­re is pum­ping warm air up north, resul­ting in unu­sual­ly high tem­pe­ra­tures in Sval­bard and the cen­tral Arc­tic. In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the mer­cu­ry went up to almost 9°C, making it war­mer than in parts of cen­tral Euro­pe at the same time. Strong rain­fall did not make it nicer, with up to 50 mm within two days in Ny Åle­sund.

Warm air incur­si­ons in mid­win­ter are a more or less regu­lar phe­no­me­non in the mari­ti­me cli­ma­te of Sval­bard, but the cur­rent event is quite strong.

The com­bi­na­ti­on of mild tem­pe­ra­tures and rain lets the snow melt and the rivers flow. In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, a litt­le bridge local­ly known as Per­le­por­ten, a walk­way across the river coming out of Vann­led­nings­da­len, is curr­ent­ly clo­sed by the aut­ho­ri­ties. His­to­ri­cal­ly, melt­wa­ter ava­lan­ches coming out of Vann­led­nings­da­len have been fatal on occa­si­ons. In June 1953, seve­ral buil­dings were dama­ged and three peo­p­le died.

Now, seve­ral tri­bu­t­a­ry rivers in Advent­da­len are floo­ding the road, making traf­fic impos­si­ble. The public is asked to avo­id any unneces­sa­ry traf­fic.

The river in Bol­terd­a­len is usual­ly fro­zen and dry in win­ter. Now it is floo­ding the road in Advent­da­len after days of tha­wing tem­pe­ra­tu­re and rain.


Source: local social net­works


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