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Home → April, 2016

Monthly Archives: April 2016 − News & Stories

Polar bear near Lon­gye­ar­by­en anaes­the­ti­zed and flown out

The Sys­sel­man­nen has deci­ded to anaes­the­ti­ze the polar bear and to fly it out and far away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This was prompt­ly done in coope­ra­ti­on with the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, which is rou­ti­ne­ly doing simi­lar ope­ra­ti­ons in con­nec­tion with field work. The polar bear is now flown out towards the east, to be released some­whe­re safe and far away from the sett­le­ments.

Accor­ding to Sys­sel­man­nen and Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, this ope­ra­ti­on was more gent­le for the polar bear than sca­ring it away with heli­c­op­ters.

Two pho­tos from the ope­ra­ti­on

The polar bear in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en short­ly after anaes­the­tiza­ti­on. Bio­lo­gists are doing some inves­ti­ga­ti­ons befo­re it is loa­ded into the heli­c­op­ter.

polar bear Longyearbyen

The heli­c­op­ter with the polar bear on its way to the east.

polar bear Longyearbyen

Polar bear near Lon­gye­ar­by­en

A polar bear in the clo­se vici­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not an ever­y­day event, it is the first time sin­ce Octo­ber 2014. The poli­ce is out with heli­c­op­ter and snow mobi­le to make sure the situa­ti­on is kept under con­trol, while many onloo­kers are gathe­ring on the rim of Lon­gye­ar­by­en near Advent­da­len.

The bear is on the shore­li­ne in Advent­da­len, may­be (rough esti­ma­te) 2 km away from town. And he (or she?) is the only one who does not care about all the exci­te­ment: he is lying, slee­ping and doing not­hing so far.

Polar bear in Advent­da­len, may­be 2 km away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The pho­to was taken from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Polar bear near Longyearbyen

Polar bear shot at Ver­le­gen­hu­ken

A polar bear was shot on Satur­day at Ver­le­gen­hu­ken, on the north coast of Spits­ber­gen.

A group of four ski tou­rists from Finn­land, on Spits­ber­gen for a 3 week trip, was on Ver­le­gen­hu­ken when the men were approa­ched by the polar bear. Initi­al­ly, they could sca­re it away with a signal pis­tol, but then the bear approa­ched again and a rif­le shot was fired from a distance of 35 met­res. The polar bear was woun­ded and went away. The group alar­med the Sys­sel­man­nen. Offi­ci­als arri­ving by heli­c­op­ter mana­ged to find the bear in a snow cave in a cliff and shot it.

The body of the polar bear was taken to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for a post mor­tem. Until now, it is only known that it was a male bear weig­hing 116 kg. The weight sug­gests that it was a young ani­mal, pos­si­bly mal­nu­tri­tio­ned in addi­ti­on. But this is not con­firm­ed infor­ma­ti­on.

The case will rou­ti­ne­ly be a mat­ter of poli­ce inves­ti­ga­ti­on to estab­lish wether or not it was a case of self defen­se. In case of care­less­ness, the law opens for fines or even impri­son­ment.

The last time a polar bear was shot was in March 2015 in Tem­pel­fjord.

Pho­to – Polar bear shot at Ver­le­gen­hu­ken

The polar bear at Ver­le­gen­hu­ken, which was shot on Satur­day (pho­to © Ire­ne Sæter­moen / Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard).

polar bear Verlegenhuken

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Barents­burg – 16th April, 2016

April is show­ing off with the best of clear, sta­ble, cold win­ter wea­ther. A trip to Barents­burg often starts with a view over Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Dri­ving along the coast is a regu­lar part of fre­quent tou­rist tours to Barents­burg, but you may not like the short, but steep ascents, espe­ci­al­ly when the sur­face is fro­zen over, if you are not used to dri­ving a snow mobi­le.

Who would have expec­ted to see a wal­rus on a win­ter trip to Barents­burg? We also saw Reinde­er and even White wha­les (Belugas), but too far away to take pho­tos.

Gal­lery – Barents­burg – 16th April, 2016

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

Barents­burg its­elf looks part­ly like a big arc­tic ver­si­on of Lego­land after seve­ral years of refur­bish­ment. The choice of colours of some of the buil­dings might be a mat­ter of deba­te, but others are real­ly beau­tiful. Lenin is medi­ta­ting as always, the view direc­ted into the distance. Impos­si­ble to say what he would say about the colours.

Sur­ging gla­ciers in Spits­ber­gen

Seve­ral of Spitsbergen’s gla­ciers are on the move. A rather sud­den type of advan­ce cal­led gla­cial sur­ge is lin­ked to the inter­nal mecha­nics of ice move­ment. The­se gla­ciers are buil­ding up ice volu­me in the catch­ment area over deca­des to dischar­ge this within rela­tively short time (typi­cal­ly 1-2 years), some­thing that invol­ves rapid move­ment of up to an impres­si­ve 10 meters per day or even more. As a result, sur­ging gla­ciers are usual­ly stron­gly crev­as­sed.

This beha­viour has recent­ly been obser­ved at Penck­breen (Van Keu­len­fjord) and Aavaats­mark­breen. It is also curr­ent­ly known from other Sval­bard gla­ciers. Around 2014, the advan­ce of parts of the ice cap Aus­t­fon­na has attrac­ted atten­ti­on.

The sur­ge beha­viour is lin­ked to ice dyna­mics and not to a cli­ma­ti­cal­ly indu­ced posi­ti­ve mass balan­ce. Altog­e­ther, Spitsbergen’s gla­ciers are suf­fe­ring from a signi­fi­cant loss of ice volu­me, with a ten­den­cy to incre­asing speed of loss in recent years due to cli­ma­te chan­ge.

Sur­ging gla­ciers in Spits­ber­gen – Penck­breen Sur­ge

The sur­ging gla­cier Penck­breen (foto April 2016 © Stig Onar­heim, with fri­end­ly per­mis­si­on).

Penckbreen surge

Source: Felt­logg, Svalbardglaciers.org.

Ope­raf­jel­let – 13th April, 2016

Hiking on Ope­raf­jel­let east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. A lot of light, a lot of very fresh air, a lot of gre­at land­scape.

Gal­lery Ope­raf­jel­let – 13th April, 2016

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en mining histo­ry – 11th April 2016

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has been a coal mining sett­le­ment sin­ce it was foun­ded by the Ame­ri­can John Mun­ro Lon­gyear in 1906. In 1916, Lon­gyear sold the place to the Nor­we­gi­an Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni which soon cal­led their mining vil­la­ge Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The mea­ning is the same as the ori­gi­nal name, just the lan­guage has chan­ged.

Exact­ly 100 years later, Store Nor­ske is just a shadow of its­elf. After some good years, it was a nar­row escape from bank­rupt­cy. Mining has a lot of histo­ry in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but not much of a future.

We had a good look of some of this histo­ry. Taub­a­ne­sen­tra­le (cable­car main sta­ti­on) is occu­py­ing the hig­hest part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, towe­ring abo­ve the vil­la­ge like the town’s land­mark. Some years ago, Store Nor­ske plan­ned to move their head­quar­ters in the­re. Not­hing came out of this. Con­certs are held the­re every now and then, may­be it will be a muse­um in the future.

Mine 3 is alre­a­dy a muse­um. Has not been one for long, it was clo­sed to visi­tors in 2009. Last year it was ope­ned for gui­ded excur­si­ons again, curr­ent­ly the only chan­ce for tou­rists to see a mine from the insi­de. Not below ground, the mine pro­per still needs to be secu­red pro­per­ly. But they want to get this done soon.

Gal­lery – Lon­gye­ar­by­en mining histo­ry – 11th April 2016

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

The lar­ge cra­ne, local­ly known as Titan cra­ne after the manu­fac­tu­rer, was used for ship­ping coal. Now it is just a remin­der of old and quite dif­fe­rent times.

Trap­pers Trail – 09th April 2016

The Trap­pers Trail dog sled race is a good reason to be in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on a cer­tain Satur­day in mid April. It has been an annu­al tra­di­ti­on sin­ce 2009. On this weekend, 09th and 10th of April, 26 teams are joi­ning the race in one out of three cate­go­ries: ski and pulk with one, two or three dogs, while the mus­her is stan­ding on ski­es. Dog sled with 3-5 DP (dog powers) and dog sled with 6-8 DP.

The teams are start­ing at 1200, fol­lo­wing upon one ano­ther every two minu­tes, from the area next to Forsking­s­par­ken (Sval­bard­mu­se­um, UNIS) under cheerful shou­ting of the onloo­kers. One or the other team does, of cour­se, make a stop on the left or right side to say hel­lo to a par­ti­cu­lar fri­end, some­thing that usual­ly invol­ves the dogs more than the mus­hers and is part of the fun, which is what it is all about. Then, they dis­ap­pear in the gre­at white not­hing in Advent­da­len (it is sno­wing today).

The race is taking the teams to Kapp Lai­la in Coles­buk­ta and tomor­row back along ano­ther rou­te, a distance of altog­e­ther 75 km, inclu­ding some deman­ding ascents. A tough trip under a com­pe­ti­ti­on, but distance and ter­rain are well within what trai­ned dog teams regu­lar­ly do.

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

Over the years, the Trap­pers Trail dog sled race has built up a good repu­ta­ti­on bey­ond Lon­gye­ar­by­en and it is an estab­lished part of the annu­al series of events that attract both locals and visi­tors.

Good and safe trip to all par­ti­ci­pan­ts!

Dia­ba­sod­den – 06th-07th April 2016

06th-07th April 2016 – One water­fall, four per­spec­ti­ves. New tech­no­lo­gy shows old beau­ty from new angles. We are loo­king at Hyperitt­fos­sen, a water­fall in De Geerd­a­len. The­re is, of cour­se, not a sin­gle drop of water run­ning the­re now, but this is not a bad thing, not at all. The ice is han­ging on to steep, rug­ged walls of basalt. Hence the name. Hyperi­te is a kind of basalt.

Beau­tiful views, a beau­tiful sun­set, litt­le hikes in the neigh­bour­hood, silence. Lots of it. A fire in the oven is warm­ing from out­side and a cho­co­la­te Eas­ter bun­ny is warm­ing from insi­de. What else could one ask for?

Gal­lery – Dia­ba­sod­den – 06th-07th April 2016

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

Dia­ba­sod­den is a place of old memo­ries. The­re I was told that aukets and gulls are two dif­fe­rent things. And that the­re are aukets with colourful beaks that are cal­led puf­fins. The first polar bear expe­ri­ence, which was an inte­res­t­ing one. It was stan­ding just out­side the tent, not much more than arm’s length away. A war­ning shot scared it away, quick­ly and for good. The night was over. The rest stay­ed fore­ver. That is 20 years ago now.

Eas­ter brain­teaser: the ans­wer

This year’s Eas­ter brain­teaser brought a sur­pri­sing and inte­res­t­ing result – none of the ans­wers was right. May­be I have unde­re­sti­ma­ted the dif­fi­cul­ty of the ques­ti­on? It looks like it. Even seve­ral sea­so­ned col­le­agues who should have been the­re 10 times or more have not reco­gni­zed the place.

This is even more sur­pri­sing as the pho­to does not show an unknown bay, but one of Spitsbergen’s most famous places: Vir­go­ham­na on Dan­s­køya. It was Vir­go­ham­na whe­re the Swe­de Salo­mon August Andrée star­ted his tra­gic North Pole voya­ge in 1897, fol­lo­wed by the Ame­ri­can Wal­ter Well­man, who star­ted at the same place in 1906, 1907 and 1909, not get­ting any­whe­re near the pole eit­her, but with an out­co­me less tra­gic.

Becau­se of the histo­ry and the Har­bour seals that can some­ti­mes be seen the­re, Vir­go­ham­na is a popu­lar place to visit still today. Alre­a­dy the abo­ve-men­tio­ned expe­di­ti­ons attrac­ted curious tou­rists, who came on ships that were ancho­ring in Vir­go­ham­na, just stay­ing and wai­ting for the expe­di­ti­ons to take off. The old pho­to must have been taken on one of the­se occa­si­ons.

Still … no right ans­wer. The ans­wers sent in are sug­gest­ing Spitsbergen’s real coal har­bours: Barents­burg, Coles­buk­ta, Advent­fjord, Pyra­mi­den. This is cer­tain­ly due to the mis­lea­ding cap­ti­on. Vir­go­ham­na does not have any­thing with a coal har­bour to do, the­re is no coal any­whe­re in that area. The news­pa­per redac­tion which used the pho­to did pro­ba­b­ly not have a more appro­pria­te one, so they used Vir­go­ham­na, gues­sing nobo­dy would know the dif­fe­rence. They were obvious­ly right! This is, of cour­se, mean 🙁 but the land­scape fea­tures are cha­rac­te­ristic, and tho­se who have been the­re should have had a fair chan­ce 😉 or not? The view shown in the lower, recent image is seen every year by hundreds.

As the­re is no right ans­wer, but an Eas­ter brain­teaser wit­hout a win­ner would be a rather sad affair, a win­ner was drawn by lot. The pri­ce goes to Tom­my H. in the Net­her­lands – con­gra­tu­la­ti­ons! Tom­my will be cont­ac­ted.

Whe­re is that? The ans­wer: Vir­go­ham­na!

Easter brainteaser: where is that? The answer: Virgohamna

A simi­lar view of Vir­go­ham­na on a grey sum­mer day in 2015 (loo­king east from the wes­tern end of the bay).

Virgohamna 2015

No direct flights from Hel­sin­ki to Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Finn­air had announ­ced last year to offer direct flights from Hel­sin­ki to Lon­gye­ar­by­en for 3 months in sum­mer 2016. The tickets had been for sale for a while alre­a­dy, but as it tur­ned out now, the Nor­we­gi­an avia­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty is unable to grant per­mis­si­on for the­se flights due to a con­ven­ti­on bet­ween Nor­way and Finn­land from 1978 that regu­la­tes air traf­fic bet­ween the­se two count­ries. It has later been repla­ced by an agree­ment that regu­la­tes air traf­fic in the who­le Euro­pean Eco­no­mic Area (EEA), but as Sval­bard is not part of the EEA, the older con­ven­ti­on is still in force here. One is left with the impres­si­on that the who­le thing is a bureau­cra­tic slip or a fools day joke if this post had been out a day ear­lier, but it is a fact for the time being.

Finn­air has announ­ced not make use of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to file an offi­ci­al com­plaint, which might still have led to a short-term chan­ge of the legal situa­ti­on. The com­pa­ny has rather deci­ded to can­cel the flights and to re-imbur­se cus­to­mers who have alre­a­dy bought a ticket.

The tou­rism indus­try in Lon­gye­ar­by­en had alre­a­dy been loo­king for­ward to about more 3000 guests during a local­ly other­wi­se rather calm sea­son.

Wel­co­me to Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port: curr­ent­ly not for Finn­air.

Longyearbyen airport: Finnair currently not welcome

Source: Highn­orth­news

Sabi­ne Land – 01 April 2016

Loo­king out into the gent­ly fal­ling snow, you might think that yesterday’s wea­ther was a plea­sant April fools joke. An imma­cu­l­ate­ly blue sky wit­hout the sligh­test hint of a cloud. Hard­ly a bree­ze, and tem­pe­ra­tures bet­ween -10 (Lon­gye­ar­by­en) and -20 (east coast). Spits­ber­gen does not get more beau­tiful than this in April, and Spits­ber­gen does not get more beau­tiful than in April (but dif­fe­rent, on a poten­ti­al­ly equal level of beau­ty).

So, it was cle­ar­ly a day for a good trip. The can­yons that are cut into palaeo­zoic lime­s­to­nes in Sas­send­a­len pro­ved a gre­at play­ground for my new toy, as the first pic­tures may show, but as it tur­ned out it it did not real­ly like the tem­pe­ra­tures.

Litt­le excur­si­ons in the migh­ty morai­ne of Rabot­breen fol­lo­wed. Natu­re has crea­ted a magni­fi­cent bit of land­scape here. Grand.

And much, much big­ger still were the ice deserts fur­ther east, Nord­manns­fon­na and its neigh­bours. Impres­si­ons of infi­ni­ty. All shades of blue and white you can think of any many more. Barents- and Edgeøya on the far hori­zon. See you in sum­mer.

Storfjord on the east coast seems to be fro­zen solid, but a clo­ser look reve­als open water in the distance. This win­ter is ano­ther one in the long row of nega­ti­ve records in terms of sea- and fjord ice, and Spits­ber­gen does not make a dif­fe­rence, unfort­u­na­te­ly. Loo­king around near the coast, the world still seems to be alright. But it isn’t.

Gal­lery Sabi­ne Land

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

Could one just get the polar bears to ligh­ten up for a second, it might be a litt­le fire­works! They are some­whe­re, that is for sure. The tracks are not too old.

In the end of the day, the polar bear’s tracks are lea­ding east, out onto the ice, and ours west, to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Ever­y­bo­dy is going home after ano­ther gre­at day in the arc­tic.


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