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Monthly Archives: November 2016 − News & Stories

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

Trom­sø, Kvaløya – 05th, 06th Novem­ber, 2016

(05th, 06th Novem­ber, 2016) – Whe­re were we … yes, Lofo­ten. It has been a while sin­ce. A lot has hap­pen­ed in the mean­ti­me, more about that later. Let’s get on with the blog, with the jour­ney, which took us back north, to Trom­sø and sur­roun­dings. A natu­ral sto­po­ver on the trip up to Spits­ber­gen.

And defi­ni­te­ly worth to spend more time the­re than just an hour bet­ween flights at the air­port. „Paris of the north“ may be a bit exag­ge­ra­ted, but it is a nice place, it has life, it is a good place to be. The old polar muse­um and the modern arc­tic show cent­re Pola­ria are natu­ral places to visit for any high lati­tu­de enthu­si­ast.

The waters near Trom­sø are now regu­lar­ly visi­ted by Orcas during their sea­son, as we saw so beau­tiful­ly just recent­ly. An orca safa­ri from Trom­sø has good chan­ces to make for a gre­at day, as it is curr­ent­ly.

And then the­re are the nor­t­hern lights. Of cour­se you need a bit of luck. You just won’t see any­thing wit­hout a clear sky and some elec­tro­ma­gne­tic acti­vi­ty in the magne­to­sphe­re. But chan­ces are good, at least if you have a few days.

We had just two days in Trom­sø, but the timing was good. No com­plains about the nor­t­hern lights it is defi­ni­te­ly a good thing to be able to get around quick­ly and to keep a good eye on the local wea­ther. Whe­re is the sky clear, whe­re do you have good sce­n­ery tog­e­ther with the auro­ra? And not too much arti­fi­ci­al light? That is actual­ly not that easy at all. It is good to know the places or at least to have a tho­rough look at the map. And the­re is also the opti­on to join a gui­ded nor­t­hern light cha­se by bus, which they offer regu­lar­ly in Trom­sø. That is not a bad opti­on at all, they know their busi­ness and they allow for sur­pri­sin­gly much time for obser­va­ti­on and pho­to­gra­phy when Lady Auro­ra is dancing.

Gal­lery – Trom­sø, Kvaløya – 05th, 06th Novem­ber, 2016

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

Within the few hours of day­light, we even got a litt­le extra by sur­pri­se. On the out­side of the lar­ge island of Kvaløya, to the west of Trom­sø, the­re is the litt­le island Som­marøy. Red light of the low sun over the who­le sce­n­ery with the sea, fjords, lots of small islets and stun­ning coast­li­nes. I was thin­king … Som­marøy, Som­marøy, I have heard that befo­re, and not too long ago. And yes: this is whe­re Wan­ny Wold­stad was born in 1895. The woman who later refer­red to hers­elf as the „first woman as fang­st­mann in Sval­bard“. Fang­st­mann is Nor­we­gi­an for trap­per. She expli­ci­te­ly used the male ver­si­on of the word. And nobo­dy in the very male arc­tic sce­ne of the 1930s or later would ever mind. Ever­y­bo­dy knew her about her adven­tures as a polar bear hun­ter in Spits­ber­gen. Recent­ly, we had a chan­ce to visit the hut in Hyt­te­vi­ka that she used during five long arc­tic win­ters. And now we saw the house whe­re she was born on Som­marøy.

Ves­t­fjord – 05th Novem­ber 2016

The rising sun saw us lea­ving the har­bour of Svol­vær. Out­side, we rea­li­zed that the wind was just about enough to set sails. So we quick­ly for­got about the idea to visit the litt­le vil­la­ge of Hen­nings­vær, we were all keen on see­ing Anti­gua under sails one more time. So up went the can­vas, and so did the spi­rits – it was just gre­at. Silence. No big waves, no swell. Warm light over sea and moun­ta­ins. What a life! Just have a look at the pho­tos.

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

We will be back in Bodø in a few hours, the last har­bour of this trip. The last har­bour of this year’s arc­tic ship­ping sea­son. Tomor­row we will say good­bye, to SV Anti­gua, to her good peo­p­le. Well, we’ll meet again next year, so no tears. And for me, it is direct­ly up to Trom­sø and Lon­gye­ar­by­en 🙂

Svol­vær, Lauk­vik – 04th Novem­ber 2016

Svol­vær is a good place to relax a bit. It is not the cent­re of the world. A nice har­bour, some art gal­le­ries, a bar made out of ice, scenic sur­roun­dings.

For us, it was the start­ing point for our visit to the nor­t­hern light cent­re in Lauk­vik. Situa­ted on the nor­t­hern side of Aus­t­vå­gøy, the­re is a free view to most direc­tions and not too much arti­fi­ci­al light. This is whe­re Rob and The­res from the Net­her­lands have estab­lished their pri­va­te nor­t­hern light cent­re. They are obvious­ly living their pas­si­on, ever­y­thing is cen­te­red around nor­t­hern lights. Rob has got a room full of tech­no­lo­gy, which he built all by hims­elf, to make „direct cont­act with the sun“ and the nor­t­hern lights, as he uses to say.

And they do have good cont­acts to hig­her levels. As soon as the pre­sen­ta­ti­on was finis­hed, we saw some nice nor­t­hern lights 🙂

Kabel­våg-Svol­vær – 04th Novem­ber 2016

The wea­ther is and remains beau­tiful. Clear sky, gent­le free­zing tem­pe­ra­tures during the night, low sun, beau­tiful colours. The sun is curr­ent­ly going up after 8 a.m. and down again near 3 p.m. Of cour­se, we have a long pha­se of twi­light. Altog­e­ther still quite a bit of light. Cer­tain­ly enough to go out­side and do nice things. We made a nice walk from Kabel­våg to Svol­vær today. That is not too far, in theo­ry you could do that in one hour. Of cour­se we took more time, enjoy­ing the land­scape. Rug­ged moun­ta­ins, a silent lake, open wood­land, litt­le wet­lands here and the­re. Some of us took the more spor­ti­ve rou­te over Tjeld­berg­tin­den, 367 m high. I didn’t, it wouldn’t be a good idea with a cold, but I know the gre­at view from up the­re 🙂

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

Skro­va, Kabel­våg – 03rd Novem­ber 2016

A beau­tiful long day, start­ing with walk across the island of Skro­va. White bea­ches in small, hid­den bays with light-blue water and Sea eagles cir­cling abo­ve us in the air.

We con­tin­ued under sails and sun to Kabel­våg. The­re, we got a true high­light in the evening – no, I am not tal­king about Sascha’s din­ner, which is a cer­tain high­light every day 🙂 no, the nor­t­hern light show. This was real­ly extra­or­di­na­ry!

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

P.S. of cour­se we also tal­ked about nor­t­hern light pho­to­gra­phy and put that know­ledge into good prac­ti­ce. I wro­te else­whe­re on this site about nor­t­hern lights and pho­to­gra­phy, click here if you are inte­res­ted in more info about that.

Skro­va – 02nd Novem­ber 2016

Yes, the­re were more nor­t­hern lights 🙂

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

Troll­fjord, Skro­va – 02nd Novem­ber 2016

Natu­re has set hers­elf a monu­ment in Troll­fjord. The place is obvious­ly famous for its impres­si­ve sce­n­ery. Which does not suf­fer from fine wea­ther sur­roun­ded by rock­walls, seve­ral hundred met­res high, cir­cling with the Zodiac around Anti­gua, while Sea eagles are cir­cling on the sky … good life in the far north!

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

The pas­sa­ge into the har­bour of Skro­va, bet­ween many rocks and sker­ries, is very plea­sant. And so are the nor­t­hern lights. We had some nice ones in the late after­noon. Cer­tain­ly not the stron­gest ones ever, but nice. We could well do with some more acti­vi­ty, but they are having a break right now. Let’s see what hap­pens later. Fin­gers crossed.


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