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Home → March, 2016

Monthly Archives: March 2016 − News & Stories

Ear­th­qua­ke in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The­re was an ear­th­qua­ke yes­ter­day (Tues­day, 29th March) in Spits­ber­gen that was cle­ar­ly felt in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. At 1231 hours, hou­ses were shaken and a loud rum­ble was heard and felt. Some thought of an ava­lan­che or a small ava­lan­che from the roof of their house. In some cases, fur­ni­tu­re moved up to 30 cm and pla­tes were chat­te­ring in shel­ves and on tables.

Many peo­p­le were initi­al­ly afraid, which is under­stan­da­ble con­side­ring that Lon­gye­ar­by­en has felt the des­truc­ti­ve powers of natu­re quite recent­ly during the ava­lan­che befo­re Christ­mas. Peo­p­le in the admi­nis­tra­ti­on buil­ding (Nærings­byg­get), oppo­si­te the post office, spon­ta­neous­ly deci­ded to evacua­te for some minu­tes. The ear­th­qua­ke was also cle­ar­ly felt in Barents­burg. No dama­ge occur­red any­whe­re as far as known.

The epi­cent­re is in Storfjord, west of Edgeøya. The hypo­cent­re (epi­cent­re with fixed ver­ti­cal posi­ti­on) is assu­med to be at 10 km depth. The ear­th­qua­ke rea­ched 5.3 on Richter’s sca­le, making it strong enough to poten­ti­al­ly cau­se dama­ge, but far from the des­truc­ti­ve force that turns cities into ashes or cau­ses Tsu­na­mis else­whe­re in the world.

The­re are acti­ve faults (lar­ge cracks in the crust) in Storfjord which are fre­quent­ly caus­ing ear­th­qua­kes. Recent ones were noti­ced in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014, the stron­gest one being the one from Febru­ary 2008, which rea­ched a remar­kab­le 6.2 on Richter’s sca­le. In addi­ti­on comes a lar­ge num­ber of ear­th­qua­kes that is recor­ded by seis­mic instru­ments, but not noti­ced in public.

This is what the ear­th­qua­ke on Tues­day loo­ked like. (Serious­ly: this is of cour­se a fake image, com­po­sed of seve­ral frames taken out of one pho­to.)

Earthquake Longyearbyen

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Visit to the arc­tic ope­ra – 29th March 2016

The­re is a moun­tain on the north side of Advent­da­len, 7 km east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It is cal­led Ope­raf­jel­let, becau­se it has got a natu­ral amphi theat­re. The tenor is cen­ter stage, like Pava­rot­ti. Behind him, the­re is Diri­gen­ten (the con­duc­tor), and a bit more in the back­ground, bas­so and sopra­no, as it should be.


The tenor is 656 m high. The music that is being play­ed here is arc­tic silence, twel­ve voices, some­ti­mes in major, some­ti­mes minor, as you plea­se, on and off, with the rhythm of tim­e­l­ess­ness. The regu­lar guests are reinde­er and ptar­mi­gan. Grass has taken some of the hig­her ranks, dres­sed with ele­gant, shi­ny coa­tings of ice. The spot­light is on as orde­red from the abso­lut­e­ly hig­hest level, cloud curta­ins are play­ing with the light only occa­sio­nal­ly, cas­ting playful shadows on the orches­tra pit and pain­ting colourful applau­se onto the cei­ling.

Gal­lery – Visit to the arc­tic ope­ra – 29th March 2016

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

The final cre­scen­do up to the thro­ne of the tenor is too much of a screa­ming glis­san­do for the guests today. That is left for a da Capo.

Eas­ter – 27 March 2016

The Eas­ter weekend is some­thing spe­cial in Scan­di­na­via. It is the time for tours par excel­lence. Nobo­dy is stay­ing at home. Eit­her you are having a cosy, social time, or you get your skis or snow mobi­le out and take a trip into natu­re, wha­te­ver ever­y­bo­dy feels like.

We com­bi­ned both in the most plea­sant way. Hap­py Eas­ter! 🙂

Gal­lery – Eas­ter – 27 March 2016

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

spitsbergen-svalbard.com Eas­ter brain­teaser

Amend­ment: May­be it is more dif­fi­cult than I had thought? A hint: the key is in the pho­to and not in the cap­ti­on.

The second Eas­ter brain­teaser on spitsbergen-svalbard.com. Yes! The pho­to below was taken long time ago by an unknown pho­to­grapher and used in a news­pa­per artic­le, that does not exist any­mo­re, other than this pho­to. Name and date of the publi­ca­ti­on are also unknown. But that does not mat­ter!

The cap­ti­on indi­ca­tes that this pho­to was published at a time when sove­reig­n­ty and land ten­ure were still uncer­tain, but the coal occur­ren­ces were well known. This sets the time frame into the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, about 100 years back. This is also what the artic­le must have been about: coal and sove­reig­n­ty. The cap­ti­on is as fol­lows (trans­la­ti­on of the Ger­man ori­gi­nal text)

“Pic­tu­re of the har­bour of Spits­ber­gen, which the Rus­si­ans want to pos­sess as a coal mine.

The Spits­ber­gen archi­pe­la­go, stret­ching from 76° to 80° nor­t­hern lati­tu­de, is very rich in coal. The desi­re of the Rus­si­ans to estab­lish a coal mine the­re is stron­gly oppo­sed espe­ci­al­ly by the Scan­di­na­vi­an count­ries.”

The ques­ti­on is: whe­re exact­ly was the pho­to taken?

Click here for a lar­ger ver­si­on of the image.

The pri­ces will be drawn among­st all sen­ders of cor­rect ans­wers. The win­ner will have one free choice from the books (or calen­dar or post­cards) here on spitsbergen-svalbard.com – see right side or click here to see the choice. Sen­ders of right ans­wers no. 2 and 3 will have one free choice each among­st the post­cards or the calen­dar. Click here for cont­act details to send your ans­wer.

Clo­sing date is Sun­day, 03 April 2016, 2400 hours.

Good luck and have fun – hap­py Eas­ter!

Whe­re is this?

spitsbergen-svalbard.com Easter brainteaser: where is this?

Small print: col­le­agues such as expe­di­ti­on lea­ders, gui­des and crew mem­bers are excluded from the dra­wing for pri­ces. You can, of cour­se, send your ans­wers, but the pri­ces will go to peo­p­le who are not (semi)professionally invol­ved with tra­ve­ling Spits­ber­gen.

The ans­wer has to be cor­rect and con­cre­te. Ever­y­thing that is not wrong is cor­rect, unless it is wrong. I (Rolf Stan­ge) deci­de if it is cor­rect and con­cre­te (someone has to do it). It is not enough to wri­te that it is in Spits­ber­gen. This would be cor­rect, but not con­cre­te.

Rail­way loco­mo­ti­ve from Ny Åle­sund under res­to­ra­ti­on

The famous rail­way loco­mo­ti­ve from Ny Åle­sund is one of Spitsbergen’s most fre­quent­ly pho­to­gra­phed attrac­tions. No sur­pri­se, as the this inte­res­t­ing bit of local histo­ry is pic­tures­que­ly pla­ced with moun­ta­ins and gla­ciers in the back­ground and next to a road whe­re thou­sands of crui­se ship tou­rists are wal­king each sum­mer.

Time and wea­ther have, howe­ver, been nag­ging con­stant­ly, threa­tening to des­troy this famous bit of machi­nery fore­ver. To pre­vent this, it is now in Nor­way for res­to­ra­ti­on. In Janu­ary, it went from Ny Åle­sund to Trom­sø on a ship and then from the­re on the road through Swe­den to Sørum­sand near Oslo. The­re, it will be taken care of by rail­way enthu­si­asts who have built up expe­ri­ence and repu­ta­ti­on with other his­to­ri­cal rail­way pro­jects. It is esti­ma­ted that the Ny Åle­sund loco­mo­ti­ve will need 300 work hours and 500.000 NOK (near 40.000 Euro) to get back to shape. After res­to­ra­ti­on is com­ple­ted, it will be be trans­fer­red back home to Ny Åle­sund. It is uncer­tain when this can be expec­ted. May­be tou­rists will see the famous coal train in Ny Åle­sund wit­hout the loco­mo­ti­ve this sum­mer.

The loco­mo­ti­ve is 107 years old and 8 tons hea­vy. It came to Ny Åle­sund in 1917 and was used for coal trans­por­ta­ti­on from the mine to the har­bour into the 1950s. It was res­to­red once on loca­ti­on in 1982. Plan­ning for the cur­rent res­to­ra­ti­on pro­ject star­ted 3 years ago.

The famous loco­mo­ti­ve in Ny Åle­sund, as it has been from the 1950s to 2015. It is curr­ent­ly in Nor­way for res­to­ra­ti­on.

Locomotive Ny Ålesund

-sizrce: NRK

Tem­pe­ra­tu­re in Febru­ary 10 degrees abo­ve avera­ge

The win­ter is taking a break this year in the Arc­tic. It is well known by now that the glo­bal avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tu­re in Febru­ary was well abo­ve the long-term (1950-1980) avera­ge, as much as 1.35 degrees accor­ding to NASA sci­en­tists. The tem­pe­ra­tu­re increase was espe­ci­al­ly pro­no­un­ced in nor­t­hern high lati­tu­des: north Ame­ri­ca, Sibe­ria, nor­t­hern Scan­di­na­via. In the­se regi­ons, the mer­cu­ry clim­bed 5-10 degrees hig­her than it does in avera­ge.

Recent data from Spits­ber­gen con­firm very strong warm­ing also from this area: in Febru­ary 2016, the tem­pe­ra­tu­re was no less than 14.5 degrees abo­ve the long-term avera­ge, a dra­stic value! Still, Febru­ary 2016 is not the race lea­der. Febru­ary 2014 has got this doubtful honour, with a dra­ma­tic 14.5 degree tem­pe­ra­tu­re rise abo­ve avera­ge.

In Sval­bard, the recent mild wea­ther threa­tens to influence the ongo­ing win­ter sea­son stron­gly: the fjords do not want to free­ze, which is caus­ing dif­fi­cul­ties for arc­tic wild­life. For exam­p­le, Rin­ged seals, who are giving birth on fjord ice in April and May. Wit­hout fjord ice, pregnant fema­les are not able to deli­ver, mea­ning that this year’s repro­duc­ti­ve sea­son may fail for signi­fi­cant parts of the popu­la­ti­on. This will again influence polar bears, who are usual­ly having a good and important time hun­ting on fro­zen fjords in spring. This is an important fee­ding sea­son for many polar bears, inclu­ding mother bears with youngs­ters born a few months befo­re. Espe­ci­al­ly the­se fami­lies are stron­gly depen­dent on good hun­ting con­di­ti­ons in spring, after a fas­ting peri­od of seve­ral months around birth for the mother.

Also local and other tou­rists are not hap­py about the mild wea­ther. Last weekend, an incur­si­on of warm air again brought tem­pe­ra­tures abo­ve zero, making the snow thaw and melt in inland val­leys that are part of popu­lar snow mobi­le excur­si­ons. Locals have war­ned to take the popu­lar trip to Barents­burg the­se days, as the­re was very litt­le snow left in Coles­da­len and Grøn­da­len. The mel­ted snow is now tur­ned into slip­pery ice, as tem­pe­ra­tures are fal­ling below -10°C again.

At least, the fore­cast pro­mi­ses tem­pe­ra­tures to remain low for the near future, but it is not expec­ted that fjords (Tem­pel­fjord, Bil­lefjord) still get a wide, strong fjord ice cover this sea­son.

Open water in Tem­pel­fjord at Fred­heim. The last time this area was fro­zen solid was in spring 2013.

Tempelfjord at Fredheim

Source: NRK, local obser­va­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on.

Sun cele­bra­ti­on – 08 March 2016

Astro­no­mers will tell you that the sun is coming back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en on 16 Febru­ary, and this is inde­ed the first day it is coming back abo­ve the hori­zon again. But as the sett­le­ment is sur­roun­ded by moun­ta­ins, the sun will not come back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en befo­re 08 March. No doubt this is good reason to cele­bra­te, as peo­p­le didn’t get any sun­light for 4 months – well, most will have been some­whe­re south on holi­day, but local­ly, at least. Ever­y­bo­dy is loo­king for­ward to the return of the sun, and this is cele­bra­ted with a week of events, the sol­fest­u­ke (sun cele­bra­ti­on week).

Part of it is the sol­fe­st­re­vue, a stage event tra­di­tio­nal­ly held in Huset and not in the more recent, modern and cen­tral­ly loca­ted Kul­tur­hu­set (cul­tu­re house). Many events of the last 12 months are pas­sing by again, alt­hough quite detail­ed know­ledge of local events and gos­sip (and Nor­we­gi­an lan­guage) is cer­tain­ly hel­pful to get the mes­sa­ge in many cases. From Store Nor­ske, which is faced with the pha­seout of lar­ge parts of its acti­vi­ties in the 100th year of its exis­tence, so may­be the future will see this very tra­di­tio­nal com­pa­ny coming back as Store Tor­ske, ven­tu­ring on new paths in the fishing busi­ness? To local poli­tics and poli­ti­ci­ans, some of whom are ama­zin­gly fle­xi­ble in their opi­ni­ons over time as any­whe­re else in the world, to local Sval­bar­di­ans who occa­sio­nal­ly come up with ama­zing ide­as, such as test­ing important snow mobi­le rou­tes in town by car (no, it does not work).

Fol­lo­wing a nice tra­di­ti­on, Sval­bard Kir­ke invi­ted to an open air church sur­vice on Hiorth­fjel­let, con­fi­dent­ly as always held by Sok­ne­p­rest Leif Magne Hel­ge­sen. No sur­pri­se he was elec­ted as Sval­bar­di­an of the year. Add the magni­fi­cent sur­roun­dings and glo­rious wea­ther to the ser­vice (a true Leif show!), and you have got some­thing not to be missed.

The high­light was of cour­se the actu­al sol­fest (sun cele­bra­ti­on) on 08 March. Not the least due to the gre­at wea­ther. This date has often been clou­dy in recent histo­ry, and so were the last cou­ple of weeks. A sun cele­bra­ti­on wit­hout sun is a bit like a wed­ding wit­hout a bri­de.

Gal­lery Sun cele­bra­ti­on – 08 March 2016

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

Today, it was to be dif­fe­rent. Not the sligh­test cloud on the sky! Seve­ral hundred peo­p­le, inclu­ding many child­ren deco­ra­ted with yel­low scar­ves with the shape of sun rays, had gathe­red around the stairs of the for­mer hos­pi­tal (pre WWII, not­hing but the stairs are left) near the church, as this is the first part of town to which the sun returns. The child­ren are chee­ring to the sun: sol, sol, kom igjen! Sola er min bes­te venn! (Sun, sun, come back! The sun is my best fri­end! Admit­ted­ly, rhy­me and rhythm do work much bet­ter in Nor­we­gi­an). The­re are songs, the­re is some tal­king, the­re is good vibes in the air, lots of it. And then, the­re is the sun. A moving moment when the light is tur­ned on abo­ve Lars­breen and the sun rays are fal­ling on the crowd, warm­ing faces and hearts, cheerful­ly wel­co­med by ever­y­bo­dy. Some more songs, then peo­p­le are going the­re way. The dark time is over for this win­ter.

Barents­burg – 04/05 March 2015

04/05 March 2015 – Over­night visit to Barents­burg. The fresh­ly reno­va­ted hotel now offers a neat stan­dard, from remar­kab­le rooms (some of them do have a bath tub!), nice food (à la car­te) to fast WLAN. At the same time, this means that it has lost some of its ori­gi­nal charme.

Of cour­se this is pro­ba­b­ly not what you main­ly come for when you visit the arc­tic, but it may be good to know that it is abso­lut­e­ly save to plan a trip to Barents­burg as an over­night 🙂 it has not always been like that. And from Barents­burg the­re is a good choice of inte­res­t­ing places to see in reach, espe­ci­al­ly if you are tra­vel­ling by snow mobi­le, next to the Rus­si­an sett­le­ment its­elf. They even offer cour­ses in Rus­si­an han­di­crafts the­re the­se days! I have to admit that I have not done that.

Gal­lery Barents­burg – 04/05 March 2015

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

The way back went in den­se snow­fall. It was neither cold nor win­dy, but the snow was fal­ling den­se­ly enough to make dri­ving a bit unp­lea­sant and cer­tain­ly quite slow. We enjoy­ed the full pro­gram­me, from snow mobi­les fal­ling on the side on slo­pes cover­ed with deep, snoft fresh snow to snow mobi­les dig­ging them­sel­ves in within seconds in such places. Gre­at fun … :-/


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