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Daily Archives: 22. March 2017 − News & Stories

Expe­di­ti­on Ark­ti­ka 2.0: French adven­tu­rer Gil­les Elkaim sen­ten­ced to 30,000 crowns fine

They wan­ted to reach the North Pole in Fri­dt­jof Nansen’s foot­prints, but their expe­di­ti­on ended tem­pora­ri­ly on Spits­ber­gen. The French adven­tu­rer Gil­les Elkaim and his wife Ale­xia star­ted their expe­di­ti­on last year in sum­mer in Kirkenes with his sai­ling ves­sel Ark­ti­ka (not to be con­fu­sed with the local boat Arti­ka II from Lon­gye­ar­by­en). A visit of Spits­ber­gen was actual­ly not plan­ned befo­re 2018 – on the way back. Gil­les Elkaim and Ale­xia Elkaim actual­ly wan­ted to win­ter in the ice north of the New Sibe­ri­an Islands, to con­ti­nue the jour­ney to the North Pole with dog sleds.

Bad wea­ther and a dama­ged engi­ne

Rough wea­ther con­di­ti­ons and a dama­ged engi­ne for­ced them in Octo­ber last year to look for pro­tec­tion in the Duve­fjord. The Duve­fjord is strict­ly pro­tec­ted and a per­mit is requi­red in advan­ce for all tra­vels the­re.

Gil­les Elkaim on his boat Ark­ti­ka – Image: Gil­les Elkaim, publis­hed with kind per­mis­si­on

Gilles Elkaim on his boat Arktika

Spitsbergen’s gover­nor -cal­led Sys­sel­man­nen- said that she was only infor­med by refe­rence to Elkaim’s tra­vel blog about the stay of the Ark­ti­ka in the Duve­fjord. Accord­ing to his own state­ment Elkaim had infor­med the aut­ho­ri­ties on Spits­ber­gen in time on Octo­ber 8th 2016, but did not recei­ve any reac­tion. On Octo­ber 19th, the Ark­ti­ka was towed to Lon­gye­ar­by­en by Spitsbergen’s aut­ho­ri­ties.

Sin­ce Elkaim did not want to pay a fine of 25,000 crowns, he ended up in front of the court. The Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties even con­fis­ca­ted the pass­ports of Elkaim and his wife so that they could not lea­ve Spits­ber­gen. Elkaim has now been sen­ten­ced to 30,000 crowns (around 3,300 €) by the regio­nal court Nord-Troms.

Word agains word

Accord­ing to court the adven­tu­rer has vio­la­ted several laws. The Ark­ti­ka ancho­red several times bet­ween strict­ly pro­tec­ted islands bet­ween the 24th of August and the 19th of Octo­ber. Elkaim had impor­ted dogs without per­mis­si­on and did also not pro­per­ly regis­ter their jour­ney.

Elkaim, on the other hand, sees hims­elf as a vic­tim of Nor­we­gi­an bureau­cra­cy and com­p­lains that he has not been ade­qua­te­ly lis­tened to in the tri­al. He refers to the UN Con­ven­ti­on on the Law of the Sea, accord­ing to which ships of all coun­tries have the right to cross sea are­as of other coun­tries. The Con­ven­ti­on also says that ships may be ancho­red in excep­tio­nal occur­ren­ces. In fact, the UN Con­ven­ti­on on the Law of the Sea and Nor­we­gi­an envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion laws are part­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry.

Elkaim does not accept the ver­dict and wants to appeal. He also com­p­lains that the natu­re reser­ve is extre­me­ly pol­lu­t­ed with rub­bish. He told the Nor­we­gi­an sta­te chan­nel NRK on the pho­ne: “I’m not a cri­mi­nal. What is a crime about going ashore and collect gar­ba­ge in an area that Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties should have clea­ned? What is the mea­ning of a natu­re reser­ve whe­re the polar bear feeds from plastic?”

Plastic was­te: Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly no excep­ti­on on Spits­ber­gen – Image: Gil­les Elkaim, publis­hed with kind per­mis­si­on

Plastic waste: Unfortunately no exception on Spitsbergen

Elkaim wants to stay in the Rus­si­an sett­le­ment Bar­ents­burg until sum­mer, whe­re he was kind­ly accep­ted as he said. Then he want to tra­vel fur­ther towards the North Pole. Hope­ful­ly without any engi­ne dama­ge.

Source: NRK, Ark­ti­ka 2.0 on Face­book


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