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Monthly Archives: November 2017 − News


San­ta Claus’ Let­ter­box – 20th Novem­ber 2017

If you have been to Lon­gye­ar­by­en sin­ce Decem­ber 2013, then you have seen the huge, red let­ter­box just upon ent­e­ring town, as you came from the air­port. This was the San­ta Claus Mail­box, and here you could post your let­ters to San­ta Claus.

The let­ter­box was an idea from Po Lin Lee from Hon­kong, but she did not just send an idea and money from far away. She was and is in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and puts a lot of effort into hear pos­tal pro­ject. But – the per­mis­si­on to have it stan­ding the­re was only tem­pora­ry. It ran out on Decem­ber 2015, and then, the let­ter­box was to be remo­ved again, or a new per­mis­si­on had to be obtai­ned.

Neit­her of this hap­pen­ed, until Mon­day. What hap­pen­ed, was a fight that took a lot of time and ener­gy. Let­ters, admo­ni­ti­ons and warnings were writ­ten, bureau­crats and lawy­ers did what bureau­crats and lawy­ers do. Neigh­bours would have to be con­ta­c­ted to give their con­sent to a rene­wed per­mis­si­on for the let­ter­box to remain in place, but is is said that this never hap­pen­ed. Lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties seem to have play­ed a role.

Then, the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on (Lon­gye­ar­by­en Lokals­ty­re, LL) set a dead­line: the let­ter­box was to disap­pe­ar on Mon­day, Novem­ber 20, 2017. The order to remo­ve it had alrea­dy been given by LL to a local con­struc­tion firm. The invoice about the sub­stan­ti­al amount of 129,000 NOK (about 13,300 Euro) was in the end to be paid by Po Lin Lee.

Who reac­ted by orde­ring a com­pa­ny from the main­land to take the let­ter­box down in a more care­fu­ly way, so it could be re-built again later some­whe­re else. Befo­re that hap­pen­ed, Po Lin Lee gave visi­tors a last chan­ce to visit the let­ter­box, only to find out that the door had been firm­ly locked with big screws – without her, the owner, knowing about it. Also, the­re were traces of fore­cul break-in on the door, pos­si­b­ly from a local com­pa­ny who had alrea­dy remo­ved the electri­cal sys­tem on behalf of the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on.

Gal­le­ry – San­ta Claus’ Let­ter­box – 20th Novem­ber 2017

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

Mean­while, the dis­cus­sion in local social media group had gai­ned some momen­tum. Some were hap­py that local demo­cra­cy had won a vic­to­ry and the let­ter­box was now about to disap­pe­ar, while others expres­sed sad­ness. The­re are dif­fe­rent opi­ni­ons regar­ding the ques­ti­on if Lon­gye­ar­by­en should be pre­sen­ted to the glo­bal public as a San­ta Claus Town. The local legend actual­ly says that San­ta Claus lives in Mine 7b, abo­ve Nyby­en. During the Christ­mas peri­od, the­re is light up the­re, and the­re is a let­ter­box (of more con­ven­tio­nal dimen­si­ons) next to the road below it, whe­re child­ren can send their let­ters to San­ta Claus as part of the local christ­mas hap­pe­nings.

The big San­ta Claus let­ter­box was now remo­ved by a com­pa­ny on behalf of Po Lin Lee. Accord­ing to her, the­re are several inte­res­ted par­ties that might step in and take over the let­ter­box to put it up again else­whe­re in Scan­di­na­via. And Po Lin Lee has not given up hopes that she might actual­ly be able again to put it up some­whe­re else in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Hap­py Christ­mas time to ever­y­bo­dy!

More arc­tic Christ­mas sto­ries? – Click here to check out my (Ger­man) book with his­to­ri­cal Christ­mas sto­ries from high lati­tu­des.

His­to­ri­cal
Christ­mas sto­ries
(Ger­man)

Arktische Weihnachten - Rolf Stange

Pic­tu­re frames made of Spits­ber­gen-drift­wood avail­ab­le for the first time in limi­ted edi­ti­on

During a walk on any of Spitsbergen’s beau­ti­ful beaches, you can’t help it but be ama­zed about the impres­si­ve amounts of drift­wood. Not only does it add a aes­the­ti­cal aspect to the other­wi­se rather ste­ri­le shore­li­ne, but it does also have a fasci­na­ting histo­ry: Just as Fri­dt­jof Nan­sen did with his famous ship the Fram, did the wood drift all the way from Sibe­ria with the pack ice across the Arc­tic Oce­an and all the way to the north Atlan­tic, whe­re it was thrown onto an arc­tic beach in Sval­bard, Green­land, Ice­land, Jan May­en or Frans Josef Land.

Treibholz bei Wigdehlpynten - Spitzbergen

Drift­wood at Wig­dehl­pyn­ten – Woodfjord, Spits­ber­gen

And the­re we have it. If you are a trap­per, you can use it to build a hut (that was rare­ly done, too much effort) or as fire­wood (that was very com­mon). I am not a trap­per, but a pho­to­gra­pher, so it was an obvious idea to use the drift­wood to make pic­tu­re frames. Can you ima­gi­ne a more appro­pria­te pic­tu­re frame for arc­tic pic­tures than one made of drift­wood from Spits­ber­gen?

Tur­ning drif­tood into pic­tu­re frames requi­red more effort than we expec­ted to begin with. We made the first serious attempts several years ago, when mas­ter car­pen­ter Wolf­gang Zach ope­ned his carpenter’s work­shop in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. He cal­led his litt­le com­pa­ny “Alt i 3”, which is a play of words: “3” is “tre” in Nor­we­gi­an, which also means “tree” or “wood” at the same time. So it trans­la­tes to “Ever­ything out of wood”. We found also out that you do actual­ly need a licen­se to export drift­wood from Spits­ber­gen, so that was ano­t­her thing we had to take care of.

So I star­ted collec­ting drift­wood in small amounts. The first pro­ject was a books­helf for our flat in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and at the same time we star­ted making the first pro­to­ty­pes of pic­tu­re frames. We just had to find out what works well with this very spe­cial mate­ri­al. One of the dis­co­ve­ries that we made was that if you cut and sand it, it loo­ks as fresh and new as a woo­den board that you just bought in the buil­ding sup­ply store. Which is of cour­se not the idea with pic­tu­re frames made from arc­tic drift­wood. So I star­ted loo­king for pie­ces of wood that had a good shape to start with. Most pie­ces of drift­wood are not natu­ral, but rather trees cut in fores­try in Sibe­ria or even rea­dy-made boards. Com­ple­te­ly natu­ral drift­wood – trees with roots – are actual­ly qui­te rare.

Treibholz Hiorthhamn - Spitzbergen

Rolf Stan­ge trans­por­ting drift­wood to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

I took this drift­wood in small amounts to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, were it had to be stored and slow­ly dried over lon­ger peri­ods of time. Then, Wolf­gang and I could start making the first pic­tu­re frames in his carpenter’s work­shop. After some expe­ri­men­ting, we had a pro­to­ty­pe that we both lik­ed, so the mas­ter car­pen­ter could start to pro­du­ce the first set of 16 pic­tu­re frames – all of them were made by Wolf­gang Zach in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Spitsbergen driftwood picture frame

Now, the­se had to get to Ger­ma­ny. If you know me, then it won’t sur­pri­se you to read that they tra­vel­led from Spits­ber­gen to Fran­eker in the Nether­lands on the good sai­ling ship Anti­gua and from the­re via Müns­ter and Dres­den to my ship­ping depart­ment in nor­the­as­tern Ger­ma­ny.

After this long jour­ney from Sibe­ria, down a river, with the ice across the Arc­tic Oce­an to a beach in Spits­ber­gen, from the­re to Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Wolfang’s carpenter’s work­shop, from the­re on a sai­ling ship to Euro­pe. And the­re they are now, the very first seri­es of 16 pic­tu­re frames from Spits­ber­gen drift­wood, avail­ab­le for the first time sin­ce Novem­ber 2017.

Every sin­gle pic­tu­re frame is a uni­que spe­ci­men. This has to do with the histo­ry of the wood, the natu­ral cha­rac­ter of the mate­ri­al, the manu­al pro­duc­tion. So I took pho­to­graphs of all frames, which you can see on this page (click here), which also has all the tech­ni­cal infor­ma­ti­on (dimen­si­ons, pri­ce etc.)

Picture frame of Spitsbergen driftwood

New 360° pan­ora­ma: Ball­stad, Lofo­ten

A new pan­ora­ma on this site gives a 360 degree view of Ball­stad on Ves­t­vå­gøy, one of the Lofo­ten islands in north Nor­way. I shot it free­hand and the wea­ther was qui­te typi­cal Novem­ber.

Spits­ber­gen-calen­der 2018: the east coast

In Febru­a­ry, the Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018 takes us to the east coast. In the win­ter sea­son, this is a popu­lar desti­na­ti­on for snow­mo­bi­le day-trips, enab­ling rela­tively many peop­le to see this grand win­ter sce­ne­ry. Storfjor­den is fro­zen to fast ice here in Mohn­buk­ta, and some smal­ler bits and pie­ces of gla­cier ice are stuck in the ice. They bro­ke off last sum­mer from the com­bi­ned gla­cier fronts of Königsbergbreen/Hayesbreen/Heuglinbreen, of which we can see a small part in the back­ground.

It is qui­te com­mon that polar bears are roa­ming through this icy land­s­cape. We will see if we are lucky enough to spot them some­whe­re later …

The sun is just star­ting to rise abo­ve the hori­zon in Spits­ber­gen in mid-Febru­a­ry, and the days are still short. It is still too ear­ly for lon­ger trips. But the light can be breath­ta­kin­gly beau­ti­ful!

Spitsbergen-Calendar 2018: February. Ice-landscape on the east coast

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­dar 2018: Febru­a­ry. Ice-land­s­cape on the east coast.

Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter wreck lifted

The wreck of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that cras­hed into Isfjord clo­se to Bar­ents­burg pre­vious Thurs­day was lifted last night. The spe­cial ship Maer­sk For­za was brought to Spits­ber­gen for this task and com­ple­ted the work suc­cess­ful­ly on the night from Fri­day to Satur­day. The­re were 8 per­sons on board the MI-8-heli­co­p­ter when it cras­hed, inclu­ding 5 crew mem­bers and 3 sci­en­tists. One body had alrea­dy been found some days ago about 130 m away from the wreck. The­re is no trace so far from the other crew mem­bers, and the search for them will be con­ti­nued.

The cock­pit voice recor­der could secu­red tog­e­ther with GPS units which are expec­ted to have the actu­al flight track saved. They will be brought to Mosk­va for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons.

Mean­while, ques­ti­ons are rai­sed regar­ding the cau­se of the crash and the cir­cum­s­tan­ces of the flight. The data recor­ders that were secu­red are likely to shed light on the actu­al crash. It seems that the flight was not legal accord­ing to app­li­ca­ble Nor­we­gi­an legis­la­ti­on. The Nor­we­gi­an flight per­mit issued to the ope­ra­tor covers only flights in direct com­bi­na­ti­on to the ope­ra­ti­ons of the mining com­pa­ny Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol, for examp­le trans­port of com­pa­ny employees bet­ween Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Bar­ents­burg. Com­mer­cial flights and trans­por­ta­ti­on of tou­rists and sci­en­tists are expli­ci­te­ly exclu­ded.

The­re were 3 sci­en­tists on board the heli­co­p­ter when it cras­hed.

The wreck of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter, which cras­hed on Octo­ber 26 clo­se to Bar­ents­burg into Isfjord, on board the ship Maer­sk For­za (pho­to © SHT).

helicopter wreck lifted.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

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