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Yearly Archives: 2017 − News & Stories

Trom­sø – 23rd May, 2017

Trom­sø, the metro­po­lis of nor­t­hern Nor­way, with her lanes and the har­bour, an invi­ta­ti­on for a love­ly litt­le stroll. The muse­ums are a gre­at men­tal warm-up for the Arc­tic, and the moun­tain Fløy­en offers a spor­ti­ve exer­cise which is nice befo­re we start the crossing of the Barents Sea, up to Bear Island and Spits­ber­gen. It is a bit cold and clou­dy, just right to set the mind for the Arc­tic!

Gal­lery – Trom­sø – 23rd May, 2017

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

Stok­mark­nes & Wha­le­wat­ching – 22nd May, 2017

We are pas­sing Stok­mark­nes on the way north and we make a litt­le stop the­re. This is whe­re the famous Hur­tig­ru­ten was inven­ted, the coas­tal steam­er line that con­nec­ted north Nor­way to the rest of the coun­try and thus to the world. They have dedi­ca­ted a muse­um to the Hur­tig­ru­ten in Stok­mark­nes. And if you come with a ship, then you are wel­co­med by a who­le Hur­tig­ru­ten ship on the shore!

They are curr­ent­ly doing a lot of work on the muse­um, but it is alre­a­dy defi­ni­te­ly well worth a visit.

Gal­lery – Stok­mark­nes & Wha­le­wat­ching – 22nd May, 2017

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

And so is the con­ti­nen­tal shelf edge off the outer coast. That area is famous for wha­les, and we mana­ge inde­ed to find a group of pilot wha­les after a while.

From Kabel­våg to Troll­fjord – 21st May, 2017

Not having the nor­t­hern lights at this time of year does have advan­ta­ges – you can get some hours of sleep befo­re start­ing to hike from Kabel­våg to Svol­vær. It seems to have been a long win­ter here in Lofo­ten, just as in Spits­ber­gen fur­ther north. The­re is still a lot of snow in the ter­rain, it is wet, and lakes are still lar­ge­ly fro­zen.

The white bea­ches on Skro­va bring a strong con­trast to that, having a tro­pi­cal appearance. And sai­ling nor­thwards in Ves­t­fjord gives us later the fee­ling of being some­whe­re in the Car­ri­be­an. A good life under a wide, open sky!

Gal­lery – From Kabel­våg to Troll­fjord – 21st May, 2017

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

In Troll­fjord, the sce­n­ery does, howe­ver, not lea­ve any doubt that we are in north Nor­way. Also here, the­re is still a lot of snow.

Rei­ne & Nusfjord – 20 May, 2017

We went along­side in Rei­ne in the ear­liest mor­ning hours. Not that I took much noti­ce, initi­al­ly. I was not far away, phy­si­cal­ly. But you have to get a litt­le bit of sleep at some stage. Even though it is not yet mid­night sun time here. Ofi­ci­al­ly, the sun is still going down for 3 hours or so. But the­re is no dark­ness, of cour­se.

It is a bit over­cast, but calm and dry, so we take the Zodiacs to crui­se deep into Rei­nefjord for a good hike. We fol­low a shal­low bay and climb up a ridge that sepa­ra­tes the inner bran­ches of Rei­nefjord from the outer coast. The­re, we have one of the­se wide, white sand bea­ches that the outer side of the Lofo­ten islands is famous for. Beau­tiful! If it was just 20 degrees war­mer, we could spend a lazy day on the beach … but it is quite fresh, and we are hap­py about that. We rather enjoy the views of the steep gra­ni­te walls around the bay. Stun­ning sce­n­ery! A high-alpi­ne moun­tain chain at sea level.

Gal­lery – Rei­ne & Nusfjord – 20 May, 2017

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

A visit to the love­ly litt­le old fishing vil­la­ge of Nusfjord in the after­noon makes the day com­ple­te, befo­re we set cour­se for Kabel­våg for a calm night along­side in the har­bour.

Bodø & Salts­trau­men – 19 May, 2017

Here we go! Today we start the arc­tic sum­mer sea­son. Boar­ding SV Anti­gua in Bodø, we set cour­se nor­thwards, final desti­na­ti­on Spits­ber­gen, stop­ping in Lofo­ten and Bear Island on the way. Yes, let’s get going! Arc­tic, we are coming! 🙂

As we get going reason­ab­ly quick­ly, we don’t want to miss the oppor­tu­ni­ty to crui­se in the famous Salts­trau­men with its impres­si­ve tidal curr­ents.

Gal­lery – Bodø & Salts­trau­men – 19 May, 2017

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

Tem­pel­fjord acci­dent: gui­de dead

On April 27, a gui­ded group bro­ke through the ice in Tem­pel­fjord (see spitsbergen-svalbard.com news from April). Four per­sons spent up to 48 minu­tes in ice cold water until they were res­cued by SAR forces with heli­c­op­ters. Most vic­tims could soon be released from tre­at­ment. One gui­de, howe­ver, was was kept in inten­si­ve care in the Uni­ver­si­ty Hos­pi­tal Nordn­or­ge in Trom­sø (UNN).

The hos­pi­tal infor­med the public today that the man died during the night from Sun­day to Mon­day.

He was a Rus­si­an citi­zen, bet­ween 30 and 40 years old.

As far as is known, he was the first gui­de who died due to an acci­dent that hap­pen­ed during a tour with guests in Sval­bard.

The acci­dent is still inves­ti­ga­ted by Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties. So far, no fur­ther details have been released bey­ond tho­se descri­bed in the artic­le in April.

Tem­pel­fjord with poor ice con­di­ti­ons in spring 2014.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Spits­ber­gen 2017, Ant­ar­c­ti­ca and Pata­go­nia 2018: last chan­ces to join

Most trips in Spits­ber­gen 2017 are lar­ge­ly ful­ly boo­ked, as are our trips to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca and Pata­go­ni­an in 2018. The fol­lo­wing tickets are curr­ent­ly still available:

(Plea­se note: all of the trips are Ger­man spea­king. For this reason, the links lead to detail­ed descrip­ti­ons of the trips in Ger­man.)

Plea­se do not hesi­ta­te to get in touch with me if you have ques­ti­ons about the trips. For reser­va­tions and boo­king, plea­se get in touch with the Geo­gra­phi­schen Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft.

Under sails to the ice: do you want to join us? Last tickets for Spits­ber­gen 2017 and Pata­go­ni­an and Ant­ar­c­ti­ca 2018!

Spitzbergen mit SV Antigua

Group bro­ke through ice in Tem­pel­fjord

Update from Fri­day: one per­son, the gui­de, is still cri­ti­cal­ly unsta­ble and under advan­ced inten­si­ve care in Trom­sø. It was said today that it was four per­sons who actual­ly ended up in the water. Some of the group have alre­a­dy retur­ned to Rus­sia via Nor­way.

Updates from Satur­day are in the text, high­ligh­ted with bold for­mat­ting.

In the late after­noon today (April 27), a group of snow mobi­le tou­rists bro­ke through the ice in Tem­pel­fjord. The alarm went clo­se to 18:00. To start with the most important bit of infor­ma­ti­on: all per­sons seem to be in safe­ty by now, the­re are reports about three per­sons being serious­ly inju­red. The sta­tus of two is descri­bed as cri­ti­cal.

It was a group of nine per­sons inclu­ding one gui­de, all of Rus­si­an natio­na­li­ty, that bro­ke through the ice in Tem­pel­fjord bet­ween Kapp Mur­doch and Kapp Schoultz. Short­ly after the emer­gen­cy call, Nor­we­gi­an SAR forces were on loca­ti­on with heli­c­op­ters and a coast guard ship and star­ted to res­cue per­sons out of the water. Seve­ral per­sons are now in the hos­pi­tal in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, pla­nes star­ted from Trom­sø with addi­tio­nal medi­cal per­son­nel and equip­ment and to pos­si­bly evacua­te pati­ents to the main­land. Update: one is still in cri­ti­cal con­di­ti­on. It is one of the gui­des, who was in the cold water for almost an hour. He got a car­diac arrest while he was lifted out of the water.

Three per­sons were repor­ted miss­ing, but it seems that they were quick­ly res­cued by ano­ther group, taken to Fred­heim, a hut on the sou­thern side of Tem­pel­fjord, and taken care of the­re.

The group included about 24 per­sons in total, with seve­ral gui­des, but 11 did not get invol­ved in the actu­al acci­dent. The group was on the way from Pyra­mi­den to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, as part of a seve­ral day long trip orga­ni­zed by Arc­tic Tra­vel Com­pa­ny Gru­mant, a Rus­si­an tour ope­ra­tor in Barents­burg. The part of the group not direct­ly invol­ved retur­ned to Pyra­mi­den.

Details about the acci­dent are not yet available. The ice in Tem­pel­fjord has beco­me incre­asing­ly unre­lia­ble in recent years, to the degree that it was more or less absent in some years. In the last cou­ple of weeks, howe­ver, it was tra­ver­sed fre­quent­ly. Update: the ice was recent­ly crossed by pri­va­te per­sons, but major tour ope­ra­tors from Lon­gye­ar­by­en did not cross the ice in Tem­pel­fjord during their tours, or only near the shore. The thic­k­ness of the ice in cen­tral parts was less than requi­red by com­mon safe­ty rou­ti­nes.

Near Kapp Mur­doch, the­re is a per­ma­nent local zone of weak­ne­ss in the ice. This weak spot, which is local­ly well known and cal­led Mur­doch-råka, had led to acci­dents befo­re. It is not yet known if this was the site of today’s acci­dent or if it hap­pen­ed some­whe­re else. Update: the acci­dent did not hap­pen at the Mur­doch-råka, but some­whe­re on a more or less straight line from Kapp Mur­doch to Fred­heim, clo­ser to the sou­thern side of the fjord, so the Mur­doch-hole was defi­ni­te­ly not invol­ved.

Tem­pel­fjord with poor ice con­di­ti­ons in April 2014.


Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten, NRK

Arc­tic World Archi­ve: Data sto­rage in ice

In a bun­ker in Lon­gye­ar­by­en digi­tal data will be stored and saved over gene­ra­ti­ons, a pro­ject cal­led Arc­tic World Archi­ve. We alre­a­dy repor­ted about the Glo­bal Seed Vault on this webs­ide: Seeds from all over the world are stored in high shel­ves, to save gene­tic mate­ri­al for the fol­lo­wing human gene­ra­ti­ons.

Now a huge data sto­rage fol­lows. The Arc­tic World Archi­ve was built clo­se to the Glo­bal Seed Vault by the Nor­we­gi­an tech­no­lo­gy pro­vi­der Piql and the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske. The data can be stored safe­ly with a spe­cial tech­ni­que on light-sen­si­ti­ve film for up to one thousand years. The for­mer mine will have a con­stant tem­pe­ra­tu­re of -5 to -10 degrees Cel­si­us.

The bun­ker will be con­nec­ted to the inter­net so that com­pa­nies who want to store their data can access to it. Poten­ti­al cus­to­mers could be govern­ments and lar­ge com­pa­nies. The natio­nal archi­ves of Bra­zil and Mexi­co have alre­a­dy shown inte­rest and, of cour­se, Nor­way its­elf. The first data of the dis­trict govern­ment of Sogn og Fjor­da­ne were stored in the for­mer mine on 27 March at a depth of 300 meters.

Glo­bal Seed Vault – Seeds for gene­ra­ti­ons. The data bun­ker looks simi­lar.

Global Seed Vault

Quel­le: wired.de, NRK

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: back home – 01st April, 2017

The next part of a polar voya­ge around the world: after the Ant­ar­c­tic Odyss­sey into the Ross Sea, a cou­ple of more or less quick flights took me up from the sou­thern­most regu­lar air­port in the world in Ushua­ia to the nor­t­hern­most regu­lar air­port in the world in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – back home! 🙂 for a cou­ple of weeks, it’s now snow mobi­les rather than Zodiacs and reinde­er ins­tead of pen­gu­ins.

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

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

Mel­ting ice in the Arc­tic leads to air pol­lu­ti­on in Chi­na

The enorm­ous air pol­lu­ti­on in major Chi­ne­se cities could be rela­ted to arc­tic mel­ting sea ice. This sur­pri­sing link bet­ween glo­bal warm­ing and air pol­lu­ti­on is the result of a stu­dy, that has now been published in Sci­ence Advan­ces.

Air pol­lu­ti­on is not­hing new in China’s big cities. Howe­ver, the haze was par­ti­cu­lar­ly bad in Janu­ary 2013, whe­re the limit values were excee­ded in almost all major Chi­ne­se cities for four weeks.

Mel­ting sea ice in the Arc­tic and per­sis­tent snow­fall over Sibe­ria led to a chan­ge in air cir­cu­la­ti­on at the end of 2012. The cold air mas­ses moved towards east to Korea and Japan, while in eas­tern Chi­na the air was not moving at all. In Win­ter the­re are usual­ly strong winds in regi­ons such as Bei­jing.

The sci­en­tists are sure that mel­ting ice and hea­vy snow­fall have at least inten­si­fied the haze. They suspect that simi­lar events will hap­pen in the future and that the Olym­pic Win­ter Games in 2022 could also be affec­ted.

Thick haze in Chi­nas big cities

Luftverschmutzung in China

Foto: Erhard Stenz, Crea­ti­ve Com­mons

Quel­len: Malay­si­an Digest, Sci­ence Advan­ces

Here comes the sun!

In the midd­le of Febru­ary she shows hers­elf for the first time after the long polar­night. But first on March 8th her rays reach Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is sur­roun­ded by moun­ta­ins. The return of the sun is cele­bra­ted by the inha­bi­tants of Spits­ber­gen one week with open-air ser­vices, exhi­bi­ti­ons and con­certs. Even the ava­lan­che war­ning, which is still valid, can not cast a shadow on this event.

Wai­ting for the sun…

Sun celebration 2016

Many popu­lar Nor­we­gi­an musi­ci­ans are coming to Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the­se days. The Elek­tro­po Duo Bow To Each Other, the Rap­per OnklP Og De Fjer­ne Slekt­nin­ge­ne (“Uncle P and the remo­te rela­ti­ves”) and the most nor­t­hern blues band of the world, the Advent Bay Pool­boys.

The high­light of the week hap­pens on the 8th of March, when ever­y­bo­dy shows up in front of the old hos­pi­tal to wel­co­me the sun tog­e­ther. Child­ren have their necks deco­ra­ted with a yel­low felt sun. When the sun throws its rays onto the sta­ir steps of the buil­ding for the first time, she will be tra­di­tio­nal­ly gree­ted with che­ers and sin­ging and her return will be offi­ci­al­ly declared.

Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Solfestuke.no

New ava­lan­che at Hiorth­fjel­let

A new ava­lan­che has des­cen­ded at Hiorth­fjel­let on the north side of the Advent­da­len, oppo­si­te Lon­gye­ar­by­en. No one was har­med. Secu­ri­ty forces have inves­ti­ga­ted the site and found no dama­ge or trap­ped per­sons.

Hiorth­fjel­let in sum­mer (Image: By Bjoert­vedt, Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)


The evacua­ti­on of most of the house­holds in Lon­gye­ar­by­en has now been part­ly can­ce­led. Howe­ver, num­e­rous hou­ses in Rou­te 222, 226 and 28 still remain clo­sed to the resi­dents. They were able to get per­so­nal items from their homes yes­ter­day during the day. The ava­lan­che war­ning still exists.

Souce: Sys­sel­man­nen

92 house­holds in Lon­gye­ar­by­en evacua­ted

92 house­holds in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are curr­ent­ly being evacua­ted becau­se fur­ther ava­lan­ches are feared. The ava­lan­che, which yes­ter­day dama­ged two hou­ses in way 228, was obvious­ly unde­re­sti­ma­ted by the aut­ho­ri­ties in advan­ce. During the night at least one more ava­lan­che has come down on Gruve 7 way, but lucki­ly wit­hout doing any dama­ge.

On the basis of an unclear situa­ti­on, the ava­lan­che war­ning was now rai­sed to the hig­hest level 4. 92 house­holds in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are being evacua­ted, but also a more exten­si­ve evacua­ti­on is con­side­red, and may­be the sports hall has to be used as an emer­gen­cy shel­ter. Two hou­ses with six house­holds were yes­ter­day stron­gly dama­ged by ava­lan­ches. The­re was an ava­lan­che war­ning, but it did not affect any buil­dings.

Howe­ver, a lot of peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en don’t trust the ava­lan­che war­ning sys­tem any­mo­re. Last year two peo­p­le were kil­led in an ava­lan­che acci­dent in their homes, which still awa­kens some bad memo­ries.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, NVE


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