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Yearly Archives: 2017 − News


2017: my year in review – Febru­a­ry and March: the Ant­arc­tic Odys­sey

After finis­hing the big pro­ject with my new Nor­we­gi­an gui­de­book Sval­bard – Nor­ge nær­mest Nord­po­len, it was time to get some fresh air. And I got lots of it during a trip around the world in Febru­a­ry in March. The heart of this huge voya­ge was a semi-cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on of Ant­arc­ti­ca, which I refer to as the “Ant­arc­tic Odys­sey”. Star­ting in New Zea­land, we went to Camp­bell Island, into the Ross Sea and then via Peter I Island to the Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la befo­re we finis­hed in Ushua­ia. Tru­ly an Odys­sey!

The high­light of this gre­at jour­ney? Hard to say. The­re was not only one high­light. Just the dimen­si­ons of this trip are epic, many thousand nau­ti­cal miles in more than 30 days. Being Expe­di­ti­on Lea­der on such a trip on the Orte­li­us was cer­tain­ly a con­tri­bu­ti­on towards making it inte­res­ting for me. Nor­mal­ly, “my” ships are much smal­ler the­se days, and they do not car­ry 3 heli­co­p­ters!

Thin­king about which impres­si­on still means a lot to me and will stay for a long time, then Camp­bell Island is quick­ly com­ing to my mind. This island, which belongs to the New Zea­land sub­ant­arc­tic islands, was very high on my per­so­nal wish­list – sim­ply as I had not been the­re befo­re. Well, I had been very clo­se 2 years ear­lier, but then, the­re was no chan­ce of making a lan­ding becau­se of very strong winds. This time, we had just the por­ti­on of luck that you need in a place like that.

Albatrosses, Campbell Island

Alba­tros­ses on Camp­bell Island.

Of cour­se, fly­ing into Tay­lor Val­ley, one of the famous McMur­do Dry Val­leys, and to McMur­do Base, whe­re we almost stay­ed qui­te a bit lon­ger than we actual­ly wan­ted to, are expe­ri­en­ces never to be for­got­ten. And that is gene­ral­ly true for all impres­si­ons of Ant­arc­ti­ca from a bird’s per­spec­ti­ve.

Waterboat Point, Antarctica

Water­boat Point (Ant­arc­tic Pen­in­su­la) from the air.

But in the end, it is the direct encoun­ters with the wild­life and the sce­ne­ry that is always get­ting very clo­se to my heart and soul. That is what stays! The Alba­tros­ses on Camp­bell Island, the Emperor pen­gu­ins in the Ross Sea, the Hump­back wha­les and pen­gu­ins in the Ant­arc­tic pen­in­su­la, to men­ti­on a few of the­se encoun­ters. Memo­ries that will stay fore­ver!

Emperor and Adelie penguin at Cape Hallet, Ross Sea, Antarctica

Emperor and Ade­lie pen­gu­in at Cape Hal­let in the Ross Sea.

2017: my year in review

It is almost frigh­tening how time is fly­ing. Again, a year almost gone! It was an inten­se, rich year. What did the last 12 mon­ths bring, for Spits­ber­gen, for spitsbergen-svalbard.com and for me? I’ll review the year with a cou­p­le of blogs over the next days.

Janu­a­ry is polar night in the far north. A good time for wri­ting table adven­tures. Wri­ting arc­tic books is not boring, but the actu­al pro­cess is often not ter­ri­b­ly exci­ting. In prac­ti­ce, it means to spend an awful lot of time on the com­pu­ter. Rese­ar­ching, wri­ting, edi­t­ing, loo­king for images, pro­ces­sing images, making illus­tra­ti­ons and so on and so forth.

In Janu­a­ry 2017, my big­gest pro­ject in many years was about to be finis­hed. I can tell you that it was not boring! For a long time alrea­dy, I had had dreams of a Nor­we­gi­an trans­la­ti­on of my Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book. And in 2015, I was bra­ve or cra­zy enough to go ahead with it. Inten­se work on every oppor­tu­ni­ty for a good year, invol­ving a num­ber of nati­ve spea­kers who hel­ped me in trans­la­ting and “språk­vask” (proofrea­ding lan­guage). I am still almost fee­ling dizzy when I bring the­se weeks and mon­ths, which were very inten­se, back to my inner eye. I don’t want to bother you with the details of the pro­cess, but it was without exa­g­ge­ra­ti­on cer­tain­ly my big­gest pro­ject sin­ce the very first ver­si­on of the Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book came out in 2007 (that was the first Ger­man edi­ti­on, that very hea­vy book, if anyo­ne remem­bers). And at the same time, I had a litt­le seri­es of pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, while public atten­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en was tur­ned on a polar bear fami­ly who had sett­led down for a while in the neigh­bour­hood of town. A polar bear fami­ly, mother with 2 cubs, even wal­ked through way 238 (the neigh­bour­hood clo­se to Advent­da­len, lower­most road – that’s whe­re we also have our litt­le home).

And I did mana­ge to fina­li­ze the files with the Nor­we­gi­an book for prin­ting befo­re I went down to Ant­arc­tic in Febru­a­ry. Hal­le­lu­ja!

Svalbard guidebok

My arc­tic adven­ture in ear­ly 2017: Sval­bard – Nor­ge nær­mest Nord­po­len.

More evacua­tions on the anni­ver­s­a­ry of the 2015 avalan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Update (21 Decem­ber): The wea­ther has cal­med down again and after che­cking rele­vant avalan­che-pro­ne slo­pes, the aut­ho­ri­ties have deci­ded to lift the traf­fic ban that was imple­men­ted on Mon­day.
The evacua­tions from last week, con­cer­ning the upper row of houses in Lia, remains in for­ce until fur­ther noti­ce (end of update).

It seems almost stran­ge: exact­ly 2 years after the fatal avalan­che in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the wea­ther fore­cast for today (19 Decem­ber) seems almost exact­ly the same as it was just befo­re snow mas­ses kil­led two peop­le in their homes on 19 Decem­ber, 2015. Winds up to 20 m/s from sou­the­as­ter­ly direc­tions and strong pre­ci­pi­ta­ti­on are expec­ted during the evening.

For tonight, a com­me­mo­ra­ti­on cere­mo­ny was sche­du­led for the vic­tims of the fatal 2015 avalan­che. But it seems as if many people’s atten­ti­on will rather be deman­ded by today’s situa­ti­on and events. Some days ago, the Sys­sel­man­nen had alrea­dy issued an order to evacua­te parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. This was to be in for­ce on 22 Decem­ber and based on the gene­ral avalan­che risk, rather than the actu­al wea­ther and avalan­che situa­ti­on. After new wea­ther fore­casts were released, this mea­su­re came into for­ce alrea­dy yes­ter­day (18 Decem­ber) at 22 p.m.

At the same time, the evacua­ti­on zone was exten­ded to inclu­de more houses in Lia, the part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en that was hit in 2015 (“Spiss­hu­se­ne”, the colou­red woo­den houses bet­ween the cent­re and the moun­tain Suk­ker­top­pen) and parts of Nyby­en (all houses on the east side of the road).

The evacua­tions are in for­ce until fur­ther noti­ce. Some addres­ses may not be acces­si­ble for mon­ths.

Evacuations Longyearbyen 2017 avalanche risk

Lar­ge parts of Nyby­en and Lia in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are now evacua­ted becau­se of the cur­rent and gene­ral avalan­che risk.

Houses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en evacua­ted: resi­du­al risk of avalan­ches too high des­pi­te local warning sys­tem

Soon it will be two years ago that the avalan­che came down from the moun­tain Suk­ker­top­pen that des­troy­ed ele­ven houses and took two lives. The­re will be a memo­ri­al cere­mo­ny in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on the day, 19 Decem­ber.

The avalan­che area in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Decem­ber 2015. Two peop­le were kil­led and ele­ven houses des­troy­ed. One was moved as much as 80 metres. Pho­to © Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Longyearbyen avalanche

The­re has been – and still is – a lot of tal­king about the avalan­che risk in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on all levels. It seems obvious that the­re have been neglects on various public levels, but it was said offi­cial­ly that the­re is no insti­tu­ti­on or indi­vi­du­al that may legal­ly be held respon­si­ble.

And the­re is, of cour­se, the ques­ti­on of how to deal with the avalan­che risk in future. An offi­cial report about the avalan­che situa­ti­on has deter­mi­ned that a lar­ge num­ber of houses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is expo­sed to various levels of avalan­che risk. A local warning sys­tem has been estab­lis­hed, which has pro­du­ced mixed results so far; on one occa­si­on, the sys­tem pro­du­ced a fal­se secu­ri­ty state­ment that was spec­ta­cu­lar­ly wrong. Two houses were des­troy­ed on that occa­si­on, and it was a mat­ter of luck that the­re was no loss of human life. Instru­ments to mea­su­re the thic­kness of the snow lay­er have been instal­led on various slo­pes clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­se instru­ments are sup­po­sed to pro­vi­de real-time data about snow accu­mu­la­ti­on in loca­ti­ons whe­re peop­le had to mea­su­re manu­al­ly in the past, some­thing that is often dif­fi­cult or even impos­si­ble in situa­tions of seve­re wea­ther when an incre­a­sed risk has to be assu­med. But that is obvious­ly exact­ly when you need that kind of data, so the­se new deci­ves are expect to make a signi­fi­cant impro­ve­ment to the avalan­che warning sys­tem.

Avalan­che bar­ri­ers are ano­t­her mea­su­re expec­ted in the future, but they are not the­re yet, almost two years after the big, tra­gic 2015 event. Evacua­ting parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, on a situa­ti­ve or per­ma­nent basis, is also one of the opti­ons which are dis­cus­sed. The finan­cial aspects of all that is yet ano­t­her issue.

It does, howe­ver, not cost the public much to evacua­te cer­tain addres­ses on a pre­ven­ti­ve basis. Evacua­ting parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en has beco­me a stan­dard pro­ce­du­re during win­ters sin­ce late 2015. Yes­ter­day (14 Decem­ber), the Sys­sel­man­nen has issued an order that cer­tain addres­ses have to be left until 22 Decem­ber until fur­ther noti­ce. This mea­su­re is expec­ted to be in for­ce until the snow is gone, which means, the houses will not be avail­ab­le for mon­ths.

Sperrung Longyearbyen 2017 Lawinengefahr

The­se parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en (mar­ked red) will be evacua­ted from 22 Decem­ber until fur­ther noti­ce. The com­ple­te map is avail­ab­le from the Sys­sel­man­nen.

So far, evacua­tions were made in or befo­re an actu­al risk situa­ti­on, based on snow con­di­ti­ons, wea­ther fore­casts etc. This time, howe­ver, the­re is no such base for the evacua­ti­on, some­thing that beco­mes clear from the time span of 8 days bet­ween the issue of the evacua­ti­on order and the date (22 Dec) when it actual­ly enters for­ce. Sys­sel­man­nen Kjers­tin Askholt says “The ban on traf­fic is based on the risk eva­lua­ti­on for indi­vi­du­als and public safe­ty, becau­se this area is espe­cial­ly expo­sed to avalan­ches. The cur­rent prac­ti­ce with a local avalan­che warning sys­tem and pos­si­ble evacua­tions, based on tech­ni­cal advice from avalan­che experts, does not exclu­de a high resi­du­al risk and remai­ning uncer­tain­ties, so the houses in ques­ti­on can not be used while the­re are no mea­su­res for avalan­che safe­ty in place” (Sys­sel­man­nen, auhtor’s trans­la­ti­on).

Are­as con­cer­ned are addres­ses in way 222 and 226, which are loca­ted direct­ly next to the moun­tain Suk­ker­top­pen, but may be exten­ded to other are­as at any time as deemed necessa­ry by aut­ho­ri­ties.

Evacua­ting a num­ber of houses for a lon­ger peri­od of time based on gene­ral pre­cau­tio­na­ry rea­sons rather than an actu­al risk situa­ti­on appears to be a drastic step, com­pa­red to the impact that this has on the lives of tho­se who have to lea­ve their homes for mon­ths. The­re are tho­se who have, next to their home in the area con­cer­ned, ren­ted a place else­whe­re in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on a per­ma­nent basis, some­thing that obvious­ly invol­ves high cos­ts and this is not a con­tri­bu­ti­on to the alrea­dy dif­fi­cult housing mar­ket in Lon­gye­ar­by­en eit­her. Tho­se who own a place in the area that is affec­ted, are also faced with a sub­stan­ti­al­ly dif­fi­cult situa­ti­on.

Not a glo­rious chap­ter for poli­tics, con­si­de­ring the cur­rent deve­lo­p­ment star­ted with the avalan­ce in Decem­ber 2015 – two years ago.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

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

Heli­co­p­ter crash: wreck soon to be lifted

The wreck of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that cras­hed into Isfjord last week was iden­ti­fied on pho­tos taken by a dive robo­ter from the rese­arch ves­sel Ossi­an Sars. The MI-8 heli­co­p­ter is lying on the sea floor at a depth of 209 metres in Isfjord, about 2 km from the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den clo­se to Bar­ents­burg.

One body was found in a distance of 130 metres to the wreck. It is alrea­dy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re is no hope that any of the 8 peop­le in the heli­co­p­ter, 5 crew and 3 sci­en­tists, sur­vi­ved.

The Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ty for traf­fic dis­as­ters (Sta­tens hava­ri­kom­mis­jon for trans­port, SHT) is now in char­ge of fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons. A sal­va­ge ves­sel is expec­ted to arri­ve in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Thurs­day. The uplif­ting ope­ra­ti­ons will start as soon as the ves­sel is in posi­ti­on at the acci­dent site. Rus­si­an spe­cia­lists are in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to sup­port the Nor­we­gi­an for­ces under Nor­we­gi­an lea­ders­hip. When the wreck is lifted, it will be taken to the Nor­we­gi­an main­land for fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons. SHT is cur­r­ent­ly con­duc­ting inter­views with wit­nes­ses and collec­ting various data inclu­ding wea­ther, the con­di­ti­on of the heli­co­p­ter, qua­li­fi­ca­ti­on of the crew and more.

Pho­to by a dive robo­ter of the rese­arch ves­sel Ossi­an Sars used to iden­ti­fy the wreck (image © G.O. Sars).

helicopter wreck.

Source: SHT

Heli­co­p­ter crash: wreck found

The wreck of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that went mis­sing on Thurs­day after­noon is now most likely found. A ROV (Remo­te­ly Ope­ra­ted Vehi­cle) of the Nor­we­gi­an Navy has loca­li­zed an object at a depth of 209 metres on the sea floor that appears to be the wreck of the MI-8 heli­co­p­ter. The ROV named “Hugin” and ano­t­her ROV of the rese­arch ves­sel Ossi­an Sars will con­ti­nue to gather data to iden­ti­fy the object and to find the mis­sing per­sons. The­re were 8 peop­le in the heli­co­p­ter when it cras­hed on Thurs­day. No traces of sur­vi­vors could be found.

The posi­ti­on is 2.2 kilo­me­tres nor­the­ast of the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den clo­se to Bar­ents­burg.

A Rus­si­an aero­pla­ne has brought divers and other spe­cia­lists from Rus­sia to Lon­gye­ar­by­en to take part in the ope­ra­ti­on under Nor­we­gi­an lea­ders­hip.

Diving robo­ter Hugin of the Nor­we­gi­an navy sear­ching after the cras­hed heli­co­p­ter near Hee­rod­den.

Diving roboter Hugin close to Heerodden.

Sources: NRK, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Heli­co­p­ter­crash: litt­le hope to find sur­vi­vors

The­re is no cer­tain­ty yet if the object that was loca­ted by echo­lot in a depth of 200-250 metres on the sea floor in Isfjord, not far from the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den clo­se to Bar­ents­burg, actual­ly is the wreck of the heli­co­p­ter. But the­re is no doubt that the MI-8 heli­co­p­ter did crash into Isfjord yes­ter­day. As more than 20 hours have gone by sin­ce the crash and the­re is no trace yet of any sur­vi­vors, hopes to find any of the 8 peop­le on board are get­ting smal­ler and smal­ler and the worst has to be fea­red.

Names of the 8 per­sons on board were alrea­dy yes­ter­day released by Rus­si­an media. Now, also the respon­si­ble Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ty, the Res­cue Cent­re North Nor­way, has released the names offi­cial­ly.

The per­sons on board the heli­co­p­ter were

Pas­sen­gers (Sci­en­tists of the Insti­tuts for Arc­tic and Ant­arc­tic Rese­arch in St. Peters­burg):
Oleg Golo­va­nov
Niko­laj Fade­jev
Mak­sim Kau­lio

Crew:

Jev­ge­nij Bara­nov – Chief pilot
Vla­di­mir Frolov – Second pilot
Alek­sej Poul­jaus­kas – Mecha­nic
Marat Mikht­arov – Tech­ni­ci­an
Alek­sej Korol­jov – Engi­neer

The­re is hope until the oppo­si­te is pro­ven, and every effort is taken to con­ti­nue the search and find sur­vi­vors. Nor­we­gi­an SAR for­ces are on loca­ti­on with heli­co­p­ters, a spe­cial aero­pla­ne from the Nor­we­gi­an air­for­ce, ships and boats. But the more time is going by, the more likely it seems that it is a tra­ge­dy without sur­vi­vors.

The Sys­sel­man­nen has estab­lis­hed a con­ta­ct pho­ne num­ber for rela­ti­ves and expres­ses deep sym­pa­thy with tho­se who are affec­ted. This is shared by the aut­hor of the­se lines, who­se thoughts and sym­pa­thy are also with tho­se who were in the heli­co­p­ter and their fami­ly, friends and col­leagues and all others who are invol­ved.

Accord­ing to inter­na­tio­nal law, Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties are respon­si­ble for the inves­ti­ga­ti­on of the acci­dent. A hava­ry com­mis­si­on is alrea­dy in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and will soon start to gather all infor­ma­ti­on that is avail­ab­le. But cur­r­ent­ly, the effort to find sur­vi­vors and the heli­co­p­ter are still the focus of all efforts.

Rus­si­an MI-8 heli­co­p­ter at the air­port Lon­gye­ar­by­en (archi­ve image).

Russian airport Spitsbergen.

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen, Sval­bard­pos­ten

Cras­hed heli­co­p­ter pro­bab­ly found

The Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter that cras­hed on Thurs­day after­noon is pro­bab­ly found. Search-and-res­cue for­ces sen­sed a strong smell of fuel and saw air bub­bles com­ing to the water sur­face at a cer­tain posi­ti­on in the area in ques­ti­on, in Isfjord, about 2-3 km from the heli­co­p­ter base at Hee­rod­den. A ship has found an object on the sea floor with the echo­lot that could be the wreck of the heli­co­p­ter or a part of it. This needs to be con­fir­med, though. The depth is bet­ween 200 and 250 metres, far bey­ond the reach of divers.

Alrea­dy during the night, a diving robot (ROV = Remo­te­ly Ope­ra­ted Vehi­cle) was brought from main­land Nor­way to Lon­gye­ar­by­en with a SAS pla­ne. The ROV will be ope­ra­ted at the alle­ged acci­dent site as soon as pos­si­ble. This has pro­bab­ly alrea­dy hap­pen­ed at the time of wri­ting (08.30 local time on Fri­day morning) or it may be going on right now.

The­re were 8 per­sons on board the heli­co­p­ter, and the search after sur­vi­vors is going on. SAR for­ces are sear­ching the near­by coast, east of Hee­rod­den. Heli­co­p­ters and ships are scan­ning the water. Accord­ing to all that is known, the worst has to be fea­red, but all efforts are taken to find sur­vi­vors. The Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter was of the type MI-8, which is equip­ped with a life raft and with lif­ting bodies that keep the heli­co­p­ter afloat at least for a while in case of a con­trol­led emer­gen­cy lan­ding on the water sur­face. The fact that no emer­gen­cy signal was released by the crew makes it howe­ver doubt­ful that it was a con­trol­led emer­gen­cy lan­ding. A sud­den, uncon­trol­led crash seems likely. Wit­nes­ses say they have heard a loud noi­se like a bang at the time in ques­ti­on.

Next to the 2 Nor­we­gi­an SAR heli­co­p­ters, the­re is a num­ber of ships and boats in the area: Polar­sys­sel (Sys­sel­man­nen), coast guard and boats from the tou­rism indus­try in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Initi­al­ly, the visi­bi­li­ty was redu­ced by snow fall, but the wea­ther is by now qui­te good, with litt­le wind and clear visi­bi­li­ty. The polar night has begun a cou­p­le of days ago, so even around noon, the sun remains below the hori­zon, making light very scar­ce.

Light con­di­ti­ons in Isfjord during the polar night around noon. The bright light is the moon. (Archi­ve image.)

Polar night, Isfjord.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter cras­hed near Bar­ents­burg

The­re will be updates (see bot­tom end of this arti­cle) as fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on beco­mes avail­ab­le.

A Rus­si­an MI-8 heli­co­p­ter cras­hed near Bar­ents­burg and fell into the sea in Isfjord. The heli­co­p­ter was on the way from Pyra­mi­den to Bar­ents­burg with 8 per­sons on board.

The emer­gen­cy call from the air­port tower Lon­gye­ar­by­en was recei­ved at 15.35 local time by the emer­gen­cy respon­se cent­re North Nor­way. Nor­we­gi­an search and res­cue (SAR) for­ces are on loca­ti­on with heli­co­p­ter and ships. The crash site is in the Isfjord, 2-3 kilo­me­tres away from Hee­rod­den, the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ter base at Bar­ents­burg.

No infor­ma­ti­on is cur­r­ent­ly avail­ab­le regar­ding the con­di­ti­on of the 8 per­sons on board. The­re is a bree­ze (7-8 m/s) and the visi­bi­li­ty is affec­ted by snow­fall.

Accord­ing to Nor­we­gi­an law, the Rus­si­an heli­co­p­ters in Spits­ber­gen are only allo­wed to fly for com­pa­ny pur­po­ses. Char­ter flights, for examp­le for film teams or sci­en­tists, are not per­mit­ted. This makes it likely that the 8 peop­le on board were employees of the owner of the heli­co­p­ter, Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol.

Update: next to the pilot (Bara­nov Evge­ny), co-pilot (Frolov Vla­di­mir), flight engi­neer (Ale­xei Pou­ly­aus­kas), a tech­ni­ci­an (Mihtar Marat), and an engi­neer (Koro­lev Alek­sey), the­re were 3 sci­en­tists of the Insti­tu­te for Arc­tic and Ant­arc­tic Rese­arch in St. Peters­burg on board: Golo­va­nov Oleg, Fadeev Nicho­las, Kau­lio Mak­sim. The names were released in the Rus­si­an press.

Update: Dmi­trij Zjel­jazkov, direc­tor of Kon­vers Avia, the com­pa­ny that owns and ope­ra­tes the heli­co­p­ter, has told the Rus­si­an news agen­cy Tass that the 3 pas­sen­gers were miners of the Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol.

Rus­si­an MI-8 heli­co­p­ter at the air­port Lon­gye­ar­by­en (archi­ve image).

Russian airport Spitsbergen.

Source: NRK

Spits­ber­gen-calen­dar 2018: fro­zen water­fall in Janu­a­ry

In the high arc­tic, Janu­a­ry is icy cold – usual­ly at least. Some­ti­mes, spells of mild air mas­ses from the Atlan­tic can bring tem­pe­ra­tures fluc­tua­ting around zero degrees and rain. That was not total­ly unknown in the first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry eit­he, but it is cer­tain­ly more fre­quent in the times of cli­ma­te chan­ge. But nor­mal­ly, it is real­ly cold! The tem­pe­ra­tures will make every river and every water­fall free­ze solid.

The Janu­a­ry page of the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018 shows the water­fall Hyperitt­fos­sen in De Geerda­len, about 20 km nor­the­ast of Lon­gye­ar­by­en as the ivory gull flies. The water­mas­ses that fall down over basaltic rock cliffs are qui­te impres­si­ve in the sum­mer. Now in the win­ter, the water is fro­zen to crea­te struc­tures like organ pipes. I used a rather extre­me 11 mm wide ang­le len­se to cap­tu­re the per­spec­ti­ve. It is not every year that the shapes of the fro­zen water­fall are so impres­si­ve: when I took this pan­ora­ma of Hyperitt­fos­sen some years ago, most of the icy struc­tures were hid­den under snow.

Spitsbergen-Calendar 2018: January. Frozen waterfall

Spits­ber­gen-Calen­dar 2018: Janu­a­ry. Fro­zen water­fall.

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