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Daily Archives: 15. May 2018 − News & Stories


12,000 micro­plastic parts in one lit­re of sea ice …

The Arc­tic ice is signi­fi­cant­ly more con­ta­mi­na­ted with micro­plastics than pre­vious­ly assu­med. This was the result of a stu­dy of rese­ar­chers at the Alfred Wege­ner Insti­tu­te in Bre­mer­ha­ven which was publis­hed in April.

Sam­ples from three expe­di­ti­ons in 2014 and 2015 were exami­ned, and thanks to an impro­ved exami­na­ti­on method using infra­red light, more and signi­fi­cant­ly smal­ler parts could be iden­ti­fied than in pre­vious inves­ti­ga­ti­ons.

Pres­um­a­b­ly, the micro­plastic ori­gi­na­tes from the gre­at gar­ba­ge patches in the Atlan­tic and Paci­fic Oce­an bet­ween Hawaii and North Ame­ri­ca. But local sources of pol­lu­ti­on have also been iden­ti­fied, for examp­le paint par­ti­cles from ships or nylon par­ti­cles from fishing nets.

Micro­plastics are tiny plastic par­ti­cles that are smal­ler than five mil­li­me­ters in size. It is pro­du­ced during the decay of lar­ger plastic parts, during the washing of syn­the­tic fibres, but is also con­tai­ned in many clea­ning and cos­me­tic pro­ducts.

Litt­le is known about the con­se­quen­ces of micro­plastic con­ta­mi­na­ti­on for the envi­ron­ment and humans. In labo­ra­to­ry stu­dies, howe­ver, mus­sels show­ed inflamma­to­ry reac­tions and fish beha­viou­ral chan­ges.

Also plastic was­te from cen­tral Euro­pean coun­tries inclu­ding Ger­ma­ny ends up in the Arc­tic. For examp­le, the inves­ti­ga­ti­on of plastic was­te collec­ted on Spitsbergen’s beaches, reve­a­led that seven per­cent came from Ger­ma­ny!

Every year tou­rists collect tons of plastic gar­ba­ge from the beaches in Spits­ber­gen encou­ra­ged by pri­va­te and public initia­ti­ves, by the way also on the Spits­ber­gen sai­ling trips with SV Anti­gua :-).

Plastic waste on Spitsbergen

Plastic was­te collec­ted on the beach of the Hin­lo­pen Strait, Nor­the­ast of Spits­ber­gen.

Refe­rence to two pro­jects worthy of sup­port should not be mis­sing here eit­her:
The Oce­an Cleanup deve­lo­ps tech­ni­cal sys­tems with the aim of redu­cing a huge plastic vor­tex in the Paci­fic by 50% in five years and ulti­mate­ly sup­ply­ing the fil­te­red plastic to recy­cling sys­tems.

Oce­an Care car­ri­es out pro­tec­tion and rese­arch pro­jects, orga­ni­ses cam­pai­gns and edu­ca­tio­nal pro­jects and is invol­ved in inter­na­tio­nal bodies, for examp­le as a UN spe­cial advi­ser on mari­ne pro­tec­tion issu­es.

Source: Natu­re Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons

Uni­que pho­tos of mating polar mating at the wea­ther sta­ti­on on Hopen

The litt­le island of Hopen seems to be the place cur­r­ent­ly regar­ding rare wild­life obser­va­tions. Just a few weeks ago a polar fox atta­cked the station’s dogs, later it appeared to have rabies. Only a few days later, the crew of the wea­ther sta­ti­on Hopen Meteo got a wild­life obser­va­ti­on of cen­tu­ry class. Gene­ral­ly, polar bear sightin­gs are not­hing unusu­al on Hopen. During some win­ters, the­re are several hund­red polar bear obser­va­tions clo­se to the wea­ther sta­ti­on. But the event obser­ved on 04 May was tru­ly uni­que!

Initi­al­ly, the wea­ther sta­ti­on crew thought that the two polar bears that came clo­se to the sta­ti­on might be a mother and her second year cub, having a litt­le fami­ly dis­pu­te as they kept roa­ring against each other.

polar bears mating, Hopen

Here, the situa­ti­on is not yet clear. Pho­to © Ted Tor­foss.

Rou­ti­nely, the sta­ti­on crew made attempts to sca­re the polar bears away with making noi­se. The bears went away, but only to return later. They had obvious­ly been hun­ting suc­cess­ful­ly in the mean­ti­me, as evi­den­ced by traces of blood on the face.

Soon it beca­me appearent that it was not an ever­y­day polar bear visit, but that they were a male and a fema­le about to mate. After a while they got down to serious busi­ness.

polar bears mating, Hopen

Here the case is pret­ty clear: mating polar bears. Pho­to © Ted Tor­foss

Being total­ly busy with them­sel­ves, the bears did not pay much atten­ti­on to their sur­roun­dings but kept mating for a good hour, with obvious plea­su­re as the pho­tos sug­gest. The 4 crew mem­bers of Hopen Meteo hence got the oppor­tu­ni­ty to enjoy an obser­va­ti­on which is not just once in a life­time, but much rarer actual­ly. Obvious­ly, they took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to take uni­que pho­tos. Here are some ama­zing shots by meteo­ro­lo­gist and pho­to­gra­pher Ted Tor­foss who made good use of this chan­ce of a life­time and I thank Ted for his kind per­mis­si­on to show some of his pho­tos here! For more pho­tos, visit the web­sei­te of the Hopen wea­ther sta­ti­on. May­be the who­le thing was a bir­th­day pre­sent by natu­re to Ted Tor­foss, who could cele­bra­te his 60th bir­th­day soon after the event? Any­way, hap­py bir­th­day!

polar bears mating, Hopen

Polar bears enjoy­ing some cosy moments. Pho­to © Ted Tor­foss

Of cour­se, polar bears are mating every year and the event as such is com­mon in polar bear are­as in natu­re at this time of year. But as a small num­ber of indi­vi­du­als is spread out over immen­se­ly lar­ge and very remo­te are­as, obser­va­tions are very few and far bet­ween. The­re are not many pho­tos or foo­ta­ge taken. No ear­lier obser­va­tions are known from Hopen, which would be the hot­spot in Sval­bard for such an occa­si­on given the den­si­ty of polar bears in good ice win­ters and the pre­sence of the wea­ther sta­ti­on.

A few weeks ago, a group of lucky tou­rists also saw polar bears mating in the distance in Tem­pel­fjord not far from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Pho­tos taken by gui­de Yann Rashid were seen by many on the web and have without any doubt scar­ci­ty value, but they do not com­pa­re to the pho­tos taken from a much smal­ler distance by Ted Tor­foss on Hopen.

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