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Home → October, 2018

Monthly Archives: October 2018 − News & Stories


Sai­ling to Har­stad

The first thing I see in the mor­ning, some­whe­re sou­the­ast of Sen­ja: oran­ge moun­ta­ins under a blue sky. So beau­tiful! Sun­ri­se is curr­ent­ly near 8 a.m. and sun­set is just befo­re 3 p.m. … the days are get­ting serious­ly shorter now! But the light can be stun­ning … and you don’t have to stay up and awa­ke half the night to see a sun­set. Well, the­re are still the nor­t­hern lights to keep you awa­ke. Hop­eful­ly.

Morning light near Senja

Mor­ning light near Sen­ja.

This is our third day on board – time for a sai­ling intro­duc­tion, and we can even put the­se skills to good use, taking advan­ta­ge of an eas­ter­ly bree­ze on our way to Har­stad.

SV Antigua under sail to Harstad

SV Anti­gua under sail towards Har­stad.

We also made sure ever­y­bo­dy knows how to get some good pho­tos when we hop­eful­ly get some nor­t­hern lights the next days. If you want to read a bit more about the nor­t­hern lights, inclu­ding some pho­to hints, click here.

We arri­ve Har­stad in time around mid-day. Har­stad used to be a cent­re of poli­ti­cal power and cul­tu­re in north Nor­way for many cen­tu­ries, so we take a bus to near­by Tron­de­nes to get some more impres­si­ons and infor­ma­ti­on about all this. On the way the­re, we have the only groun­ding of the trip (so far, at least), but it is with the bus and not the ship, so it does not mat­ter too much … the­re is ple­nty of road buil­ding work going on here curr­ent­ly.

Church at Trondenes near Harstad

The medieval church of Tron­de­nes at Har­stad.

After the visit to the muse­um and the old church with her 3 met­res thick walls of stones we were rea­dy for a litt­le walk in the city of Har­stad with all its exci­te­ments. Who would have thought that you can even find a wal­rus here? 🙂

Walrus in Harstad

Wal­rus-sculp­tu­re in Har­stad.

Skjer­vøy – Orcas and nor­t­hern lights!

Based on some infor­ma­ti­on of recent sightin­gs and a bit of opti­mism, we had set cour­se nor­the­ast towards the waters around Skjerøya, at 70 degrees north. Usual­ly we don’t get far on this trip! But con­side­ring the Orca sightin­gs that had been made by others the­re in recent days, we wan­ted to give it a try.

We were not dis­ap­poin­ted!

Orcas, Skjervøy

Orcas near Skjer­vøy.

Of cour­se we used the oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit Skjer­vøy, an small island with a sett­le­ment and har­bour that all bear the same name. This is whe­re Fri­dt­jof Nansen’s Fram final­ly retur­ned to civi­li­sa­ti­on after her famous 3 year drift across the Arc­tic Oce­an (1893-1896). Nan­sen hims­elf, accom­pa­nied by Hjal­mar Johan­sen, had famously left the ship in 1895 to reach the north pole (which did not work), so they were not on board when the Fram rea­ched Skjer­vøy. A gre­at bit of polar histo­ry, and this place was part of it. This alo­ne was actual­ly a good reason to visit.

Skjervøy

Skjer­vøy: island, har­bour, sett­le­ment.

As it tur­ned out, the­re are some good hiking oppor­tu­ni­ties on Skjer­vøya. Curr­ent­ly limi­t­ed as the sun is going down just befo­re 3 p.m., but it was enough for a short walk to get some fine views of the place.

And as if this hadn’t been enough for a good day, we even got some first nor­t­hern lights later the same evening! Not very strong and the pho­to con­di­ti­ons were not ide­al on the moving ship, but still … nor­t­hern light is nor­t­hern light 🙂

Northern light near Skjervøy

Nor­t­hern light near Skjer­vøy.

Trom­sø – 28 Octo­ber 2018

The day we had been wai­ting for! Today ever­y­bo­dy is coming on board and we will set sail with Anti­gua, tra­vel­ling from Trom­sø to Bodø. The last sai­ling voya­ge of the arc­tic sea­son 2018. W are hoping for gre­at light, ever­y­thing that the sun may send us, both direct­ly during the day and more indi­rect­ly during the dark hours … may­be Orcas, Sea eagles, cer­tain­ly a lot of gre­at sce­n­ery, love­ly litt­le vil­la­ges and other inte­res­t­ing places, sai­ling …

Roald Amundsen, Rolf Stange, Tromsø

Roald and Rolf in Trom­sø.

But first, ever­y­bo­dy has time to explo­re Trom­sø; many arri­ved just yes­ter­day and the­re is ple­nty to do here, espe­ci­al­ly as the wea­ther is fine again today.

The ear­ly win­ter often brings a mix­tu­re of snow and rain, free­zing and tha­wing. The result: ice on the streets. A bad luck moment on a street in Trom­sø brings a bro­ken arm and thus a very pre­ma­tu­re end of the voya­ge befo­re it has even real­ly begun for two unlu­cky per­sons (inclu­ding a non-inju­red com­pa­n­ion). We wish you all the best, quick and com­ple­te reco­very!

In late hours, Cap­tain Mario pushes the Anti­gua against a pret­ty strong cur­rent out of the har­bour and through under the bridge. We are start­ing our trip to Bodø … set­ting cour­se nor­thwards!

SV Antigua, Tromsø

SV Anti­gua rea­dy to set sail in Trom­sø.

SV Anti­gua in Trom­sø: first nor­t­hern light and Hen­ry Rudi’s office

We are about to cast lose one last time this year in the Arc­tic. Nor­t­hern lights, beau­tiful sce­n­ery in stun­ning nor­t­hern win­ter light con­di­ti­ons, Orcas – hopes are cer­tain­ly high; we will see what the next week will bring. But the­re is still some time befo­re we will actual­ly set sail.

SV Antigua, Rolf, Tromsø

SV Anti­gua and Rolf in Trom­sø: rea­dy to go!

Trom­sø has been the door to the Arc­tic for a long time and it still is. Many ships have left for high­test lati­tu­des from here and this is whe­re many of them came back to civi­li­sa­ti­on. So does Anti­gua right now, and we are mee­ting old fri­ends such as MS Stock­holm and SV Noor­der­licht.

SV Antigua, MS Stockholm, Tromsø

SV Anti­gua next to MS Stock­holm in the har­bour ofTrom­sø.

Of cour­se the­re is always some­thing to do befo­re a ship can lea­ve port. I take my hat as an arc­tic aut­hor and soon I can smi­le: my gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard is now available for sale at Pola­ria in Trom­sø, in all three lan­guages!

It is a beau­tiful day with a clear sky and love­ly light. Hop­eful­ly we get more of this next week, that would make some peo­p­le hap­py! We even get a nor­t­hern light abo­ve Trom­sø. Not very strong and fain­ting next to all the arti­fi­ci­al light and the almost full moon. But it is a start, fin­gers crossed for more soon!

Northern light, Tromsø

Weak nor­t­hern light abo­ve Trom­sø.

The­re is also time to visit a place that may almost be coun­ted as part of Spitsbergen’s cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge: Mack’s Ølhal­le. This famous beer hall belongs to Mack’s bre­wery, foun­ded in 1877, and it used to be the first place to go for famous win­te­rers such as “Polar Bear king” Hen­ry Rudi and others, who refuel­led here after a long arc­tic win­ter, spen­ding the ear­nings of many hard and cold months in weeks or even just days. Hen­ry Rudi’s place is still mark­ed with a sign that has got his name!

Macks Ølhalle, Tromsø

Mack’s Ølhal­le in Trom­sø: Hen­ry Rudi, the famous “polar bear king”, and other arc­tic win­te­rers refuel­led here after a year in the Arc­tic.

I don’t want to lea­ve a las­ting impres­si­on as Hen­ry Rudi, who almost seems to have lived here during his short sum­mer visits to Trom­sø, my visit was a bit shorter.

Macks Ølhalle, Tromsø

Macks Ølhal­le in Trom­sø was cal­led Hen­ry Rudi’s office. You could rely to find him here in his days.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en: a gre­at place to live, but a tough place to live

The times are curr­ent­ly most­ly calm in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Spits­ber­gen other­wi­se. The­re, is, of cour­se, always some­thing that cat­ches public atten­ti­on. The pha­seout of coal mining in Sveagru­va and the cle­ar­up of a who­le litt­le sett­le­ment is a dis­cus­sion and will remain so for quite some time. Some buil­dings may be pro­tec­ted as part of Spitsbergen’s cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge, others will pro­ba­b­ly be remo­ved. The ques­ti­on of poten­ti­al fur­ther use of the infra­s­trac­tu­re in Sveagru­a­ve, within sci­ence, tou­rism or wha­te­ver, is still lar­ge­ly open. The only thing that is clear is that the who­le pro­ject will cost a lot of money, just as ope­ning the mine at Lun­ckef­jel­let, which has never seen any­thing but years of cos­t­ly stand­by ope­ra­ti­ons bet­ween ope­ning and shut­ting down the mine.

Sveagruva

Sveagru­va: a mining sett­le­ment in pha­seout.

A woman in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is accu­sed for having thrown a stone at a guest of Huset (a popu­lar pub/disco/night club) during a late hour visit in March. The man recei­ved minor inju­ries.

A heli­c­op­ter had to res­cue to stu­dents from Sar­ko­fa­gen, a moun­tain clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The two hikers had ven­tu­red into a steep slo­pe and were unable to move any fur­ther or back.

Sarkofagen

The moun­tain Sar­ko­fa­gen clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Things that hap­pen in a litt­le arc­tic vil­la­ge after the end of the busy sum­mer sea­son, at the onset of the polar night. Most make them­sel­ves com­for­ta­ble at home, taking care of nor­mal ever­y­day busi­ness and enjoy­ing calm days as it is get­ting dar­ker out­side.

But not ever­y­bo­dy can enjoy cosy evenings at home. The housing mar­ket in Lon­gye­ar­by­en has been dif­fi­cult for years. The­re are seve­ral reasons for this, inclu­ding ava­lan­ches which have ren­de­red who­le streets unsui­ta­ble for living in recent years. Airbnb is ano­ther issue, that makes some homes unavailable to long-term resi­dents in need of housing. This has hap­pen­ed in many places in the world, but in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, you can’t just move to the next vil­la­ge some­whe­re near town and com­mu­te to work. At least, an important houseow­ner has recent­ly announ­ced that he does not want to rent flats out through Airbnb. Inves­tor Fre­d­rik Eken told Sval­bard­pos­ten that his 84 flats in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will not be available on the men­tio­ned plat­form for reasons eco­no­mic­al rather than poli­ti­cal or ethi­cal.

Many flats and hou­ses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are owned by major insti­tu­ti­ons and employ­ers such as the Sys­sel­man­nen, muni­ci­pal admi­nis­tra­ti­on, UNIS and others who need to offer housing to their employees, which is under­stan­da­ble but at the same time making a signi­fi­cant pro­por­ti­on of the local housing mar­ket unavailable to the public.

The local admi­nis­tra­ti­on has done hers to make the situa­ti­on more dif­fi­cult, at least for some, than might be neces­sa­ry. In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the­re is a num­ber of hou­ses, most of them in “Sjøom­rå­det” clo­se to the fjord, which have flats. The­se flats are, howe­ver, not appro­ved for per­ma­nent use, but rather for lei­su­re use only. Some of the­se “lei­su­re time flats” (frit­ids­bo­lig, as they are cal­led in Nor­we­gi­an) have, howe­ver, been used more or less per­ma­nent­ly for years. In recent years, the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on inclu­ding the fire depart­ment have pushed to take more dra­stic mea­su­res to kick peo­p­le out of the­se flats. Last week, repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on and the fire depart­ment went on an unhe­ral­ded con­trol mis­si­on to some hou­ses in ques­ti­on, as Sval­bard­pos­ten repor­ted. This led to 6 per­sons losing their accom­mo­da­ti­on on a short war­ning: they were given 24 hours to move out.

Sjøområdet, Longyearbyen

The area cal­led “Sjøom­rå­det” in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Six peo­p­le were recent­ly remo­ved from flats that are not appro­ved for per­ma­nent use.

Reasons given for such rather dra­stic mea­su­res are main­ly fire safe­ty, fol­lo­wed by the miss­ing appr­oval for using the hou­ses for per­ma­nent living in the use zoning plan.

It will not sur­pri­se that this approach is met by cri­ti­cism and des­pa­ra­ti­on among­st tho­se con­cer­ned. Tho­se who lived in the­se hou­ses for years knew that their pro­lon­ged stay was not legal, but it was not a mat­ter of choice for some at least. The pri­va­te housing mar­ket does sim­ply not pro­vi­de afforda­ble accom­mo­da­ti­on. Some of the 6 curr­ent­ly con­cer­ned will have to stay at fri­ends’ places, beco­ming what is local­ly refer­red to as “sofa peo­p­le”. Pos­si­bi­li­ties to find an afforda­ble place to live in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on a long-term basis? Do hard­ly exist.

Con­side­ring this, the cur­rent approach of the muni­ci­pal admi­nis­tra­ti­on to remo­ve peo­p­le from flats that are at least appro­ved for short-time use appears con­tro­ver­si­al. The admi­nis­tra­ti­on has announ­ced fur­ther con­trols as nee­ded.

Fire safe­ty can be taken care of by tech­ni­cal mea­su­res, and a use zoning plan is a mat­ter of poli­ti­cal decis­i­on making. The admi­nis­tra­ti­on has at least announ­ced to start a pro­cess that may include pos­si­bi­li­ties to lega­li­ze the prac­ti­ce.

Sounds extre­me­ly pro­mi­sing, doesn’t it? But it won’t help tho­se who need a place to stay the­re and now. The polar night is coming, and Lon­gye­ar­by­en is a very dark and cold place during the win­ter.

Gui­de­book Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard: new Ger­man edi­ti­on out now

The gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard, available in Eng­lish, Nor­we­gi­an and Ger­man, is the most com­pre­hen­si­ve Spits­ber­gen book available. It is used by tou­rists as well as pro­fes­sio­nal gui­des and expe­di­ti­on lea­ders, who often refer to it as the “Spits­ber­gen bible”. A wor­ding that may seem to be quite far-rea­ching, but the aut­hor (Rolf Stan­ge) is hap­py to take it as a com­pli­ment to the book.

After the first Nor­we­gi­an edi­ti­on came out in in 2017 and the 4th updated Eng­lish edi­ti­on in spring 2018, it was time for an updated Ger­man edi­ti­on. The 5th edi­ti­on (2015) was actual­ly sold out for a while during the sum­mer. In late Sep­tem­ber, the updated 6th edi­ti­on came fresh from the prin­ter 🙂

Guidebook Spitzbergen-Svalbard (German, 6. edition)

The 6th edi­ti­on of the Ger­man gui­de­book Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard is now available The Eng­lish and Norw­gi­an ver­si­ons were also updated recent­ly and remain available.

As with the Nor­we­gi­an and Eng­lish ver­si­ons, the new Ger­man edi­ti­on has been com­pre­hen­si­ve­ly updated in almost all chap­ters, with impro­ved text, maps etc. For fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on, plea­se visit the page dedi­ca­ted to the Ger­man gui­de­book Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard on this web­site, whe­re you can also order the book. It is also available on Amazon.de. Orders through this web­sites and reviews on Ama­zon (also for the Eng­lish or Nor­we­gi­an ver­si­ons) will make the aut­hor hap­py.

Rolf Stange with guidebook Spitzbergen-Svalbard (German, 6. edition)

The aut­hor with the new, 6th edi­ti­on of Spitz­ber­gen-Sval­bard (Ger­man).

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