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Home → November, 2018

Monthly Archives: November 2018 − News & Stories

Good times for mine 7

Mine 7, the last Nor­we­gi­an coal mine in Spits­ber­gen still acti­ve, has a histo­ry of 52 years – quite impres­si­ve for a coal mine and cer­tain­ly more than most others in Sval­bard. And it looks like 2018 will be the best of the­se 52 years. The amount of coal pro­du­ced is abo­ve expec­ta­ti­on and so are the coal pri­ces on the world mar­ket.

Mine 7

Day plant of mine 7 in Advent­da­len, 12 km sou­the­ast of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The 2018 pro­duc­tion in mine 7 was sche­du­led to amount to 130,000 tons, a quan­ti­ty that was alre­a­dy rea­ched in Octo­ber, as Sval­bard­pos­ten repor­ted.

But even more important than the good pro­duc­tion is the deve­lo­p­ment of world mar­ket pri­ces. In spring 2018, less than 40 US-$ were paid for a ton of coal. Sin­ce then, the pri­ce has more than dou­bled and has now sta­bi­li­sed bet­ween 95 and a good 100 US-$. This deve­lo­p­ment has hel­ped mine 7 to the best year in its histo­ry, eco­no­mic­al­ly. Good reason for the 40 miners to be hap­py – and to wel­co­me 4 more col­le­agues in their team soon.

The main cus­to­mers for mine 7 coal are the local power plant in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and a Ger­man com­pa­ny cal­led Cla­ri­ant which is buy­ing 60,000 tons per year. For both, the pri­ce is based on the avera­ge pri­ce of the last 3 years, giving both the pro­du­cer, Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kull­kom­pa­ni, and the cus­to­mers plan­ning relia­bi­li­ty.

Svea Nord, Sveagruva

The coal mines Svea Nord and Lun­ckef­jel­let at Sveagru­va were final­ly clo­sed in 2016. Curr­ent­ly, Store Nor­ske could pro­ba­b­ly make good pro­fit in Svea.

This good eco­no­mic­al deve­lo­p­ment gives the decis­i­on of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment to dis­con­ti­nue mining in Sveagru­va, whe­re a new mine was ful­ly pre­pared in Lun­ckef­jel­let but never put into pro­duc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­on, an extra bit­ter tas­te, seen from the per­spec­ti­ve of the Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kull­kom­pa­ni and their employees. Many miners lost their jobs after this decis­i­on – which was based on eco­no­mic­al reaso­ning. Ins­tead, lar­ge amounts of money will now be spent on a lar­ge clean-up in Sveagru­va. The recent deve­lo­p­ment is likely to fuel the deba­te about the future of mining in Svea, a dis­cus­sion that the govern­ment in Oslo offi­ci­al­ly has declared as clo­sed.

Nor­t­hern lights over Spits­ber­gen

The sky is most­ly clou­dy here the­se days, and when the stars are shi­ning through, then coor­di­na­ti­on with solar acti­vi­ty in the magne­to­sphe­re –

nor­t­hern lights, Auro­ra borea­lis – is not yet quite per­fect.

Northern lights over Adventdalen

Nor­t­hern lights over Advent­da­len.

You can’t force “Lady Auro­ra”, the only thing that helps, as so often in life and espe­ci­al­ly in the Arc­tic, is pati­ence and a bit of luck. Well, we do have some modern tools: wea­ther fore­casts, nor­t­hern light apps, web­cams. Some­ti­mes the­se things even work. Some­ti­mes not. Any­way, nice toys 🙂

Longyearbyen in the polar night

Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the polar night.

But any­way – it is always beau­tiful here, with or wit­hout nor­t­hern lights. Life is going a bit more slow­ly here now in the dark sea­son. You spend some more time see­ing fri­ends, you go for walks, make sure you get a bit of exer­cise. And of cour­se nor­mal life and work is going on, it is a gre­at time to put new pan­ora­mas tog­e­ther or to work on a new book 🙂 well, things like that.

Northern light Adventdalen

Nor­t­hern light over Lind­holm­høg­da and Gru­ve­da­len.

But still, the nor­t­hern lights are of such a gre­at beau­ty, it is always stun­ning. So you keep your eyes and ears open and it is always worth going out to check what’s going on …

And then you just hap­pen to be at the right place at the right time 🙂 the­re could have been fewer clouds, but still, some of them are actual­ly quite good for deco­ra­ti­on … so we had a love­ly nor­t­hern light dancing over Advent­da­len, with a hint of pur­ple at the lower edge on the other­wi­se green curta­ins of light.

northern light Adventdalen

And one more becau­se it is so beau­tiful: nor­t­hern light over Advent­da­len.

Spits­ber­gen – polar night

This year’s last sun­ri­se was on 26 Octo­ber, 13 days ago, at 12:07 hours. The sun went down again at 13:14 hours and it won’t be visi­ble again until late Febru­ary.

(read more about mid­night sun and polar night here)

Polar night, Spitsbergen: hiking with dogs in Adventdalen

Polar night in Spits­ber­gen: hiking with dogs in Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Today, 08 Novem­ber, the sun does not climb hig­her than near 5 degrees below the hori­zon. That ist at least good enough for seve­ral hours of civil twi­light, per­fect­ly fine for ori­en­ta­ti­on out in the field in clear wea­ther con­di­ti­ons. This is the time of the „blue light“, as it is cal­led here, blå­ly­set in Nor­we­gi­an.

Polar night, Spitsbergen: hiking with dogs in Adventdalen - black ice!

Dan­ger of black ice!

Being out the­re is gre­at fun. It is so dif­fe­rent now from what it was like just a few monhts ago! Of cour­se the tours are shorter now and less remo­te. Advent­da­len and not Edgeøya. And dogs are gre­at tour com­pa­n­ions!

Polar night in Adventdalen: Helvetiafjellet

View of Hel­ve­tiaf­jel­let.

Pho­to­gra­phy is also quite dif­fe­rent. It is much slower. You don’t just grab the came­ra, zoom in and press the but­ton. The fle­xi­ble zoom len­ses stay at home now. Ins­tead, I car­ry two prime len­ses, 20 mm and 50 mm, that’s all I am curr­ent­ly using (more info about came­ra equip­ment here). And the tri­pod, that is real­ly important and fre­quent­ly in use. Free-hand pho­tos wit­hout arti­fi­ci­al light is hard­ly pos­si­ble any­mo­re, may­be around noon with high ISO-values. High-end came­ras with full-frame sen­sors real­ly show their mus­cles now. And high-visi­bi­li­ty jackets and head­lamp are must-haves at this time! Oh yes, warm clot­hing does not hurt eit­her.

Most polar night pho­tos are brigh­ter than rea­li­ty, today’s came­ras and len­ses catch so much light. The images on this site are no excep­ti­on. To illus­tra­te the dif­fe­rence, have a look at the­se samples to compa­re. I would say that the dar­ker image shows the real light con­di­ti­ons.

Gal­lery: polar night rea­li­ty

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

A few kilo­me­ters across Advent­da­len take us to Ope­raf­jel­let. In sum­mer­ti­me, this would have invol­ved a rather hef­ty river crossing, now we just have to take care of black ice.

Monument for airplane crash Operafjellet

Monu­ment for the air­plane crash at Ope­raf­jel­let in 1996.

On 29 August 1996, a Rus­si­an air­craft with 141 peo­p­le on board cra­s­hed into Ope­raf­jel­let. Miners, employees and fami­ly mem­ber on the way to Barents­burg. The­re were no sur­vi­vors. It was the big­gest cata­stro­phe ever in Spits­ber­gen in times of peace. The­re is this litt­le monu­ment at Ope­raf­jel­let for the vic­tims.

Barents­burg-Pan­ora­mas now new­ly sor­ted and acces­si­ble through a map

The dark sea­son in the Arc­tic is a good peri­od to get desk­top table pro­jects done which have been wai­ting alre­a­dy for too long. Such as get­ting the coll­ec­tion of 360 degree pan­ora­mas from Barents­burg sor­ted, which until now had been cram­ped tog­e­ther on just one page, making it dif­fi­cult espe­ci­al­ly for tho­se who had not been to Barents­burg in real life to under­stand the­re whe­re­a­bouts. Now, nagi­va­ti­on is much easier, as all places have got their own indi­vi­du­al page and now the bre­wery “Red bear”, the hotel, Lenin, the old muse­um in the Cul­tu­re House, the cha­pel and other sites are acces­si­ble through a map which pro­vi­des easy ori­en­ta­ti­on.

Barentsburg Panorama

Barents­burg Pan­ora­ma: Lenin in focus.

Click here to access the map with the Barents­burg pan­ora­mas and enjoy your vir­tu­al tour!

Ener­gy and hea­ting in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: hea­ting like hell

Ener­gy con­sump­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is high abo­ve the avera­ge in main­land Nor­way.

Hea­ting is pro­vi­ded in Lon­gye­ar­by­en by long-distance hea­ting from the coal power plant, and the locals are gene­rous when using this pre­cious resour­ce. The reason is not only the cold cli­ma­te, which in fact is not even that much col­der in the mari­ti­me cli­ma­te of Spits­ber­gen com­pared to con­ti­nen­tal parts of Scan­di­na­via. Bad insu­la­ti­on of buil­dings is among­st the main reasons. Lon­gye­ar­by­en was a mining sett­le­ment for much of its histo­ry and the buil­dings were ori­gi­nal­ly inten­ded for use during shorter peri­ods only rather than by a more or less per­ma­nent local popu­la­ti­on. This is reflec­ted by cheap and simp­le con­s­truc­tion methods whe­re insu­la­ti­on was obvious­ly not a prio­ri­ty. Many buil­dings in Lon­gye­ar­by­en date back to years befo­re 1970, and Nor­we­gi­an buil­ding regu­la­ti­ons did not come into force in Spits­ber­gen befo­re 2012. Buil­ding qua­li­ty may be chan­ging quite quick­ly now, as many older hou­ses have to be aban­do­ned due to ava­lan­che risks and a lot of hou­ses will be built in the years to come.

Addi­tio­nal­ly, the ener­gy con­sump­ti­on and hea­ting habits of many locals are not exact­ly cha­rac­te­ri­zed by ambi­tious ener­gy-saving. Some are said to open the win­dow rather than turn the hea­ting down. Ther­mo­stats are the excep­ti­on rather than the rule. Hea­ting cos­ts are based on living space rather than actu­al con­sump­ti­on. And many live in flats pro­vi­ded by their employ­ers, who also covers the run­ning cos­ts.

Energy and heating in Longyearbyen

Hea­ting in Spits­ber­gen: lar­ge oven, poor insu­la­ti­on.

Many inha­bi­tants con­sider Lon­gye­ar­by­en and their own life and habits as envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly, but rea­li­ty may be dif­fe­rent, loo­king at elec­tri­ci­ty use, hea­ting and traf­fic habits. If peo­p­le in Lon­gye­ar­by­en were hea­ting as peo­p­le in main­land Nor­way do, ener­gy con­sump­ti­on rela­ted to hea­ting would drop by about 40 %. In win­ter, the poten­ti­al to save ener­gy is even hig­her, as repor­ted in an artic­le in Teknisk Uke­blad.

Also regar­ding elec­tri­ci­ty, matching local habits to main­land man­ners would redu­ce the con­sump­ti­on quick­ly by 15 %. Pas­si­ve hou­ses would increase the reduc­tion to an impres­si­ve 25 %.

The next years may bring impro­ve­ment due to the high cur­rent con­s­truc­tion acti­vi­ties. Tech­ni­cal pos­si­bi­li­ties to impro­ve insu­la­ti­on of exis­ting hou­ses are also work in pro­gress.

So is the pri­ma­ry ener­gy pro­duc­tion in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The only thing that is clear is that the cur­rent coal power plant will not be the long-term solu­ti­on, but nobo­dy knows what is to come then. Many opti­ons have been dis­cus­sed over many years, inclu­ding a new coal power plant, gas, pos­si­bly com­bi­ned with rene­wa­ble ener­gy (wind? Solar power? ..?) and even a cable to the main­land. A decis­i­on has not yet been made.

Nusfjord: fare­well to Lofo­ten

It was an ear­ly start again in Skro­va as we had seve­ral hours of sai­ling time ahead of us to Nusfjord, our next and last desti­na­ti­on in Lofo­ten. It tur­ned out to be a love­ly pas­sa­ge with a beau­tiful sun­set and stun­ning views of “Lofot­veg­gen”, as the wall-like impres­si­on is known that the very moun­tai­neous Lofo­ten islands make on any visi­tor approa­ching from Ves­t­fjord. A sea eagle was hove­ring abo­ve the ship, and the sea was much more mode­ra­te than we had expec­ted … a gre­at way to start a day!

Sunrise Vestfjord

Sun­ri­se over Ves­t­fjord.

Lofotveggen: view of Lofoten

Lofot­veg­gen: the view of the Lofo­ten islands from Ves­t­fjord.

Then we went along­side in the tiny port of Nusfjord. This is one of the­se love­ly litt­le, old fishing vil­la­ges in Lofo­ten. The Ror­buer, small woo­den hou­ses on the shore­li­ne, used to pro­vi­de simp­le accom­mo­da­ti­on for visi­ting fisher­men, now they are upmar­ket and not exact­ly cheap holi­day homes for tou­rists. The times, they are a’changing.



It is a won­derful place on a won­derful day, the sun is cas­ting warm light on the colourful hou­ses, mixed with the occa­sio­nal rain­show­er for some varia­ti­on and refresh­ment. The­re is a litt­le fee­ling of melan­cho­ly about this visit, at least for me; it is the last stop of this jour­ney in Lofo­ten and the last place we visit with Anti­gua this sea­son. So, let’s enjoy the beau­tiful views tho­rough­ly …

SV Antigua in Nusfjord

SV Anti­gua in Nusfjord.

Then it is time to set cour­se across Ves­t­fjord. The ear­lier we arri­ve in Bodø, the bet­ter. It will be stor­my tonight. But as it is, we have a pret­ty smooth crossing of Ves­t­fjord, which is a stretch of open sea rather than a fjord.

Pri­son sen­tence for dis­tur­bing polar bears in Bil­lefjord by dri­ving car on ice

A Nor­we­gi­an court has deli­ver­ed a jud­ge­ment in the case of a man who dis­tur­bed polar bears in Bil­lefjor­den ear­lier this year by dri­ving on the fjord ice by car.

The 58 year old Ukrai­ni­an citi­zen was living and working in Pyra­mi­den. He went out on the fjord ice by car to pick up two col­le­agues who had been on tour. Ins­tead of going direct­ly back to Pyra­mi­den, they deci­ded to take a turn into neigh­bou­ring Petu­ni­abuk­ta to check the con­di­ti­on of a hut. Accor­ding to the dri­ver, he was not awa­re of the pre­sence of two polar bears who were mating at the time in ques­ti­on. He saw the bears at a distance of 50 met­res and stop­ped imme­dia­te­ly. The polar bears aban­do­ned their mating.

Polar bears on fjord ice

Polar bear fami­ly on fjord ice in Isfjord.

The Ukrai­ni­an dri­ver did not have a driver’s licen­se, this had been with­drawn by Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties ear­lier this year becau­se of other traf­fic offen­ces. Accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen, this con­tri­bu­ted to the cur­rent court jud­ge­ment, tog­e­ther with the fact that it is gene­ral­ly not allo­wed to dri­ve a car on fjord ice (or any­whe­re else other than on roads) in Spits­ber­gen. Dis­tur­bing of the polar bears alo­ne would not have been suf­fi­ci­ent for a pri­son sen­tence.

The man was sen­ten­ced to 30 days of pri­son wit­hout pro­ba­ti­on.

And now: Lofo­ten! Troll­fjor­den & Skro­va

We arri­ve in Troll­fjor­den thanks to an ear­ly start in Svol­vær. Troll­fjor­den is one of the most scenic places in Lofo­ten. Mother natu­re must have had a gre­at time when she made this part of the pla­net during the ice age.


Ente­ring Troll­fjord.

Having a gre­at time – that’s also what we did the­re and then. It could not have been bet­ter, com­ple­te­ly calm, dry, clear visi­bi­li­ty up to the hig­hest peaks. We did not hesi­ta­te to put the Zodiacs on the water and crui­se Troll­fjor­den, enjoy­ing the land­scape while being in the midd­le of it.


SV Anti­gua in Troll­fjord.

It got even bet­ter when the sails went up on Anti­gua and the crew went all up on the job beam for a crew pho­to. Pri­ce­l­ess!


The crew of SV Anti­gua in Troll­fjord. Thank you all for a gre­at sea­son up north!

Cap­tain Mario used the good con­di­ti­ons to ful­fill a dream and go wake­boar­ding in the­se nor­t­hern waters, to the gre­at plea­su­re of ever­y­bo­dy around 🙂

Mario, Wakeboarding Raftsund

Cap­tain Mario wake­boar­ding in Raft­sund.

Later, we even made it to Skro­va in good day­light and did not was­te any time. The moun­ta­ins, hills and bea­ches were cal­ling, and we made good use of the remai­ning day­light time befo­re the sun went down and the rain came. That did not bother us any­mo­re, we had had a gre­at day out the­re and con­tin­ued and good spi­rits insi­de.


Ascen­ding Skro­vaf­jel­let.


View over Skro­va and sur­roun­ding islands.

From Ofo­ten to Lofo­ten – art on Tranøy and nor­t­hern lights in Lauk­vik

We deci­de to spend some more time in Tranøy, it is too nice here to lea­ve wit­hout having seen it in day­light. As men­tio­ned, you can walk to the light­house. It is a walk of seve­ral kilo­me­t­res, but per­fect­ly easy wal­king and defi­ni­te­ly worth it, it is a love­ly place on the shore of Ves­t­fjord. Quite win­dy here today.

The lighthouse on Tranøy

The light­house on Tranøy.

The­re are sculp­tures and various pie­ces of art all over Tranøy. A new sculp­tu­re is added every year. You can find them any­whe­re in the land­scape, some­thing that is car­ved into rocks, flowers of gra­ni­te, wha­te­ver. So you can spend a love­ly time wal­king around, always dis­co­ve­ring some­thing. Figu­res wat­ching out across Ves­t­fjor­den, the wind eye, and so on. Beau­tiful stuff. Some real art, inclu­ding some stuff that a simp­le gui­de like me does not under­stand righ­ta­way … I was won­de­ring what all the black pla­tes with kind of irre­gu­lar white cros­ses were, on the rocks near the shore. Later I found out that the­re had been pho­tos on the pla­tes, but they had remo­ved the pho­tos. The white cros­ses were remains of the glue and not art. Well.

Sculpture on Tranøy

Sculp­tu­re on Tranøy.

Later we went across Ves­t­for­den under sail. Wind and waves – the wind direc­tion was just good enough to put some sails up.

Antigua under sail, Vestfjord

Hand­ling sails on Anti­gua while crossing Ves­t­fjor­den to Lofo­ten.

We had gre­at hopes for the evening, won­de­ring if the Nor­t­hern light cent­re of The­re­se and Rob in Lauk­vik would live up to its name and repu­ta­ti­on. Of cour­se we knew that we would get a lot of infor­ma­ti­on about nor­t­hern lights, but the real thing, the actu­al Auro­ra borea­lis? Yes, we were lucky! The sky was clear, and we got two waves of acti­vi­ty. That made a lot of peo­p­le hap­py! The­re had been acti­vi­ty also during the last days, but what does it help wit­hout a clear sky … talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Northern light above Laukvik, Lofoten

Nor­t­hern light at the Nor­t­hern light cent­re in Lauk­vik, Lofo­ten.

Ofo­ten: Skar­ber­get & Tranøy

We are at the bot­tom of Ves­t­fjord today – that is the sea area bet­ween the Nor­we­gi­an main­land and Lofo­ten – in the area that is cal­led „Ofo­ten“. The “L” of “Lofo­ten” is miss­ing here, we’ll get that tomor­row, a bit fur­ther to the west.

Tysfjor­den is Norway’s deepest fjords, with depth down to almost 900 met­res. The ice-age gla­ciers have almost cut Nor­way into two parts. The­re is no more than 6 kilo­me­t­res of land bet­ween the coast and Swe­den.

Icicles, Skarberget

Ici­c­les next to the path on Skar­ber­get.

Cap­tain Mario gets the Anti­gua along­side at the jet­ty in the litt­le har­bour of Skar­ber­get with an impres­si­ve maneou­vre. We fol­low the road for a litt­le bit, than a way into the forest and final­ly a path bet­ween small trees and over mos­ses, lichens and bare rocks, up a ridge. The­re is ice on the rocks in some places, so it is quite slip­pery and we have to be careful.

Tysfjord seen from Skarberget

View from Skar­ber­get over Tysfjor­den.

But the view of Tysfjor­den from Skar­ber­get is abso­lut­e­ly worth it. It is cold and win­dy and it is get­ting more and more grey and wet, so it is nice to get back to Anti­gua after a few hours.

The clouds are brea­king up as we con­ti­nue, and the low sun casts spect­ac­tu­lar light over the islands and moun­ta­ins around us.

Evening light, Ofoten

Evening light in Ofo­ten – direct­ly after lunch.

In dwind­ling day­light and a stiff bree­ze it is again an impres­si­ve bit of sea­man­ship as Cap­tain Mario maneou­vres good old Anti­gua into the litt­le har­bour of Tranøy. This is a litt­le sett­le­ment in the nor­t­hern part of Hamarøy. As many as 53 peo­p­le lived here in 2012. The­re are some sculp­tures hid­den in various places in Tranøy.

Sculpture, Tranøy

Sculp­tu­re in Tranøy.

It is a good walk across the pen­in­su­la to the light­house and it is almost dark as I final­ly get the­re. Unfort­u­na­te­ly the cloud cover is pret­ty much clo­sed again and it even starts to rain, so the­re is litt­le hope for nor­t­hern lights tonight.

Lighthouse Tranøy

Light­house of Tranøy in twi­light.


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