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Yearly Archives: 2018 − News & Stories


Arc­tic under sail 2018: start­ing with SV Anti­gua in Bodø

Bodø! This is whe­re the arc­tic cir­cle is clo­sing. Not the arc­tic cir­cle that marks the sou­thern­most appearance of the mid­night sun, that is at 66°33’N, about 44 miles south of Bodø. But the cir­cle of the arc­tic sai­ling adven­tures of the sum­mer. The first sai­ling trip of the arc­tic starts here in Bodø now in late May and the last one will end here in ear­ly Novem­ber, clo­sing a very lar­ge cir­cle of thou­sands of miles sai­ling arc­tic waters, many kilo­me­ters in Zodiacs in the fjords, hiking on the tun­dra, on moun­ta­ins, lots of adven­tures, wind and wea­ther, encoun­tering wild­life of all sorts, mee­ting peo­p­le … and the­re will be lots of gre­at pho­tos and many ent­ries here in the arc­tic blog 2018.

SV Antigua, Bodø

SV Anti­gua rea­dy to set sail in Bodø.

We will be com­ple­te in a few hours, with about 30 tra­vel­lers from the Net­her­lands, Ger­ma­ny and Aus­tria, and then we will sail across Ves­t­fjord to spend the next days in Lofo­ten. Later, we will sail nor­thwards to Trom­sø and then the Spits­ber­gen adven­ture will start. If you want to join us digi­tal­ly, then just come back and visit this blog!

SV Antigua, Bodø

About to start in a few hours! 🙂

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.

Polar fox with rabies on Hopen

A polar fox was found to have rabies after having atta­cked dogs on the litt­le island Hopen in sou­the­ast Sval­bard, accor­ding to a note by the Sys­sel­man­nen. The fox atta­cked the dogs which belong to the wea­ther sta­ti­on Hopen Meteo on 26 April; it was kil­led by the dogs during the attack. Rou­ti­ne­ly, the fox was taken to Oslo, whe­re it was found to be infec­ted by rabies.

Hopen is in the far sou­the­ast of Sval­bard, 90 kilo­me­t­res away from Edgeøya, the next lar­ge island, 200 kilo­me­t­res from Spitsbergen’s east coast and almost 300 kilo­me­t­res from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It is, howe­ver, easi­ly pos­si­ble that other, infec­ted polar foxes are alre­a­dy fur­ther west, whe­re the sett­le­ments are loca­ted and tou­rists have their more com­mon rou­tes, or they may cover the­se distances quick­ly: most sea are­as in the east of the Spits­ber­gen archi­pe­la­go are still cover­ed by den­se drift ice, whe­re polar foxes are known to tra­vel lar­ge are­as. It is very likely that the rabies virus came with a polar fox from arc­tic Rus­sia, fur­ther away from Hopen than the main island of Spits­ber­gen. This is not the first time rabies is found in Sval­bard; on the long term, it hap­pens actual­ly more or less regu­lar­ly: the virus has been found no less than 7 times sin­ce 1980, inclu­ding the recent inci­dent on Hopen. The last time was in 2011, when rabies was found in reinde­er and foxes on Hopen, in Horn­sund and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Rabies on Spitsbergen (Svalbard): Hopen

Polar fox on Edgeøya: curio­si­ty is nor­mal beha­viour, aggres­si­on in con­trast an alarm signal for rabies.

Rabies is dan­ge­rous also for humans: “If you have acci­den­tal­ly touch­ed poten­ti­al­ly infec­ted ani­mals, then wash your hands very careful­ly after­wards; washing in dis­in­fec­tant is even bet­ter. Get­ting the virus through bare skin cont­act is near impos­si­ble, but mat­ters are com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent if you have been bit­ten. If you suspect an infec­tion, then it is defi­ni­te­ly advi­sed to cont­act the Sys­sel­man­nen as soon as pos­si­ble. Vac­ci­na­ti­on is pos­si­ble for a short while even after expo­sure to the virus. The risk of actual­ly get­ting infec­ted is very, very low, but if things go real­ly wrong, then the result will be fatal.” (quo­ta­ti­on from Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard gui­de­book)

Unu­su­al beha­viour of polar foxes inclu­ding aggres­si­on towards humans or lar­ger ani­mals is a clear war­ning sign of a rabies infec­tion.

The actu­al risk of infec­tions for humans is very low and the recent epi­so­de does cer­tain­ly not invol­ve any gene­ral risk for tra­vel­ling in Sval­bard, but awa­re­ness of the situa­ti­on is, as always, important.

Arc­tic rub­bish: it is not allo­wed to die or to be born in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Or: you are requi­red by law to car­ry a gun

It is incre­di­ble how long-lived some rumours are. They are so per­sis­tent that they are not only often repea­ted by media any­whe­re in the world who do not do their home­work, but – even worse – you can hear them local­ly, told as adven­ture sto­ries by gui­des.

Still, they are rumours and the truth is dif­fe­rent. You as a rea­der of this site know bet­ter or at least you will know bet­ter in a minu­te.

The first and may­be most often told rub­bish is that it is not allo­wed to die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. From a prac­ti­cal view­point, you may ask how to enforce such a rule or law. What hap­pens if you actual­ly die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en? Do you get a fine, or do they put you in jail? Serious­ly: such rumours often have a root some­whe­re in real histo­ry, and such is the case also here. For most of its histo­ry which goes back to 1906, Lon­gye­ar­by­en was not­hing but a com­pa­ny town, com­ple­te­ly owned by a mining com­pa­ny. The­re was no free housing mar­ket, but a com­pa­ny that pro­vi­ded accom­mo­da­ti­on to her employees. When your con­tract peri­od was finis­hed, you had to lea­ve Lon­gye­ar­by­en (theo­re­ti­cal­ly, you could stay else­whe­re in Sval­bard, as some trap­pers actual­ly did!). For this simp­le reason, peo­p­le did not die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en becau­se of age (they often died from other cau­ses, though). Even today, when you are serious­ly ill or you need inten­se care, you will be much bet­ter off on the main­land or some­whe­re else with advan­ced faci­li­ties, which do not exist in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The hos­pi­tal is small and not pre­pared to tre­at spe­cial cases, and the­re is no home for the elder­ly. So, if you need any of that, you fly to the main­land, for simp­le prac­ti­cal reasons.

Life and no ban on dying in Longyearbyen

Peo­p­le live hap­pi­ly in Lon­gye­ar­by­en …

In case an inha­bi­tant dies, the­re is often the wish to be buried in a home com­mu­ni­ty in main­land Nor­way (or else­whe­re). Only very few fami­lies are con­nec­ted to Lon­gye­ar­by­en over gene­ra­ti­ons. Most peo­p­le have a stron­ger fami­ly con­nec­tion else­whe­re, so in case, they want to be buried else­whe­re. If someone choo­ses to rest etern­al­ly on the ceme­tery in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, then this is abso­lut­e­ly pos­si­ble. The­re is only one rest­ric­tion: only urn buri­als are allo­wed, no coff­ins. The so far last buri­als in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have been in 2014, but the­re will be more in the future when the occa­si­on calls for it.

This is the fac­tu­al back­ground of the rather sil­ly rumour that it is “not allo­wed to die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en”. The­re is no law like that, and the­re has never been one.

Law against dying in Longyearbyen: does not exist

… and some­ti­mes (rare­ly, though), they hap­pen to die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The­re is no rule against dying in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Why are peo­p­le, even gui­des, tel­ling such sil­ly things? May­be it is the attempt to make Lon­gye­ar­by­en even more exci­ting and exo­tic than it actual­ly is. Quite unneces­sa­ry, as Lon­gye­ar­by­en is alre­a­dy quite exci­ting and exo­tic as it real­ly is. May­be it is too much effort to make some quick rese­arch, and may­be some peo­p­le think that the facts don’t mat­ter in times of fake news (and the “rule against dying” is real­ly more fake than news any­way). This is not the case! Things should be told as they are. One who did that regar­ding the right to die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en was local priest Leif Magne Hel­ge­sen, a while ago in a let­ter-to-the-edi­tor in Sval­bard­pos­ten.

While we are at it, let’s have a quick look at the other, more plea­sant end of the life cycle, name­ly birth. When it is said that it is not allo­wed to die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, it is also often said that it is not allo­wed to be born the­re eit­her. That is rub­bish just as well.It is only becau­se of the abo­ve-men­tio­ned prac­ti­cal reasons that pregnant women will take a flight to the main­land a few weeks befo­re they are expec­ted to give birth. In case of dif­fi­cul­ties, it will be much safer to be in the uni­ver­si­ty hos­pi­tal in Trom­sø or else­whe­re in or near big­ger, more advan­ced medi­cal faci­li­ties, just in case. The­re is no law or rule of any kind against being born in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Ano­ther sub­ject, simi­lar level of bull­shit: it is often said that peo­p­le are requi­red by law to car­ry a gun in Spits­ber­gen. Has anyo­ne ever seen such a law? No! Becau­se the­re has never been such a law. It is self-evi­dent that your chan­ces of sur­vi­val in the worst case of mee­ting a real­ly angry polar bear will be much bet­ter in case you have a sui­ta­ble wea­pon when you are in the field in polar bear coun­try, so it is inde­ed very com­mon to car­ry a gun. But this is sim­ply not requi­red by any law! The only thing that you are legal­ly obli­ged to have is some kind of deter­rent, usual­ly a signal pis­tol with spe­cial ammu­ni­ti­on. If you app­ly for a tour per­mit, which you need for remo­te are­as (out­side the so-cal­led admi­nis­tra­ti­on area 10), then the Sys­sel­man­nen will also requi­re that you car­ry a wea­pon for polar bear pro­tec­tion, but based on safe­ty con­side­ra­ti­ons and not on law. If you deci­de to walk out­side Lon­gye­ar­by­en wit­hout a gun, then you may be a bit sui­ci­dal, but you don’t do any­thing ille­gal. Again: the­re is no law that requi­res anyo­ne to car­ry a rif­le in Sval­bard!

Law that requires carrying a gun in Svalbard: does not exist

It is not for­bidden to die in Lon­gye­ar­by­en and the­re is no law asking you to car­ry a rif­le in Sval­bard. Not having any­thing to pro­tect you against polar bears might, howe­ver, be a life-threa­tening mista­ke.

So, now we have clea­ri­fied a good bit of arc­tic rub­bish. See you soon!

Two snow mobi­les bro­ken into fast ice in Mohnbkta at the east coast

Two snow mobi­les bro­ke through the sur­face of the fast ice in Mohn­buk­ta at the east coast of Spits­ber­gen. Nobo­dy suf­fe­r­ed any inju­ries. Both belon­ged to a group of nine snow mobi­les with locals from Lon­gye­ar­by­en out on a pri­va­te tour. Accor­ding to offi­cals, the group had been careful and exer­cis­ed good prac­ti­ce. Short­ly befo­re the inci­dent, they had mea­su­red the ice thic­k­ness to be clo­se to 70 cm, a value that usual­ly indi­ca­tes safe con­di­ti­ons.

As the indi­vi­du­al dri­vers had kept suf­fi­ci­ent­ly lar­ge distance bet­ween their vehic­les, fol­lo­wing ones could avo­id dri­ving into the dan­ger zone. The dri­vers of the snow mobi­les that had bro­ken through the sur­face mana­ged to get off and onto safe ice. The group could retrie­ve both snow mobi­les with ropes, avo­i­ding loss of equp­ment and fuel in the envi­ron­ment. Imme­dia­te­ly after the inci­dent, they infor­med the Sys­sel­man­nen in case anyo­ne had seen them and rai­sed alarm.

Snow mobile tour Mohnbukta, east coast of Spitsbergen

On tour on the ice in Mohn­buk­ta on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen: beau­tiful, but never enti­re­ly risk-free.

The inci­dent, which hap­pen­ed yes­ter­day (Satur­day), shows that fjord ice is never an enti­re­ly risk-free envi­ron­ment for tra­vel­ling. Even with careful beha­viour, risk can­not be ful­ly excluded. Care and quick avai­li­bii­ty of safe­ty equip­ment (ropes and “ispig­ger”, kind of nails with hand­les or some­thing simi­lar that helps you in the worst case to get out from the water and back onto ice) can safe lives.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten

Arc­tic tra­vel blog in the far south: Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, Pata­go­nia

I have been asked why the­re has been no arc­tic tra­vel blog in a while. The reason is short and con­clu­si­ve: I have not been in the Arc­tic recent­ly. I have been in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca and Pata­go­nia – you couldn’t be much fur­ther away from the Arc­tic, yet very fami­li­ar! So, the­re has inde­ed been a recent and well-fed tra­vel blog, just from the deep south and not from the high north and accor­din­gly on a dif­fe­rent web­site (antarctic.eu, click here to get the­re).

The arc­tic tra­vel blog will be con­tin­ued in a few weeks from now, when we start the nor­t­hern sea­son under sail ear­ly in the second half of May.

Travel blog Patagonia

Super­cool land­scapes with trees? Hard to belie­ve, but that exists! Click here to have a look at the tra­vel blog Pata­go­nia. But don’t worry, the­re is also a lot of super­cool land­scapes wit­hout trees in the same tra­vel blog, from Ant­ar­c­ti­ca.

Traf­fic ban in Tem­pel­fjord, Bil­lefjord and Rin­ders­buk­ta

The Sys­sel­man­nen has deci­ded to ban moto­ri­sed traf­fic from the fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord (inner Isfjord), Bil­lefjord (near Pyra­mi­den) and Rin­ders­buk­ta (in Van Mijenfjord). The ban is based on the assu­med dis­tur­ban­ce of wild­life by moto­ri­sed traf­fic. All of the­se places are popu­lar desti­na­ti­ons for snow mobi­le trips from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Rin­ged seals need the fjord ice curr­ent­ly to give birth to their off­spring, and polar bears, which have been seen regu­lar­ly in recent times in all the­se places, have accor­din­gly an important hun­ting sea­son to build up fat reser­ves. The aut­ho­ri­ties assu­me that the total dis­tur­ban­ce by moto­ri­sed traf­fic is too much for the wild­life to car­ry on with their important respec­ti­ve busi­nesses.

Until 01 Juni – cove­ring the com­ple­te remai­ning win­ter sea­son – all moto­ri­zed traf­fic is ban­ned from the fjord ice in the­se are­as. The­re are excep­ti­ons on the shor­test safe rou­tes in Bil­lefjord from Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen to Pyra­mi­den, which is part of the regu­lar trip from Lon­gy­e­r­abyen to Pyra­mi­den, and in Tem­pel­fjord, making it pos­si­ble to cross the ice on the shor­test safe rou­te west of Kapp Schoultz to Kapp Mur­doch. Maps show­ing the details are available on the Sysselmannen’s web­site.

Non-moto­ri­sed traf­fic is not con­cer­ned.

In 2018, the fjord ice has deve­lo­ped bet­ter than in recent years. It is the first time in seve­ral years that Tem­pel­fjord can be crossed regu­lar­ly and safe­ly.

Appear­ent­ly wild­life is not much dis­tur­bed by careful, sen­si­ti­ve traf­fic by gui­ded groups or careful indi­vi­du­als. Ruthl­ess beha­viour of care­less indi­vi­du­als or groups is ano­ther mat­ter and hard to con­trol.

The Sys­sel­man­nen reminds the public that it is everybody’s indiv­du­al respon­si­bi­li­ty to assess the safe­ty of the ice for traf­fic.

Traffic ban Tempelfjord

Gla­cier front in Tem­pel­fjord: popu­lar desti­na­ti­on for excur­si­ons, but curr­ent­ly off limits for moto­ri­sed traf­fic.

Out now: Spec­ta­cu­lar Ant­ar­c­ti­ca post­cards (limi­t­ed edi­ti­on)!

Tra­vel to the Ant­ar­c­tic once – a dream only few can rea­li­ze. Ever­yo­ne else con­ti­nues to dream while sen­ding post­cards with spec­ta­cu­lar pic­tures from the Ant­ar­c­tic to their loved ones. The post­cards include motifs of King and Emper­or Pen­gu­in, Ele­phant seal, a very rare “Eco­ty­pe D” Orca and spec­ta­cu­lar land­scapes on remo­te Ant­ar­c­tic islands, inclu­ding a tabu­lar ice­berg that is uni­que and distinc­ti­ve to the Ant­ar­c­tic ice­berg form.

>>>Order Ant­ar­c­ti­ca-post­cards here

Antarctica-postcards

May­be the dream of an Ant­ar­c­tic trip will come true some day?

Available now: New, fourth edi­ti­on of the tra­vel­gui­de Spits­ber­gen – Sval­bard

608 pages thick: the new gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen – Sval­bard for the Eng­lish-spea­king audi­ence has grown by almost 100 pages! All chap­ters have been updated with new details, espe­ci­al­ly maps.

>>>Click here for more infor­ma­ti­on and orde­ring the new, fourth edi­ti­on of “Spits­ber­gen – Sval­bard”

Spitsbergen-Svalbard Travel guide, 4. edition

Essen­ti­al for all Eng­lish spea­king Spits­ber­gen fans:
The new, fourth edi­ti­on of the gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen – Sval­bard

»Spits­ber­gen – Sval­bard« has detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on about the flo­ra and fau­na of Spits­ber­gen, its natu­re and human histo­ry and detail­ed chap­ters about all regi­ons, fjords, islands and sett­le­ments. The various sea­sons are descri­bed and dif­fe­rent ways of tra­ve­ling. Rou­tes are descri­bed in detail for popu­lar snow mobi­le excur­si­ons, day hikes, long trek­king expe­di­ti­ons and boat trips. 14 mammal spe­ci­es, 26 bird spe­ci­es and 29 flower spe­ci­es are descri­bed in detail and illus­tra­ted with colour pho­to­graphs. Many maps within the text pro­vi­de geo­gra­phi­cal ori­en­ta­ti­on – the­se are among­st the many important impro­ve­ments com­pared to pre­vious edi­ti­ons. The polar bear risk and issues rela­ted to wea­pons are dis­cus­sed. Detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on about rele­vant legis­la­ti­on as well as names of all wild­life and plant spe­ci­es descri­bed in no less than 10 lan­guages make the book a com­ple­te refe­rence also for pro­fes­sio­nal gui­des. This is by far the most com­ple­te Sval­bard gui­de­book available on the mar­ket!

Indis­pensable for Spits­ber­gen-beg­in­ners as well as for Spits­ber­gen-experts

140 flats in Lon­gye­ar­by­en must give way to ava­lan­che pro­tec­tion

Exten­si­ve ava­lan­che pro­tec­tion mea­su­res are likely to chan­ge Longyearbyen’s city­scape over the next few years. This was the result of a stu­dy published by the NVE (Nor­we­gi­an Water Resour­ces and Ener­gy Direc­to­ra­te) in mid-March. The­re­af­ter, the buil­dings in the eas­tern part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en are clas­si­fied as much more end­an­ge­red than pre­vious­ly assu­med.

Avalanche danger zones

Ava­lan­che dan­ger zones mark the pos­si­bi­li­ties of an ava­lan­che once in 100 years (red zone), once in 1000 years (oran­ge zone) and once in 5000 years (yel­low zone).
Pic­tu­re: NVE

Accor­ding to the NVE report, the dan­ger zone rea­ches almost to the cen­ter, so that a num­ber of hou­ses with a total of around 140 flats may need to be demo­lished. As a pro­tec­ti­ve mea­su­re, it is recom­men­ded to build a 10 to 15 meter high bar­ri­er. Whe­re exact­ly the bar­rie­re should stand and which hou­ses are affec­ted in detail by the demo­li­ti­on, is still unclear. The bar­rie­re will pro­ba­b­ly extend across way 230 and 228 to Hil­mar Reks­tens Vei.

In addi­ti­on, at the foot of Mount Suker­top­pen, seve­ral “bra­ke cones” are to be instal­led, which can redu­ce the ener­gy of an ava­lan­che. The “bra­ke cones” should each be ten meters wide and eight meters high. Tog­e­ther with the con­s­truc­tion of new hou­ses as well as a plan­ned pro­tec­tion against muds­li­des from Vann­led­nings­da­len, the con­s­truc­tion work will pro­ba­b­ly cost at least 100 mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner (about 10 mil­li­on Euros). The­se mea­su­res should be imple­men­ted within the next three years.

In recent years, seve­ral hou­ses in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have been hit by ava­lan­ches. In Decem­ber 2015, a cata­stro­phic ava­lan­che from Mount Suk­ker­top­pen hit 11 buil­dings. A 42-year-old father and a two-year-old girl died. The dis­as­ter had a huge impact on the inha­bi­tants of Lon­gye­ar­by­en and forced aut­ho­ri­ties and poli­tics to act, but reac­tions on the various poli­ti­cal levels from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Oslo are slow. This is frus­t­ra­ting peo­p­le local­ly, who have to live with month-long evacua­tions.

Avalanche 19.12.2015

In the ava­lan­che dis­as­ter on 19.12.2015 hou­ses were moved up to 80 meters.

Source: Sval­bard­pos­ten, NVE

New Spits­ber­gen post­cards out now (limi­t­ed edi­ti­on)!

Lon­ging for the Arc­tic? Or final­ly wan­ting to rea­li­ze the dream of a trip to Spits­ber­gen? Then it’s time to con­vin­ce a fri­end of a trip to Spits­ber­gen, pre­fer­a­b­ly with a post­card that real­ly awa­kens the lon­ging for the Arc­tic. A polar bear mother play­ing with her cub, a yaw­ning Arc­tic fox and, of cour­se, fasci­na­ting land­scapes of ice and rocks – and even more gre­at pic­tures on the twel­ve new Spits­ber­gen post­cards.
A set of post­cards cos­ts 10 € and the edi­ti­on is limi­t­ed!
>>>Order the new set of Spits­ber­gen post­cards now!

Spitzbergen-Postkarten

New limi­t­ed edi­ti­on of Spits­ber­gen-post­cards

Remains of cos­me­tics found in fish

Rese­ar­chers from Trom­sø have found sil­o­xa­nes in the liver of fish caught off Spits­ber­gen. Sil­o­xa­nes are com­pon­ents in sili­co­ne pro­ducts and are used to make cos­me­tics smooth and sup­p­le. Sil­o­xa­nes are found in almost all cos­me­tics and skin­ca­re pro­ducts. When washing or showe­ring sil­o­xa­nes get into the water cir­cle and even­tual­ly end up in the sea.
Even for humans, the­se sub­s­tances can be dan­ge­rous. Stu­dies indi­ca­te that the D4 vari­ant of sil­o­xa­ne may affect fer­ti­li­ty.

Sources: NRK, Umwelt­bun­des­amt

Sun fes­ti­val in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, new pla­nes for Sveagru­va and the tra­vel­b­log soon to con­ti­nue in Pata­go­nia

The return of the sun to Lon­gye­ar­by­en (sol­fest = sun fes­ti­val) was cele­bra­ted on Thurs­day (08 March) in good tra­di­ti­on. On this day, the sun returns to Lognye­ar­by­en after seve­ral months of polar night. Just for a few moments and only if the wea­ther is good, but that is enough reason to cele­bra­te with seve­ral days of cul­tu­ral events. This time, the­re was not a cloud on the sky, so ever­y­bo­dy could enjoy the rays of the sun on the skin!

Sun festival Longyearbyen

Sun fes­ti­val in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Mean­while, some “old boys” around Robert Her­man­sen, for­mer boss of the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske, try to come up with a plan to put the alre­a­dy aban­do­ned coal mine sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va back to life and work. Poli­ti­ci­ans have alre­a­dy said that they don’t app­re­cia­te such plans. For sure, the­re will be a lot of tal­king still about Sveagru­va in the future.

Else­whe­re, suit­ca­ses (or rather ruck­sacks) are being packed: on Sun­day (11 March), we will start sai­ling in Pata­go­nia with SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha. This means of cour­se that the tra­vel blog will start again soon! Plea­se visit antarctic.eu for the sou­thern chap­ters of my tra­vel blog.

Patagonia under sail with SY Anne-Margaretha

“Pata­go­nia under sail with SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha: start­ing on Sun­day. The tra­vel blog will then also start soon on antarctic.eu.

Housing mar­ket in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: shorta­ge, spe­cu­la­ti­on and Airbnb

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is by many means a spe­cial place. The litt­le town with just over 2,500 inha­bi­tants attracts many on a sea­so­nal or short-term basis. The­se peo­p­le are working in tou­rism, but also in the buil­ding indus­try or in small trade or for any com­pa­ny that needs labour force for shorter peri­ods. Many com­pa­nies are curr­ent­ly facing pro­blems to find housing for their employees, such as the tou­rism indus­try which has a very busy time now as the important win­ter sea­son is in full swing. Lar­ger com­pa­nies as well as insti­tu­ti­ons such as the uni­ver­si­ty (UNIS)/Polar Insti­tu­te, Sys­sel­man­nen and local admi­nis­tra­ti­on have got con­sidera­ble num­bers of flats for their employees to be able to com­pe­te with employ­ers on the main­land.

Recent years have seen signi­fi­cant pri­ce increa­ses for buy­ing and ren­ting, which has to a lar­ge degree to do with evacua­tions becau­se of the ava­lan­che dan­ger. The­se evacua­tions have beco­me a regu­lar and long-las­ting phe­no­me­non now that is affec­ting who­le streets.

As in many other places in the world, the­re are tho­se owners who have dol­lar signs blin­king in their eyes. A num­ber of flats are ren­ted out through Airbnb, most­ly to tou­rists on a short-term basis. This is cer­tain­ly an attrac­ti­ve offer for the users and it includes flats which are used by com­pa­nies for their employees when the­re is demand, and not­hing is wrong about offe­ring the­se flats on the mar­ket while they are not used. But the­re are also tho­se flats which are now exclu­si­ve­ly used for Airbnb and thus not available for the local housing mar­ket any­mo­re, a situa­ti­on that is met with gro­wing cri­ti­cism both local­ly and else­whe­re.

One of the lar­ger owners in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the main­land com­pa­ny Lon­gye­ar­by­en Boli­gei­en­dom, bought seven hou­ses with a lar­ger num­ber of flats in 2012 for a pri­ce of 37 mil­li­on NOK (about 4.8 mil­li­on Euro back then). Ren­tals were soon increased by 45 %. Now, Lon­gye­ar­by­en Boli­gei­en­dom has announ­ced to sell five of their seven hou­ses with a total of 84 flats, aiming at a pri­ce of 77 mil­li­on NOK. The com­pa­ny has said to have spent many mil­li­ons on reno­va­ti­on, but this might well be (over)balanced by the inco­me from ren­tals. Lon­gye­ar­by­en Boli­gei­en­dom might well lea­ve the local mar­ket with a pro­fit not far form 100 % of the ori­gi­nal invest­ment after six years. The two hou­ses that are not (yet) for sale are in an area offi­ci­al­ly expo­sed to an ava­lan­che risk, and a poten­ti­al sale will not be con­side­red befo­re the slo­pes have not been secu­red tech­ni­cal­ly. Curr­ent­ly, the­se hou­ses would be hard to sell, if not impos­si­ble.

Longyearbyen housing market

No place to stay in Lon­gye­ar­by­en the­se days? Tough luck, inde­ed!

On top of all this came the news that the local admi­nis­tra­ti­on keeps a num­ber of flats vacant. This is obvious­ly con­tro­ver­si­al at times of a stres­sed housing mar­ket. It is about 24 flats in way 222 which have been vacant for months now. Lar­ge invest­ments were made actual­ly just last year to brush the­se flats up. Repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the local admin­stra­ti­on said that it was deci­ded against ren­ting the­se flats out even on shorter con­tracts as long as final decis­i­ons have not been made regar­ding the ava­lan­che situa­ti­on and secu­ring the dan­ge­rous slo­pes of Suk­ker­top­pen, a pro­cess that has alre­a­dy been going on for years. In addi­ti­on comes that fur­ther invest­ments need to be made to renew the foun­da­ti­ons of the buil­dings. Nevert­hel­ess, it is said that the flats could be ren­ted out and used and it seems to be a poli­ti­cal decis­i­on to do so or not. Lea­ving 24 flats vacant for months, pos­si­bly years, in times of a housing mar­ket under pres­su­re is not neces­s­a­ri­ly a decis­i­on that is met with gre­at sym­pa­thy, while some a des­pa­ra­te­ly loo­king for housing for them­sel­ves or their employees.

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