fb  Spitsbergen Panoramas - 360-degree panoramas  de  en  nb  Spitsbergen Shop  
pfeil THE Spitsbergen guidebook pfeil

Yearly Archives: 2018 − News & Stories

More tem­pe­ra­tu­re records in the Arc­tic

While cen­tral Euro­pe is free­zing, the wea­ther is brea­king records in the Arc­tic – once again, and towards war­mer tem­pe­ra­tures, of cour­se. Tem­pe­ra­tures in Lon­gye­ar­by­en have been abo­ve the long-term avera­ge (1960-90) wit­hout inter­rup­ti­on sin­ce Novem­ber 2010 – that is for more than 7 years! Curr­ent­ly, it is rai­ning in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, and tem­pe­ra­tures are abo­ve free­zing.

The situa­ti­on in hig­hest lati­tu­des, up to the very North Pole, is may­be even more extre­me. Even the­re, in the deepest arc­tic win­ter, the time that should be the col­dest of the year, tem­pe­ra­tures are curr­ent­ly abo­ve zero. The­re is no wea­ther sta­ti­on at the North Pole, but data from remo­te sens­ing are clear enough, tel­ling us that the tem­pe­ra­tu­re at the North Pole is curr­ent­ly 30 degrees Cel­si­us abo­ve the avera­ge. In words: thir­ty degrees Cel­si­us!

This appli­es to almost the who­le Arc­tic Oce­an north of 80 degrees. Con­side­ring the who­le area, tem­pe­ra­tures are cal­cu­la­ted to be 20 degrees abo­ve nor­mals values. The Danish Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te has got data span­ning the who­le peri­od sin­ce 1958 and the­re is not­hing that com­pa­res.

Peri­ods of mild wea­ther in the Arc­tic are not com­ple­te­ly now, but they have been incre­asing in fre­quen­cy and inten­si­ty sin­ce 1980 and espe­ci­al­ly in recent years. The cur­rent epi­so­de is, howe­ver, record­brea­king. Accor­ding to Robert Gra­ham from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, the­re have been four peri­ods simi­lar (but less inten­se) wea­ther bet­ween 1980 and 2010, but ano­ther four alre­a­dy in the last five yars.

Open water in Advent­fjord next to Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the midd­le of the polar night: not­hing unu­su­al today.

Polar night Adventfjord

Today’s event is most likely lin­ked to the weak ice con­di­ti­ons in the Arc­tic Oce­an. In Janu­ary 2018, less ice was obser­ved than ever befo­re. Even north of Green­land, an area that his­to­ri­cal­ly had relia­ble ice con­di­ti­ons in terms of hea­vy, den­se, mul­ti-year ice, the­re is curr­ent­ly open water. The tem­pe­ra­tures do not con­tri­bu­te to rene­wed free­zing: the auto­ma­tic wea­ther sta­ti­on at Kap Mor­ris Jesup in nor­t­hern­most Green­land has up to Sun­day recor­ded a stun­ning 61 hours of tem­pe­ra­tures abo­ve zero. The record so far was 16 hours for one who­le win­ter – that’s the who­le peri­ods until late April – and it dates back to 1980.

Karte Hütten

View of Lon­gye­ar­by­en through the web­cam of UNIS: rain and tha­wing snow in Janu­ary 🙁

While the details of the meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal pro­ces­ses are not ful­ly unders­tood, sci­en­tists do not have any doubt that the high tem­pe­ra­tures in the water of the Green­land Sea and tho­se of the atmo­sphe­re in the high Arc­tic are lin­ked. Ice, warm water and the move­ments of low pres­su­re sys­tems are con­nec­ted and form a com­plex sys­tem, which also seems to invol­ve the hig­her atmo­sphe­re: unu­sual­ly warm tem­pe­ra­tures were also recor­ded in the stra­to­sphe­re, more than 10,000 met­res high and thus abo­ve the ever­y­day wea­ther events, a cou­ple of weeks ago. Details remain yet to be ful­ly inves­ti­ga­ted.

It should at least get col­der again in Lon­gye­ar­by­en from Wed­nes­day onwards.

Sum­ma­ri­zing source: Washing­ton Post

Dis­cus­sion about new huts for com­mer­cial tou­rism in Spits­ber­gen

While the sun is slow­ly retur­ning to Spits­ber­gen after the polar night, the dis­cus­sion about new huts for com­mer­cial use by local tour ope­ra­tors is going on: Should it be pos­si­ble to build new huts in the field?

The dis­cus­sion star­ted with the last Stortings­mel­ding, a govern­ment poli­cy state­ment issued in 2016 that drafts an out­line of poli­tics for Sval­bard for the years to come. With the back­ground of dimi­nis­hing coal mining, most par­ties invol­ved agree that tou­rism should be deve­lo­ped as a cor­ner­stone for the local eco­no­my in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. To help this, the Stortings­mel­ding opens for the pos­si­bi­li­ty of new huts being built for use by local tour ope­ra­tors in the con­text of their orga­nis­ed tours (not for indi­vi­du­al use, neither com­mer­cial nor pri­va­te, to be clear on this). Acti­vi­ties are sup­po­sed to be more or less clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, at least within admi­nis­tra­ti­on area 10, bet­ween Isfjord and Van Mijenfjord.

The use of huts for tou­rism does not have a tra­di­ti­on in Spits­ber­gen and it is con­tro­ver­si­al, to put it mild­ly, as oppo­sed to main­land Nor­way, whe­re the use of huts for tours is well estab­lished and open also for tou­rists. In Spits­ber­gen, only locals may use huts pri­va­te­ly. So far, the­re are only 3 huts out­side Lon­gye­ar­by­en which may be used com­mer­ci­al­ly. One is near Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen in Bil­lefjord, ano­ther one is at Brents­kar­det in inner Advent­da­len and the third one is clo­se to Sveagru­va in Van Mijenfjord.

Now the ques­ti­on is if and whe­re fur­ther huts should be per­mit­ted. Local tour ope­ra­tors could file their appli­ca­ti­ons in 2017 and ever­y­bo­dy could com­ment on the appli­ca­ti­ons until end of Janu­ry 2018. The Sys­sel­man­nen recei­ved twel­ve state­ments with rele­vant comm­ents (plus 8 wit­hout comm­ents). The­se state­ments came both from pri­va­te per­sons and from insti­tu­ti­ons inclu­ding the Mil­jø­di­rek­to­rat (Nor­we­gi­an envi­ron­men­tal aut­ho­ri­ty), the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and the Riks­an­tik­var (pro­tec­tion of his­to­ri­cal monu­ments and sites). Most state­ments share an altog­e­ther cri­ti­cal atti­tu­de. The Polar Insti­tu­te examins all poten­ti­al sites for new huts regar­ding their eco­lo­gi­cal values and comm­ents on the dama­ge to the envi­ron­ment that per­ma­nent infra­struc­tu­re may have in the­se places. Pri­va­te per­sons from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, inclu­ding some of the few trap­pers who are still acti­ve in Spits­ber­gen, seem to share a very cri­ti­cal per­spec­ti­ve. Remar­kab­ly, rather than gene­ral oppo­si­ti­on to the idea of huts (the­re are, of cour­se, pros and cons to this as well), the state­ments most­ly offer a detail­ed dis­cus­sion of the spe­ci­fic sites.

The sites in ques­ti­on are:

map huts Spitsbergen

The­se sites are being dis­cus­sed for new huts for com­mer­cial use in Spits­ber­gen.

  • Elve­ne­set (point 1 on the map) at the mouth of De Geerd­a­len in Sas­senfjord. The idea of a new, com­mer­ci­al­ly used hut in one of the last low­lands and river del­ta are­as clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en curr­ent­ly wit­hout any infra­struc­tu­re is not met with any enthu­si­asm at all. The values of this tun­dra area for wild­life such as reinde­er and polar foxes are high­ligh­ted and stand in con­trast to regu­lar use. A new hut would be near a fox den. Pret­ty much all state­ments look cri­ti­cal­ly at the idea of a hut at Elve­ne­set. This includes the Mil­jø­di­rek­to­rat, which will pre­su­ma­b­ly have an important say in this dis­cus­sion.
  • Svel­ti­hel (2), a low­land area in Sas­send­a­len on the coast of Tem­pel­fjord. This site does not seem to con­flict too much with the local envi­ron­ment, but accor­ding to the important Mil­jø­di­rek­to­rat, it is too far away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en and too clo­se to a natio­nal park.
  • Kre­kling­pas­set (3), bet­ween De Geerd­a­len and Hel­ve­tia­da­len. Accor­ding to the various state­ments, one of few sites that can at least be con­side­red for a new hut, wit­hout too much poten­ti­al for envi­ron­men­tal or other con­flicts. Locals, howe­ver, see their regu­lar­ly used tour are­as com­pro­mi­sed.
  • Tverrd­a­len (4), south of Advent­da­len. Away from the coast as Kre­kling­pas­set, and addi­tio­nal­ly not near the com­mon­ly used rou­tes for pri­va­te and com­mer­cial tours and wit­hout much poten­ti­al to dis­turb the local envi­ron­ment. The site is hence likely to remain in the dis­cus­sion.
  • Lang­ne­set in Van Mijenfjord, bet­ween Sveagru­va and Reind­a­len (5). All state­ments are expli­ci­te­ly cri­ti­cal regar­ding this site. Van Mijenfjord is the only fjord on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen that does still free­ze during the late win­ter, at least in its inner rea­ches, as it is shel­te­red from the open sea by the island Akseløya. Hence, Van Mijenfjord is an important area for seals to give birth, and the­re seem to be seve­ral polar bears rather sta­tio­na­ry in this area, inclu­ding fema­les who use the area to give birth in snow caves. Exten­ding regu­lar tours into this area is an idea that most peo­p­le and insti­tu­ti­ons do not like. If the Sys­sel­man­nen takes the state­ments serious­ly, then this site should not have a chan­ce to remain in the dis­cus­sion.

The num­ber of per­mits that will be issued in the end is not defi­ned. In theo­ry, it might be all sites or none. In any case, the­re will be strict regu­la­ti­ons for the use of the huts: only within the con­text of orga­nis­ed tours, no addi­tio­nal traf­fic in the field and pre­fer­a­b­ly non-moto­ri­zed access etc. But some fear that it may be dif­fi­cult to con­trol how the huts are used and rela­ted tours are ope­ra­ted in prac­ti­ce, once the huts are the­re.

Also the aut­hor of this artic­le sees the estab­lish­ment of new, per­ma­nent infra­struc­tu­re in so-far lar­ge­ly untouch­ed natu­re are­as cri­ti­cal­ly. If addi­tio­nal infra­struc­tu­re is to be used in the field, then one might also opt for mobi­le solu­ti­ons that can be used sea­so­nal­ly and easi­ly be remo­ved wit­hout a trace after the sea­son. This would also make it easier to con­trol the future deve­lo­p­ment in case of unex­pec­ted, unde­si­red deve­lo­p­ments.

Der Hyperitt­fos­sen, a water­fall at Elve­ne­set in De Geerd­a­len: the most­ly untouch­ed land­scape and natu­re would hard­ly bene­fit from a new hut.

Hyperittfossen, Elveneset

Source: Sys­sel­man­nen

Ant­ar­c­tic Crui­se with SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha – tra­vel blog on antarctic.eu

The­re is a blog for our cur­rent voya­ge to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca with the two-mast sai­ling ship SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha. Plea­se click here to visit the blog on antarctic.eu! Reports will start in the next few days and will be trans­mit­ted via satel­li­te to the web­mas­ter (so the tech­no­lo­gy works) and published by him and lin­ked in Face­book the next day.

Antarktis - Ushuaia

2017, Octo­ber to Decem­ber: polar night

Octo­ber brought the ter­ri­ble crash of the Rus­si­an heli­c­op­ter that fell into Isfjord, not too far away from Barents­burg. All 8 on board peri­s­hed tra­gi­cal­ly. This sad event touch­ed ever­y­bo­dy in Spits­ber­gen and many peo­p­le else­whe­re deep­ly.

For me, it was time to return to the office in Octo­ber (more about the results later), befo­re we set sails one last time in the Arc­tic for this year to enjoy the beau­ty of the approa­ching polar night in north Nor­way. Cer­tain­ly a rather unu­su­al time for tou­rists to come to the­se lati­tu­des, but beau­tiful. Light, snow, sce­n­ery, places. Oh yes, and Sea eagles!

Sea eagle

Sea eagle in Troll­fjord.

In Spits­ber­gen, the polar night had set in for real. A good time to relax a bit. If you have too much time, you can always remo­ve someone’s let­ter­box.

No long expe­di­ti­ons, but still, impres­si­ons of silent beau­ty, and time to meet fri­ends – and yours­elf, after many months of inten­se tra­vel­ling. And we could enjoy some nor­t­hern lights!

Northern light above Foxdalen

Nor­t­hern light abo­ve Fox­dalen.

And then the year was almost over. Befo­re we repla­ced the old calen­ders, the­re were some weeks of inten­se work for the finis­hing tou­ch­es on a new edi­ti­on of the Eng­lish ver­si­on of the Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book (the very last bit of fine­tu­ning hap­pen­ed actual­ly in Janu­ary – doesn’t real­ly mat­ter, does it?). The most com­pre­hen­si­ve (608 pages!) and up-to-date ver­si­on of this book that exists (I know, the latest ver­si­on is always the most up-to-date one. And it does not yet exist, phy­si­cal­ly, it is in print as I am wri­ting this in mid Janu­ary). It is actual­ly the 10th edi­ti­on, if I count all lan­guages, start­ing with the first Ger­man edi­ti­on in 2007, the 5th edi­ti­on of which is curr­ent­ly available. In spring 2017, it came out for the first time in Nor­we­gi­an. And now a new Eng­lish edi­ti­on. By the way, the third book that I finis­hed and got into print in a year. So I do say wit­hout hesi­ta­ti­on that I am actual­ly a bit proud! The Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book is app­re­cia­ted by many rea­ders, I know that. That includes pro­fes­sio­nal expe­di­ti­on lea­ders and gui­des, which makes me even more proud. Now, if the­re is one thing that I’d be allo­wed to wish, then it would be some of the app­re­cia­ti­on of rea­ders and col­le­agues also in some offices, ship owners and tra­vel com­pa­nies as well as dedi­ca­ted muse­ums in Nor­way (main­land). Wouldn’t it be good if you could buy this book on board your ship in Spits­ber­gen while you tra­vel the­re? Or, say, at Pola­ria in Trom­sø, a museum/exhibition cent­re dedi­ca­ted to Spits­ber­gen? May­be one of them hap­pens to stumb­le over the­se lines … may­be the word of the app­re­cia­ti­on of rea­ders and expe­di­ti­on field staff spreads into tho­se offices. That would be my wish for this book and for me as a polar book wri­ter for the upco­ming year.

Spitsbergen-Svalbard 4

This is what the new gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard (4th edi­ti­on) will look like.

When this blog is online, then I am alre­a­dy off and far in the south, in Ushua­ia or alre­a­dy on board SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha to enjoy Ant­ar­c­ti­ca under sails. An ama­zing thought, and now it is about to beco­me rea­li­ty! So come back to this site to check the blog!

Thank you for rea­ding this far. Best wis­hes for the new year!

Sep­tem­ber 2017 review­ed: arc­tic light, polar bears and an Ita­li­an lost and found

Public atten­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Sep­tem­ber 2017 was for some time lar­ge­ly attrac­ted by seve­ral polar bears who see­med hap­py to stay around in the neigh­bour­hood. Of cour­se, also the locals love to see a polar bear, but not whe­re they live, go for a walk and let their child­ren go to school.

An Ita­li­an tou­rist mana­ged to get lost big time on Fuglef­jel­la, west of Lon­gye­ar­by­en. That kept the local branch of the Red Cross and other SAR forces pret­ty busy for a very long night, so it was hard to say if one should laugh or cry in the end. The man was found and saved in good con­di­ti­on, and that’s the most important thing in the end, doesn’t it?


Evening crui­se in Kongsfjord.

We spent a cou­ple of real­ly love­ly days in Pyra­mi­den. You will pro­ba­b­ly know that this is inde­ed a very spe­cial place, and if you are open for the part­ly pret­ty bizar­re impres­si­ons that the place has to offer, then you can just keep dis­co­ve­ring fore­ver! That’s just what we did – not fore­ver, but for a cou­ple of days that I real­ly don’t want to miss. I guess my per­so­nal high­light was the hike over Ygg­dra­sil­kam­pen, the moun­tain south of Pyra­mi­den. Just stun­ning views! Click here to check it out as a full 360 degree pan­ora­ma. It would have been even more fun wit­hout a cold, but still … and of cour­se, the­re is always some­thing new to dis­co­ver in Pyra­mi­den its­elf. And a group of nice peo­p­le. What else could you ask for? In the end, nobo­dy real­ly wan­ted to lea­ve.


View from Ygg­dra­sil­kam­pen over Mimerd­a­len and Pyra­mi­den.

What else did Sep­tem­ber bring? Light, light and light. That’s what this tran­si­ti­on time bet­ween mid­night sun and polar night is famous for. Never-ending sun­ri­ses and sun­sets, ski­es that can be any­thing from oran­ge and pink to red and blue, a dark-green shi­ne on the gla­ciers … we got all of that, and much more. The only light phe­no­me­non that was a bit scar­ce was the nor­t­hern light. Not that the­re were none at all, but we had bet­ter nor­t­hern light sea­sons in the past.

Tre Kroner

The famous moun­ta­ins Tre Kro­ner (“three Crowns”) in Kongsfjord in evening light.

But what else do you need of you are sur­roun­ded by such scenic magic?

Yes! A fire on the beach! 🙂

Fire on the beach

Cosy fire on the beach in Wood­fjord.

August 2017 review­ed: Lady Fran­k­lin­fjord, Ros­søya and fur­ther high­lights

The poli­ce raid on the local drug sce­ne – which is not the world’s big­gest one – was pro­ba­b­ly the big­gest public exci­te­ment in August in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. They have to show every cou­ple of years that drugs are not tole­ra­ted in such a small and remo­te com­mu­ni­ty. This appears not to have been a gre­at suc­cess this year, as they had to release tho­se again who were initi­al­ly taken in cus­t­ody. But on the other hand, if you find out in the end that not­hing much had hap­pen­ed (at least as far as you have evi­dence for), then it is not a bad thing eit­her, is it?

As far as I am con­cer­ned, I con­tin­ued around Sval­bard on board Arc­ti­ca II (“advan­ced Spits­ber­gen”; the­re is still, by the way, an emp­ty seat on this (Ger­man spea­king) trip in 2018). In that sen­se, August star­ted in late July, as that’s when we left Lon­gye­ar­by­en again. And on the very same day we could ven­ture for a love­ly walk on Bohem­an­flya. Which is real­ly not far away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but you have to have the right wea­ther for a landing the­re, and we did!


Gra­ve on Bohem­an­flya.

The wea­ther con­tin­ued to be fine for some time. I don’t know how many times I had sai­led up and down the nor­t­hern west coast of Spits­ber­gen, bet­ween Kongsfjord and Mag­da­le­nefjord, that bit of coast that is known as “Dei Sju Isfjel­la” (“the seven ice­bergs”) sin­ce the 17th cen­tu­ry? And I had never been ashore on this expo­sed, wild coast­li­ne! Obvious­ly a situa­ti­on that could not be tole­ra­ted fore­ver. In bright suns­hi­ne and ama­zin­gly calm seas, we went ashore in Kved­fjord­buk­ta and enjoy­ed life the­re for a while, fee­ling that we might be the first peo­p­le the­re in many years. And that may actual­ly have been pret­ty clo­se to the truth. A good fee­ling that we could enjoy yet ano­ther cou­ple of times during this trip!


Kved­fjord­buk­ta: rare oppor­tu­ni­ty for a landing the­re in per­fect con­di­ti­ons.

This includes the ama­zing days in Lady Fran­k­lin­fjord and – a geo­gra­phic high­light in the truest sen­se of the word – the landing on Ros­søya, the nor­t­hern­most bit of land in the who­le of Sval­bard. Not that it is a very signi­fi­cant island bey­ond its fur­thest north posi­ti­on. But it is the nor­t­hern­most one. That’s alre­a­dy more than good enough, isn’t it? 🙂


The­re is no land in Sval­bard north of Ros­søya.
Hein­rich Eggen­fell­ner is put­ting us ashore.

In this way I could con­ti­nue, raving on about many love­ly landings, but we did cer­tain­ly not igno­re the wild­life eit­her. Nobo­dy of the small num­ber of peo­p­le who were the­re will for­get that polar bear sight­ing on Edgeøya. And the same is true for the wild pas­sa­ge around the south cape and the adven­tur­ous landing that fol­lo­wed on the west coast.

Polar bear, Edgeøya

A wal­rus (dead) and a polar bear (very much ali­ve) on Edgeøya.

Oh yes, and then we still mana­ged to finish the Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018 in late August. We are get­ting bet­ter every year, even though it was not available in July, as I had been hoping for. But as you can see, we were not lazy in the book (& rela­ted) publi­shing depart­ment eit­her!

Spitsbergen-Calender 2018

The Spits­ber­gen calen­dar 2018 came out in August.

July 2017 review­ed: the south cape, polar bears and arc­tic Christ­mas

Con­side­ring public news, July was a rather calm month in Spits­ber­gen. Which is gre­at. No news are good news. Of cour­se, the­re is always some­thing, but all within reason. The reinde­er were doing well, the­re were no ava­lan­ches and no extre­me wea­ther situa­tions. We could pret­ty much just enjoy!

And so we did, most­ly with SV Anti­gua. We star­ted actual­ly alre­a­dy in late June, and the first high­light – I am coming to my per­so­nal per­spec­ti­ve – came quick­ly in shape of a rare landing near Spitsbergen’s south cape (Sør­kapp).

Sørkapp Land

Landing clo­se to Sør­kapp (the south cape) of Spits­ber­gen.

Other peo­p­le who were the­re with me will pro­ba­b­ly rather remem­ber the Blue wha­le that we saw clo­se up later the same day, or the polar fox fami­ly a day later. And no doubt, the­se are all pre­cious memo­ries. But for me per­so­nal­ly, well, I just love rare landings, the­se hid­den places that almost nobo­dy knows and even fewer peo­p­le ever get to. But the­se places to all have their secrets. More often than not, the­re is some­thing exci­ting to dis­co­ver!

Blue whale, Storfjord

Blue wha­le in Storfjord.

But still, the wild­life is a big chunk of Spitsbergen’s beau­ty. And the sight­ing of a fema­le polar bear with one cub who were feas­ting on the remains of a dead wha­le on Dan­s­køya were among­st the high­lights of the­se weeks!

Polar bears, Danskøya

Hap­py polar bear fami­ly and an unhap­py wha­le on Dan­s­køya.

And if you ask anyo­ne who was on board, then I am sure most will tell you that the landing on an ice floe is one of the most pre­cious memo­ries that they took home from this gre­at trip. How often do you have the chan­ce to stand on drift ice on 80 degrees north? Feel like Nan­sen! But not for 3 years … we left a bit ear­lier.

Ice landing on 80 degrees north

Ice landing on 80 degrees north.

Back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, I could final­ly finish my arc­tic Christ­mas book (Ger­man only, sor­ry). The second book that I could finish and get prin­ted this year, after the Nor­we­gi­an ver­si­on of my Sval­bard gui­de­book! Final­ly, con­side­ring the arc­tic Christ­mas book, as I have to admit. It took me a good 10 years sin­ce I star­ted with this one! Making a book does always take time, but in this case one of the main pro­blems had been someone who would be able to crea­te the dra­wings that I had on my mind for this book. Until I saw last year – also on Anti­gua, by the way – what Nor­bert Wach­ter could do with a pen­cil and a sheet of paper. So we went, and here we are! Done! 🙂

Arktische Weihnachten

The arc­tic christ­mas book: final­ly in print in late July.

Mel­ting sea ice makes rese­arch on polar bears more dif­fi­cult

It is beco­ming incre­asing­ly dif­fi­cult for the rese­ar­chers on Spits­ber­gen to stu­dy the migra­ti­ons of polar bears on the Barents Sea bet­ween Sval­bard and Rus­sia. The­re are about 3000 polar bears living in the area, but only about 300 polar bears can be stu­di­ed by the rese­ar­chers. The reason is the with­dra­wal of sea ice, which cau­ses that the migra­ting polar bears can no lon­ger reach Sval­bard.

Migra­ti­on of polar bears can be tra­ced by a GPS col­lar

Polar bear with GPS collar

“The situa­ti­on has chan­ged dra­sti­cal­ly,” says polar bear rese­ar­cher Jon Aars from the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. Sin­ce 1987, the polar bears on Spits­ber­gen have been sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly exami­ned. Until the 1990s, not only polar bears living all year round on Spits­ber­gen were obser­ved, but also tho­se who migra­te over long distances on the sea ice on the Barents Sea bet­ween Rus­sia and Spits­ber­gen. A lar­ge part of this stock could also be found on Spits­ber­gen for some time of the year, so that the migra­to­ry move­ments could be well stu­di­ed.

Today, almost only bears are tag­ged, who spend the who­le year on Spits­ber­gen. Only two or three out of 20 tag­ged bears migra­te to Rus­sia. The result is less data about the migra­to­ry move­ments of the polar bears. The data is nee­ded to orga­ni­ze the con­ser­va­ti­on of polar bears.

Sin­ce the bears can no lon­ger reach Spits­ber­gen, rese­ar­chers try to find ways to approach the polar bears. But it is much more dif­fi­cult to approach the polar bear on sea ice. The ice must be sta­ble enough for a heli­c­op­ter to land on. At the same time, the open sea should not be too clo­se so that the polar bear does not jump into the sea and drown the­re after being tran­qui­li­zed. Whe­ther this data is actual­ly nee­ded to orga­ni­ze the con­ser­va­ti­on of polar bears, remains controversial.The nega­ti­ve effects of tag­ging has been repor­ted on this web­site seve­ral times (“Polar bear found dead in Petu­ni­abuk­ta had been anaes­the­ti­sed for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses” or “Male polar bear inju­red by sci­en­ti­fic col­lar”)

Jon Aars also appeals to the rus­si­an sci­en­tists to show more effort in rese­ar­ching the polar bears, for exam­p­le on Franz-Josef-Land.

The ice is get­ting thin­ner for the polar bears of the Barents Sea…

Polar bear

Source: NRK

2017 review­ed: June, Jan May­en – the lava caves on Bee­ren­berg

I have to start with a con­fes­si­on: I for­got the main exci­te­ment in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in April: the town was run­ning out of toi­let paper! Peo­p­le in arc­tic Lon­gye­ar­by­en seem to a sur­pri­sin­gly lar­ge degree be wil­ling to accept cli­ma­te chan­ge, they keep cool when the Rus­si­an mili­ta­ry sup­po­sedly exer­ci­s­es attacks on their home, who cares, some loss is part of the game. But no toi­let paper any­mo­re? That’s serious busi­ness!

The exci­te­ment about the sup­po­sed floo­ding of the seed vault / “doomsday vault” falls into a simi­lar cate­go­ry. Inde­ed, in Octo­ber 2016, during a peri­od with a lot of rain, the­re was some water coming into the ent­rance area of the vault. That should not have hap­pen­ed and tho­se who were con­cer­ned with it were not hap­py and some money was to be spent to get things right, but what had actual­ly hap­pen­ed was far from being any real dra­ma. But that came more than half a year later in inter­na­tio­nal media. Someone hap­pen­ed to pick up that mar­gi­na­li­um, spi­ced it with some dra­ma, tole­rant­ly over­loo­ked that it had all hap­pen­ed more than half a year ago and blew it out into the world, whe­re it was picked up by sur­pri­sin­gly many media, inclu­ding some serious ones. Nobo­dy came on the idea to check what had real­ly hap­pen­ed, the­re was a lot of recy­cling of copied infor­ma­ti­on and that is usual­ly not a good idea. Che­cking the seed vault’s web­site would have been enough, but that was obvious­ly too much to ask for. Well, I am hap­py that this web­site did not fol­low the hype.

Regar­ding my own polar per­spec­ti­ve, Jan May­en was the main event in June. For the fourth time, I went to that vol­ca­nic island in the north, 3 days of sai­ling from Ice­land, on a small boat across a big sea. Jan May­en is an extre­me­ly fasci­na­ting place. The more time you spend the­re, the more you rea­li­ze how much the­re is to see. As usu­al, we made a lot of kilo­me­t­res during our various hikes. Next to many other impres­si­ons, the lava caves on Bee­ren­berg were the main thing for me this time. While a group of moun­tai­neers clim­bed up to the peak of Bee­ren­berg (whe­re I had been in 2015), I took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explo­re a cou­ple of lava caves in Schmelck­da­len on the south slo­pe of Bee­ren­berg. Stun­ning! It is a bizar­re fee­ling to be actual­ly insi­de Bee­ren­berg, in the guts of this arc­tic vol­ca­no. I pro­ba­b­ly don’t have to men­ti­on that it is a hard-to-get-to place. That was my high­light in June.

Bäreninsel: Perleporten

Lava cave in Schmelck­da­len on Bee­ren­berg, Jan May­en.

Revie­w­ing 2017, May: Bear Island – Per­le­por­ten

In May, we star­ted the arc­tic sum­mer sea­son a.k.a. sai­ling sea­son on good old SV Anti­gua. We took off in Bodø in north Nor­way and spent a cou­ple of love­ly days in Lofo­ten and Ves­terå­len, befo­re we ven­tu­red north across the Barents Sea. I have to admit that I did not expect too much from this year’s visit to Bear Island (Bjørnøya), based on the wea­ther fore­cast that we had when we left Trom­sø. But it was so good that we ended up spen­ding two days rather than just one at Bear Island!

After a first landing, we made a record-brea­king Zodiac crui­se of seve­ral miles around the south tip of the island. Usual­ly a pret­ty rough place, but fri­end­ly today and always spec­ta­cu­lar with its immense num­bers of sea­birds, towe­ring cliffs, rock stacks and coas­tal caves. We mana­ged among­st others to do the stun­ning pas­sa­ge of Per­le­por­ten, a coas­tal cave that is said to be about 170 met­res long – yeah! And on the next day, we even got a sur­pri­se invi­ta­ti­on to visit the wea­ther sta­ti­on 🙂

Bear Island: Perleporten

Coas­tal sce­n­ery on Bear Island: pas­sa­ge of Per­le­por­ten.

Of cour­se we still had some gre­at days fur­ther north in Spits­ber­gen, but Bear Island is real­ly some­thing spe­cial and it did defi­ni­te­ly not dis­ap­point this time.

2017 review­ed: April in Spits­ber­gen – Sveagru­va

After the big Ant­ar­c­tic Odys­sey, I went straight up to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. One long trip from the sou­thern­most regu­lar air­port in the world to the nor­t­hern­most one, from the Bea­gle Chan­nel to Isfjord, for a cou­ple of weeks of arc­tic win­ter befo­re the sum­mer sea­son was about to start. The atmo­sphe­re in Spits­ber­gen is stun­ning in ear­ly April, when the­re is still “warm” light. Sun­sets that turn into sun­ri­ses, no night in bet­ween, just a bit of haun­tingly beau­tiful twi­light. The blue-red hour is lon­ger than 60 minu­tes on 78 degrees lati­tu­de. “Warm” in inver­ted kom­mas, obvious­ly 🙂

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

A high­light that remains a vivid memo­ry was actual­ly the trip to the coal mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va, becau­se it tur­ned out to be a uni­que oppor­tu­ni­ty. Coal mining was on stand­by at that time, the­re was only main­tain­ce going on, but no pro­duc­tion despi­te the ope­ning of a brand new coal mine at Lun­ckef­jel­let in Febru­ary 2014. It never went into pro­duc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­on. So the Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni had deci­ded to open Sveagru­va for limi­t­ed tou­rism. It was even pos­si­ble to visit the coal mine, Svea Nord.

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

As the decis­i­on was made in Oslo in Octo­ber 2017 that the days of coal mining in Sveagru­va are over, the place and asso­cia­ted coal mines will be clo­sed. It seems quite unli­kely that the­re will be tou­rism or any other acti­vi­tiy the­re in the future. So it is good to have used that oppor­tu­ni­ty to visit Sveagru­va and the mine, Svea Nord and to get a good impres­si­on of coal mining, which was the domi­nant acti­vi­tiy in Spits­ber­gen for a cen­tu­ry. And a coal mine is a fasci­na­ting place, inde­ed!

But then, it is good to get out and back to the sun, does not set any­mo­re. To get back to the end­less snow plains, to our bel­oved east coast, whe­re the sea does still free­ze in April, whe­re you can find beau­tiful ice …

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

Tal­king about fjord ice: a Rus­si­an group made a tra­gic expe­ri­ence with fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord in late April, when their snow mobi­les bro­ke through the ice. Seve­ral peo­p­le went into the water and could only be saved under dra­ma­tic cir­cum­s­tances by the Nor­we­gi­an SAR forces. Tra­gi­cal­ly, one gui­de died later in the hos­pi­tal.


News-Listing live generated at 2024/June/17 at 13:36:52 Uhr (GMT+1)