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Yearly Archives: 2019 − News & Stories


Lan­ce out of the ice, Ous­land-Horn-expe­di­ti­on finis­hed

The adven­tu­r­ers Bør­ge Ous­land and Mike Horn are back on solid ground. The rese­arch ship Lan­ce has rea­ched Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Satur­day and Ousland’s and Horn’s recent crossing of the Arc­tic Oce­an is thus finis­hed. They star­ted in Sep­tem­ber at 85 degrees north in the Bering Strait sec­tor of the Arc­tic Oce­an, which they had rea­ched with Horn’s sai­ling boat Pan­gaea. Horn and Ous­land pas­sed the north pole in Octo­ber. They spent 87 days in the ice, not inclu­ding the ship-based parts of the expe­di­ti­on.

The ori­gi­nal plan was to pick them up from the ice edge north of Spits­ber­gen with Pan­gaea, but the ope­ra­ti­on tur­ned out to be more chal­len­ging than expec­ted. As it tur­ned out, the ice-going Lan­ce went into the ice to meet the adven­tu­r­ers. Lan­ce had to move quite far into the drift ice and a heli­c­op­ter had to be used for the pick­up. Even Lan­ce was then not able to lea­ve the ice: the arri­val in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, ori­gi­nal­ly expec­ted around 10 Decem­ber, was final­ly last Satur­day, 28 Decem­ber, after about 3 weeks of being stuck in ice. A lot of manu­al work with sawing and car­ry­ing ice was done during attempts to get the ves­sel free. Out of 22 per­sons ori­gi­nal­ly on board, 3 were evacua­ted by heli­c­op­ter. Medi­cal reasons play­ed a role in this. Dyna­mi­te was reques­ted to blast the ship free when the heli­c­op­ter was sche­du­led, but the trans­port was final­ly refu­sed for safe­ty reasons.

Lance stuck in ice

Lan­ce in the ice. Pho­to © Eti­en­ne Cla­ret.

The expe­di­ti­on has drawn con­sidera­ble media atten­ti­on, both local­ly and bey­ond. Sval­bard­pos­ten was one of many media that cover­ed the expe­di­ti­on in some detail.

Polar bear back in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The polar bear that had been in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Thurs­day mor­ning was back back ear­ly Satur­day. On Thurs­day, it was pushed out of the sett­le­ment by the Sys­sel­man­nen with the heli­c­op­ter to the south and towards Fard­a­len and Coles­da­len.

Also this time, the Sys­sel­mann was soon aler­ted and out with available forces. Again, the heli­c­op­ter was used to sca­re it away to the south. This time, the plan was to push it as far south as Van Mijenfjord, 40 km south of Lon­gye­ar­by­en as the crow flies.

Polar bear, central Longyearbyen

Polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en (Thurs­day mor­ning). Pho­to © Sys­sel­man­nen på Sval­bard.

Also this distance, from Van Mijenfjord to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, is not much of an obs­ta­cle for a polar bear in case he (she?) deci­des to return. The Sys­sel­mannn asks the public to remain alert, espe­ci­al­ly during late night and ear­ly mor­ning hours (it is dark now 24 hours any­way, but the­re is litt­le traf­fic at tho­se times) and to stay insi­de in case a bear is seen in the area.

It was con­side­red to anaes­the­ti­ze the bear and to fly it away to an island more remo­te within Sval­bard such as Nord­aus­t­land, but accor­ding to an offi­ci­al state­ment, the capa­ci­ties for such an ope­ra­ti­on are curr­ent­ly not available in Lon­gye­ar­by­en due to the Christ­mas holi­days.

Polar bear in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Spits­ber­gen is polar bear coun­try, even more so in recent years as the spe­ci­es has seen a remar­kab­le reco­very sin­ce full pro­tec­tion in 1973 after years of inten­se hun­ting. In recent years, it has beco­me pret­ty nor­mal again to see bears on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen, also clo­se to the sett­le­ments. All of them had polar bears in their vici­ni­ty or even in the sett­le­ment are­as in 2019.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has now had a Christ­mas polar bear in town on Thurs­day mor­ning. The bear was seen at about half 7 in cen­tral Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It was wal­king in the pede­stri­an area near shops, restau­rants and dwel­ling hou­ses.

Polar bear, central Longyearbyen

Polar bear in cen­tral Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Thurs­day mor­ning near 06.30.
Pho­to © Marie Lørup Sten­shøj.

The Sys­sel­man­nen (poli­ce) was soon on site and used a heli­co­ter to push the bear out of the sett­le­ment to the south, up Lon­gye­ar­breen (Lon­gyear gla­cier), through Fard­a­len and into Coles­da­len to be as cer­tain as pos­si­ble that the­re is no more imme­dia­te dan­ger.

The inci­dent shows that it is important to take the risk of mee­ting polar bears serious­ly. This is true any­whe­re and at any time in Sval­bard, but espe­ci­al­ly during the dark sea­son and in the ear­ly mor­ning hours, when the­re is litt­le traf­fic that would be likely to see a bear near town befo­re you hap­pen to meet it.

Dark sea­son in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: cul­tu­re, polar bears, storm and icy adven­tures

The dark sea­son (polar night) began in Spits­ber­gen more than a months ago. Last sun­day, the Advent sea­son was ope­ned fol­lo­wing good tra­di­ti­on: the child­ren went to the post­box under mine 3 (near Nyby­en, the “father Christ­mas mine”) and left let­ters with their Christ­mas wis­hes. Then the light­ing on the Christ­mas tree in Lon­gye­ar­by­en cen­trum was tur­ned on, of cour­se accom­pa­nied with a hap­py litt­le cerem­o­ny whe­re many peo­p­le join.

Christmas tree, Longyearbyen

The Christ­mas tree Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The dark sea­son is tra­di­tio­nal­ly often a calm peri­od – final­ly, you have some time to enjoy cul­tu­re, such as the “Kunst­pau­se” with various events within arts and lite­ra­tu­re over a cou­ple of days in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Kunstpause: Literatur in Longyearbyen

Lite­ra­tu­re event in the old coal cable­way sta­ti­on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en as part of the Kunst­pau­se:
Elke Morg­ner reads in Ger­man and Nor­we­gi­an from “The Ter­rors of Ice and Dark­ness” by Chris­toph Rans­mayr.

The Polish sta­ti­on in Horn­sund had a rather aggres­si­ve polar bear around for a while. Despi­te of various attempts with noi­se etc., the bear just did not want to lea­ve. It actual­ly atta­cked a dog that was so sever­ely inju­red that it had to be eutha­nis­ed later. Altog­e­ther obvious­ly a pret­ty tough expe­ri­ence for the Horn­sund crew.

Yes­ter­day (05 Decem­ber) a win­ter storm moved through Spits­ber­gen, brin­ging days of poor wea­ther with a lot of wind and rain also to main­land Nor­way. The­re was enough snow and wind in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to make hou­ses shake and push the ava­lan­che war­nings up the sca­le. But not­hing worth men­tio­ning hap­pen­ed in the end. Win­ter wea­ther.

The adven­tu­r­ers Bør­ge Ous­land and Mike Horn are about to return from an expe­di­ti­on of seve­ral months across the sea ice in the Arc­tic Oce­an. The have achie­ved a posi­ti­on north of Spits­ber­gen whe­re they are about to be picked up soon, accor­ding to the plan. The expe­di­ti­on sai­ling boat that had drop­ped them off north of Rus­sia does not seem to be invol­ved in the pick­up, but the Lan­ce is in the area to get Ous­land and Horn on board – they are keen on the term “res­cue” NOT to be used. Well. Any­way, the Sysselmannen’s heli­c­op­ter is always rea­dy when it is nee­ded. The adven­tu­r­ers can be sure to recei­ve a lot of public atten­ti­on, not the least in the local news­pa­per Sval­bard­pos­ten which has cover­ed the sto­ry alre­a­dy a cou­ple of times.

It is most­ly office sea­son in the spitsbergen-svalbard.com publi­shing house. What I am doing the­se days while I am not tra­vel­ling? Well, last week I had my annu­al short run of public pre­sen­ta­ti­ons, which was good fun – thanks to all who came!

The­re is often the ques­ti­on why I don’t publish my books, at least the Spits­ber­gen gui­de­books, as ebooks. Well, this is actual­ly an idea that I have been going around with for seve­ral years now. And I have alre­a­dy spent quite some time with the tech­ni­cal­i­ties that are con­nec­ted to such a pro­ject. It does requi­re some work and know-how if you want it to be good in the end, and obvious­ly, not­hing else would be accep­ta­ble. I am not going to bother you with any fur­ther tech­ni­cal details. Just one: if you want to publish an ebook on the lar­ge plat­forms, some­thing that is cri­ti­cal for any such pro­ject, then you need a US tax num­ber. In theo­ry that should not be too much of a pro­blem. In rea­li­ty, I just got my second appli­ca­ti­on tur­ned down, altough I even had a spe­cia­li­sed lawy­er to help me. That is also a way to was­te time, money and moti­va­ti­on …

So I rather spent some time to deve­lop ano­ther cou­ple of polar pan­ora­mas. Start here if you want to dis­co­ver some new places in Sval­bard:

  • André­e­ne­set on Kvi­tøya. The place beca­me famous when the remains of the Andrée expe­di­ti­on were found the­re in 1930. In 2018, I final­ly mana­ged to shoot a pan­ora­ma here. It is not a place whe­re you get too often, and then the­re is usual­ly a polar bear han­ging out the­re some­whe­re …
  • Brat­lie­kol­len and Irgens­fjel­let on Blom­strand­hal­vøya. Gre­at views over Kongsfjord!
  • Seli­ger­breen (next to Mona­co­b­reen) in Lief­defjord. New land “thanks” to retrea­ting gla­ciers and thus due to cli­ma­te chan­ge.
  • Ham­burg­buk­ta on the nor­t­hern west coast. A beau­tiful bay and obvious­ly not unknown to the ear­ly wha­lers.
  • Kved­fjord­buk­ta south of Ham­burg­buk­ta. A rare­ly visi­ted but beau­tiful part of Spitsbergen’s west coast.
  • Dunøya­ne and Isøya­ne are litt­le arc­tic para­di­se islands on Spitsbergen’s west coast, north of Horn­sund .
  • Die­sets­let­ta is a love­ly, wide-open coas­tal plain north of Kongsfjord. It takes a bit of luck with the wea­ther to get to such places.
  • Have a look at Fin­nes­et if you are inte­res­ted in the histo­ry of Spits­ber­gen. This place had a wha­ling sta­ti­on and Spitsbergen’s first wha­ling sta­ti­on in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.
  • Some more histo­ry, this time from dar­ker peri­ods: the wreck of a Ger­man figh­ter pla­ne at Kapp Bor­then.
  • Does anyo­ne feels like joi­ning me on a long tour with gre­at views of arc­tic win­ter land­scapes on the moun­tain Ope­raf­jel­let?
Panorama Isøyane

Pan­ora­ma (Screen­shot) of Nord­re Isøya, on the west coast north of Horn­sund. Click here to find the real pan­ora­ma that you can turn around.

And the­re is of cour­se alway work going on with new books, updates of exis­ting books, trans­la­ti­ons and so on.

Soon I will have more Lon­gye­ar­by­en kit­chen slats and Spits­ber­gen drift­wood pic­tu­re frames in the online shop! It does take some time for things to arri­ve, espe­ci­al­ly stuff that does not fit easi­ly in the pocket … the new pic­tu­re frames are not yet available in the shop, but they will soon be the­re.

Longyearbyen kitchen slat

What is the beard­ed seal doing in Lon­gye­ar­by­en? 🙂

Kabel­våg, Svol­vær & Lauk­vik

We spend the mor­ning in Kabel­våg, the for­mer “capi­tal” of Lofo­ten, a powerful place for cen­tu­ries until it lost its importance in recent histo­ry. But it is still a love­ly place with an inte­res­t­ing salt­wa­ter aqua­ri­um and an equal­ly inte­res­t­ing histo­ry muse­um. The rich­ness and the power of the mer­chants next to the pover­ty of the fisher­men. A strong con­trast.

Gal­lery – Kabel­våg, Svol­vær & Lauk­vik

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

The hike to Svol­vær was both love­ly (regar­ding sce­n­ery) and wet (regar­ding ter­rain). Tho­se who stay­ed on board of SV Anti­gua for the short pas­sa­ge to Svol­vær had some more time to explo­re the modern-day capi­tal of Lofo­ten befo­re we visi­ted the nor­t­hern light cent­re in Lauk­vik in the evening.

Troll­fjord – Skro­va

Troll­fjord is one of the most famous places in Lofo­ten. It is so easi­ly acce­es­si­ble by ship and the land­scape is stun­ning.

And it still is even if you don’t see all of it. The moun­tain peaks were hid­den in clouds. But we saw actual­ly more of Troll­fjor­den than we had expec­ted … and then, we could even set some sails!

Gal­lery – Troll­fjord – Skro­va

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

Later we ente­red the litt­le har­bour of Skro­va, a small island far north in Ves­t­fjord that belongs to Lofo­ten. Love­ly har­bour. Love­ly sce­n­ery. Love­ly walks. Love­ly hiking. Love­ly BBQ by Sascha and his team. Wea­ther – less love­ly, most­ly. But we even got some nor­t­hern lights later that evening. Love­ly.

Skar­ber­get & Tranøy

We are a good bit fur­ther south and now we are in the Lofo­ten area. Not yet Lofo­ten pro­per, but we could see them from here if it was clear. “Here” is Tysfjord, a lar­ge, beau­tiful fjord that is cut­ting into Nor­way oppo­si­te of the nor­t­hern Lofo­ten islands.

You can make love­ly hikes in this area. We opt for Skar­ber­get. Wea­ther-wise, it took a bit of moti­va­ti­on, but then … it is gre­at as soon as you are out the­re, with snow and fresh wind! The views are not quite as ama­zing as they might be on a clear day, though.

Gal­lery – Skar­ber­get & Tranøy

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

Later we move over to Tranøy. Again some ama­zing maneou­vring by Mario to get along­side in this tiny littl port. The art park of Tranøy is wai­ting for us! Who cares about cold, dark­ness and rain if you can go out and see various pie­ces of art!

Yes, the wea­ther. Could be bet­ter.

Skrol­s­vik & Har­stad

We arri­ve at Skrol­s­vik on the sou­thwes­tern point of Sen­ja at break­fast time. Sun and snow are bathing the land­scape in ever-chan­ging win­ter light.

You can do ever­y­thing from short walks to moun­tain clim­bing here. We are hap­py with a good walk up a moun­tain slo­pe or an easy walk fol­lo­wing a path to the coast. The­re are also some for­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons here which the Ger­mans built during the war.

The owners of the old store („Gam­mel­bu­tik­ken“) are so kind to open espe­ci­al­ly for us. The love­ly woo­den buil­ding was built in 1870 and it ser­ved as the local store for all kinds of dai­ly use stuff from 1925 to 1992. Now it is kept as kind of a muse­um. And you can still buy all sorts of love­ly things here.

Gal­lery – Skrol­s­vik and Har­stad

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

Then we con­ti­nue to Har­stad on the island of Hin­nøya which belongs to Ves­terå­len. The Ger­mans (again …) put up some cra­zy guns and for­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons here during the war. The his­to­ri­cal muse­um and the medieval church are unfort­u­na­te­ly clo­sed today.

Skjer­vøy, Nord-Len­an­gen

We depar­ted late night from Finn­kro­ken and set cour­se to the nor­the­ast, to Skjer­vøy, with high hopes to find orca that had been seen the­re recent­ly. But the wea­ther had dif­fe­rent ide­as. It did not make much sen­se to try to find wha­les in force 6-7 winds, so we just tur­ned and set sail, which was love­ly in the snow …

Gal­lery – Trom­sø – Finn­kro­ken

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

… and a cou­ple of hour­se later we were in Nord-Len­an­gen, a calm litt­le place in a silent fjord – love­ly win­ter sce­n­ery and atmo­sphe­re!

Later, back on board, we got into the nor­t­hern light mode and made pre­pa­ra­ti­ons for fur­ther sightin­gs by having a look at the pho­to­gra­phy side of it (if you are inte­res­ted, then have a look at Rolf’s nor­t­hern light page for a refres­her). Then we set cour­se to the south, pas­sing Trom­sø, and then hea­ding for Sen­ja.

Trom­sø-Finn­kro­ken

A love­ly ear­ly win­ter day in Trom­sø, on 70 degrees north – cold and clear, calm and sun­ny.

Ever­y­bo­dy is coming on board SV Anti­gua in the late after­noon. It feels like late evening, but it is real­ly just the late after­noon – sun­set just after 15.00 hours and it is kind of get­ting dark an hour later.

But the lights up the­re are tur­ned on again. First class nor­t­hern lights! We enjoy the magic in the har­bour, with the lights abo­ve the long bridge and the famous cathe­dral, and during the first miles of our voya­ge.

We go along­side after two hours sai­ling in Finn­kro­ken on the island of Reinøya. A tiny litt­le pier and the chan­ce for an evening walk and to put the tri­pod up on solid ground – the nor­t­hern light show is still going on.

Gal­lery – Trom­sø – Finn­kro­ken

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

We get a very warm wel­co­me. What a plea­sant sur­pri­se! The­re are inde­ed peo­p­le here who do not mind to see tou­rists! Jo Mar­tin is one of a dozen peo­p­le who are living here (is it real­ly that many?). He is the owner of an old tra­ding post next to the pier. It was foun­ded in 1802 and it is real­ly a bit of a time cap­su­le! At the same time, the­re is a path into the wood which is mark­ed by tor­ches, so we can easi­ly find the way to a lav­vo (lar­ge tent) which is hea­ted by a fire insi­de – while the nor­t­hern lights are dancing on the sky! How good is that!? Incre­di­ble! What a gre­at start into the voya­ge!

Trom­sø – 26th Octo­ber, 2019

The polar night is about to start – the last sun­set and sun­ri­se in Lon­gye­ar­by­en are today. In Trom­sø, we are about to start again, explo­ring the north under sail with SV Anti­gua. The light of the north, nor­t­hern lights, beau­tiful land­scapes and places with a tas­te of win­ter, orcas – that is a sub­stan­ti­al part of our wish­list for the next week.

But now, the­re is still time to get a few things done here in Trom­sø. New Spits­ber­gen drift­wood pic­tu­re frames and kit­chen slats need to get on their way (I thought I may just men­ti­on that 🙂 ), I want to meet some fri­ends and in the evening, the­re are some impres­si­ve fire­works on the night sky!

Gal­lery – Trom­sø – 26th Octo­ber 2019

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

Spits­ber­gen-reinde­er: new and com­ple­te popu­la­ti­on count

The Spits­ber­gen-reinde­er, also known as Sval­bard-reinde­er, has seen a lot of ups and downs sin­ce it came to Spits­ber­gen from the Rus­si­an Arc­tic thou­sands of years ago. It beca­me a sub-spe­ci­es on its own which is not found any­whe­re out­side Sval­bard. Nevert­hel­ess, it was hun­ted almost to extinc­tion until it was final­ly pro­tec­ted by the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment in 1925 – soon after the Spits­ber­gen Trea­ty had given Nor­way the power to do this. Esti­ma­tes of the reinde­er popu­la­ti­on from the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry are a mere 1000 ani­mals – for the who­le Spits­ber­gen archi­pe­la­go!

Spitsbergen-reindeer: strong males, Straumsland

Spits­ber­gen-reinde­er: two strong males. Straums­land, east Spits­ber­gen.

Spits­ber­gen reinde­er can disper­se, and while doing so, they can cross gla­ciers, solid fjord ice and even drif­ting sea ice. Other­wi­se, they would obvious­ly never have made it to Spits­ber­gen in the first place. But as long as they are hap­py in a given area, they tend to stay whe­re they are, so it can take many deca­des until they re-popu­li­se remo­te are­as whe­re they beca­me extinct in the past.

The local popu­la­ti­ons are sub­ject to strong dyna­mics. Wea­ther extre­mes are an important fac­tor: in bad years, when strong rain­fall on snow-cover­ed ground in the win­ter with sub­se­quent free­zing covers the tun­dra with a lay­er of ice, many reinde­er can star­ve to death later when the fat reser­ves are used up and the vege­ta­ti­on is still under ice. This is espe­ci­al­ly the case when the popu­la­ti­on is actual­ly alre­a­dy too big for the area. In Advent­da­len near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the popu­la­ti­on has dou­bled in the last 10 years.

Other reinde­er may die during acci­dents in steep and slip­pery ter­rain after win­ter rain­fall. In the win­ter of 2018-2019, seve­ral reinde­er died in the vici­ni­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re strong rain­fall occur­red in Decem­ber. Some had obvious­ly fal­len down steep slo­pes, while have pro­ba­b­ly star­ved to death later. In such cases, local popu­la­ti­ons may expe­ri­ence a signi­fi­cant decrease. If such epi­so­des hap­pen seve­ral times over sub­se­quent years, it may even lead to local exc­tinc­tion. The event of the 2018-19 did, howe­ver, not have signi­fi­cant con­se­quen­ces for the local popu­la­ti­on.

dead Spitsbergen-rindeer

Dead Spits­ber­gen-reinde­er at Ope­raf­jel­let, east of Lon­gye­ar­by­en:
the exact cau­se of death is unknown, but eit­her fal­ling down from a steep, icy slo­pe or star­va­ti­on are likely.

On the other hand, the popu­la­ti­on may increase again quick­ly in good years. In spring 2017, for exam­p­le, reinde­er in Advent­da­len increased quick­ly again in num­bers due to favoura­ble con­di­ti­ons.

Next to wea­ther fluc­tua­tions, cli­ma­te chan­ge is an important fac­tor on a lon­ger time sca­le, moving from months and sin­gle years (wea­ther) up to deca­des (cli­ma­te): an incre­asing fre­quen­cy of strong win­ter rain­fall may make life more dif­fi­cult for reinde­er, while more luxu­rious growth of tun­dra vege­ta­ti­on can pro­vi­de more food, sup­port­ing a big­ger popu­la­ti­on. Curr­ent­ly it seems as if Spits­ber­gen reinde­er bene­fit from increased vege­ta­ti­on growth at least in some are­as. On top of that comes the popu­la­ti­on reco­very after the ban on hun­ting in 1925, a deve­lo­p­ment that is pro­ba­b­ly still going on as reinde­er con­ti­nue to move back to are­as whe­re the­re were no reinde­er in deca­des during the 20th cen­tu­ry.

It beco­mes evi­dent that reinde­er popu­la­ti­on dyna­mics are a com­plex mat­ter which is influen­ced by a num­ber of fac­tors. Reason enough to have a good look at the cur­rent popu­la­ti­on. Ear­lier esti­ma­tes whe­re rather frag­men­tal in space and time. Now, a team of sci­en­tists made a pro­per cen­sus for the who­le Sval­bard archi­pe­la­go. Pro­per counts whe­re com­ple­ted with distance sam­pling of tran­sects whe­re neces­sa­ry to cover lar­ge and most­ly rather inac­ces­si­ble are­as. The group around bio­lo­gist Mat­hil­de Le Moul­lec has now published their results in The Jour­nal of Wild­life Manage­ment.

Spitsbergen-reindeer, Krossfjord

Unu­sual­ly lar­ge group of reinde­er in Kross­fjord, an area whe­re reinde­er did not exist during deca­des or even cen­tu­ries.

The key mes­sa­ge: the total popu­la­ti­on of reinde­er in Sval­bard is now esti­ma­ted at a good 22,000 ani­mals. The “exact” num­ber is 22,435, with a 95% con­fi­dence inter­val from 21,452 to 23,425. In 2009, the num­ber was still esti­ma­ted bet­ween 10,000 and 11,000. Today’s lar­ger num­ber may at least part­ly have to do with an actual­ly increased popu­la­ti­on, inclu­ding an increase in popu­la­ti­on becau­se of reco­very from past exces­si­ve hun­ting, as a con­se­quence of pro­tec­tion in 1925, but the bet­ter qua­li­ty and the more com­ple­te spa­ti­al approach are cer­tain­ly also likely to be a signi­fi­cant fac­tor influen­cing the now updated num­bers.

Today, reinde­er are even found again in remo­te are­as as Kong Karls Land, whe­re they did not occur over lon­ger peri­ods, alt­hough they exis­ted the­re befo­re Euro­peans star­ted to fre­quent Spits­ber­gen in 1596, when Wil­lem Barent­sz dis­co­ver­ed the islands.

The popu­la­ti­on den­si­ty varies a lot bet­ween dif­fe­rent are­as. Vege­ta­ti­on is belie­ved to be a key fac­tor. In some are­as, they may be up to 10 reinde­er per squa­re kilo­met­re – local­ly, even more – while one ani­mal will need the same area or more on its own to find enough food in spar­se­ly vege­ta­ted are­as such as the polar desert land­scape of Nord­aus­t­land.

The recent stu­dy was published on 04 Octo­ber: Mat­hil­de Le Moul­lec et al (2019), A Cen­tu­ry of Con­ser­va­ti­on: The Ongo­ing Reco­very of Sval­bard Reinde­er. In: The Jour­nal of Wild­life Manage­ment, Vol. 83, 1676-1686.

Fine for dis­tur­ban­ce of polar bears in Tem­pel­fjord

A man from Lon­gye­ar­by­en got a fine of 15,000.00 kro­ner (ca. 1500 Euro) becau­se he dis­tur­bed polar bears during a pri­va­te snow mobi­le tour in Tem­pel­fjord in 10 March, 2018. He is said to have approa­ched the bear with the snow mobi­le to a distance of 70 met­res so the bears were visi­bly dis­tur­bed and moved away.

The inci­dent was seen by wit­nesses who were out on tour on the neigh­bou­ring moun­tain Fjord­nib­ba. The man was soon stop­ped by field poli­ce. A second man who was also invol­ved could not be iden­ti­fied.

Becau­se of the increase of snow mobi­le traf­fic, the Sys­sel­man­nen has announ­ced to take strong action in such cases to make it clear bey­ond any doubt that the pro­tec­tion of the wild­life is of hig­hest prio­ri­ty. In the cur­rent case, the fine has been impo­sed by the sta­te advo­ca­te in north Nor­way, as reve­a­led by the Sys­sel­man­nen.

The case cau­sed some deba­te in social net­works in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Only a few days later the fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord, until then a popu­lar desti­na­ti­on both for locals and tou­rists, was clo­sed for most moto­ri­sed traf­fic.

Eisbären Tempelfjord

Polar bears in Tem­pel­fjord (or else­whe­re, for that mat­ter): any dis­tur­ban­ce is strict­ly for­bidden.

Accor­ding to the Spits­ber­gen envi­ron­men­tal law (Sval­bard­mil­jø­l­ov kapit­tel IV § 30) “it is for­bidden to attract, to fol­low or seek out by any acti­ve act, polar bears so the­se could be dis­tur­bed or the­re may be dan­ger for humans or polar bears (ori­gi­nal text: Det er for­budt å lok­ke til seg, for­føl­ge eller ved annen aktiv hand­ling oppsøke isbjørn slik at den blir fors­tyr­ret eller det kan opps­tå fare for men­nes­ker eller isbjørn.)

North­gui­der: sal­va­ging ope­ra­ti­on post­po­ned until 2020

The sal­va­ging ope­ra­ti­on of the shrimp traw­ler North­gui­der, that ran aground at Spar­ren­e­set in Hin­lo­pens­tre­tet in Sval­bard in the end of Decem­ber 2019, tur­ned out to be more dif­fi­cult than expec­ted, as repor­ted recent­ly. Now it has been deci­ded that fur­ther ope­ra­ti­ons are post­po­ned until 2020, accor­ding to a press release from Kyst­ver­ket, the Nor­we­gi­an coas­tal and mari­ti­me aut­ho­ri­ty.

Due to the new infor­ma­ti­on about the hull being more stron­gly dama­ged than thought befo­re, new plan­ning is nee­ded and pro­ba­b­ly new tech­no­lo­gy, while the polar night is about to start in the­se lati­tu­des.

Northguider

Groun­ded shrimp traw­ler North­gui­der at Spar­ren­e­set in Hin­lo­pens­tre­tet, august 2019.

In other words: not­hing will hap­pen with the wreck of the North­gui­der, which is still sit­ting on rocks just off the shore of Nord­aus­t­land, befo­re the sum­mer of 2020 – or, rather, not­hing other than what the forces of natu­re, ice and wea­ther, will do with the wreck. If the­re is then any­thing left to be sal­va­ged in 2020 is some­thing that only time can tell.

Sal­va­ging North­gui­der pro­ves more dif­fi­cult

Sal­va­ging the shrimp traw­ler North­gui­der, which ran aground in Hin­lo­pens­tre­tet in Decem­ber last year, has tur­ned out to be more dif­fi­cult than thought befo­re, as the Nor­we­gi­an coas­tal admin­stra­ti­on aut­ho­ri­ty Kyst­ver­ket reports in a press release. The hull is more sever­ely dama­ged than expec­ted which makes the ope­ra­ti­on accor­ding to the initi­al plan impos­si­ble.

North­gui­der ran aground in late Decem­ber 2018 at Spar­ren­e­set south of Murch­ison­fjord. The ship owner is requi­red to remo­ve the wreck within 2019, but this is now beco­ming doubtful: the polar night is soon to start, the sun will not rise abo­ve the hori­zon any­mo­re for 4 months from late Octo­ber. Ship­ping is not impos­si­ble during the dark sea­son, but if a com­pli­ca­ted sal­va­ging ope­ra­ti­on can be car­ri­ed out safe­ly and suc­cessful­ly wit­hout day­light is an enti­re­ly dif­fe­rent ques­ti­on.

Northguider

Sal­va­ging ves­sels and the groun­ded traw­ler North­gui­der at Spar­ren­e­set in Hin­lo­pens­tre­tet, August 2019.

The sal­va­ging ves­sels arri­ved on loca­ti­on only rather late in the sum­mer, and then the ope­ra­ti­on was delay­ed repea­ted­ly by seve­re ice and wea­ther con­di­ti­ons. Only recent­ly the wreck could be tur­ned into an upright posi­ti­on and then it beca­me appearent that dama­ges on Northguider’s hull are far more exten­si­ve than expec­ted. An area of 12×5 met­res is said to be impac­ted.

Now all the play­ers invol­ved, inclu­ding the coast guard, Kyst­ver­ket, the ship owner Opi­lio AS, the insu­rance com­pa­ny and the sal­va­ging com­pa­ny SMIT Sal­va­ge have to come up with a new plan. It appears rather unli­kely that this will all hap­pen within 2019. Offi­ci­als have alre­a­dy men­tio­ned post­po­ning the ope­ra­ti­on until 2020 as an opti­on. But if North­gui­der will still be the­re in the sum­mer of 2020, after months on end with ice and seve­re wea­ther, and in a con­di­ti­on that allows remo­ving the wreck, will remain an open ques­ti­on until then.

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