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Home → January, 2019

Monthly Archives: January 2019 − News & Stories


Polar­jazz Fes­ti­val 2019 ope­ned with “Vor­spiel”

Some may still think of Lon­gye­ar­by­en as a small, remo­te and dus­ty mining sett­le­ment at the cold end of the world, but the times when this was actual­ly the case have been histo­ry now for deca­des. Today, Lon­gye­ar­by­en is very much an ali­ve and cul­tu­ral­ly acti­ve place with an inter­na­tio­nal popu­la­ti­on and atmo­s­phe­re.

Store Norske Mannskor, Polarjazz 2019 Longyearbyen

The Store Nor­ske Manns­kor, here seen at the “Vor­spiel” of the Polar­jazz Fes­ti­val 2019, is one of Longyearbyen’s most popu­lar musi­cal acts.

The local cul­tu­re sce­ne is home to an impres­si­ve num­ber of choirs and other music groups. This is the fer­ti­le ground whe­re several music fes­ti­vals were born, some of which have made it into the calen­dars of inter­na­tio­nal fans. Next to the Dark Sea­son Blues Fes­ti­val, which hap­pens in ear­ly Octo­ber, the­re is the Polar­jazz Fes­ti­val going on under the mot­to “Cool Place Hot Music”. The ope­ner is the so-cal­led “Vor­spiel”, which hap­pen­ed Wed­nes­day (30.01.) evening in the Kul­tur­huset (cul­tu­re hall) in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. An impres­si­ve num­ber of local acts took the sce­ne, from young, fresh talents through the popu­lar Store Nor­ske Manns­kor to well-estab­lis­hed artists like the local sin­ging bird Liv Mari Schei who has a record cata­lo­gue of several CDs.

Liv Mari Schei, Polarjazz 2019 Longyearbyen

Liv Mari Schei: well-known sin­ging bird in and from Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Advan­ce ticket sales were behind execpt­ati­ons, but at least at the “Vor­spiel” the­re were about as many in the audi­ence as would have found space. Peop­le were sit­ting on stairs or whe­re­ver the­re was space.

Well-estab­lis­hed artists from Nor­way will take Longyearbyen’s various sce­nes during the next days.

Nort­hern lights, nort­hern lights, nort­hern lights …

My dear friends, let me tell you, it is tough. For weeks we have been try­ing to get some sleep at nor­mal times. But it just doesn’t work. This nort­hern light is real­ly too bad. Real­ly, it can be annoy­ing! You always have to go out, watch Lady Auro­ra dan­cing, take pho­tos … yes, life in the Arc­tic can be hard … 🙂

Northern light

Nort­hern light aureo­la, near-ver­ti­cal­ly abo­ve the photographer’s posi­ti­on.

It was almost warm today, just about -6°C in Advent­da­len. In com­pa­ri­son to the last days, it felt real­ly mild. Only the wind was a bit chil­ly.

Northern lights, Endalen

Ring of nort­hern lights over Enda­len.

I can’t pro­mi­se that the­re won’t be any more auro­ra borea­lis pics in this blog during the next weeks. This is how the polar night is. On the other hand, Lady Auro­ra can be very moo­dy. Some­ti­mes she is just slee­ping some­whe­re far away or she is just dan­cing for the clouds. When she is in good mood then you just have have to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty. You never know when the next one comes – may­be this is her fare­well for the moment and she deci­des to move on to ano­t­her pla­net or whe­re­ver.

Northern light and polar bear warning sign

The famous polar bear warning sign.

Blue lights and nort­hern lights

The days are just fly­ing, or rather this end­less night. It will still take a while until you can talk of “days” again in Spits­ber­gen. But the light is com­ing back! The­re is clear­ly some faint dawn on the sou­thern hori­zon around noon. The sun is not far any­mo­re.

Dawn, Longyearbyen

First daw­ning in late Janu­a­ry, mid-day in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Still, the polar night is obvious­ly a good time to do things insi­de. And the­re is no lack of good oppor­tu­nities. Next to all the work that never takes an end, the­re is, just to give one examp­le, the alrea­dy men­tio­ned Sval­bar­se­mi­nar. And for Per Kyr­re Rey­mert, the “cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge ora­cle”, the same is true as for Maar­ten Loo­nen (see pre­vious blog): you are gua­ran­te­ed to get a solid por­ti­on of inte­res­ting arc­tic know­ledge, and it is fun to lis­ten to! A very enter­tai­ning hour whe­re you can only try to memo­ri­se as much as you pos­si­b­ly can. Today, it was about the French Recher­che-expe­di­ti­on (1838, 1839). Yes, that was the one with Leo­nie D’Aunet, the first woman who visi­ted Spits­ber­gen. As far as we know, that is.

Svalbardseminar, UNIS: Per Kyrre Reymert

Per Kyr­re Rey­mert spea­king in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS about the Recher­che-expe­di­ti­on (in Spits­ber­gen 1838 and 1839).

And it is cer­tain­ly good to know what the guys from the Sys­sel­man­nen (government repre­sen­ta­ti­ve, poli­ce and other sov­er­eign duties) are kee­ping them­sel­ves busy with. Fly­ing dro­nes, for examp­le. Of cour­se they are only doing sen­si­ble things with the­se dro­nes! Who would thing of anything dif­fe­rent … Poli­ce inves­ti­ga­ti­ons, search and res­cue ope­ra­ti­ons, docu­men­ting ero­si­on and wear and tear on cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge sites … the list is long.

Svalbardseminar, UNIS: die Drohnenabteilung des Sysselmannen

The “dro­ne-squa­dron” of the Sys­sel­man­nen pre­sen­ting their work in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS.

It is and remains stun­nin­gly beau­ti­ful out­side. The light of the moon is now less bright than last week, but the retur­ning sun – still well below the hori­zon – brings several hours of blue light into the darkness during day­ti­me.

Blue light: Helvetiafjellet, Adventdalen

The blue light hours are com­ing back to Spits­ber­gen during day­ti­me.

A litt­le trip into Advent­da­len, far enough to escape the “big city” light pol­lu­ti­on. The silence and the blue light are ama­zing! And the view into Advent­da­len wet­tens the appe­ti­te for more. That is the way to Sas­senda­len, to Tem­pel­fjord, to the east coast, … soon will the days be lon­ger and the same goes for the trips out into natu­re!

Blaues Licht: Blick ins Adventdalen

View into Advent­da­len during the blue light hour(s).

Soon, howe­ver, the blue light gives way to darkness again, the “days” are still short. But the night does always have some­thing to offer. In recent days, nort­hern light acti­vi­ty was a bit limi­ted. Not that the­re weren’t any at all, but limi­ted, and some­ti­mes you do also have to sleep, so it is ine­vi­ta­ble to miss out some­ti­mes. It is all about being in the right time at the right place, and that litt­le bit of luck!

Northern light, Adventdalen

Nort­hern light over Advent­da­len (I).
The lights of mine 7 and some huts in the lower right cor­ner.

Today, we were – once again – at the right time in the right place. We just had that bit of luck. Kind of on the way to go shop­ping. Never lea­ve the house without the came­ra 🙂

Northern light, Adventdalen

Nort­hern light over Advent­da­len (II).

Lunar eclip­se over Spits­ber­gen

Today (21 Janu­a­ry 2019) was the day (well, it is not real­ly a day, the sun does not rise at all here cur­r­ent­ly) of a major astro­no­mi­c­al event, the next one after the solar eclip­se in 2015. The lunar eclip­se that was visi­ble in Spits­ber­gen from appro­xi­mate­ly 6 a.m. was cer­tain­ly worth set­ting the alarm clock for.

Lunar eclipse over Longyearbyen

Today’s lunar eclip­se: the “blood moon” over Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

After a short obser­va­ti­on of the initi­al lunar eclip­se over Lon­gye­ar­by­en, we went out into Advent­da­len to get fur­ther away from the big city lights and to get a natu­ral back­ground for the impres­si­ve celesti­al event.

Lunar eclipse over Adventdalen

Lunar eclip­se over Advent­da­len: the “blood mmoon” over Spits­ber­gen (I).

The dura­ti­on of the lunar eclip­se was much more agree­ab­le than that of the abo­ve-men­tio­ned solar eclip­se, the total pha­se of which did not last lon­ger than 2 minu­tes and a few seconds. This could make the astro-pho­to­graph­ers sweat des­pi­te of the tem­pe­ra­tures around minus 20 degrees (C) back then.

Mondfinsternis im Adventdalen

Mond­fins­ter­nis im Advent­da­len: der “Blut­mond” über Spitz­ber­gen (II).

Not that it was any war­mer today, but we could take it with time: the total pha­se of today’s lunar eclip­se was near­ly an hour long, so next to taking pho­tos, we could just enjoy the event and a sip of hot cho­co­la­te – a very good thing con­si­de­ring the tem­pe­ra­tu­re. The stars were ama­zing, they came out bright and strong due to the redu­ced moon­light. Very impres­si­ve!

Starry sky during lunar eclipse, Adventdalen

Stars during the lunar eclip­se in Advent­da­len.

Final­ly, my cur­rent ceter­um cen­seo: I have made a new pho­to book, focus­sing on aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy and thus showing the Arc­tic from a very unsu­al per­spec­ti­ve. In theo­ry, the book is in Ger­man, but in prac­ti­ce, it does hard­ly have text. 134 out of 137 pages do just have stun­ning pho­tos, pla­ce­n­a­mes and a litt­le map. Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Sval­bard from the air.

Norwegens arktischer Norden (2) - Aerial Arctic

Rolf’s new pho­to book Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen from a new and stun­ning per­spec­ti­ve.

Vin­kelstas­jon, neigh­bour rein­de­er and Sci­ence Slam

Time is fly­ing, the­re is always some­thing to do. Most­ly stuff that isn’t worth men­tio­ning, but it is real­ly fil­ling the days. Ever­y­day life. Pro­jects. Work.

Yes, and life. Friends. Being out­side.

Being out­side is obvious­ly one main rea­son for living in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It will soon be full moon and the sky is most­ly clear. The light is pure magic. The Nor­we­gi­ans have a beau­ti­ful word for that: “trol­sk”. May­be you can use “trol­lish” to trans­la­te it? It is “magi­cal”, but that does not real­ly hit the nail on the head. With “trol­sk”, we don’t asso­cia­te Har­ry Pot­ter but rather some kind of fai­ry­ta­le magic with a slight under­to­ne of dan­ger and gloo­mi­ness. Just like the arc­tic: of breath­ta­king beau­ty, but with a touch of dan­ger lur­king some­whe­re hid­den, often not being visi­ble. Trol­sk.

Most tours do cur­r­ent­ly not go any­whe­re remo­te. That is not the point now. You will find the who­le beau­ty of the polar night in Longyearbyen’s vicini­ty. It is of cour­se always an idea to go some­whe­re without arti­fi­cial light.

Adventdalen in the polar night

Advent­da­len in the polar night.

The­re is, of cour­se, a lot of arti­fi­cial light in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Whenever the­re is a nort­hern light you have to go to a sui­ta­ble place for undis­tur­bed obser­va­ti­on and pho­to­gra­phy. A bit of arti­fi­cial light does, of cour­se, not hurt, often it has a charme of its own. Like the Vin­kelstas­jon in Enda­len, which used to be a part of the old coal cable­way. Today, it is illu­mi­na­ted during the polar night, pro­vi­ding a lovely eye­cat­cher in the dark land­s­cape.

Vinkelstation Endalen

The Vin­kelstas­jon in Enda­len used to be a part of the coal cable­way in the past.
Today, it is part of the local histo­ry and, in the dark time, a light instal­la­ti­on.

It is part of the prac­ti­cal aspects of moving around in the dark that high-vis jackets and reflec­tors are stron­gly advi­sed. Other­wi­se, the risk of being hit by a car is signi­fi­cant and one day it will crash.

The rein­de­er don’t know that. They tend to stand just next to the road. And the don’t look left or right befo­re they start cros­sing it.

When you lea­ve the house in the morning and the­re is a rein­de­er next to the ent­ran­ce in the dark, then it can give you a bit of a sud­den weak-up. As soon as you rea­li­se that the big fur­ry ani­mal just in front of you is actual­ly a rein­de­er, it is a bit of a reli­ef which feels qui­te good.

Reindeer, Longyearbyen

Rein­de­er in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The­re is a lot going on in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in terms of cul­tu­re, edu­ca­ti­on and sci­ence. In Janu­a­ry, the­re is the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar. Experts of various fiel­ds offer pre­sen­ta­ti­ons to tell the public about their field of know­ledge. The­se pre­sen­ta­ti­ons are usual­ly in Nor­we­gi­an, hence not an attrac­tion for inter­na­tio­nal visi­tors, but if you under­stand Nor­we­gi­an, then they are usual­ly very inte­res­ting.

This week, the­re was a “Sci­ence Slam” sche­du­led. Several sci­en­tists tal­ked about their work and rese­arch results in short lec­tures which were sup­po­sed to be as enter­tai­ning as edu­ca­ti­ve. Ever­ything was allo­wed as long as it is not gene­ral­ly for­bid­den and nobo­dy is har­med. This worked altog­e­ther qui­te well.

SIOS Svalbard, Svalbardseminar, UNIS

SIOS Sval­bard intro­du­cing them­sel­ves in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS.

In the pho­to abo­ve, SIOS Sval­bard (“Sval­bard inte­gra­ted arc­tic earth obser­ving sys­tem”) staff are intro­du­cing their orga­ni­sa­ti­on, the design and pur­po­se of which is hard to grasp in just a few words. SIOS is kind of a meta-sci­en­ti­fic orga­ni­sa­ti­on, try­ing to ensu­re that effi­ci­ent collec­ting and exchan­ge of all sorts of data is working smooth­ly in prac­ti­ce, bey­ond bor­ders of dif­fe­rent natio­na­li­ties, pro­jects and fiel­ds of sci­ence.

And then, the­re is of cour­se Maar­ten Loo­nen, the Dut­ch spe­cia­list for bird migra­ti­on, arc­tic geese and tun­dra. We meet him qui­te regu­lar­ly in Ny-Åle­sund in the sum­mer, whe­re he has been part of the regu­lar out­fit as long as even the oldest ones can remem­ber. In a way that you just can’t imi­ta­te, Maar­ten mana­ges to squee­ze a lot of know­ledge into a few minu­tes that is hard to remem­ber – unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, becau­se it is fasci­na­ting stuff. Just an examp­le: geese have a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent diges­ti­on sys­tem than rein­de­er. Wha­te­ver a geese puts into herself at the front end will lea­ve her again at the rear end after 1-2 hours. Rein­de­er need much more time for the same pro­cess, but they make use of a much hig­her pro­por­ti­on of the ener­gy and nut­ri­ents stored in the plant mate­ri­al that they take up. Which means that what lea­ves a goose’s butt (my wor­d­ing, not Maarten’s) is still per­fect­ly good food for a rein­de­er. But not always, that depends again on what the goo­se has eaten. And you can actual­ly see it on the colour of the drop­pings. And so on and so forth. I just can’t recall all of it, unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly. If you ever have a chan­ce to lis­ten to Maar­ten Loo­nen: go for it!

Maarten Loonen, Svalbardseminar bei UNIS

Maar­ten Loo­nen tal­king about arc­tic migra­ting birds, main­ly geese and their impor­t­ance for the arc­tic tun­dra, in the Sval­bard­se­mi­nar at UNIS.

Final­ly, my cur­rent ceter­um cen­seo: I have made a new pho­to book, focus­sing on aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy and thus showing the Arc­tic from a very unsu­al per­spec­ti­ve. In theo­ry, the book is in Ger­man, but in prac­ti­ce, it does hard­ly have text. 134 out of 137 pages do just have stun­ning pho­tos, pla­ce­n­a­mes and a litt­le map. Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Sval­bard from the air.

Norwegens arktischer Norden (2) - Aerial Arctic

Rolf’s new pho­to book Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen from a new and stun­ning per­spec­ti­ve.

The arc­tic blog con­ti­nued: back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en!

After a win­ter- and christ­mas peri­od in our sou­thern home, we return to our nort­hern home: back to Lon­gye­ar­by­en! We spend a few days in Nor­way on the way up, visi­t­ing good friends, befo­re we board the pla­ne in Oslo.

The flight lea­ves from Oslo Gar­der­mo­en in the morning and arri­ves in Lon­gye­ar­by­en mid-day. We fly away from the sun­light and into the darkness. While clim­bing up the lad­der to the pla­ne, we enjoy a few last moments of sun­light. They will be the last ones for several week.

Gal­le­ry flight to Lon­gye­ar­by­en

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

The magic of the polar night is wai­t­ing for us!

The moon is waxing – that is not a secret, that is the same ever­y­whe­re on Earth at the same time. But here, it is more important than else­whe­re. Not only becau­se far abo­ve the polar cir­cle the moon is hard­ly seen during the sum­mer, becau­se then it remains lar­ge­ly below the hori­zon unless it is new moon, when you don’t see it any­way. But now, in win­ter, the moon is stun­ning. And it is a very important light source, much more than in lati­tu­des whe­re the sun is more reli­able in win­ter­ti­me.

Polar night and moonshine in Adventdalen close to Longyearbyen

Advent­da­len in the polar night (I): the moon is shi­ning over Ope­raf­jel­let.

The appearan­ce of the coun­try is magi­cal. The moon is cas­ting sil­ver-blue light over the land­s­cape which is cove­r­ed with a thin lay­er of snow and ice. On pho­tos, the moon appears very bright so you might even think it is the sun.

Pho­to­gra­phing this kind of beau­ty is a chal­len­ge. Most pho­to­graphs are are far too bright. Of cour­se you can expo­se your pho­to until they look as if taken on a sun­ny day. The results will be beau­ti­ful but they don’t have much to do with rea­li­ty. Rea­li­ty IS haun­tin­g­ly beau­ti­ful, and it is, well … rea­li­ty! It doesn’t get much bet­ter than that, but it is hard to cap­tu­re in an image. The beau­ty that the eye which is accus­to­med to darkness per­cei­ves may just appe­ar as darkness on a rea­son­ab­ly rea­listic image. And that can also be rea­listic, but may­be not qui­te the rea­li­ty, if that makes sen­se.

Polar night and moonshine in Adventdalen close to Longyearbyen

Advent­da­len in the polar night (II): a bit dar­ker, a bit more rea­listic
(? depen­ding on how well your eyes are accus­to­med to darkness when you are out in the field).

I am try­ing to find a com­pro­mi­se which is clo­se to rea­li­ty and deli­vers the real beau­ty of the polar night at the same time.

Last but not least for this first ent­ry of my arc­tic blog 2019 an impres­si­on from Lon­gye­ar­by­en in the polar night. A per­spec­ti­ve that, I am sure, many of you will know, but pos­si­b­ly in very dif­fe­rent light con­di­ti­ons.

Longyearbyen in the polar night

High noon in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in polar night. The sun­dial does cur­r­ent­ly have some tech­ni­cal pro­blems 😉

Final­ly, let me men­ti­on that I have made a new pho­to book, focus­sing on aeri­al pho­to­gra­phy and thus showing the Arc­tic from a very unsu­al per­spec­ti­ve. In theo­ry, the book is in Ger­man, but in prac­ti­ce, it does hard­ly have text. 134 out of 137 pages do just have stun­ning pho­tos, pla­ce­n­a­mes and a litt­le map.
Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Sval­bard from the air.

Norwegens arktischer Norden (2) - Aerial Arctic

Rolf’s new pho­to book Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den (2) – Aeri­al Arc­tic shows Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen from a new and stun­ning per­spec­ti­ve.

More than 300 tons of die­sel reco­ve­r­ed from groun­ded traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der

Good news from the shrimp traw­ler “Nor­th­gui­der” that ran aground clo­se to the coast of Nord­aus­t­land in nort­hern Hin­lo­pen on 28 Decem­ber, 2018: more than 300 tons of die­sel were suc­cess­ful­ly reco­ve­r­ed until Sunday morning in an ope­ra­ti­on that took several days. The work was car­ri­ed out by the Dut­ch spe­cia­li­sed com­pa­ny Ardent Glo­bal and the Nor­we­gi­an coast­guard, on the coast­guard ship KV Sval­bard, as the Nor­we­gi­an broad­cas­ting com­pa­ny NRK reports.

332 tons of mari­ne die­sel oil were secu­red on KV Sval­bard until Sunday morning 5 a.m. Such a huge amount of fuel in a sen­si­ti­ve high arc­tic envi­ron­ment, during a sea­son when the drift ice can approach quick­ly or the water can free­ze local­ly at any time, could have crea­ted a major envi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ter.

Shrimp trawler Northguider on ground in Hinlopen Strait

Reco­very work at the shrimp traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der. Pho­to: Kystverket/Küstenwache.

The ope­ra­ti­on went fas­ter than expec­ted. The cold, but sta­ble wea­ther con­di­ti­ons of the wee­kend were an important part in the effi­ci­ent pro­cess to secu­re the die­sel compp­le­te­ly, and so was the hard work of the Dut­ch spe­cia­lists and the crew of the coast guard along with other aut­ho­ri­ties invol­ved (Sys­sel­man­nen, Kyst­ver­ket).

Shrimp trawler Northguider: Diesel secured

More than 300 tons of die­sel were secu­red until Sunday morning from the shrimp traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der, which is groun­ded in Hin­lo­pen Strait. Pho­to: Kystverket/Küstenwache.

Smal­ler amounts of lub­ri­ca­ti­on oil and other che­mi­cals are still being secu­red, as well as other loo­se items that may harm or lit­ter the envi­ron­ment.

Sal­va­ging the ship its­elf is a total­ly dif­fe­rent ques­ti­on. This will be a major ope­ra­ti­on. How and when this will be done is cur­r­ent­ly an open ques­ti­on.

The owner of Nor­th­gui­der, Opi­lio AS, is respon­si­ble for covere­ring the cos­ts.

Tem­pel­fjord acci­dent 2017: mone­ta­ry penal­ty

In late April 2017, a serious acci­dent hap­pen­ed in Tem­pel­fjord when a group of snow mobi­le tou­rists bro­ke through thin ice. Altog­e­ther 7 per­sons suf­fe­red inju­ries, 6 of them were in the water. 4 of the­se spent up to 48 minu­tes in the ice-cold water. One of them died some days later in the hos­pi­tal in Trom­sø.

The decea­sed was working as a gui­de for the group, who were Rus­si­an tou­rists. The tour was orga­nis­ed by Arc­tic Tra­vel Com­pa­ny Grumant, a daugh­ter com­pa­ny of the Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol. The Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol owns and runs Bar­ents­burg and the coal mine the­re. As employ­er of the gui­de and owner of the tour ope­ra­tor, the Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol is legal­ly final­ly respon­si­ble.

Some years ago, the Trust star­ted to deve­lop tou­rism in Bar­ents­burg to add new eco­no­mi­c­al acti­vi­ties to coal mining, which will obvious­ly not last fore­ver.

In con­nec­tion to the Tem­pel­fjord acci­dent in 2017, the Arc­tic Tra­vel Com­pa­ny Grumant and hence the Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol are accu­sed of not having estab­lis­hed suf­fi­ci­ent safe­ty rou­ti­nes for tra­vel­ling on sea ice inclu­ding fjord ice. No ice thic­kness mea­su­re­ments or other means of estab­li­shing suf­fi­ci­ent safe­ty mar­gins were taken befo­re the group went out on the ice on the fatal trip in 2017.

Due to the fatal out­co­me of the acci­dent, which cau­sed 7 per­sons to end up in ice water and one of them to die later, the sta­te advo­ca­te Troms (north Nor­way) has now impo­sed a fine of NOK 150,000 (cur­r­ent­ly ca. Euro 15,300 or US-$ 17,700). The Trust Ark­ti­ku­gol has accep­ted the fine.

Tempelfjord accident 2017: monetary fine

Gla­cier­front of Tuna­b­reen in Tem­pel­fjord: a popu­lar day trip, but the ice can be dan­ge­rous.

The gla­cier front of Tuna­b­reen in Tem­pel­fjord is the high­light of a popu­lar day trip in the late win­ter, but the fjord ice is not as reli­able any­mo­re as it used to be and the clas­si­cal rou­te does not always work any­mo­re. In 2018, the ice con­di­ti­ons were good in Tem­pel­fjord, but in the main sea­son the fjord ice was clo­sed by the Sys­sel­man­nen for moto­ri­sed traf­fic to avoid dis­tur­ban­ce of seals and polar bears who were often seen in that area then.

Storm- and avalan­che warnings in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The wea­ther fore­cast for the next 2 days pro­mi­ses storm and snow for Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The hig­hest wind speeds are expec­ted for Thurs­day night with velo­ci­ties up to 26 metres per second (90 km/h or 60 mph, for­ce 10 on the Beau­fort sca­le).

The­se con­di­ti­ons mean that the­re will be a very high risk of avalan­ches.

Public insti­tu­ti­ons such as schools will remain clo­sed and houses in several are­as in Lon­gye­ar­by­en will be evacua­ted from Thurs­day 8 a.m. This con­cerns houses in way 228 and on the west side of the road in Nyby­en, accord­ing to orders issued by the Sys­sel­man­nen. More than 100 per­sons are con­cer­ned by the­se evacua­tions.

Longyearbyen storm and avalanche warnings

Wea­ther fore­cast accord­ing to yr.no for Lon­gye­ar­by­en: Storm, snow and avalan­che risk.

Ever­y­bo­dy is reques­ted to take due pre­cau­ti­ons and to stay away from are­as expo­sed to avalan­che risk.

Nor­th­gui­der still groun­ded in Hin­lo­penstre­tet

The traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der is still sit­ting on ground at Spar­ren­e­set in Hin­lo­penstre­tet. Pho­tos taken by Kyst­ver­ket, the Nor­we­gi­an mari­ti­me aut­ho­ri­ty, show that the posi­ti­on of the ship is very clo­se to the coast of Nord­aus­t­land. In this area, the sea bot­tom is fal­ling stee­ply from shal­low waters down to 400 metres in Hin­lo­penstre­tet. It is not yet known how Nor­th­gui­der could get into this posi­ti­on. It is said that the­re were no tech­ni­cal pro­blems befo­re the acci­dent.

The coast guard ship KV Sval­bard has been on site and com­ple­ted the first pha­se is work, which was asses­sing the actu­al situa­ti­on of the dis­ab­led ves­sel. After an initi­al peri­od with wea­ther too bad to go near the groun­ded ship, spe­cia­lists of coast guard and Kyst­ver­ket have been on board Nor­th­gui­der, which is still lis­ting with 15 degrees, but seems to be sta­ble, at least so far. No leaka­ge has be obser­ved so far. Nor­th­gui­der has 300 tons of die­sel on board. Many smal­ler items that have nega­ti­ve envi­ron­men­tal poten­ti­al such as bat­te­ries, paint, fishing gear etc. were remo­ved.

Fishing trawler Northguider grounded in Hinlopenstretet

Fishing traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der groun­ded in Hin­lo­penstre­tet, clo­se to the coast of Nord­aus­t­land. Pho­to: Kyst­ver­ket.

The inves­ti­ga­ti­ons also made clear that the ship is too stron­gly dama­ged to be pul­led of the grow­ned. First, the die­sel needs to be remo­ved befo­re an attempt can be made to get Nor­th­gui­der floa­ting again.

KV Sval­bard has retur­ned to Lon­gye­ar­by­en to pick up the necessa­ry equip­ment. The Kyst­ver­ket assu­mes that the sal­va­ge will take con­si­derable time.

Mean­while, ques­ti­ons are asked why fishing ves­sels are allo­wed to ope­ra­te in the polar night – or at any time – in are­as sen­si­ti­ve enough that even the pre­sence of tou­rists is seen as a pro­blem by some becau­se they might step on a flower or wake up a slee­ping wal­rus. The groun­ding site is wit­hin the bounda­ries of the Nor­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve. Mor­ten Wege­de, envi­ron­men­tal advi­ser of the Sys­sel­man­nen, said that the situa­ti­on was very unfor­tu­n­a­te and that pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment has hig­hest prio­ri­ty. To ensu­re this, the Sys­sel­man­nen is working clo­se­ly tog­e­ther with the coast guard, Kyst­ver­ket, the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te and the owner of Nor­th­gui­der.

Fishing ves­sel Nor­th­gui­der still on the ground in Hin­lo­pen Strait

All visi­tors and friends of this web­site and its aut­hor a hap­py new year! The tran­si­ti­on from 2018 to 2019 was calm in Lon­gye­ar­by­en – with some of the usu­al fire­works, of cour­se. The Sys­sel­man­nen just had to step in at a litt­le fight at Huset, other than that New Year’s eve went on peace­ful­ly in Spits­ber­gen.

But the fishing ves­sel Nor­th­gui­der will keep peop­le busy for some time. Nor­th­gui­der ran aground in Hin­lo­pen Strait last Fri­day. All 14 crew mem­bers could soon be res­cued by heli­co­p­ter, but the ship its­elf remains just whe­re it hit the ground south of Murchi­son­fjord. The posi­ti­on of the ves­sel seems to be sta­ble so far and no die­sel or other envi­ron­ment­al­ly dan­ge­rous liquids seem to have escaped from the hull, at least as far as can be seen from a heli­co­p­ter. Nobo­dy has been in the sce­ne so far, the coast guard ship KV Sval­bard is expec­ted to arri­ve the­re the next days. The first prio­ri­ty will be to remo­ve die­sel and other liquids that would dama­ge the envi­ron­ment. The next step will be an assess­ment whe­ther the ship is able to float so it can be pul­led off and towed to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Northguider’s own engi­ne can not be expec­ted to be func­tio­n­al any­mo­re as sea­wa­ter has ent­e­red the engi­ne room.

Ide­al­ly, KV Sval­bard can first pump off oil etc. and then tow Nor­th­gui­der to a safe har­bour. Whe­ther this will work remains to be seen.

The who­le ope­ra­ti­on may be com­pli­ca­ted drasti­cal­ly by ice, in any way it is likely to be a race against time: the­re is always the risk that the groun­ded ship slips off and sinks in deeper water. And then the­re is the ice. Even in times of cli­ma­te-chan­ge-rela­ted nega­ti­ve records of arc­tic sea ice cover and a very slow ice deve­lo­p­ment in the ear­ly polar night, the drift ice is now com­ing from the north and the coas­tal waters start to free­ze over local­ly, as illus­tra­ted by a quick glance at the ice chart.

Just a few weeks ago, all of Sval­bard was com­ple­te­ly ice-free. But things are cur­r­ent­ly chan­ging quick­ly. If Nor­th­gui­der beco­mes trap­ped in ice, all fur­ther ope­ra­ti­ons would be much more dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble. A lot will depend on the wea­ther and cur­r­ents during the next days and pos­si­b­ly weeks.

Eiskarte Svalbard

Today’s ice chart from the Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te: the drift ice is on the way and the fjords are free­zing.

Mean­while poli­ti­ci­ans in Oslo are star­ting to ask ques­ti­ons. Shrimp traw­ling is per­mit­ted in deeper waters also in Svalbard’s natu­re reser­ves – the site of the Nor­th­gui­de acci­dent is wit­hin the bounda­ries of the Nor­the­ast Sval­bard Natu­re Reser­ve – and traw­lers ope­ra­te in remo­te are­as year-round. The ques­ti­on of the safe­ty of fishing in the­se are­as, far away from har­bours and SAR faci­li­ties, will recei­ve some new atten­ti­on now.

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News-Listing live generated at 2021/July/31 at 03:42:14 Uhr (GMT+1)
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