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Monthly Archives: April 2019 − News & Stories


Sval­bard Ski­ma­ra­thon

Today (Satur­day, 27 April) at 9 a.m., the star­ting shot for the Sval­bard Ski­ma­ra­thon 2019 was fired by Sys­sel­mann Kjers­tin Askholt.

Sysselmann Kjerstin Askholt starting shot Svalbard Skimarathon 2019

Sys­sel­mann Kjers­tin Askholt is rea­dy to fire the star­ting shot for the Sval­bard Ski­ma­ra­thon 2019.

The moment when the 2019 com­pe­ti­ti­on was a fact must have come as a bit of a reli­ef for the orga­nisers. The strong thawing during the week befo­re Eas­ter took a hea­vy toll on the snow con­di­ti­ons, and the rou­te had to be moved on a short warning. Today’s Ski­ma­ra­thon takes the par­ti­ci­pants across Advent­da­len and a short turn into Mälarda­len, then along the coast of Advent­fjord to Hior­th­hamn and Advent City and final­ly into Hanas­kog­da­len and then back again.

Start Svalbard Skimarathon 2019

Start of the Sval­bard Ski­ma­ra­thon 2019.

In addi­ti­on comes the strike of the SAS pilots. Many had hoped that Lon­gye­ar­by­en would be exclu­ded from the strike as the­re are no alter­na­ti­ve means of get­ting here and away regu­lar­ly avail­ab­le other than fly­ing. Buses and trains are obvious­ly not an opti­on, in con­trast to many cities in main­land Scan­di­na­via. But the SAS flight Fri­day after­noon was can­cel­led and more can­cel­la­ti­ons are likely to fol­low.

How many regis­tered par­ti­ci­pants were unab­le to fly to Lon­gye­ar­by­en is not known, but it is likely to be more than just a hand­full. And a few days ago, the num­ber of par­ti­ci­pants was alrea­dy a bit lower than in 2018: about 800 in con­trast to about 700. The­se figu­res are not final, as par­ti­ci­pants could regis­ter up to Fri­day evening, some­thing that some locals always do, depen­ding on their moti­va­ti­on sta­tus of the day and the wea­ther fore­cast.

Award ceremony Svalbard Skimarathon

Pre-race award cere­mo­ny 🙂

Today’s Sval­bard Ski­ma­ra­thon is the 27th one. It is one of the lar­gest regu­lar events in the calen­dar for Lon­gye­ar­by­en, attrac­ting inter­na­tio­nal par­ti­ci­pants from many coun­tries.

A gre­at day with much fun to all par­ti­ci­pants and all others invol­ved!

Spits­ber­gen back to win­ter mode on Eas­ter Sunday

After an ear­ly snow mel­ting peri­od last week, the win­ter retur­ned to Spits­ber­gen exact­ly on Eas­ter Sunday with tem­pe­ra­tures below zero. After a cou­p­le of very wet and grey days, which frus­tra­ted tou­rists, locals, gui­des and tour ope­ra­tors ali­ke, mol­ten snow beca­me ice – at least! – and the sun came out again.

Skating rink Longyearbyen Camping

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping: last week a lake, this week an ice area.

Lon­gye­ar­by­en Cam­ping, last week an impres­si­ve land­s­cape of lakes and lagoons, is now an ice area, with a sur­face just a bit too rough to pro­vi­de a use­ful ska­ting rink. Else­whe­re, it is flat and shi­ning as a mir­ror, some­thing that does not make moving around easier, both in the field and in town. Spikes (isbrod­der in Nor­we­gi­an) can be very hel­pful and may pre­vent acci­dents.

Skating rink Adventdalen

Advent­da­len: last week a river, this week a ska­ting rink.

Now it is good to be out­side again!

And, yes: the Eas­ter bun­ny also came all the way north to Spits­ber­gen. Hap­py Eas­ter! 🙂

Happy Easter

Hap­py Eas­ter!

Spits­ber­gen is mel­ting: ear­ly snow melt in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Snow melt – 4 weeks too ear­ly

Yes, this is how the last ent­ry star­ted as well. It is not gre­at. Yes, the­re have always been mild air incur­si­ons with thawing tem­pe­ra­tures and rain in Spits­ber­gen, even in mid-win­ter. The cli­ma­te here is mari­ti­me.

But a who­le week? In April, a mon­th that tends to be qui­te sta­ble other­wi­se? That is qui­te tough.

Wetterbericht Longyearbyen

The wea­ther fore­cast for Lon­gye­ar­by­en from last Wed­nes­day
(© Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te).

This is what the wea­ther fore­cast loo­ked like on Wed­nes­day. Tem­pe­ra­tures in red, abo­ve zero, and rain. This is how it was pret­ty much all of the week, from Mon­day to Fri­day. Today (Satur­day), the­re is some mild frost again, at least.

Longyearelva

The river­bed of Lon­gyea­rel­va had to be ope­ned to pre­vent floo­ding of the road.

Whe­re­ver you look, it is sad. It is mel­ting and flowing ever­y­whe­re. The­re are ponds and lakes ins­tead of white snow sur­faces, smal­ler rivers have star­ted to flow again, tun­dra are­as are com­ing through the wet snow.

Snow melt in Bjørndalen

The Tun­dra is com­ing through the snow,
here in Bjørn­da­len in the begin­ning of this snow melt week.

They had to come with a dig­ging machi­ne to clear the river bed of Lon­gyea­rel­va, the river in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, from snow to pre­vent the road from being floo­ded. That is a nor­mal pro­ce­du­re – but not in mid April (it was on Thurs­day).

The camp­si­te is a lake. The­re was actual­ly one lonely cam­per a week ago, but he left for some rea­son.

Lake on the camp site Longyearbyen

The camp­si­te near Lon­gye­ar­by­en is a lake.

Eas­ter wee­kend with ques­ti­on marks

The Eas­ter wee­kend has begun, one of the main tou­rist sea­sons in Nor­way. Ever­y­bo­dy is out and about, on tour some­whe­re, on holi­day or visi­t­ing someo­ne. Pre­fer­a­b­ly some­thing that has to do with a hut, snow and ski, alter­na­tively a boat will also do.

A boat might actual­ly be the bet­ter opti­on than the kind of tour that you would expect in Spits­ber­gen at this time of year. White, wide snow land­s­capes, snow mobi­le trips to pla­ces far away or dog sledge tours and ski hikes some­whe­re around Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

But, alas, ever­ything is grey and wet and water is flowing ever­y­whe­re. The hotels are ful­ly boo­ked, pla­nes come every day with eas­ter tou­rists who have boo­ked rooms and trips for stun­ning pri­ces, loo­king for­ward to a tas­te of the real Arc­tic.

Right place, but wrong time.

Ins­tead, mine 3, which is a muse­um mine now, is get­ting a lot of visi­tors. This is one of few pla­ces whe­re you can book an inte­res­ting excur­si­on right now regard­less of the wea­ther con­di­ti­ons, as long as the road is open. Not the kind of expe­ri­ence most would have thought of when they plan­ned their trip, but cer­tain­ly a very inte­res­ting expe­ri­ence.

Just for the sake of com­ple­teness: they are still run­ning some snow mobi­le tours, obvious­ly under rather mar­gi­nal con­di­ti­ons.

Visitor mine Gruve 3

Visi­t­ing gruve 3, the visi­tor mine.

Today (Eas­ter Satur­day), the­re is some mild frost again, and tem­pe­ra­tures are sup­po­sed to fall tomor­row. We will see if we get a bit more win­ter here again, or if the win­ter sea­son is alrea­dy over. That is a ques­ti­on many are con­si­de­ring in Lon­gye­ar­by­en now.

Mid­ni­ght sun: next sun­ri­se August

The­re is no “night” any­mo­re in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The last sun­set was on Thurs­day, the mid­ni­ght sun is shi­ning sin­ce yes­ter­day (Good Fri­day). The next sun­set will be on 26 August – at 00.05 a.m., which means it is actual­ly the 25 August, astro­no­mi­c­al­ly (becau­se of day­light saving time, astro­no­mi­c­al mid­ni­ght is near 01 a.m.)

The ice cave in Lon­gyear­breen

Snow melt – 4 weeks too ear­ly

Cur­r­ent­ly – today it is 18 April – I get the impres­si­on that Spits­ber­gen is real­ly mel­ting and flowing away. The snow melt has star­ted, several weeks to ear­ly. This April will without any doubt be the 101st mon­th in a row with tem­pe­ra­tures abo­ve the long-term average.

But more about that later. One effect of the wea­ther is that I have some time to wri­te again now. It has been a while ago …

Ice cave – 4 weeks ago

… that we went to the ice cave in Lon­gyear­breen. The­re are ice caves here in pret­ty much all gla­ciers, and the one clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en are popu­lar pla­ces to visit, both by tou­rists with gui­des and by locals. You can dog-sledge or ski to the ice cave in Scott Tur­ner­breen in Bol­terda­len, you can hike to the one on Lars­breen, also with snow­shoes or on ski, and you can get to the one on Lon­gyear­breen with a wider ran­ge of trans­por­ta­ti­on means, here also inclu­ding snow mobi­le or snow cat.

Ice cave in Longyearbreen

In the ice cave in Lon­gyear­breen (mid March).

The ice caves are actual­ly meltwa­ter chan­nels, but they usual­ly fall dry during the win­ter sea­son (meltwa­ter flow may occur at any time of year, so be care­ful). Then they can be visi­ted. Depen­ding on the “ter­rain”, this can be easy or dif­fi­cult. Some are so nar­row and steep that visi­t­ing them may be impos­si­ble, at least for nor­mal peop­le, others are more visi­tor-friend­ly. In any case, an ice cave is a fasci­na­ting expe­ri­ence!

Ice cave in Longyearbreen

Ice cave in Lon­gyear­breen.
Usual­ly I don’t post too many pic­tures of mys­elf, but I do like this one 🙂

Tem­pe­ra­tu­re in Lon­gye­ar­by­en sin­ce 100 mon­ths abo­ve average

Cli­ma­te in Lon­gye­ar­by­en war­mer than average sin­ce 100 mon­ths

Febru­a­ry and March 2019 have most­ly been cold mon­ths with tem­pe­ra­tures around -20 degrees cen­tig­ra­de and below over many peri­ods, but it has not been enough to reach the mon­th­ly average. Also in March, the average tem­pe­ra­tu­re of the mon­ths was abo­ve the long-term average. This was the 100th mon­th in a row that the tem­pe­ra­tu­re (average of the mon­th) was abo­ve the long-term average – more than 8 years, in other words, as cli­ma­te sci­en­tist Kje­til Isak­sen reports to Sval­bard­pos­ten.

Refe­rence peri­od: 1960-1990

The refe­rence peri­od for the long-term average is 1960-1990. The nor­mal tem­pe­ra­tu­re from this peri­od is histo­ry: cli­ma­te chan­ge is three times fas­ter in Spits­ber­gen than in main­land Nor­way and six times fas­ter than glo­bal­ly. Accord­ing to Isak­sen, this is lar­ge­ly due to incre­a­sed water tem­pe­ra­tures in the fjords and sur­roun­ding seas: the­re is more heat exchan­ge bet­ween sea and atmo­s­phe­re than befo­re and the decre­a­sed ice cover enab­les the water to absorb sun radia­ti­on and turn it into heat rather than reflec­ting a hig­her pro­por­ti­on back into space as pre­vious­ly.

Avalan­che bar­ri­ers as an adap­t­ati­on to cli­ma­te chan­ge in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Sci­en­tists do not expect this trend to stop at any time soon. In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the com­mu­ni­ty is adap­ting to a new cli­ma­te.

Avalanche barriers on Sukkertoppen close to Longyearbyen

Avalan­che bar­ri­ers on Suk­ker­top­pen clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

After the cata­stro­phic avalan­che from 19 Decem­ber 2015 which has clai­med two lives, hund­reds of inha­bi­tants are evacua­ted every year during the avalan­che sea­son, many of them for several mon­ths. Plans are cur­r­ent­ly made to tear down buil­dings with 142 flats in are­as which are at risk from avalan­ches. Housing shor­ta­ge and an over­hea­ted housing mar­ket are chal­len­ges that many locals in Lon­gye­ar­by­en cur­r­ent­ly have to deal with.

Bar­ents­burg

Also in Bar­ents­burg peop­le are awa­re of the­se deve­lo­p­ments and an avalan­che risk map has recent­ly been publis­hed. Some buil­dings are in are­as at risk and would not be built now whe­re they are today. But it is assu­med that the situa­ti­on can be con­trol­led tech­ni­cal­ly, without moving or tea­ring down buil­dings.

Mohn­buk­ta: snow mobi­le tour to Spitsbergen’s east coast

As beau­ti­ful as Longyearbyen’s sur­roun­dings are espe­cial­ly at this time of year, it is always temp­t­ing and actual­ly also gre­at to get fur­ther away from “civi­li­sa­ti­on”. We take the oppor­tu­ni­ty that the fine wea­ther pro­vi­des, pack the sled­ges and set cour­se east through Advent­da­len. Spitsbergen’s east coast, espe­cial­ly Mohn­buk­ta, is a clas­si­cal desti­na­ti­on for snow mobi­le tours in the late win­ter – now – for good rea­son, as you will see!

Adventdalen

View over inner Advent­da­len.

It is cold, around minus 20 degrees cen­tig­ra­de as so often during the last cou­p­le of weeks. Clear and calm.

The lar­ge morai­ne of Rabot­breen, east of Sas­senda­len, may be an obsta­cle for some who are not used to dri­ving snow mobi­les, as the­re are some cur­ves, bends and litt­le slo­pes.

Rabotbreen

Dead gla­cier ice in the morai­ne of Rabot­breen.

For us, it is a gre­at and very impres­si­ve bit of land­s­cape. Just the sca­le is enor­mous! And then the­re are some expo­sed bits of dead gla­cier ice, slow­ly mel­ting away, crea­ting some ama­zing shapes and colours on their way back to the glo­bal water cycle.

Nordmannsfonna

The litt­le ice cap Nord­manns­fon­na.

We con­ti­nue across Nord­manns­fon­na, a litt­le ice cap whe­re you get a lit­te impres­si­on of how it might be in cen­tral parts of Green­land or Ant­arc­ti­ca. It is of cour­se just a minia­tu­re ver­si­on of tho­se con­ti­nen­tal inland ice mas­ses, but for me this is enough. Honest­ly, I have never real­ly been keen on going to any pole, by bur­ning nuclear fuel to get to the north pole or by bur­ning end­less volu­mes of air­craft fuel to get to the south pole, whe­re tou­rists are not always real­ly given a warm wel­co­me by the crew of the Amund­sen-Scott South Pole Sta­ti­on. But any­way … I am get­ting off topic. I am hap­py here on Spitsbergen’s Nord­manns­fon­na and her rela­ti­ves around here 🙂

Iceberg Mohnbukta

Wea­the­red ice­berg in Mohn­buk­ta.

We have reached Mohn­buk­ta after a short dri­ve down ano­t­her gla­cier. The bay and the wide waters of Storfjord are fro­zen solid as far as we can see, and we have a fan­tastic view all the way to Bar­entsøya and Edgeøya. The ice is a fan­tastic world in its­elf! The­re are some small (well, it is all rela­ti­ve), but beau­ti­ful­ly (abso­lute­ly!) wea­the­red ice­bergs fro­zen in the sea ice. We had some stun­ning spe­ci­mens here in ear­lier years, click here for some pan­ora­ma pho­tos of ’em.

Lunch break Mohnbukta

Lunch break in Mohn­buk­ta.

A gre­at place for a litt­le lunch break 🙂

Then the­re is the gla­cier front of Hayes­breen as the sce­nic high­light of the day. Just stun­ning! Espe­cial­ly on a day like this. Now – it is late March – the sun is still low even around noon, which is when she is com­ing from the per­fect direc­tion to illu­mi­na­te this ama­zing ice cliff. A gre­at specta­cle of ice, of colours, shapes and size!

Glacier front of Hayesbreen, Mohnbukta

Gla­cier front of Hayes­breen, Mohn­buk­ta (I).

Glacier front of Hayesbreen, Mohnbukta

Gla­cier front of Hayes­breen, Mohn­buk­ta (II).

Then … off again, and back home. We have still got more than 90 kilo­me­tres ahead of us.

Way back home over Königsbergbreen

Way back home over Königs­berg­breen.

The lovely evening light makes the trip over Königs­berg­breen and through Sas­senda­len ano­t­her delight. Some­thing we just have to enjoy, the­re won’t be any evening light here any­mo­re in just a few weeks time!

Evening light, Sassendalen

Evening light in Sas­senda­len.

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.

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