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Home → December, 2019

Monthly Archives: December 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? 🙂


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