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Home → January, 2019

Monthly Archives: January 2019 − News


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.

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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