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Home → February, 2019

Monthly Archives: February 2019 − News & Stories


Groun­ded traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der: reco­very plan­ned in August

The shrimp traw­ler Nor­th­gui­der ran aground in Hin­lo­pens­trait clo­se to Spar­ren­e­set on Nord­aus­t­land, just south of Murchi­son­fjord. The who­le crew could be saved by heli­co­p­ter, as repor­ted ear­lier. The crew has later descri­bed the who­le expe­ri­ence, in total darkness, strong cold and stor­my wind, as very dra­ma­tic.

Fishing trawler Northguider grounded in Hinlopenstretet

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

300 tons of die­sel and other envi­ron­ment­al­ly dan­ge­rous sub­s­tan­ces and goods could be sal­va­ged in Janu­a­ry, but the Nor­th­gui­der is still sit­ting on rocks. Experts from Sjøf­arts­di­rek­to­ra­tet, the Nor­we­gi­an ship­ping aut­ho­ri­ty, judge her posi­ti­on as sta­ble. The advan­ta­ge of that is that for­ces of natu­re such as wind, cur­r­ents and ice are unli­kely to push the ship into deeper waters. The dis­ad­van­ta­ge is that also human efforts to sal­va­ge the groun­ded ship will requi­re con­si­derable efforts and a major ope­ra­ti­on. It is esti­ma­ted that the sal­va­ging ope­ra­ti­on will take several weeks of work on the sce­ne.

The Sys­sel­man­nen, as the aut­ho­ri­ty who is gene­ral­ly respon­si­ble for the manage­ment of the area in ques­ti­on, and the Sjøf­arts­di­rek­to­rat and the Kyst­vakt (coast guard) have now deci­ded that the sal­va­ti­on work will be car­ri­ed out in August. At that time, the gene­ral con­di­ti­ons regar­ding wea­ther, ice and light should be most favoura­ble.

The coast guard ves­sel KV Sval­bard is cur­r­ent­ly on her way to the acci­dent site to assess the situa­ti­on the­re again, dou­ble-che­cking that the­re are no envi­ron­ment­al­ly harm­ful sub­s­tan­ces and items are on board any­mo­re and that the posi­ti­on of the Nor­th­gui­der is sta­ble. Fur­ther moni­to­ring is plan­ned by moti­on detec­tors and beacons sen­dung the posi­ti­on of the ship in case of any unex­pec­ted move­ments.

Arc­tic win­ter light in Tem­pel­fjord

Some visit a temp­le to find enligh­ten­ment.

We visit Tem­pel­fjord and find the light.

Eskerdalen, light of dawning polar day, mid February

View through Eskerda­len, Sas­senda­len in the distance
in the dawn of the ear­ly polar day in Febru­a­ry.

The start of our litt­le excur­si­on was admit­ted­ly a bit bum­py. First we had to drag a car out of a deep snow hole that a sup­po­sed tur­ning around area had tur­ned out to be. It was not the first time that f§/%!”=g hole has foo­led someo­ne. We should put up a sign …

Tempelfjord, Isfjord

View over outer Tem­pel­fjord towards Isfjord.

Also the snow mobi­les don’t want to do what we want them to do, some­thing the­se things qui­te often do. But final­ly we are off and on the road. It is a bit fresh today, well below -20°C around Lon­gye­ar­by­en and cer­tain­ly not far from -30 in Sas­senda­len and Tem­pel­fjord. A col­leage who was on the east coast today said later that he esti­ma­ted the air tem­pe­ra­tu­re on the gla­ciers around -40°C … as men­tio­ned, it is fresh today.

Tempelfjord

View from Fjord­nib­ba into Tem­pel­fjord.

It is not just the air that is icy, so are the fjords as well. The­re is a con­ti­nuous lay­er of ice stret­ching from Fred­heim into Tem­pel­fjord. Also Sas­sen­fjord – the con­ti­nua­tion of Tem­pel­fjord towards Isfjord – shows clear signs of free­zing. If this only con­ti­nued! We will see what hap­pens the next weeks.

Lukas enjoys the amazing views over Tempelfjord

Lukas enjoys the ama­zing views over Tem­pel­fjord.

After enjoy­ing the ama­zing views from the litt­le moun­tain Fjord­nib­ba, we make a litt­le excur­si­on to Fred­heim, the famous hut built by the even more famous trap­per Hil­mar Nøis. He star­ted buil­ding Fred­heim in 1924 and tur­ned it into a real home during the years to come. In 2015, Fred­heim was moved a few metres hig­her up and away from the coast that was slow­ly app­ra­ching the his­to­ri­cal huts due to coas­tal ero­si­on.

We enjoy the place, the gre­at sce­ne­ry, the cold, the ice, the light and last but not least some hot soup for a while befo­re we start moving back home. The days are still short, but it is ama­zing how quick­ly the light is com­ing back.

Ice in Tempelfjord

Ice on the shore of Tem­pel­fjord.

Sunshi­ne and 20 degrees …

… is not real­ly what you expect in Spits­ber­gen in Febru­a­ry.

But it is also not real­ly a good descrip­ti­on of what we cur­r­ent­ly have in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Theo­re­ti­cal­ly, we should have had the first sun­ri­se on Satur­day (16 Febru­a­ry). This does not mean that you can see the sun from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. You would have to climb one of the hig­her moun­tains such as Troll­stei­nen, some­thing that is actual­ly qui­te popu­lar on that very day.

But it was clou­dy, so a tour some­whe­re in the near­by val­leys was a good thing.

Moonlight tour with dogs in Adventdalen

Moon­light tour with dogs in Advent­da­len.

Today (Mon­day) was the first real­ly clear day. The grey snow clouds gave way to the clear sky during the morning. The blue light of the late polar night is now giving way to the pink-blue light of the ear­ly polar day, at least around noon.

So today we could see the sun again – at least indi­rect­ly. It won’t be befo­re 08 March that you can see the sun direct­ly in Lon­gye­ar­by­en again, some­thing that will be cele­bra­ted duly. But the moun­tains are now get­ting beau­ti­ful crowns of pink-oran­ge glowing light now for a while around mid-day.

First sunlight on Hiorthfellet

First sun­light on Hiorth­fell­et.

The sun remai­ned abo­ve the hori­zon for qui­te some time, cas­ting her beau­ti­ful light over the moun­tain tops for the first time in mon­ths, while the moon is clim­bing over the peaks.

Yes, and we do have 20 degrees (cen­tig­ra­de) and even more. Below zero, of cour­se!

The moon next to Adventtoppen

The moon next to Advent­top­pen.

Lunck­ef­jel­let: the end of an arc­tic coal mine

The Lunck­ef­jel­let coal mine is a poli­ti­cal-eco­no­mi­c­al phe­no­me­non. The first ton of coal was “pro­du­ced” in Novem­ber 2013 – a sym­bo­lic act, the mine was not yet in pro­duc­ti­ve ope­ra­ti­on. This was not the case eit­her when Lunck­ef­jel­let was offi­cial­ly ope­ned on 25 Febru­a­ry 2014, but the mine was “rea­dy to go”. Many thought pro­duc­tion would start now big-time, as the mine had until then cost more than 1 bil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an crowns (more than 100 mil­li­on Euro) and it was the­re and rea­dy to start pro­duc­tion.

Scientists on the way to the Lunckefjellet coal mine

Sci­en­tists on the way to the Lunck­ef­jel­let coal mine.

But this was not to hap­pen. The coal pri­ces on the world mar­kets drop­ped and the mines of Sveagru­va, the Nor­we­gi­an mining sett­le­ment in Van Mijen­fjord, went into stand­by ope­ra­ti­on just to make sure they would not beco­me inac­ces­si­ble and mining could start one day – if this decisi­ons was made.

Sveagruva

Sveagru­va: Nor­we­gi­an coal mining sett­le­ment (Swe­dish foun­da­ti­on in 1917) in Van Mijen­fjord.

In the fall of 2017, the Nor­we­gi­an government put their foot down. Being the 100 % owner of the Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK), the com­pa­ny that owns and runs all Nor­we­gi­an coal mines in Spits­ber­gen, the government could direct­ly deci­de about the fate of mining and miners in Sveagru­va and Lon­gye­ar­by­en and rela­ted eco­no­mies. The decisi­on in 2017 was to put an end to all mining in Sveagru­va. Both the coal mine Svea Nord, which had been pro­fi­ta­ble for a num­ber of years, and the new mine in Lunck­ef­jel­let were to be pha­sed out and phy­si­cal­ly clea­ned up as far as pos­si­ble. And the same was to hap­pen for the sett­le­ment Sveagru­va its­elf. Nor­we­gi­an coal mining in Spits­ber­gen is only con­ti­nued now in mine 7 near Lon­gye­ar­by­en (whe­re the ope­ra­ti­on has sin­ce incre­a­se from one shift to two shifts).

Lunckefjellet

Day faci­li­ties and mine ent­ran­ce at Lunck­ef­jel­let.

The rea­sons were offi­cial­ly said to be ent­i­re­ly eco­no­mi­c­al con­si­de­ra­ti­ons. The government does not real­ly give more infor­ma­ti­on than necessa­ry, rele­vant docu­ments have been decla­red con­fi­den­ti­al. Many see the end of coal mining in Sveagru­va, espe­cial­ly in the new­ly built Lunck­ef­jel­let mine, with a tear in their eyes, as tra­di­ti­on, jobs and an indus­try that is important for Lon­gye­ar­by­en are about to get lost.

The end of coal mining in Spits­ber­gen does not come as a total sur­pri­se, ever­y­bo­dy knew it would come one not too far day. Other bran­ches are deve­lo­ped, with sci­ence, edu­ca­ti­on and tou­rism high up on the list. Nevertheless, Lon­gye­ar­by­en would not exist without coal mining and mining has been the main acti­vi­ty here for most of the histo­ry so far. Many peop­le have an emo­tio­nal con­nec­tion to mining and qui­te a few still have a real one, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, and losing coal mining will hurt them eco­no­mi­c­al­ly.

The government was not inte­res­ted in dis­cus­sing offers from inves­tors to con­ti­nue mining in Lunck­ef­jel­let, which was never inten­ded to last for more than may­be 7-8 years any­way. This does not add to the credi­bi­li­ty of the offi­cial rea­so­ning for clo­sing of the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine being sole­ly based on the dif­fi­cult eco­no­my.

Tunnel Lunckefjellet

Tun­nel of the coal mine in Lunck­ef­jel­let.

The coal mine in Lunck­ef­jel­let will be clo­sed soon. The ven­ti­la­ti­on sys­tem is cur­r­ent­ly being dis­mant­led, and once that is not ope­ra­ti­ve any­mo­re, only spe­cia­lists with self-con­tai­ned breat­hing appa­ra­tus could, theo­re­ti­cal­ly, still enter the mine – for a short peri­od, until the roof has beco­me mecha­ni­cal­ly unsta­ble. This will not take a lot of time. The Lunck­ef­jel­let mine will soon be as dif­fi­cult to reach as the far side of the moon.

Tunnel Lunckefjellet

Device to moni­tor rock move­ments in the roof of the mine.

Stabilising the roof, Lunckefjellet

Bolts to secu­re the roof are expo­sed to per­ma­nent ero­si­on and mecha­ni­cal stress. If they are not regu­lar­ly con­trol­led and ser­viced a coal mine soon beco­mes a very dan­ge­rous place.

Last week (5-7 Febru­a­ry 2019), geo­lo­gists from the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske and UNIS took liter­al­ly the last chan­ce to take sam­ples from the coal seam in Lunck­ef­jel­let. The coal geo­lo­gy in Spits­ber­gen is less well known than one might assu­me and than geo­lo­gists would want it to by: nobo­dy real­ly knows what the land­s­cape exact­ly loo­ked like whe­re the bogs grew that later for­med the coal.

Geologist Malte Jochmann, Lunckefjellet

Geo­lo­gist Mal­te Joch­mann at work in Lunck­ef­jel­let.

Of cour­se the­re were bogs, and salt­wa­ter from a near­by coast is likely to have been an important fac­tor, at least at cer­tain times. But which role did sweet­wa­ter play, lakes and rivers? Why are the­re sand­stone and con­glo­me­ra­te (gra­vel-bea­ring sand­stone) lay­ers and chan­nel fil­lings wit­hin and just on the edge of the coal seam? What did the sea level do at the near­by coast, what was the influ­ence of tec­to­nics? Were the­re hills or even moun­tains in the area, or was the sur­roun­ding reli­ef more or less level?

Geologische Aufnahme, Lunckefjellet

Geo­lo­gists Mal­te Joch­mann, Maria Jen­sen and Chris­to­pher Mar­shall at work in the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine, inspec­ting out­crops and poten­ti­al sam­pling sites.

A walk through the tun­nels of the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine pro­du­ces fasci­na­ting views into the geo­lo­gi­cal histo­ry, rai­sing ques­ti­ons and ans­we­ring some of them. The geo­lo­gists Mal­te Joch­mann (SNSK/UNIS), Maria Jen­sen (UNIS) and Chris­to­pher Mar­shall (Uni­ver­si­ty of Not­ting­ham) had just two days to docu­ment out­crops and to take sam­ples which might ans­wer some of the­se ques­ti­ons in fur­ther, detail­ed inves­ti­ga­ti­ons invol­ving advan­ced labo­ra­to­ry methods.

Eiskristalle, Lunckefjellet

Even insi­de a moun­tain you are con­stant­ly remin­ded that you are in the Arc­tic: the tem­pe­ra­tu­re is con­stant­ly below zero, and ice crys­tals are gro­wing on black coal sur­faces.

Now the Lunck­ef­jel­let mine is about to be clo­sed fore­ver. A lot of equip­ment has alrea­dy been remo­ved, soon the mine can not be ent­e­red any­mo­re. Also Sveagru­va will be sub­ject to a major clean-up, initi­al work has alrea­dy begun. The­re won’t be much left in the end. Some arte­facts which are con­si­de­red having his­to­ri­cal value will remain (ever­ything older than 1946 is gene­ral­ly pro­tec­ted in Spits­ber­gen, the thres­hold will pro­bab­ly be moved up to 1949 in Sveagru­va) and pos­si­b­ly a very few buil­dings for future use – rese­arch? Limi­ted tou­rism? Nobo­dy knows.

It will not be mining, that is for sure.

Sky of stars, Spitsbergen

Sky of stars on the way back from Sveagru­va to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Mul­ti­re­sistant bac­te­ria in Kongsfjord

Bac­te­ri­al resis­tance genes that have been found in soil sam­ples in Kongsfjord have recent­ly recei­ved con­si­derable media atten­ti­on. The­se genes are respon­si­ble for mul­tidrug resis­tance among bac­te­ria. Media and peop­le are asking how such genes could make it into the see­min­gly untouched natu­re of the Arc­tic. Some media see rea­son for com­pa­ri­son of the recent fin­dings with dooms­day sce­n­a­ri­os inclu­ding wars and cli­ma­te chan­ge.

Without any ques­ti­on, the uncon­trol­led use of anti­bio­tics in many coun­tries and the incre­a­sing occur­rence of mul­ti­re­sis­tent bac­te­ria are a very serious pro­blem.

Ny-Ålesund, Spitsbergen: multidrug resistant bacteria found

Genes that make bac­te­ria resis­tent against anti­bio­tics have been found in soil sam­ples taken near Ny-Åle­sund in Kongsfjord.

The news about the fin­dings have sur­pri­sed many, but for sci­en­tists, they are not as unex­pec­ted as many may belie­ve. This is at least the case with sam­ples that were taken near sett­le­ments. The sam­ples in ques­ti­on were taken near Ny-Åle­sund in Kongsfjord.

The natu­re of Spits­ber­gen is not as untouched as it is often descri­bed as, at least not in pla­ces like Kong­sjord. The sett­le­ment of Ny-Åle­sund was foun­ded 1916 as a coal mining place as all of today’s sett­le­ments in Spits­ber­gen. Ny-Åle­sund beca­me famous in the 1920s when several north pole exep­di­ti­ons were laun­ched the­re. After mining was aban­do­ned in 1963, Ny-Åle­sund deve­lo­ped into an inter­na­tio­nal rese­arch vil­la­ge. Today, sci­en­tists from many coun­tries come here every years to do fiel­dwork on all kinds of polar rese­arch. Many ships visit the har­bour of Ny-Åle­sund, inclu­ding rese­arch and sup­ply ves­sels and crui­se ships (smal­ler ones, cru­de oil is not allo­wed in the­se waters any­mo­re). Kongsfjord is under influ­ence of the Gulf Stream.

Accord­ing to the ori­gi­nal publi­ca­ti­on Under­stan­ding dri­vers of anti­bio­tic resis­tance genes in High Arc­tic soil eco­sys­tems (McCann, C.M., Envi­ron­ment Inter­na­tio­nal), all 8 sam­ples were taken clo­se to Ny-Åle­sund. The resis­tence gene NDM-1 (New Deh­li Metal­lo-β-lakta­ma­se) was for the first time iso­la­ted in 2008 from medi­cal sam­ples from a pati­ent who had pre­vious­ly been trea­ted in a hos­pi­tal in India. Bac­te­ria har­bou­ring this enzy­me are resis­tent against several groups of anti­bio­tics inclu­ding one group which is con­si­de­red last-resort anti­bio­tics.

Spitsbergen: multidrug resistant bacteria found

Kleb­si­el­la-pneu­mo­niae (bowel colo­ni­sing).
NDM-1 was found in this spe­ci­es in 2008.

Fur­ther inves­ti­ga­ti­ons show­ed that bac­te­ria with this resis­tence gene are widespread espe­cial­ly on the Indian sub-con­ti­nent, but they have also been found in coun­tries such as Japan, Chi­na, Aus­tra­lia and Cana­da as well as Euro­pean coun­tries inclu­ding the UK, Bel­gi­um, Fran­ce, Aus­tria, Ger­ma­ny, Nor­way and Swe­den. Humans can be colo­nis­ed by such bac­te­ria in their body, usual­ly in the intes­ti­nes, without necessa­ri­ly being sick.

Hence, it is not hard to ima­gi­ne that bac­te­ria are spread over lar­ge distan­ces and into remo­te parts of the Earth, whe­re­ver peop­le sett­le and tra­vel in num­bers. Trans­por­ta­ti­on mecha­nisms are mani­fold. Bac­te­ria that tra­vel in human intes­ti­nes can easi­ly enter the envi­ron­ment via sewa­ge water sys­tems. Ani­mals are bac­te­ri­al car­ri­ers, some­thing that is well-descri­bed in con­nec­tion with migra­ting birds. The­se acqui­re bac­te­ria for examp­le in the win­te­ring are­as and trans­port them to the bree­ding are­as. Kongsfjord is an important bree­ding area for several migra­ting bird spe­ci­es such as geese that win­ter in nort­hern cen­tral Euro­pe.

The aut­hors of the ori­gi­nal publi­ca­ti­on (see abo­ve) con­clu­de right­ly that the fin­dings of the resis­tence gene NDM-1 in Kongsfjord does not pose any thre­at on the health for peop­le in the area. But it shows that resis­tent bac­te­ria that may have ori­gi­na­ted in con­nec­tion with uncon­trol­led use of anti­bio­tics in any one of many coun­tries in the world may spread quick­ly around the glo­be. This in its­elf is not much of a sur­pri­se. No mat­ter how sad the dis­tri­bu­ti­on of resis­tence genes into remo­te (but not untouched) cor­ners of the glo­be as Spits­ber­gen is and how dra­ma­tic the con­se­quen­ces of infec­tions with such patho­gens can be for pati­ents – evi­dence for the exis­tence of such genes in soil sam­ples taken clo­se to a sett­le­ment in the Arc­tic does not incre­a­se any of the­se pro­blems, but shows that they do not respect bounda­ries or distan­ces. The dra­ma­tic head­lines of many recent media sup­ports and com­pa­ri­son to apo­ca­lyp­tic sce­n­a­ri­ons such as wars do not do the com­ple­xi­ty of the pro­blem any jus­ti­ce.

It would be inte­res­ting to make a stu­dy with sam­ples from are­as that are inde­ed most­ly untouched by humans, such as remo­te and rare­ly visi­ted parts of Nord­aus­t­land.

Text: Dr. Kris­ti­na Hoch­auf-Stan­ge (med. micro­bio­lo­gist)

Cli­ma­te Report Spits­ber­gen 2100: Con­cern and Many Ques­ti­ons

The infor­ma­ti­on that glo­bal war­ming will hard­ly affect and chan­ge any regi­on of the world as stron­gly as the Arc­tic is anything but new. Nevertheless, the audi­ence beca­me silent when the cli­ma­te report “Cli­ma­te in Sval­bard 2100” was pre­sen­ted last Mon­day at a well-atten­ded citi­zens’ mee­ting at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The result of the report: An average tem­pe­ra­tu­re incre­a­se by seven to ten degrees by the year 2100, signi­fi­cant­ly more and more inten­si­ve rain­fall, mel­ting gla­ciers, thawing per­ma­frost soils, the retre­at of sea ice and a shor­ter win­ter could pro­bab­ly radi­cal­ly chan­ge the ever­y­day life of humans and natu­re on Sval­bard wit­hin only two genera­ti­ons. Avalan­ches and muds­li­des would incre­a­se, the water in the rivers would rise and the height of the gla­ciers would fall by more than two metres per year.

What sounds like the gloo­my hor­ror sce­n­a­rio of a bad thril­ler is actual­ly a report brought up by the Nor­we­gi­an Cli­ma­te Ser­vice Cent­re for the Minis­try of the Envi­ron­ment, backed by well-respec­ted insti­tu­ti­ons from the fiel­ds of meteo­ro­lo­gy, ener­gy and polar rese­arch. In this report, the rese­ar­chers for­mu­la­te fore­casts in case that the goals of the Paris Cli­ma­te Con­fe­rence of 2015 are not going to be achie­ved.

The average tem­pe­ra­tu­re on Spits­ber­gen has alrea­dy risen by two degrees com­pa­red to pre-indus­tri­al times, and this is in fact noti­ce­ab­le. Reports of tem­pe­ra­tu­re records have been accu­mu­la­ting in recent years. The win­ter of 2012, for examp­le, is likely to be remem­be­red by most inha­bi­tants, when rain, floo­ds and gla­ze ice in Janu­a­ry remin­ded more of an average autumn day in nort­hern Ger­ma­ny rather than a polar win­ter in the nort­hern­most city in the world, around 1000 kilo­me­tres from the North Pole. Last year, too, the­re were plus degrees and rain in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in Janu­a­ry, and sin­ce 2010 the­re has been no win­ter with tem­pe­ra­tures below the usu­al aver­a­ges.

The para­dox is that Sval­bard its­elf makes a con­si­derable con­tri­bu­ti­on to this deve­lo­p­ment. The sett­le­ments are sup­plied with ener­gy by coal power, the ener­gy source that blows the most CO2 into the atmo­s­phe­re. Bes­i­des coal mining, tou­rism is the most important employ­er on Spits­ber­gen. But tou­rists who tra­vel to Spits­ber­gen pri­ma­ri­ly use the two most green­house gas-inten­si­ve means of trans­port, air tra­vel and crui­se ships. And also the locals use most­ly air­planes and snow­mo­bi­les or cars powe­red by com­bus­ti­on engi­nes.

At the mee­ting, pos­si­ble actions that Sval­bard could take to help achie­ve Norway’s cli­ma­te goals and limit glo­bal war­ming were dis­cus­sed rather half-hear­ted­ly. Redu­ce the num­ber of flights to and from Spits­ber­gen? Switch to rene­wa­ble ener­gy pro­duc­tion? Neit­her the head of admi­nis­tra­ti­on Hege Walør, nor Sys­sel­man­nen Kjers­tin Askholt had ans­wers to the­se ques­ti­ons.

Howe­ver Com­mu­ni­ty Coun­cil Arild Olsen came up with the radi­cal idea to make Lon­gye­ar­by­en Norway’s first zero-emis­si­on com­mu­ni­ty.
Whe­ther this is rea­listic remains to be seen. Hard­ly anyo­ne denies, howe­ver, that adap­t­ati­on to cli­ma­te chan­ge is urgent­ly nee­ded, will cost a lot of money and could pos­si­b­ly lead to chan­ges in legis­la­ti­on.

In Decem­ber 2015, tem­pe­ra­tures of up to nine degrees plus again cau­sed thaw and floo­ding. This river in Bol­terda­len is nor­mal­ly dry and fro­zen in win­ter.

f8b_Soleietoppen_24Aug13_023

Sources: Sval­bard­pos­ten, Cli­ma­te Report: “Cli­ma­te in Sval­bard 2100”

A day in Spits­ber­gen: polar dogs and polar jazz

The expe­ri­en­ces to be made here in Spits­ber­gen in one day can be very rich in con­trast: a litt­le ski tour in Advent­da­len with com­pa­ny on four legs brings exer­cise, fresh air and impres­si­ons of light and land­s­cape – pure plea­su­re. For all invol­ved, with two and for legs.

With ski and dogs Adventdalen

With ski and dogs Advent­da­len.

A few hours later you may find yourself in an old hall which belongs to mine 3. No coal is mined in mine 3 any­mo­re, after years of silence it is now regu­lar­ly used as a mining muse­um and occa­sio­nal­ly for events. Today, the­re is one of the last con­certs of this year’s Polar­jazz fes­ti­val going on here. An expe­ri­men­tal Spits­ber­gen-Jazz-ope­ra – does that make sen­se? 🙂 The tit­le is “Spor” (tracks) and it com­bi­nes sto­ries, impres­si­ons and emo­ti­ons from the histo­ry and natu­re, hun­ting and mining in Spits­ber­gen. All of that is put into music and sounds by a trio, in major parts with the addi­tio­nal voal powers of the Store Nor­ske Manns­kor, resul­ting in sounds that vary from spheric/experimental through jazzy to groo­vy.

Polarjazz with 'Spor' in Mine 3

Polar­jazz 2019: ‘Spor’ in Mine 3.

The atmo­s­phe­re of the event was cer­tain­ly even incre­a­sed by the loca­ti­on.

Ban on moto­ri­sed traf­fic on fjord ice under dis­cus­sion

The solid ice in Spitsbergen’s fjord is an important habi­tat for wild­life as well as a popu­lar desti­na­ti­on for both locals and tou­rists – if it is solid enough. This has not always been the case any­mo­re in recent years. Cli­ma­te chan­ge is hap­pe­ning.

This is whe­re Rin­ged seals give birth to their pups and Polar bears go hun­ting.

In ear­lier times, humans went hun­ting on fjord ice, today they enjoy the stun­ning sce­ne­ry and the wild­life that may be pre­sent. In the past – many, many years ago – the­re was a hand­ful of trap­pers, explo­rers and a few locals who went out for a trip on the ice in the remo­te, lone­so­me fjords. Becau­se of some duty or to enjoy a beau­ti­ful day in the arc­tic.

Habitat for seals and polar bears: fjord ice

Fjord ice: important habi­tat for seals and Polar bears.

Today, some of the fjords are not so remo­te and lone­so­me any­mo­re. Tou­rists have dis­co­ve­r­ed the Arc­tic as a fasci­na­ting desti­na­ti­on deca­des ago, and snow mobi­les make it much easier to cover grea­ter distan­ces. The fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord and on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen has been a very popu­lar area to visit for both locals and tou­rists, most­ly com­ing with orga­nis­ed groups, for many years.

This might chan­ge radi­cal­ly in the future. Alrea­dy in 2018 the fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord, Bill­efjord and Rin­ders­buk­ta (near Sveagru­va) was clo­sed in April until the end of sea­son on a rather short noti­ce for moto­ri­sed traf­fic. The same mea­su­re is now dis­cus­sed well in advan­ced. Nobo­dy knows cur­r­ent­ly if the fjord ice will be solid enough in a few weeks from now when the sea­son real­ly starts.

In con­trast to last year’s traf­fic ban, which was impo­sed on a rela­tively short noti­ce, a public hea­ring is now initia­ted by the Sys­sel­man­nen. The idea is to give tho­se who are con­cer­ned a chan­ce to have their word and to make sure ever­y­bo­dy is awa­re of the deve­lo­p­ment. The lat­ter may actual­ly be the more important fac­tor: the Sys­sel­man­nen has alrea­dy made it clear that traf­fic bans can be impo­sed, if requi­red for any rea­son, at any time without any chan­ges of the legal frame­work.

destination fjord ice

Popu­lar desti­na­ti­on for both locals and tou­rists: Fjord ice.

A lively deba­te about this mea­su­re is now to be expec­ted. Such a mea­su­re would inde­ed be expe­ri­en­ced as drastic by tho­se who have been acti­ve in tou­rism and by many locals. On the other hand, the­re have been occa­si­ons whe­re wild­life was dis­tur­bed by moto­ri­sed traf­fic, and arc­tic tou­rism is a natu­ral tar­get for inter­na­tio­nal envi­ron­men­ta­lists.

Some requi­re more far-reaching rights for locals than for tou­rists, a princip­le that is alrea­dy used in exis­ting regu­la­ti­ons for snow mobi­le traf­fic out in the field in Spits­ber­gen. If this will app­ly in any future chan­ges of legis­la­ti­on is cur­r­ent­ly unclear.

Under dis­cus­sion are the sea­so­nal fjord ice are­as in Tem­pel­fjord, Bill­efjord, Rin­ders­buk­ta and on the east coast bet­ween Mohn­buk­ta and Negri­breen. Cros­sings of the fjord ice in the­se are­as may, at least part­ly, still be per­mit­ted on the shor­test pos­si­ble way in order to enab­le groups to fol­low fre­quent­ly used rou­tes. This con­cerns main­ly the tra­di­tio­nal rou­te bet­ween Lon­gye­ar­by­en and Pyra­mi­den. But dri­ving else­whe­re on the fjord ice would not be pos­si­ble any­mo­re.

The­re is, so far, only men­ti­on of a ban on moto­ri­sed traf­fic (snow mobi­les). Ski­ing and dog sled­ging are not con­cer­ned.

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