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Yearly Archives: 2019 − News

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.


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

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.

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.


News-Listing live generated at 2021/December/05 at 01:04:14 Uhr (GMT+1)