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Yearly Archives: 2019 − News & Stories

Spits­ber­gen web­site in Nor­we­gi­an

This Spits­ber­gen web­site is now also online in Nor­we­gi­an under the domain name www.spitsbergen-svalbard.no.

It is by far the lar­gest and most com­pre­hen­si­ve web­site dedi­ca­ted exclu­si­ve­ly to Spits­ber­gen – or rather: to Sval­bard, becau­se it covers the who­le archi­pe­la­go inclu­ding the most remo­te cor­ners. That is reflec­ted by a lar­ge num­ber of sub-sites cove­ring all aspects of the geo­gra­phy, wild­life, and flo­ra as well as the vast and still gro­wing coll­ec­tion of polar pan­ora­mas whe­re you can vir­tual­ly tra­vel all over Sval­bard. News of inter­na­tio­nal inte­rest are included as well as a tra­vel blog that covers all sea­sons and some insights into life in Lon­gye­ar­by­en … it’s all in the­re, in one web­site, with about 800 sub-pages and more than 1100 blog ent­ries (per lan­guage!). I star­ted working on the ori­gi­nal Ger­man web­site www.spitzbergen.de in 2006 and the Eng­lish ver­si­on www.spitsbergen-svalbard.com fol­lo­wed soon.

Spitzbergen.de now also in Norwegian

This Spits­ber­gen web­site is now also online in Nor­we­gi­an.

After Sval­bard – Nor­ge nær­mest Nord­po­len came out, it soon beca­me clear that the web­site had to go the same way. This hap­pend now after seve­ral months of inten­se work – now www.spitsbergen-svalbard.no is online. The­re are some Eng­lish pages still hid­den in the­re in a few places, their trans­la­ti­on is still going on. Lucky if you find one 🙂

Big thanks to all who have hel­ped to make this hap­pen! This includes

Ida Eli­sa­beth Aar­vaag
Ceci­lie Berg­heim
Marie Brekkhus
Mari Buck
Jan­ni­cke Høy­em
Jes­per Kirk­hus
Tina Otten­heym
Aina Rog­stad
Eli­sa­beth Scho­ch
Vero­ni­ka Sund
Ida Eli­sa­beth Veld­man
Ivar Våge

Tusen takk skal dere ha!

So for all Nor­we­gi­an-spea­king visi­tors to this web­site: enjoy rea­ding and tra­vel­ling Spits­ber­gen online in Nor­we­gi­an on www.spitsbergen-svalbard.no!

Tun­dra swan near Lon­gye­ar­by­en

The swan song of the win­ter? Just in time for the “orni­tho­lo­gi­cal spring”, a rare tun­dra swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii) show­ed up near Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Swans are not on the list of bree­ding birds in Spits­ber­gen, they come just occa­sio­nal­ly as vagrants.

Tundra swan in Adventdalen

Tun­dra swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii) in Advent­da­len.

The­re are just five sightin­gs of tun­dra swans regis­tered on artsobservasjoner.no, a web­site to regis­ter spe­ci­es sightin­gs in Nor­way. The oldest one of the­se obser­va­tions is from 1987.

Tundra swan with pink-footed geese

Tun­dra swan with pink-foo­ted geese.

The­re are also sightin­gs of the who­o­per swan (Cyg­nus cyg­nus) in Spits­ber­gen, 24 sin­ce 1992, inclu­ding 7 obser­va­tions from Bear Island (Bjørnøya). And regar­ding the tun­dra swan, things can actual­ly be a bit con­fu­sing: accor­ding to Wiki­pe­dia, “The two taxa within it are usual­ly regard­ed as con­spe­ci­fic, but are also some­ti­mes … split into two spe­ci­es: Bewick’s swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii) of the Palae­arc­tic and the whist­ling swan (C. colum­bia­nus) pro­per of the Nearc­tic.”

Tundra swan with pink-footed geese

Tun­dra swan with pink-foo­ted geese.

But in this case, local bird enthu­si­asts seem to have sett­led on a tun­dra swan (Cyg­nus bewi­ckii). The bird seems curr­ent­ly quite hap­py among­st seve­ral dozens of pink-foo­ted geese who came up during the last days after their spring migra­ti­on.

Tundra swan with pink-footed geese

Tun­dra swan with pink-foo­ted geese.

The­se pho­tos were taken wit­hout dis­tur­ban­ce with a focal length of 1200 mm and a high reso­lu­ti­on came­ra.

Also the­se repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of the local sub­spe­ci­es of reinde­er seem to be hap­py that the­re are more and more patches of tun­dra coming through the snow now. The snow mobi­les are stored away for this sea­son, beast and man are loo­king for­ward to the sum­mer now!


Reinde­er on ear­ly snow-free tun­dra are­as.


The win­ter sea­son is now, in ear­ly May or actual­ly soon mid May, about to come to an end, but we are curr­ent­ly having beau­tiful days, after an April that was part­ly quite, well, mixed. Now we having tem­pe­ra­tures below zero again – but not much, it is not too cold – and it is nice and sun­ny at times. Good reasons to get out the­re and enjoy the ama­zing ice- and snow land­scape, once again in win­ter mode.

Reindeer and ptarmigan

Spring is not far away any­mo­re in Spits­ber­gen: Ptar­mi­gan and reinde­er are hap­py about spots of snow-free tun­dra.

We move rather effi­ci­ent­ly trough the val­leys to the east. Advent­da­len, Eskerd­a­len and Sas­send­a­len, one by one, like perls on a neck­lace. We lea­ve them quick­ly behind, as we want to tra­vel far this time.

At Rabot­breen we enter the wide gla­cier land­scapes of east Spits­ber­gen. The huge morai­ne of Rabot­breen also shows signs of the approa­ching spring, ici­c­les are han­ging in small ice holes and caves. The sun is strong enough to make some ice melt even when tem­pe­ra­tures are actual­ly still below the free­zing point.

Ice cave Rabotbreen

Litt­le ice cave in the morai­ne of Rabot­breen.

Iciclces in ice cave, Rabotbreen

Ici­c­les in an ice hole at Rabot­breen.

We lea­ve also this inte­res­t­ing landc­sape quick­ly behind us, and soon we turn north, devia­ting from the popu­lar and bel­oved rou­te across Nord­manns­fon­na towards Mohn­buk­ta on the east coast. This time, we want to go fur­ther north.


Hea­ding north across Fim­bu­li­sen.

All we have around us is snow, ice and moun­ta­ins. The land­scape appears infi­ni­te­ly wide. Coas­tal and tun­dra land­scapes have dis­ap­peared far behind us. Ins­tead, the­re is one gla­cier after the other, one small ice cap neigh­bou­ring the next one. Well, they are not exact­ly small. Of cour­se they can’t com­pe­te with tho­se in Green­land and even Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, but still, we are tal­king hundreds of squa­re kilo­me­t­res. Fim­bu­li­sen, Filch­ner­fon­na, Lomo­no­sov­fon­na … the lat­ter one is the source to the migh­ty gla­ciers Nor­dens­ki­öld­breen and Mit­tag-Leff­ler­breen. Lomo­no­sov­fon­na is 600 squa­re kilo­me­t­res lar­ge!


Infi­ni­te spaces: the ice cap Lomo­no­sov­fon­na.

Our desti­na­ti­on: New­ton­top­pen. This is Spitsbergen’s hig­hest moun­tain, 1713 met­res high. Or to be clear: the hig­hest moun­tain of Sval­bard, the who­le archi­pe­la­go. 1713 met­res are, of cour­se, not very impres­si­ve, com­pared to the lar­ge moun­tain ran­ges of this world. But it is far away … get­ting the­re is the first thing, and even on a love­ly spring day like this, it is pret­ty cold.


New­ton­top­pen comes into our view.

For me, it is the second tour to New­ton­top­pen. The first time was in 2010. Back then, the two of us used ski, pulk and tent, some­thing that took us almost 4 weeks through this vast land­scape. Today, we are fas­ter.


New­ton­top­pen with a deco­ra­ti­ve cloud.

Back then, we were a bit more lucky with the wea­ther on New­ton­top­pen: today, the top remains in a thin cloud, alt­hough it is lar­ge­ly fine and clear other­wi­se.

New­ton­top­pen is not a dif­fi­cult moun­tain to ascend, it is “only” far away – and cold.

Newtontoppen peak

The top of New­ton­top­pen with clouds and stor­my wind.

The wind on top of New­ton­top­pen is strong and it is ice cold, near -20 degrees of cen­ti­gra­de – plus wind­chill. So it is not exact­ly pic­nic time up here, but we enjoy being here, hig­her than any­whe­re else on Spits­ber­gen, for some moments.

And the view is clea­ring up just a few met­res fur­ther down. The­re is a should­er in about 1500 met­res whe­re the gra­ni­te is coming to the sur­face. From here, we have got an impres­si­ve view over the sur­roun­ding moun­ta­ins and ice fields.

View from Newtontoppen

View from New­ton­top­pen to the south.

The way back home is a long one … more than 300 kilo­me­t­res in total, from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to New­ton­top­pen and back.

Bank rob­be­ry in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: ver­dict

Spitsbergen’s first bank rob­be­ry took place in Lon­gye­ar­by­en on 21 Decem­ber 2018. The offen­der was a 29 years old Rus­si­an citi­zen who had come to Lon­gye­ar­by­en a few days befo­re. He threa­ten­ed the bank employees with a rif­le and forced them to hand out 70,000 Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner (ca. 7,000 Euro) with the words “This is not a joke. This is a rob­be­ry”.

The man was soon arres­ted by the poli­ce and taken into pre-tri­al cus­t­ody in Trom­sø. Now the court, Nord-Troms tin­g­rett, sen­ten­ced him to 14 months pri­son, as NRK repor­ted. In addi­ti­on, he has to pay NOK 20,000.00 to each of the 3 bank employees whom he had threa­ten­ed during the rob­be­ry.

Bank robbery in Longyearbyen

Bank rob­be­ry in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: offen­der sen­ten­ced.

Serious psy­cho­lo­gi­cal pro­blems are said to have play­ed an important role. The man said that he had initi­al­ly plan­ned to com­mit sui­ci­de in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, but then deci­ded to raid the bank in order to be arres­ted. It is also men­tio­ned that he wan­ted to avo­id having to return back to Rus­sia.

The rif­le that he had used during the bank rob­be­ry was loa­ded with sharp ammu­ni­ti­on and the offen­der poin­ted it towards the bank employees. It was a bolt-action Mau­ser rif­le, a very com­mon type of ren­tal wea­pon in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. After the rob­be­ry, the man went back to the ren­tal shop with the rif­le still loa­ded and retur­ned the wea­pon. Then he went back to the bank to return the money, but did not suc­ceed. Ins­tead, he was soon arres­ted by the poli­ce. He did not offer reis­tance.

The sen­tence is below the cla­im of the public pro­se­cu­ter, but hig­her than the defence lawy­er had plea­ded for. Revi­si­on is still pos­si­ble.

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.

Sys­sel­man­nen gives Store Nor­ske per­mis­si­on to break ice in Van Mijenfjord

Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK), owner of the for­mer coal mining sett­le­ment of Sveagru­va, has got per­mis­si­on from the Sys­sel­man­nen to break the fjord ice in Van Mijenfjord to the har­bour of Svea.

Van Mijenfjord is shel­te­red from the open sea by the island of Akseløya, which is almost blo­cking the ent­rance. Hence, the fjord is is sett­ling ear­lier and get­ting more exten­si­ve the­re than in any other fjord on the west coast of Spits­ber­gen. The fjord ice in Van Mijenfjord is an important habi­tat which is not available any­mo­re else­whe­re as wide­ly as ear­lier, due to the warm­ing cli­ma­te. Rin­ged seals need fjord ice in spring to rest and to give birth and polar bears fre­quent the ice to hunt.

Ice chart Van Mijenfjord, Sveagruva

Ice chart: Van Mijenfjord is the only fjord in the regi­on with a lar­ge area of solid ice. The fjord ice will be bro­ken all the way to Sveagru­va (red dot).
Chart © Nor­we­gi­an meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te (dot added).

Usual­ly, the aut­ho­ri­ties con­sider the fjord ice envi­ron­men­tal­ly very important and will not give per­mis­si­on for ice brea­king. Even non-des­truc­ti­ve traf­fic with snow mobi­les is now rest­ric­ted: snow mobi­les are not allo­wed any­mo­re on lar­ge parts of the fjord ice in Tem­pel­fjord, to avo­id dis­tur­ban­ce of wild­life which only occur in cases of reck­less beha­viour. Such traf­fic bans were also con­side­red for Rin­ders­buk­ta which is part of Van Mijenfjord, but not (yet) imple­men­ted.

Other rules seem to app­ly for brea­king the ice, or at least the same rules are given a dif­fe­rent inter­pre­ta­ti­on. The Sys­sel­man­nen empha­si­zes in a press release that traf­fic in Spits­ber­gen is sup­po­sed to hap­pen in a way that does not harm the envi­ron­ment or dis­turbs ani­mals or peo­p­le unneces­s­a­ri­ly. But in this case, the eco­no­mic­al inte­rests of Store Nor­ske were given more weight than the pro­tec­tion of the wild­life that needs the ice in times when it has beco­me rare in Spits­ber­gen.

The back­ground: Sveagru­va is run­ning out of die­sel. Stocks were sup­po­sed to last until sum­mer 2019, but con­sump­ti­on during the win­ter was hig­her than expec­ted. Die­sel is not just used for vehic­les, but also to run the power plant in Svea, which is sup­p­ly­ing the sett­le­ment with elec­tri­ci­ty and warmth. The cur­rent stock would now last “pro­ba­b­ly until May, appro­xi­m­ate­ly”, accor­ding to the Sysselmannen’s press release. And not until the sum­mer, when the fjord ice would be gone any­way.

Wit­hout die­sel for the power sta­ti­on, Svea would have to be evacua­ted. The con­se­quence would not only be a tem­po­ra­ry stop of the clean-up that has recent­ly begun, but pos­si­bly also dama­ge to the infra­struc­tu­re. This would invol­ve serious eco­no­mic­al con­se­quen­ces for Store Nor­ske. This is the reason why the com­pa­ny has got per­mis­si­on to break the ice and take a ship to Kapp Ams­ter­dam, the har­bour of Sveagru­va. Tech­ni­cal­ly, an over­land trans­port from Lon­gye­ar­by­en would be pos­si­ble, but this would invol­ve appro­xi­m­ate­ly 60 tours. The total strain on the envi­ron­ment and the risk of pol­lu­ti­on is con­side­red hig­her and hence trans­port by ship was given prio­ri­ty.

In ear­lier times, when Sveagru­va was still an acti­ve mining sett­le­ment, it was not unu­su­al to break the ice in spring to ship coal. But times are dif­fe­rent now. No coal is mined any­mo­re in Sveagru­va, and the­re is much less ice in the other fjords in Spits­ber­gen and this ice may not even be used for snow mobi­le traf­fic in cer­tain fjords, oppo­sed to the wis­hes and eco­no­mic­al inte­rests of many. It is not sur­pri­sing that the per­mis­si­on to break more than 30 kilo­me­t­res of solid fjord is is met with public cri­ti­cism.

The wea­ther in the days after brea­king the ice will be important: if it remains cold and calm for a while, the fjord will quick­ly free­ze again. But a storm might break up lar­ge are­as of wea­k­en­ed ice.

Nor­t­hern light …

The days are get­ting lon­ger, and time is just fly­ing! Now we have alre­a­dy had this year’s spring equin­ox. The equa­to­ri­al pla­ne of the Earth pas­sed through the cent­re of the sun on Wed­nes­day (20 March) at 21.58 hours (UT = uni­ver­sal time = GMT). From now on, the days are lon­ger again than the nights on the nor­t­hern hemi­sphe­re, and the fur­ther north you are, the more light and the less dark­ness.

This means that the cur­rent nor­t­hern light sea­son in Spits­ber­gen is now slow­ly coming to an end. On Satur­day (16 March) we had ano­ther ama­zing celes­ti­al per­for­mance. A stun­ning auro­ra borea­lis, inten­se, vibrant, fast.

Northern light near Longyearbyen

Auroa bora­lis abo­ve Ope­raf­jel­let.
The nor­t­hern light sea­son in Spits­ber­gen is now coming to an end.

This nor­t­hern light was defi­ni­te­ly abo­ve avera­ge! To cap­tu­re the very fast move­ment, I used shut­ter times of up (or, rather, down) to 0.3 seconds, and even that was pro­ba­b­ly too slow to cap­tu­re the fili­gra­ne, but very lively struc­tures (click here to read more about nor­t­hern lights and how to pho­to­graph them).

Aureole (or dome) of northern light above Adventdalen

Aureo­le (or dome) of nor­t­hern light abo­ve Advent­da­len.

The last days were full, the­re was just no time to wri­te new blog ent­ries … the­re will be more soon.

Sol­fest: Sola er til­ba­ke – the sun is back!

Sola e’ til­ba­ke! That was the mot­to of the day last Fri­day (seve­ral day ago alre­a­dy, time is run­ning!), which was THE big day: sol­fest – sun fest – in Lon­gye­ar­by­en!

As men­tio­ned, the sun has actual­ly retur­ned to the lower part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, near Advent­fjord, seve­ral days befo­re …

Sun, Longyearbyen

Sun in lower Lon­gye­ar­by­en, Fri­day (8.3.) mor­ning.

… but as tho­se parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en did not exist back then, the sol­fest is tra­di­tio­nal­ly and duly cele­bra­ted on 08 March, short­ly after 12.30 hours, as the sun returns to the stairs of the old hos­pi­tal. This old hos­pi­tal buil­ding is long gone, but the stairs from the back door are still the­re. Actual­ly, the stairs are said to be a recon­s­truc­tion so peo­p­le know whe­re to cele­bra­te, but any­way … they are next to the kin­der­gar­ten clo­se to the Sval­bard church. So that is whe­re ever­y­bo­dy meets on sol­fest-day at 12.30 hours. Hundreds of peo­p­le gather to wel­co­me and cele­bra­te the sun! Espe­ci­al­ly the child­ren, dres­sed as litt­le suns, real­ly sweet. Ever­y­bo­dy is sin­ging and chee­ring the sun up, who is doing her best to climb abo­ve the moun­tain: Sol! Sol! Komm igjen! Sola er min bes­te venn! – Sun! Sun! Come on! The sun is my best fri­end! The rhy­me does not real­ly work in Eng­lish, well.

Sunrise during the solfest, Longyearbyen

Sun­ri­se abo­ve Lars Hier­taf­jel­let during the sol­fest in Lon­gye­ar­by­en,
Fri­day noon (8.3.).

And final­ly, here she is! The sun, bright as ever, clim­bs over the rim of Lars Hier­ta­fel­let, behind Lars­breen, and the­re is gre­at chee­ring and jubi­la­ti­on. It is real­ly an emo­tio­nal moment! The­re has not been any direct sun­light in Lon­gye­ar­by­en during 5 months, due to the moun­ta­ins around the sett­le­ment.

Sun, Gipshuken

Sun­ny view towards Gips­hu­ken and Bil­lefjord.

Yes, the sun is back. It is gre­at to be out­side, to enjoy the light-floo­ded land­scape and to feel the sun on the skin.

Sun, Nordenskiöld Land

Sun over Nor­dens­ki­öld Land.

But, it is and remains icy cold, the ther­mo­me­ter is rather con­stant­ly some­whe­re near minus 20 degrees cen­ti­gra­de. The­re is fresh ice near the shore of Advent­fjord, but a solid ice cover just does not want to form in spi­te of the cold. The warm water sup­p­ly coming with the West Spits­ber­gen Cur­rent (“Gulf Stream”) is inex­haus­ti­ble, I guess. Unfort­u­na­te­ly. A fro­zen Advent­fjord, that would be gre­at. We have not had that for quite a few years.

Ice, Adventfjord

Fresh ice forming near the shore of Advent­fjord, in Hior­th­hamn.

Sas­send­a­len and Tem­pel­fjord

The win­ter keeps show­ing off with cold, sta­ble wea­ther and the sun is clim­bing a tiny litt­le bit hig­her every day. We make use of such grand con­di­ti­ons as often as pos­si­ble to enjoy the out­doors in this ama­zing coun­try, to which the light is now retur­ning with might.



Here, we are in Sas­send­a­len. It is big and wide, one of Spitsbergen’s lar­gest val­leys. At this time of year, it is one of the most fre­quent­ly used snow mobi­le rou­tes, to the east coast or to Tem­pel­fjord. But it is so big that it is easy to find a silent cor­ner wit­hout traf­fic.


Hiking in Sas­send­a­len.

We park our snow mobi­les in such a silent cor­ner and start hiking up a gent­le, but end­less slo­pe. You could hike a who­le, long day here wit­hout real­ly get­ting some­whe­re, but get­ting some­whe­re is not the point here. Just being here is the point. It seems a bit other­world­ly. The light, the land­scape … the wind has blown the snow away from many sur­faces. The coun­try appears very bar­ren. Nevert­hel­ess, many reinde­er roam here, try­ing to find some food.


Reinde­er in polar-desert-like land­scape, loo­king for food.

Later, we dri­ve north, towards Tem­pel­fjord. We have been here some weeks ago alre­a­dy. Today, the land­scape shi­nes in com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent light, the inten­si­ty of which is impos­si­ble to grasp with a few words unless you are Shea­k­e­speare.

Fjordnibba, Tempelfjord

View from the moun­tain Fjord­nib­ba into Tem­pel­fjord.

Even under “nor­mal” light con­di­ti­ons, the view from the litt­le moun­tain Fjord­nib­ba over Sas­senfjord and Tem­pel­fjord is stun­nin­gly beau­tiful. Whoe­ver crea­ted this land­scape must have been in excel­lent mood that day. Ama­zing.

And then in this light …

Tunabreen, Tempelfjord

Gla­cier front of Tunab­reen in Tem­pel­fjord in sun­set light.


You just can’t spend enough time in such places! I just have to return as often as I can.

And the timing is just per­fect right now. It is just befo­re 4 p.m., the sun is about to dis­ap­pear behind the moun­ta­ins, cas­ting the last direct light of day in fire-red colour over moun­ta­ins, fjords and gla­ciers.

Sunset, Tempelfjord

Sun­set over Sas­senfjord and Nor­dens­ki­öld Land.

Inner Tem­pel­fjord is lar­ge­ly fro­zen solid – only at Fred­heim, the ice has bro­ken up recent­ly – and now the­re is a fresh ice cover forming also fur­ther out in Sas­senfjord. Let’s see how far far the deve­lo­p­ment goes this sea­son. Here, we have the view towards Dia­ba­sod­den in outer Sas­senfjord.

View from Fjordnibba to Sassenfjord and Diabasodden

View from Fjord­nib­ba to Sas­senfjord and Dia­ba­sod­den.

A final litt­le excur­si­on takes us from the moun­tain down to sea level at Fred­heim. It is icy cold today, air tem­pe­ra­tures are around -25 degrees cen­ti­gra­de. The cold beco­mes visi­ble in the colours, which ran­ge from pink through pur­ple to blue. Colours of frost and ice.

Eis am Ufer, Tempelfjord

Ice on the shore in Tem­pel­fjord at Fred­heim.

Final­ly, a last view into Tem­pel­fjord. As I said, colours of the cold! A pic­tu­re can give you an idea of the colours – just an idea, but at least – but it does not deli­ver the sounds. The silence is one thing, the sound of the ice yet ano­ther. The ice is con­stant­ly working on the shore, being moved by the tides and pos­si­bly by some waves fur­ther out, in open water. The ice is groa­ning and moa­ning, squea­king and sque­al­ing. Not load, but con­stant­ly.

Eis am Ufer, Tempelfjord

Ice on the shore of Tem­pel­fjord at Fred­heim.

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.

Sun fes­ti­val in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Spits­ber­gen was under full con­trol of the polar night just a few weeks ago, but now the light is retur­ning with full force. The sun is get­ting hig­her up on the sky every day, and around mid-day, the migh­ty Hiorth­fjel­let is alre­a­dy ful­ly expo­sed to the sun.

The return of the sun is cele­bra­ted for one week in Lon­gye­ar­by­en with the tra­di­tio­nal “Sol­fest­u­ke” (sun fes­ti­val week) with a ran­ge of events. The first one was a fire­work on the night sky 🙂

Northern light Adventdalen

Nor­t­hern light in Advent­da­len.

The sun, hers­elf obvious­ly not visi­ble, had cle­ar­ly in pret­ty good mood, let­ting off steam towards us out here in space. The who­le spec­ta­cle las­ted for a while, so we could chan­ge poso­ti­on and per­spec­ti­ve.

Northern light above Sarkofagen, Longyearbyen

Nor­t­hern light abo­ve Sar­ko­fa­gen south of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The “Spits­ber­gen­re­vye” is the tra­di­tio­nal ope­ner of the Sol­fest­u­ke. The revye brings events and peo­p­le on the sce­ne of old Huset in Lon­gye­ar­by­en which have moved peo­p­le here in one or ano­ther way in the year that has pas­sed. Sati­re, humour and music are defi­ni­te­ly part of the event. Good fun, espe­ci­al­ly if you under­stand Nor­we­gi­an with a nor­t­hern colou­ra­ti­on and you have done your home­work and fol­lo­wed Sval­bard­pos­ten (or this blog!).

Spitsbergenrevye in Huset, Sun festival week, Longyearbyen

Spits­ber­gen­re­vye in Huset. Sun fes­ti­val week, Lon­gye­ar­by­en.
Polar bears and coal mining are always part of the show.

Ano­ther tra­di­tio­nal part of the Sun fes­ti­val week is a church ser­vice – out­doors at Tel­el­in­ken on the slo­pe of Hiorth­fjel­let, whe­re you see the sun ear­lier than in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. Wea­ther per­mit­ting, that is. And it was clear and sun­ny! But cold … below -20 degrees cen­ti­gra­de, and win­dy. Cold.

Sun festival week Longyearbyen: Church service at Telelinken

Open air church ser­vice at Tel­el­in­ken (I). Sun fes­ti­val week, Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Sun festival week Longyearbyen: Church service at Telelinken

Open air church ser­vice at Tel­el­in­ken (I). Sun fes­ti­val week, Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

In Lon­gye­ar­by­en, the sun will shi­ne “offi­ci­al­ly” again on 08 March. Prac­ti­cal­ly, it is actual­ly a bit ear­lier as you can see on the next pho­to.

Svalbard Snøskuterutleie in the sun

Sval­bard Snøs­ku­te­rut­leie in the sun – on 05 March.

The sun was shi­ning on Sval­bard Snøs­ku­te­rut­leie, lower­most in Lon­gye­ar­by­en near Advent­fjord and Advent­da­len, on Tues­day, 05 March!

Nevert­hel­ess, 08 March is the cor­rect date for historical/traditional reasons (unless it is a leap year). The lower­most part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re the sun is shi­ning a few days ear­lier, did not exist back then. As soon as the sun is seen from in Skjæringa, the oldest part of Lon­gye­ar­by­en whe­re among­st others Sval­bard Kir­ke (the church) is loca­ted, it is time to cele­bra­te – that will be on Fri­day!


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