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Daily Archives: 12. June 2020 − News & Stories


Government re-opens Spits­ber­gen for crui­se ships

Re-ope­ning Spits­ber­gen for land-based tou­rism is a pro­cess that has alrea­dy begun. Sin­ce 01 June, visi­tors from main­land Nor­way can tra­vel to Spits­ber­gen again, other Scan­di­na­vi­an coun­tries (except Swe­den) will fol­low soon, on 15 June.

At the same time it has, so far, been men­tio­ned that “coas­tal crui­ses” over several days would take some more time becau­se of their spe­ci­fic chal­len­ges. First steps have now been taken to re-open for this kind of tra­vel­ling: accord­ing to a press release by the Nor­we­gi­an minis­try of jus­ti­ce, which is respon­si­ble for Spits­ber­gen, ships may start crui­sing Spits­ber­gen again now under several con­di­ti­ons. Only ships with a maxi­mum capa­ci­ty of 500 pas­sen­gers are per­mit­ted and they may only use 50 % of their capa­ci­ty. The theo­re­ti­cal maxi­mum num­ber of pas­sen­gers on board is thus limi­ted to 250. Only pas­sen­gers from coun­tries who­se inha­bi­tants can tra­vel free­ly to Nor­way inclu­ding Spits­ber­gen are allo­wed: this is cur­r­ent­ly main­land Nor­way and soon also Den­mark, Fin­land and Ice­land.

Hurtigruten Svalbard

“Coas­tal crui­ses” in Spits­ber­gen: now pos­si­ble again – under cer­tain con­di­ti­ons.

As all tour ope­ra­tors who are run­ning land-based tou­rism, a hygie­ne and health safe­ty plan needs to be pre­pa­red and appro­ved by the aut­ho­ri­ties for every ship, based on gene­ral Coro­na safe­ty gui­de­li­nes which have been pre­pa­red by Sval­bard Rei­se­liv, a local tou­rism orga­ni­sa­ti­on, tog­e­ther with rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties. It remains to be seen which ships will be able to meet the requi­re­ments in terms of mini­mum distan­ces etc.

Ships have to be pre­pa­red to sail direct­ly to Trom­sø in case of a suspec­ted Covid-19 infec­tion on board, rather than to Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Pas­sen­gers from coun­tries other than the abo­ve-men­tio­ned Scan­di­na­vi­an ones will need some more pati­ence. The Nor­we­gi­an government has announ­ced to come with infor­ma­ti­on regar­ding a pos­si­ble re-ope­ning of Spits­ber­gen for citi­zens and resi­dents from “neigh­bou­ring” Euro­pean coun­tries until 20 July.

Ship-owners and tour ope­ra­tors will have to see if they can actual­ly ope­ra­te with a maxi­mum capa­ci­ty of 50 %.

Polar bear shot on Phipp­søya in 2018: no report yet

The case of the polar bear that was shot in late July 2018 on the island of Phipp­søya by a crew mem­ber of the Ger­man crui­seship Bre­men attrac­ted media and public atten­ti­on around the world.

A team from the ship had gone ashore on Phip­pøya, which belongs to Sjuøya­ne in nort­hern­most Sval­bard, to check the site befo­re pas­sen­gers were sche­du­led to come ashore. The dra­ma­tic inci­dent ended with one per­son recei­ving minor head inju­ries and the bear being shot. Pas­sen­gers were not ashore during the inci­dent.

Polar bear shot on Phippsøya, Spitsbergen

Polar bear on Phipp­søya, a com­mon lan­ding site, in mid July 2018. It was very likely this bear that was shot in the same place in late July.

Almost two years have gone past now and one may won­der what came out of the who­le thing. The disap­poin­ting inter­me­dia­te result is that the­re is no result yet, as Sval­bard­pos­ten was told on request by the Sys­sel­man­nen. The case was ori­gi­nal­ly hand­led by the Sys­sel­man­nen and then it went to rele­vant aut­ho­ri­ties in main­land Nor­way for fur­ther legal tre­at­ment and from the­re in late 2019 back to the Sys­sel­man­nen. And the­re it still is today. The lar­ge capa­ci­ties absor­bed by the Coro­na cri­sis are said to have play­ed a role in recent mon­ths.

So while we still have to wait for con­fir­med infor­ma­ti­on, we can spe­cu­la­te a bit about some fac­tors that may have con­tri­bu­t­ed to the tra­gic out­co­me: It is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble to not see a polar bear that is in the vicini­ty in the uneven ter­rain of that par­ti­cu­lar place on Phipp­søya even if one is alert. The­re was a car­cass on the beach at that time, and the bear had been retur­ning to that car­cass repeated­ly over a lon­ger peri­od to feed on it. The car­cass was lying in the area whe­re lan­dings are com­mon­ly made, but it was hard to see from the distance.

If one hap­pens to go ashore clo­se to the car­cass, then it is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble that a bear that is in the area, res­ting and wai­t­ing for the appe­ti­te to return, shows a rapid and aggres­si­ve reac­tion.

Again: this is spe­cu­la­ti­on, based on local know­ledge and expe­ri­ence, inclu­ding a sigh­t­ing of a polar bear in this given place in mid-July 2018, which was most likely that par­ti­cu­lar bear that was shot soon the­re­af­ter. Mean­while, we can curious­ly await the report from the Nor­we­gi­an aut­ho­ri­ties to learn more about what actual­ly hap­pen­ed during the inci­dent.

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