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Monthly Archives: July 2020 − News & Stories


Water ingress in mine 7

It was pro­bab­ly the extre­me­ly warm wea­ther of the last wee­kend that now gives the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK) trou­bles with water in mine 7, the last Nor­we­gi­an coal mine still in ope­ra­ti­on in Spits­ber­gen.

Water ingres­si­ons are not unusu­al in Spitsbergen’s coal mines, many of which are part­ly situa­ted under gla­ciers. Mine 7 is clo­se to the small ice cap Fox­fon­na which “pro­vi­des” meltwa­ter to the mine during the mel­ting sea­son, so pumps are rou­ti­nely in ope­ra­ti­on. But the latest ingres­si­on went far bey­ond the capa­ci­ties of the avail­ab­le pumps.

Water ingress in mine 7

Water ingres­si­ons are not uncom­mon in the coal mines in Spits­ber­gen. Here, a boat is even kept avail­ab­le to move around in floo­ded are­as (the pho­to is from the mine Svea Nord).

Mine 7 is cur­r­ent­ly any­way on plant holi­day. The water ingress was dis­co­ve­r­ed during a rou­ti­ne con­trol on Sunday morning. Equip­ment and per­so­nell from Sveagru­va and main­land Nor­way are now sup­po­sed to deal with the situa­ti­on and return the mine back into pro­duc­ti­ve con­di­ti­on. Coal pro­duc­tion is sche­du­led to start up again, but this is likely to be delay­ed.

Coal from mine 7 is main­ly used in Longyearbyen’s coal power plant. Ano­t­her frac­tion is expor­ted. Accord­ing to the SNSK, the­re is enough coal in sto­rage in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to feed the power plant 5-6 mon­ths.

New tem­pe­ra­tu­re record in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

The tem­pe­ra­tu­re dis­play at the petrol sta­ti­on show­ed 23 degrees (cen­tig­ra­de) on Satur­day after­noon. The offi­cial mea­su­re­ment was 21.7°C.

Sum­mer heat bey­ond 21°C – that is very unusu­al for Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The hig­hest tem­pe­ra­tu­re ever so far had been 21.3 degrees cen­tig­ra­de, mea­su­red on 16 July 1979. This record was bro­ken on Satur­day late after­noon, when the offi­cial tem­pe­ra­tu­re record went up to 21.7°C.

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

A record-brea­king tem­pe­ra­tu­re of 21.7°C was mea­su­red on Satur­day after­noon in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The gla­ciers defi­ni­te­ly lost a lot of ice during this wee­kend. Many tons of mel­ted ice run off every minu­te here in the river in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

A light bree­ze made the heat wave beara­ble, though. The out­side are­as of the restau­rants were crow­ded, and it seems a safe guess that a record-brea­king num­ber of BBQs were ope­ra­ted in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Satur­day evening.

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

The record sum­mer heat of 21.7°C may well haved resul­ted in a record-brea­king num­ber of BBQs going at the same time.

Hur­tig­ru­ten and Ponant are ope­ra­ting the first crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen

This year’s first two medi­um-sized expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships have now star­ted their sea­son in Spits­ber­gen – in spi­te of all restric­tions and dif­fi­cul­ties con­nec­ted to ship­ping in times of the Coro­na cri­sis. Yes­ter­day (Fri­day, 17 July), Hurtigruten’s MS Spits­ber­gen star­ted her first trip. This may not be too much of a sur­pri­se, as tou­rists from Scan­di­na­vi­an coun­tries (expect Swe­den) were allo­wed into Nor­way alrea­dy from 15 June, and around that time the Nor­we­gi­an government made first steps towards per­mit­ting ships with a capa­ci­ty of up to 500 pas­sen­gers to sail again in Spitsbergen’s waters. This was and is, in theo­ry, valid for all ship owners, but in prac­ti­ce, it could well be unders­tood as a “lex Hur­tig­ru­ten”, or at least it is not a sur­pri­se that the Nor­we­gi­an com­pa­ny is the first that is prac­ti­cal­ly able to take advan­ta­ge of it.

Corona-Virus, Spitzbergen

Ponant’s ship Le Bore­al on 18 July as the first non-Nor­we­gi­an crui­seship in the port of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The French com­pa­ny Ponant fol­lo­wed on day later with Le Bore­al, alt­hough the infor­ma­ti­on that tou­rists from most EU/EEA coun­tries are allo­wed to tra­vel to Nor­way again is just one week old; the list of “green coun­tries” was publis­hed on 10 July.

And the company’s ear­lier drafts of the man­da­to­ry health safe­ty plan is said to have had its weak­nes­ses. Accord­ing to Sval­bard­pos­ten, the local dise­a­se con­trol offi­cial had expres­sed bey­ond doubt to be unhap­py about several issu­es. Ponant, howe­ver, seem to have impro­ved their papers and the Sys­sel­man­nen have given their thumbs-up and Le Bore­al is allo­wed to sail and ope­ra­te several trips over a cou­p­le of weeks in Sval­bard waters. Pas­sen­gers are flown in and out of Lon­gye­ar­by­en with sche­du­led flights, as no char­ter flights are cur­r­ent­ly per­mit­ted at Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port.

The­re are, howe­ver, a cou­p­le of con­di­ti­ons that every com­pa­ny con­si­de­ring crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen cur­r­ent­ly has to deal with: amongst others, only half of the pas­sen­ger capa­ci­ty of any ship – 264 beds in case of the Le Bore­al – is per­mit­ted to be used.

The Le Bore­al pas­sen­gers had to be tes­ted nega­tively for Covid-19 pri­or to their depar­tu­re from home and again befo­re disem­bar­ka­ti­on in Reykja­vik, for the first crui­se that finis­hed yes­ter­day in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. In case of Covid-19 cases or sus­pi­ci­on on board, the ship has to sail to Trom­sø and not to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It will be inte­res­ting to fol­low the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment and the reac­tion of other com­pa­nies, but it seems likely that many, espe­cial­ly tho­se ope­ra­ting small ships, will find it dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble to ope­ra­te under the­se con­di­ti­ons, also con­si­de­ring eco­no­mi­c­al aspects.

But the­re are, as always, excep­ti­ons to the rule: the small expe­di­ti­on ship Ori­go has alrea­dy car­ri­ed out her first trips in Spits­ber­gen. But she had spent several mon­ths of wai­t­ing at anchor for a chan­ce to start sai­ling near Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua in Sep­tem­ber also can­cel­led becau­se of Coro­na

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, but not real­ly sur­pri­sing, we also have to can­cel our last Spits­ber­gen-voya­ge this year with SV Anti­gua (08-18 Sep­tem­ber 2020). Even though Nor­way will start to allow most Euro­pean tou­rists into the coun­try again, cur­rent health safe­ty regu­la­ti­ons in place to con­trol the Corona/Covid 19 risk make it impos­si­ble to ope­ra­te this voya­ge and other ones. A small ship in remo­te are­as is not a good situa­ti­on the­se days.

The par­ti­ci­pants will now be con­ta­c­ted by the Geo­gra­phi­schen Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft.

Corona-Virus, Spitsbergen

With Anti­gua in Spits­ber­gen: won’t hap­pen in 2020 becau­se of the Coro­na virus.

This app­lies also to our hiking and pho­to­gra­phy trip in and around Pyra­mi­den (31 August – 07 Sep­tem­ber 2020). This will also be can­cel­led, the par­ti­ci­pants will be con­ta­c­ted soon.

Nor­way about to open bor­ders for tou­rists from most EU coun­tries

The Nor­we­gi­an Minis­try of eco­no­mics and fishe­ries has com­mu­ni­ca­ted that tou­rists from most EU-coun­tries will be allo­wed to tra­vel to Nor­way again from 15 July. Today (10 July) the Nor­we­gi­an insti­tu­te for public health (Fol­ke­hels­e­insti­tutt) has publis­hed a map which shows the various Euro­pean coun­tries in green or red, respec­tively. Tou­rists from “green coun­tries” will be allo­wed to enter Nor­way from 15 July without spe­cial rea­son or per­mis­si­on. Citi­zens from Scan­di­na­vi­an coun­tries except Swe­den were alrea­dy allo­wed into the coun­try from 15 June.

This map is, howe­ver, to be updated at inter­vals of 14 days or at any time ear­lier if nee­ded. Tou­rists from coun­tries with hig­her or unclear infec­tion rates may be faced with tra­vel restric­tions such as qua­ran­ti­ne.

Not all EU-coun­tries have made it onto the “green list”: Por­tu­gal, Luxem­bourg, several coun­tries in sou­the­ast Euro­pe and most parts of Swe­den are bright red on the map. The examp­le of Swe­den shows that the Nor­we­gi­an government may take decisi­ons on a regio­nal level: tou­rists from several pro­vin­ces in south Swe­den (Ble­kin­ge, Kro­n­oberg and Skå­ne) may also tra­vel to Nor­way without restric­tions from 15 July, in con­trast to the rest of the coun­try.

Tou­rists from coun­tries out­side Euro­pe are cur­r­ent­ly gene­ral­ly not allo­wed into Nor­way unless they have clo­se rela­ti­ves or a part­ner in the coun­try, accord­ing to the Nor­we­gi­an government.

Spits­ber­gen with Anti­gua – some thoughts

Nor­mal­ly, on this site I wri­te and publish arti­cles and blog posts about things that have actual­ly hap­pen­ed, and I try to keep it most­ly in unemo­tio­nal style. But the world isn’t nor­mal the­se days, so this article/blog/whatever is a bit dif­fe­rent.

It is about some­thing that does not hap­pen and it is lat­ent­ly emo­tio­nal.

Yes­ter­day, on 09 July, we would have boar­ded good old SV Anti­gua in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. About 30 pas­sen­gers, pro­bab­ly qui­te exci­ted, in good spi­rits and with high hopes and expec­ta­ti­ons. Ten crew: the Cap­tain (pro­bab­ly Robert), mates, deck­hand, gal­ley and ser­vice, three gui­des – Alex, Kris­ti­na and me. Ever­y­bo­dy had been loo­king for­ward to this trip for qui­te some time alrea­dy, until the who­le thing fell vic­tim to the coro­na virus, as so much this weird year. 19 beau­ti­ful days in Spits­ber­gen – gone. Not just any kind of days. Spits­ber­gen under sail, that is always spe­cial, inten­se and rich with all sorts of expe­ri­en­ces. On every trip, we see and expe­ri­ence stuff whe­re I think “wow, how ama­zing is that …” and that is after almost 25 years of tra­vel­ling Spits­ber­gen.

Antigua, Spitzbergen

Spits­ber­gen with Anti­gua: would have star­ted yes­ter­day (9 July).

Nobo­dy will ever know what we will actual­ly have mis­sed this sum­mer on this trip and others that don’t hap­pen now. But of cour­se it is pos­si­ble to dream and guess a bit. Let’s try to take it a litt­le step up onto an infor­med level. As always, it starts with a look at wea­ther fore­cast and ice­chart:

Marine weather forecast Spitsbergen

Mari­ne wea­ther fore­cast for Satur­day (12 July).

Today (Fri­day), the­re would still have been a fair bit of wind on the west coast. May­be not gre­at for a first day on a ship, but it should be calm in Isfjord, albeit pos­si­b­ly a bit wet, at least during Fri­day night and Satur­day ear­ly morning. I think we might have well spent our first day in the­re. The­re are so many fjords with an end­less num­ber of beau­ti­ful pla­ces the­re. Tem­pel­fjord, Bill­efjord, Nordfjord with Ekmanfjord, Cor­a­hol­men and so on, Bohem­an­flya, … just to men­ti­on a few (click on the links for a bit of online tra­vel­ling). The list is end­less.

On Satur­day, the wind on the west coast is sup­po­sed to turn south. I guess then we might have left Isfjord to set sail and a nort­her­ly cour­se with fine sai­ling wind. The fore­cast indi­ca­tes calm wea­ther for a cou­p­le of days next week in the north, and then it is just a won­der­ful world to explo­re.

Marine weather forecast Spitsbergen

Mari­ne wea­ther fore­cast for Sunday (12 July).

And now a quick look at the ice chart, which is real­ly an inte­res­ting one now. The­re is still a lot of drift ice in the east and nor­the­ast and many of the fjords, espe­cial­ly on Nord­aus­t­land, are still fro­zen solid. As it loo­ks now, this trip would not have been a cir­cum­na­vi­ga­ti­on. This is, in times of cli­ma­te chan­ge, not com­mon for a trip that starts near mid July, but obvious­ly not impos­si­ble. Of cour­se it would have been exci­ting just to go and check it out, but it is also inte­res­ting to keep che­cking the ice chart every once in a while during the next cou­p­le of weeks and see what hap­pens.

Eiskarte Spitzbergen

Ice chart Spits­ber­gen as of 09 July (© Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te).

But then, have a good look at, say, Lief­defjord and Woodfjord! Open – pro­bab­ly most­ly navigab­le, in other words – drift ice, with some lar­ger ice fiel­ds, such as the yel­low dot clo­se to Reins­dyr­flya, and solid (“fast”) ice in inner Woodfjord! We could cer­tain­ly have spent a cou­p­le of gre­at days the­re. And then on to Nord­aus­t­land and Hin­lo­pen. The com­bi­na­ti­on of drift ice, stun­ning sce­ne­ry and a lot of wild­life, from guil­lemots to wal­rus, polar bears and pro­bab­ly wha­les would most likely have made for some unf­or­gett­able expe­ri­en­ces.

Isfjord

Who knows what we might have done and seen the first day(s) in Isfjord? Just a few impres­si­ons from pre­vious years. Could have been some­thing like this. Or some­thing com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

For­landsund

We spent qui­te a bit of time in For­landsund last year, as tho­se who were the­re will remem­ber with no reg­rets 😉 all the For­landsund pic­tures are from 2019.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Woodfjord and Lief­defjord

Just a few pos­si­ble impres­si­ons as we might have met them now in Woodfjord and Lief­defjord. And Spitsbergen’s north coast is, of cour­se, much more than “just” that. The­re is also the Raudfjord, Wij­defjord, Sorgfjord … oh, well …

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

A lot of “might have” and “would” and so on. It is cur­r­ent­ly not­hing but ima­gi­na­ti­on and dreams. Unse­en, not expe­ri­en­ced, not lived. The 40 polar enthu­si­asts that should have met on a sai­ling ship to explo­re the far north, to share the exci­tment and fasci­na­ti­on, will never meet in this com­bi­na­ti­on. Sad.

So, fin­gers cros­sed that we will meet next year or in 2022 in Spits­ber­gen, or else­whe­re bet­ween the north pole and the south pole!

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