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Home → November, 2020

Monthly Archives: November 2020 − News & Stories


Additional departure with Arctica II: 28.8.-5.9.2021

We have cancelled all trips this year – now it is time to make new, fresh plans. For the arctic summer season 2021, we have scheduled one additional departure with SY Arctica II.

Of course we can’t predict the future, but considering the various news about vaccines we think we can be optimistic. After our traditional, long Spitsbergen voyage with Arctica II in August, there will be one more trip with this lovely little sailing ship,starting 28 August and finishing on 05 September.

Spitsbergen 2021 with Arctica II: additional departure

Arctica II on the west coast of Spitsbergen: additional departure in 2021.

Due to all the cancellations of the 2020 season, there is a lot of interest in upcoming trips, so now we can offer 9 additional places and definitely a unique and intense experience.

This departure will be German speaking. The detailed description of the voyage including the price will follow soon, and then it will also be possible to make reservations. For further information or reservations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with my colleague Uwe Maaß in the office of the Geographischen Reisegesellschaft or with me if you have any questions about the trip, the itinerary or the ship etc.

Please click here for further information about Arctica II German. And have a look at the triplogs and photo galleries from the voyages that we have done in the past to get a good idea of how they are going and what might happen. This trip will be shorter than the long trip in August, so we don’t plan to circumnavigate Spitsbergen. The focus will be on hiking and nature experience in the major fjord systems on the west coast of Spitsbergen, such as Isfjord, Bellsund, Forlandsund and Kongsfjord. The hikes will, in average, be longer than those that we usually do, for example, on Antigua. Please have a look at my page about arctic terrain (German) to get an idea of the conditions we will meet out in the field.

Polar bear in Adventdalen

Again, there is a polar bear in Adventdalen, not far from Longyearbyen. It was seen for the first time on Sunday near Operafjellet by a group of hikers; the Sysselmannen decided to pick up the group by helicopter to be on the safe side.

Polar bear in Adventdalen, helicopter

Polar bear in Adventdalen: a helicopter is used to remove an anaesthetised bear from the area (archive image).

It is said that the polar bear in question is a large male, possibly the same animal that was in the Adventfjord area in september. Attempts to scare it away with a helicopter did not make much of an impression on the bear. As of Wednesday, the polar bear was still in Adventdalen, where he was so far staying within a limited area. So far, the Sysselmannen has no plans to anaesthetise the bear and to fly it out. It is assumed that the bear will just continue with his ever-lasting search for food and move on sooner or later.

The public is asked to be aware and alert.

Lice found in fur of arctic foxes

An alarming discovery: lice have been found in the fur of arctic foxes. So far, arctic foxes were generally found to be free of lice, both on the Scandinavian mainland and in Spitsbergen.

Arctic fox: lice detected

Arctic fox with winter fur in good order. The fur can be affected by lice to a degree that it does not insulate anymore sufficiently.

A taxidermist became sceptical when he saw fur from Arctic foxes from Spitsbergen, which had been caught a year ago. The fur was visibly affected in the neck area, with less hair than normal, and small animals were visible in the fur. These were later identified as lice by a specialist in Tromsø, as was now reported by Svalbardposten.

The foxes in question were caught a year ago in Bødalen and Colesdalen, both south of Longyearbyen. Now, all local fox hunters are encouraged to keep their eyes open. Should lice indeed be about to get established in arctic foxes, then the consequences might be dramatic, as foxes need an intact fur to cope with the cold of the arctic winter.

But the first thing that needs to be coped with is a huge gap of scientific knowledge. The annual fox-hunt is currently ongoing in Spitsbergen. Foxes are still hunted by a very few professional trappers and by leisure hunters. There are 25 areas for fox hunting in Spitsbergen, thereof 23 in Nordenskiöld Land (Longyearbyen’s wide surroundings) and 2 in the area of Ny-Ålesund.

The page for the weekend: Svenskehuset

The new page for the weekend (and beyond) is dedicated to Svenskehuset at Kapp Thordsen: built in 1872, is it today the oldest house on Spitsbergen that is still standing. Originally, the place was the focus of the Swedish dream to turn Spitsbergen into a Swedish colony. But as soon as the next winter, 17 Norwegian sailors died there under circumstances that remained a mystery for more than 100 years. Since then, the house is also known as Spøkelseshuset (the haunted house).

Two more winterings followed later, including the Swedish expedition of the first International Polar Year in 1882-83. One of the expedition members was a young, then unknown ingenieer named Salomon August Andrée.

Svenskehuset

Svenskehuset at Kapp Thordsen: Spitsbergen’s oldest house and site of several famous winterings.
This ist just a screenshot – click here for a virtual tour through Svenskehuset.

There is now a whole weppage dedicated to Svenskehuset, with all of the stories in some detail and – even better – a virtual tour that takes you through every room of the famous hous. There is a completely new version of the virtual tour that runs like a film – Click here and enjoy 🙂

Mine 7 back in productive operation again

Yesterday’s news on this site mentioned that repair works in mine 7, which was partly flooded by meltwater during the extremely warm days in July, were still ongoing. This was, however, already outdated at the time of publication: the first coal left mine 7 already on Saturday late evening, as the mining company Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulkompani told Svalbardposten.

Mine 7

Mine 7 (to the right of the image centre) on the mountain Breinosa near Longyearbyen. Further back and to the left the small ice cap Foxfonna.
Large parts of mine 7 are situated under Foxfonna.

A lot of repair work needed to be done after the flooding in July. Amongst others, large parts of the electrical equipment had to be renewed. Now, coal can be shipped again to the local coal power plant in Longyearbyen and to international customers. Production work is now going on almost 24/7 in two long shifts to produce as much coal as possible. Nevertheless, Store Norske will probably have to accept an economicaly poor result this year, with the production stop and expensive repair works in mine 7 being only one factor. Other factors include the general difficulties of the world economy due to corona and the closing of Sveagruva.

Smaller repair works will still be going on for some time while production is already going on. Store Norske aims also at making sure that a flooding on this scale will not happen again. Large parts of mine 7 are situated under the ice cap Foxfonna, so meltwater ingressions during the summer season are not unheard of, but normally it has been possible to control them by pumping the water out. Larger pumps will now be part of the technical solution to this problem.

Northern news

The polar night has settled down on Spitsbergen and the various lockdowns and travel restrictions related to Corona anyway. The world’s attention is focussed on events elsewhere rather than the Arctic, where life is going on with minor excitements from the departments “business as usual + everyday madness”.

The Spitsbergen-news overview as of late October/early November:

The previous week began with spectacular fireworks of northern lights over Spitsbergen as well as other places in the aurora oval as much as they had a free sky in the appropriate moments. Many amazing photos came from Longyearbyen in those days.

Northern light Longyearbyen

Northern light over Adventdalen near Longyearbyen.

Mine 7, which was partly flooded with meltwater during the record-warm days in July, is still not in productive operation again. We have been hearing for a while that routine work will start soon again, but this has not yet happened as of the time of writing (Monday, 02 November). Currently, the mining company Store Norske expects production to start up again this week. Coal from mine 7 is used in the local power plant and it is shipped to customers mainly in Germany, who have placed orders again after a stop during the Corona lockdown in spring.

Galleri Svalbard, so far located in Nybyen, has announced to move to central Longyearbyen. Nybyen, an upper part of Longyearbyen which is suffering from a risk of snow avalanches and rockfalls, will then lose a main tourist attraction.

With SvalBad, there is a new sauna in the port of Longyearbyen. It is heated with wood and offers the opportunity for a very efficient cool-down in the fjord 🙂

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) has announced industry-wide standards for guides, thus taking up a development that has been ongoing for years.

Guides Spitsbergen

For many years, we have been taking care of good teams ourselves.
Due to the growth of tourism also in the polar areas, however, it is without any doubt a good thing to establish industry-wide standards.
This is a photo from times long gone by – a great team, without any question! From left to right: Captain Alexander Pruss, a young Rolf Stange (that’s me), Peter Balwin and Matthias Kopp, during a Spitsbergen-voyage on board Professor Multanovskiy in 2009.
Those were the days 🙂
My apologies for getting lost in nostalgia for a brief moment.
Photo © Bärbel Erwert, who was our ship doctor.

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