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Monthly Archives: December 2020 − News & Stories

Polar bear shot at Lon­gye­ar­by­en cam­ping in August: pro­cee­dings clo­sed

The out­co­me did not come as a sur­pri­se: the case against a man who shot a polar bear on Lon­gye­ar­by­en cam­ping in the ear­ly mor­ning of 28 August, when a man died after being atta­cked by the bear, is now clo­sed, no char­ge will be brought up. It was, evi­dent­ly, a case of defence of ano­ther per­son. The bear had ente­red the camp­si­te area in the mor­ning of 28 August, when tho­se few per­sons who were the­re were all slee­ping, so initi­al­ly nobo­dy noti­ced the bear. The polar bear then atta­cked Johan “Job” J. Koot­te from the Net­her­lands while he was slee­ping in his tent. Ano­ther per­son who had been slee­ping ano­ther tent had access to a wea­pon and fired a shot against the bear, who then moved away.

The bear was later found dead on the par­king place next to the near­by air­port.

Longyearbyen camping

The site of the tra­gic events of 28 August 2020: Lon­gye­ar­by­en cam­ping (archi­ve image).

When a polar bear is kil­led, a case is always and auto­ma­ti­cal­ly ope­ned becau­se the spe­ci­es is strict­ly pro­tec­ted in Sval­bard. Now the Sys­sel­man­nen infor­med that the case is offi­ci­al­ly clo­sed: it was a case of defence of a third per­son – the shot was fired in an attempt to save someone’s life – and thus legal.

Tra­gi­cal­ly, the attempt to save Kootte’s life was not suc­cessful. He died from his inju­ries befo­re he rea­ched the hos­pi­tal.

Ano­ther case is still open. This con­cerns the ques­ti­on wether Lon­gye­ar­by­en cam­ping, whe­re Koot­te was employ­ed during the sea­son, should have taken other secu­ri­ty mea­su­res, with respect to the Nor­we­gi­an labour pro­tec­tion law (arbei­ds­mil­jø­l­ov).

Nor­t­hern news: bank and bat­te­ries

The polar night is usual­ly not a time of big news from the north, and the cur­rent dark sea­son fol­lows that tra­di­ti­on – for­t­u­na­te­ly, as news have too often not been good ones this year. A polar bear that was seen in Advent­da­len did not bother to come clo­se to Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is good. The­re is, so far, no ava­lan­che risk rele­vant for the sett­le­ment, which is also good. In pre­vious win­ters, ava­lan­che war­nings have led to evacua­tions of parts of Lon­gye­ar­by­en over weeks or even months.

But that does altog­e­ther not mean that not­hing hap­pens at all. A lot hap­pens behind the sce­ne to fight the eco­no­mic­al con­se­quen­ces of the coro­na cri­sis, which have hit Lon­gye­ar­by­en hard, even though the­re has not been any con­firm­ed infec­tion in Spits­ber­gen so far.

A bat­tery for Lon­gye­ar­by­en

This is some­thing that pro­ba­b­ly ever­y­bo­dy can agree on: the coal power plant, built in 1982, is a stone-age kind of power solu­ti­on for Lon­gye­ar­by­en, an other­wi­se rather modern place. But it is a mat­ter of hot deba­te what kind of ener­gy sup­p­ly Lon­gye­ar­by­en may have in the future.

But one thing appears to be cer­tain: any ener­gy sup­p­ly that invol­ves rene­wa­bles will requi­re some kind of ener­gy sto­rage sys­tem. Important steps have now been made in this direc­tion, as Sval­bard­pos­ten reports: the muni­ci­pa­li­ty (Lokals­ty­re) has deci­ded to dedi­ca­te 40 mil­li­on kro­ner in the bud­get for 2021 to a bat­tery park next to the power plant. The sta­te com­pa­ny Eno­va is sup­po­sed to cover the rest of the cos­ts which are esti­ma­ted at 60 mil­li­on kro­ner in total.

The bat­tery park is expec­ted to also make today’s ener­gy sup­p­ly che­a­per, more relia­ble and to redu­ce green­house gas emis­si­ons signi­fi­cant­ly when ener­gy peaks can be buf­fe­r­ed by the bat­tery rather than by the coal power plant its­elf.

Coal power plant Longyearbyen

Today’s coal power plant in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: not exact­ly an up-to-date ener­gy solu­ti­on.

The bank doesn’t always win

It is usual­ly the bank that wins in the end, but not always. Spare­Ban­ken Nordn­or­ge deci­ded ear­lier this year to clo­se their branch office in Lon­gye­ar­by­en, which is – was – Spitsbergen’s only bank. Not sur­pri­sin­gly, this decis­i­on has been met with strong cri­ti­zism local­ly. Many bank ser­vices are available only, but many ques­ti­ons remain open, inclu­ding important ones for which cli­ents often pre­fer to meet someone in their bank in per­son. And ano­ther poten­ti­al pro­blem, a bit more Lon­gye­ar­by­en-spe­ci­fic, is the ques­ti­on of the many non-Nor­we­gi­an locals who need to iden­ti­fy them­sel­ves for cer­tain tran­sac­tions. The­re is the idea that the post office may pro­vi­de this ser­vice in the future.

And yet ano­ther ques­ti­on, also rele­vant for tou­rists, is cash. Spitsbergen’s one and only ATM has been out of ser­vice for a long time alre­a­dy, becau­se of pro­blems with the cash sup­p­ly. It is not yet clear what the solu­ti­on might be. Various pay­ing methods wit­hout cash are wide­ly used in Nor­way inclu­ding Lon­gye­ar­by­en the­se days, but many still want some cash in the wal­let and it is still legal ten­der, sup­po­sed to be available any­whe­re in the coun­try.

Any­way, the bank clo­sed for good on 18 Decem­ber despi­te of local pro­test. The staff was offe­red a warm fare­well by local choirs, and cele­bra­ti­ons are said to have ended in the popu­lar Karls­ber­ger Puben just oppo­si­te the road.

The Arc­tic Wed­nes­day: polar online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons

Our plan B, ori­gi­nal­ly kind of an emer­gen­cy solu­ti­on to replace the can­cel­led live dates in Novem­ber and Decem­ber, tur­ned out to be ama­zin­gly suc­cessful, to our gre­at sur­pri­se. So we, Bir­git Lutz and Rolf Stan­ge, have now sche­du­led the “Arc­tic Wed­nes­day”: a series of online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons whe­re we can pick up sel­ec­ted topics. Let’s tra­vel tog­e­ther online to the beau­tiful, cold ends of the world! We will start on 13 Janu­ary with a series of six dates, every Wed­nes­day for six weeks. Bir­git and I have sel­ec­ted a ran­ge of topics ran­ging from adven­ture and tra­vel through histo­ry to envi­ron­ment, which we hope you will enjoy.

The Arctic Wednesday: polar online presentations

The Arc­tic Wed­nes­day: polar online pre­sen­ta­ti­ons with Bir­git Lutz and Rolf Stan­ge.

The pre­sen­ta­ti­ons will be in Ger­man. I know the­re are a lot of Ger­man-spea­king visi­tors to the Eng­lish site, for exam­p­le from the Net­her­lands – this is why I include this brief note here in Eng­lish. For fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on, plea­se refer to the Ger­man ver­si­on of this page (chan­ge lan­guage by cli­cking on the flagg sym­bol on top of this page).

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

Sys­sel­man­nen beco­mes Sys­sel­mes­ter

The Sys­sel­man­nen is the hig­hest repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of the Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment in Spits­ber­gen. Curr­ent­ly, Kjers­tin Askholt holds this posi­ti­on as the second woman in histo­ry. The posi­ti­on is cal­led Sys­sel­man­nen no mat­ter if a woman or a man is in office.

Accor­ding to new Nor­we­gi­an law, all offi­ci­al names for govern­men­tal insti­tu­ti­ons will have to be gen­der-neu­tral as of next year. This tur­ned out to be a bit of a chall­enge regar­ding the Sys­sel­man­nen. Ide­as dis­cus­sed in public included fun­ny words such as Sys­selshe­riff or Sys­sel­høv­ding (-chief), but not­hing real­ly useful.

Sysselmann becomes Sysselmester

Sys­sel­mann beco­mes Sys­sel­mes­ter in 2021.

Now a descis­i­on has been made: Sys­sel­man­nen will be chan­ged to Sys­sel­mes­ter. All invol­ved appear to be hap­py with this solu­ti­on. The Sys­sel­man­nen is also poli­ce chief or, in Nor­we­gi­an, poli­ti­mes­ter (poli­ce mas­ter), some­thing goes well along with the new desi­gna­ti­on.

From 01 July 2021, the Sys­sel­man­nen will be histo­ry and Oslo’s hig­hest repre­sen­ta­ti­ve in Sval­bard will be the Sys­sel­mes­ter from then on. A lot of work still needs to be done until the old desi­gna­ti­on has dis­ap­peared from all offi­ci­al logos on paper, on means of trans­port, of which the Sysselmannen/Sysselmester has an ama­zing amount, and else­whe­re.

Even that: Spits­ber­gen screen­sa­ver

How cool is that: an arc­tic screen­sa­ver! The next-best thing after actual­ly being the­re is having the Arc­tic on the screen. Get the Spits­ber­gen screen­sa­ver now! The pro­duct descrip­ti­on is Ger­man, but the screen­sa­ver does not inlcu­de any lan­guage bey­ond pla­cen­a­mes, so it doesn’t mat­ter as soon as you have got it in the screen.

The screen­sa­ver includes 133 stun­ning images of the arc­tic sce­n­ery of Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen, taken from a fasci­na­ting aeri­al per­spec­ti­ve. The sel­ec­tion is based on the pho­tos fea­tured in the pho­to book Aeri­al Arc­tic.

Spitsbergen screensaver

Arc­tic online: the Spits­ber­gen screen­sa­ver.

Click here for fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on about the arc­tic screen­sa­ver – it has never been so good to hang out in front of the screen!

Spitsbergen screensaver

133 fasci­na­ting aeri­al images of Jan May­en and Spits­ber­gen.

The bad news is: the screen­sa­ver is for PC com­pu­ters only. It won’t work on other ope­ra­ting sys­tems such as Apple etc.

Online pre­sen­ta­ti­on: Spits­ber­gen – Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den

The live pre­sen­ta­ti­ons that I had sche­du­led didn’t work this year, so let’s go online! We will meet on the inter­net and tra­vel Spits­ber­gen through the arc­tic sea­sons, from the polar light to the mid­night sun.

The first date, Wed­nes­day, 9 Decem­ber, is almost ful­ly boo­ked, so the­re will be a second date on Tues­day, 22 Decem­ber.

This pre­sen­ta­ti­on will be in Ger­man, but I know the­re are a lot of Ger­man spea­king visi­tors also on the Eng­lish site here, hence the offer also here on the Eng­lish web­site – if you under­stand some Ger­man, plea­se don’t hesi­ta­te to join me on Wed­nes­day!

Spitzbergen - Norwegens arktischer Norden

Spitz­ber­gen – Nor­we­gens ark­ti­scher Nor­den: impres­si­ons from the arc­tic sea­sons, from the polar night to the mid­night sun.

For fur­ther details, plea­se chan­ge to Ger­man at the top of the page or visit my online shop by cli­cking here to buy tickets.

Pho­to prints with Spits­ber­gen drift­wood frames

Still miss­ing a real­ly beau­tiful Christ­mas pre­sent for yours­elf or a bel­oved one? Here comes the solu­ti­on for all arc­tic enthu­si­asts – no, not for all of them, just for four lucky ones, becau­se each of the­se four high qua­li­ty prints comes in exclu­si­ve sin­gle edi­ti­on. Just once, no more.

So final­ly I have done what I had initi­al­ly on my mind when I star­ted with the idea of the pic­tu­re frames made from real Spits­ber­gen drift­wood. Initi­al­ly, the idea was about my pic­tures. I wan­ted them to get good … well … frame con­di­ti­ons. This work­ed so well that the frames somehow took of with a life on their own, wit­hout the pic­tures.

Now I have got four pho­to­gra­phic high­lights, sel­ec­ted among­st ten thou­sands, many of which would easi­ly have deser­ved the same honour. But the­re is now just four and no more. Two images show polar bears – the­re was just no way around the king of the Arc­tic – and two fea­ture Spitsbergen’s stun­ning gla­cier land­scapes in the ama­zing light of the arc­tic win­ter.

Here they are. Four images, four pic­tures, four frames. Exact­ly one ori­gi­nal of each one. No copies.

The colours of the prints come out much bet­ter than on the pho­tos here that show the prints tog­e­ther with the frames.

Gla­cier front on Spitsbergen’s east coast: Heu­g­lin­breen in Mohn­buk­ta

Glacier front on Spitsbergen's east coast: Heuglinbreen in Mohnbukta

Gla­cier front on Spitsbergen’s east coast: Heu­g­lin­breen in Mohn­buk­ta.

It is arc­tic win­ter and we are stan­ding on the fro­zen fjord next to the migh­ty ice cliff of Heu­g­lin­breen in Mohn­buk­ta on the east coast of Spits­ber­gen. The sun has retur­ned after the polar night, but it is still low on the sky, thus cas­ting stun­ning light over the sce­n­ery and making the beau­tiful blue and green colours of the ice shi­ne out.

To the Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-shop: High qua­li­ty pho­to print with Spits­ber­gen drift­wood frame: Gla­cier front on Spitsbergen’s east coast: Heu­g­lin­breen in Mohn­buk­ta

Polar bear in Horn­sund


Polar bear in Hornsund

Polar bear in Horn­sund.

An impres­si­ve, strong male polar bear that we could obser­ve from the sai­ling ship Anti­gua on the icy shore of Horn­sund. This par­ti­cu­lar polar bear was so impres­si­ve that one crew mem­ber later got it tat­to­oed on his should­er! That is not on offer here, but the print of the pho­to of this beau­tiful ani­mal is wit­hout any doubt an eye-cat­cher on the wall, just as this par­ti­cu­lar polar bear in Horn­sund in real life.

To the Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-shop: High qua­li­ty pho­to print with Spits­ber­gen drift­wood frame: polar bear in Horn­sund

Moun­tain and gla­cier land­scape in Tem­pel­fjord


Mountain and glacier landscape in Tempelfjord

Moun­tain and gla­cier land­scape in Tem­pel­fjord.

It is ear­ly March and we are stan­ding on top of a litt­le moun­tain on the shore of Tem­pel­fjord. The sun, just having retur­ned after the polar night, is still low in the sky even mid-day, cas­ting ama­zing light over the who­le sce­ne, with inten­se colours and long shadows on the crev­as­sed gla­cier Tunab­reen.

To the Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-shop: High qua­li­ty pho­to print with Spits­ber­gen drift­wood frame: Moun­tain and gla­cier land­scape in Tem­pel­fjord

Polar bear fami­ly in Tem­pel­fjord


Polar bear family in Tempelfjord

Polar bear fami­ly in Tem­pel­fjord.

We aren wat­ching the famous (by seve­ral docu­men­ta­ries) fema­le polar bear “Frost” as she enjoys a playful and rela­xed day out on the ice in Tem­pel­fjord tog­e­ther with her two litt­le cubs. The­se were a good five months old at the time of pho­to­gra­phy in ear­ly May. At this time of year, the­re are ple­nty of seals lying on the ice and the litt­le polar bear fami­ly can enjoy life wit­hout worries, some­thing that comes cle­ar­ly through on this pho­to. A beau­tiful expe­ri­ence, both out the­re in natu­re and as a pic­tu­re on the wall.

To the Spitsbergen-Svalbard.com-shop: High qua­li­ty pho­to print with Spits­ber­gen drift­wood frame: Polar bear fami­ly in Tem­pel­fjord

Polar bear dead during sci­en­ti­fic anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on: case clo­sed

A polar bear died in Sep­tem­ber after anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on by sci­en­tists of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te. The anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on was done as part of an annu­al rou­ti­ne pro­gram­me to gather data from a lar­ger num­ber of polar bears.

Polar bear skull

Life is dan­ge­rous, also for polar bears. Even drow­ning due to sci­en­ti­fic anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on seems to be a rea­li­stic risk. But we don’t know what hap­pend to this polar bear.

The case was inves­ti­ga­ted by the Sys­sel­man­nen, as always when a pro­tec­ted ani­mal in Spits­ber­gen comes to harm. The result shows that the polar bear most likely died from drow­ning: it appears likely that the head of the bear ended up in a water-fil­led ter­rain depres­si­on befo­re the sci­en­tists arri­ved on sce­ne. A lethal side effect of the anaes­the­tic that was used (Mede­to­mi­din) can, howe­ver, not be excluded, or a com­bi­na­ti­on of both fac­tors, accor­ding to an offi­ci­al press release.

The Sys­sel­man­nen could not iden­ti­fy legal­ly rele­vant beha­viour. The case has thus been clo­sed.


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