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Home → December, 2020

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

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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

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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

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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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News-Listing live generated at 2021/January/24 at 19:39:36 Uhr (GMT+1)
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