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Home → March, 2020

Monthly Archives: March 2020 − News & Stories


Polar bear died from circulatory collapse

The female polar bear that was anaesthetised near Longyearbyen in late January and that died during helicopter transport is found to have died from circulatory collapse as a consequence of a combination of stress, shock and medication, according to the Sysselmannen.

Sysselmannen (police) and Norwegian Polar Institute experts had started to scare the polar bear away from Vestpynten near Longyearbyen by helicopter in the late afternoon of 30 January. The bear was moved across Adventfjord and – partly by using snow mobiles – into a side valley, where she was finally anaesthetised. A total of 2.5 hours passed from the beginning of the operation until she was put to sleep: a long time for an animal that is not made to run fast over longer distances. It is for good reason that nobody is generally allowed to follow a polar bear that has changed its behaviour so it might be at risk.

This seems to be exactly what happened in this case, considering a chase over 2.5 hours by helicopter and snow mobile (there is mention of a short rest which is included in that time span), although “polar bear expertise” was present in shape of an expert from the Norwegian Polar Institute. The procedure was obviously too much for the bear, who received further medication after the initial aenesthetisation and died in the helicopter during transport to Kinnvika on Nordaustland.

Eisbären (Edgeøya)

Polar bear family: mother (left, in front) and two second year cubs in good shape.
Mid August, Edgeøya.

The bear was a female with a very low weight of 62 kg. It is believed that she was a first year cub or a very small second year cub. In either case, she should still have been together with her mother.

Corona-virus: Spitsbergen in lockdown-mode

After a lucky return from Antarctica, the only continent currently not directly affected by the Corona-virus (but certainly indirectly), I am now about to catch up with the Spitsbergen news on ths site. It is not that nothing has happened up north. To start where I stopped a few weeks ago: the coal mine Svea Nord was indeed officially closed with a little ceremony on 04 March, putting an end to a good 100 years of mining history in Sveagruva.

I’ll get back to other issues over the next couple of days. Now, the one thing that keeps the world busy and in awe: the Corona-virus – what else? So far, the virus has not reached Spitsbergen. But it will not be possible to keep the settlements fully isolated from the rest of the world forever. The question is, as anywhere, how to controll this transition – if a controlled transition is possible at all.

So far, the idea is to keep all settlements as isolated as possible to protect the local population from the virus. Tourism has come to a complete stop. Everybody who is now travelling to Spitsbergen has to remain in 14 days of quarantine. Exceptions can only be made by the authorities under strict conditions if requested by the employer or an institution. Generally, only Norwegian citizens, residents or people with a work permit (does not apply in Svalbard, but you would need to have a good professional reason to travel up there right now) are allowed in.

Snow mobiles Longyearbyen, Corona-virus

Snow mobiles in Longyearbyen: currently silenced by the Corona-virus.

This will clearly have a significant impact on the local economy: March and April are usually high season within tourism. Hotels and activities are usually fully booked. Currently, however, many companies and jobs in the service industry are at risk, and many guides have already left the island, waiting for better times in their home countries which are usually cheaper places to stay.

This is now in force until 13 April but may be extended. The future development remains to be seen, also with regards to the summer shipping season.

Spitsbergen, the Antarctic and the Corona virus

The winter season should be super busy at this time in Spitsbergen, but instead it is very silent now in Longyearbyen and Barentsburg. No tourists there at all. The only thing that you might hear is the tourism industry crying.

And on this blog and news site: also nothing at the time being.

The Antarctic is the only corona-free continent, but that does not mean that it does not affect us here in the south. We have now been to the Antarctic for a while and I am still far south with Ortelius. So I guess that I am currently the last one in the world who gets any news that seem to be changing by the minute and hence it would probably be silly to post any „news“ here.

Atlantic Ocean

But I did and do still write about our journey here in the south, in the blog on www.antarctic.eu. Also here, the Corona virus currently governs the world. No, not directly. We on Ortelius are all well, health-wise. But it sends us on a strange journey. Not as planned back to the Antarctic Peninsula, but up north and back home. Slowly and with quite a few extra twists and bends that we still need to find out about. Read more in my antarctic blog.

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News-Listing live generated at 2020/December/05 at 22:28:01 Uhr (GMT+1)
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