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Home → August, 2020

Monthly Archives: August 2020 − News & Stories


Sysselmannen releases identity of victim

The Sysselmannen has released the identity of the man who was killed by a polar bear last night at Longyearbyen camping.

It was Johan Jacobus “Job” Kootte, 38 years old, Dutch citizen.

Man killed by polar bear at Longyearbyen camping

The site of last night’s tragic events.

Job worked this summer on the camping. It was his second season in this position.

The official release includes the information that Job was in his tent when he was attacked. The Sysselmannen has not yet released further details. Investigations are ongoing.

The other persons who were on the camping site at the time of the incident were not physically injured. They were seen by medical staff and psychologically taken care of in Longyearbyen. The Sysselmannen is interviewing them as witnesses.

Many, including the author of these lines, are shocked, and many thoughts are with Job, his family and close ones.

Man killed by polar bear near Longyearbyen

At 3.50 am, the alarm went in the Sysselmanne’s office (police) in Longyearbyen: a polar bear had attacked and injured a man at the campsite. The police and rescue forces brought the man to the hospital, where he was declared dead.

The Sysselmannen have not yet released the identity of the deceased person in their press release.

Two shots were fired at the polar bear by other persons. The bear was later found dead at the car park of the airport, only a few hundred metres away.

Man killed by polar bear at Longyearbyen camping

The site of last night’s tragic events.

All other persons who were present at the camping site were brought to a hotel in Longyearbyen. The Sysselmannen’s investigations are ongoing.

Polar bears had been seen a number of times in the vicinity of Longyearbyen, such as in Hiorthhamn and near Todalen (in Adventdalen). A female polar bear with a cub was sedated on Wednesday and flown out to the north side of Isfjord. Additionaly, a single bear had been seen a couple of times in Hiorthhamn and in Adventdalen.

Quarantine for travellers from Germany and Liechtenstein

Yesterday it was an assumption, based on recommendations by the Norwegian institute for public health (Folkehelseinstitutt, FHI), now it is official after a decision of the Norwegian government: travellers from Germany and Liechtenstein will be obliged to stay in quarantine for 10 days upon entry in Norway from Saturday. The same already applies to a large number of other European countries.

Corona: travel restrictions Norway

“Valid in all of Europe” – Corona virus warning.
(Photo composition. This is in reality of course the famous polar bear warning sign).

Travellers have to do their quarantine in one appropriate address upon entering Norway. Changing address during quarantine is not allowed, camping sites are not accepted as quarantine sites and quarantine has to be in mainland Norway, not Spitsbergen. Travellers may be asked for an appropriate booking or invitation when entering Norway.

The Norwegian threshold for introducing quarantine is 20 or more corona infections per 100,000 inhabitants within 14 days.

Travel restrictions for tourists from Germany and Liechtenstein likely to come

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstitutt, FHI) has recommended to introduce compulsory quarantine for tourists coming from Germany and Liechtenstein, based on rising corona infection figures from these countries.

Corona: travel restrictions Norway

“Valid in all of Europe” – Corona virus warning.
(Photo composition. This is in reality of course the famous polar bear warning sign).

The Norwegian government has to make a decision whether or not such restrictions will be introduced. Generally, the government will most likely follow the FHI’s recommendations. The Norwegian threshold for the introduction of restrictions is an infection rate of 20 per 100,000 inhabitants within 14 days (two weeks and not one, as was erroneously written here in an earlier version of this article). According to the Robert Koch-Institute, a federal agency responsible for disease control and prevention in Germany, the figure amounts to 10.2 averaged for Germany as of Tuesday, 25 August for the last 7 days, and higher figures occur in certain areas. So far, the Norwegian government has made regional decisions only for Scandinavian countries.

If the Norwegian government decides to introduce travel restrictions for Germay and Liechtenstein, then they are expected to come into force on Saturday at 00:00. The FHI has already sent text messages to Norwegian mobile phone numbers in Germany with a warning that compulsory quarantine may apply for travellers entering Norway later than Friday.

Polar bears flown out from Longyearbyen area

Again, Longyearbyen had polar bear visitors, and not just once: a polar bear that had tried to break into several huts in Hiorthhamn, on the north side of Adventfjord just 2.5 km away from Longyearbyen, was scared away by the police (Sysselmannen) with flare gun shots.

Shopping Lompensenter Longyearbyen

Polar bear inspecting a hut in Hiorthhamn near Longyearbyen (archive image).

Not much later, a female bear and a cub came to the same area. In this case, the authorities decided quickly to anaesthetise the bears and to fly them away with a helicopter. A similar operation earlier this year had had a fatal outcome for the bear, an event that later attracted substantial criticism in the public but also from relevant Norwegian authorities. As a consequence, the routines were improved this time: Jon Aars, leading polar bear scientist of the Norwegian Polar Institute (NP), was personally present, together with a vet – a new procedure for the NP. A different drug was used and the bears were given additional oxygen during the flight and an antidote upon arrival to give them an accelerated wake-up, a process that was also supervised this time, as Aars told Svalbardposten.

As the two bears were known to be resident in Isfjord, there were flown to the northwest part of this fjord, rather than to a remoter area such as Nordaustland or Edgeøya, as is common in such cases.

The bears were said to be well. The mother is 15 years old and relatively thin, something that is not unusual considering her age and the season. Nevertheless, she weighed several 100 kg. Most likely, they had recently found something to feed on. The cub weighs 49 kg and is said to be in good condition.

Spitsbergen blog 2020: Sassenfjord

The Arctic season 2020, at least as we know it, went completely to the bin. But I don’t want to moan about that now, I rather appreciate that the summer nevertheless gave us quite a bit of arctic beauty. Just in a different way. The boat was a bit smaller than what we usually use, so we went to a couple of beautiful places in Isfjord, rather than venturing to Nordaustland or Edgeøya.

Over a while, I will share a couple of photos of our recent excursions in Spitsbergen. A bit different from what we usually have, in “normal” years … we start with a Zodiac trip to Sassenfjord. Beautiful landscape, arctic silence, friendly reindeer, lovely flowers – including some of the more rare ones such as Mertensia maritima and the Northern Jacobsladder – and fossils (shells and ammonites from the Jurassic. Flavoured with fine weather and plenty of time. Life in the Arctic 🙂

Galleri: Sassenfjord – Deltaneset

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

Tourism collapsing, new travel restrictions

It is hardly surprising: the tourism industry in Spitsbergen has largely collapsed and there is hardly any light on the horizon, as recent infection rates give the Norwegian government reason to put travel restrictions on tourists from more and more European countries. According to available tax statistics analyzed by Svalbardposten, 51 Longyearbyen companies have altogether lost a sales volume of 170 million Norwegian kroner (about 17 million Euro or 19 million US-$) during the months from April to May, compared to the same period in 2019 – and this does not even include some major players such as Hurtigruten Svalbard, the biggest supplier of tourism-related services in Longyearbyen. The real numbers will, thus, be much higher and certainly devastating. During the same period, local companies have received 16 million kroner as public support, less than 10 percent of the turnover loss.

Shopping Lompensenter Longyearbyen

Shopping in Lompensenter in Longyearbyen: not much fun without tourists.

And the numbers of tourists keep dropping, although there have obviously never been many this year. Last week, the hotels in Longyearbyen had just 178 overnight guests per night in average. Officially, Longyearbyen has lost 96 inhabitants since the beginning of the corona crisis – and again, real life is much worse as the statistics are anything but complete. They do, for example, not include the large number of seasonal workers who come during the tourist season. This year, many of these have lost their jobs early in the crisis, while others did not come at all.

At the same time, the Norwegian government introduces travel restrictions for tourists from even more European countries. “Red” countries currently have too high infection rates, while data for those shown with hachure is incomplete or deemed unreliable by the Norwegian authorities. In either case, tourists from these countries will have to stay in 10 days quarantine upon entering Norway. The map shown here, published by the Norwegian health authority (Folkehelseinstitutt), will be in force from 22 August.

Norwegian Corona-map published 19 August 2020

Norwegian Corona-map published on 19 August 2020 (in force from 22 August).
© Folkehelseinstituttet.

So far, no cases of corona infections or Covid-19 disease are known from Svalbard’s settlements.

Norway expands travel restrictions; tourism in Longyearbyen behind expectations

The Norwegian government has made a couple of significant changes to the existing travel restrictions due to the increasing number of positive Corona-cases in many European countries. More tourists will have to stay in quarantine upon entering the country (if they still decide to come at all). At the same time, the government reminds all Norwegians that travelling to any foreign country is not advised unless necessary. This travel warning is expected to remain in force until at least 01 October.

The category “green” does not occur anymore in the list of European countries published and regularly updated by the Folkehelseinstitutt (institute for public health). Instead, countries are shown in yellow. According to prime minister Erna Solberg, this is to prevent misunderstandings and to make clear that there is always an inherent risk to travelling, so Norwegians are advised to stay in the country as much as possible. For non-Norwegian tourists, the category “yellow” is practically what “green” used to be before: tourists from these countries and regions may enter Norway without quarantine.

Norwegian Corona-map as of 12 August 2020

Norwegian “Corona-map” for Europe as of 12 August 2020. © Folkehelseinstituttet.

But also beyond colouring, the most recent version of Norway’s “Corona map for Europe” has changed significantly compared to previous versions. There is a larger number of countries now in red, meaning that tourists from these countries will have to stay in quarantine for 10 days upon entering the country. Quarantine has to be in one address on the mainland (not Svalbard). The latest map now shows countries such as France, the Netherlands and Iceland in red. “Hatched” countries are those were information is considered insufficient or unreliable; also here, tourists have to stay in quarantine for 10 days upon entering Norway.

The new map, as shown here, will be in force from 15 August. It will be updated after 14 days or earlier if needed.

Different rules apply for travellers with a background other than tourism.

As had to be expected, tourism has largely collapsed also in Spitsbergen. In June, the total number of tourists was 85 % less than in June 2019. In July, the quote increased to 50 % due to a larger number of Norwegians taking the opportunity for a trip to Svalbard. In total numbers, this means that 3448 tourists came in July, compared to 8789 in July 2019. The capacity use of the hotels was 35 %, in contrast to 77 % one year earlier, according to Svalbardposten based on statistics by Visit Svalbard.

Ian R. Stone (1943-2020)

Ian R. Stone, highly esteemed as a friend, colleague and polar historian by this author and many others, left on his final journey on 10 July 2020. Many readers of these lines will remember him as a brilliant historian and gifted lecturer on board small expedition ships in the Arctic and Antarctic, such as the Russian ones used by Oceanwide Expeditions in years now gone past, or in more recent years also on cruise ships in warmer waters, an experience and way of life that he shared with his wife Olga. I enjoyed Ian‘s knowledge and friendship during a number of cruises both in the Arctic and Antarctic. He never hesitated to share his vast knowledge and experience in a warm, friendly, humorous but always professional way with a younger colleage.

Ian R. Stone (1943-2020)

Ian R. Stone (1943-2020), in March 2005 at Base Orcadas on the South Orkney Islands.

Ian was a gentleman academic in a classical way, the kind that they just don’t make anymore these days. His endless knowlege of polar (and other) exploration was always readily available, certainly not just after a quick, secret glimpse at an online resource. At the same time, he was ready to take it up with surf and Zodiacs or with an angry polar bear, if needed.

It has always been good to know that there was someone who would be able to answer any historical question that could be answered, something I have often benefited from also as an author. Ian always supported others with pleasure. I have fond memories from the times that I could share with him.

Norway puts restrictions on cruising after corona cases

Norway’s government introduced further restrictions on cruise ships after a number Corona infections on the Hurtigruten ship MS Roald Amundsen last week, according to an official press release.

Hurtigruten ship MS Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen

Hurtigruten informed potentially concerned passengers and the public only after a delay of two days about the Corona cases on board MS Roald Amundsen.
Here the Hurtigruten ship MS Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen.

Meanwhile it came out that Hurtigruten already knew on Wednesday about the suspicion of Corona infections on board, but did not inform potentially concerned passengers or the public before Friday despite contrary agreements with local health authorities, according to NRK. Not surprisingly, the result is strong critizism and a loss of faith by politics and the public.

Double calendar 2021: Spitsbergen and Antarctica

Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - 01a
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - 01b
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Januar
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Februar
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - März
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - April
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Mai
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Juni
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Juli
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - August
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - September
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Oktober
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - November
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Dezember
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Spitzbergen - Übersicht
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Januar
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Februar
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - März
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - April
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Mai
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Juni
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Juli
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - August
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - September
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Oktober
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - November
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Dezember
Kalender 2021 - A3 und A5 - Antarktis - Übersicht

The new double calendar 2021 “Spitsbergen and Antarctica” is now available! Again, this is a real double calendar, with 24 photo pages rather than 12 photo pages with 12 empty back sides. And again, it is a wall calendar with spiral binding, available in two sizes, A3 (large) and A5 (small).

And you can save a lot of money by ordering more than one, because the price is lower for the second (and further) copies. Christmas is not far anymore 😉

Visit our webshop for further information and ordering by clicking here.

Covid-19 outbreak on Hurtigruten-ship: all cruises cancelled

36 crew members and several passengers on the Hurtigruten-ship MS Roald Amundsen were found to be infected with Covid-19 on Friday. The Roald Amundsen had made several expedition cruises from mainland Norway to Spitsbergen, but without visiting any of the settlements.

The ship is now in Tromsø in isolation. Crew and passengers are undergoing testing, quarantine and medical treatment as needed.

According to a press release from Hurtigruten, the company sees the reason for the outbreak in a combination of failure to follow internal rules on board and the growing number of infections in many countries. As a consequence, Hurtigruten has cancelled all cruises on MS Roald Amundsen, MS Spitsbergen and MS Fridtjof Nansen. Scheduled coastal traffic between Bergen and Kirkenes is not concerned.

Hurtigrutenship MS Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen

Hurtigrutenship MS Spitsbergen in Longyearbyen: all cruises are cancelled until further notice because of the Covid-19-infections on the MS Roald Amundsen.

There were also two local Norwegian women on board during the latest cruise of the MS Roald Amundsen who had spent the last winter in the hut Bamsebu in Bellsund. They were dropped off again there during the cruise. Meanwhile, they were also tested for the Corona virus. The result: negative.

I wish all those who got infected a quick and complete recovery!

Polar bears in Hiorthhamn near Longyearbyen

After the remarkable series of polar bear visits to Longyearbyen in December and January, it had been relatively calm for a while. But yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, two polar bears were seen in Hiorthhamn, opposite Longyearbyen, just 3.5 kilometres across Adventfjord. A mother and a first-year cub were walking across the tundra towards Adventdalen.

Polar bears near Longyearbyen

Polar bears in Hiorthhamn near Longyearbyen
(photo taken from a distance of 3.5 kilometres).

The Sysselmannen was soon on scene with a helicopter to make sure the bears would not come too close to Longyearbyen.

Polar bears near Longyearbyen: helicopter

The polar bears in Hiorthhamn were soon accompanied by the Sysselmannen’s helicopter.

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News-Listing live generated at 2020/December/05 at 21:49:30 Uhr (GMT+1)
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