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Yearly Archives: 2020 − News & Stories

Gui­de­book “Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard” now available in Dutch

The gui­de­book “Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard” is now also available in Dutch!

In short words: here it is (click on the link to get to my web­shop).

A more com­ple­te ver­si­on of the sto­ry:

How come?

A cou­ple of years ago in Trom­sø – we were just about to set sail for Bear Island and Spits­ber­gen – Jon­ne­ke van Eijs­den said it would be good to have the book in Dutch.

Initia­ti­ve and main trans­la­tor: Jon­ne­ke van Eijs­den

Jonneke van Eijsden

Initia­ti­ve and main trans­la­tor: Jon­ne­ke van Eijs­den.

Sure, no doubt, I could agree on that. But the then ongo­ing Nor­we­gi­an trans­la­ti­on of the book had alre­a­dy brought me clo­se to my limits in terms of time, money and ner­ves, so I was not real­ly incli­ned to open up a new big pro­ject, so my slight­ly reser­ved rep­ly was some­thing like “fine, go ahead if you want to.”

And Jon­ne­ke went ahead and did it. The who­le thing, from the table of con­tents to the app­re­cia­ti­ons in the end.

Quite unbe­lie­va­ble, isn’t it?

Much app­re­cia­ted: help from fri­ends and col­le­agues

But that was, of cour­se, not all. Peo­p­le with solid know­ledge of Dutch lan­guage and arc­tic ter­mi­no­lo­gy in various fields were nee­ded to help the pro­ject on its way towars a book that could be prin­ted. This group of good peo­p­le included Mari­on den Bak­ker, Arjen Drost, Sarah Gerats, Regi­na Mei­jn­dert, Annet­te Scheeps­tra, Ronald van Bel­zen, Tom van Hoof and Ronald Vis­ser. And high­ly know­led­geable peo­p­le like Hans Beelen, Lou­is Bey­ens and Maar­ten Loo­nen, all ack­now­led­ged experts in their fields, alowed us to pick their brains.

And my old mas­ter Rinie van Meurs was so kind to con­tri­bu­te with a fore­word!

A big “thank you” to all of you! This Dutch Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book would not exist wit­hout you!

Co-aut­hor: Michel­le van Dijk

The Net­her­lands have got a long histo­ry in rela­ti­on to Spits­ber­gen, start­ing with the dis­co­very in 1596 during Wil­lem Barent­sz’ third voya­ge and the name. That led to a spe­cial per­spec­ti­ve that is best unders­tood and descri­bed from an insi­de per­spec­ti­ve.

Michelle van Dijk

Co-aut­hor: Michel­le van Dijk (on Foynøya). Pho­to © Bir­git Lutz.

So this Dutch book has, for the first time in the by now quite long histo­ry of this book, two aut­hors: Michel­le van Dijk joi­n­ed me in the role of co-aut­hor and added various sec­tions such as one about Wil­lem Barent­sz, one about 17th cen­tu­ry wha­ling, then the who­le sto­ry of Barents­burg, Rijps­burg and NeSpi­co, Sjef van Don­gen, local infor­ma­ti­on about places such as Smee­ren­burg, … all Dutch chap­ters of the Dutch rela­ti­onship to Spits­ber­gen (and, of cour­se, not unmen­tio­ned in the other edi­ti­ons of the book, but Michel­le wro­te new ver­si­ons of the­se sec­tions, adding more detail and a new per­spec­ti­ve). And of cour­se she took off within her own field of know­ledge and pas­si­on and wro­te a new chap­ter about plants.

In other words, the new book is not just a mere trans­la­ti­on of the pre-exis­ting Eng­lish and Ger­man ver­si­ons (the­re is also a Nor­we­gi­an one, but that was not used in the trans­la­ti­on pro­cess), but a new book with con­tent that the other edi­ti­ons don’t have, at least not as it is here. It won’t sur­pri­se that it is the thi­c­kest one of the who­le fami­ly, with an impres­sie 656 pages.

Rolf Stange

I am and remain the main aut­hor: Rolf Stan­ge.

So, if you speak Dutch (or if you are inte­res­ted any­way), click here and check it out! Orders can be pla­ced from now and ship­ping will start soo­nest, as soon as we get the key rings in that will be ship­ped with the first 100 books (see below).


With spitsbergengids.nl, Michel­le has crea­ted a new site, dedi­ca­ted to the Dutch gui­de­book. The­re you can, of cour­se, also find Michelle’s other and own book, Sjef van Don­gen – Neder­land­se Poolhelt.

And an exclu­si­ve gift made in Lon­gye­ar­by­en with the first 100 orders

And on top of this: the first 100 orders that come in through my or Michelle’s web­shop will be com­ple­men­ted by an exclu­si­ve­ly made key ring made in Lon­gye­ar­by­en by mas­ter car­pen­ter Wolf­gang Zach, who is also the man behind the Spits­ber­gen drift­wood pic­tu­re frames and the kit­chen slats. The key rings are made of two dif­fe­rent kinds of wood, both with ori­g­ins in Spits­ber­gen: the dark wood is from oak beams that were used in mine 7 to sup­port the roof, and the polar bear is made from drift­wood. We have got 100 of the­se key rings, exclu­si­ve­ly made to come with the first 100 orders and, in this exact design, not available else­whe­re!

Spitzbergen Reiseführer niederländisch exklusives Geschenk

The­se beau­tiful key rings are made in Lon­gye­ar­by­en as an exclu­si­ve gift that comes with the first 100 copies of the Dutch Spits­ber­gen gui­de­book orde­red indi­vi­du­al­ly through my web­shop or Michelle’s 🙂

New page: Grønfjord – more than Barents­burg

A new page for the weekend! Most will know Grønfjord main­ly as the place whe­re Barents­burg is loca­ted. But it is actual­ly a beau­tiful fjord with love­ly sce­n­ery, inte­res­t­ing natu­re and good hiking oppor­tu­ni­ties in the sum­mer as well as in the win­ter. Find back­ground infor­ma­ti­on about natu­re and histo­ry tog­e­ther with ple­nty of pho­tos on the Grønfjord page which has just got a com­ple­te­ly fresh over­haul – check it out!

View from Grønfjordfjellet

View from Grønfjord­fjel­let south of Barents­burg over the inner parts of Grønfjord.
One of many new pho­tos on the over­hau­led Grønfjord page.

Quiet on the nor­t­hern front – moving on behind the sce­ne

Quiet on the nor­t­hern front ..?

“Quiet on the nor­t­hern front” is, of cour­se, not enti­re­ly true. The­re is always some­thing going on in Spits­ber­gen, but curr­ent­ly not much that would shake the world. The locals can still be hap­py about not having a sin­gle case of Corona/Covid 19 in Spits­ber­gen. Hur­tig­ru­ten Sval­bard con­siders to sell their local pro­per­ties to a “serious inves­tor” to rent their hotels etc. then on a long-term basis. I guess you have to have stu­di­ed some­thing other than geo­gra­phy to under­stand that kind of busi­ness model. The Sys­sel­man­nen will release 18 employees this year and replace them with new ones, most­ly becau­se the peo­p­le have to return to their long-term enga­ge­ments in main­land Nor­way if they want to keep them. Such as lar­ge tur­no­ver is, of cour­se, not what anyo­ne would want – the Sys­sel­man­nen has 45 posi­ti­ons in total, curr­ent­ly, so that is an exch­an­ge of staff of more than 30 %.

Polar bears and peo­p­le have recent­ly mana­ged to keep a healt­hy distance from each other. For­t­u­na­te­ly.

It’s things like that which are curr­ent­ly going on. Ever­y­thing is important for some peo­p­le, but it is not shaking the world.

New book pro­jects on the way

The coro­na-year has, among­st others, resul­ted in more time at the office table than ori­gi­nal­ly plan­ned. A new book pro­ject has alre­a­dy more than 300 pages of text, ano­ther one is also making some pro­gress. But many more pages will have to be writ­ten in both cases befo­re any­thing will be rea­dy for release. “New book pro­ject” is, of cour­se, not enti­re­ly true. Both have been work in pro­cess for more than just a cou­ple of months, to put it mild­ly. So the­re is some­thing posi­ti­ve in having more time than plan­ned.

New pages

View from Yggdrasilkampen towards Munindalen

Land­scape in cen­tral Dick­son Land: view from Ygg­dra­sil­kam­pen
Illus­tra­ti­on from the rene­wed page about Dick­son Land and Bil­lefjord.

Ano­ther thing that has taken up at least some speed is re-doing a num­ber of pages within spitsbergen-svalbard.com. Many pages that I was proud of 10 years ago are get­ting a bit … well, old now. A num­ber of pages have got new maps, illus­tra­ti­ons, pho­to gal­le­ries and revi­sed text as neces­sa­ry. This includes pages about beau­tiful fjords that many of you will know, and pages about more unknown places that you can explo­re if you feel like tra­vel­ling Spits­ber­gen online – the door is open, just come in, the­re is ple­nty of good stuff wai­ting!

  • The rene­wed page about Dick­son Land and Bil­lefjord. One of the most beau­tiful and inte­res­t­ing parts of Spits­ber­gen, belie­ve it or not! An area that cer­tain­ly deser­ved some­thing bet­ter than what I had in that place until a few days ago.
  • The same can be said about the page about the area in outer Isfjord bet­ween Kapp Lin­né and Fest­nin­gen.
  • Kongsfjord Kross­fjord used to be mer­ged into one page until recent­ly, an unbe­ara­ble situa­ti­on 🙂 now both of the­se beau­tiful and fre­quent­ly visi­ted fjords have got their own, impro­ved page.
  • The­re are, of cour­se, also a cou­ple of new pan­ora­ma pages, dedi­ca­ted to indi­vi­du­al sites rather than lar­ger are­as (in con­trast to the pages men­tio­ned abo­ve), some of them with many images (both pan­ora­ma and con­ven­tio­nal pho­tos) and a lot of back­ground infor­ma­ti­on, such as the page about Svenske­hu­set.
  • The same is the case with the new page about Bruce­by­en, a love­ly and very inte­res­t­ing place in Bil­lefjord. I have a lot of fond memo­ries from Bruce­by­en, but the new page is, of cour­se, not about my own sto­ries. It is rather about the histo­ry of the famous Scot­tish polar explo­rer Wil­liam S. Bruce and his Scot­tish Spits­ber­gen Syn­di­ca­te.
  • What else do we have? Oh, of cour­se, Coll­ins­od­den at the ent­rance of Kross­fjord. That’s a place I bett most of you won’t have been to, but it is worth a visit, the sce­n­ery is not exact­ly what you would initi­al­ly think of when you men­tal­ly pic­tu­re Spits­ber­gen, but it is beau­tiful and the­re is, of cour­se, an inte­res­t­ing litt­le sto­ry con­nec­ted to the place.
  • And Wig­dehl­pyn­ten in Wood­fjord. Colours, colours … that is Chris­tia­ne Ritter’s red desert sand.

… to be con­tin­ued.

So the­re is ple­nty of rea­ding mate­ri­al for one or two rai­ny autumn days or dark win­ter evenings. By the way, as you may have noti­ced, it comes not only com­ple­te­ly free, but also wit­hout all the online ads pop­ping up that you have on most other “free” web­sites, which gather a lot of your data and redu­ce the rea­ding expe­ri­ence great­ly in my opi­ni­on. That’s how other web­site owners make their money. Not­hing like that on spitsbergen-svalbard.com. Not that eco­no­my didn’t play a role for me, obvious­ly, and this years I would have more reason than at other times to tap that resour­ce. But I don’t want to do that, becau­se I like my web­site as it is and I want to keep it this way. If you want to sup­port it – have a look at my web­shop, the­re is a lot of good arc­tic books and fine other things that might give you (or someone you like) plea­su­re.

So … have a look at the­se new/renewed pages lis­ted abo­ve. I great­ly enjoy­ed making them and I hope they find your inte­rest.

Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard: the gui­de­book – now coming up in Dutch

The gui­de­book Spits­ber­gen-Sval­bard has been trans­la­ted and it is now prin­ted, soon it will be rea­dy for ship­ping 🙂 ano­ther big pro­ject that has come to an end – well, not real­ly, but the pro­cess of making the book in the first place. More about that soon.

Natio­nal bud­get 2021: hundreds of mil­li­ons for Spits­ber­gen

The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has published the sug­ges­ti­ons for the new natio­nal bud­get for 2021. The plans include seve­ral hundred mil­li­on Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner for Spits­ber­gen:

  • The labour inspec­to­re (Arbeits­til­syn­et) will be streng­the­ned with one mil­li­on kro­ner.
  • The mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske is to recei­ve 40 mil­li­ons to com­pen­sa­te for expec­ted los­ses in mine 7, which is suf­fe­ring from gene­ral­ly high cos­ts and addi­tio­nal pro­blems due to floo­ding with gla­cial melt­wa­ter after the hot sum­mer days in July. The govern­ment aims at secu­ring the sup­p­ly of Longyearbyen’s coal power plant with local coal.
  • 61.1 Mil­lio­nen are nee­ded for secu­ring Lon­gye­ar­by­en against snow ava­lan­ches and river floods – both are very important issues for Lon­gye­ar­by­en.
  • The com­pre­hen­si­ve clean-up of Sveagru­va and the near­by mines of Lun­ckef­jel­let and Svea Nord is expec­ted to requi­re 412.8 mil­li­ons in 2021.
  • Sval­bard­mu­se­um is in for a grant of 1.5 mil­li­ons, to “streng­then the muse­um and sti­mu­la­te more acti­vi­ty”, also in the light (or, rather, dark­ness) of the coro­na cri­sis.
  • Also the Sys­sel­man­nen will get increased fun­dings, among­st others for to crea­te a stil­ling for a lawy­er to work tasks that a public pro­se­cu­tor might other­wi­se take care of, when cases lea­ve the Sys­sel­man­nen – an insti­tu­ti­on that includes the poli­ce – in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.
Coal power plant, Longyearbyen

Lon­gye­ar­by­en has a lot of important issues to deal with and some of them will be taken important steps fur­ther with Oslo’s new bud­get for 2021. Get­ting a new power source on the way to replace the old coal power plant would cer­tain­ly make sen­se, to men­ti­on just one of many pro­blems that Lon­gye­ar­by­en needs to take care of.

The local tou­rism orga­ni­sa­ti­on Visit Sval­bard was dis­ap­poin­ted by get­ting an increase of only 100,000 kro­ner on top of the cur­rent bud­get of 3.05 mil­li­ons. Visit Sval­bard repres­ents many local com­pa­nies, all of which are hit hard by the coro­na cri­sis.

But com­mu­ni­ty repre­sen­ta­ti­ves expres­sed them­sel­ves most­ly satis­fied. Among­st others, Lon­gye­ar­by­en will now also get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to app­ly for fun­dings from “kli­ma­sats”, a public fund for for cli­ma­te pro­tec­tion pro­jects that was estab­lished for main­land com­mu­ni­ties alre­a­dy in 2016. Lon­gye­ar­by­en has very high per capi­ta CO2 emis­si­ons and elec­tri­ci­ty is very expen­si­ve. A new solu­ti­on might bring con­sidera­ble impro­ve­ment for both issues. Curr­ent­ly, a hydro­gen-based solu­ti­on is dis­cus­sed. Hydro­gen could be sup­pli­ed from north Nor­way and is expec­ted to redu­ce both CO2 emis­si­ons and the high pri­ces for elec­tri­ci­ty signi­fi­cant­ly.

The government’s bud­get plans still need the parliament’s appr­oval.

Isfjord is a high-arc­tic fjord again. For a while.

Less and thin­ner ice in the inner­most bran­ches of Isfjord such as Tem­pel­fjord and Bil­lefjord, and a solid ice-cover in the wide, cen­tral parts of Isfjord pro­per not­hing but a remo­te dream – that has been the rea­li­ty in Spitsbergen’s lar­gest fjord in recent years, which does hard­ly live up to its name, “Ice fjord”, any­mo­re. Con­side­ring ocea­no­gra­phi­cal and bio­lo­gi­al cha­rac­te­ristics, Isfjord has not real­ly been a high-arc­tic fjord any­mo­re, but rather a sub-arc­tic one.

Bluewhale, Isfjord

Isfjord has deve­lo­ped a sub-arc­tic ocea­no­gra­phi­cal cha­rac­ter in recent years,
some­thing that has invol­ved, for exam­p­le, more wha­le sightin­gs.
The pho­to shows a blue wha­le in Isfjord in Sep­tem­ber 2018.

This may curr­ent­ly be chan­ging again – not per­ma­nent­ly, howe­ver, but at least for a while. This is the result of ocea­no­gra­phi­cal data that have recent­ly been gathe­red by a team of UNIS sci­en­tists. The data are part of a long-term pro­ject to moni­tor the deve­lo­p­ment in Isfjord. Frank Niel­sen, pro­fes­sor for ocea­no­gra­phy at UNIS, and his team have now published a report in Sval­bard­pos­ten.

A key result is that the­re is curr­ent­ly much less mild, salt-rich Atlan­tic water in Isfjord than in pre­vious years and the remai­ning volu­me of this water is lar­ge­ly at depths below 150 met­res. In recent years, mild Atlan­tic water that drifts north with the Gulf Stream and rea­ches Spitsbergen’s west coast, whe­re it is cal­led the West Spits­ber­gen cur­rent, has had an incre­asing­ly strong influence in the fjords on the west coast. The­se have, as a con­se­quence, lost much of their high-arc­tic cha­rac­ter in terms of ocea­no­gra­phy and bio­di­ver­si­ty, rather beco­ming sub-arc­tic fjords ins­tead. Important indi­ca­tors include water tem­pe­ra­tures, salt con­cen­tra­ti­ons and spe­ci­es com­po­si­ti­on, espe­ci­al­ly of zoo­plank­ton.


In the inner­most bran­ches, such as Petu­ni­abuk­ta (pic­tu­red here),
Isfjord’s high-arc­tic cha­rac­ter has been retai­ned so far.

Recent cli­ma­tic chan­ges have led to this deve­lo­p­ment: part of the com­plex pic­tures are chan­ged rou­tes of low pres­su­res, which now move north bet­ween Green­land and Spits­ber­gen, rather than moving east over the Barents Sea. The new rou­te of the low pres­su­res tends to push Atlan­tic water north and into Spitsbergen’s west coast fjords – an effect that can last over years, even though the low pres­su­res dis­ap­pear after a few days.

This year, howe­ver, regio­nal wea­ther pat­terns have been more like what they used to be in the past, with a more sta­ble nor­t­her­ly influence which has, noti­ce­ab­ly, led to few warm air incur­si­ons with mel­ting tem­pe­ra­tures in the win­ter, some­thing that had beco­me more com­mon in the years befo­re. Ano­ther result of the cur­rent air flow pat­tern in this sec­tor of the Arc­tic is the less pro­no­un­ced influence of tem­pe­ra­te water mas­ses in Spitsbergen’s fjords on the west coast. Other reasons for this cur­rent deve­lo­p­ment may include the strong mel­ting of local gla­ciers in the very warm wea­ther of the last sum­mer, which has led to a hig­her input of cold freshwa­ter to the top lay­er of the fjord.

All this has now led to a chan­ge of spe­ci­es-com­po­si­ti­on of zoo­plank­ton back to a more high-arc­tic mix­tu­re. Arc­tic zoo­plank­ton is lar­ge­ly domi­na­ted by cope­pods. In recent years, the sub-arc­tic spe­ci­es Cala­nus fin­mar­chi­cus has beco­me domi­nant in most parts of Isfjord, but now it is main­ly the high-arc­tic spe­ci­es Cala­nus gla­cia­lis that is domi­nant again.

Outer Isfjord

Curr­ent­ly, also cen­tral parts of Isfjord have a high-arc­tic ocea­no­gra­phi­cal cha­rac­ter again.

If this deve­lo­p­ment is not soon ter­mi­na­ted by strong low pres­su­res asso­cia­ted with hea­vy storms from the “wrong” direc­tion, then one of the results could be an ice cover that is more exten­si­ve and stron­ger than seen in recent years. Ano­ther result, if it lasts for a while, may be fewer wha­les and less cod in Isfjord next year.

But in case anyo­ne is struck by the thought that cli­ma­te chan­ge in the Arc­tic is cal­led off now: this is not the case. As Nil­sen puts it in his artic­le, it is not a sta­ble situa­ti­on, but “rather a local dead-cat boun­ce within a warm­ing Arc­tic” (ori­gi­nal quo­te: Men en sta­bil situas­jon er det ikke, det er mer som en lokal kram­pet­re­k­ning i et Ark­tis under oppv­ar­ming).

Record-low in sea ice cover in Sep­tem­ber

Sep­tem­ber is gene­ra­ly the months with the lowest sea ice cover in the Arc­tic: the sum­mer warmth has mel­ted a lot of ice, and the cold of the win­ter is yet to come. So is is nor­mal to expect litt­le drift ice near Spits­ber­gen in Sep­tem­ber.

BUT – what does “litt­le” drift ice mean? Even just a quick glan­ce at the long-term deve­lo­p­ment reve­als a clear trend towards less and less ice. Arc­tic sea ice is moni­to­red sin­ce 1979, and never has the­re been as litt­le ice as in Sep­tem­ber, fol­lo­wing a sum­mer that has brought Lon­gye­ar­by­en record-brea­king tem­pe­ra­tures and a hot sum­mer also else­whe­re in the Arc­tic, such as Sibe­ria, to men­ti­on just one exam­p­le.

Ice chart Spitsbergen, 1st October 2020

Ice chart of nor­t­hern Sval­bard as of 01 Octo­ber: the “cold coast” (Sval­bard) is curr­ent­ly com­ple­te­ly free of ice.
© Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te.

Accor­ding to a press release by the Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te, the month­ly tem­pe­ra­tu­re avera­ge for Sep­tem­ber for the who­le Arc­tic was 2.9 degrees abo­ve the long-term avera­ge, which is based on the refe­rence peri­od 1961-1990. When a new refe­rence peri­od will be intro­du­ced in 2021, based on the three deca­des from 1991 to 2020, the tem­pe­ra­tu­re devia­ti­ons will appear less dra­ma­tic. But this will be no reason to decla­re the cur­rent cli­ma­te chan­ge histo­ry, it will just be a dif­fe­rent per­cep­ti­on due to a new sta­tis­ti­cal refe­rence peri­od. An arte­fact, in other words.

Sea ice cover, Svalbard, 1979-2020

Chan­ges of the sea ice cover in Spits­ber­gen from 1979 to 2020.
Sep­tem­ber 2020 has yiel­ded a new all-time low.
© Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te.

Signe Aaboe, sci­en­tist at the Nor­we­gi­an Meteo­ro­lo­gi­cal Insti­tu­te, does not doubt that the recent record values of arc­tic tem­pe­ra­tu­re and ice are due to man-made cli­ma­te chan­ge.

Walk in the forest near Pyra­mi­den

Back to Spitsbergen’s beau­tiful aspects, which seem even remo­ter this year. It took seve­ral attempts to get to Pyra­mi­den this time. In Spits­ber­gen, ever­y­thing – well, almost – depends on the wea­ther. The trip to Pyra­mi­den by boat is more than 50 kilo­me­t­res, and our boat wasn’t exact­ly Anti­gua or any­thing big­ger. So, the wea­ther should be ok. But we got our chan­ce and arri­ved in Bil­lefjord after a lunch break in Skans­buk­ta.


In Pyra­mi­den, we could rely on a fri­end­ly wel­co­me at Hotel Tuli­pan. A lot has hap­pen­ed the­re in recent years, the stan­dard is impro­ved – the bar is love­ly and the food is good. The old, Soviet-style rooms are not available any­mo­re, to my per­so­nal reg­ret, but I guess that’s the walk of time. Some life has also retur­ned to the Cul­tu­re House. And they keep working here and the­re.

Pyramiden: Canteen

Things are hap­pe­ning in Pyra­mi­den. Here, the old can­teen is being reno­va­ted.

The devo­ni­an forest in Mun­ind­a­len

But we wan­ted a walk in the forest. Well, in the Pyra­mi­den area, you can not walk in a forest, but you can actual­ly walk to a forest. In Mun­ind­a­len, to be more accu­ra­te. This forest grew in the Devo­ni­an, more than 350 mil­li­on years ago, pro­ba­b­ly in a river plain. Then, the trees were buried by sand and mud during a flood … and they beca­me fos­si­li­sed. Just as they were, in a ver­ti­cal posi­ti­on, or “in situ”, as geo­lo­gists say. One of the oldest forests in the world.

Tree fossil, Devonian, Munindalen

Imprint of a fos­si­li­sed tree in Devo­ni­an rocks, Mun­ind­a­len.

The­re were no trees befo­re the Devo­ni­an. (And if you hap­pen to find simi­lar fos­sils in Pyra­mi­den its­elf: they date to the Car­bo­ni­fe­rous, just as the coal, so they are a good bit youn­ger than the Devo­ni­an trees in Mun­ind­a­len). So it is worth get­ting wet and very cold feet as you have to step into the icy melt­wa­ter river becau­se the out­crop is a litt­le rock­wall right next to it (or just bring your rub­ber boots, which we for­got …).

Pyramiden: Mimerdalen, horses

Even the reinde­er were big­ger than else­whe­re in Pyra­mi­den back then 😉
Serious­ly: they had hor­ses.

Then, the fog came and sett­led in for seve­ral days, cut­ting Spits­ber­gen phy­si­call off from the out­side world (pla­nes don’t land in Lon­gye­ar­by­en in den­se fog). I spent most of the time on the return trip to Lon­gye­ar­by­en hol­ding on to the GPS 🙂

If you would like to take a vir­tu­al trip to Pyra­mi­den while it is hard to get the­re in real life – check the Pyra­mi­den pan­ora­ma pages, the­re is ple­nty of stuff the­re!

Gal­lery: Pyra­mi­den and Mun­ind­a­len

Some impres­si­ons from the trip from Lon­gye­ar­by­en via Skans­buk­ta to Pyra­mi­den and Mun­ind­a­len.

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

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is shrin­king. And: the bank does not always win

Lon­gye­ar­by­en is chan­ging during the coro­na cri­sis. The popu­la­ti­on is shrin­king: 273 peo­p­le have left sin­ce ear­ly March, accor­ding to offi­ci­al sta­tis­tics. In addi­ti­on comes an unknown num­ber of peo­p­le who have never regis­tered or who did not give noti­ce of their depar­tu­re.

Many peo­p­le lost their jobs when the coro­na cri­sis hit hard in spring and sum­mer, and many can’t afford Longyearbyen’s high living expen­ses any­mo­re and moved back to their count­ries of ori­gin. The Spits­ber­gen trea­ty grants citi­zens from many count­ries free access, but the draw­back is that Nor­way does not sup­p­ly Svalbard’s non-Nor­we­gi­an inha­bi­tants with any social secu­ri­ty regard­less how long they have lived the­re. The­re was a one-time finan­cial aid by the govern­ment in spring becau­se of the coro­na situa­ti­on, which also made it dif­fi­cult for many to move away, but it was made clear that this pro­gram­me would not be exten­ded.

To many people’s sur­pri­se, the bank is also among­st the losers: the mother com­pa­ny, Spare­Bank Nordn­or­ge, has deci­ded to clo­se 16 branch banks in north Nor­way. The com­pa­ny says that the reason is a chan­ged cus­to­mer beha­viour as cus­to­mers use the inter­net and do not go to the bank any­mo­re, as Sval­bard­pos­ten found out. It does not sur­pri­se that the decis­i­on is met with strong cri­ti­cism in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Post office and bank, Longyearbyen

Post office and bank in Lon­gye­ar­by­en: the post stays, the Bank will clo­se.

At least the post office will stay: will most post offices in Nor­way will be clo­sed, the one in Lon­gye­ar­by­en is among­st the lucky few who will stay. In many places in Nor­way, pos­tal ser­vices will only be available in shops and super­mar­kets in the future.

Polar bear dead in con­nec­tion with sci­en­ti­fic anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on

The series of sad news from Spits­ber­gen does not stop. On Wed­nes­day, a polar bear died in con­nec­tion with anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­on for sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses, accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen.

The inci­dend hap­pen­ed in Wij­defjord during the rou­ti­ne autumn cam­paign to mark polar bears. In this pro­cess, bears are anaes­the­ti­sed with tran­qui­li­ser guns from a heli­c­op­ter to mark the ani­mal and for other sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses, usual­ly inclu­ding weig­hing and taking samples. The bear that died on Wed­nes­day was bear num­ber “30 or 31” of the cur­rent cam­paign.

So far it is only known that the bear did not sur­vi­ve. It is not yet known in public when in the pro­cess and how and why exact­ly he died. The Sys­sel­mann­nen ope­ned a case to inves­ti­ga­te the inci­dent, so no fur­ther details have been released at the time of wri­ting, for exam­p­le con­cer­ning the ques­ti­on if a vet was pre­sent or not.

The rou­ti­ne to regu­lar­ly anaes­the­ti­se a lar­ger num­ber of polar bears, invol­ving a heli­c­op­ter cha­se, has met cri­ti­cism alre­a­dy befo­re. Accor­ding to Jon Aars, lea­ding polar bear sci­en­tist of the Nor­we­gi­an Polar Insti­tu­te, it is com­mon to “lose” 2 to 4 bears in 1000 anaes­the­ti­sa­ti­ons. This was the third time sin­ce 2003 that it hap­pen­ed to Aars, as he told Sval­bard­pos­ten. Accor­ding to Aars, mar­king bears is jus­ti­fied by the worth of the data thus obtai­ned for sci­en­tists.

polar bear skull

Mee­tings of humans and polar bears have alre­a­dy cost the lives of 4 bears and one per­son in Spits­ber­gen this year.
(The pho­to is sym­bo­lic: harm­less find of an old polar bear skull in Hin­lo­pen Strait).

It is alre­a­dy the fourth inci­dent this year whe­re a polar bear died during or after cont­act with peo­p­le. The­re was, of cour­se, the recent fatal attack of a bear on a man at the camp­si­te near Lon­gye­ar­by­en, whe­re a man and a polar bear died. A bear was shot by the poli­ce in ear­ly Janu­ary alt­hough the­re was no imme­dia­te dan­ger. And in late Janu­ary, an anaes­the­ti­sed bear died during heli­c­op­ter trans­port away from Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It seems that the lat­ter case has not been hand­led well and the inci­dent attrac­ted sub­stan­ti­al cri­ti­cism and rai­sed a num­ber of ques­ti­ons, for exam­p­le if a vet should be pre­sent during such ope­ra­ti­ons. It has not yet been reve­a­led if a vet was pre­sent when the bear died in Wij­defjord on Wed­nes­day.

Blog: trip to Svenske­hu­set at Kapp Thord­sen

After all the bad and even ter­ri­ble news of the last cou­ple of weeks, regar­ding a poten­ti­al­ly dead­ly virus that keeps making ever­y­bo­dies lives dif­fi­cult and a very dead­ly polar bear attack, it is easy to for­get that Spits­ber­gen is still a beau­tiful place. It is time for a few pho­tos to bring that back to mind.

It is a cou­ple of weeks ago now, but that doesn’t mat­ter. Isfjord was flat as a mir­ror, so we took the oppor­tu­ni­ty for a Zodiac tour from Lon­gye­ar­by­en to Svenske­hu­set at Kapp Thord­sen.

Gal­lery: Svenske­hu­set

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

I am not going to repeat the dra­ma­tic histo­ry of the “Swe­dish house” (Svenske­hu­set) at Kapp Thord­sen here, as I have recent­ly com­pi­led a spe­cial side dedi­ca­ted to Svenske­hu­set – inclu­ding pan­ora­ma images, as you may alre­a­dy have gues­sed. Have a look the­re if you are inte­res­ted. I do recom­mend it. Final­ly get­ting the­se images was a strong moti­va­ti­on to take this trip.

And other than that, spen­ding a long day in fine wea­ther in a place like this, with fine views over Isfjord and all the big and small impres­si­ons of the sce­n­ery and the tun­dra, is an expe­ri­ence of the kind of which you (or, at least, I) just can’t get enough in life.

Regar­ding the small impres­si­onf of the tun­dra: I have always expe­ri­en­ced it as slight­ly dis­ap­poin­ting to pho­to­graph the flowers. Becau­se of the limi­t­ed depth of field with macro pho­to­gra­phy, only a small part of the flower appears in focus. But today, pho­to tech­no­lo­cy enables us to take it a good step fur­ther. “Focus stack­ing” is the key. It requi­res some effort regar­ding pre­pa­ra­ti­ons, equip­ment, pho­to­gra­phy and editing, but I think it is worth it in the end:

Arctic bell-heather, Svenskehuset

Arc­tic bell-hea­ther near Svenske­hu­set.
Fokus-stack­ing makes it pos­si­ble to have almost the who­le flower in focus.

Phippsøya polar bear (MS Bre­men, 2018): pro­cee­dings clo­sed

The legal case of the polar bear that was shot in 2018 by crew mem­bers of the Ger­man crui­se ship MS Bre­men is clo­sed, as the Sys­sel­man­nen infor­med in a press release on Fri­day.

Polar bear, Phippsøya

Polar bear on Phippsøya, fee­ding on a car­cass.
It was most likely this bear that was shot
by crew mem­bers of MS Bre­men in this place 11 days later.

The inci­dend hap­pen­ed on 28 July 2018, when 14 crew mem­bers of MS Bre­men went ashore on Phippsøya, which belong to the islands of Sjuøya­ne, to prepa­re a landing for pas­sen­gers. The group included the expe­di­ti­on lea­der, four polar bear guards, a pho­to­grapher and other crew mem­bers. Two polar bears guards were soon sent out to check a part of the ter­rain that could not be seen from the landing area. They met the polar bear which had been hid­den in a ter­rain depres­si­on. The bear atta­cked one per­son, who suf­fe­r­ed head inju­ries. The bear did not stop the attack in spi­te of seve­ral war­ning shots being fired, so two per­sons fired in total three shots against the bear which kil­led him. The per­son who was atta­cked sur­vi­ved with minor inju­ries.

The pho­to­grapher took pho­tos of the event, which hence was well docu­men­ted and easy to recon­s­truct.

Now the public pro­se­cu­tor of Troms and Finn­mark (north Nor­way) has deci­ded to clo­se the case. Shoo­ting a polar bear is prin­ci­pal­ly ille­gal and under punish­ment, but this was now offi­ci­al­ly found to be a case of self defence.

The case that had been ope­ned against the com­pa­ny was also clo­sed. Here, the com­pa­nies safe­ty rou­ti­nes had been inves­ti­ga­ted.

The inves­ti­ga­ti­ons were finis­hed in Novem­ber 2019, but com­pe­tence bet­ween dif­fe­rent aut­ho­ri­ties was initi­al­ly unclear and then the Coro­na cri­sis led to fur­ther delays.

Crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen now only with 30 per­sons in total

The Nor­we­gi­an govern­ment has put more rest­ric­tion on crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen: they are now only allo­wed for ships car­ry­ing 30 per­sons in total – that is, pas­sen­gers and crew tog­e­ther. Day trips wit­hout over­night stays on board are not con­cer­ned by this rest­ric­tion.

The govern­ment says that the dif­fi­cul­ties a Covid-19 out­break would bring on any lar­ger ship would be dif­fi­cult to con­trol, hence the new rest­ric­tion.

Le Boreal, Spitsbergen

The Le Bore­al (here seen in Lief­defjord in 2015) was one of only a few ships at all that have been able to do crui­ses this sum­mer in Spits­ber­gen.

In June, the govern­ment ope­ned the pos­si­bi­li­ty to do crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen. But alre­a­dy then, rest­ric­tions such as a reduc­tion of pas­sen­ger num­bers by 50 % kept many tour ope­ra­tors and ship owners from start­ing the sea­son in Spits­ber­gen at all. After a Covid-19-out­break on MS Roald Amund­sen, also Hur­tig­ru­ten stop­ped their expe­di­ti­on crui­ses com­ple­te­ly. Bey­ond Hur­tig­ru­ten and Ponant (Le Bore­al), only a very few smal­ler ships were acti­ve with crui­ses over seve­ral days this year in Spits­ber­gen, such as Ori­go, who mana­ged to do a handful of trips, and Cape Race, who just finis­hed one suc­cessful­ly, only to can­cel the rest of the sea­son becau­se of the recent intro­duc­tion of qua­ran­ti­ne for tra­vel­lers from Ger­ma­ny. Cape Race will now try her luck in Scot­land – fin­gers crossed!

The govern­ment has announ­ced to re-con­sider this most recent rest­ric­tion until 01 Novem­ber. I would say: no rush. Then the sea­son is over any­way, if it has ever hap­pen­ed in the ongo­ing Coro­na-year at all.

Wreck of North­gui­der remo­ved

The wreck of the North­gui­der is now com­ple­te­ly remo­ved from Hin­lo­pen Strait.

The shrimp traw­ler ran ground in Hin­lo­pen, very clo­se to the coast of Nord­aus­t­land, in late Decem­ber 2018. The crew could be res­cued by heli­c­op­ter in a dra­ma­tic ope­ra­ti­on in very cold and stor­my con­di­ti­ons and com­ple­te dark­ness. Later, envi­ron­men­tal­ly dan­ge­rous mate­ri­als inclu­ding fuels and lubri­ca­ti­on oils, paints, elec­tri­cal equip­ment and fishing gear could be remo­ved.

Wrack Northguider

The wreck of the ship traw­ler North­gui­der and sal­va­ge ves­sels
in August 2019 in Hin­lo­pen.

It was plan­ned to remo­ve the wreck during the sum­mer of 2019, but dif­fi­cult ice con­di­ti­ons delay­ed the ope­ra­ti­on and then it tur­ned out that the wreck could not be remo­ved in one pie­ce becau­se it was too hea­vi­ly dama­ged.

Now the North­gui­der has been cut into seve­ral smal­ler pie­ces which could be taken to Nor­way. Divers con­firm­ed that no wrecka­ge is left on the sea flour eit­her, accor­ding to the Sys­sel­man­nen.

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.


News-Listing live generated at 2024/February/21 at 12:39:20 Uhr (GMT+1)