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Yearly Archives: 2020 − News & Stories


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.

Water ingress in mine 7

It was pro­bab­ly the extre­me­ly warm wea­ther of the last wee­kend that now gives the mining com­pa­ny Store Nor­ske Spits­ber­gen Kul­kom­pa­ni (SNSK) trou­bles with water in mine 7, the last Nor­we­gi­an coal mine still in ope­ra­ti­on in Spits­ber­gen.

Water ingres­si­ons are not unusu­al in Spitsbergen’s coal mines, many of which are part­ly situa­ted under gla­ciers. Mine 7 is clo­se to the small ice cap Fox­fon­na which “pro­vi­des” meltwa­ter to the mine during the mel­ting sea­son, so pumps are rou­ti­nely in ope­ra­ti­on. But the latest ingres­si­on went far bey­ond the capa­ci­ties of the avail­ab­le pumps.

Water ingress in mine 7

Water ingres­si­ons are not uncom­mon in the coal mines in Spits­ber­gen. Here, a boat is even kept avail­ab­le to move around in floo­ded are­as (the pho­to is from the mine Svea Nord).

Mine 7 is cur­r­ent­ly any­way on plant holi­day. The water ingress was dis­co­ve­r­ed during a rou­ti­ne con­trol on Sunday morning. Equip­ment and per­so­nell from Sveagru­va and main­land Nor­way are now sup­po­sed to deal with the situa­ti­on and return the mine back into pro­duc­ti­ve con­di­ti­on. Coal pro­duc­tion is sche­du­led to start up again, but this is likely to be delay­ed.

Coal from mine 7 is main­ly used in Longyearbyen’s coal power plant. Ano­t­her frac­tion is expor­ted. Accord­ing to the SNSK, the­re is enough coal in sto­rage in Lon­gye­ar­by­en to feed the power plant 5-6 mon­ths.

New tem­pe­ra­tu­re record in Lon­gye­ar­by­en

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

The tem­pe­ra­tu­re dis­play at the petrol sta­ti­on show­ed 23 degrees (cen­tig­ra­de) on Satur­day after­noon. The offi­cial mea­su­re­ment was 21.7°C.

Sum­mer heat bey­ond 21°C – that is very unusu­al for Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The hig­hest tem­pe­ra­tu­re ever so far had been 21.3 degrees cen­tig­ra­de, mea­su­red on 16 July 1979. This record was bro­ken on Satur­day late after­noon, when the offi­cial tem­pe­ra­tu­re record went up to 21.7°C.

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

A record-brea­king tem­pe­ra­tu­re of 21.7°C was mea­su­red on Satur­day after­noon in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. The gla­ciers defi­ni­te­ly lost a lot of ice during this wee­kend. Many tons of mel­ted ice run off every minu­te here in the river in Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

A light bree­ze made the heat wave beara­ble, though. The out­side are­as of the restau­rants were crow­ded, and it seems a safe guess that a record-brea­king num­ber of BBQs were ope­ra­ted in and near Lon­gye­ar­by­en on Satur­day evening.

Temperature record in Longyearbyen

The record sum­mer heat of 21.7°C may well haved resul­ted in a record-brea­king num­ber of BBQs going at the same time.

Hur­tig­ru­ten and Ponant are ope­ra­ting the first crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen

This year’s first two medi­um-sized expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships have now star­ted their sea­son in Spits­ber­gen – in spi­te of all restric­tions and dif­fi­cul­ties con­nec­ted to ship­ping in times of the Coro­na cri­sis. Yes­ter­day (Fri­day, 17 July), Hurtigruten’s MS Spits­ber­gen star­ted her first trip. This may not be too much of a sur­pri­se, as tou­rists from Scan­di­na­vi­an coun­tries (expect Swe­den) were allo­wed into Nor­way alrea­dy from 15 June, and around that time the Nor­we­gi­an government made first steps towards per­mit­ting ships with a capa­ci­ty of up to 500 pas­sen­gers to sail again in Spitsbergen’s waters. This was and is, in theo­ry, valid for all ship owners, but in prac­ti­ce, it could well be unders­tood as a “lex Hur­tig­ru­ten”, or at least it is not a sur­pri­se that the Nor­we­gi­an com­pa­ny is the first that is prac­ti­cal­ly able to take advan­ta­ge of it.

Corona-Virus, Spitzbergen

Ponant’s ship Le Bore­al on 18 July as the first non-Nor­we­gi­an crui­seship in the port of Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

The French com­pa­ny Ponant fol­lo­wed on day later with Le Bore­al, alt­hough the infor­ma­ti­on that tou­rists from most EU/EEA coun­tries are allo­wed to tra­vel to Nor­way again is just one week old; the list of “green coun­tries” was publis­hed on 10 July.

And the company’s ear­lier drafts of the man­da­to­ry health safe­ty plan is said to have had its weak­nes­ses. Accord­ing to Sval­bard­pos­ten, the local dise­a­se con­trol offi­cial had expres­sed bey­ond doubt to be unhap­py about several issu­es. Ponant, howe­ver, seem to have impro­ved their papers and the Sys­sel­man­nen have given their thumbs-up and Le Bore­al is allo­wed to sail and ope­ra­te several trips over a cou­p­le of weeks in Sval­bard waters. Pas­sen­gers are flown in and out of Lon­gye­ar­by­en with sche­du­led flights, as no char­ter flights are cur­r­ent­ly per­mit­ted at Lon­gye­ar­by­en air­port.

The­re are, howe­ver, a cou­p­le of con­di­ti­ons that every com­pa­ny con­si­de­ring crui­ses in Spits­ber­gen cur­r­ent­ly has to deal with: amongst others, only half of the pas­sen­ger capa­ci­ty of any ship – 264 beds in case of the Le Bore­al – is per­mit­ted to be used.

The Le Bore­al pas­sen­gers had to be tes­ted nega­tively for Covid-19 pri­or to their depar­tu­re from home and again befo­re disem­bar­ka­ti­on in Reykja­vik, for the first crui­se that finis­hed yes­ter­day in Lon­gye­ar­by­en. In case of Covid-19 cases or sus­pi­ci­on on board, the ship has to sail to Trom­sø and not to Lon­gye­ar­by­en. It will be inte­res­ting to fol­low the fur­ther deve­lo­p­ment and the reac­tion of other com­pa­nies, but it seems likely that many, espe­cial­ly tho­se ope­ra­ting small ships, will find it dif­fi­cult if not impos­si­ble to ope­ra­te under the­se con­di­ti­ons, also con­si­de­ring eco­no­mi­c­al aspects.

But the­re are, as always, excep­ti­ons to the rule: the small expe­di­ti­on ship Ori­go has alrea­dy car­ri­ed out her first trips in Spits­ber­gen. But she had spent several mon­ths of wai­t­ing at anchor for a chan­ce to start sai­ling near Lon­gye­ar­by­en.

Spits­ber­gen with SV Anti­gua in Sep­tem­ber also can­cel­led becau­se of Coro­na

Unfor­tu­n­a­te­ly, but not real­ly sur­pri­sing, we also have to can­cel our last Spits­ber­gen-voya­ge this year with SV Anti­gua (08-18 Sep­tem­ber 2020). Even though Nor­way will start to allow most Euro­pean tou­rists into the coun­try again, cur­rent health safe­ty regu­la­ti­ons in place to con­trol the Corona/Covid 19 risk make it impos­si­ble to ope­ra­te this voya­ge and other ones. A small ship in remo­te are­as is not a good situa­ti­on the­se days.

The par­ti­ci­pants will now be con­ta­c­ted by the Geo­gra­phi­schen Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft.

Corona-Virus, Spitsbergen

With Anti­gua in Spits­ber­gen: won’t hap­pen in 2020 becau­se of the Coro­na virus.

This app­lies also to our hiking and pho­to­gra­phy trip in and around Pyra­mi­den (31 August – 07 Sep­tem­ber 2020). This will also be can­cel­led, the par­ti­ci­pants will be con­ta­c­ted soon.

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