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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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