No new here for a week or more, is there nothing going on in Spitsbergen? Indeed, the far north has not shaken the world recently. But there is always something going. Not just corona – it is a long page, stay tuned! 😉
Corona, Corona, Corona
Corona is obviously commanding the world these days, and that is also the case in Spitsbergen. Even though there has not yet been any cofirmed infection with SARS-Cov-2. Last summer, the virus was already there with a Hurtigruten ship, but it didn’t stay as there was no contact between the ship and the settlement, the trip started and finished in mainland Norway.
The corona virus still has the world in its firm grip, including Spitsbergen.
There is still some tourism in Longyearbyen: a few tourists come from the Norwegian mainland. There are, of course, strict rules. And locals return after their Christmas holidays or whatever they have done, potentially giving the virus a lift. In one case, it turned out that someone who had returned to Longyearbyen had been a contact of someone with a confirmed infection. So far, reduced contacts and other safety measures seem to have worked fine. On the other hand, a few of Longyearbyen’s oldest inhabitants already got the first dose of the SARS-Cov-2 vaccine.
Regulations for international travellers are still very strict, obviously, and international tourism up north is practically non-existing these days.
Corona: hard on the economy
Consequences for local companies are dramatic, especially within tourism. And bridging aid are more difficult than on the mainland, partly because of Spitsbergen’s special status. But important steps have been taken in recent weeks. Still, many can just hope for improvement before their jobs or small companies get lost. The important winter season, usually peaking from February to early May, will hardly happen as it normally does.
Winter tourists in Spitsbergen: nobody knows when this will be possible again, but many are waiting desperately.
Powering Longyearbyen up
The future of Longyearbyen’s electricity supply has been debated for a long times. The state of the discussion is still pretty much like the summary given in December. In very short words: a new solution is needed, and it is likely to be based on something different than coal, at least partly. But now Oslo officials have said that this will have consequences for mine 7, Longyearbyen’s last coal mine. It is obvious that the years of coal mining will come to an end in the not too far future. So far, something near 2030 seemed likely. Now it may actually be earlier than that. But final decisions have yet to be made.
Mine 7 near Longyearbyen still has some years left, but the end of coal mining is coming closer.
The end of Svalbard’s one and only bank in Longyearbyen was reason for some excitement in 2020. The bank closed for good in December. The ATM had already been out of operation for quite a while, because it turned out to be increasingly difficult to get cash from the mainland to Longyearbyen. Currently, there is no supply of fresh cash in Longyearbyen. Difficulties arising because of that seem to be limited, as cashless payment methods are very common in Norway and there is no international traffic these days. But at the latest when tourists start to return from countries outside Scandinavia, problems will increase if there is no cash locally available. The supermarket, Coop Svalbard (better known as Svalbardbutikken), may be able to provide a solution.
On my own behalf: Book and poster “Svalbardhytter”
I have got several projects in progress. Some of them are larger ones and these will require time to get anywhere near publication, but another one is soon to be finished: Originally considered to be “only” a poster, “Svalbardhytter” (Svalbard huts) is now a combination of a poster and a book, introducing 60 historical huts. Huts are interesting and often beautiful places in the Arctic. In the past, they offered at least a minimum of safety and comfort, and today, they give a sense of adventure and history. And, of course, any visit to a hut in Spitsbergen, wherever it is, is always an excursion in a beautiful area!
Hammerfest house on Bear Island (Bjørnøya) was built in 1822. This makes it Svalbard’s oldest building that is still standing. It is one of 60 huts introduced in the post and book project “Svalbardhytter”.
The Norwegian title seems to indicate a cryptic text, but this is not the case: the poster is a collage of 60 photos and place names, and the little book has some information about every one of them in 3 languages: German, English and Norwegian. And it does also have the photos.
“Svalbardhytter” will soon be available in the Spitzbergen.de online shop with is closely associated with this website. If you want to make sure that you don’t miss it, just sign up to my email newsletter by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On my own behalf: online presentation series “Arctic Wednesday”
Our series of online presentations “the Arctic Wednesday” has started last Wednesday with my presentation about Bear Island and Jan Mayen. I am happy to say that it was very successful – I may not quite be neutral, but I got a lot of very positive feedback so I can be certain that this is the truth 🙂 Birgit Lutz and I will continue the series over another couple of weeks until mid February. Click here for more information. The talks will be in German.