Many countries have introduced restrictions on travelling in an attempt to keep the new versions of the SarsCov-2 (corona) virus under control. Norway has also had a number cases with these new viruses recenty and tightens in on regulations for international traffic to reduce further spreading, according to a press release by the Norwegian government, which is also available in English (click here).
Applies to all of Spitsbergen: Corona-quarantine.
Compulsory corona testing has now additionally been introduced (photo composition).
New regulations for drones are in force since 01 January 2021. Drones weighing more than 250 g or that have a camera need to be registered at the Norwegian air traffic authority air traffic authority (Luftfartstilsynset). This includes a web-based course, a test and a fee. Everybody who wants to use a drone in Svalbard (or mainland Norway, for that sake) will need to go through that, unless the drone weighs less than 250 g and does not have a camera.
Nordenskiöld Land Nationalpark includes the southern part of Nordenskiöld Land, in other words the north coast of Bellsund. This national park is now under review and the plan is to make it much larger. The idea is to include almost all of Van Mijenfjord and large parts of Van Keulenfjord. The south side of Van Keulenfjord are already part of the South Spitsbergen national park. The result would hence be that all of Spitsbergen south of Nordenskiöld Land, from Van Mijenfjord to Sørkapp, would have protection status as national park.
Restrictions for snow mobiles, new bird sanctuaries
A larger Nordenskiöld Land national park is likely to involve several restrictions for public traffic, including restrictions for motorized traffic (snow mobiles) on the fjord ice of Van Mijenfjorden. This is mainly targetet against snow mobile traffic to Rindersbukta and Akseløya. In addition, 3 new bird sanctuaries are planned in locations that have high concentrations of resting and breeding birds, mainly common eider ducks, barnacle geese and pink-footed geese. The locations currently in question are Mariaholmen (near Akseløya), Eholmen (near Forsbladodden) and Midterhuksletta.
The expansion of the Nordenskiöld Land national park may bring traffic restrictions in several new bird sanctuaries, incuding Midterhuksletta.
Parts of the former settlement of Sveagruva, which is largely being removed these days, are currently not included in the enlarged national park.
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.
Next week, Birgit Lutz and I (Rolf Stange) will start the “Arctic Wednesday”! A series of online presentations where we can pick up selected topics. Let’s travel together online to the beautiful, cold ends of the world! We will start on 13 January with a tour to Bear Island and Jan Mayen, followed later by a series of another five dates, every Wednesday for six weeks in total. Birgit and I have selected a range of topics ranging from adventure and travel through history to environment, which we hope you will enjoy.
The Arctic Wednesday: polar online presentations with Birgit Lutz and Rolf Stange.
The presentations will be in German. I know there are a lot of German-speaking visitors to the English site, for example from the Netherlands – this is why I include this brief note here in English. For further information, please refer to the German version of this page (change language by clicking on the flagg symbol on top of this page).
Many of Spitsbergen’s glaciers have “always” had a lot of crevases, while others are considered good traffic ways for those moving around in the arctic wilderness. This is – was? – the case especially for many of Spitsbergen’s smaller glaciers that terminate with a gentle slope on land, rather than with a calving front at sea level. The smaller ones, ending on land, usually move more slowly, which creates less stress in the ice and hence fewer crevasses.
More crevasses on classical “touring glaciers”
This has appearently changed for at least a number of glaciers, as the Sysselmannen established during a helicopter inspection of frequently travelled glaciers in Nordenskiöld Land in October 2020. It turned out that some of these glaciers had significantly more crevasses than they used to have in the past.
Many of Spitsbergen’s glacier have been thought to have few crevasses only, which made them comparatively easy touring terrain …
Another factor relevant for safety on glaciers is snow, which can build up snow bridges over crevasses. Such bridges are fine when they are strong and safe, but they can be very dangerous traps if they are too thin to be strong enough, but thick enough to hide the crevasse. The summer of 2020 was at times extremely warm and has melted a lot of snow also on the higher parts of the glaciers. Snow bridges have build up again from zero.
Safety and responsibility
Everybody who is out in the field in arctic terrain, be it with snow mobile, hiking, skiing, dog sledge, … should be careful and take adequate safety measures, especially in glaciated terrain. That has always been true and now this seems to be more relevant than before at least on some of Spitsbergen’s frequently travelled glaciers, and most likely also on other ones. In the press release, the Sysselmannen made it very clear that anyone who is on tour is him-/herself responsible for his/her own safety. Just in case anyone needed a reminder.
… but this has changed for at least some of them. Crevasses like the ones seen here are life dangerous, especially when they are hidden under snow.
The Sysselmannen has published a pdf with photos and maps that show some of the glaciers and crevasse fields in question.
The reasons are not yet scientifically established. It would be natural to assume that the velocity of shrinking glaciers is decreasing rather than the opposite. For a bit of speculation, it may appear reasonable to think that the extra meltwater supply during the warm summer of 2020 has decreased the internal friction of the glaciers, which may lead to greater speed and thus greater mechanical stress, hence more crevasses.